- President test negative
Demola Ojo with agency reports
The President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump has declared today, March 15, a National Day of Prayer across the United States. This he did, not long after he officially declared a state of emergency over the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has also added the United Kingdom and Ireland to a 30-day travel ban that includes 26 other European countries of the Schengen free movement zone, which came into effect Saturday.
Also late yesterday the White House said President Donald Trump tested negative for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Many Americans had expressed worry about his status after it was confirmed that some people he came in contact with in the Brazilian President’s delegation tested positive to the virus.
In a memo, Trump’s doctor said he received confirmation that the president’s COVID-19 test was negative, adding that Trump was “symptom free.”
After declaring a national emergency on Coronavirus on Friday, Trump took to Twitter to announce his “great honor” in declaring that a National Day of Prayer would be taking place two days later. An annual National Day of Prayer normally takes place on the first Thursday of May, which falls on May 7 this year, although Trump has previously given other days the designation during emergencies.
“It is my great honor to declare Sunday, March 15th as a National Day of Prayer. We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these,” Trump tweeted. “No matter where you may be, I encourage you to turn towards prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL!”
A few hours before the president suggested Americans turn to God for protection against the pathogen, Trump appeared at a press conference to announce that he would be freeing up federal resources to combat the virus.
“To unleash the full power of the federal government … I am officially declaring a national emergency- two very big words,” said Trump. “The action I am taking will open up access to up to $50 billion of… very important, a large amount of money for states and territories or localities in our shared fight against this disease.”
Hours later, the UK and Ireland were added to America’s European travel ban over the pandemic. The new restrictions will begin at midnight on Monday (5am Tuesday Nigerian time). American citizens and permanent residents will still be allowed to return home to the US but they will be “funnelled” through selected airports, said Vice President Mike Pence, who is running the administration’s response to COVID-19.
Pence also announced that free coronavirus testing would be provided for every American. Speaking at the same news conference, President Trump said he had been tested himself and expected to get the results in the next 48 hours. The US has confirmed 51 deaths linked to the pandemic and 2,488 infections.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the travel ban was extended because of the growing outbreak in the UK. The UK yesterday saw the number of confirmed cases reach 1,140, with 21 deaths – up from 11 on Friday.
Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has ordered the closure of all non-essential public locations from midnight (Sunday morning) in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The measure applies to restaurants, cafes, cinemas and discos, as well as non-essential businesses. Philippe also called on French people to reduce their travel, especially between towns.
France reported a sharp rise in cases Saturday, from 3,661 to 4,499. It recorded 12 more deaths, bringing the toll to 79.
Meanwhile, Spain is also poised to declare a 15-day national lockdown tomorrow (Monday) to battle the virus, following similar measures by Italy last week.
On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Europe was now the “epicentre” of the pandemic. Its head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilisation and social distancing to save lives.
Back in Nigeria, the government has intensified its surveillance against COVID-19 at the nation’s airports. Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Akin Abayomi, said the move came as it was inevitable that there would be more cases in Africa.
Abayomi revealed on Friday that the state government has eliminated the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak through the Italian index case. Concerted efforts of government and its partners assisted in breaking the cycle of transmission, the health expert said.
He said Lagos was intensifying its surveillance to ensure that the health facility does not get overwhelmed, in case there are new cases, and added that the state government had sent more health personnel to the airport to assist the Federal medical team to boost their surveillance.
According to Abayomi, all the 179 people who had contact with the index case had been identified, while the only person confirmed to have contracted the virus from the index case has now tested negative.