A coronavirus

By Francis Ezem

The Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Health has placed vessels from some Asian countries especially China, Japan, Thailand and South Korea on strict surveillance. This follows the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus that has claimed several lives in some of these countries.

This is with a view of checkmating the outbreak of the deadly disease in Nigeria through her seaports and other land borders. The government had earlier taken similar measures at the country’s international airports.

Under the new regulations at the seaports, all vessels coming to Nigeria from China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and any other affected country must notify the Port Health Services, a unit of the Federal Ministry of Health stationed at the seaports and land borders, failing which the vessel would not be allowed into Nigeria’s territory.

Director of the Port Health Services at the Lagos Ports Complex Apapa, the country’s premier and biggest cargo seaport, Olokodana Abisola, who confirmed the development, also disclosed that relevant agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Plant Quarantine Services and the Nigeria Immigration Service, among several others have all been put on red alert.

According to him, the Port Health Services has also sensitised all other port stakeholders on the outbreak of the deadly virus and on the need to take precautionary measures to ensure that disease does not creep into Nigeria through the seaports or land entry points.

He also disclosed that all crew members of vessels from the affected countries would be subjected to various health screening exercises including taking their temperatures to ascertain their health status before they are allowed into the nation’s territory, which also informed the need for them to notify the Port Health office 48 hours before their arrival.

A statement by the Port Health Services issued out to stakeholders on the outbreak of the virus reads in part: “Port Health Services wishes to notify all port users, agencies and stakeholders of the outbreak of Coronavirus in China, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.

“That any vessel coming to Nigeria through the above named countries must notify the Port Health Services 48 hours before arrival to forestall any outbreak of this virus in Nigeria”

Recall that the coronavirus outbreak in China which has killed 81 people and spread to many countries is currently affecting their economies negatively.

Shanghai said on Monday that companies cannot restart operations before Feb. 9, and businesses in the eastern Chinese manufacturing hub of Suzhou have been ordered to stay shut until at least Feb. 8.

The government has lengthened the week-long Lunar New Year holiday nationally by three days to Feb. 2.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million and the epicenter of the virus outbreak in central China, is already in virtual lockdown and severe limits on movement are in place in several other Chinese cities.

Many analysts are turning to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a coronavirus that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people globally in 2002 and 2003, to better understand the likely longer-term effects.

“The economy rebounded quickly after SARS faded away,” said Larry Hu of Macquarie Capital, in a note to clients. Transportation, restaurants and retail sales were hit, but Hu said on the whole SARS was “just a blip which didn’t change the big trend.”

This time, however, analysts say China’s increased reliance on consumption to drive the world’s second-biggest economy compared to early 2000s, could undermine growth.