A 15-member medical team from China recently arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. The team comprised experts in infectious diseases, respiratory illness, intensive care, cardiology, neurology, general surgery and anaesthesiology. Aboard the chartered Air Peace flight were also medical supplies including 16-tonnes of test kits, ventilators, disinfection machine, disposable medical masks, N95 masks, medicines, rubber gloves, protective gowns, goggles, face shields, infra-red thermometers and other critical care items. To underscore government’s appreciation, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehainre, was at the airport to receive them. But the government, in announcing the coming of the Chinese medical team, never mentioned anything specific about their mission, duration of the visit or even the cost implications for the country. It was just assumed that they were coming to help Nigeria quench the fire of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic within the country. The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) fired the first salvo of suspicion on the mission of the Chinese doctors when it said that their coming will be counter-productive, saying that Nigerian doctors were doing exceptionally well in fighting the outbreak.
Then, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) weighed in, charging Nigerians to hold President Muhammadu Buhari responsible should there be any upsurge in the rate of COVID-19 infection and death in our country following the importation of doctors from China. Then, Nigerians across board continued to question the status, identity and interest of the Chinese doctors as well as the safety of kits and equipment they came with. This was fueled by scary reports of allegation of the escalation of the scourge in certain unspecified countries after the arrival of Chinese medical personnel in those countries. It was only on the intense opposition of the Chinese medial team that the Minister of Health announced that to allay the fears of Nigerians, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) would ensure the quality of all the medical supplies that were brought into the country from China. Dr Ehanire, in stating that the coronavirus equipment and consumables are worth $1.3 million, said that they are to provide healthcare assistance and share methods on the containment of COVID-19 with Nigeria. He added that the team was not in Nigeria to treat patients but to conduct capacity building based on their experience. Meanwhile, on the eve of the medical team’s arrival, Mr Micheal Jiang, Managing Director of the construction firm, CCECC Nigeria, issued a statement that started clearing the hog, saying that it was his company that arranged for the arrival as part of its Corporate Social Responsibilities. Jiang added that “in keeping with its corporate value, “Stride with Nigeria,” CCECC is participating in the construction of two COVID-19 response facilities in the FCT for free.” The facilities include a 196-bed at the Abuja Central Business District and the 150-bed Idu Depot Treatment Centre. Stating that the 15-member medical team had tested negative to COVID-19 and would undergo 14 days in quarantine, the CCECC boss added that apart from escorting the medical supplies, they would “provide guidance for their usage and distribution.” It is over 14 days since the arrival of the Chinese doctors, enough days to quarantine them, yet there is no clarification from either the Federal Ministry of Health or the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. Their inability to do this fuels unnecessary antagonism to the normal humanitarian nature of the visit. Why would it be left for the Chinese firm to announce details of the mission? Why was the government absent? What needs to be appreciated is that government has to be clear in its messaging. You can’t just announce such a sensitive visit without giving details. They should right from the day of the announcement have provided answers to the questions the citizens would be asking privately. Failure to do this breeds suspicion. And anytime government obfuscates, confusion reigns. That is the lesson from this coming of the Chinese doctors.
Credit: Daily Trust