The 2nd Vice President of the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr Segun Akinwotun, on Tuesday said doctors were willing to wait till December before changing their stand on the September 22 schools resumption date announced by the Federal Government.
“At the time the NMA initially made the pronouncement that we will wait till December, it was because we still had a lot of fresh cases coming up,” he said while speaking on Sunrise Daily.
He, however, noted that following the proper measures put in place, especially by all the states that had the outbreak, to contain the virus, the association decided to align its decision with that of the Federal Government.
He urged schools to properly implement the control measures that had been put in place and praised the efforts of the Port Health Services officials who preliminary screen people traveling into or within the country.
Dr Akinwotun commended the efforts put in place to contain the disease, saying: “If you compare Nigeria with other nations that have similar outbreaks, they have not been able to contain it the way we did. They are even asking for our intervention to assist them in controlling this in their countries”.
He added that in those countries people feed on the carrier of the virus, noting that it increased the rate of infected persons.
He further noted that if the virus was in the bush meat in Nigeria’s bush, we would have had our index case from within and not from the late Liberian, who flew into the country after being diagnosed with the virus.
“If we already have Ebola Virus among our bush animals and the hunters interact with them, and in the course of doing so, the body secretions come into contact with hunters that go into the farms to try and hunt the animals and process them.
“That hunter now goes home and have contact with other people” insisting that “it is not as if they are bringing those animals that are already having Ebola in those countries to Nigerian markets or bushes for hunters to go and hunt. If this thing was already there, we will have our own index case arising from Nigeria ab initio not someone coming from Liberia to Nigeria.
The leadership of the medical association, which had earlier suggested that schools remained closed until all suspected Ebola cases are cleared, yesterday noted that the association now had nothing against the new school resumption date announced by the Federal Government.
They, however, emphasised the need to focus on maintaining the “highest level of vigilance” in the several entry points, resuscitating the infectious disease hospitals in states and ensuring comprehensive screening of travellers, among others as conditions that must be met by the Federal Government.
The NMA President, Dr Kayode Obemebe also said” “All recent travellers to all the provinces of the current endemic countries of the Ebola disease, namely Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Sudan and Gabon, must be carefully scrutinized for the presence of the virus and epidemiologically treated accordingly.”
Nobody Influenced Change Of Date
The Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau explained why the date was selected and also wondered why some associations such as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) disagreed with the date selected.
“It was a unanimous decision taken after a meeting with all state education commissioners and the health ministry. The ministry also wrote all state governors to give the directive more weight.
“At no point did anybody influence this decision. There were reports that the private sector influenced the decision. That is not true.”
“It may surprise you that when we fixed October 13, some people were very angry with us. What we did was purely on the professional advice from the Federal Ministry of Health. You have to live and survive to get education.
“If the Federal Ministry of Health tells us tomorrow that it is not safe for people to congregate, we will have to comply,” the minister stated.
While lamenting criticism from NUT on the matter, the Minister said the association never got to the ministry on the shift in school resumption date before it went to press, stressing that “people are trivialising this matter”.