SWITZERLAND, May 19 – The 15-man medical team from China which came to help with handling the COVID19 pandemic in Nigeria is currently stranded in the country following the unavailability of commercial flights to Beijing, the capital of China.
According to reports, the team which arrived on April 8 has concluded its assignment, which included assisting with the installation of some equipment and sharing COVID-19 experience with the Federal Government.
The personnel, which include experts in infectious diseases, respiratory illness, intensive care, cardiology, neurology, general surgery, anesthesiology and a journalist, had come to the country on the invitation of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.
The Executive Director, CCECC, Mr Jacques Liao, disclosed to newsmen in Abuja on Monday, that the team had been unable to leave the country because there were no commercial flights.
He explained that the medical experts were still at the Idu area of Abuja where they were accommodated.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, had said during a briefing by Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 that he did not know the whereabouts of the Chinese visitors, stressing that they were not guests of the Federal Government but that of the construction company.
But shedding light on the situation, Liao stated that the personnel were supposed to spend one month in the country, adding that they were issued three-month visas.
He said, “They (Chinese medical team) are waiting for their flight and this depends on when the airspace would be opened. You know, they came by a charter flight because of the personal protective equipment and other medical materials they brought, but they can’t go back by charter flight, so they are waiting for regular commercial flights.
“They are still here (in Abuja) and they would still assist the Ministry of Health anytime they require their assistance.”
Recall that the Nigeria Medical Association and other medical professionals had opposed the Chinese team’s visit, arguing that the foreigners’ assistance was not required to curb the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
But the company’s Managing Director, China Civil Engineering Construction Company Nigeria Limited, Michael Jiang Yigao, on Monday said the 15-man Chinese medical team who arrived Nigeria on April 8, 2020, were with the global construction firm.
He disclosed this in response to questions about the whereabouts of the medical team, following the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire’s comment that the experts were not his guests but CCECC’s.
Ehanire had also urged reporters not to bother his ministry over the whereabouts of the Chinese medical experts who came into Nigeria to support the fight against COVID-19.
Speaking in Abuja on Monday, Yigao said the team was in Nigeria to share their experiences in fighting the COVID-19.
He further clarified that the team came specially to help CCECC fight the COVID-19 pandemic and protect its numerous employees across the country.
“The team had a telecast meeting with the Minister of Health and some doctors around the country and shared their experience in China on how they are fighting the virus and the meeting was very positive,” the CCECC boss stated.
He added, “They are here with us and have continued to teach our staff on how to protect themselves because protection and prevention are more important than the treatment.”
Yigao, however, stated that the medical experts would be heading home as soon as there was a commercial flight to China.
“Right now, commercial flights to China are not open yet, but when the flights are open again, we are considering the team going back to China,” he said.
Yigao commended the Nigerian government on how it had been able to contain the pandemic so far.