Abuja - The Federal Government on Thursday announced that it would commence the screening of all outbound passengers as precautionary measure to check the spread of Ebola.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, made this announcement when he briefed member of the diplomatic corps in Abuja.
"We are looking at issues between countries. You find out that some airlines have already decided that they will not fly to some countries.
"Similarly, some countries have said that they will not welcome visitors from some particular countries.
"For now we are taking the advice from the U.S Government that it may be useful if we begin to screen outbound passengers.
"We have the equipment but we just need additional personnel. We do not want residents of Nigeria both citizens and non-citizens to leave the country with the disease.
"If they have it please let them stay we will treat it in Nigeria,’’ he said.
On the Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, Chukwu said it was necessary for Saudi authorities to ensure that authorities of participating countries screened intending pilgrims before departure.
He was apparently responding to the decision by the Saudi Government to bar citizens from three Ebola-stricken countries - Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia - from performing this year’s pilgrimage.
"In the case of Nigeria, as the Minister of Health I have reviewed the situation and I feel that if we screen everybody that is outbound we can work with the authorities of Saudi Arabia.
"I also expect them to do their own screening at the point of entry,’’ he said.
He said Nigeria was willing to work with countries that had more experiences in handling epidemics such as the Ebola.
The minister told members of the diplomatic corps that the ``whole world is in danger of the Ebola virus every nation, every individual is at risk’’.
He said Ebola victims in countries with more developed health systems had more chances of survival than those with less developed health systems.
Chukwu reiterated that government would no longer allow the repatriation of corpses from the three-worst hit Ebola countries in West Africa.
He appealed to passenger coming into Nigeria to provide honest details of their health status when completing immigration and customs forms.
The minister said that religious organisations in Nigeria holding international conferences that records large gatherings must first notify government about foreign participants and their countries of origin.
He said efforts taken by Nigeria to contain virus, included the installation of infrared thermal detectors at four point-of-entry to track infected persons coming into or going out of Nigeria.
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The minister said government had also developed a communications strategy to sensitise the populace on the disease.
Chukwu told the diplomats that Nigeria had not closed its borders, adding that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had advised countries not to do so, except when it became extremely necessary.
He said closing borders could make those infected with the virus to go into hiding, pointing out that ``this could end up being a disaster."
According to the WHO, death toll from the outbreak has risen to 932, with more than 1,711 total cases.
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