President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on Friday in Abuja declared the control and containment of the Ebola virus in Nigeria a National Emergency.
Accordingly, the President has directed the Federal Ministry of Health to work in collaboration with the State Ministries of Health, the National Centre for Disease Control, the National Emergency Management Agency and other relevant agencies to ensure that all possible steps are taken to effectively contain the threat of the Ebola virus in line with international protocols and best practices.
President Jonathan also approved a Special Intervention Plan and the immediate release of N1.9 billion for its implementation, to further strengthen ongoing steps to contain the virus.
Such ongoing steps include the establishment of additional isolation centres, case management, contact tracing, deployment of additional personnel, screening at borders, and the procurement of required items and facilities.
The President commended the vigilance of aviation and health authorities in Lagos who identified and isolated the index case in Nigeria, the late Patrick Sawyer, an American-Liberian, who flew into the country.
He also applauded the good work of health authorities at both State and Federal levels who have traced persons who had contact with Sawyer, isolated other identified cases and embarked on massive public enlightenment.
Jonathan called for even greater vigilance and co-operation at all levels to stop the Ebola virus from spreading further.
As the effective implementation of the Federal Government’s Special Intervention Plan will require other stakeholders to take certain precautionary steps that are supportive of the government’s initiative, the President called on members of the public to follow all directives by health authorities and report any suspected Ebola case to the nearest health facility for immediate medical attention.
He also enjoined the public to desist from spreading false information about Ebola, which can lead to mass hysteria, panic and misdirection, including unverified suggestions about the prevention, treatment, cure and spread of the virus.
President Jonathan urged that the movement of corpses from one community to the other and from overseas into the country should be stopped forthwith.
Every death should be reported to the relevant authorities and special precautions should be taken in handling corpses, he said.
Religious and political groups, spiritual healing centres, families, associations and other bodies should, in the meantime, discourage gatherings and activities that may unwittingly promote close contact with infected persons or place others at risk, a statement by the Presidency said on Friday.
Public enlightenment agencies, including privately-owned media organs, the statement said, should support government’s efforts and disseminate correct information in all Nigerian languages about preventive personal hygiene measures, the nature of the Ebola virus, modes of transmission and consequential steps to be taken in the event of infection.
President Jonathan appealed to state governments and private day care, nursery, primary and secondary schools owners to consider the option of extending the current school holiday until such a time when a national reassessment of the level of the Ebola threat is conducted.
The President further directed the National Emergency Management Agency and similar agencies at the state level to strengthen their public enlightenment campaigns and to use their networks to distribute hand sanitisers and other protective items nationwide.
He has also directed the aviation and health authorities to embark on immediate intensification of the screening of travellers at all the nation’s borders.
President Jonathan reassured everyone that the Government of Nigeria will continue to take every step, deploy all resources and mobilize every support and assistance to check the spread of Ebola in the country.
The statement said medical workers and other health professionals are expected to regard this declaration of a National Emergency as a patriotic call to duty and service.