COVID-19 Cases Rise to 81, Buhari Approves 4 Stadia for Quarantine

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•Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Kaduna stadia listed
•NYSC orientation camps also to serve as isolation hubs
•Obasanjo donates former residence for seclusion
•Sanwo-Olu targets 200,000 families in stimulus
•Death toll surpasses 25,000 globally
•Military sets aside 17 hospitals for isolation
•Donations: President applauds Atiku, Dangote, Elumelu, Rabiu
•U.S. moves to mop up doctors, nurses worldwide
•China pledges to share containment strategy

Our Correspondents

Nigeria yesterday recorded 16 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 81, up from 65 earlier Friday morning.

The Nigeria Disease Control Centre made this known late yesterday night.

It said eight new cases were recorded in Lagos State, three in the FCT, two in Enugu State, two in Oyo State and one in Edo State.

“As of 11:55pm on 27th of March, there are 81 confirmed cases of #COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. Three have been discharged with one dead,” the NCDC tweeted.

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has given the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development approval to open and make available four federal government owned stadiums in addition to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camps spread across the country as isolation centres for Coronavirus cases.

The stadiums are the National Stadium, Lagos; Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan; MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja and Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna.

The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, confirmed this directive yesterday via his Twitter handle.

He said that the Ministry was already in touch with relevant authorities and stakeholders to make these facilities available in line with Buhari’s approval and as part of the ministry’s contribution to halting the spread of COVID-19.

He described the stadiums as huge complexes boasting of several outdoor and indoor areas and which can also be put into use as testing centres.

He stated that because of space they will allow for required distancing, adding it is up to medical personnel and authorities to determine the appropriate areas of usage if and when necessary.

“The world over, stadiums are being used by nations as they race against the ravages of COVID -19. The Santiago Bernabéu (Real Madrid Stadium) will be turned into a storage and distribution centre for medical materials donated to the health authorities in Spain. London’s ExCeL Exhibition and Conference Centre is being repurposed to care for patients infected with COVID-19. In Brazil, top football clubs have turned over their stadiums to the country’s health authorities to use as field hospitals. The Hard Rock Stadium in Florida, United States was converted into a community testing centre amongst others. Back home, Lagos State Government has set up the Onikan Stadium (Mobolaji Johnson Stadium) to support efforts at halting the pandemic.

“While our prayers are that Nigeria never gets to the level where these facilities will be put to this use, we must however all be prepared to support the system and ensure that the nation is not caught unawares,” Dare stated.

The minister assured Nigerians that together they will fight and win the battle against Coronavirus contagion.

He also called on the youth to be at the vanguard of dissemination of timely and accurate information via social media to Nigerians in their communities.

The Federal Government had on March 18 ordered the immediate closure of NYSC orientation camps nationwide over coronavirus fears.
But Dare, yesterday, said the President, approved the re-opening of the camps as COVID-19 isolation centres.

Nigeria is Racing against Time, Says NCDC DG

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu has said Nigeria was racing against time in curbing the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and advised Nigerians to cooperate and collaborate to stem a potential outbreak.

Ihekweazu, who stated this in an interview on The Morning Show on Arise TV, yesterday, said “70% to 80% of the infections we are dealing with have been in Nigerians that have come back to their country. We are not saying don’t come back to your country, but please do carry out that self-isolation very strictly. We need you more than ever to stay at home in your room, let your family work around you for 14 days, if you’re ill, let us know.”

Ihekweazu said the Coronavirus outbreak was about to go into its third wave. “There has never been an outbreak that has been reported real time around the world the way this is being reported. We have seen the first wave of this outbreak go through mostly China and other countries. We’ve seen a second incredible wave now going through Europe and unfortunately we are seeing the beginnings of what is most likely to be a third wave, starting off in many countries in Africa, South America and in South-east Asia.”

Obasanjo Donates former Residence for Isolation

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has offered his former residence at the Presidential Hilltop, Abeokuta, Ogun State, to be used as an isolation centre for victims of the ongoing coronavirus disease.

An aide said Obasanjo made the offer on Friday, and has since handed over the 32-room facility to the Ogun government for immediate use. Ogun State has recorded three cases of the coronavirus, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Obasanjo’s special assistant media, Kehinde Akinyemi, who confirmed the development said the former president was concerned about the pandemic. “And I think those who can in one way or another assist in this situation should do so,” Obasanjo was quoted as having said.

The facility located off the Presidential Boulevard, Oke Sari, Abeokuta has each of the 32 rooms ensuite, with a standby generator.

China Pledges to Share Coronavirus Containment Strategy

The People’s Republic of China yesterday pledged to share containment strategies, drugs and vaccines of Coronavirus with Nigeria.
The Ambassador of China to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian, disclosed this in Abuja while presenting some medical items, including hand gloves, sanitisers, automatic hand dryers and other hygiene products to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials.

He said that though the situation in China is now under control with life gradually returning to normal, but stressed that there is no way China would lower its guard or relax control.

Pingjian noted that he and other Chinese diplomats would stay in the country and work closely with Nigerian medical professionals to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.

The envoy said it was imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response.

He stated: “Despite the daunting task of epidemic control remaining at home, China will try its best to provide medical supplies to Nigeria and do whatever it could to support Nigeria.

“China will continue to share information and experience with Nigeria and strengthen cooperation on containment, treatment and vaccines in response to the coved-19 challenge, with a view to building together a community of shared health for mankind.”

Death Toll Surpasses 25,000 Worldwide

The coronavirus pandemic has killed 25,066 people, with Europe accounting for most of the deaths, according to an AFP tally at 1430 GMT yesterday based on official statistics.

Europe was the worst-hit continent with 17,314 fatalities. Italy had the highest number of deaths in the world at 8,165, followed by Spain (4,858) and China (3,292).

At least 547,034 coronavirus cases have been registered around the world since December.

The death toll in Spain soared over 4,800 yesterday after 769 people died in 24 hours, in what was a record one-day figure for fatalities in the country, the government said.

Spain has the world’s second-highest death toll after Italy, and has so far suffered 4,858 deaths, while the number of cases jumped to 64,059.

Although the figures showed a daily increase of nearly 8,000 new infections, the uptick comes as Spain moves to dramatically increase its rate of testing, ordering millions of new kits from around the world.

Despite the increase, the rate of new infections appears to be slowing, registering a 14 per cent increase compared with 18 per cent on Thursday.

Even so, the number of deaths over a 24-hour period was far higher than Italy, which counted 662 deaths in its last update on Thursday night.

Italy has so far suffered 8,165 deaths as a result of the epidemic with 80,539 people infected.

Until Thursday night, Italy had registered the largest number of declared cases until it was overtaken by the United States, where 85,991 people have now tested positive for the virus.

U.S. Asks Doctors, Nurses Around the World to Apply for Visa

The United States has asked medical professionals seeking to work in America to apply for a work visa at the nearest US Embassy as part of measures to strengthen the health system to contain the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

The government in a statement published on www.travel.state.gov yesterday, advised foreign medical professionals already in the US to consult with their sponsors to extend their programmes.

The U.S. government further clarified yesterday evening that only medical professionals with a previously approved H or J petition would receive the emergency visa appointment.

According to the statement posted on its website, it said, “The U.S. Mission is aware of a misunderstanding caused by a message that led many to believe the U.S is recruiting foreign medical professionals to assist the COVID-19 response. This is incorrect. Only medical professionals with a previously approved H or J petition will receive an emergency visa appointment. We are sorry for the misunderstanding.”

As of Friday evening, the United States had at least 82,100 cases while China was reporting 81,782, while there have been more than 510,000 cases reported worldwide.

In New York, where more than half of the US cases have been reported, exhausted hospital workers are turning to increasingly desperate measures to combat the virus.

Military Sets Aside 17 Hospitals for Isolation

The military yesterday said it had prepared 17 hospitals for the isolation and treatment of confirmed cases of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Defence Headquarters in a press conference in Abuja added that the military had also concluded plans to recall its retired medical personnel to complement those in the active service.

The Coordinator of the Defence Media Operations, Maj Gen John Enenche, said in Abuja that apart from medical preparations, the military has activated its Disaster Response Units across the country to manage security situations in any part of the country as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Enenche said, “Sequel to the ongoing fight against the spread of the Coronavirus disease 2019 by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Armed Forces of Nigeria have put measures in place to aid the civil authorities. As you may be aware, Section 217 (2) c of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), empowers the military to act in aid of civil authority.

FG Orders NCDC Staff Training Aboard Back to Nigeria

The federal government has ordered all staff of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) currently training abroad to return home.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who stated this while addressing journalists in Abuja yesterday, also said Lagos State was currently the epicentre of COVlD-l 9 outbreak in Nigeria, with its increasing number of cases.

He said that the federal government had directed the Nigeria Air Force Command to facilitate the return of the NCDC staff since they were needed in the current campaign against the spread of the Coronavirus.

According to the minister, health facilities and health workers at all levels, whether public or private, have been put on high alert and to give full cooperation to contact tracers everywhere.

The minister said the Lagos State government and the Federal Ministry of Health were doing very commendable work. “They have scaled-up their response activities and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is supporting them, as well as other affected states through the Rapid Response Teams deployed.”

Also, he said that precautionary measures were being taken by the federal government to protect the nation’s seaports, adding that currently, only ships that have been at sea for more than 14 days can dock, after crew members have been confirmed negative for COVID-t 9.

“An exception to this 14-day restriction is for vessels carrying oil and gas products as they require minimal contact,” he said.

On the issue of increasing the number of testing centres for Coronavirus, the minister said that federal government will upgrade the facilities at the medical laboratories in the Teaching Hospitals in Abakaliki, Ibadan and Maidugiri to national reference laboratories.

Sanwo-Olu Targets 200,000 Families in Stimulus

Few days after the Lagos State Government issued a stay-at-home directive to residents in order to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu yesterday unveiled economic stimulus package for the indigent and the most vulnerable in the society.

The stimulus, which comes in food packs, to be distributed to every local government in the State, is aimed at cushioning the effect of the 14 days stay-at-home directive.

Speaking after an on-the-spot assessment of one of the State-owned food banks, located inside the premises of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in Agege, Sanwo-Olu said the economic stimulus will reduce the burden of the temporary economic downturn on the citizens caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.

The Governor said the food packs, which were put together by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, will reach the most vulnerable communities and households across Lagos, saying that the indigents who rely on daily wages will be given priority.

He said: ‘‘We are here for an on-the-spot assessment, of our readiness, to see how we can fast track some of our stimulus package for our citizens.

“We are all aware that this is a trying time for our citizens and since the partial drop in economic activities, our government deemed it necessary to reach out to the vulnerable ones in the society.

“These people are those that fall below the pyramid, the aged and the physically challenged who need to move from one part of the city to another for them to have a living.

“We felt that as a government, the least we can do is to identify them and give them these stimulus packages immediately.”

The Governor stated that the package will touch at least 200,000 thousand households in the first phase, adding that the food packs are produced for a size of six people per household and would last for at least fourteen days.

Sanwo-Olu said: “We have packaged dry food stimulus for about 200,000 families in the first instance for a household of husband, wife and about four children.

“We would be giving bags of rice, bags of beans, garri, bread, dry pepper and we are trying to see if we can add water and some elements of vitamin C.

“Each ration, we believe is going to be able to last them at least minimum 14 days just so our advocacy around stay at home, stay with your loved ones will be respected.”

Boris Johnson Tests Positive

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday that he was self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19.

“Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus,” he said on Twitter, posting a video message.

“I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” he wrote.

“Be in no doubt that I can continue thanks to the wizardry of modern technology to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus,” he added in the video message.

A Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement that Johnson, whose partner Carrie Symonds is pregnant, experienced mild symptoms on Thursday and was tested for COVID-19 on the personal advice of England’s chief medical officer.

The test was carried out in No 10 by NHS staff, the spokesperson added.

In his video message, Johnson thanked workers in Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) for their efforts in battling the spread of the virus.

A total of 11,658 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Britain, and 578 deaths.

Earlier this week, Prince Charles, the eldest son and heir to Queen Elizabeth II, also tested positive for the virus.
British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has temporarily assumed the role of Prime Minister.

Also yesterday, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock tested positive for COVID-19.
“Following medical advice, I was advised to test for #Coronavirus. I’ve tested positive. Thankfully my symptoms are mild and I’m working from home and self-isolating,” Hancock announced on Twitter.

Donation: Buhari Applauds Elumelu, Rabiu, Dangote, Atiku

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday applauded the generous interventions of affluent Nigerians such as Aliko Dangote, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Abdusalmad Rabiu, among others in the fight against COVID-19.

The president also expressed appreciation for the generous support of opulent men such as Femi Otedola, Tony Elumelu, Herbert Wigwe, Segun Agbaje and Jim Ovia in the battle against the scourge.

Specifically, the president hailed Dangote, Elumelu, Otedola, Rabiu, Ovia, Agbaje and Wigwe who under the aegis of the Private Sector Coalition Against Covid-19 contributed N1 billion each to fight the scourge.

The president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari commended these opulent Nigerians “for being in the vanguard of encouraging others in the private sector to do same.”

Adesina also noted that Elumelu’s UBA had equally donated N5 billion to both Nigeria and the entire Africa while Atiku pledged to offer N50 million and the First Bank offering to partner with the federal government in the war against the disease.

He said Buhari also praised the United Nations, and innovative technological firms which had offered to provide e-learning solutions to at least one million children through its ‘Keep Them Engaged, Keep Them Safe’ initiative.