Nigeria is planning to use the latest movement restrictions imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari on two states and Abuja to identify those who may have been exposed to COVID-19, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has said.
The restrictions are also to prevent further spread of the virus, he said.
Mr Ehanire said on Channels Television, a few minutes after the president addressed the nation, that the government has plans to intensify contact tracing as new cases of COVID-19 are recorded in the country.
He said the restrictions placed on all movement in Lagos, FCT and Ogun are to assist the health personnel who are conducting the contact tracing in those states to achieve the desired result.
Mr Ehanire reiterated that the few confirmed cases outside Lagos and Abuja are linked to persons who have travelled from these centres.
“We are therefore working to ensure such interstate and intercity movements are restricted to prevent further spread.
“Our agencies are currently working hard to identify cases and people these patients have been in contact with,” he said.
Mr Ehanire said the lockdown might affect the Easter celebrations. He urged Nigerians to abide by the restrictions even if it affects the festival as “it is a worthwhile sacrifice especially if it will contain the spread of the disease.”
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday evening announced the restriction of all movement in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT.
Mr Buhari said the cessation of all movements in those areas is for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11 p.m. on Monday, March 30.
“This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States,” the president said.
“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.
“The Governors of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Minister of the FCT have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed.”
Nigeria now has 111 cases of COVID-19 while one person has died.
In his interview, Mr Ehanire debunked the news that a top official who had tested positive for COVID-19 had travelled out of the country for treatment.
There had rumours that the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Abba Kyari, had travelled to London for treatment since testing positive for COVID-19.
However, Mr Ehanire said such information is false.
“As it stands now, every country has its own fair of challenges and they would not be willing to take more problems from other countries,” he said.
Mr Ehanire also said that the government is scaling up laboratories for more testing and more treatment centres to treat those who test positive.
He said it is not every hospital that can treat the infection.
“It is extremely important to understand that the infection is a national security issue and it is not every hospital that can treat the disease.
” Any hospital who wants to help in the treatment must be accredited by a group of experts and Abayomi (Lagos health commissioner) will be heading the team of experts who will be inspecting the facilities,” he said.
He added that international experts have given approval to Lagos to do clinical trials of treatment with the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. This is part of the research in searching for a cure for the virus.