The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has suspended all arrangements by intending pilgrims from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia for Umrah.
The development, according to NAHCON, became necessary following the temporary suspension of Umrah by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
As of yesterday, 48 countries had recorded 2,800 deaths from 82,164 confirmed cases. China, where the pandemic broke out lost 2,750 people.
Nigeria has had no confirmed case. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said 11 suspected cases tested were negative.
Head Public Affairs , NAHCON Fatima Usara, advised all stakeholders and people who already have visas for the pilgrimage “to comply with the directive and await further instructions” from the Saudi authorities.
The statement said: “NAHCON hereby draws attention of intending pilgrims from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia for Umrah or to visit the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah to suspend the arrangement until further notice.
“The COVID-19 has recorded many fatalities that have forced some countries with confirmed cases to close down schools and other social gatherings.
“NAHCON identifies with this courageous step by Saudi Arabia and affirms its commitment and cooperation in the interest of world Muslims and humanity in general. This measure was taken in accordance with approved international standards towards curtailing spread of the disease.
“Consequently, NAHCON cautions Nigerian pilgrims for Umrah to note that this suspension is effective on those who have already been issued travel visas and about to embark on the journey as well as for those planning to do so in the nearest future.
“NAHCON urges all stakeholders to comply with the directive and await further instructions from the Kingdom’s authorities.”
NCDC said results of the 11 suspected cases of COVID-19 tested in Lagos were negative.
The centre reassured Nigerians of their safety against the virus, following report of a case in Lagos. The state government said yesterday that the case was negative
The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the tests were conducted by the centre’s National Reference Laboratory and Virology Laboratory at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Idi-Araba.
He said: “Four laboratories in Nigeria have the capacity to test for the coronavirus. These laboratories are within the NCDC laboratory network and are in contact 24/7. If a new case is confirmed, it will be reported accordingly.
“We are in close communication with the Lagos State Ministry of Health and other states, and will inform the public once there’s a confirmed case in Nigeria.
“We urge Nigerians to disregard rumours and discourage further spread. NCDC will inform the public if a case is reported in Nigeria.”
He added that with the support of World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDC would carry out a two-day simulation exercise to assess its capacity to respond in the event of an outbreak.
“This process will allow for a review of existing gaps and rapid implementation of interventions to fill these gaps,” he explained.
Speaking after the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said: “In Nigeria, the good news is, yes, there have been a total of 11 suspected cases, but all the 11 have turned out to be negative. In fact, there was a scare in Lagos yesterday, about two cases but all have been confirmed negative as we speak. But Nigeria still places itself on high risk, as also advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“The alertness in each of these airports is very high. But we also have court testing facilities and are ready at the NCDC lab in Abuja, Luth in Lagos, in Edo State and also the University of Osun, all have been activated and all state governments have been told to have a level of preparedness.”