The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila on Monday said that the Chinese medical personnel coming to Nigeria to assist in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic must undergo the necessary checks as provided by Nigeria.
Gbajabiamila, after a meeting between the leadership of the House and the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and the Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, said the measure became necessary to take precautions and allay fears expressed by many Nigerians.
This is even as the two ministers assured that Speaker that the 18 Chinese doctors will not have personal contacts with patients during their stay in the country.
Present at the meeting were the Chief Whip, Mohammed Tahir Monguno; the Deputy Leader, Peter Akpatason, and the Deputy Chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha.
Gbajabiamila said the meeting was conveyed following widespread complaints that trailed the announcement of the coming of some Chinese medical personnel to assist Nigeria.
Explaining the essence of the meeting, the Speaker said: “There are a lot of complaints about why we are bringing in Chinese doctors.
“It is incumbent on us, as lawmakers, to intervene, following the concerns of our constituents to understand the issues and get the right information to them.
“Our duty is to protect the Nigerian people, and every opportunity to increase our knowledge will not be thrown away.
“Having listened to you, what we are taking away from this meeting is that Nigeria needs this intervention from the Chinese, but you have to make it mandatory that they observe all the protocols laid down for the disease.
“As you explained that they won’t have direct contact with Nigerian patients, you have to make sure that they go through our official immigration laws, they have to get work permit waivers because they are coming here to work.
“Also, they have to be quarantined for 14 days as stipulated by the protocol, and you have to educate Nigerians about this to avoid misconceptions. We have laws and they must be complied with,” the Speaker said.
Speaking, the Minister of Health, Ehanire, told the House leadership that Nigeria did not officially invite the Chinese team, but that it was an offer arranged by a group of Chinese companies based in Nigeria as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to Nigeria.
He said that being a novel disease that every country is trying to understand, Nigeria will benefit more from the gesture because the existing health facilities and personnel in Nigeria to tackle the disease are inadequate.
On his part, Minister of State for Health, Mamora, emphasized that the Chinese personnel are mainly experts in molecular laboratory testing, where we have only two indigenous experts currently serving seven laboratory centres.
He said the Chinese doctors are expected to help in setting up molecular laboratories around the country as well as upgrade and reconfigure existing ones in the country.
He added that the Chinese medical personnel would not have direct contact with Nigerian patients but would only help to reconfigure the laboratories and train Nigerian personnel and experts on the management of the disease and operation of the equipment and upgraded laboratories.
Saying that the Chinese gesture has no financial implications to Nigeria, Mamora regretted that there was little option than to accept the offer.
He said: “Case testing is the bulk of work because some people are asymptomatic, so we need faster and rapid test kits and processing. We are doing molecular testing that helps us know the viral load as well.
“We need to expand our testing labs across the country. Presently, we have two lab scientists in molecular testing, serving seven labs across the country. As we are expanding across the country, we need more people to be trained in molecular testing for faster results”.
In his response, Speaker Gbajabiamila said the information gap about the Chinese gesture is regrettable and should be addressed immediately.