Close-marking COVID19 – WHO supports screening activities at Lagos international airport arrivals

Following the successful deployment of ad-hoc Environmental Health Officers by the Lagos State Government aimed at beefing up Point of Entry (PoE) surveillance personnel requirement at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos, the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided additional coordination and technical expertise to passenger entry screening at both arrival terminals of the international airport to reduce the possibility of importation on COVID-19.

Nigeria recorded its first confirmed coronavirus case on the 27 February, 2020 when a 44-year old Italian citizen was diagnosed of COVID-19 in Lagos State after being referred from Ogun State. The case arrived the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on 24th February 2020 aboard a flight from Milan, Italy.

The Director of Port Health Services (PHS), Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Morenike Alex-Okoh, during her technical review visit to the MMIA, Lagos, commended WHO for providing the additional personnel and technical expertise to support screening of passengers on entry to the country. “WHO has remained a dependable ally to Port Health Services in strengthening IHR capacities for responding to public health events at the Points of Entry, this has remained true during this COVID-19 preparedness and response”, she said.

Self-reporting forms are handed out to passengers before they disembark the airplane or on arrival as per the protocol for screening. The primary screening includes review of the self-reporting forms, temperature monitoring by screening staff and a nurse responsible for observing passengers for visible signs of illness. Any passenger who reports illness or exposure to confirmed cases or shows visible signs of illness will be further interviewed and sent to the secondary screening point for assessment by a medical officer.

With an average of 3000 passengers arriving Nigeria through MMIA Lagos on a daily basis , screening challenges which include language barrier, incomplete or inappropriate completion of the self-reporting forms, and the significant risk of importation of more casesd from outside the country the Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health, Lagos State Government, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and WHO have collaboratively adopted robust strategies for efficient screening of passengers that arrive the country in line with the national COVID-19 preparedness and response plan.

The forms collected from the screening section are further segregated to identify passengers coming from places of interest, which are the countries with current local transmission of the virus. These persons of interest (POI) details are captured in a database for further follow up on the symptoms of Severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) through phone calls.

Mr Tella, the data manager affirmed that entry of POI data began since on the 5th of February and over 1000 persons have been documented by the WHO response team for follow up.

As at 10 March 2020, Nigeria had confirmed two cases of COVID-19. Globally, a total of 113, 702 confirmed cases reported (71% cases in China) and 4,012 deaths. The total number of countries/territories/areas affected increased to 109 affected countries.

Source: World Health Organization. Africa