The World Health organization (WHO) on Thursday backed the decision by the Lagos state government on Wednesday to close all public and private schools in Nigeria’s most populous city over the fast spreading coronavirus.
Dr. Matshidiso Rebecca Natalie Moeti, a physician, public health specialist and medical administrator and the current director of the WHO Regional Office for Africa, said at a virtual news conference from WHO Africa headquarters in Brazzaville, the Republic of the Congo, that taking such pro-active measures sooner than later could save lives.
She said failure to take strong measures early enough, including measures to protect children can be devastating if the virus starts spreading in the community and in schools.
“It is a wise thing to do to put these measures in place earlier than later,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa said in response to a question by TODAY NEWS AFRICA‘s in Washington D.C. on whether the government in Lagos was overreacting by imposing strong measures when there were less than 10 cases in Africa’s most populous nation.
“What we understand is the earlier this is done before you have widespread, the better.
“We encourage strong measures to contain the outbreak,” she added.
The briefing on-the-record briefing was organized with support from the World Economic Forum as part of the COVID Action Platform. It was an opportunity for reporters around the world to ask world-leading experts questions about COVID-19 and how to minimize its impact in Africa.
On the call were Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa; Dr Lucile Imboua-Niava, WHO Representative for Senegal, and Dr Owen Kaluwa, WHO Representative for South Africa. It was moderated by Adrian Monck, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.
The Lagos State Government said late on Wednesday it was closing down all public and private schools from Monday March 23, 2020, “as part of the preventive measures against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic”.
“The move becomes necessary to prevent our children and their teachers from getting more vulnerable to the pandemic,” the government said in a statement to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.
The statement added: “It is important for parents to ensure that their children practise ‘social distancing’ while at home, wash their hands regularly or use hand sanitizers and observe high standards of personal hygiene.
“Children should be encouraged to remain at home.
“The closure is not intended to create panic but to arrest the spread of the disease, which has become a global threat.
“The Incident Command Centre, headed by the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is the Incident Commander, will continue to trace all contacts of the identified cases and encourage anyone who has information about suspected cases to report to the nearest hospital or call the emergency telephone numbers 08023169485, 08033565529, 08052817243 and 08023401214”.