Oil giants, Chevron Nigeria Limited, operator of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation/CNL Joint Venture, has confirmed that indeed some of its employees were checked into a popular hotel in Warri, Delta State, to be quarantined for possible infection of Coronavirus and other contagious diseases before being taken offshore to work at its Escravos Operations.
The company’s reaction followed an exclusive story by SaharaReporters on Wednesday revealing how over 100 employees of Chevron feared to have contracted the deadly virus were kept at Cyprian Hotels and Suites in Warri for quarantine and close monitoring against the directives of the Delta State Government and Ministry of Health, which stated that any form of quarantine of suspected contagious infections like Coronavirus must be done at a government-owned health facility and with experienced medical practitioners on the ground to properly monitor the procedure.
The report highlighted how most of the Chevron employees, who only recently returned from leave and vacation abroad where they may have been exposed to persons with the deadly virus, were taken straight to the Warri hotel without first conducting any form of test on them to ascertain their health status.
The hotel management’s decision to accommodate the oil workers based on existing relationship with Chevron is in violation of the directives of the state government, which had ordered a stay-at-home of residents and shutting down of public places including hotels, the report said.
The hotel owned by Chief Cyprian Onephrojire, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, had forced employees, who were earlier allowed to remain in their houses for safety, to return to work to attend to the oil workers without any form of protective gears and or guaranteed special allowances for risking their lives by being exposed to persons, who may have been infected already.
According to the earlier report by SaharaReporters, a handful of the hotel staff disclosed that they were threatened to be fired if they failed to comply with the instructions of the management to work during this Coronavirus outbreak to service some of their ‘very esteemed customers’ – in this case the oil workers.
Residents of the area where the hotel is located, have expressed grave concern, insisting that they now lived in fear of contracting the virus in case any of the ‘visitors’ had the virus as suspected.
However, reacting to the issue in a statement, Chevron Nigeria Limited General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Esimaje Brikinn, said that their employees were checked into Cyprian Hotels and Suites for quarantine and proper monitoring.
He said, “As a responsible organisation, one of the precautionary safeguards we have put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is the introduction of a compulsory two-week supervised quarantine for all personnel returning to work at Escravos Operations during this period of the pandemic.
“CNL entered into arrangements with some hotels and other facilities in Warri and Lagos where their staff on rotational duties will be accommodated, and their health status monitored to ensure that they do not have the COVID-19 virus before returning to work at its Escravos Operations.
“The first group of personnel scheduled for quarantine were moved to the designated facilities on Friday, April 10, 2020 and other groups will follow based on the crew change schedule.
“We are also working with the hotels and other facilities where the personnel will be placed to ensure that the hotels and facilities maintain high levels of sanitation and follow strict adherence to all COVID-19 protocols.”
Also reacting to the report, Mr Omuli Iwere, Legal Adviser to the management of Cyprian Hotels and Suites, Warri, said that none of the oil workers in the facility had exhibited symptoms for Coronavirus.
He said, “We can confirm that at Cyprian Hotels Ltd, all resident customers have undergone health checks in line with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 signs and symptoms and the Infection, Prevention and Control Guidelines for COVID-19 and can confirm that we do not have any customer who is suspected or has been diagnosed for COVID-19.”
But some of the hotel staff spoken with by our correspondent disclosed that indeed they had noticed some of the symptoms associated with the pandemic like coughing and general body weakness among a few of their guests in recent days.
When contacted on the issue, Special Assistant on Media Affairs to Delta State Governor, Norbert Chiazor, said that the act of placing anyone under quarantine in a hotel was against government’s directive, adding that suspected COVID-19 patients must be examined and placed under strict monitoring at designated state hospitals and not in a hospitality facility.
He said, “We are setting machineries in motion immediately. Government’s directive is that all suspected cases are reported to the state authorities.”
Delta has four reported cases of Coronavirus so far and one recorded death out of the 407 infections and 12 fatalities the entire country has recorded as at Wednesday night, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.