Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has charged the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to hit the ground running on how to contain the rampaging coronavirus and Lassa fever that is raiding parts of the country.
Gbajabiamila who was speaking at a meeting between the House Committee on Healthcare Services chaired by Yusuf Tanko Sununu, and the management of the centre, said Nigerians are worried about the emerging pandemic.
He, therefore, wants NCDC that was led by its Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu, to attach more seriousness to the coronavirus, same with Lassa fever.
Gbajabiamila’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, who made this development known to this reporter in a wired statement, said his principal pointed out that there is serious panic among Nigerians with regards to coronavirus, which broke out in China, saying Nigerians are worried about the disease.
Gbajabiamila’s position was, however, based on an earlier comment made by the DG that the coronavirus is not as deadly as reported by the media, noting that only about two per cent deaths are recorded among those infected, unlike other viruses such as Ebola, SARS and Lassa fever.
“Some things are alarming to me. You seem to make light the severity of coronavirus to the extent of saying it’s not as bad as Ebola”, the Speaker said, adding, “I’m not a doctor, but what I do know is that if there’s panic out there, something needs to be done. Though Lassa is very serious, I don’t think it should take the seriousness of coronavirus.
“I want us to treat this virus with all seriousness. Let’s assume that this is the worst virus that has hit the world. If China is building a hospital in a week for this, that means it takes it seriously.”
Earlier, the Speaker asked the DG to explain the steps taken by the agency so far to address both Lassa fever, which was reported in several states of Nigeria and coronavirus, which has not been reported in Nigeria.
Responding, Ihekweazu said most of the cases of Lassa fever came from the hotbed states and that the centre has deployed teams across the states to respond accordingly.
He said so far, there are two centres, one at the Abuja University Teaching Hospital and the other at the Mainland Hospital, Lagos, created to address the issues of Lassa fever, saying they need such centres in all the 36 states.
“Our response so far is that we prepared for this period. Every case of Lassa fever requires about half a million naira to treat.
“We’re working with our partners to develop a vaccine. So, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve already tested the vaccine, and maybe later this year, it may come to use.”
On coronavirus, he said they were all working to understand it, saying “When there’s a new virus, everybody is working very hard to learn as quickly as possible on the characteristics of the virus.
“The proportion of deaths to cases is still below two per cent. There are key new characteristics of every new virus. This virus is not as bad as SARS, Ebola etc that we’ve been dealing with. So, this isn’t as bad as painted by the media.”
Some members of the committee commended the centre for its efforts so far despite its challenges.