The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, had earlier at a press conference in Abuja on Monday said the country had 36 cases of the dreaded Coronavirus.
But at 11pm on Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on its twitter handle said the cases had increased to 40.
The centre stated, “Four new cases of #COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria. Three are in Lagos State and one in the FCT (Federal Capital Territory). Two of these cases are returning travelers
“As of 11:00pm on March 23, there are 40 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with one death recorded.”
The NCDC announced the new cases just as the Federal Government ordered complete closure of land borders to human traffic and postponed the Federal Executive Council and the Council of State meetings indefinitely.
The Federal Government also advised Lagos and Abuja residents to stay at home to prevent the spread of the disease.
Ehanire said that 179 persons had contact with the Italian who brought the first case of coronavirus to Nigeria.
The minister said although new cases being recorded were Nigerians who were returning from countries with high burden of the virus, Nigeria could head the way of China and Italy if those who had contracted the virus already were not fished out and treated.
He said, “In less than 48 hours, the Italian who came to Nigeria (index case) was identified. The contacts we found for him were 179. They were all traced and monitored. Out of the 179, one was positive and put in isolation with the Italian. Both were cured and discharged.
“If other cases had not come to Nigeria, that would have been the end of COVID-19 in Nigeria, but other cases came that were not part of the first one. That is why we are saying that you do not compare what we have now with what they have in China or Italy. If we do not act fast, we could be heading in something dangerous like that (in China and Italy). They now transmit, among themselves
“We have to get those who have been infected now. If we don’t, it may be a serious burden in the system. I am sure some are hiding, they will not report for whatever reason. Nobody will be arrested or asked to pay anything. Those who are returning now are Nigerians. With the closure of our airports, we will reduce inflow of new cases and deal with the ones we already have.”
On Monday, Ehanire said although the country had not enforced isolation, it would take any step to ensure that those who were returning to Nigeria from high risk nations did not infect others.
The Minister said some of the returnees had been hiding while also pleading with them to take the right approach.
He said, “We have not come to forced isolation, but we have had occasion to go after those who came from abroad and have not registered their presence and have not gone into self-isolation. We will publish their names until they volunteer themselves and be put under investigation.
The minister also alerted that part of the measures being considered to ensure treatment of those already infected is to recall retired medical doctors and nurses to help in the fight against the virus, saying that state governments have been notified of the step.
He said that 26 out of the 36 infected persons had history of travelling out of the country, while six had contacts with infected persons. He noted that four of the infected persons had no travel history or known contact with a confirmed case.
The minister said the five laboratories being used for testing of samples were adequate, noting that more would be added if the need arose.
As of Sunday, China had recorded 81,093 cases and 3,270 deaths, while 63,927 people had been infected in Italy, which had recorded 6,077 deaths.