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‘Nigeria land borders too porous to keep coronavirus out’

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*Fears as death toll, number of infections, affected countries increase

Experts have raised alarm that the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China could reach Nigeria and indeed other countries because beyond international air borders, most countries have very porous and poorly manned land borders.

The country’s land borders are with Republics of Benin to the west, Cameroon to the east, Chad to the northeast, and Niger to the north. According to a study published in the journal of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Emerging Infectious Diseases, the consequences of insufficient national and regional public health capacities at points of entry (POEs), such as established airports, seaports, or ground crossings, in border regions and among internationally mobile populations became apparent during the 2014–2016 West Africa Ebola epidemic.

The study is titled “Responding to Communicable Diseases in Internationally Mobile Populations at Points of Entry and along Porous Borders, Nigeria, Benin, and Togo.”

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It noted that within weeks of the first Ebola case in a remote area of Guinea, the epidemic had inconspicuously spread across land borders to Liberia and Sierra Leone. A limited number of cases spread over land to Senegal and Mali and through air travel to Nigeria, Spain, and the United States. Throughout the almost two-year epidemic, common local and long-distance international human movement between highly connected communities increased the geographic impact of disease.

Also, several studies have shown that land borders in Nigeria are very porous. The concern over the coronavirus coming into countries through porous land borders is global.At a briefing in central London, virologists warned that some 4,000 people were probably now infected in the city of Wuhan, but said it could be as many as 9,700.

It puts the fatality rate on a par with the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, which wiped out 50 million people globally. Experts said more deaths were expected in the coming days and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is considering declaring an international public health emergency.

But Director of the Medical Research Council’s Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, Prof Neil Ferguson, said it was difficult to detect the virus because it had an incubation period of five days, meaning people could be carriers yet appear symptomless.Asked if the virus was already here Prof Ferguson said: “We can’t rule out the possibility. Border screening and the alert in the health system, is not 100 per cent foolproof.

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“This sort of measure of trying to identify people who are sick coming off a plane will only identify, if you’re lucky, people who will have fever coming off a plane.“If somebody was infected two days before they travelled, they will arrive without any symptoms at all.“It is understandable countries want to try and reduce the threat by various measures at the border. But the border will still be porous.”

Meanwhile, the outbreak of the mysterious new coronavirus is rapidly spreading, the Chinese authorities said on Tuesday, as the official account of known cases jumped nearly 60 percent overnight and the death toll exceeded 100 for the first time.China said on Tuesday that 106 people had died from the virus, which is believed to have originated in the central city of Wuhan and is spreading across the country. The previous death toll, on Monday, was 81.

The number of confirmed cases increased to 4,515 on Tuesday, from 2,835 on Monday, according to the National Health Commission. The youngest confirmed case is a nine-month-old girl in Beijing.Most of the confirmed cases have been in the central Chinese province of Hubei, where several cities, including Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, have been placed under what amounts to a lockdown. Of the total cases, 2,714 are in Hubei.

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Thailand has reported 14 cases of infection; Hong Kong has eight; the United States, Taiwan, Australia and Macau have five each; Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia each have reported four; Japan has seven; France has three; Canada and Vietnam have two; and Nepal, Cambodia and Germany each have one. There have been no deaths outside China.

The CDC study noted: “Despite the challenges, for resource-limited countries with porous land borders and high cross-border mobility resulting from shared familial, cultural, linguistic, and economic ties, border health security, and therefore health security as a whole, is best achieved by implementing a comprehensive border health strategy involving relevant local, national, and regional sectors.

The examples from Nigeria, Benin, and Togo demonstrate that development of a border health system can be successful by including public health emergency response plans (PHERPs) for POEs, prioritizing border areas through risk-based assessments using the Border Health Capacity Discussion Guide (BHCDG) and population mobility mapping, and enhancing timely cross-border surveillance and coordination….” Implementing these strategies will help to achieve global health security by supporting countries to prevent the spread of potential health threats across international borders.”

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