The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on Friday said it had got clarification on the six COVID-19 cases found aboard a vessel, as announced by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Adams Jatto, General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications of NPA, made the disclosure in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos.
Jatto said that the NCDC had clarified that the cases were discovered on an oil rig, Siem Marlin, on the high sea, offshore Lagos, and accessed by the Lagos State Government and the NCDC by helicopter.
In an update on the coronavirus situation in Nigeria on Thursday at 7.35 p.m., NCDC had said that 14 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, with two in Abuja, and 12 in Lagos.
The NCDC had said that, of the 14, six were detected on a vessel, while three were returnees to Nigeria and one, a close contact of a confirmed case.
The NPA had, in a tweet, countered the NCDC’s claim as regards the six cases.
The tweet read: “Hello @NCDCgov. In respect to the six cases detected on a vessel in Lagos, the authority, in collaboration with Port Health, has not recorded any confirmed cases to date.
However, Jatto said on Friday that: “Following public reactions and an attempt by the Nigerian Ports Authority to get full details of COVID-19 cases said to have been found on a vessel, the authority wishes to make the following clarifications:
“The NPA, by its tweet on March 26, did not contradict the information released to the public by the National Centre for Disease Control. (NCDC).
“What the tweet sought to do was to get full details of the incident for the purposes of record and better management in the future.
“The tweet read thus: “Hello @NCDC. In respect to the six new cases that were detected on a vessel in Lagos, the authority in collaboration with Port Health has not recorded any confirmed cases to date.
“To enable verification and proper record-keeping, kindly avail us with specific details of the vessel the passengers were on board and the terminal or jetty where it berthed,” he said.
He said that NPA needed clarification to reassure its stakeholders who raised concerns at the announcement of the six cases.
He said that concerns were raised because shipping companies, terminal operators and jetty operators did not witness any such passengers through their respective COVID-19 protocols.
Jatto said that NPA and Port Health Services had set clear protocols on the identification of sick people on vessels and the management of suspected and confirmed cases in line with best practices set by the International Maritime Organisation.
According to Jatto, the protocols include that captain of any vessel with a sick person on board must fly two yellow flags.
“This done, personnel of the Port Health Services would go into the vessel at berth and inspect it.”
According to him, in cases where there is such a person on board, the personnel will quarantine the ship and immediately communicate to the Lagos State Ministry of Health.
He added that the ministry would send an epidemiologist who would go on board with Port Health personnel, take samples from the sick person and report to the NCDC.
He said that maritime stakeholders would not have been so apprehensive if it was clear that the six passengers were on a rig.
However, he noted that “This clarification has renewed the confidence of stakeholders in the effectiveness of the processes put in place.
“Given the fact that the maritime industry is central to the management of the pandemic worldwide, NPA is committed to working with all other agencies of government to ensure the safety of all Nigerians.”