The National Council on Health has banned the transport of corpses and critically ill persons on both local and international routes with immediate effect.
It said only dead bodies with waivers granted by the Federal Ministry of Health would be transported within and into Nigeria . Such corpses must be conveyed only in ambulances.
To show its seriousness on the movement of corpses, the council advised state governments to enact legislation for its effective compliance .
The NCH which is the highest policy making body in the health sector reached the decision after a meeting in Abuja on Tuesday.
Members of the council are the Minister of Health, the Minister of State for Health; state Health commissioners ; the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Federal Capital Territory , and the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health.
As the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, briefed journalists on the outcome of the meeting, the World Health Organisation said it had approved the use of trial drugs such as the ZMapp serum by persons infected with the Ebola Virus Disease.
Chukwu explained that the council deliberated extensively on strategies to contain the spread of the EVD beyond those who had primary contact with the late Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, who brought the virus to Nigeria.
He said since it had been established that the disease could only be spread through contact with either the corpse of someone who died of the virus or anyone who became sick as result of the viral infection, necessary steps had to be taken .
The minister added, “The corpses of all persons confirmed to have died of EVD must be buried according to WHO standard protocol.
“Council further directed that the transport of corpses into Nigeria as well as inter-state transport be banned until further notice except with approved waivers that may be issued by the Federal Ministry of Health”
To ensure immediate compliance with the ban, Chukwu briefed the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers and the National Road Transport Owners on the council’s decisions.
He told those whose vehicles ply international routes to demand medical reports from sick passengers before accepting to carry them to Nigeria.
Chukwu added that corpses from other nations must have waivers from the FMW and must be carried in only ambulances.
He said, “From today, don’t allow any sick person to enter your vehicle again except he or she produces a medical report which should contain the nature of the ailment and the fact that other passengers will not be infected. Only the dead and the sick can transmit the(Ebola) disease
“Secondly, don’t carry any corpse unless you have the waiver which is obtainable only from the Federal Ministry of Health, duly signed by the Minister. So you must demand to see a waiver from anybody who may ask you to carry a dead person .
“Find out from the ministry, the authenticity of the waiver in case you are in doubt. Without a waiver, we will not allow you to enter Nigeria and your vehicle will be impounded because Ebola disease is transmitted mainly by someone who died of the virus and infected persons .”
The minister also advised drivers and owners of commercial vehicles to insist that passengers must henceforth fill correctly, their names, next of kins, phone numbers and their seat numbers in manifests.
He said that a protocol officer who obliged the late Sawyer the use of his mobile telephone contacted the virus while 10 members of a family died of EVD in Sierra Leone after they had buried an infected person.
Representatives of the two transport bodies, Ayoola Sadiku of NARTO and Alhaji Dansaki Sulaiman of the NURTW, pledged to convey the minister’s message to their members.
They assured the minister of immediate compliance with the directives .
Meanwhile, the NCH has urged the Nigerian Medical Association to suspend its strike and contribute to the ongoing response to the national health emergency.
It directed state governments to institutionalise communication strategies to ensure mass awareness of the EVD.
The council also wants particular attention to be paid to vulnerable groups such as market women and other women groups, patent medicine vendors, road transport workers, fishermen, hunters and bushmeat sellers, schoolchildren, morticians and mortuary attendants as well as traditional healers and faith based groups.
It also noted that Emergency Operation Centres remained the responsibility of the Federal Government.
In Geneva, Switzerland, WHO said on Tuesday that the approval for the use of the trial drugs was the most ethical thing to do considering the fact that Ebola had killed over 1,000 persons in West Africa in seven months.
The global health body added in a statement released after scientists met to discuss the threat of the disease to humanity at its headquarters in Geneva on Monday, however, warned that there were very limited supplies of potential treatments for infected persons.
The scientists also discussed how some protocols that pharmaceutical companies needed to go through before giving the drugs to patients could be waived.
A WHO official, Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, said the medical experts voted overwhelmingly in support of giving the trial drugs to affected persons.
The organisation noted that where experimental treatments were used, scientists must get the consent of the patient and the results of the treatment must be collated and shared among the medical community.
The statement read ,”In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.”
The statement was however silent on who would bear the cost of the treatment.
The Nigerian and Liberian governments had earlier requested that Zmapp, which was given to two American health workers infected with the Ebola virus be offered affected victims in their countries.
However, there are only 12 doses of the serum, according to WHO.
But in Lagos, doctors in public hospitals called on the state government to equip all its hospitals with adequate Personal Protective Equipment to prevent the spread of the virus .
The doctors under the aegis of the Medical Guild, said infection control equipment should not be limited to the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba as any patient could present the disease in any other hospital in the state.
Their Chairman, Dr. Biyi Kufo, said a news conference on Tuesday that adequate facilities would help to protect workers from contracting the virus.
He said,“We are not sure there is adequate Personal Protective Equipment on ground from what we are gathering from our colleagues at the IDH.
“It is the foot soldiers who feel the battle. We work in these facilities and we are aware of the situation on the ground. If adequate protective measures are put in place, doctors can treat patients without fear.”
Abuja airport gets emergency response station
The National Emergency Management Agency has deployed an emergency Response Intervention Vehicle and Mobile Intensive Care Unit ambulance in the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
It said the deployment would enhance swift response to any emergency situation in the airport.
The Director-General, NEMA, Mr. Sani Sidi, in a statement, said the action was in furtherance of the collaboration between the agency and stakeholders in the aviation sector for greater safety in the airports and its environs.
Sidi, who was represented by the Deputy Director, Search and Rescue, Mr. Vincent Owan, said the newly acquired equipment would be jointly operated by officials of NEMA and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria.
The Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. Saleh Dunoma, who was represented by the General Manager, North Central, Oluwole Osituyo, appreciated NEMA for deploying the equipment.