- Iwu’s ‘isolated compound’ for the virus cure undergoing test in US, says FG
Omololu Ogunmade, Ndubuisi Francis, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja, Chinedu Eze, Martins Ifijeh and Nume Ekeghe in Lagos
Senegal wednesday confirmed two new cases of coronavirus bringing the country’s tally to four. A statement by the country’s Ministry of Health said the two cases had been confirmed by the Institut Pasteur de Dakar.
This development is coming as an ‘isolated compound’ considered to be capable of curing COVID-19, which was reportedly discovered by a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu, is currently being subjected to scientific test in the United States.
Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who confirmed the testing of the drug wednesday while answering questions from State House reporters at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, explained that Iwu did not say he had discovered the cure for Coronavirus but only said he had “an isolated compound” on the disease, which drew American interest.
Besides, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said Angola has reversed the travel ban placed on Nigerians as a result of Coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The Lagos State government has also said the Italian patient who tested positive to Coronavirus was fast recovering from the disease
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has, however, cautioned against the spread of the virus in Africa.
One of the new patients in Senegal is connected with the second confirmed case.
The 68-year-old French national is the wife of the patient diagnosed on Tuesday, while the other patient is a 33-year-old English national who arrived in Dakar on February 24 from London.
On Monday, Senegal announced the first case of coronavirus in the country, becoming the second in sub-Saharan Africa after one was confirmed in Nigeria last week.
The country’s Minister of Health, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr told journalists that the index patient was a French man who lives in Senegal and came back from a skiing holiday in France on February 26 on an Air Senegal flight,
However, the man has since been quarantined at Dakar’s Fann Hospital. North African countries -Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt have also confirmed cases of the virus.
Meanwhile, Onu said following Iwu’s claim, experts from the United States came to Nigeria and took the product made from Nigerian herbs away.
Onu said when Iwu expressed concern that the product might be hijacked from him by the United States if found capable of curing Coronavirus, he drew the attention of the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, to it and also invited the President of the Academy of Science to ensure that the credit is not taken away from Iwu.
He said consequently, America entered into an agreement with him, noting, however, that if the US did not find Iwu’s isolated discovery promising, it would not have cared to enter into any agreement with him.
The minister also said the ministry was working on what he described as voting solutions which would make it possible for all Nigerian elections, ranging from local government, state assemblies, governorship, National Assembly and presidential elections to be conducted in one day.
According to him, this “voting solution” won’t be done on paper and hence, would give no room for ballot snatching and would be powered by solar energy to avoid any disruption by power failure.
Onu added that the ministry was conducting a research aimed at finding solution to breast cancer, which he described as the major cancer disease affecting women, as well as another research seeking cure for prostate cancer and epilepsy using natural herbs in the country.
He also said the ministry was carrying out another study meant to evolve a food supplement with the capacity to help the patient of sickle cell to effectively manage his ailment and avert sinking into crisis.
Onu also said a project called third eye navigator was being researched upon with the intention of helping the physically challenged to move.
Ehanire explained that the index case of Coronavirus was not discovered at the airport last week when an infected Italian visited the country because the ailment could not be easily discovered until its symptoms manifested.
He said if the victim had come the following day when the symptom first manifested, it would have been easily detected at the airport.
On why the identity of the Italian, whom he said is currently stable, has not been disclosed, he said it is unethical to do so.
Angola Reverses Travel Ban Placed on Nigerians
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said Angola has reversed the travel ban placed on Nigerians as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.
A senior officer from the Crisis Communication Department of the ministry, Mr. Kimiebi Ebienfa, in a statement yesterday, said: “Grateful be informed that the Government of Angola has reversed the travel ban earlier placed on Nigerian nationals over the case of Coronavirus in Nigeria.”
Italian Patient Fast Recovering from Coronavirus
The Lagos State government also Wednesday gave an update on the condition of the index case, saying the Italian patient is fast recovering from the disease.
The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said apart from him, there was no suspected case currently isolated at the centre.
He said: “We test the Italian patient every day to ascertain whether the virus is still in him or not. This gives us the indication whether he is still contagious or not.
“Sometimes, there is a little bit of rebound in the virus’ pattern before it finally goes away. The tests that we are performing are extremely sensitive. So far, he is doing well and recovering.”
Abayomi identified one of the difficulties the state is having in tracking down persons who travelled via Turkish Airlines with the index case into Nigeria was the inaccurate contact details in their forms.
“Some of the travellers didn’t provide accurate figures, so we are unable to get them.
“Of the 159 passengers that boarded the aircraft with the index patient, 84 resides in Lagos and only 49 have been contacted, while the remaining 35 are still unreachable. 65 people have left Lagos either to other states or other countries. We have contacted the World Health Organisation (WHO) and state epidemiologists to reach out to them because they are no longer in our jurisdiction.
“The young man that was on Ethiopian airline tested negative to the virus. So that means we no longer have a suspected case in our centre,” he added.
He said the state’s priority was to stop the virus from spreading within the country, adding that the major focus was at the airport.
IMF Cautions against Spread of Coronavirus in Africa
IMF, however, has cautioned against the spread of the Coronavirus in Africa.
The Managing Director, IMF, Mrs. Kristalina Georgieva, said yesterday during a joint media briefing with the World Bank, held in Washington DC that
as part of the IMF and World Bank’s contribution towards tackling this disease, the Fund has made available $10 billion to low income countries at zero per cent.
Georgieva said: “We have done a quick assessment of countries of highest risk, because of combinations of four factors, week health systems, exposure to price shocks because of commodity export orientation, vulnerability due to spill over impacts from other countries and limited fiscal space.
“It is unfortunately clear from this analysis that Sub-Saharan Africa presents a particularly area of focus. We do have up to $10 billion available for low income countries to tap in with zero interest rates and obviously we would prioritise countries especially in Africa that have already been faced with difficulties.
“And we have a trust fund that allows the low-income countries to pay their obligations to the IMF so they can use this fiscal pace to fund priority investments.”
World Bank Pledges $12bn in Emergency Aid
The World Bank Group has also confirmed that it is making available an initial package of up to $12 billion in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts of the global outbreak.
This financing is designed to help member countries take effective action to respond to and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by the COVID-19.
Through this new fast-track package, the World Bank Group will help developing countries strengthen health system, including better access to health services to safeguard people from the epidemic, strengthen disease surveillance, bolster public health interventions, and work with the private sector to reduce the impact on economies.
The financial package, with financing drawn from across International Development Association (IDA), International Bank for Reconstruction (IBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), will be globally coordinated to support country-based responses.
The COVID-19 support package will make available initial crisis resources of up to $12 billion in financing — $8 billion of which is new — on a fast track basis. This comprises up to $2.7 billion new financing from IBRD; $1.3 billion from IDA, complemented by reprioritisation of $2 billion of the Bank’s existing portfolio; and $6 billion from IFC , including $2 billion from existing trade facilities.
It will also include policy advice and technical assistance drawing on global expertise and country-level knowledge.
“We are working to provide a fast, flexible response based on developing country needs in dealing with the spread of COVID-19. This includes emergency financing, policy advice and technical assistance, building on the World Bank Group’s existing instruments and expertise to help countries respond to the crisis,” said World Bank Group President, David Malpass.
Airlines Face Revenue Drop on Reduced Passenger Traffic
The Coronavirus epidemic has weakened demand for air ticket in the world and travel experts have projected that the impact of the disease will hurt airlines’ profitability.
As at February 20, 2020 the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had projected that airlines had lost over $29 billion, but passenger traffic has continued to drop since then and airlines have cut back their operations to some destinations.
Confirming this development, the Director of Consumer Protection, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr. Adamu Abdullahi, said there was a significant drop in passenger traffic on international routes, adding that there is no statistics to know the exact figures yet, till the end of the month.
“So many international meeting that usually attract high passenger traffic have been cancelled, so airlines just fly about with empty seats. Of course this will have adverse financial effect on the airlines,” he said.
Also the Managing Director of Air France/KLM, Mr. Benjamin Smith, said losses being incurred by airlines due to the Coronavirus would force the carrier to go into merger because of competition, especially airlines that are already weak.
But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised against suspension of flights, saying that it is a wrong strategy to end the spread of the virus.