The Nigerian Academy of Science, NAS has expressed doubts about the Federal Government’s claim that it is prepared for coronavirus if the disease breaks out in the country.
The apex scientific organisation in Nigeria, NAS said there is no cure yet for the virus that has claimed more than 1,000 lives since it broke out in Wuhan, China, prompting the World Health Organisation to declare it a global public health emergency.
WHO also listed Nigeria among13 African countries that are vulnerable to the disease due to close economic contacts with China.
The Federal Government through the Minister of Health, Prof. Osagie Ehanire, had declared that Nigeria was “well-prepared and ready to contain coronavirus if eventually it broke out.” And also announced a plan to spend N620m to monitor, detect and contain the virus in a bid to prevent an outbreak of the disease in the country. But the NAS, an independent scientific body which also acts as an advisor to the government, said it was ‘skeptical’ over the Federal Government’s claims.
President of the NAS, Prof. Mosto Onuoha, wondered how the Federal Government could be ready for a coronavirus outbreak when Nigeria had not been able to cope with Lassa fever, a lesser disease that has ravaged Nigerians in various parts of the country for many years.
He said, “That is what they have told us but I don’t know. Let’s hope it is so, let’s believe them. “But the truth of the matter is, I want to believe them but we are very skeptical because COVID-19 (coronavirus) is new, it is sudden and we haven’t coped with Lassa fever that has been with us for many years.
“We just pray God will help us. Lassa fever has been around and is still killing people and if all that we can do is prevention then you will begin to wonder when government says it is ready for coronavirus.
“We don’t even know so much about coronavirus yet, is it the one that the government can handle?
“There are a lot of things that we don’t know about. This disease is strange; it is not originating from here. I think it is a much bigger challenge than Lassa fever.”
He also noted that should coronavirus break out in Nigeria the Federal Government could count on the support of the international community.
He said, “The WHO and the whole world are networking to make sure that this thing is contained.
“There should be a place in Abuja or Lagos or both where people can be taken to if it is detected and Nigeria will have international help.
“The international community is distributing diagnostic materials and Nigeria is a big country with a sizeable Chinese community that is involved in construction work in many states.”
The NAS President further noted that the ‘Nigerian factor’ could also undermine efforts to effectively contain an outbreak of the virus in the country.