COVID-19 DISCRIMINATION: The Federal Government said it has drawn the red line with China over allegations of continued racial COVID-19 discrimination against blacks and Africans, particularly Nigerians, resident in Guangzhou Province and other parts of the country.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed this during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.
There have been reports that Nigerians and other blacks are being forced to undergo a second round of COVID-19 tests, while they are also barred from accessing certain services in China. This is in addition to videos showing Nigerians and other blacks being physically assaulted by Chinese mobs.
The warning came as the Federal Government advised health workers on the front line of the onslaught against the virus to be cautious in handling the pandemic, lamenting that over 40 health workers in the country had so far contracted the virus in the line of duty.
Government also explained its inability to make testing compulsory for all Nigerians, saying while more resourced countries have not been able to do that, Nigeria has not exhausted its current daily testing capacity of 1, 500 people as only an average of 600 people are currently tested daily.
The disclosures came on a day a mobile court in the Federal Capital Territory FCT, convicted an Islamic cleric, Malam Isa Ismail, and two others for willful violation of the lockdown order.
Red line with China on COVID-19 discrimination, the red line with China, Onyeama noted that the Federal Government has engaged Chinese authorities both at the Consulate and federal levels in China to ensure that Nigerians are treated with utmost respect and dignity.
He said: “On medical assistance being provided by China, especially in the context of cases of COVID-19 discrimination or racism that have been taking place in the country, we have been engaging with the Chinese government at various levels.
“At the level of our Consulate in Guangzhou which is where these cases of racism have been taking place, and also at the federal level in Beijing with our Ambassador and our Embassy there.
“Now, we have made it clear to the Chinese government in no uncertain terms, unequivocally, that under no circumstance would we accept racial COVID-19 discrimination against Nigerians or, indeed, Africans or blacks in China; that, that is a red line for us.
“They have in turn told us that there is no case of that ongoing but clearly we are seeing videos; I have received reports and we have told them it is unacceptable and we are also engaging with other African countries to work together and decide on the punitive steps and measures that we would take because of this situation.
Deeply wounded “In addition, I have directed our Consulate in Guangzhou to systematically detail every single case of COVID-19 discrimination and every single case of loss or damage suffered by any Nigerian and we will pursue each of the cases very robustly with the Chinese government, if it requires compensation and damages etc.
“So, for us, it is a red line and we are going to fight it to the very end.
We are extremely disappointed because we have excellent relations with the government and people of China that such a thing can happen at this stage.
“When there were calls for travels to be banned to China, when they had the outbreak in Wuhan, we went along with the advice of the World Health Organization, WHO, not to place a ban on China and we showed real solidarity because we have also had our own experience of epidemics with Ebola and so on.
“But really, we are deeply wounded by what has happened to Nigerians and other Africans in China.
Of course, the government has given us explanations but really, it is something we never expected and we will pursue it to its final conclusion and we will not make any compromises in doing so.
“There have been some comments in the public domain as if we are held somehow hostage by the fact that we have received a lot of economic cooperation from China in the past.
But I can assure you that where this is concerned, we are going to pursue it to the very end, irrespective of whatever economic cooperation we have with China because in the world of today, we absolutely will not and cannot tolerate any form of racism or discrimination against blacks, against Africans.
“As the largest black and African country in the world, it behoves us to be in the front line of defending the dignity of blacks and Africans everywhere in the world.”
Infected health workers In his presentation, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire urged health workers to abide by all necessary precautionary measures in order to guarantee their own safety in the line of duty.
“I applaud our health workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic; government will continue to provide you with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, and I urge you to take all necessary precautions for your own safety.
“Please, do not treat any patient without using adequate PPE; front line health workers must undertake refresher training on IPC.
“This warning has become necessary due to the number of health workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 — they are over 40 now — or others who have had to be quarantined in the last two weeks due to exposure and are, therefore, not able to contribute to the healthcare sector efforts.
“I urge you all to remain vigilant in the line of duty and maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19,” he stated.