Confusion over status, whereabouts of Chinese medical team; minister says ‘don’t ask me’
About five weeks after their arrival, the Federal Government has feigned ignorance of the status and whereabouts of 15-man Chinese medical team shipped into the country on April 8 to help in the fight against covid-19 pandemic.
Both the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, had vehemently defended the coming of the Chinese whom they claimed in April were all medical personnel against the counsel of Nigerians including the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, who felt Nigeria does not need the help of China.
However, the issue began to look like a scam on Thursday when the minister said he would really be grateful if Nigerians stopped asking him about the whereabouts of the Chinese medical team.
He said during the daily briefing on Covid-19: “On the Chinese Doctors, I want to, first of all, explain that I think not all of them were doctors and I think that I heard that some of them are Technicians but they are staff of CCECC.
“The Ministry of Health is not their host. So, we cannot always explain what happened to them or where they are. There seems to be a lot of interest in these doctors but they are staff of the company and I think they are on the company visa.
“So, I will be very happy if you do not ask me about where they are because they are not really our guests in that sense. But we have been able to learn some things from them by interacting with them on their experiences in their country.
“We have shared experiences as to what they did in their country, how they managed their Covid-19”.
The minister’s latest explanation contradicted the earlier stance of the federal Government when they told Nigerians that the Chinese team was in Nigeria to assist our medical team at the behest of CCECC, the Chinese construction company that has been heavily involved in major construction contracts in the country.
WHAT THE MINISTER SAID ON APRIL 8
Recall that the team, which arrived in Nigeria through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, was received by a Federal Government delegation led by the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire.
The Chinese team of doctors and experts came along with a new consignment of kits and medical equipment.
Speaking to newsmen after their arrival, Ehanire thanked the Chinese government for sending experts and equipment to assist Nigeria in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
While congratulating China for being able to successfully manage the pandemic, the minister said that Nigeria had much to learn from the experiences of the Asian country.
Ehanire, however, said that the experts would be quarantined for 14 days before they begin working fully in Nigeria.
“They will be in quarantine for 14 days.
“They knew that before they came and they have undergone tests before they left their country.
“Nevertheless they would be in quarantine for 14 days.
“The NCDC has gone to see where they will be in quarantine and they will be paying visits there throughout the 14 days.
“We are very happy to see the equipment that have come today.
“This is the second consignment from China after the Jack Ma consignment.
“We believe it will help us a lot in addressing the gaps we would have had in commodities and also very important equipment.
“We have 50 ventilators more after this visit. Beyond the ventilators, we also have the oxygenator which is similar to a heart-lung machine, a very sophisticated machine to treat those cases where even a ventilator has failed.
“This is a very important addition to our regiment of treatment options,” he said.
The minister added that plans had already been made for the experts to begin to share experiences and answer questions even while in quarantine through teleconferencing.
“What they will be doing here is capacity building to add to the body of knowledge which our experts have.
“Even while they are on quarantine, I have requested that they connect with our doctors and experts via teleconferencing so that we can start early to ask questions and learn from their narratives,” he said.
The minister stressed that the experts were indeed needed as they had more experience in handling viral infections especially the new coronavirus.
He said that the Nigerian experts were also doing a good job but noted that every health or medical expert needed to learn from those with more experience.
“The medical team that came from Irrua are experts in managing viral diseases generally and this is a viral disease.
“But this coronavirus is a novel virus disease. So it has new dimensions which are new to us and even the experts among us would like to know more about it.
“So the visit of these experts from China will give us information not only on public health aspects but on case management and all the difficulties they had,” he added.