EBOLA: US to screen Jonathan, 49 African Presidents for deadly virus today

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The US President, Barack Obama, has urged Nigeria’s President Jonathan and 49 African Heads of States that set to arrive the United States today to be prepared to undergo screening for the deadly Ebola virus, currently ravaging West Africa.
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President Goodluck Jonathan and about 49 of his colleagues are billed to meet Obama over the spate of insecurity ravaging the continent.

The meeting, which was at the invitation of Obama, is to discuss issues of common interests in a three-day summit with the African leaders, but has suddenly been overshadowed by health concerns.

Obama, in a precautionary measure, yesterday, alerted the African leaders that they are not immune from the virus, as such, they should get ready for Ebola virus screening.

Speaking at a news conference in Washington, DC, Obama said the visitors from Africa, who might have contracted the virus, would receive health screenings at the summit, while assuring that US health workers dispatched to West Africa to tackle the Ebola outbreak were responding positively.

“We will conduct a thorough screening for our visitors coming from African countries. Anyone who eventually contracts the virus will be treated accordingly.
“The United States is leading the response to the current Ebola eruption in West Africa alongside the World Health Organisation. The CDC and our various health agencies are going to be working very intently with the World Health Organisation and some of our partner countries to make sure we can surge some resources down there.”

On the logistics already put in place to ensure that the African summit is successfully conducted, Obama said, “closures will be coordinated by the District Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Police Department. The closures will be staggered in implementation based on the locations of the Summit Events. Vehicular traffic will be limited to law enforcement, official participants, employees, and in certain locations, guests.”

Jonathan, who is billed to join Obama and other participating African leaders in security discussions, is expected to lead the group in chats that border on trade and investment ties, promoting inclusive sustainable development and expanding cooperation on peace and security.

According to the President’s spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, the Summit, which is the first of its kind between an American President and African Heads of States and Governments, is expected to greatly strengthen ties between the United States, Nigeria and other African countries.
In addition to three special sessions on “Investing in Africa’s Future,” “Peace and Regional Stability” and “Governing the Next Generation,” the summit will also feature side-events such as the United States-Africa Business Forum which has the objectives of boosting efforts to strengthen trade and financial ties between the United States and Africa, creating partnerships that will accelerate job creation, and encouraging even more American investments in Nigeria and other African countries.

Jonathan is also scheduled to hold meetings in Washington with key United States political, security and business leaders on the sidelines of the summit to discuss the further expansion of bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and the United States in other areas, including the war against terrorism.

The President will be accompanied to the summit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali; the Co-ordinating Minster of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga; the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo and the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd). He will return home at the conclusion of the summit on Wednesday.
This is coming on the heels of an announcement by the Federal Government, banning the transportation of corpses into the country from other West African nations.

The Federal Government had, on Friday, directed relevant authorities to immediately stop receiving corpses from countries where the spread of Ebola had been established.

The Director, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Prof. Abdulsalim Nasidi, who gave the hint, explained that “the FG has issued a directive that we will henceforth not receive anybody or corpse from the West African coast, especially from Liberia and others that were on red alert for Ebola virus. Mechanisms are in place to checkmate that. For instance, a plane was to come into the country with a corpse but the port health officials rejected it. Our problem is the land border.

“We are working in collaboration, the country will be notified through the diplomatic channels that they should not allow any transportation of any corpse into the country, so it is both side.

“But in order to have effective monitoring, we held a meeting and how it will be done was stated. We shall be giving update on this very soon.

He also commented on the Ebola fears in Anambra State, assuring that “all the handlers of the corpses brought into the country from Liberia via Air Gambia will be registered and tracked and those who accompanied the corpse to the state and the mortuary handlers are under quarantine in Anambra.

The Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, had earlier urged the Federal Government to urgently close some of the borders as part of preventive measures against the outbreak the disease.

Fashola, who noted that few West African countries have been at the epicentre of the virus, said: “I believe some of the countries are Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. There is a risk to the entire sub-region. I like to commend all the health workers in the state for the very professional manner they have responded while I was out of the country.
“This is no longer a local, but an international problem because it is easily transmittable across the borders and boundaries. The Federal Government team has been working with the state team, I think what the Federal Government needs to do at this time is to consider the imperative of closing some of our borders.
“It is difficult to stop this epidemic, we must now choose the treaty obligations that we hold under the ECOWAS treaty and perhaps short term benefits in terms of economic cost to human life. We must make that choice and consider it very seriously. It is a national security issue.
“I think we should give it that attention. I think men and women who man our border posts – sea, air and land- especially the Customs, now know that they are our first line of defence. What happens going forward depends on how professionally they act. It is prevention rather than calling the health professionals to quarantine people.

“That is really the strongest defence now against migration of the virus. We will continue to put out information about what the health risks are and the symptoms. I have instructed the ministry to enlighten the public on what to do in order not to contract the virus.

“This is the time that everyone must be at the vanguard of stopping that untidy behaviour. For me, I think cremation has been the best method. Dead bodies emit fluid. This showed that the cremation policy of the state is the best solution to deal with the issue. This is a health security and people must embrace contemporary hygiene standards. All the residents who had contacts with the dead Liberian have been tested and the result proved negative.

“But there is still risk because we heard a dead body was brought into the country from Liberia. This means there is still need for vigilance at our border posts. The officials at these places should act professionally and report every incident they suspect.”

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