A Nigerian man who returned to the country from London has allegedly assaulted some health workers who insisted he must observe self-isolation as a precautionary measure against the novel coronavirus.
The man had not yet been tested to confirm if he was positive or not for the virus, as at the time of filing this report.
The incident took place in Delta state, South-South Nigeria, on Saturday.
The assaulted workers were said to be surveillance officers of the Emergency Operation Committee on COVID19, Delta state.
Delta State Epidemiologist, Richard Ikwuogu, who broke the news of the incident in a short message that went viral via several WhatsApp groups, identified the man who allegedly assaulted the health workers as Emeka Ijeh.
The Commissioner of Health in Delta state, Mordi Ononye, confirmed the development in a statement issued on Saturday afternoon.
The commissioner said the man was taken in by the police but was later released “because that is not in line with best practices, as it will pose a health risk and further spread the disease if he is positive”.
Delta state epidemiologist, Mr Ikwuogu, who said he was among those attacked, narrated what happened.
He said the epidemiology unit received a report that Mr Ijeh returned from London on March 23 and has since refused to isolate as directed by Nigerian health authorities.
Mr Ijeh allegedly used abusive words on the health officers who called him on telephone to explain to him why it was important for him to follow their directives. Not satisfied, the health officials were said to have decided to visit him at Okpanam, a community in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State.
“We went with the intent of discussing why he should self-isolate but because of the phone call experience, we went to the Ogoani of Okpanam who asked the chairman of (a) vigilante group in Okpanam to lead us to the place,” the state epidemiologist, Mr Ikwuogu said.
“On getting to his house opposite the Omu of Okpanam. He was informed that some persons were looking for him. He came down and while we tried to exchange pleasantries, he started abusing us that we were infringing on his privacy.”
Mr Ikwuogu said Mr Ijeh ordered them out of his residence. “We left quietly but I never knew he was following us,” the medical doctor said.
Mr Ikwuogu said he and other health officials were immediately assaulted on the road by Mr Ijeh.
The health commissioner, Mr Ononye said Mr Ijeh complained that he has been “treated as a leper” since his return from London. But that is not an acceptable excuse for his “aggression” on the health workers, the commissioner said.
Mr Ijeh was said to have later apologised to the health officials, after he was persuaded to do so by the commissioner.
The commissioner advised residents not to be hostile to health workers since they are at the frontline in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Ijeh could not be reached to comment for this story.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, recently said some Nigerians who flew in from other countries were refusing to abide by the nation’s health advisory.
Mr Ehanire said people who exhibited such attitude were not only putting their immediate families in danger but everyone they come in contact with if they are infected.
Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nigeria have risen to 97 as at March 28. No confirmed case has been reported in Delta.