It emerged yesterday that some of the people who came into Nigeria with Liberian Patrick Sawyer who died in Lagos on July 25, attended a conference in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
Sawyer, a Liberian-American, came into the country on July 20 as a member of the Liberian delegation to an ECOWAS conference in Calabar.
But he fell ill aboard an ASKY Airline plane and was hospitalised in Lagos before his death five days later of the Ebola virus.
Yesterday, ECOWAS Vice President Dr. Toga Gayewea said the delegation members, who had contact with Sawyer were in Calabar for the conference.
This has widened the contact persons, who are to be tracked because members of the delegation who had contact with Sawyer also had contact with other people at the conference, who are also susceptible to the virus.
The ECOWAS Chief spoke yesterday in Abuja at the briefing for the Diplomatic Mission by Health Minister Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu.
The briefing was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chukwu spoke on the danger posed by likely virus carriers moving about unhindered and concern against indiscriminate wearing of gloves.
“Some primary contacts against our advice even left Lagos to other cities. So, everyone can be at risk. That is the message, everyone is indeed at risk.
“If you say let us wear the protective gloves and walk the streets of Lagos, it will frighten the whole community. So, it is pretty difficult…
The ECOWAS Vice President said: “At the airport upon his arrival, when there was detection in his failing health, our protocol officers that had gone to meet with delegates immediately took action in collaboration with Nigerian authorities on the ground and he was taken to the hospital. So, there was no time that he went into Calabar but it is true that he flew on the plane with people who went into Calabar and who had interacted with him.
“As we speak, our officers, protocol officers, the driver and the head of our protocol department are all under careful observation and we hope that some other good news will come out from there but currently, we are monitoring their situation very closely.”
Onyebuchi said between the aircraft and the hospital, the number of people who had contact with Sawyer was unknown.
He added that those involved in attending to Sawyer two days before the test result came out were not protected.
He said not until after the test result confirmed that it was the deadly virus that precaution was taken.
The minister who sounded a note of warning said the situation right now had assumed a global emergency as everyone is at risk.
He said: “Indeed, this is coming from a Liberian citizen who is also an American. The family said he resided in America and he was expected to return to America for the celebration of his baby’s birthday. This tells us that if only the incubation period shifted a little bit, he would have come here, attended the ECOWAS meeting in Calabar and would have returned to the United States and probably it would have started manifesting in the United States. So, this means the whole world is in danger.
“The two statements I want to make and if that is the only thing you will remember today, that will be sufficient for me; firstly, indeed, we have an emergency in our hands, for me, it is a national emergency but for all of us, it is a global emergency. Secondly, everyone is at risk, every nation is at risk and every individual is at risk.
“We do know that 18 days ago, it landed on the shores of Nigeria and of course because of the way it came, nobody at the airport was on the alert even though we were on red alert, terrorism was the foremost on the minds of people and not this form of viral terrorism and so, quite a number of people between the aircraft to the hospital and even initially at the hospital, as we know, were not really protected. Protection started two days later, i.e. standard protection started two days later after diagnosis was certain and obvious to everyone.
“We were able to obtain the manifest from the airline, the only problem we had with this manifest was that, the sitting was free except of course the pilot sit. So, it made what we wanted to do a little bit more complex. We classify the passengers that traveled with him on two different flights, from Monrovia to Lome and Lome to Nigeria.
“We decided later that all those on that plane should be considered as contacts, some of them left subsequently on another flight to another place but all those who landed in Nigeria were placed under surveillance. We have also had challenges with this surveillance, because one or two tried to hide from us and it was not easy looking for somebody you have already labelled as carrying the disease no matter how you explain to those who will go after him.
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