The Coronavirus (COVID-19 virus) outbreak, first identified in Wuhan, China has since rapidly spread to the rest of the world with more than 1,000,000 reported cases in about 170 countries and territories. Efforts by various governments to prevent spread and contain the outbreak have included nationwide quarantines, mass public testing, curfew measures, border closures, facility closures, incoming passenger restrictions/ travel bans, and event postponements or cancellations.
In Nigeria, the urgency of the COVID-19 virus pandemic has necessitated the formulation of strategies by the Nigerian government to contain the outbreak. At an interactive session organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the Rotunda, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja, members of the Diplomatic Corps were briefed on measures taken by the Nigerian government in tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19 virus).
In attendance was the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Geoffrey Onyeama, the Hon. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Zubairu Dada, the Hon. Minister of health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Hon. Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Mustapha Sulaiman, D.G. Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Assistant Comptroller-General, Visa & Residency Directorate, Mrs Victoria Isanghedighi, members of the Diplomatic Corps and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Given the declaration of the COVID-19 Virus by the WHO as a pandemic, the Hon. Minister of Health while presenting the led address to the members of the Diplomatic Community, underscored the dire need for countries to work together in order to contain the spread of the virus. He assured the members that there was no need to panic over coronavirus in Nigeria and affirmed Nigeria’s solidarity with all countries across the world to control the pandemic.
Dr. Osagie Ehanire went on to highlight that the Nigerian government through the Ministry of Health has devised precautionary and preparedness strategies against the virus, pointing out that the multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) continues to oversee national response activities.
According to the Hon. Minister, “Nigeria is developing a stockpile of essential medical supplies in the event of an outbreak. We have laboratory testing facilities at five laboratories at present and there are plans to expand more laboratories in the country”.
He also urged the various governments which the diplomats represent to tighten health screening at the points of departure to help in the reduction of the virus exportation to countries such as Nigeria.
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service represented by the Assistant Comptroller-General, Visa & Residency Directorate, Mrs. Victoria Isanghedighi, used the opportunity of the gathering to give an update on the implementation of the Nigerian Visa Policy 2020.
In her speech captioned “Keeping Pace with Global Dynamics of Visa Administration” which preceded a Power-Point presentation by Kunle Osisanya, the comptroller in charge of visa policy; Mrs. Victoria Isanghedighi expounded the essence of the Nigeria visa policy 2020 which meets the reality of the ever-changing socio-economic and political globalized world. The presentation stated that the Nigerian visa policy 2020 considers seventy-nine categories of visa and addresses all conceivable purposes for which a migrant may want to come into Nigeria.
Responding to the informative discourses of the Minister of Health and the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Amb. Ibrahima Salahhedine, on behalf of the Diplomatic Corps, conveyed his gratitude, acknowledging the importance of two subjects of discourse: measures taken to tackle the Coronavirus and the Nigeria Visa Policy 2020.
To echo the words of the Director-General, W.H.O, “the decisions we all make as governments, businesses, communities, families, and individuals can influence the trajectory of this pandemic”. As may be observed, one of the key strategies the Federal Government of Nigeria employs in the preparedness against the COVID-19 virus has been a strong collaboration among all relevant authorities which includes control agencies such as the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigeria Customs Service. Indeed, needless to say, to stem the spread of the virus, all hands are at the pumps in the fight against COVID-19.