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Controversies over number of Nigerians that tested positive for coronavirus in China

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The actual number of Nigerians infected by coronavirus in China, the outbreak centre of the global pandemic, is yet to be ascertained after conflicting figures from the Nigerian Government, Chinese authorities and a section of local media.

The Nigerian Government on Friday disagreed with Chinese authorities over the claim that 72 Nigerians had been infected with coronavirus in China. Nigeria, on the other hand, said only nine of its citizens in China have been infected.

How it started
A Nigerian daily Punch Newspaper on Thursday reported that 72 Nigerians had contracted coronavirus in China.

The national daily reported the story based on a “note verbale (diplomatic correspondence) to the Nigerian Consulate in Guangzhou dated April 22, 2020” seen by it’s correspondent.

“The results of the tests conducted on 56 Nigerians, which were released on Tuesday, indicated that the affected individuals were asymptomatic, raising concern that they might have infected other people,” Punch reported.

“It was learnt that that 16 Nigerians had earlier tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number to 72.”

The newspaper later published the diplomatic correspondence on its website and social media platforms.

China speaks…
The correspondence sent to the Nigerian mission in Guangzhou, Chinese authorities insisted 72 Nigerians tested positive for the virus which has killed more than 200, 000 persons worldwide.

“According to the data reported on 21st April, 2020 by the Guangzhou Municipal Health Commission, among Nigerian citizens in Guangzhou, there are 16 confirmed cases, 56 cases have been tested positive and 65 cases of close contact,” the document by the Foreign Affairs Office Guangzhou Municipal People’s Government said.

The Chinese government urged Nigerian citizens in China to comply with the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Treatment of Infections Diseases, Law of Frontier Health and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China, Public Health Emergency Regulations.

“Only when the epidemic is controlled, can our trading business prosper,” Ogbonna Maximus Ikenna, who is the president of the Nigerian Community in China told Chinese news agency Xinhua.

The controversy
Chinese ambassador in Nigeria during his conversation on the situation report of Nigerians with Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Onyeama did not mention that 72 Nigerians had tested positive for coronavirus in China.

Speaking at the presidential taskforce briefing on coronavirus on Friday, Onyeama said, “The Chinese ambassador only talked about a plane that came into Nigeria where some of Nigerian passengers who subsequently tested positive, within that range of nine, 12.”

“The official figure that was given was nine Nigerians and as I understand it, our Consulate added that a number of Nigerians were asymptomatic but the figures that we had was nine.

“So where the figure 72 came from, I really have no idea whatsoever.”

Irked by the conflicting figures, Nigerians accused the newspaper of conniving with Chinese authorities and not working in the interest of Nigeria and its citizens.

“How do you just publish that. Who told you that?… Did you come to China before reporting that lie,” one Blessed Isaac, who claimed to be a Nigerian living in China said in a recorded telephone conversation which has gone viral.

Another Nigerian resident in China told The Guardian that he was aware only 9 of his countrymen tested positive. He gave the figure before Onyeama addressed the press conference on Friday.

“Saying that 72 Nigerians have tested positive for coronavirus in China is a lie,” China Nigerian on Twitter told our correspondent.

Nigerians on Twitter claimed that the Chinese authorities deliberately falsified the figures out of racism against their fellow nationals.



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