Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates

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THURSDAY 2ND APRIL 2020

 

WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020

Breaking: Nigeria Records 23 New Cases of COVID-19

By Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded 23 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 174.

Announcing this Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said nine of the cases were from Lagos, seven from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), five from Akwa Ibom, one from Kaduna and one from Bauchi

It said: “As at 08:00 pm on April 1, there are 174 confirmed cases of COVID19 reported in Nigeria. Nine have been discharged with two deaths.”

Breakdown of the figures show Lagos currently has 91 cases, FCT 35, Osun 14, Oyo eight, Akwa Ibom five, Ogun, Edo and Kaduna four each, Bauchi three, Enugu and Ekiti have two each, while Rivers and Benue have one each

 

COVID-19: Private Sector Coalition Raises N15.325bn in Five Days

Obinna Chima

The total amount realised by the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) as at Tuesday stood at N15.325 billion.

The list of contributors seen by THISDAY, showed that CACOVID, which was inaugurated last Thursday, has so far gotten contribution into the CACOVID relief fund from 37 organisations.

The objective is to mobilise private sector thought leadership, mobilise private sector resources, increase general public awareness, education, and buy-in, provide direct support to private and public healthcare ability to respond to the crisis as well as support the federal government’s efforts.

More details later…

 

COVID-19: Taskforce Seals off Jumia, Brothel for Flouting Directive on Lockdown

  •  NHRC faults enforcement agents for violating human rights

Rebecca Ejifoma

The Lagos State Taskforce has sealed off Jumia warehouse, a Chinese firm and a brothel for non-compliance with the lockdown order issued by President Muhammadu Buhari.

This is coming as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directed its staff to monitor and document all cases of human rights violations across the country for necessary actions after its received cases of human rights violations by security operatives enforcing government directives on COVID-19.

The taskforce announced the sealing off of Jumia and other erring business ventures via its Twitter account, @Lasepainfo, on Wednesday with images as evidence.

Accusing security forces of human rights violations, NHRC through Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, said the public should report by telephone calls or text messages or video to relevant staff of the commission and ensure that such reports include the location of the violation, date, time of such violations including a clear description of alleged violators and their victims, their gender and vulnerability.

NHRC’s compliant is coming two days after the commencement of the lockdown in Lagos and Abuja.

“Complaints should be reported to the commission for documentation and directed for redress to the commissioners of police of the three areas which include: CP FCT: ‪08033438900‬‬; CP Lagos: ‪08033438179‬, and‬ CP Ogun: ‪08033438900‬‬,” Ojukwu noted. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The commission also recommended that complaints of violations involving the military should be reported to the commission for documentation and directed for redress to the Director Army, Civil Military Affairs: ‪08057750691‬.‬‬‬‬

The executive secretary, however, alleged that there were reports that some security operatives were openly torturing and violating the rights of citizens in flagrant disregard to rules of their engagements, the laws of Nigeria and its international obligations having warned the agencies to refrain.

The NHRC numbers for reporting and documenting human rights violations during the implementation of COVID-19 regulations are: 08037875427, ‪08179371339‬,‬‬‬ 08034354537, and ‪07033398657‬.‬‬

Reacting to complaints, the Lagos State Police Command through its PRO, DSP Bala Elkana, has debunked claims by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Lagos State that the police restricted movement of its members, describing it as false and misleading.

Elkana added: “It is on record that the restriction of movement order that took effect from Monday March 30, 2020 does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organisations in health care related manufacturing and distribution.”

“Commercial establishments such as: food processing, distribution and retail companies; petroleum distribution and retail entities; power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and private security companies are also exempted.”

He further highlighted that workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff, who can prove they are unable to work from home, are also exempted. “Banks are allowed to render skeletal services. Although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored”.

According to the PR, the Lagos State CP, Hakeem Odumosu, briefed personnel deployed for the enforcement exercise. Every police station was issued copies of the Presidential directive and extant laws for guidance.

He added: “The Command appreciates the daunting task ahead of all of us who are in the frontlines in curbing this pandemic, especially our medical and health workers. The relationship between the police and other professional bodies especially the NMA remains cordial. There is no time that we need each other than now. The nation depend so much on us in a time like this.”

“For information or complaints regarding non-compliance, call the following numbers 09010512285, 09010512286, 09010512287 and 09010512288,” he pleaded with the public.

 

Experts Wonder Why COVID-19 Symptoms are Not Severe in Children, Infants

COVID-19 has the entire world on edge, but perhaps nobody is as concerned as parents. It can seem impossible to shield children from illnesses when germs are unpredictable and omnipresent. And the fact that the coronavirus is spreading unhindered in most countries is enough to give parents anxiety.

But here’s a bit of optimistic news for moms and dads: The coronavirus doesn’t seem to impact babies and children as severely. A World Health Organisation (WHO) – China Joint Mission report on the virus, published in mid-February 2020, found that children aged 18 or younger accounted for only 2.4 percent of all cases in China. On top of that, a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) of pediatric cases of the COVID-19 in China confirms what the WHO found, adding that “over 90 percent of all infected children and infants were asymptomatic, mild, or moderate cases.”

And while the first infant death related to COVID-19 in the U.S. was reported in Illinois on March 28, the limited research available suggests “that children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms,” says the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Severe complications seem to be exceptionally rare in kids.

Here’s what parents need to know about the coronavirus and children, plus tips for preventing the respiratory illness that originated in Wuhan, China.

What are COVID-19 Symptoms in Children?

Most children with the virus have mild cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough, according to the CDC. Gastrointestinal issues, like vomiting and diarrhea, may also occur. Some children have no symptoms whatsoever.

The COVID-19 complications appear to be uncommon for those under 18 years old—even in small infants. In fact, the WHO-China Joint Mission report states that only 2.5 percent of children diagnosed with the coronavirus had “severe” symptoms, and 0.2 percent were considered “critical.” The recorded complications include acute respiratory distress syndrome and septic shock, according to the CDC.

How Are Babies and Infants Being Affected?

Since babies don’t have fully formed immune systems, it would make sense that they’d be severely affected by the virus. According to the 2020 AAP study of those affected in China, while kids of all ages are susceptible, young children might be more vulnerable. The proportion of severe and critical cases was 10.6 percent for infants under one and 7.3 percent for kids ages one to five, compared to three percent for 15- to 18-year-olds. Like older children, however, babies display mild symptoms in most cases, but might also be asymptomatic.

In China, for example, only nine infants had confirmed coronavirus cases between December 8 and February 6, according to a February 14 report published in JAMA. The infants were between 1 month and 11 months old, but none required intensive care. No severe complications were reported either.

But while this is great news, it might lead to another problem: Babies might unknowingly spread coronavirus to their parents or caregivers. Take this case in Singapore published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, which involves a six-month-old baby. After a mother and nanny were hospitalised with pneumonia—and the father came down with a fever and sore throat—hospital staff found the baby had high levels of the COVID-19 in his “throat, blood, and stool,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The baby was asymptomatic, which caused the coronavirus to spread easily to caregivers. He didn’t develop any symptoms during a subsequent hospital stay (with the exception of a very short-lived fever).

These “silent cases” could help spread the coronavirus even further, which is particularly worrisome for grandparents and caregivers with compromised immune systems.

Why is the COVID-19 Mild for Children?

Since the coronavirus is a novel disease, experts still don’t know many things about it—including why children have lower transmission rates and milder symptoms. “We don’t definitively know the reason,” says K.C. Rondello, M.D., MPH, CEM, clinical associate professor at the College of Nursing and Public Health at Adelphi University. “Everyone from virologists to epidemiologists to infectious disease doctors are completely stymied as to why we’re seeing this phenomenon.”

Here are a few theories, however, within the medical community:

Kids Have a Better Immune Response

One theory is that children have better immune responses than adults, which helps them fight off the coronavirus. “Children’s immune systems are not fully functional until later in their development. As a result, they have a considerably stronger and more robust immune response to pathogens than adults,” explains Dr. Rondello.

What’s more, “The death rate for COVID-19 is higher among individuals with certain pre-existing conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. This may help explain why many children seem to be at lower risk, since they are less likely to have these types of preexisting conditions,” says Aimee Ferraro, Ph.D., faculty member for Walden University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) programme.

Many experts tentatively support the hypothesis, but there’s also a hitch: The coronavirus seems to spare most infants even though their immune systems aren’t fully formed yet.

Experts Might Not Be Identifying All Coronavirus Cases

Robert Frenck, Medical Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, says that a reporting bias might be to blame. When the coronavirus first emerged, doctors in America and China were only testing people with severe symptoms. But they’ve since found that milder, cold-like symptoms may also occur.

“It’s possible that the coronavirus causes a spectrum of illnesses, and that medical organisations are only identifying the more serious ones,” summarizes Dr. Frenck. Children might not be getting diagnosed if they’re only experiencing mild symptoms—which means the coronavirus may be affecting more children (and people in general) than reported.

Kids Could Have “Immunological Cross-Protection”

According to Dr. Rondello, a number of different viruses could give you the common cold—including milder forms of coronavirus. “Children get colds a lot, so they’re already being exposed to more benign, less intense coronaviruses. They could have potentially built immunity to them,” he says. Dr. Rondello calls this “immunological cross-protection.”

Kids Could Have Less Exposure

Other experts say kids might simply have less exposure to the coronavirus, since infected adults are more careful to prevent the spread of sickness, according to Business Insider. Plus, the article adds, more adults probably visited the presumed source of the coronavirus: the seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China.  (Culled from parents.com)

 

COVID-19: Israel Converts Missile Production Lines to Ventilator Production Centres

By Sunday Ehigiator

Israel has switched some missile production lines in the country to ventilator making centres in an effort to address the shortages of medical equipment used in the treatment of COVID-19.

Its Defence Minister, Naftali Bennett, disclosing this on Wednesday through a statement in Tel Aviv, said the production line for the ventilators was inaugurated in the Israel Aerospace Industries’ classified missile production department.

According to Bennett, Israel must develop independent capabilities in everything related to dealing with the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

“We cannot remain dependent on procurement from other countries,” the minister said.

The initiative is a joint effort between the ministry, the IAI and Israeli Medical Technology Company, Inovytec.

The first 30 ventilators produced have already been delivered to the Health Ministry but it did not state how many ventilators were set to be produced each day by the facilities.

Shortages of the respiratory devices have been reported worldwide, and the production lines face challenges in the international supply chain, and record demand and difficulty purchasing components.

The converted production lines had been used in the production of advanced defence systems such as the Arrow 2 and 3 weapon systems, as well as advanced satellite systems, among other high-tech equipment.

How to Prevent COVID-19 in Children

By Martins Ifijeh

Like the cold and flu, the coronavirus is a respiratory illness that spreads through contaminated droplets. These droplets enter the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth, says Miryam Wahrman, a Biology Professor and Director, Microbiology Research Lab at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, and author of The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World.

The absolute best coronavirus prevention method, says Dr. Wahrman, is washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also work in a pinch. Washing your hands is especially important before eating or touching your face. Parents should also disinfect common surfaces like doorknobs and countertops often.

Send your children to school like normal, but watch for updates from the school board or health organizations. The CDC has said that a coronavirus outbreak in America is “imminent,” and that parents should prepare for potential school closures. Indeed, schools have been shut down in Seattle, New York, and many other areas impacted by the disease.

“You can also give children disposable wipes so they can clean commonly used surfaces like keyboards at school,” adds Dr. Ferraro. “Parents should keep their children home from daycare or school if they are sick, and call their health care provider early to discuss the best approach for treatment.”

Ekiti Confirms Another Case of Covid-19

By Victor Ogunje

The Ekiti State government on Wednesday, confirmed another case of coronavirus, thereby increasing the number of victims to two.

This came barely 48 hours after the first index case was discharged after three weeks of treatment in the state at the quarantined centre.

The Commissioner for Information, Muyiwa Olumilua, who spoke with journalists on the issue, said the Ministry of Health will brief the public on the second case in due course.

“Yes, this second case is confirmed. It was confirmed today (Wednesday) and the victim has been put in isolation centre.

“We are assuring our people that no cause for alarm. We are taking all necessary steps to ensure that the disease doesn’t fester in our dear state.

“Part of the measures put in place is the total lockdown of the state, where movements are restricted to curb the spread.

“We salute the security agencies for ensuring that the lockdown order issued by Governor Kayode Fayemi is obeyed.

“We appeal to our people to complement the government’s efforts by staying indoor till April 12 and maintain personal hygiene of hand washing, use of sanitizers and maintain social distancing to curb the spread,” he said.

COVID-19: Ikpeazu Puts Abia in Total Lockdown, Assures Residents of Adequate Protection

By Emmanuel Ugwu 

The Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, Wednesday announced the total lockdown of the state as government ramped up strategies to keep Covid-19 out of the state.

He announced the extra measure in a broadcast to update citizens “on steps we have taken so far to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and measures we have put in place for containment and dealing with future eventualities”.

The governor said that the total lockdown, which took effect in the midnight of Tuesday, had become inevitable because of the increasing cases of coronavirus in Nigeria and the need to protect Abians from the disease.

“This imposes on us, a necessity to take urgent and stringent steps to safeguard the lives of our people in Abia State and prevent the pandemic from ravaging our people,” he said.

Ikpeazu noted that though Abia has presently not recorded any case of coronavirus, the state must be kept in heightened vigilance as prevention is always better than cure.

“We are poised to do everything possible to shut out this virus from our shores and we need everyone’s cooperation to succeed,” the governor vowed.

But to achieve the goal of keeping Abia free of coronavirus, Ikpeazu said that collective vigilance was needed because “if you shut it out and your neighbour engages in harmful practices, it may still get in”.

He stated that the lockdown would last for two weeks but would be subject to a review as events unfold, adding that all public events including burials, wedding ceremonies, and every other forms of social gatherings remain frozen.

“I am not unmindful of the disruptions to lives and livelihoods that these measures will entail but I want to remind us that health and life is paramount and every other consideration has to take second place,” the governor said.

However, he explained that the restriction on movement would not affect those involved in providing essential services that people need for daily survival, adding that the exemption affects workers in the health and medical sector, food production, processing and retail outlets, security services, journalists, petroleum products, super markets and consumer shops, among others.

Ikpeazu further assured the people of the state that his government was fully prepared to manage any outbreak should Covid-19 slip through the dragnet and make its way into the state.

He said that two isolation centres have been set up in Umuahia and a third one was being readied at Aba, while preparations are underway to put a fourth centre in Abia North.

The governor said that he would personally monitor the distribution of critical drugs to health institutions, adding that all donations already received from public spirited individuals and corporate organisations would be properly utilized and accounted for.

The Abia chief executive has strong words for traders and service providers exploiting the panic situation to exploit consumers, saying he was pained to hear that people could engage in such heartless hiking of prices of consumer goods.

“I wish to state that this development is simply unacceptable,” he warned, adding that government has mobilized relevant agencies to clamp down on the Shylock traders and service providers.

He reminded those with exploitative tendencies that “this is the period we are expected to showcase our humanity and be our brother’s keepers and not an occasion to seek to exploit our hapless and helpless brethren”.

“All those involved in these shameful practices are directed to cease forthwith or an example will be made of them,” Ikpeazu said.

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Jump to 151
By Martins Ifijeh
Nigeria has recorded 12 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 151
Announcing this Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said nine of the cases were from Osun, two from Edo and one from Ekiti State.
It said: “As at 12:30 pm on April 1, there are 151 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. Nine have been discharged with two deaths.”
Breakdown of the cases shows that Lagos has 82 cases, Federal Capital Territory has 28, Osun 14, Oyo eight, Ogun and Edo have four each, Kaduna three, Enugu, Bauchi and Ekiti have two each while Rivers and Benue State have one each.

 

US Coronavirus Death Toll Jump to 4,000 in Three Days

The death toll from the novel coronavirus in the United States has surged past 4,000—that’s double the figure from just three days ago.

The latest figures from Johns Hopkins University reveal there are more than 189,000 confirmed virus cases in the U.S., and 4,081 people have died.

The milestone comes the morning after President Donald Trump admitted that at least 100,000 and as many as 250,000 Americans are likely to die from the pandemic, after spending weeks downplaying its threat.

Elsewhere in the world, Spain’s health minister reported the number of cases in the country has surpassed 100,000 and the number of fatalities reported overnight reached a new record of 864, adding to a total death toll of 9,053. China reported just 36 new cases, most of which were carried there from overseas, and said 1,367 asymptomatic cases were under observation. (Reuters/Daily Beast)

 

Private Sector Joins Forces With NCDC as Nigeria Battles COVID-19

 

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) through its Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu, recently called on the private sector to support the Centre as Nigeria battles the scourge of the global Coronavirus pandemic. In response, a number of organisations have lent their support by donating funds, critical medical equipment and infrastructure.

Guaranty Trust Bank erected and donated a 100-bed fully equipped Isolation Centre in Onikan to the Lagos State Ministry of Health (LSMOH). Dangote Foundation donated trucks to aid the NCDC’s logistics and operations. On its part, United Bank for Africa (UBA) has pledged N5 billion for relief support across Africa through its foundation, while sector groups such as the Nigeria Oil & Gas industry have embarked on an industry-wide collaboration under the leadership of the NNPC Group Managing Director, Mallam Mele Kyari, to combat the pandemic and its attendant impact.

While receiving the Isolation Facility on behalf of the Lagos State Government, the Executive Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu, expressed his appreciation to individuals and corporate bodies who have assisted the government to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

“My appreciation also goes to individuals and corporate bodies who have reached out and assisted us in different ways. We are all in this together, and together we shall prevail,” the Governor enthused.

On Saturday, March 28, the NCDC through its Twitter handle announced that it had also received support from some telecommunication companies which will go a long way towards ensuring that mobile users receive verified information on COVID-19. Media reports revealed that one of the telecommunication firms, MTN Nigeria, provided the centre with tools it required to scale-up its critical response system, such as 1,200 SIMs preloaded with N100,000 airtime and 3GB data monthly for an initial period of six months; 38 toll-free lines (premium numbers) at no cost to the NCDC; 38 Smart Feature phones for the toll-free lines; 10 MiFi devices and daily COVID-19 prevention messages to all MTN subscribers.

The support package which has been valued at over N700 million is essential for NCDC’s Surveillance Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System (SORMAS) tool which helps to digitalise disease surveillance through capturing, collating, and displaying data for prompt decision making. The company had earlier announced its Yello Hope package, which is aimed at supporting its customers and government in the battle against Covid-19.

According to the Chief Corporate Services Officer, MTN Nigeria, Tobechukwu Okigbo, the company will continue to engage with the government and relevant stakeholders in pursuit of new ways to leverage their core expertise, technology and infrastructure to support the government’s efforts to keep the citizens safe. ‘In the next few days, we believe that the various conversations around partnerships will start yielding visible results,” Mr. Okigbo added.

Consequently, General Muhammadu has directed a lockdown on all movements in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states for a period of two weeks starting from Monday, March 30, 2020.

“Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States. All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.” President Buhari added.

Presently, there are a total of 139 infected persons in Nigeria, according to information from the NCDC. Lagos has the highest number of cases with 82, Abuja has 28, eight cases in Oyo, while Osun has 5, Ogun 4 and Kaduna 3 cases respectively. The states of Bauchi, Edo, and Enugu all have two respectively; while Rivers, Benue, and Ekiti have one case each.

 

FG Considers Compulsory Use of Masks as COVID-19 Cases Rise to 139

•Reviews lockdown protocol for Lagos, Ogun, FCT
•Recalls retired health workers
•Targets 1,500 per day testing capacity
•To reach 11m with palliatives
•Ekiti discharges index case
•House donates March, April salaries

Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Martins Ifijeh in Lagos and Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

The federal government is considering compulsory use of face masks by all Nigerians to stop the spread of COVID-19, whose cases rose by eight tuesday to hit 139.
It’s also reviewing the protocols for implementing the 14-day lockdown of Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

To step up the treatment of the infected, the government has recalled retired health workers who are now being trained to support the overall preparedness and treatment regimen.

Other measures to combat the pandemic include opening more testing centres so that Nigeria would be able to test 1,500 people daily in a bid to fast-track the detection rate.
Data from the Nigeria Centre of Disease Control (NCDC) showed that the country has so far tested over 2,000 people since the outbreak of the pandemic on February 27.

The federal government is also considering a relief package, targeted at cushioning 11 million people from the difficulties occasioned by COVID-19.

Speaking yesterday in Abuja at a press briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the agency was considering compulsory use of face masks to mitigate against the spread of the virus.

Ihekweazu noted that though the World Health Organisation (WHO) had recommended that face mask should only be used by health workers, NCDC might recommend a national strategy around its use for the public to protect themselves from contracting the virus.

He said the centre was considering that approach in the light of new emerging evidence, adding that for the mask to be effective on a population basis, they might recommend its use for everyone.

“This is a strategy we need to think about before we implement it. Before we implement a national strategy around mask wearing, we have to be sure we can provide it or at least enable access to it. We will allow for the risk assessment and as the evidence comes together, we will make a decision based on the evidence and ability to provide every Nigerian with access to mask,” he said.

NCDC Targets 1,500 per day Testing Capacity

Ihekweazu also said NCDC was set to increase its capacity to test for the virus to 1,500 per day.
“Last week, we had the capacity to test 500 per day, by the end of this week we will be at 1,000 a day.

“By next week we are hoping to get to 1,500 a day,” he said.
Ihekweazu, however, said Nigerians should reduce the demand side of the testing to those who really needed it.

He noted that the more the people force themselves into being tested, the less NCDC would have the capacity to test those who really need the testing.

Ihekweazu added that those that really need testing would, if not detected on time, be transmitting it into the community and more people would get infected.
According to him, by testing those that do not need it, people are blocking the system and there’s a price to pay.

Eight More Test Positive for COVID-19

NCDC also announced eight more cases of COVID-19 in the country, raising the total count to 139.

Giving a breakdown of the eight fresh incidences, NCDC said three were from the FCT; three from Osun, and one each from Lagos and Ogun States.

It said of the 139 cases, 128 were still active and under management, nine had been discharged, and two had died.

So far, Lagos has recorded 82 cases; FCT 28; Oyo eight; Osun five; Ogun four; Kaduna three; Edo, Enugu and Bauchi have two each, while Ekiti, Rivers and Benue have one each.

FG Reviews Lockdown Protocol for Lagos, Ogun, FCT

At the press conference in Abuja, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, also unveiled plans by the federal government to review the protocols for implementing the 14-day lockdown in the FCT as well as Lagos and Ogun states.

He explained that his team had met with the service chiefs for the review.
Mustapha said: “The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has met with the security chiefs to smoothen rough edges of implementation within the first day of implementation and we are working on issuing an appropriate restriction protocol and exemption guidelines, which will guide the subsequent days of restrictions.

“Initial feedback is that there is substantial compliance, however, there are violations of those restrictions by citizens that we desire to protect. Let me emphasise that the decision to lock down is to prevent community spread, which might be dangerous to manage.

“It can only be done by Nigerians and for Nigerians. So, we use this medium to implore our people and plead with them to please respect and honour restrictions that have been imposed for the good of our people and nation.”
Mustapha added that COVID-19 has not only come to affect the health of Nigerians, but also the nation’s wealth.

The SGF said even though President Muhammed Buhari had imposed a 14-day lock on the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states as one of the measures to prevent the spread of the virus, some of the states had not complied fully with the restriction order.

He warned that it was not in the character of the federal government to pick up people up and throw them behind bars as in other climes.
He stated that Nigerians owed it as a responsibility to themselves to ensure they do not allow the virus to come into their communities and ravage the country.

FG Recalls Retired Health Workers

The Federal Ministry of Health has said it would recall some of its retired staff back to duty to help beef up the human resource base needed to tackle the pandemic.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said at the press conference that additional measures were being taken to intensify contact tracing to support prompt case detection and isolation and treatment in order to reduce the spread of the infection.

He said the ministry was working closely with states, adding that members of the presidential task force would be holding a meeting with state commissioners of health to review the response activities to be able to protect the health of Nigerians.

As part of anticipatory measures aimed at boosting the core of medical workers that could attend to COVID-19 patients in the event of widespread outbreak, Ehanire said the ministry had put all its retired staff, particularly those that served at NCDC, on recall notice.

The minister said the presidential task force would meet later yesterday to review activities and measures to protect the health and well-being of Nigerians.

Ehanire said: “NCDC has engaged hundreds of ad-hoc staff to support call centres, contact tracing and laboratory work. Happily, many retired staff of the NCDC and also of the Ministry of Health, have reported for duty. Training is ongoing for the medical personnel to support overall preparedness and treatment.

“We are preparing about 1,000 beds in Abuja, to be used immediately as isolation centres if the need arises. The capacity to increase bed space is present. Resources for the procurement of required commodities have been provided.

“More testing sites have been opened in Ibadan and Abakaliki, while existing laboratories are being optimised in their performance. With new additions to the case definition, persons with fever and either cough or difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath in the areas of high COVID-19 prevalence can be tested for the disease.

“More laboratories will join the network of molecular diagnostic laboratories for COVID-19 in Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt and Sokoto.

“Within the next two or three weeks, the over 300 Gene expert machines that are used for tuberculosis diagnosis will be converted to be used for COVID-19 detection.”

FG to Reach 11m Nigerians with Palliatives

Also speaking at the press conference, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouk, said the federal government would be reaching more than 11 million Nigerians with palliatives to cushion the effects of the measures set to fight the pandemic.

Farouk, while responding to questions, added that internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North-east had already received two months’ rations of relief materials.

She said the government already had a social-register with details of those considered as the vulnerable in the society in 35 states of the federation, adding that these people belong to around 2.6 million households across the country.

NSA to Clear Security Flights into Nigeria

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has said all security flights into the country must pass through the National Security Adviser (NSA) before such flights could be given special permission to land in the light of the closure of all the country’s international airports.

Sirika also stated that protocol for the landing of all diplomatic flights must also go through the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

House Donates Two months’ Salary to Combat COVID-19

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, yesterday conveyed the decision by the 360 members of the House to donate their two months’ salary to the fight against the pandemic.

Gbajabiamila, in a video message to Nigerians, said the donation would be independent of the contributions by individual lawmakers to alleviate the hardship that their constituents face at this time of national emergency.

He said the donation would be transferred directly to the National Relief Fund account.
Gbajabiamila said: “We have in the House of Representatives jointly committed to contributing one hundred per cent (100 per cent) of our salaries for the next two months to the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria. Our contribution will support provisions for the welfare of frontline medical professionals and health workers, and other interventions to provide for the well being of all Nigerians through these trying times.

“Accordingly, I have directed the Clerk of the National Assembly to see to it that all members’ salaries are transferred to the National Relief Fund for this month and the next. This is independent of ongoing individual efforts by members to alleviate the suffering brought on by this virus and to improve the living conditions of citizens in their various constituencies.”

He added that the House would exercise its oversight power to ensure faithful administration of all emergency funds and contributions made so far to ensure they serve the purpose for which they were intended.

Ekiti Discharges Index Case

Meanwhile, the only patient with positive case of virus in Ekiti State has been discharged.
The patient, who has been receiving treatment at Ekiti State Infection Disease Control Centre in Oba Adejuyigbe General Hospital Ado-Ekiti, was discharged yesterday, having been treated of the disease.

The index case was a driver who brought a 27-year-old American to the state few weeks ago and eventually tested positive for the virus.

The patient, according to Ekiti State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, was full of joy for escaping death, saying the state government also demonstrated immense concerns for him throughout the period he was quarantined at the centre.

“I appreciate the state government, the medical team and entire Ekiti people for standing by me at my trying moment,” the patient was quoted to have said.
Yaya-Kolade added that the index case was given best treatment and was confirmed free of the virus before being discharged.

“We are happy to inform Nigerians, most especially the Ekiti residents, that the index case in the state has been discharged today. He has been treated of the deadly Coronavirus,” she noted.

Stop Stigmatising COVID-19 Patients, Says Minister

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has urged Nigerians to stop stigmatising people that tested positive for the virus.

The minister made the appeal yesterday on a Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) programme, “Good Morning Nigeria” monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
“The challenge we have today in Nigeria is that of people trying to stigmatise those who have Coronavirus.

“This is responsible for why many people are not coming out for test, even when they have contact with confirmed cases or have recent travel history.

“They did not come out for testing because they are afraid of the stigmatisation if they turn out to test positive for the virus,” he said.

The minister called on the media to limit report of positive cases for the virus by not mentioning names except when such persons come out to announce their status.

 

COVID-19 Calls for Global Action, Says Antonio Guterres

•Proposes $3tn buffer for poor countries

Martins Ifijeh

The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, has said that the fight to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic requires a global action, emphasising the need for the international community to support poor countries.

He, therefore, proposed a $3 trillion buffer for poor nations whose economies would be affected by the impact of the global pandemic.

Speaking on Arise TV Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers yesterday, he said the pandemic was a humanitarian crisis with the capacity to destabilize the lives of people and the economies of most affected countries, especially developing and underdeveloped nations.

He said: “Developed nations are already injecting funds into their various economies to buffer the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on their people. The United States a few days ago injected $2 trillion into its economy. Italy, Germany and other first world countries are doing it. This should be extended to poor nations. Developed countries can do it. This is not a financial crisis, it is a humanitarian crisis.

“COVID-19 is messing with humanity, so the whole of humanity must fight the virus. The international community should understand the support needed for poor nations is only a drop in the ocean in terms of the resources it can offer.

“The United Nations agencies, non-governmental organisations, and rich countries should help population in distress in this difficult situation. Globally, we must offer a massive package of support to these nations to respond to the different impacts of COVID-19.”

He said the requested funding does not need to come from monies already kept for other humanitarian responses, adding that what is needed was for different monies to be allotted to the COVID-19 response as it relates to economies of smaller nations.

“The response shouldn’t come from programmes already in place. We need additional support to fight this outbreak. There should be double digit percent of gross domestic product globally in order to be able to address this challenge,” he added.

Guterres said in addition to the financial aid, he was also suggesting debt cancellation for the affected smaller nations.

“Also, we are also calling for global ceasefire and sanctions should be suspended for vulnerable countries. These sanctions should be the ones undermining the capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These are bilateral sanctions that can be waved. We are talking to countries to consider these suggestions,” he said.

Guterres said the entire package of support would allow developing countries to be able to support their citizens in their businesses and other life endeavours.
“If we don’t do this, their economies will collapse and that will bring devastating consequences to their vulnerable population,” he warned.

 

31 COVID-19 Patients Recover in Ghana

Thirty-one COVID-19 patients in Ghana have been discharged after recovering from the disease.

The country’s Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyemang, broke the news during an interview with journalists tuesday.

The country has confirmed 161 cases, of which five deaths have been recorded.

Agyemang said the 31 recovered patients would be monitored closely in their respective homes.

This is the highest number of patients who have recovered on the continent so far.

“We have conducted some tests and 31 persons out of the total active cases have not shown symptoms,” he said.

“I keep on emphasising that the fatality rate in Ghana is very low so Ghanaians should not be scared. The five persons who have already lost their lives had underlying medical conditions.”

Globally, over 830,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, according to Worldometer, a website which provides real-time updates on the virus situation globally.

At least 176,000 people have recovered while over 41,000 people have died from the disease.

WHO: Over 50 Vaccine Trials Ongoing for COVID-19

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said there are more than 50 trials for a vaccine on COVID-19.

The Country Officer for WHO in Nigeria, Fiona Braka, said there is also a multi-country trial for a drug for the virus.

Braka said while there is no vaccine for the disease yet, WHO is fast-tracking the process of producing one.

She said: “We currently have over 50 vaccine trials that are in place, trying to work round the clock to fast-track the vaccine development process, and we continue to keep countries informed of that process.

“When it comes to treatment, WHO is leading a multi-country clinical trial. So far, 45 countries have signed up for that.”

The WHO country director added that what is being adopted is a “solidarity trial” that would “test different drugs in four different arms against the normal standard of care we are currently implementing.”

 

TUESDAY MARCH 31, 2020

COVID-19: Getting Upset at Beginning of Isolation is Normal for Patients

By Martins Ifijeh

Following complaints by some COVID-19 patients at the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba that they are not being attended to as expected, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said it was not out of place for patients to get upset at the beginning of their isolation process as it was a new journey for them.

Abayomi, who stated this during the inspection of a 120-bed space isolation centre at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba Tuesday, said isolation wards were not normal wards where patients were allowed to interact with persons who are not infected.

He said: “When COVID-19 patients come into isolation wards, it usually takes one to two days before they get used to the operations at the centre.

“In normal wards, people will come greet you; healthcare providers will come check your blood pressure as often as possible, among others. But in an isolation ward, every time a doctor or nurse comes in there, he or she wears a N70, 000 outfit which can only be worn once.

“The healthcare providers will only come into the ward two, three or four times a day. A patient in that ward might be confused for the first day or two until they get accustomed to the fact they will not see their healthcare provider as often as in normal wards. There is a reason it is called isolation centre. But what is most important is that the patients are given qualitative care at any given time.”

He said he does not blame the husband of one of the patients who complained in a viral video, adding that it was usually expected within the first few days of commencing treatment at the centre.

He also noted that few days after admission, patients usually get comfortable with the isolation process, adding that every intervention they need are often provided within the period of the isolation.

On the 120-bed isolation centre at LUTH, he said he was pleased with the facility, adding that it contains most of the things needed for treatment of COVID-19 patients.

“If we eventually get a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, the centre in LUTH, Onikan, Yaba, Gbagada, and other places will come in handy. That is why we are preparing these centres beforehand,” he added.

On his part, the Chief Medical Director, LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, said the right staff had been trained on how to manage COVID-19 patients and that the hospital was ready whenever the state brings in patients.

“This is a first class isolation centre. We are glad for the support the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) also made. They gave us 60 beds. LUTH will support the state and the federal government in curbing the public health challenge,” he said.

COVID-19: Bauchi Orders Total Lockdown

From Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

As part of efforts towards forestalling the spread of the COVID-19 infection across the state, the Bauchi State Government has imposed a total lockdown across the state.

The State government which announced the complete lockdown of the state effective Thursday 2nd April by 6pm said it was meant  to mitigate the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus.

A 3-paragraph statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Mohammed Sabiu Baba, and made available to newsmen in Bauchi on Tuesday said the total lockdown will take effect as from Thursday, 2nd April 2020 as from 6 pm and will in operation for the next 14 days

According to the statement,“Sen Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, Governor of Bauchi State appreciates the sacrifices of the public in these agonising period. He has subsequently directed that in order for the public to purchase food items, movement is allowed between 10 am to 4 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The ban does not, however, affect essential services”.

The governor also appealed to the public to appreciate that the measures were aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19 that currently threatening the society.

He urged the people to continue with prayers to God.

Osinbajo: Questioning Lockdown Order Unnecessary

*Says president’s declaration proactive, backed by law

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Monday said questioning the legality of the presidential order restricting movements in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun States was unnecessary as the action taken was not only important but backed by extant Nigerian laws.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Sunday ordered a lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun beginning from 11pm Monday to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The declaration had prompted debate over the constitutionality of the president’s action.

A statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, said Osinbajo spoke in Abuja while responding to questions at the Google Hangout programme organised by HACK COVID-19 Call Centre – a private sector initiative supporting Nigeria’s battle against the pandemic.

According to the Vice President, “regarding the legality of the shutdowns announced by the President yesterday, I think it is entirely legal. These steps are proactive, very relevant, important and backed by law.

“I am not so sure some of the people who have commented on the issue have come across the Quarantine Act.  There is a Quarantine Act of 1926, it’s been published in all of the Laws of Nigeria, every edition of the Laws of Nigeria, it is there.”

Referring specifically to the part of the legislation that empowers the President to order movement restrictions in any part the country, Prof. Osinbajo said, “what the Act does is that it allows the President to designate any local area, any part of the country, as a place that may be infected or under the threat of a communicable disease, and he can then make regulations of any kind.

“For instance, he can say, people should not go out; no public gatherings etc. So, it is a regulation that gives the President powers and these powers come from the National Assembly because, of course, it is an Act of the National Assembly.”

The statement said Osinbajo later explained that by virtue of the constitutional rules, the 1926 Act was deemed to be an Act of the National Assembly.

“So, the President has extensive powers under the Quarantine Act of 1926. Also, Governors have extensive powers under the same Quarantine Act,” he said.

Osinbajo urged all interested individuals and groups to personally go through the legislation in order to understand the provisions therein, noting that “it is barely a one page legislation, so it is not particularly difficult to find the relevant provisions and it is not particularly difficult to read, very straightforward. So, the President has all the powers.”

Speaking further about the legal precedent of the President’s declaration, Osinbajo recalled  the Influenza pandemic of 1918, also referred to as the Spannish Flu, which killed thousands in Nigeria and millions across the world.

The vice president said, “many of us are not familiar with the Influenza pandemic that killed several millions around the world in 1918. At that time regulations were made here, very similar to what we have today, although that was under the colonial authorities.

“They also banned public gatherings, banned gatherings in places of worship then. So, there is even good historical precedence for some of what we are doing today.”

COVID-19: Nigerian-born Medical Doctor, Alfa Sa’adu, Dies in UK

*Emir of Ilorin mourns

 A Nigerian-born medical doctor, Dr. Alfa Sa’adu, has died of coronavirus in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Sa’adu died in London on Tuesday at the age of 68 and was until his death a physician at the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust.

“Today at approx.. 7.30am, Dr. Alfa Saadu (my dad) died of the Coronavirus. He had been fighting the virus for 2 weeks but could not fight anymore,” Dani Sa’adu, his son, said on his facebook page.

Describing his dad as a living legend who worked for the NHS for nearly 40 years saving people’s lives in the UK and in Africa, he said up until he got sick, he was still working part time saving people.

He said the “NHS were amazing and did everything they could.”

“The Coronavirus is not a joke, please take it seriously and listen to the government,” he urged people.

Reacting to the death of Sa’adu (who was the Galadiman Patigi), the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman Kwara State Traditional Council, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, described his death as a great loss to humanity.

The monarch in his condolence message issued on Tuesday by his spokesman, Mallam Abdulazeez Arowona, expressed sadness over his unfortunate demise saying, “We have lost an irreplaceable asset in the nation.”

Sulu-Gambari said, “the late Galadiman Patigi was one of the finest medical practitioners whose penchant for professionalism, humanity and traditional institutions knows-no-bound as a foremost product of the emirate.

“He was the son of the late Alhaji Ahman Pategi, one of the highly respected Ministers who served in the Northern Nigeria under the late Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto in the first republic. During my stay in England, I was his guardian, he lived with me and enjoyed his loyalty, steadfastness and humility.

“I received the news of his death with crude shock and depression because he was indeed a great asset for us in Kwara and Nigeria in general. He contributed his quotas to national development as foremost medical practitioner and community leader. ”

The emir commiserated with the Kwara State Governor, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq; Etsu Patigi, Alhaji Umar Bologi II, and the entire people of Patigi emirate council over what he described as ‘the colossal loss.’

He prayed Allah to forgive the late Galadiman Patigi his shortcomings and give his immediate and extended families the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

House Members Donate Two Months’ Salary to Fight COVID-19

By Udora Orizu

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, has disclosed that 360 members of the House of Representatives have resolved to donate their two months salary to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

The Speaker, in a video message to Nigerians said the two-month salary donation would be independent of the contributions by individual lawmakers to alleviate the hardship that their constituents face at this time of national emergency.

He said the salary donation from the lawmakers would be transferred directly to the National Relief Fund account.

Gbajabiamila said, “We have in the House of Representatives jointly committed to contributing one hundred per cent (100%) of our salaries for the next two months to the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria. Our contribution will support provisions for the welfare of frontline medical professionals and health workers, and other interventions to provide for the wellbeing of all Nigerians through these trying times.”

“Accordingly, I have directed the Clerk to the National Assembly to see to it that all members’ salaries are transferred to the National Relief Fund for this month and the next. This is independent of ongoing individual efforts by members to alleviate the suffering brought on by this virus and to improve the living conditions of citizens in their various constituencies.”

He assured that the House would exercise its oversight power to ensure faithful administration of all emergency funds and contributions made so far to ensure they serve the purpose for which they were intended.

“The House has already mandated the Committees on Health and Disaster Preparedness to diligently oversee the distribution of items donated by local and foreign donors to ensure proper management.”

Gbajabiamila also said the House has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make cash grants to the 774 local government areas in the country to alleviate the suffering of the masses.

The speaker while commending the sacrifices made by all medical professionals, implored Nigerians to adhere strictly to the guidelines given by relevant authorities to prevent further spread of the disease.

“Nigeria could not afford to have a large scale outbreak of the disease. This crisis has exposed in the worst possible way the evident weaknesses of our health system. After this is over and moving forward, we must do everything in our power to ensure that we will never again come upon a moment such as this, as ill-equipped as we are now. The transmission of this disease at a scale for which our systems are not prepared is our biggest present threat. We alleviate that threat by self-isolating. The bad news of this disease is that everyone is a potential victim, but the good news is that everyone is a potential solution.”

“Keep in mind that if we do not rigorously follow these self-isolation guidelines, all our other efforts will at the end of the day come to nothing. Let this be for all of us, a time for introspection and prayer, a time to commune with God. Let us spend time with our children. Study, write, meditate and exercise. Do whatever you must to get through this period but do it at home.”

“We are at war and our mission is first to survive, and then to overcome. These objectives require that we act in unison and remain laser-focused on the challenge at hand. I ask all of you to continue to take care of yourselves. Follow the guidelines of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Do not disseminate information of uncertain provenance. Do not panic but make sure that those around you understand the risks of this disease and the challenges we face and must overcome together. If we do all that we are called to do at this time, it won’t be long now before we can with joy and thanksgiving together declare mission accomplished,” he said

Speaking further, Gbajabiamila urged the state governors that haven’t had any confirmed cases to proceed as if they have, by taking all precautions and making all the same preparations as in those states where there have been established cases.

“I commend the efforts of the Federal Government to manage the outbreak and alleviate its adverse economic and social impact on Nigerians. A lot of the responsibility for managing this outbreak, caring for those who become ill and catering to at-risk populations will fall to the State Governments. I applaud those State Governors who have risen to the challenge of the times with innovation and steady leadership, I encourage them to remain steadfast.”

“I also express profound appreciation to all the individuals and organisations who have stepped up to support federal and state governments efforts to manage the present crisis. Let it be that when we think of this moment and of the roles we have each played, our memories are filled with the remembrance of heroes and the names of those who in their lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with their honour,” he added.

COVID-19: Rivers Imposes 24-hour Curfew on Parts of Port Harcourt

By Ernest Chinwo

The Rivers State government has extended the dusk-to-dawn curfew it imposed on parts of Port Harcourt metropolis to 24 hours.

Governor Nyesom Wike, had in a broadcast on Monday night, announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Education Bus Stop to Agip Junction, Ikwerre Road and Obiri Ikwerre Junction to Ozuoba, Rumualogu and Choba because of violations on ban on markets.

But in a statement issued Tuesday morning, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, said the curfew in the named areas is for 24 hours.

“This is to inform members of the public that the curfew imposed at Education Bus Stop to Agip Junction, Ikwerre Road and Obiri Ikwerre Junction to Ozuoba, Rumualogu and Choba is for 24 hours with effect from today, March 31, 2020 till further notice,” the statement said.

He also warned that banks which refused to open for business in the state would face sanctions.

“The curfew is targeted at only some parts of the state. Therefore, banks have no excuse to shut down their operations.

“Any bank that is found to be closed will find it very difficult to reopen for business in the state,” he said.

Meanwhile, when THISDAY visited Mile 1, Diobu, one of the affected areas, stern-looking riot policemen and other plainclothes security men were checking the movements of vehicles and pedestrians. Shops were forced to close as they enforced a total lockdown of the area.

COVID-19: Akwa Ibom Gov Signs into Law Quarantine, Restriction Regulations

By Okon Bassey

In order to check the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic in Akwa Ibom State, the state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, has signed into law, the quarantine and restriction movement regulations 2020.

Emmanuel said the new law, which became effective in March 30, 2020 across the 31 local government areas of the state, is in view of the serious and imminent threat to public health by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He described COVID-19 as a dangerous infectious disease within the meaning and intendment of Section 2 of the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2, Laws of Federation of Nigeria 2004.

With the provisions of the regulation to control the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent the spread of the disease, the state government has therefore restricted the movement of persons and vehicles within the state.

The law provides that commercial tricycles shall carry not more than two passengers only; while mini buses shall carry not more than one passenger per row.

“A private vehicle shall carry not more than two persons at the back seat and one on the front Seat.

“All public parks, shops, eateries, clubs, restaurants, markets and offices within the state shall remain closed except for the sale of foodstuffs, drugs and other essential commodities.

“All public burials, public weddings, and other forms of public gatherings are for the time being hereby prohibited.

“All places of religious worship, churches, and mosques shall strictly observe the social distancing prescription of a minimum of one metre spacing and not more than twenty persons per gathering.

“In addition, hand washing facility with running water, soap and sanitizer shall be made available,” it said.

On closure of borders, the law provides that “all borders and roads leading into and out of the state shall remain closed with immediate effect. (For the avoidance of doubt, all interstate transportation and movement on land, air, water are hereby prohibited)”.

However, government and recognised security personnel, fire service personnel, medical health workers and other personnel on essential duties and food supplies are exempted from the law.

The law advises that any person who knows or has reason to believe that he has symptoms of, or is suffering from the coronavirus disease shall not expose other persons to risk of infection by his presence or conduct in any public place or any other place.

“Any person who knows or has reason to believe that he has symptoms of, or is suffering from the coronavirus disease shall submit himself for quarantine and treatment,” it stated.

The law warns that a person who refuses to submit himself for treatment and quarantine, security and medical personnel may use such force as may be reasonably necessary and employ such method as may be sufficient to ensure compliance with the regulations.

On isolation of contacts, the law states that: “Where a person under Paragraph 7 has been identified, a medical officer may order all person who came in contact with the Identified person to be isolated in any of the isolation centres within the state and any person authorised by the medical officer to carry out such order may use such force as may be reasonably necessary and employ such method as may be sufficient to ensure compliance with this regulations.”

According to the law on offence and penalty, “Any person who contravenes the provision of this regulation shall be prosecuted in accordance with the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and the Akwa Ibom State Infectious Disease (Control of Spread) Law, 2014 or any
other applicable law in that regard.

“In addition to the penalty provided under the relevant laws where a person contravenes the provisions of paragraphs 3 and 5 of these regulations, his vehicle may be impounded immediately and his licence suspended for a specified length of time immediately and his licence cancelled or suspended for a stipulated period of time.

“Security agencies are hereby directed to enforce strict compliance with the regulations herein contained.

“This regulation may be cited as the Quarantine and Restriction of Movement Regulations, 2020 and shall come into force on the 30th day of March 2020 and remain in force till 30th day of April 2020 or for such extended period as may be announced from time to time.

“The enforcement of this regulation will be strictly carried out by the special enforcement team, headed by the state Commissioner of Police, comprising all the service commanders and relevant government officials.”

COVID-19: Abuja Estate’s Residents Donate Medical Supplies

Prince and Princess Estate, Duboyi, Abuja on Tuesday received medical supplies from Arc. Tony Afechukwu, Dr. Eric Nwanze, Dr. Charles Agadu and other kind hearted residents as part of efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus in Nigeria.

The donation is coming on the heels of the plea from President Muhammadu Buhari with Nigerians to show selfless commitment to the fight against coronavirus.

Speaking at the commissioning of the Hand-wash equipment, Sanitizer closets among other items made accessible for the residents at the two main entrance gates, the Chairman of the Estate Residents Association, Engr. Victor Adoga, commended the philanthropic gestures of members of the Estate and the COVID-19 Response team, especially at this crisis time.

Adoga said the medical supplies, donated to the estate by Ifechukwu to prevent the spread of COVID-19, would be located at the two entrance gates of the estate from Tuesday.

While calling on Nigerians in whatever capacity they are to make sacrifice in this period of health challenge, the chairman said the initiative was indeed a laudable one which erases all doubts that, Nigerians can be united as a people in their bid to confront an existential threat as being demonstrated at Prince and Princess Estate.

He said: “Every resident of Prince& Princess Estate should be proud of this day as we take the lead in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is not the first time man is faced with existential threats and pandemic of this nature but we have always triumphed and by God’s grace we shall triumph against Covid-19.

“I am particularly grateful to the Estate Covid-19 Response Team led by Dr. Eric Nwaze and Dr. Charles Agadu for their uncommon commitment and dedication.

“I also appreciate in no small measures the philanthropic kind gesture of the donor, Arc. Tony Ifechukwu.

“May God Almighty replenish him in hundred folds. We pray that this provide a model for other estates and communities within the Federal Republic of Nigeria and indeed the world to emulate and build upon.

“We encourage residents to use the facility having commissioned it for public use today 31st March 2020 to the glory of God Almighty and mankind.”

Lagosians may Say Farewell to Covid-19 in Four Week, Says Commissioner
Segun James
The Lagos State government has said that in four weeks, the state may finally say farewell to the COVID-19 pandemic if the people cooperate with government.
 
The government also disclosed that while 70 per cent of the confirmed cases are male, most of them are surprisingly with the most active age of 30 and 39 years.
The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who stated this in a statement, stressed that “it would appear that Lagos has fared well in managing the crisis,” even as he disclosed that “we are on the lookout for local transmission as imported cases will drop significantly because of the closure of the airports.
According to him, all confirmed cases in the state are clinically stable.
“Seventy per cent of the cases are males, while 30 per cent are females with age band most affected 30 to 39 years (active and mobile age group).
“Sixteen per cent of the case are foreign nationals, while 84 per cent are Nigerians.
“Numbers of imported cases initially stood at 82 per cent of total confirmed cases. Sixteen per cent of the cases are contacted from imported cases, while the origin of 2 per cent of the cases couldn’t be ascertained.
“Top five LGAs with passengers of interest (POIs) are Etiosa, Ikeja, Alimosho, Kosofe  and  Oshodi/Isolo.
“Covid-19 surveillance in Lagos so far targeted 2,645 POIs, with 2,293 under follow up, while 352 POIs have exited follow-up (outside incubation period),” he said.
He was however happy that the current trend indicated that community transmission is not on yet.
Abayomi said that the response team at LASG #COVID19 remained committed to aggressive containment measures against the spread of the virus, adding that: “Every citizen is therefore enjoined to continue to observe social distancing.”

COVID-19: ASUU Members Can Serve as Medical, Paramedical Volunteers, Says Union

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has okayed its members nationwide willing to work with medical and paramedical workers as volunteers in carrying out public enlightenment and professional intervention initiatives against the Covid-19 spread.

The union which recently embarked on an indefinite industrial action over disagreement with the federal government on the implementation of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPIS) and funding of nation’s universities, said its members were ready to put aside the ongoing strike to join hands in stemming the tide of the dreaded coronavirus in Nigeria.

ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, who spoke during a presentation of COVID-19 Intervention Materials on Tuesday at the University of Ibadan, in Oyo state said if there had been qualitative and accessible university education, the universities in the country would have acted as, “a storehouse of knowledge in scientists, doctors, nurses, laboratory technologists and other medical and paramedical personnel for coping with a global pandemic of the magnitude of the COVID-19”.

Ogunyemi said the decision of ASUU to support government’s efforts towards stemming the tide of the dreaded coronavirus was taken at its recent emergency meeting held at the University of Abuja, Abuja.

“At that meeting, NEC resolved that the Union should participate actively in the ongoing efforts to prevent and control the spread of the coronavirus, otherwise called COVID-19. In the Press Conference that followed on 23rd March, 2020, we had declared:

“To demonstrate our concerns for the welfare and well-being of the Nigerian people, ASUU members nationwide shall be willing to work with medical and paramedical workers as volunteers in their public enlightenment and professional intervention initiatives,” he said.

Ogunyemi said that all branches of the union had been directed to explore areas of strategic collaboration with federal, state and local governments to provide support in terms of information and expert skills drawn from our membership across the nation.

He said that although ASUU believes that this is not the time for apportioning blames, the universities appears to have no place in the current efforts of government to tackle Coronavirus outbreak.

“See, for instance, how naked and empty our teaching hospitals turned out to be when threatened by the early wave of COVID-19. Yet, these are laboratories established to produce medical and paramedical personnel for our dear nation! Our aspiration for improved quality of life for Nigeria’s teeming population will remain a mirage for as long as the ruling class cannot see the ineluctable consequences of the neglect of university education for qualitative health services,” he said.

Speaking on the appropriateness or otherwise of the ongoing strike by the union, Ogunyemi said government had enough opportunity to consider the union’s demands on the non-implementation of some key aspects of the 7th February 2019 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) and imposition of IPPIS but that the authorities went ahead to order stoppage of lecturers’ February salary.

“The current action commenced way back on 9th March 2020 with the warning strike declared at the Enugu State University. We had thought the two-week window would be used by Government to respond satisfactorily to our demands on the non-implementation of some key aspects of the February 7, 2019 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) and imposition of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) on Nigerian academics. Instead, Government stuck to its gun on IPPIS, withheld payment of salaries and allowances of ASUU members and seized the check-off dues, cooperative society contributions and other third-party deductions made on behalf of the union and its members,” he said.

ASUU president said the union had no regrets for rejecting IPPIS, adding that apart from its erosion of University autonomy, the fears that the platform lead to possible distortion, manipulation and amputation of salaries and allowances fully came to light with the forceful application of IPPIS to the payroll system in the universities in February 2020.

“If anyone is still in doubt, a chat with the victims, many of who have regrettably confessed to being deceived into enrolling in IPPIS, would certainly convince you, ” he said.

Congo’s Ex-president Dies of Coronavirus

Jacques Joaquim Yhombi-Opango, former president of the Republic of Congo, has died after contracting coronavirus, his family said.

Yhombi-Opango died in a Paris hospital on Monday. He was 81.

Yhombi-Opango was ill before he contracted the virus, his son told AFP news agency.

He led Congo-Brazzaville from 1977 until he was toppled in 1979, being ousted by the country’s current leader, Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Born in 1939 in the country’s northern Cuvette region, Yhombi-Opango was an army officer who rose to power after the assassination of president Marien Ngouabi.

The troubled oil-rich former French colony was aligned with the Soviet Union during Ngouabi’s 1968-1977 rule.

Accused of taking part in a coup plot against Sassou Nguesso, Yhombi-Opango was jailed from 1987 to 1990. He was released a few months before a 1991 national conference that introduced multi-party politics in the central African country.

He founded the Rally for Democracy and Development party but lost in a 1992 presidential election.

Yhombi-Opango later allied with elected president Pascal Lissouba, becoming his prime minister between 1994 and 1996.

When civil war broke out in Congo in 1997, Yhombi-Opango fled into exile in France.

He was finally able to return home in 2007, but then divided his time between France and Congo because of his health problems. (Aljazeera)

Nigeria Records 4 New Cases of COVID-19, Total Now 135

Nigeria has recorded for new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number in the country to 135 at at 11am on Tuesday.

Accodigng to the National Centre for Disease Control, the four new cases are in Osun (3) and Ogun (1).

Details later…

Coronavirus: Lawmaker Urges FG to Suspend Payment of Utility Bills for Two Months

By Adedayo Akinwale

A member representing Maiyama/Koko/Besse Federal Constituency (APC) Kebbi State in the House of Representatives, Shehu Koko, has called on the federal government to suspend payment of electricity and water bills for the ordinary Nigerians for two months.

Koko, in a statement issued Monday commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the immediate implementation of the repayment moratorium for all Tradermoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans, but added that free access to power and water should be included.

According to him, “Our Country is going through trying times just like the international communities. While we continue to pray for God to come to our rescue, I urge the federal government to provide basic amenities like water and electricity at no cost especially those at the grassroots level without interruption.”

Koko said this would go a long way to assist the federal government’s decision to provide relief materials to citizens this period.

He added, “Though these amenities are private sector driven, we urge the government to intervene and ameliorate the sufferings of the people.”

NCDC Traces 6,000 Contacts as COVID-19 Cases Rise to 131

•Deaths increase to two
•Lagos discharges five more patients
• Oyo gov tests positive
•Buhari applauds Tinubu, Adenuga, Enenche, NNPC, others over contributions

Our Correspondents

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is now tracing 6,000 people in Lagos and Abuja suspected of having contact or being in proximity with those that have tested positive for COVID-19.

The figure, released yesterday by the agency, showed an increment of 1,630 over the number of people being traced as at last Thursday.

Besides, the NCDC also announced 20 fresh cases of COVID-19, bringing the tally to 131.
Among the new cases is Oyo State Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, who confirmed that he tested positive for the virus.

The death toll from the pandemic also rose by one, bringing the number of people that have died from the virus since the index case occurred on February 27, to two.
However, five of the patients who had been receiving treatment were discharged yesterday in Lagos, the epicentre of the pandemic, after being certified free of the virus.

Amid the rain of donations from corporate organisations and individuals, President Muhammadu Buhari lauded All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu and Globacom Chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga, among others, for their contributions to the battle against COVID-19.

The NCDC, while giving an update yesterday on the virus and efforts to combat it, said 13 of the new cases were from Lagos, four from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), two from Kaduna State and one from Oyo State.

It said: “As at 09:00 pm March 30, there are 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria with two deaths.”
Of the 131 cases, Lagos currently has 81, FCT 25, Oyo eight, Kaduna and Ogun three each, Enugu, Edo, Bauchi and Osun two each, while Ekiti, Rivers and Benue have one each.

NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, added that no fewer than 6,000 people are being traced in Lagos and Abuja over their contacts with COVID-19 patients.
Ihekweazu, while fielding questions when he appeared on Channels Television, said at least 2,000 people had been tested nationwide.

He said: “We appeal to Nigerians to bear the few weeks of pain to come and let’s see whether we can get on top of this.

“These weeks will allow our teams to have access to the contacts that are living around Lagos and FCT. We are following over 6,000 contacts of these 111 confirmed cases across these two cities. Every time we have a new case, we add about 50 to 60 contacts that we then have to follow every single day for 14 days.

“We hope that we can really use this time to buy some time to get ahead of the cases and ultimately see that curve start going down but in the next few days, we still do expect an increase in cases.

“We have currently tested well over 2,000 people. We will update those figures today or tomorrow. We have increased the number of labs in our network to six.

“We are activating Abakaliki today. There would be a seventh lab in our network.
“We’re maximising the opportunity of the equipment that we have and at the same time rolling out new labs. We’re very focused on increasing the testing capacity. We are being boxed down by people who do not require the test.”

Asked how long it takes for a test to be carried out and the result released, Ihekweazu said it took between 24 and 48 hours, but the NCDC is working on bringing it down to 12 hours.
He explained that some tests are delayed because it is carried out twice to ensure that the results are accurate.

“Molecular testing is carried out in runs. One run can take six to seven hours. We have now almost optimised the process to do three runs a day in each lab. And that’s why you have seen the numbers rise because we are testing more samples and producing more results,” he added.

Ihekweazu said while the government did not resort to force to make residents comply with the restriction orders in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States, it hoped Nigerians would voluntarily comply in their own interest.

“They need to do this for themselves and their country.
“But the key thing in the president’s speech like you would have noticed is that we’re not rolling out the military or the police to ensure that people stay at home. We are really appealing to Nigerians to do this for themselves and their country,” he added.

Makinde Tests Positive to COVID-19

The Oyo State Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, yesterday confirmed that he had tested positive to the virus.
He became the third governor to test positive after Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State.

Makinde, who tweeted via his personal handle, @seyiamakinde, said although he tested positive to COVID-19, he showed no symptoms and would remain in isolation.

He added that he had appointed a former Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Prof. Temitope Alonge, as the Head of COVID-19 Taskforce while he recovers.

Nigeria Records Second COVID-19 Death

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, yesterday said Nigeria had recorded its second COVID-19 death.

Ehanire, in a statement, said the fatality was recorded during the weekend.
The minister said the majority of those who had tested positive for COVID-19 came from overseas while the others were their close contacts.

“Till date, three persons have been discharged after successful treatment. But sadly, another fatality was recorded over the weekend in the person of a patient who had severe underlying illnesses.

“We have intensified contact tracing and our strategy remains to promptly detect cases, isolate them and follow up with their contacts and also isolate and treat, in order to reduce the spread of the infection,” he said.

Lagos Discharges Five Patients

The Lagos State Government has discharged five patients who were admitted to and treated at the Infectious Disease Centre, Yaba Mainland Hospital.

The government, in a statement, identified the survivors as four males and one female, bringing the total number of survivors from the centre to eight.

The survivors were quarantined and treated at the isolation centre for two weeks after testing positive for the virus.

It said the survivors who preferred to remain anonymous looked stable and unruffled, adding that they felt happy they had been given a clean bill of health.

They expressed joy and satisfaction with the state government and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu over the treatments they received and his proactive approach towards the containment of the virus.

It was learnt that Sanwo-Olu has received the news of the full recovery of the five patients with excitement.

The governor, in a short message reassured Lagosians that his administration was doing all it could to curtail the spread of the virus so that life could return to normal.

He said: “We are very excited to hear that five of our citizens in the isolation centre have regained full recovery. It is another pointer to us that with a concerted effort, we can defeat the coronavirus in Lagos and Nigeria.”

US Approves Emergency Use of Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency use of Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine to treat patients hospitalised for COVID-19.

CNN reported that the authorisation came in a letter dated March 28.
The report noted that the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acknowledged the FDA’s action in its March 29 news release.

US President Donald Trump has described the drugs – which are used to treat malaria and other conditions – as game-changers.

But the FDA limited the scope of its authorisation to drugs supplied from the Strategic National Stockpile.

The HHS announced that two pharmaceutical companies, Bayer and a division of Novartis, had donated the drugs to the stockpile.

“Anecdotal reports suggest that these drugs may offer some benefit in the treatment of hospitalised COVlD-19 patients.

“The safety profile of these drugs has only been studied for FDA approved indications, not COVID-19,” the statement said.

While there’s limited evidence on the efficacy of Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine, the FDA said the drugs’ benefits outweighed their risk.

In its letter, the FDA encouraged randomised clinical trials that could assess the effectiveness of the drugs, noting that the known and potential benefits outweigh the risks.

According to HSS, the authorisation is limited to patients who are currently hospitalised and weigh at least 50kg or about 110 pounds.

“Under the emergency use authorisation, healthcare providers must contact their local or state health department to access the drugs,” it added.

Adenuga Donates N1.5bn to fight COVID-19

Chairman of Globacom, Dr. Mike Adenuga, has donated N1.5 billion to combat the pandemic.

The amount, which is the highest individual donation so far in the country, is broken into two: an initial N1 billion to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 and N500 million to the Lagos State Government.

The donations were made in the name of Mike Adenuga Foundation.
Announcing the N500 million donation in a letter to Sanwo-Olu, Adenuga said: “We shall in addition to this contribution actively continue our ongoing efforts to assist various bodies and institutions in the country with the supply of such essential items as sanitisers, masks, test kits, ventilators, PPEs and other necessary requirements.”

The Cable reported that the letter was delivered to the governor by Adenuga’s daughter and Executive Vice Chairman of Globacom, Mrs. Bella Disu.

In his letter to the governor of CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Adenuga wrote: “Given its broad scope and focused thrust, we are convinced that effective execution of the well-articulated objectives of the coalition are certain to yield the type of very positive results that will stand the country in good stead in the ongoing battle to checkmate the malignant COVID-19 virus.”

Buhari Applauds Tinubu, Adenuga, Others for Contributions

The donation by Adenuga, Tinubu and others elicited applause from the president. Buhari yesterday in Abuja hailed them and oil magnate, Mrs. Folorunso Alakija, for their generous contributions to the war against COVID-19.

He also commended Modupeola, the husband of Mrs. Alakija; notable businessman, Sir Emeka Offor, and the Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr. Paul Enenche, and his wife, Becky.

A statement by the media adviser to the president, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the president also acknowledged the kind gesture of the captains of industries, corporate organisations, missionaries, musical artistes and individuals who have consistently supported ongoing efforts to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic that is plaguing the global economy.

According to the statement, the president thanked a group of oil companies that partnered the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to raise $30 million to fight the pandemic.

Buhari appreciated the contributions of Tinubu, Adenuga, Modupeola and Folorunsho Alakija and Offor, whom he said joined a list of other public-spirited Nigerians in contributing health and educational facilities for the fight.

He also welcomed the generosity of Zenith Bank Plc to the public healthcare system as well as the interventions of Keystone Bank and First Bank Plc.
The president lauded Enenche and his wife for hitting the streets to sensitise citizens on the virus.

The statement added: “President Buhari appreciates the efforts of Stallion Empowerment Initiative of the Stallion Group, and the entertainment industry, particularly renowned musician, Innocent Idibia, Tuface, for their contributions.”

Senators Donate 50% of Salaries

Efforts to fund the fight against COVID-19 have also received backing from the National Assembly as senators have decided to forgo, from this month, half of their salaries as donations to the federal government to fight the pandemic.

A decision to that effect was reached at the weekend by the lawmakers with the arrangement subsisting till Nigeria is certified free of the epidemic.

Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, said in a statement yesterday that they decided to contribute 50 per cent of their salaries to the efforts to stop the pandemic and boost the treatment of the infected.

Nigerian Dies in US

A Nigerian who is a student of Western Michigan University in the US, Mr. Bassey Offiong, has died of the virus.
The 25-year-old chemical engineering student passed away on Saturday. He was expected to complete his degree in a few weeks.

TheCable quoted Detroit News as saying that Asari Offiong, Bassey’s sister, said her brother had told her that he was experiencing fever, fatigue and shortness of breath, which were symptoms of COVID-19.

She said her brother also told her that he was turned down several times for the COVID-19 test in the Kalamazoo area.

“I told him to ask them to test him. He said they refused to test him,” she said.
Although she refused to disclose the hospitals where Bassey was denied test, she said a medical staffer told him he had bronchitis.

Prince Charles Out of Self-isolation

Also yesterday, the royal residence in London, Clarence House, said that Prince Charles of Wales was out of self-isolation one week after testing positive to COVID-19.

The British heir-to-the-throne was diagnosed of the virus after showing mild symptoms.
Prince Charles went into isolation at his Birkhall home on the royal Balmoral estate in Scotland.

According to the palace spokesman, the 71-year-old prince is in good health and following government restrictions.
“Clarence House has confirmed today that, having consulted with his doctor, the Prince of Wales is now out of self-isolation,” a spokesman said.

According to the palace, Camilla, his wife and Duchess of Cornwall, who tested negative to the virus remains in isolation.

We are Not in War Emergency, Soyinka Tells Buhari

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has faulted the lockdown of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by Buhari.
Soyinka in a statement issued yesterday wondered if the president had the power to order such lockdown.

He called on constitutional lawyers and lawmakers to clarify the legality or the illegality of the lockdown.
He also warned against “constitutional piracy” in the fight against the pandemic in the country.

“Constitutional lawyers and our elected representatives should kindly step into this and educate us, mere lay minds. The worst development I can conceive of us is to have a situation where rational measures for the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic are rejected on account of their questionable genesis.

“This is a time for unity of purpose, not nitpicking dissensions. So, before this becomes a habit, a question: does President Buhari have the powers to close down state borders? We want clear answers. We are not in a war emergency,” he said.

US Confirms Emergency Evacuation of Its Citizens

The United States government yesterday confirmed the emergency evacuation of its citizens from Nigeria this week.

The US embassy Abuja, in a statement posted on its Facebook page, also directed its citizens not to come to the airport until they are contacted directly.
It therefore urged them to continue to shelter in place and await further information.

COVID-19: Nigeria Risks Food Crisis, Agric Bureau Warns

James Emejo in Abuja

The Agriculture Bureau Association of Nigeria (ABAN) has called for a stakeholders’ consultative forum to rationalise initiatives to keep the country’s food chain running amidst the current challenges posed by the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The association’s Coordinator, Mr. Suleman Dikwa, warned that the inability to act could lead to a food crisis which will be unprecedented in the history of the country.

In a statement, he said failure to act could result in food shortage for a large proportion of the population including extreme inflation of food prices and massive food waste.

He said: “Having worked with farmers across all of Nigeria’s regions, food manufacturers and exporters, we believe it is time to organise ourselves to avoid a crisis in the food supply of our nation.

“This is an opportunity to bring key stakeholders to the table to rationalise activities and keep the food chain flowing.”
Dikwa, said the government would need to urgently identify key players in the food supply chain, track levels of food availability and manage supply and distribution as this would require better linkages between users and producers.

He said following a reduction in air travels by wealthy individuals and politicians, saving billions of dollars as well as the current determination by the government to cut waste, the country now has the potential to grow its own food and live healthier.

He stressed that: “We need to bring in all active players in the agriculture and allied industry, the pharmaceutical companies, the logistic companies into an emergency mode and develop a strategy to keep our supply chain running.”

Noting that the global public health crisis presented an opportunity to fine-tune activities in the agricultural sector in particular, Dikwa said: “We are shutting down systems without concurrently redirecting resources into quickly developing alternative production and supply chains of critical resources.

“How do we keep our ports running? How do we get a thousand and one agencies off our ports and get a manageable number and automate the systems to keep it running? Leaders have to emerge and organise people to keep the supply chain working.”

President Signs COVID-19 Regulations

Our Correspondents

President Muhammadu Buhari last night in Abuja gave legal teeth to his Sunday night directive that has locked down Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), by signing the Covid-19 Regulations 2020 in accordance with Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act (CAP Q2 LFN 2004).

The regulations declared Covid-19 as a dangerous and infectious disease.
A statement by the president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the regulations, which took effect from yesterday, March 30, 2020, would serve as a legal backing to various measures unveiled by the president during his national broadcast on March 29, 2020.
The statement also said such measures like the restriction/cessation of movement in Lagos, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Ogun State, among other decisions are aimed at containing the spread of the pandemic in the country.

The statement added that in addition to measures aimed at enabling Nigerians to perform on-line transactions and use automatic teller machine (ATMs) during these restrictions, the regulations grant exemption to the financial system and money markets.
The financial system exemption, the statement added, was aimed at allowing very skeletal operations with a view to keeping the system in light operations while these regulations subsists.

The statement read: “In exercise of the powers conferred on him by Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act (CAP Q2 LFN 2004), and all other powers enabling him in that behalf, President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, signed the Covid-19 Regulations, 2020, which declared Covid-19 a dangerous infectious disease.

“The Regulations, effective March 30, 2020, also gave legal backing to the various measures outlined in the President’s National Broadcast on March 29, 2020, such as Restriction/Cessation of Movement in Lagos, FCT and Ogun States and others toward containing the spread of the pandemic in the country.

“In addition, to ensure that Nigerians can still perform on-line transactions and use ATMs whilst observing these restrictions, an exemption is granted financial system and money markets to allow very skeletal operations in order to keep the system in light operations during the pendency of these regulations.”

The president’s directive locking down the two states and the FCT as well as similar directives by state governors restricting entry and movement into and within their states had been criticised as unconstitutional by some lawyers, including Mr. Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa (SAN), who argued that the restrictions were contrary to law.

Olu-Adegboruwa got partial support from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who said yesterday in Abuja that the directives by state governors outside Lagos and Ogun restricting movements within and outside states were inconsistent with the president’s directive.

Earlier yesterday the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had argued that contrary to the position of Olu-Adegboruwa, Buhari’s directives were in order and had the legal and constitutional backing.
Malami said that Olu-Adegboruwa misconstrued the law by stating that the president could not single-handedly declare a lockdown in the affected states.

The AGF in a statement made available to journalists maintained that by the combined reading of Section 5, 14, 20 and 45 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 2, 6 and 8 of the Quarantine Act and Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 11 on Human and Peoples Right makes the declaration by the president valid, legal and enforceable.

While noting that the senior lawyer did not state any constitutional or statutory provision which the president breached in the present circumstances, he stated that the president did not make a declaration of a State of Emergency under Section 305(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which would have required the concurrence of both chambers of the National Assembly.

He argued: “Even at that Section 305(6) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) permits a proclamation of a State of Emergency to run for a period of 10 days without the approval of the National Assembly when the parliament is not in session as in the present situation wherein the National Assembly has shut down.

“The learned silk also goofed when he questioned the president’s powers to restrict movement and claiming that such powers can only be exercised by the state governors and the respective state assemblies. It is clear from the president’s broadcast that what his excellency sought to address is a public emergency occasioned by a dangerous and infectious coronavirus disease. The restriction of movement came on the heels of advice received by the president from the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, the two focal agencies in the fight against COVID-19.

“It, therefore, becomes obvious and clear that the restriction order is part of a national quarantine measure.”
He argued further that the president acted rightfully under the powers conferred on him by the Quarantine Act 1990 CAP 384 LFN whose Long Title read thus: “An Act to provide for and regulate the imposition of quarantine and to make other provisions for preventing the introduction into and spread in Nigeria, and the transmission from Nigeria, of dangerous infectious diseases.”

Shutdown outside Lagos, Ogun, FCT Inconsistent with Presidential Directive, Says SGF

Meanwhile, the SGF, also a lawyer and heads the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 hinted at the illegality of the sporadic shutdown of states by governors, saying they were inconsistent with Buhari’s directive that limits the lockdown to Lagos, Ogun and the FCT.

He spoke during the task force’s briefing yesterday and said the president’s order was definitive and categorical.
According to him, “As a nation, our response must be guided, systematic and professional. There is a need for consistency across the nation.

“All inconsistencies in policy guidelines between federal and state agencies will be eliminated. I referred you to paragraph 29 of the president’s broadcast. We are mindful of the fact that there are those inconsistencies in policies. Such states began to implement their lockdown before the president’s broadcast.

“The president’s broadcast was very definitive and categorical; we are only locking down Lagos, Ogun and the federal capital. Those are the only three designated areas for the lockdown now.”
The SGF said he would contact security personnel in states where borders had been shut in order to enlighten them on the directive of the president.

The rash of border closures by state governors that preceded the presidential broadcast had left many travellers stranded on the highways.
But succour came for them yesterday when Mustapha promised to come to their aid.

He said: “I will make some calls to some security agencies in those borders. I expected that after Mr. President’s broadcast what should ordinarily happen is that, if you had stopped people from getting to their destinations, that broadcast should have enabled you release those people to get to their destinations.

“You can put proactive measures like a toll gate to ensure that you test them and allow them get to their destinations. That was what we did at the airport before we finally locked down the airport.”

Panic in Lagos, Ogun, FCT as Lockdown Starts

Residents of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) yesterday embarked on panic-buying of food items and provisions in preparations for the lockdown imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari to curb the spread of COVID-19, which began last night.

In Abuja, hordes of shoppers were seen in many of the markets in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) stocking up on foodstuffs and other essentials during the lockdown that will last 14 days.

Long queues were also observed at many petrol stations as vehicle owners scrambled to stock enough petrol.
The queues, which in many cases spilled into the main roads, were observed in some parts of Asokoro, Nyanya, Wuse 2, Jabi and Central Business District.

Bank customers were also, part of the frenzy as they besieged Auto Teller Machines (ATM) points to withdraw money.
The Yakubu Gowon Crescent, Asokoro, where many of the banks have branches, witnessed a massive turnout of bank customers, who wanted to make cash withdrawals.

THISDAY gathered that many of the machines soon ran out of cash because of the massive withdrawals.
Beside the people making frantic withdrawals at banks, there was also panic buying as many residents rushed to markets and malls to stock food items, fruits and commodities.

There was a large human and vehicular movement at Banex Plaza in Wuse 2 and some of the adjoining upscale shopping malls.
Shoppers scrambled to buy many items they could lay their hands on.
THISDAY also noted that many FCT residents were also relocating to other states like Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa and Benue that are not affected by the lockdown.

Their reason for the relocation was to avoid the impact the lockdown will have on them if they stayed back in the FCT.
There was a large and unusual vehicular movement along the Abuja- Keffi Road as some FCT residents were seen travelling to the neigbouring states.

The large vehicular movement resulted in a traffic snarl along the Abuja–Keffi Road. The traffic snarl that began from the Mopol Check Point in Nyanya got as far as Kugbo Hills. Many motorists were also stranded in the logjam.

One FCT resident, Mr. Oche John, said he was temporarily relocating to his family house in Benue State as he could not bear the effect the lockdown would have on his family for the next 14 days.

Oche said he could not imagine how he would survive in Abuja while the curfew lasts.
In Ogun State, the residents of Abeokuta, the state’s capital, also resorted to panic buying in preparations for the lockdown.

A trader at the Olomore Market in Abeokuta, Alhaja Adijat Adigun, said she learnt that her business was included in the banned lists of food items that would not be allowed into the state, hence she has hiked the price.

THISDAY also gathered that commercial vehicles, especially the inter-state operators, have mounted pressure on their leaders in the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to meet with Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, with a view to relaxing the restrictions on them.

Ahead of the lockdown, the Ogun State Police Command in alliance with operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have begun full implementation of the closure of Nigeria’s borders with the Republic of Benin and neigbouring states of Lagos, Oyo, Osun, and Ondo.

THISDAY sighted the security operatives at the Lagos-Ogun boundaries at Sango and the Sagamu interchange.

It was also observed that the security operatives mounted roadblock at the Ijebu-Ode entry point from the Benin-Ore-Sagamu expressway.

In Agege and several other parts of Lagos, the partial lockdown by the state government has effectively reduced business activities, except for those dealing in foodstuffs.
The same situation also applied in Ikeja where the heavy presence of security operatives ensured that traders did not open their shops.

MONDAY MARCH 30,2020

Breaking: Nigeria Records 20 New Cases of COVID-19, Total Now 131

By Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded 20 New cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 131.

Announcing this Monday night, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said 13 of the cases were from Lagos, four from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, two from Kaduna and one from Oyo State.

It said: “As at 09:00 pm March 30, there are 131 confirmed cases of COVID19 reported in Nigeria with 2 deaths.”

Of the 131 cases, Lagos currently has 81, FCT 25, Oyo eight, Kaduna and Ogun three each, Enugu, Edo, Bauchi and Osun two each, while Ekiti, Rivers, and Benue have one each.

Breaking:  Oyo Governor, Seyi Makinde, Tests Positive for COVID-19 

Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has tested positive for COVID-19.

“I just received my COVID-19 confirmation test result. It is POSITIVE. I am asymptomatic and will continue to self-isolate,” he tweeted at 6:04 pm Monday evening.

Details later…

‘Call Me Survivayo’, Discharged COVID-19 Patient Narrates Experience

 

Martins Ifijeh

 

A discharged COVID-19 patient from the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba, Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi has described herself as ‘survivayo; having successfully beat the disease and declared free from the virus by the Lagos State Government.

 

Osowobi is among the five persons discharged from the isolation centre Monday, bringing the total number of patients so far discharged from COVID-19 treatment facility to eight. 102 patients are still under management while one has died.

 

Taking to her twitter page to relay her experience, Osowobi said with her COVID-19 status returning to negative, she was proud to announce she had become a beckon of hope to those who are currently battling the disease.

 

Narrating how it all started, she said: “Life finds ways of throwing lemon at me. I have struggled with coming forward, but I want to inspire hope.

 

“I returned to Nigeria from the United Kingdom after attending the Commonwealth event. When I got to Nigeria I fell ill, I however self-isolated myself as a responsible person and then a test was conducted on me by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). I also informed people I came in close contact with to get tested.

 

“And then I kept calling NCDC to know the status of my result. All along I didn’t get information on the result. At 12am, an ambulance was at my house. I woke from sleep and was crying. I got to isolation center, but no one was there to receive me. I waited in the ambulance for two hours.”

 

She said a nurse eventually came out but treated her like a plague, adding that she sat at the ambulance as though rejected.

 

“There was no question about how I felt, but so many questions about my travel history. Same information I had provided to NCDC and the Lagos State Government during profiling. After two hours, I was taken to my space. I felt lonely, bored & disconnected from the outside world.

 

“Few days after, another patient came in. We bonded. Days later, patients trooped in.

And then I asked if people were observing self-isolation and social distancing because I was so scared for Nigeria.”

 

Osowobi said the next few days were tough as she no longer had appetite, adding that she started having the symptoms common with the disease, including nausea, vomit and stooling was unbearable.

 

She said COVID-19 started dealing with her afterwards, and that she thought she was going to die, and then started contemplating a succession plan for her organisation, Stand To End Rape (STER).

 

She said: “I was on drugs daily. Sometimes, I would take eight tablets in the morning, 13 tablets in the afternoon, then 10 at night. My system threw everything out. Water, food, soap and every other thing disgusted me. But I would look at the wall and force myself to stay hydrated. I fought to live! I fought it.

 

“Days after, the doctors shared the good news that I had tested negative to the virus; a news I shared with family and friends. My blood sample was taken and I also tried to donate my plasma-pheresis to help others. I hoped to be discharged. I waited to be discharged, but for two days, nothing happened.

 

“I was unsure of what was going on. I wondered why I wasn’t discharged and why I was in same ward with other persons who were still negative. I feared I would be re-infected. I however remained calm.”

 

Osowobi who was already gearing towards being discharged was then told again that the result came out again positive. Few days later, she was declared negative again.

 

“I however continued the medication and remained in the ward with other patients. For them, I was a beacon of hope. People in my ward who earlier celebrated the news of my result suddenly lost hope. They wondered why I was still at the ward.

 

“Today, I am proud to inform you all that I murdered COVID-19 and I have tested negative twice. I have been discharged,” she said.

 

She however thanked the health workers at the IDC, the Lagos State Government and the NCDC.

 

The five persons discharged Monday by the Lagos State Government bring to eight the number of infected persons that have overcome the virus since the outbreak in the country in February.

 

Sharing his thoughts, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the discharge of the five formerly positive COVID-19 patients was an exciting news.

 

He said: “”The preservation of life is very important and this news came ahead of the lockdown. The lockdown will help us trace and stop the spread of COVID-19.

 

“We have increased capacity at all levels and I want to assure Lagos residents that no matter what happened in the days ahead, we can beat the pandemic,” he added.
Breaking: Nigeria Records Second Death from COVID-19
By Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded it’s second death from COVID-19, bringing to 10  the number of closed cases of the pandemic in the country.

The closed cases are eight discharged patients and two deaths.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, announced the death during the Presidential Task Force Briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja Monday.

Details later ……

(Updated) Lagos Discharges Five COVID-19 Patients

Martins Ifijeh

The Lagos State Government has discharged five COVID-19 patients at the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba.

This bri ngs to eight the total number of discharged patients from the centre since the outbreak of the disease in Nigeria on February 27.

A statement issued by the state government said the survivors included four males and one female.

According to the statement, the survivors were quarantined and treated at the isolation centre for two weeks after testing positive for the virus.

“The survivors who preferred to remain anonymous looked stable and unruffled, saying they felt very happy they had been given a clean bill of health.

“They expressed joy and satisfaction with the State Government and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu over the treatments they received at the isolation centre and his proactive approach towards the containment of the virus”, it stated.

According to the statement, One of the survivors (names withheld) said, “I came in here on the 15th and after the test showed positive, I was asked to come back the next day. I was admitted here same day.

“Initially, there were hitches but it later turned out fine. The health workers did fine, all our challenges were attended to. I’m a living witness together with my other colleagues.”

The discharged patient gave an assurance that testing positive for COVID-19 was not a death sentence, advising people not to panic as the virus could be defeated.

“We can beat it, I want to assure others that this is not their resting place. Encourage yourselves, take your medications and in no distant time, you will get out of here.

“I want to appeal to the Federal Government and Lagos State government that, they should remunerate all those workers who have volunteered to work accordingly, so as to serve as encouragement to others, adding that, “If they are not here as first responders, many patients would have died.”

Another survivor said, “I was admitted last Sunday. Initially there were challenges, the following day, they brought bed, mask and some equipment.

“Apart from what my colleague said, the workers should be insured. Proper insurance will let people do what they have to do.”

He narrated a scenario where the workers could not attend to him because he tested positive, saying “they went back and I slept off, I woke up around 3a.m. So they deserve life insurance to encourage them to do their job.”

Meanwhile Governor Sanwo-Olu has received the news of the full recovery of the five patients with excitement.

The governor, in a short message reassured Lagosians that the government was doing all within her powers to curtail the spread of the virus so that life could return to normal.

He said: “we are very excited to hear that five of our citizens in the isolation centre have regained full recovery. It is another pointer to us that with a concerted effort, we can defeat the coronavirus in Lagos and Nigeria.”

Breaking: Lagos Discharges Five COVID-19 Patients 

Martins Ifijeh
The Lagos State Government has discharged five COVID-19 Patients at the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba.
This brings to eight the total number of discharged patients from the centre since the outbreak sof the disease in Nigeria on February 27.
Details later ….
COVID-19: Buhari Exempts Financial Services 
Operators from Restriction of Movement

By James Emejo

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Monday said they have obtained exemptions from President Muhammadu Buhari to “allow very skeletal operations in the financial system and money markets in order to keep the system in light operations during this time”.

In a joint statement, both explained that the move was to ensure that Nigerians can still perform online transactions and use ATMs while observing the recent restrictions of movement aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Buhari, had in a nationwide broadcast on Sunday, announced restrictions in personal and vehicular movement in Lagos and Ogun States and Abuja to tackle the spread of the virus which had affected 111 persons as at March 29.

The statement said: “We are mindful of the difficulties these restrictions would bring on ordinary Nigerians and are grateful to the president for approving these exemptions, which should help ease some of these burdens.

“We urge all Nigerians to be patient, cooperative and united as all hands are on deck to defeat this virus.”

It further directed all relevant staff of affected outfits and agencies to “look out for further instructions from their immediate bosses”.

Ahmed and Emefiele particularly applauded and appreciated “the appropriate and proactive restrictions in personal and vehicular movement directed by President Muhammadu Buhari in his speech of Sunday 29 March 2020”, adding that “these restrictions are critical to significantly reduce the transmission rate of the disease and make it much easier for health professional to trace, test and isolate patients.”

COVID-19: Govs Hold Teleconference, to Ensure Seamless Movement of Essential Commodities During Lockdown

By Adedayo Akinwale

Governors under the auspices of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have said they will ensure seamless movement of essential commodities throughout the country during the lockdown declared to curb the spread of Coronavirus.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Sunday during in his first address since the pandemic broke out in the country ordered a 14-day lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

This was disclosed in a communique signed by the forum’s Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi, after their first Teleconference meeting on the Coronavirus pandemic held on Sunday.

Abba Kyari Lands in Lagos, Begins Preventive Treatment

Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Malam Abba Kyari, who tested positive for coronavirus has arrived Lagos and currently undergoing preventive treatment on the advice of his doctors.

The top presidential aide, who was flown to Lagos in an air ambulance, was in high spirit and was not showing any symptoms associated with the virus.

Kyari had in a statement on Sunday night disclosed that on the advice of his doctors, he would be transferred to Lagos for further tests and observation, as a precautionary measure.

Kyari said he felt well and had observed all laid down protocols on the disease.

He also disclosed that he had been working from home and expressed hope to return to work soon.

He praised the staff in his office whom he said worked round the clock in service to both the president and the country.

He said: “I am writing to let you know that on medical advice, I will transfer to Lagos later today for additional tests and observation. This is a precautionary measure: I feel well, but last week, I tested positive for coronavirus, the pandemic that is sweeping the world. I have followed all the protocols government has announced to self-isolate and quarantine.

“I have made my own care arrangements to avoid further burdening the public health system, which faces so many pressures. Like many others that will test also positive, I have not experienced high fever or other symptoms associated with this new virus and have been working from home. I hope to be back at my desk very soon.

“I have a team of young, professional, knowledgeable and patriotic colleagues, whose dedication has been beyond the call of duty, who continue to work seven days a week, with no time of the day spared. We will continue to serve the President and people of Nigeria, as we have for the past five years.”

He thanked the team of health professionals  combating  the disease and other well wishers who have reached out to him.

The senior presidential aide said said experts were learning about how to combat the disease, noting that the disease has no respect for tribe or race, rich or poor.

He advised citizens to act with caution and adhere to principles of hygiene, medical advice and maintain social distancing.

“I want to thank all our fantastic, talented and brave healthcare professionals, working across the country in such a difficult time; all the good Samaritans looking out for the most vulnerable in our communities; the key workers that will keep our country going through this; friends and family and often strangers, who have sent me such warm wishes and displayed such a generosity of spirit.

“We should be calm, measured and diligent – be meticulous in your hygiene, especially with cleaning hands, if possible stay at home or keep your distance. Listen to good advice from the proper authorities: pay no heed to quack cures or fake news from social media. President Buhari will do whatever it takes to protect the health and safety of our people and get the country back on its feet as soon as possible.

“Like the whole world, we are dealing with a new disease. Our experts are learning more all the time about coronavirus, what it does and how we can combat it.

What we do know is that while some may become very sick, many others who contract the virus will not, and may have no symptoms at all.

“This is a disease that recognises no difference between north and south, men or women, rich or poor. We are all in this together,” the statement stated.

Buhari Locks Down Lagos, Ogun, Abuja as COVID-19 Cases Rise to 111

  • Suspends flight operations
  • Promises stipend for vulnerable people, gives three-month moratorium on development bank loans
  • I feel well, says Kyari, moves to Lagos for further tests
  • Anambra, Ekiti, Benue, Ogun, Yobe, Abia close borders  
  • Dangote, Sanusi, Bello test negative  
  • Stallion group pledges rice and fish supply to govt hospitals  
  • Air Peace evacuates 274 Israelis to Tel-Aviv

Our Correspondents

With effect from 11.00 p.m. today, Lagos State, the epicentre of COVID-19 in Nigeria; the neighbouring Ogun State, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), would be locked down, President Muhammadu Buhari directed yesterday.

The president, in a nationwide broadcast in which he outlined efforts by his administration to contain the virus, which as at yesterday had infected 111 people, with one death, directed the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ensure full restriction of movements within the three areas for 14 days.

Fourteen fresh cases were recorded yesterday to bring the tally to 111 with nine new infections recorded in Lagos and five in FCT, according to data from NCDC Twitter account.

The presidential broadcast came on the same day Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, in a statement signed by him and posted on the official twitter handle of the presidency, @NGRPresident, broke his silence on his COVID-19 status, saying on medical advice, he would transfer to Lagos for additional tests and observation.

To curb the spread of the virus to their states, Ekiti, Benue, Ogun, Yobe, Anambra and Abia also joined others to shut their borders.

Niger State Governor, Alhaji Sani Bello; President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; and the former Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi, have also tested negative for COVID-19.

The president in the national broadcast, in which he outlined other measures to cushion the effects of the virus on the people, said following the directive, all residents of the two states and FCT must stay at home while movements to and from the areas are disallowed.

During the 14-day curfew, businesses would be shut, including private and commercial flight operations.

The president said authorities of the affected areas and security agencies had been put on alert to ensure compliance.

According to him, the essence of the lockdown is to trace and isolate all contacts with those who had tested positive for the virus.

He explained that the treatment of all confirmed cases would be done while deliberate efforts would be made to contain the continuous spread of the virus.

However, Buhari granted exemptions to personnel working in hospitals and all related healthcare organisations, Lagos seaports, food processing, distribution and retail companies from the restrictions.

Also exempted, are petroleum distribution and retail outlets, power generation, transmission and distribution companies as well as private security organisations.

Others sectors and items exempted from the order as listed by the president are the media, telecommunications companies and vehicles conveying food and essential humanitarian items to the three areas from other parts of the country.

However, he said such vehicles would be subjected to thorough screening before they can gain entry.

He added that the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, had been directed to redeploy all port health authority workers who have been in Lagos and Abuja airports to major entry and exit points to the restricted areas.

Buhari said: “Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11.00 p.m. on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two states.

“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.

“The governors of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Minister of the FCT have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed.

“We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases. We will ensure the treatment of confirmed cases while restricting further spread to other states.

“This order does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organisations in healthcare-related manufacturing and distribution.

“Furthermore, commercial establishments such as food processing, distribution and retail companies, petroleum distribution and retail entities, power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and private security companies are also exempted.

“Although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored. Workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.

“All seaports in Lagos shall remain operational in accordance with the guidelines I issued earlier. Vehicles and drivers conveying essential cargoes from these ports to other parts of the country will be screened thoroughly before departure by the Ports Health Authority.

“Furthermore, all vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items into these locations from other parts of the country will also be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter these restricted areas.

“Accordingly, the Hon. Minister of Health is hereby directed to redeploy all Port Health Authority employees previously stationed in the Lagos and Abuja airports to key roads that serve as entry and exit points to these restricted zones. Movements of all passenger aircraft, both commercial and private jets, are hereby suspended. Special permits will be issued on a needs basis.”

Buhari acknowledged the level of hardship that the decisions would cause citizens, but described the situation as a matter of life and death.

Citing the huge tragedies that accompanied the outbreak of the disease in Italy, France and Spain, the president appealed to citizens to embrace the restriction with a sense of patriotism and endure attendant inconveniences in government’s decisive bid to fight what he described as “our common enemy.”

Recalling that some other countries had taken far more painful decisions, the president who implored citizens to see the attendant hardship as their contributions to the fight against COVID-19 pledged the government’s preparedness to send relief package to some communities in Lagos and Abuja to cushion the effects of the decisions on residents.

He also said even though schools would remain closed during the period, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development had been directed to work with governments of the affected states on how to develop a strategy for the sustenance of the school feeding programme.

The president directed the immediate implementation of a three-month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans.

He also extended the moratorium to all federal government-funded loans issued by development banks.

“We are fully aware that such measures will cause much hardship and inconvenience to many citizens. But this is a matter of life and death if we look at the dreadful daily toll of deaths in Italy, France and Spain.

“However, we must all see this as our national and patriotic duty to control and contain the spread of this virus. I will, therefore, ask all of us affected by this order to put aside our personal comfort to safeguard ourselves and fellow human beings. This common enemy can only be controlled if we all come together and obey scientific and medical advice,” he said.

The president explained that he had given a directive to development financial institutions for what he described as on-lending facilities through the use of capital from international and multilateral development partners to engage the development partners and negotiate concessions to ease the pains of borrowers.

He also directed the immediate payment of the conditional cash transfers to the vulnerable in the society for the next two months, imploring Nigerians to support the weak and the vulnerable around them.

Buhari also pledged to guarantee provisions of food items to internally displaced persons for two months, adding that further decisions would be taken depending on unfolding events.

The president said he had directed the conversion of some public institutions as isolated centres, restating that all necessary resources would be deployed to combat the scourge of COVID-19.

“My fellow Nigerians, as a government, we will avail all necessary resources to support the response and recovery. We remain committed to doing whatever it takes to confront COVID-19 in our country,” he said.

Buhari thanked members of the private sector, individuals and development partners who donated to the fight against the scourge, saying he had also assigned the Presidential Task Force to coordinate such donations.

He promised the effective role of government agencies in the efforts to contain the scourge, reiterating the necessity for every citizen to support both the government and the most vulnerable in the society.

Earlier, Buhari had chronicled how the federal government began to fight the virus since the inception of its outbreak in China late last year.

He said since the index case was recorded on February 27, the country had been under-studying other nations that had been fighting the virus earlier than Nigeria.

As part of efforts to curb the virus, he said the NCDC Director-General, Dr. Kema Ihekweazu, was one of the 10 disease managers invited to China to understudy the control of the disease.

He praised the NCDC Director-General for his commitment to the battle against COVID-19, noting that he has been deploying the experience he gained in China to fight the disease.

“Since his return, the NCDC has been implementing numerous strategies and programmes in Nigeria to ensure that the adverse impact of this virus on our country is minimised. We ask all Nigerians to support the work the Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC are doing, led by the Presidential Task Force,” he said.

Buhari added that the federal government was deploying all power and resources within its reach to protect citizens and win the battle against the scourge, noting that till date, the disease has no cure.

I feel Well, Says Kyari

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff to the President, Kyari, yesterday gave an update on his health status, saying although he felt well, he might proceed to Lagos from Abuja yesterday for further tests and observation.

Kyari had tested positive for COVID-19 last weekend, forcing him to move into isolation as required by the NCDC protocol for the containment of the pandemic.

“I am writing to let you know that on medical advice, I will transfer to Lagos later today for additional tests and observation,” he said in a statement yesterday, explaining: “This is a precautionary measure: I feel well, but last week, I tested positive for coronavirus, the pandemic that is sweeping the world. I have followed all the protocols government has announced to self-isolate and quarantine.”

The president’s chief of staff said he had made his own care arrangements to avoid further burdening the public health system, which had faced so many pressures.

“Like many others that also test positive, I have not experienced high fever or other symptoms associated with this new virus and have been working from home. I hope to be back at my desk very soon,” Kyari said.

He praised his immediate staff for their dedication to duty, pledging that his office would continue to serve the president patriotically.

He advised Nigerians to be calm, measured and diligent in their hygiene, especially with cleaning of hands, if possible stay at home or keep their distance, assuring them that the president would do whatever it would take to protect their health and safety.

COVID-19 Cases Jump to 111

Nigeria has recorded 14 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 111.

The NCDC yesterday said nine of the cases were confirmed in Lagos while five were from the FCT.

NCDC said: “Of the 111 cases, 107 are currently being managed; three have been discharged, while one has died.”

So far, Lagos has recorded 68 cases, FCT 21, Oyo seven, Ogun three, Enugu, Edo, Bauchi and Osun two cases each, while Rivers, Benue, Kaduna and Ekiti have recorded one case each respectively.

Ekiti, Benue, Ogun, Yobe, Abia, Anambra close borders

Meanwhile, Ekiti, Benue, Ogun, Yobe, Anambra and Abia states have closed their borders with the neighbouring states.

Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State yesterday closed all borders of the state but exempted those transporting fuel, food and drugs and other essential goods from the restrictions.

“All non-residents who arrived the state prior to, or after, the imposition of this restriction, and who remain in the state, must remain in their place of temporary residence in the state for the duration of the 14 days, as the case may be, and may be subjected to screening for COVID-19 and be quarantined or isolated if necessary,” he said in a broadcast.

Fayemi also prohibited all commuter transport services including bus services, taxi services, motorbikes (Okada) and tricycle services (Keke); except those for purposes of rendering essential services, obtaining essential goods, seeking medical attention, funeral services and to receive payment of social grants or food.

According to him, the restrictions would last 14 days effective from today.

Ogun State Government has also announced the closure of its borders with both the Republic of Benin and neighbouring states, including Lagos, Ondo, Osun and Oyo, to curtail the spread of the disease.

A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Kunle Somorin, said the closure took effect from the midnight of yesterday and that it would last for two weeks in the first instance.

Benue State has also imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew with effect from today. But those on essential services are exempted.

Governor Samuel Ortom, during a live broadcast, yesterday said all borders linking the state with other states would be closed on Wednesday.

He noted that commercial vehicles coming in and those going out of the state as well as those moving from one local government to another must produce manifest of their passengers for proper tracking of contacts in case of any eventuality.

Yobe State Governor, Mallam Mai Mala Buni, in a statement issued yesterday by his spokesman, Mallam Mamman Mohammed, also directed the closure of the state borders from midnight of tomorrow to guard against the spread of COVID-19 to the state.

He attributed the border closure to the spike in the spread of the virus in Nigeria and noted that “in spite of the state’s zero COVID-19 status, the state government had taken adequate measures by establishing isolation centres with equipment and constituting a committee on COVID-19 under the chairmanship of the state Deputy Governor, Hon. Idi Barde Gubana.”

Movements of vehicles into and out of Abia State also ceased yesterday as the state government shut all entry and exit points as it rolled out measures to keep COVID-19 out of the state.

The boundary closure, which became effective at 4.00 a.m. yesterday, was ordered by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, following the recommendations of the state inter-ministerial committee on COVID-19.

Abia State shares boundaries with seven other states – Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.

The state Commissioner for Information, Chief John Kalu, said the COVID-19 committee deemed it necessary to recommend the closing of boundaries “based on situational reviews of the pandemic.”

Anambra State Government has also announced the closure of the Niger Bridge in Onitsha against vehicles coming into the state.

The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, stated this in a statement made available to journalists yesterday.

Bello, Dangote, Sanusi Test Negative

Niger State Governor, Alhaji Sani Bello; President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; and former Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, have all tested negative for COVID-19.

A statement by Bello’s Chief Press Secretary, Ms. Mary Berje, confirmed the status of the governor and his decision to remain in isolation “to play safe.”

Dangote has also disclosed that he tested negative for the virus.

In a tweet yesterday, Dangote said: “As a global citizen and business leader, I took the COVID-19 test and the result came back negative.

“Coalition Against COVID-19 is an initiative that I am leading with other private sectors’ leaders and our common goal is to support ongoing government initiatives with our resources in the fight against COVID-19.

“We are in this together and I am optimistic we will overcome.”

Also, Sanusi and his wives have tested negative for the virus, according to a statement issued yesterday by the son of the deposed Emir of Kano, Mr. Adam Sanusi.

“We have been inundated with calls asking about the health and safety of my father (Sanusi) especially given the number of visitors he received on arrival in Lagos, and a number of contacts he had who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or were in contact with persons who tested positive.

“As for my father, on March 25, he and all our mothers submitted samples for the COVID-19 test. These samples were taken at home under the supervision of Dr. Alero Roberts, the second Vice Chairman of the Association of Public Health Professionals.

“On March 27, Dr. Roberts conveyed the results and all of them were negative. We hope this information will allay the concerns of all those who are asking,” the statement said.

COVID-19: It’s Matter of Life and Death, Says Buhari

Fellow Nigerians.

From the first signs that Coronavirus, or COVID-19 was turning into an epidemic and was officially declared a world-wide emergency, the Federal Government started planning preventive, containment and curative measures in the event the disease hits Nigeria.

The whole instruments of government are now mobilised to confront what has now become both a health emergency and an economic crisis.

Nigeria, unfortunately, confirmed its first case on 27th February 2020. Since then, we have seen the number of confirmed cases rise slowly.

By the morning of March 29th, 2020, the total confirmed cases within Nigeria had risen to 97.

Regrettably, we also had our first fatality, a former employee of PPMC, who died on 23rd March 2020. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in this very difficult time. We also pray for quick recovery for those infected and undergoing treatment.

As of today, COVID-19 has no cure. Scientists around the world are working very hard to develop a vaccine.

We are in touch with these institutions as they work towards a solution that will be certified by international and local medical authorities within the shortest possible time.

For now, the best and most efficient way to avoid getting infected is through regular hygienic and sanitary practices as well as social distancing.

As individuals, we remain the greatest weapon to fight this pandemic. By washing our hands regularly with clean water and soap, disinfecting frequently used surfaces and areas, coughing into a tissue or elbow and strictly adhering to infection prevention control measures in health facilities, we can contain this virus.

Since the outbreak was reported in China, our Government has been monitoring the situation closely and studying the various responses adopted by other countries.

Indeed, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was one of ten global health leaders invited by the World Health Organisation to visit China and understudy their response approach. I am personally very proud of Dr Ihekweazu for doing this on behalf of all Nigerians.

Since his return, the NCDC has been implementing numerous strategies and programs in Nigeria to ensure that the adverse impact of this virus on our country is minimized. We ask all Nigerians to support the work the Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC are doing, led by the Presidential Task Force.

Although we have adopted strategies used globally, our implementation programs have been tailored to reflect our local realities.

In Nigeria, we are taking a two step approach.

First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners to ensure their families get through this very difficult time in dignity and with hope and peace of mind.

To date, we have introduced healthcare measures, border security, fiscal and monetary policies in our response. We shall continue to do so as the situation unfolds.

Some of these measures will surely cause major inconveniences to many citizens. But these are sacrifices we should all be willing and ready to make for the greater good of our country.

In Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19, there is no such thing as an overreaction or an under reaction. It is all about the right reaction by the right agencies and trained experts.

Accordingly, as a Government, we will continue to rely on guidance of our medical professionals and experts at the Ministry of Health, NCDC and other relevant agencies through this difficult time.

I therefore urge all citizens to adhere to their guidelines as they are released from time to time.

As we are all aware, Lagos and Abuja have the majority of confirmed cases in Nigeria. Our focus therefore remains to urgently and drastically contain these cases, and to support other states and regions in the best way we can.

This is why we provided an initial intervention of fifteen billion Naira (N15b) to support the national response as we fight to contain and control the spread.

We also created a Presidential Task Force (PTF) to develop a workable National Response Strategy that is being reviewed on a daily basis as the requirements change. This strategy takes international best practices but adopts them to suit our unique local circumstances.

Our goal is to ensure all States have the right support and manpower to respond immediately.

So far, in Lagos and Abuja, we have recruited hundreds of adhoc staff to man our call centers and support our tracing and testing efforts.

I also requested, through the Nigeria Governors Forum, for all State Governments to nominate Doctors and Nurses who will be trained by the NCDC and Lagos State Government on tactical and operational response to the virus in case it spreads to other states.

This training will also include medical representatives from our armed forces, paramilitary and security and intelligence agencies.

As a nation, our response must be guided, systematic and professional. There is a need for consistency across the nation. All inconsistencies in policy guidelines between Federal and State agencies will be eliminated.

As I mentioned earlier, as at this morning we had 97 confirmed cases. Majority of these are in Lagos and Abuja. All the confirmed cases are getting the necessary medical care.

Our agencies are currently working hard to identify cases and people these patients have been in contact with.

The few confirmed cases outside Lagos and Abuja are linked to persons who have travelled from these centres.

We are therefore working to ensure such inter state and intercity movements are restricted to prevent further spread.

Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States.

All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.

The Governors of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Minister of the FCT have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed.

We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases. We will ensure the treatment of confirmed cases while restricting further spread to other States.

This order does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organizations in health care related manufacturing and distribution.

Furthermore, commercial establishments such as;

  1. food processing, distribution and retail companies;
  2. petroleum distribution and retail entities,
  3. power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and
  4. private security companies are also exempted.

Although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored.

Workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.

All seaports in Lagos shall remain operational in accordance with the guidelines I issued earlier. Vehicles and drivers conveying essential cargoes from these Ports to other parts of the country will be screened thoroughly before departure by the Ports Health Authority.

Furthermore, all vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items into these locations from other parts of the country will also be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter these restricted areas.

Accordingly, the Hon. Minister of Health is hereby directed to redeploy all Port Health Authority employees previously stationed in the Lagos and Abuja Airports to key roads that serve as entry and exit points to these restricted zones.

Movements of all passenger aircraft, both commercial and private jets, are hereby suspended. Special permits will be issued on a needs basis.

We are fully aware that such measures will cause much hardship and inconvenience to many citizens. But this is a matter of life and death, if we look at the dreadful daily toll of deaths in Italy, France and Spain.

However, we must all see this as our national and patriotic duty to control and contain the spread of this virus. I will therefore ask all of us affected by this order to put aside our personal comfort to safeguard ourselves and fellow human beings. This common enemy can only be controlled if we all come together and obey scientific and medical advice.

As we remain ready to enforce these measures, we should see this as our individual contribution in the war against COVID-19. Many other countries have taken far stricter measures in a bid to control the spread of the virus with positive results.

For residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures, we shall deploy relief materials to ease their pains in the coming weeks.

Furthermore, although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with State Governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding program during this period without compromising our social distancing policies. The Minister will be contacting the affected States and agree on detailed next steps.

Furthermore, I have directed that a three month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans be implemented with immediate effect.

I have also directed that a similar moratorium be given to all Federal Government funded loans issued by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the Nigeria Export Import Bank.

For on-lending facilities using capital from international and multilateral development partners, I have directed our development financial institutions to engage these development partners and negotiate concessions to ease the pains of the borrowers.

For the most vulnerable in our society, I have directed that the conditional cash transfers for the next two months be paid immediately. Our Internally displaced persons will also receive two months of food rations in the coming weeks.

We also call on all Nigerians to take personal responsibility to support those who are vulnerable within their communities, helping them with whatever they may need.

As we all pray for the best possible outcome, we shall continue planning for all eventualities.

This is why I directed that all Federal Government Stadiums, Pilgrims camps and other facilities be converted to isolation centers and makeshift hospitals.

My fellow Nigerians, as a Government, we will avail all necessary resources to support the response and recovery. We remain committed to do whatever it takes to confront COVID-19 in our country.

We are very grateful to see the emerging support of the private sector and individuals to the response as well as our development partners.

At this point, I will ask that all contributions and donations be coordinated and centralized to ensure efficient and impactful spending. The Presidential Task Force remains the central coordinating body on the COVID-19 response.

I want to assure you all that Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with a role to play in the outbreak response are working hard to bring this virus under control.

Every nation in the world is challenged at this time. But we have seen countries where citizens have come together to reduce the spread of the virus.

I will therefore implore you again to strictly comply with the guidelines issued and also do your bit to support Government and the most vulnerable in your communities.

I will take this opportunity to thank all our public health workforce, health care workers, port health authorities and other essential staff on the frontlines of the response for their dedication and commitment. You are true heroes.

I thank you all for listening. May God continue to bless and protect us all.

  • Full text of President Muhammadu Buhari’s address on the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday, MARCH 29, 2020.

Immigration Boss Tests Positive to Pandemic

The Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mr. Muhammed Babandede, has tested positive for COVID-19

The CG explained yesterday that he is already on self-isolation since he returned from the United Kingdom on March 22.He stated, “Today, I tested positive for COVID-19. I have been on self-isolation since my return from UK on Sunday 22nd of this month with British Airways in Lagos.

“I urge my loved ones, Immigration Officers and Nigerians to pray for me and all those affected.”

Babandede urged immigration officers to continue working with his deputy to move the service forward.

He added, “It is a very difficult time but we can’t change what God destined for us. “I urge officers to continue working with my able Deputy to further move our Service to another level. As advised by NCDC, I am totally isolated.”

Onyeama Denies Testing Positive to COVID-19

By Adedayo Akinwale 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, has denied testing positive to the rampaging COVID-19.

The minister in a statement issued yesterday by his Special Adviser on Media, Sarah Sanda, described the media report alleging that he has contracted the virus as fabricated and malicious.

He said, “It has come to the attention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, that a fabricated and malicious report is circulating in social and print media alleging that the two claimed cases of COVID-19 recently reported in Enugu were the Minister and his Personal Assistant.”

Onyeama insisted that himself  and his aide were in Abuja at all material times, adding that as a member of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, all the members were recently tested and all found to be negative.

According to him, the authors of this act are well known, adding that their motive is to embarrass and spread alarm and panic during a national emergency.

“For that reason as well as to curb this kind of criminal behaviour, the matter has been brought to the attention of the law enforcement agencies for investigation and severe sanctions as a  deterrence for the future,” the minister added.

Immigration Boss Tests Positive to Pandemic

The Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS),  Mr. Muhammed Babandede, has tested positive for COVID-19

The CG explained yesterday that he is already on self-isolation since he returned from the United Kingdom on March 22.

He stated, “Today, I tested positive for COVID-19. I have been on self-isolation since my return from UK on Sunday 22nd of this month with British Airways in Lagos.

“I urge my loved ones, Immigration Officers and Nigerians to pray for me and all those affected.”

Babandede urged immigration officers to continue working with his deputy to move the service forward.

He added, “It is a very difficult time but we can’t change what God destined for us. “I urge officers to continue working with my able Deputy to further move our Service to another level. As advised by NCDC, I am totally isolated.”

UI College of Medicine Provost, Deputy Test Positive to COVID-19

The Provost and Deputy Provost of the University of Ibadan’s College of Medicine, Professors Oluwabunmi Olapade-Olaopa and Obafunke Denloye respectively have tested positive for coronavirus.

NAN reported that Prof. Olapade-Olaopa made this known in a statement released yesterday. The Public Relations Officer of University College Hospital, Ibadan, Mr. Toye Akinrinlola, confirmed this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

“I wish to inform you that the Deputy Provost and I tested positive for the COVID-19 following tests done on Friday.

“Although we are both asymptomatic, we have gone into self-isolation for 14 days whilst our contacts are being observed closely to determine if they should also be tested,” he said.

Earlier, the Chief Medical Director of UCH, Ibadan, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo, also tested positive for coronavirus.

He said, “On Monday 23rd of March, we commenced a 12-man quarterly board meeting which was meant to last 5 days in the hospital, we observed social distancing and other precautionary measures for COVID-19 as much as possible.

“However, on Wednesday morning, one of us presented with what appeared to be symptoms of COVID-19, his samples were immediately taken for test and the meeting called off.

“His results returned positive on Friday morning and every participant (including me) immediately went into self-isolation while our samples were also taken for test.

“Unfortunately, my result returned positive on Saturday afternoon and I remain in isolation as I am not symptomatic.”

Meanwhile, the Oyo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), yesterday appealed to the federal government to save the UCH, Ibadan, and provide it with enough funding to cater for the ravaging Coronavirus otherwise known as COVID-19.

The union also frowned at recent development at the foremost teaching hospital in Nigeria, with confirmed four cases from its board and management.

COVID-19: Heritage Bank Offers Seamless Services

Heritage Bank Plc said it has taken practicable steps to offer seamless services to customers, whilst ensuring the health and safety of its workers and others due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bank, in a statement, explained that it has put in place crisis response measures to minimise and manage the risk arising from the disruption of business activities due to the spreading virus.

It explained that it has put in place payment infrastructure and logistics to maintain operations as various state governments brace up for lockdown to contain the pandemic.

The bank’s management in a statement explained that part of its business continuity management was to guarantee seamless service delivery to its stakeholders, adopt measures to tackle significant business risk that might have growth impact on economy, whilst taken reasonably practicable steps to minimize the risk.

According to Heritage Bank, incognisant with the protocols proffered by the World Health Organisation, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and other health agencies, it has provided a work environment that is safe and adequate for workers in carrying out their work.

“The Bank has maintained a maximum of 10 per cent of staff who constitute mainly unit heads and “must have” working from its premises during these times of uncertainties, whilst others work remotely from home to adhere to the social distancing directive,” the statement added.

The bank further noted that efforts have been ongoing via its intranet and other channels to keep staff and customers up-to-date with the latest COVID-19 information and provide clear direction and guidance expected of workers and customers.

“We have enforced and continued to monitor the need for workers to practice good hygiene, including: frequent hand washing, use of sanitizer, limiting contact with others, including through shaking hands covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing require workers to stay away from the workplace if they are unwell and not fit for work, and encourage them to seek medical advice as appropriate seek advice from health authorities immediately if there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19 and for staff who are arriving from affected countries to self-quarantine for 14days,” the financial institution stated.

To ensure seamless banking transactions, the bank explained that customers are constantly communicated to, to adopt its available 24/7 alternate electronic channels.

“We have set up a COVID-19 Support Centre to offer COVID-19 safety tips to all our customers during this period, in support of the efforts of the Government and relevant bodies,” it added.

Keystone Bank Pledges N1bn in Fight against COVID-19

By Nume Ekeghe

As part of effort to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Nigeria, Keystone Bank has announced the donation of N1 billion for the purchase of relief materials, critical care facilities and protective gear to contain the spread of the virus.

The pledge was made during the Bankers’ Committee meeting held recently to support the Central Bank of Nigeria in its bid to raise funds for the fight against coronavirus pandemic through the newly-formed Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Committee against COVID-19.

In a statement at the weekend, the Acting Managing Director, Mr. Olaniran Olayinka, explained that the decision to make the pledge was part of the bank’s corporate social responsibility pillar to provide an enabling environment by improving the well-being and health of the communities wherein we operate.

Olayinka stated: “What we have is a situation that calls for an inclusive support for humanity. A time that all hands must be on deck to support the assiduous effort the government is making to manage the situation.

“The decision to support the government’s effort is consistent with our unshakable resolve to promote health initiatives which is very key pillar in our corporate social responsibility plans. It is also crucial in our role as a signatory to the principles of responsible banking by the United Nations Environment Finance Initiative working to achieve a sustainable future.

“At Keystone Bank, we remain firmly committed to our promise of supporting Nigerians to thrive and this means for us showing up when it matters most. For us, this is one of such moments”.

Olayinka expressed optimism that the current pandemic will soon be a thing of the past.

“I am very confident that the current prevailing health challenge will soon be an episode in the footnote of our history; We have the capable human resources, the will of the part of the government and the support of every Nigerian to end the pandemic at the earliest possible time.”

Polaris Provides 400 Beds, Others in COVID-19 Fight

By Hamid Ayodeji

Polaris Bank said it has given a boost to government efforts in the fight against coronavirus (Covid-19).

To this end, the bank explained in a statement at the weekend, that it has acquired 400 specialised hospital beds, complete with mattresses and accessories.

The beds according to the bank would be handed over to the Lagos State Government; being the state most hit by the pandemic, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other state governments.

The Bank also announced that it would be partnering with the Nigeria Coalition Against COVID-19 (NCAC), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Health Institutions and State Governments in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic by delivering additional materials to cover the areas of testing, isolation, treatment and training.

The statement quoted the Managing Director/CEO, Polaris Bank, Tokunbo Abiru, to have disclosed this in a letter to customers and stakeholders of the bank.

He explained that the bank, working with relevant partners and government, remains committed to “doing everything possible to keep our environment safe for all”.

“At Polaris Bank, we will continue to devote all necessary resources to contribute to the safety of our esteemed customers and our environment as a whole, while maintaining all of the banking services you need to stay safe.”

The bank chief also affirmed his commitment to the total well-being of Nigerians and the fight against COVID-19 noting that, “as new developments emerge, the bank would continue to share information about safety of its staff and working environment as well as the efficiency of its operations and service to stakeholders.

Polaris Bank had in the wake of the outbreak of COVID 19 activated its Business Continuity Plan (BCP) which ensures that it can maintain its operations and enable financial transactions, even during critical incidents.
“The bank had suspended all corporate events, travels, and outdoor activities as well as enforced social distancing which ensured that all staff who have just returned from travels outside Nigeria are placed on self-isolation.”

NNPC’s N11bn Rally against COVID-19

By Wale Solomon

Nothing exemplifies the harmony and sense of corporate responsibility that now permeates the oil and gas industry as the recent announcement by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari, of the industry’s $30 million intervention fund to combat coronavirus.

It was an unprecedented corporate empathy in scope, timing and the short time it took to rally the industry behind the national effort to combat the deadly COVID -19 which continues to spread in the country.

If this is not the first time the NNPC was acting with such dispatch during a national crisis, it is certainly the first time it mobilised the oil and gas industry for a collective response to the national call.

On Friday March 27, the NNPC GMD led a delegation of the Corporation and representatives of oil companies to deliver coronavirus testing kits, a brand-new ambulance, hospital beds and other in-patient support systems to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital.

It was the first day of a four-day deployment plan for a $30 million (N11 billion) donation by Nigeria’s oil industry for the fight against coronavirus. It was an unmatched industry rally behind Nigeria’s effort to stop the spread of the virus and empower the health system to contain outbreak.

Spearheaded by the NNPC GMD, the donors comprised major upstream oil and gas producers, indigenous upstream producers as well as service providers and downstream players in Nigeria.

Tagged ‘The Oil and Gas Industry Intervention Initiative on COVID-19’, it was an initiative designed to put the country ahead of the pandemic in line with the ongoing federal government’s effort.

It was designed as a three-pronged covid-19 intervention initiative which targeted urgent needs in the areas of diagnostic and protective kits, logistics and in-patient support system and delivery of intensive care facilities.

The intervention would deliver 40 ambulances, 10,000 test kits, 10 million surgical masks, 20,000 respiratory masks, 1,000 ventilators, 120,000 safety gloves, 3,000 oxygen kits and four diagnostic laboratories. The fund would also provide makeshift intensive care facilities with beds and other equipment in states regarded as the epicenter of the pandemic in Nigeria.

The objective is to bring immediate relief to highly impacted epicentres of the virus where cases continue to rise.

For now, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory have continued to record more numbers while cases have also been recorded in Ogun, Enugu, Oyo, Osun, Bauchi, Edo and Rivers states. To also benefit from the NNPC largesse are densely populated areas of the country with strong communal transmission of the virus and NNPC operational catchment areas.

Each of the 36 states of the country would also receive at least one retrofitted Toyota Hiace High Roof ambulance, sets of testing kits and sets of patient support system. It is no doubt a timely boost for the country’s health system and the effort to curb spread of coronavirus.

As expected, the NNPC GMD is one to ensure transparency and faultless execution of a plan. Thus, a governance structure was put in place to supervise all purchases and deliveries. The structure is headed by the NNPC GMD, who is the sponsor of the initiative. Other members of the Steering Committee include the GGM NAPIMS (LEAD), Chairman OPTS, Chairman IPPG, GGM COMD, DAPMAN Chairman, Country Chair, Shell Group of Coys, Chairman & MD, ExxonMobil Coys and Chairman & MD of Chevron Coys.

The Working Team of the intervention include GM Services of NAPIMS, 5 representatives each from OPTS, IPPG, COMD, NNPC Medical and NNPC Downstream entities.

The working team is guided by an execution plan which kicked-off on Thursday March 26 with a strategy meeting between the NNPC and its partners. It also involved consultations between the team and selected states on sites where makeshift intensive care units would be located in the states. This would be followed on the second day by deployment of testing kits and ambulances to Abuja and Lagos.

On the third day, March 28, the team led by Kyari would inaugurate the makeshift ICU at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital.  On the same day, testing kits and ambulances would be deployed to 12 states including all the states with covid-19 cases. Sunday, March 29 would be the turn of Lagos State to have the makeshift ICU installed and take deliveries of testing kits and ambulances. The team would make similar deliveries in additional 12 states same day.

The intervention would round-off on Monday March 31 with the inauguration of regional makeshift ICUs in the six geo-political zones of the country. The exercise would conclude with the deployment of testing kits and ambulances to the remaining 12 states.

All the states which got the team’s makeshift ICU would take deliveries of all critical hospital equipment and items expected in an intensive care unit of any modern hospital. The equipment donated includes: an oxygen generating plant; one brand new ambulance, six NNPC operational ambulance vehicles, two ventilators, patient monitor, hospital beds, bedside cupboards, overtop tables, air conditioners, fully automated 5-part hematology analyzer and semi-automated chemistry analyzer.

While announcing the intervention fund, the NNPC GMD said “Health systems, the world over, are getting overwhelmed. Countries with stronger health systems are struggling to contain the disease.

“It is obvious that to fight this menace, we all have to collaborate to ensure that Nigeria defeats the virus.”

According to him, the intervention was aimed at supporting the national healthcare delivery facilities. Kyari further said the project covered three key areas, namely :(a) Provision of medical consumables. (b)Deployment of logistics and in-patient support system.  (c) Delivery of medical infrastructure.”

He said the three thematic support initiatives amount to $30 million (N11 billion) adding that “To address the increasing demand for medical services, we are immediately providing medical consumables covering testing kits, medical protective suits and ambulances to the highly impacted areas of the federation.”

What the intervention has shown, among other things, is that NNPC and the oil and gas industry care about the health and safety of the country, its people and its economy. NNPC in particular has demonstrated capacity for empathy and to be proactive when the need arises. The Corporation, the oil industry along with other sectors, have intervened at a time of uncertainties when a virus poses an existential threat to the world.

NNPC under Kyari has continued to demonstrate result-oriented approaches to challenges in the industry and the nation in a way many had thought impossible. We are seeing an uncommon commitment to a vibrant, prosperous and transparent industry, and to the nation.

Solomon writes from Surulere, Lagos

AfDB Launches $3bn COVID-19 Bond

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has raised $3 billion in a three-year bond to help alleviate the economic and social impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on livelihoods and Africa’s economies.

The Fight Covid-19 Social bond, with a three-year maturity, garnered interest from central banks and official institutions, bank treasuries, and asset managers including Socially Responsible Investors, with bids exceeding $4.6 billion.

This was the largest Social Bond ever launched in international capital markets to date, and the largest US Dollar benchmark ever issued by the Bank. It will pay an interest rate of 0.75 per cent.

According to a statement, the AfDB is moving to provide flexible responses aimed at lessening the severe economic and social impact of this pandemic on its regional member countries and Africa’s private sector.

“These are critical times for Africa as it addresses the challenges resulting from the Coronavirus. The African Development Bank is taking bold measures to support African countries. This $3 billion Covid-19 bond issuance is the first part of our comprehensive response that will soon be announced.

“This is indeed the largest social bond transaction to date in capital markets. We are here for Africa, and we will provide significant rapid support for countries,” AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said.

The order book for this record-breaking bond highlights the scale of investor support, which the African Development Bank enjoys, said the arrangers.

“As the Covid-19 outbreak is dangerously threatening Africa, the African Development Bank lives up to its huge responsibilities and deploys funds to assist and prepare the African population, through the financing of access to health and to all other essential goods, services and infrastructure,” said Tanguy Claquin, Head of Sustainable Banking, Crédit Agricole CIB.

SUNDAY MARCH 29, 2020

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Jump to 111

By Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded 14 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 111.

Announcing this Sunday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said nine of the cases were confirmed in Lagos while five were from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

NCDC said: “Of the 111 cases, 107 are currently being managed, three have been discharged, while one has died.”

So far, Lagos has recorded 68 cases, FCT 21, Oyo seven, Ogun three, Enugu, Edo, Bauchi and Osun two cases each, while Rivers, Benue, Kaduna and Ekiti have recorded one case each.

Abba Kyari Speaks on Positive Status, Moves to Lagos for Further Tests, Observation

Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, has confirmed that he tested positive for coronavirus and would be moving to Lagos later on Sunday for further tests and observation.

THISDAY had exclusively reported on Tuesday that Kyari, who recently returned from a trip to Germany, tested positive to the virus and had gone on absolute isolation.

In his first statement on since he tested positive to the virus, Kyari on Sunday night said on medical advice, he would move to Lagos later on Sunday for additional tests and observation.
“This is a precautionary measure: I feel well, but last week, I tested positive for coronavirus, the pandemic that is sweeping the world. I have followed all the protocols government has announced to self-isolate and quarantine,” he added.

Below is the full statement by Kyari.

Health status of Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari

29 March, Abuja

I am writing to let you know that on medical advice, I will transfer to Lagos later today for additional tests and observation. This is a precautionary measure: I feel well, but last week, I tested positive for coronavirus, the pandemic that is sweeping the world. I have followed all the protocols government has announced to self-isolate and quarantine.

I have made my own care arrangements to avoid further burdening the public health system, which faces so many pressures. Like many others that will test also positive, I have not experienced high fever or other symptoms associated with this new virus and have been working from home. I hope to be back at my desk very soon. I have a team of young, professional, knowledgeable and patriotic colleagues, whose dedication has been beyond the call of duty, who continue to work seven days a week, with no time of the day spared. We will continue to serve the President and people of Nigeria, as we have for the past five years.

I want to thank all our fantastic, talented and brave healthcare professionals, working across the country in such a difficult time; all the good Samaritans looking out for the most vulnerable in our communities; the key workers that will keep our country going through this; friends and family and often strangers, who have sent me such warm wishes and displayed such a generosity of spirit.

We should be calm, measured and diligent – be meticulous in your hygiene, especially with cleaning hands, if possible stay at home or keep your distance. Listen to good advice from the proper authorities: pay no heed to quack cures or fake news from social media. President Buhari will do whatever it takes to protect the health and safety of our people and get the country back on its feet as soon as possible.

Like the whole world, we are dealing with a new disease. Our experts are learning more all the time about coronavirus, what it does and how we can combat it. What we do know is that while some may become very sick, many others who contract the virus will not, and may have no symptoms at all. This is a disease that recognises no difference between north and south, men or women, rich or poor. We are all in this together.

Sincerely

Abba Kyari

Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari

COVID-19: Buhari Asks States to Nominate Doctors, Nurses for Training by NCDC, Lagos Govt

President Muhammadu Buhari has said he has requested all state governments to nominate doctors and nurses for training by the National Centre for Disease Control and Lagos State  on tactical and operational response to Covid-19 in case it spreads to their states.

Addressing the nation on Sunday night, President Buhari said he made the request through the governors forum.

The training, according to him,  will also include medical representatives from the armed forces, paramilitary and security and intelligence agencies.

Buhari: We’re Taking Two-step Approach against Covid-19

President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday night said Nigeria was taking a two-step approach to combat Covid-19.

In his first broadcast to the nation since the outbreak of the disease in Nigeria, the President said although Nigeria adopted strategies used globally, the implementation programmes had been tailored to reflect local realities.

Explaining the two-step approach, the Presdient said: “First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners to ensure their families get through this very difficult time in dignity and with hope and peace of mind.”

Speaking further, he said: “To date, we have introduced healthcare measures, border security, fiscal and monetary policies in our response. We shall continue to do so as the situation unfolds.

“Some of these measures will surely cause major inconveniences to many citizens. But these are sacrifices we should all be willing and ready to make for the greater good of our country.

“In Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19, there is no such thing as an overreaction or an under reaction. It is all about the right reaction by the right agencies and trained experts.”

Buhari Imposes 14-Day Curfew on Abuja, Lagos, Ogun to Curb Spread of Covid-19

President Muhammadu Buhari has imposed a 14-day restriction of movement on the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States to curb the spread of the Covid-19 in the country.

In his first broadcast to the nation on Sunday since the outbreak of the virus in Nigeria, the president said the few confirmed cases outside Lagos and Abuja were linked to persons who had travelled from these centres, adding that government was working to ensure such inter state and intercity movements are restricted to prevent further spread.

The president said: “Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States.

“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.

“The Governors of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Minister of the FCT have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed.

“We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases. We will ensure the treatment of confirmed cases while restricting further spread to other States.

For the Record: President Buhari’s Address to the Nation on Covid-19 Pandemic

ADDRESS BY H.E. MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA  ON THE COVID- 19 PANDEMIC SUNDAY 29TH MARCH, 2020

  

1.   Fellow Nigerians,

2.   From the first signs that Coronavirus, or COVID-19 was turning into an epidemic and was officially declared a world-wide emergency, the Federal Government started planning preventive, containment and curative measures in the event the disease hits Nigeria.

3.   The whole instruments of government are now mobilized to confront what has now become both a health emergency and an economic crisis.

4.   Nigeria, unfortunately, confirmed its first case on 27th February 2020. Since then, we have seen the number of confirmed cases rise slowly.

5.    By the morning of March 29th, 2020, the total confirmed cases within Nigeria had risen to ninety-seven.

6.   Regrettably, we also had our first fatality, a former employee of PPMC, who died on 23rd March 2020. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in this very difficult time. We also pray for quick recovery for those infected and undergoing treatment.

7.   As of today, COVID-19 has no cure. Scientists around the world are working very hard to develop a vaccine.

8.   We are in touch with these institutions as they work towards a solution that will be certified by international and local medical authorities within the shortest possible time.

9.    For now, the best and most efficient way to avoid getting infected is through regular hygienic and sanitary practices as well as social distancing.

10.    As individuals, we remain the greatest weapon to fight this pandemic. By washing our hands regularly with clean water and soap, disinfecting frequently used surfaces and areas, coughing into a tissue or elbow and strictly adhering to infection prevention control measures in health facilities, we can contain this virus.

11.    Since the outbreak was reported in China, our Government has been monitoring the situation closely and studying the various responses adopted by other countries.

12.    Indeed, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was one of ten global health leaders invited by the World Health Organisation to visit China and understudy their response approach. I am personally very proud of Dr Ihekweazu for doing this on behalf of all Nigerians.

13.    Since his return, the NCDC has been implementing numerous strategies and programs in Nigeria to ensure that the adverse impact of this virus on our country is minimized. We ask all Nigerians to support the work the Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC are doing, led by the Presidential Task Force.

14.    Although we have adopted strategies used globally, our implementation programs have been tailored to reflect our local realities.

15.     In Nigeria, we are taking a two step approach.

16.    First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners to ensure their families get through this very difficult time in dignity and with hope and peace of mind.

17.     To date, we have introduced healthcare measures, border security, fiscal and monetary policies in our response. We shall continue to do so as the situation unfolds.

18.    Some of these measures will surely cause major inconveniences to many citizens. But these are sacrifices we should all be willing and ready to make for the greater good of our country.

19.    In Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19, there is no such thing as an overreaction or an under reaction. It is all about the right reaction by the right agencies and trained experts.

20.    Accordingly, as a Government, we will continue to rely on guidance of our medical professionals and experts at the Ministry of Health, NCDC and other relevant agencies through this difficult time.

21.     I therefore urge all citizens to adhere to their guidelines as they are released from time to time.

22.    As we are all aware, Lagos and Abuja have the majority of confirmed cases in Nigeria. Our focus therefore remains to urgently and drastically contain these cases, and to support other states and regions in the best way we can.

23.    This is why we provided an initial intervention of fifteen billion Naira (N15b) to support the national response as we fight to contain and control the spread.

24.     We also created a Presidential Task Force (PTF) to develop a workable National Response Strategy that is being reviewed on a daily basis as the requirements change. This strategy takes international best practices but adopts them to suit our unique local circumstances.

25.    Our goal is to ensure all States have the right support and manpower to respond immediately.

26.    So far, in Lagos and Abuja, we have recruited hundreds of ad-hoc staff to man our call centers and support our tracing and testing efforts.

27.    I also requested, through the Nigeria Governors Forum, for all State Governments to nominate Doctors and Nurses who will be trained by the NCDC and Lagos State Government on tactical and operational response to the virus in case it spreads to other states.

28.     This training will also include medical representatives from our armed forces, paramilitary and security and intelligence agencies.

29.    As a nation, our response must be guided, systematic and professional. There is a need for consistency across the nation. All inconsistencies in policy guidelines between Federal and State agencies will be eliminated.

30.    As I mentioned earlier, as at this morning we had ninety-seven confirmed cases. Majority of these are in Lagos and Abuja. All the confirmed cases are getting the necessary medical care.

31.    Our agencies are currently working hard to identify cases and people these patients have been in contact with.

32.    The few confirmed cases outside Lagos and Abuja are linked to persons who have travelled from these centres.

33.    We are therefore working to ensure such inter state and intercity movements are restricted to prevent further spread.

34.    Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States.

35.    All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.

36.    The Governors of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Minister of the FCT have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed.

37.    We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases. We will ensure the treatment of confirmed cases while restricting further spread to other States.

38.     This order does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organizations in health care related manufacturing and distribution.

39.    Furthermore, commercial establishments  such as;

a.    food processing, distribution and retail companies;

b.    petroleum distribution and retail entities,

c.    power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and

d.   private security companies are also exempted.

40.    Although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored.

41.    Workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.

42.    All seaports in Lagos shall remain operational in accordance with the guidelines I issued earlier. Vehicles and drivers conveying essential cargoes from these Ports to other parts of the country will be screened thoroughly before departure by the Ports Health Authority.

43.    Furthermore, all vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items into these locations from other parts of the country will also be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter these restricted areas.

44.    Accordingly, the Hon. Minister of Health is hereby directed to redeploy all Port Health Authority employees previously stationed in the Lagos and Abuja Airports to key roads that serve as entry and exit points to these restricted zones.

45.    Movements of all passenger aircraft, both commercial and private jets, are hereby suspended. Special permits will be issued on a needs basis.

46.    We are fully aware that such measures will cause much hardship and inconvenience to many citizens. But this is a matter of life and death, if we look at the dreadful daily toll of deaths in Italy, France and Spain.

47.    However, we must all see this as our national and patriotic duty to control and contain the spread of this virus. I will therefore ask all of us affected by this order to put aside our personal comfort to safeguard ourselves and fellow human beings. This common enemy can only be controlled if we all come together and obey scientific and medical advice.

48.    As we remain ready to enforce these measures, we should see this as our individual contribution in the war against COVID-19. Many other countries have taken far stricter measures in a bid to control the spread of the virus with positive results.

49.    For residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures, we shall deploy relief materials to ease their pains in the coming weeks.

50.    Furthermore, although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with State Governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding program during this period without compromising our social distancing policies. The Minister will be contacting the affected States and agree on detailed next steps.

51.    Furthermore, I have directed that a three month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans be implemented with immediate effect.

52.    I have also directed that a similar moratorium be given to all Federal Government funded loans issued by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the Nigeria Export Import Bank.

53.    For on-lending facilities using capital from international and multilateral development partners, I have directed our development financial institutions to engage these development partners and negotiate concessions to ease the pains of the borrowers.

54.    For the most vulnerable in our society, I have directed that the conditional cash transfers for the next two months be paid immediately. Our Internally displaced persons will also receive two months of food rations in the coming weeks.

55.    We also call on all Nigerians to take personal responsibility to support those who are vulnerable within their communities, helping them with whatever they may need.

56.    As we all pray for the best possible outcome, we shall continue planning for all eventualities.

57.    This is why I directed that all Federal Government Stadia, Pilgrims camps and other facilities be converted to isolation centers and makeshift hospitals.

58.     My fellow Nigerians, as a Government, we will avail all necessary resources to support the response and recovery. We remain committed to do whatever it takes to confront COVID-19 in our country.

59.    We are very grateful to see the emerging support of the private sector and individuals to the response as well as our development partners.

60.    At this point, I will ask that all contributions and donations be coordinated and centralized to ensure efficient and impactful spending. The Presidential Task Force remains the central coordinating body on the COVID-19 response.

61.    I want to assure you all that Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with a role to play in the outbreak response are working hard to bring this virus under control.

62.    Every nation in the world is challenged at this time. But we have seen countries where citizens have come together to reduce the spread of the virus.

63.    I will therefore implore you again to strictly comply with the guidelines issued and also do your bit to support Government and the most vulnerable in your communities.

64.    I will take this opportunity to thank all our public health workforce, health care workers, port health authorities and other essential staff on the frontlines of the response for their dedication and commitment. You are true heroes.

65.    I thank you all for listening. May God continue to bless and protect us all.

President Muhammadu Buhari

29th March 2020.

COVID-19: Abia Shuts Entry, Exit Points, Braces up for Lockdown

Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia

Vehicular movements in and out of Abia State ceased on Sunday as the state government shut all entry and exit points and ramps up measures to keep COVID-19 out of God’s own state.

The boundary closure, which became effective at exactly 4.00am on Sunday, was ordered by the state Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, following the recommendation of the state’s Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19.

Abia shares boundaries with seven states — Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.

The state Commissioner for information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, said that the COVID-19 Committee deemed it necessary to recommend closing of boundaries “based on situational reviews” of the pandemic.

The implication of this measure is that movement of vehicles in and out of Abia has ceased till further notice and all Abia residents currently out of the state have been advised to stay at their locations till further notice.

“Security agencies, traditional rulers and community youths in the state are to ensure total compliance with this directive and take all necessary measures including total blocking of the borders till further notice,” Kalu said.

The information commissioner emphasized that no efforts should be spared “towards stopping those that might attempt to sneak into the state either at night or at dawn till further notice”.

Traditional rulers and security agencies were further charged with the task of “ensuring that those identified to have returned from Lagos, Abuja and overseas are confined to their homes in isolation for at least 14 days”.

Meanwhile, the entire Abia State would experience total lockdown as from Wednesday as all markets would be closed and transportation grounded to a halt for a period of four weeks at the first instance, subject to weekly reviews.

To prepare for the forthcoming lockdown, Governor Okezie has approved the setting up of a food security sub committee to plan necessary palliative interventions in case of a prolonged lockdown. The five-member committee is headed by the Commissioner for Information, Kalu.

The immediate and full enforcement of the previous guidelines on social distancing should be implemented by security agencies with defaulters handed over to mobile courts for further action.

It expressed “particular concern” over the partial compliance by tricycle (Keke) operators, who were directed to carry not more than two passengers at a time.

To check this flagrant disobedience by keke operators, security agents were directed to henceforth apprehend any defaulter for trial by a mobile court.

“Abians and residents are strongly advised against non essential movements within and outside the state. We also encourage Abians who are currently outside the state to remain at those locations pending full containment of the rampaging pandemic,” the statement said.

A task force was set up at both state and local government levels to enforce the guidelines hitherto issued to all establishments in the state, particularly hotels, eateries and restaurants.

The task force teams are headed at the state level by the Commissioner for Environment, Dr Solomon Ogunji, and at the council areas by the transition committee chairmen and divisional police officers (DPOs).

Their mandate is to shut down immediately any establishment that fails to comply with previous guidelines on COVID-19 containment.

COVID-19: FG Activates Health Desks in 774 LGAs

Udora Orizu in Abuja

As part of effort aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus, the Federal Ministry of Environment has activated environmental health desks in all the 774 Local Government Areas in the country to vigorously pursue grassroots advocacy.

The Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, disclosed this in a press statement on Sunday.

Abubakar said the health desks will also offer guidance and counseling and disinfect all risk-prone areas.

He said, “The Department of Pollution Control and Environmental Health, as well as the Environmental Health Officers Council of Nigeria have since deployed their personnel across the country disinfecting and decontaminating public places such as markets, motor parks, airports, schools, and other congested areas in conjunction with relevant authorities all in an effort to contain further spread of the epidemic.”

The Minister also sent words of empathy to Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna State Governor, who on Saturday was confirmed to have tested positive to coronavirus.

The Minister, in a series of tweets thereafter, noted that he was pleased to learn about the ways in which Nigerians are coming together to support the containment of COVID-19.

He however, said the increase in cases over the last few days according to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) update indicated that Nigerians need to take more serious measures to collectively contain the virus.

Abubakar, who is also a member of the Presidential Task Force on the control of the spread of coronavirus urged Nigerians to continue to heed the advice of experts and government on COVID-19.

“As more people are being encouraged to go into self isolation, we must remind everyone to stay home & practice social distancing. We know this is immensely difficult for many of us, but we know this is the right thing to do. We can, & must take these steps together. The #PresidentialTaskForce of the on the control of the spread of COVID-19 is continuing to take necessary action, but we all need Nigerians to do their part. Avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing, wash your hands, cover your cough and stay home,” he added

Immigration Boss Tests Positive for Coronavirus

The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede, has tested positive for coronavirus.

Babandede confirmed his positive status Sunday.

The Immigration boss who returned from a trip to the UK on March 22, said he had been in self-isolation since he returned to the country.

Details later..

Italy’s COVID-19 Death Toll Exceeds 10, 000 Despite Lockdown

The COVID-19 death toll in Italy shot past 10,000 on Saturday and showed little sign of slowing despite a 16-day lockdown.

The 889 new fatalities reported in the world’s worst-hit nation came a day after it registered 969 deaths on Friday — the highest single toll since the COVID-19 virus emerged late last year.

Italy now looks certain to extend its economically debilitating — and emotionally stressful — business closures and the ban on public gatherings past their April 3 deadline.

“Is it time to reopen the country? I think we have to think about it really carefully,” Civil Protection Service Chief Angelo Borrelli told reporters.

“The country is at a standstill and we must maintain the least amount of activity possible to ensure the survival of all.”

Italians had begun to hope that their worst disaster in generations was easing after the increase in daily death rates began to slow on March 22.

But the new surge has changed the Mediterranean nation’s mood.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italians late Saturday to be ready to spend more time cooped up at home.

“If one is being reasonable, one cannot envision a quick return to normal life,” Conte said in his latest sombre television address.

The monumental economic toll of fighting the pandemic has triggered a huge row among European leaders about how best to respond.

The southern European nations worst-hit by the virus are urging the EU to go abandon its budget rules.

The bloc has already loosened its purse strings in ways not seen since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

But Conte argues that this is not enough.

France is backing a push by Italy and Spain for the EU to start issuing “corona bonds” — a form of common debt that governments sell to raise money to address individual economic needs.

More spendthrift nations such as Germany and the Netherlands are baulking at the idea of joint debt.

Conte said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had “not just a disagreement but  had a frank confrontation” this week about how to proceed.

“If Europe does not rise to this unprecedented challenge, the whole European structure loses its raison d’etre to the people,” Conte told Saturday’s edition of the Il Sole 24 Ore financial newspaper.The entire eurozone is expected to slip into a recession over the coming months.

But Italy is facing the threat of a near economic collapse after being the first European country to shutter almost all its businesses on March 12.

Some forecasts suggest that its economy — the third-largest among nations that use the euro common currency — could contract by as much as seven per cent this year.

It shrank by 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product in 2009.

Conte warned that EU leaders were in danger of making “tragic mistakes”.

“I represent a country that is suffering a lot and I cannot afford to procrastinate,” Conte said.

The energetic 55-year-old has seen his popularity shoot up thanks to a general sense that he has been doing all he could.

A growing number of medics are warning that Italy’s fatalities could be much higher because retirement homes often do not report all their COVID-19 deaths.

The number of people who have died from the new disease at home is also unknown.

“This is something very different from the 2008 crisis,” Conte warned in the newspaper interview. ‘We are at a critical point in European history.”
Niger Gov Tests Negative to Coronavirus
Laleye Dipo Minna
The Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, has tested negative to the coronavirus pandemic but will continue to remain in isolation.
Governor Bello went into isolation and presented himself for the coronavirus test almost a week ago in line with the directive of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that those who have had relationship with people that had tested positive should go into isolation and present themselves for the test.
A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mary Noel Berje, Sunday confirmed the status of the governor and his decision to remain in isolation to play safe.
According to the statement, “The governor has demonstrated exemplary leadership quality by subjecting himself to self isolation and test,” adding that: “He is expected to continue his official functions from home for some time.”
The statement reiterated the governor’s appeal to the people to embrace simple personal hygiene procedures as well as other precautionary measures that would guard them against contracting the dreaded virus.
“We are still calling on the general public not to panic or despair as the measures taken by government is for the containment of the pandemic and in the overall interest of the people,” Berje said in the statement.
She maintained that “Niger State has not recorded a confirmed case of the Covid-19 but some people who have had contacts with confirmed cases are already in self-isolation and are being monitored accordingly”.
Meanwhile, the governor has congratulated the National Leader of the All Progressives Party (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on his 68th birthday, describing him “as a true democrat and a blessing to the nation”.
Bello, in the congratulatory message signed by his Chief Press Secretary Berje also described the APC chieftain “as a phenomenon in the annals of the nation’s political history”.
“Turning 68 is a huge milestone especially to someone who never gets tired of doing great things in great ways; someone who has provided the much-needed guide on each step of the way; someone who in spite of the cumbersome nature of our political terrain has successfully led us in the right direction,” the governor said.

US COVID-19 Deaths Double in Two Days, Now 2,000

Confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the United States doubled in two days, surpassing 2,000 Saturday and highlighting how quickly the virus is spreading through the country.

Johns Hopkins University reported that confirmed deaths rose to more than 30,000 around the world. The US ranked sixth in deaths, after Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy alone had more than 10,000 dead.

The US death toll has risen abruptly in recent days. It topped 1,000 just Thursday.

Rhode Island announced its first two deaths from the coronavirus, leaving just three states with zero reported deaths: Hawaii, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The risk of death from COVID-19 is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. In most cases, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough and milder cases of pneumonia

COVID-19: Lagos Begins Clinical Trials of Hydroxychloroquine, Azithromycin

  • US prepares to evacuate citizens, releases $274m to Nigeria, others
  • 8 new cases as El-Rufai tests positive, total now 97
  • Commuters, vehicles stranded as Rivers border closure bites amid fears of virus spread
  • Ogun shuts borders
  • Our Correspondents

The federal government through NAFDAC and the Ministry of Health has granted Lagos State permission to commence clinical trials of a combination of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and Azithromycin for the treatment of the dreaded coronavirus that is currently burning through human populations around the world.

Given the success the state has recorded so far in the treatment of patients, having treated and discharged six and 10 others due to be discharged in the coming days should they record two negative tests following treatment, THISDAY has learnt.

A presidency source told THISDAY yesterday that the federal government was impressed with the state government and consequently decided to grant the approval for clinical trials of the drugs for treatment of the virus.

This is seen as a major step forward towards the usage of the drugs. It is not certain yet how the trials would pan out. But French researchers had announced last week that a combination of both drugs was effective 100 per cent cure in treating Covid-19 patients.

In a related development, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control yesterday said it has expanded the number of labs with the capacity to test for #COVID19 to 6 with the inclusion of the Virology Laboratory of University College Hospital, Ibadan

The centre in its twitter handle said: “Tomorrow, we will be in Abakaliki to set up another lab as we quickly ramp up #COVID19 testing capacity in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, the report by French research study, which allegedly confirmed a combination of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and Azithromycin as effective in treating Covid-19 patients, was published by TECHSTARTUPS, a fast growing online technology media destination, dedicated to promoting new technology startup companies.

TECHSTARTUP had earlier published a story about a new study published by NIH, which showed that Hydroxychloroquine has been found to be more effective and potent than chloroquine in vitro treatment of coronavirus.

Rivers Border Closure Bites, Impact Felt Far and Wide

Also yesterday, fears mounted over the closure of Rivers State border with Bayelsa town of Mbiama by the Rivers State government in an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus. However, there are fears that the closure may turnout to be counter productive as hundreds of vehicles are stranded in Mbiama waiting to be allowed into Rivers state. The massive crowd has raised fears of a possible epidemic as no one is observing social distancing guidelines.

According to a source, those who can bribe security operatives enforcing the closure bribed their way and were allowed into Rivers State while others who couldn’t waited and mingling with one another hoping that the closure would be lifted.
As the closure bites, the newspaper industry is hard hit the most as most circulation vans could not take newspapers in or out of the state.

The fate of the newspapers was so alarming that the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the umbrella body of correspondents of national newspapers in the state, had to write to Governor Nyesom Wike, who is also the chairman of the Task Force for the enforcement of restrictions, for special waivers for newspaper distribution vans.

Ogun Shuts Down Borders

Ogun State Government has announced the closure of its borders with the neighbouring states and the international border with the Republic of Benin.

The closure will be enforced at midnight on Sunday, March 29, 2020 and will be in force for two weeks in the first instance.

A statement by Kunle Somorin, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun, claimed the state was constrained to effect border closure in order to stem and flatten the curve of the spread of the dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, not only in the state but in the country and in the West African sub-region.

“The position of Ogun State is peculiar. It not only shares an international border with the Republic of Benin, it does so with all other states in the Southwest (except Ekiti), including Lagos State, which has understandably recorded the highest number of infections in the country largely, because it hosts the busiest air and sea ports and it’s the nation’s economic capital.

“The border closure will not only be beneficial to Ogun State but the national efforts to curtail and contain the virus. Lessons from other climes strongly indicate that closure of borders has the potential to drastically flatten the curve of spread whilst unrestricted movement portends grave dangers,” Governor Abidoun further explained.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

Worried that the economic effect of the coronavirus outbreak may endure longer than envisaged, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has asked the G-20 to give Nigeria and other African countries $100 billion in emergency grants to stimulate their economies and cushion the effects of the pandemic that has claimed over 30,847 lives and infected 662,852 across the globe. The United States death toll so far reached a grim milestone, According to CNN, over 2,000 persons has lost their lives as at late yesterday. Nevertheless, the US at the weekend announced an initial investment of nearly $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to help countries in need to fight the raging coronavirus and other related health issues. Nigeria is billed to get more than $7 million from the fund, according a statement by the US Department of State

In the meantime, as the virus continues to take its toll on the physical and economic health of nations, eight new persons in Nigeria, including Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-rufai, tested positive on Saturday, bringing the total cases in the country to 97. Nigeria recorded new cases in Benue State, which had its first infection, and Edo State.
Fearing imminent explosion of the virus in the country, the US and some European countries have concluded plans to evacuate their citizens from Nigeria in the wake of the rising COVID 19 cases. The warning came from some European diplomats, who projected that the infection rate might rise to 10,000 in the coming weeks, because, according to them, about 5,000 persons had already had contact with infected persons across the country.

Consequently, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development said it would focus on the poor and vulnerable, including the elderly, refugees, IDPs, persons living with disabilities, trafficked persons, and petty traders in its response to COVID-19 in the country. Taking a cue from private sector operators and the state national oil company, NNPC, the 43 ministers in the federal cabinet announced the donation of 50 per cent of their salaries for March 2020 to support government’s effort to combat the pandemic.

This is just as state governments across the country announced tough measures, including shutting their borders, in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Many of the states were already considering economic stimulus packages to help majority of their residents cope with the stay-at-home order by government.

UNECA, one of the five regional commissions created by the United Nations to promote the economic and social development of its member states, predicted that the global health crisis would hit Nigeria and other African countries harder, with a heavy and durable and economic toll. The commission, which proposed $100 billion economic stimulus package to the G-20 on behalf of its African member states, in a statement THISDAY obtained from its Communication Office Friday, predicted that post-COVID-19 challenges would complicate Africa’s economic challenges.

G-20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the EU, comprising economies that account for about 90 per cent of the gross world product, 80 per cent of world trade, two-thirds of the world population, and half of the global land area.

In its statement, UNECA observed that COVID-19 would leave Nigeria and other African countries with durable economic consequences, which it predicted, would threaten progress and prospects, widen inequalities between and within countries, and worsen current fragilities.

Specifically, for Nigeria, the commission forecast that there might be potential loss of 1.6 per cent growth rate, which according to its report, might be worse with COVID-19 forcing Africa’s biggest economy to shut down its strategic sectors.

The commission explained that the growth rate for Nigeria could fall from 2.9 per cent to 1.3 per cent in 2020, noting that with Nigeria accounting for 74 per cent of ECOWAS, the region might follow a similar trend.

In the light of the short-term and long-term effects of the virus, the commission pleaded with the G-20 leaders “to announce a US$100 billion (in addition to the $50bn already committed) to fund the immediate health response, social safety nets for the most vulnerable, feeding for out-of-school children, and to protect jobs.

“As a proportion of GDP, this is consistent with measures taken in other regions. To ensure immediate fiscal space and liquidity, this package should include a waiver of all interest payments, estimated at US$44 billion for 2020.”

Besides the $100 billion economic stimulus package, UNECA urged the G-20 leaders “to support a waiver on principal and interest for African Fragile States such as the Sahel, Central African Republic and others that are already struggling with the burden of debt and have limited fiscal space.”

The commission challenged the G-20 leaders to make provision for enhanced predictability, transparency and accountability of financial flows so that African finance ministers could plan effectively and civil society stakeholders could help track flows to ensure they reach those most in need.

UNECA predicted the likely loss of 30 million jobs on the continent in the post-COVID-19 era, thus proposing that the G-20 leaders should implement emergency measures to protect 30 million jobs immediately at risk across African economies, particularly in the tourism and airline sectors.

It added that the G-20 leaders should take measures “to support agricultural imports and exports, the pharmaceutical sector and the banking sector. An extended credit facility, refinancing schemes and guarantee facilities should be used to waive, restructure and provide additional liquidity in 2020.”

It equally emphasised the need for the G20 leaders “to support a liquidity line available to the private sector operating in Africa to ensure essential purchases can continue and all SMEs dependent on trade can continue to function.
“G20 leaders should ensure that national and regional stimulus packages covering private and financial systems include measures to support African businesses through allowing for the suspension of leasing, debt and other repayments to global businesses.”

UNECA proposed that the G-20 leaders should support and encourage open trade corridors, especially, for pharmaceuticals and other health supplies, as well as support the upgrade of health infrastructure and provide direct support to existing facilities. It said this would enable countries “to focus on prevention as much as possible and start building curative facilities. Support should be provided to WHO and CDC Africa with funds channelled through the Global Fund, GAVI and others.

“G-20 leaders should support public health campaigns and access to information including through an expedited private sector partnership for internet connectivity to enable economic activity to continue during social distancing measures and to support the effective sharing of information about the pandemic.”

The commission argued that the G-20 leaders should take these measures “to support Nigeria and African countries to cushion the effects of COVID-19. This is a global crisis affecting the whole world.

“Africa, however, will be hit harder with a heavy and durable economic toll, which will threaten progress and prospects, widen inequalities between and within countries, and worsen current fragilities. African countries need support in preparing for the health crisis, and for the economic fallout.

“The measures being taken in Asia, Europe and North America such as physical (social) distancing and regular handwashing will be a particular challenge for countries with limited internet connectivity, dense populations, unequal access to water and limited social safety nets.”

UNECA said African countries “are preparing for the worst effects of COVID-19,” a pandemic that has put the global economy to a halt.

US Preparing to Evacuate Citizens

Fearing an escalation in the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, the United States prepared emergency flights to evacuate its citizens in the country. The US Embassy and Consulate in Nigeria had advised nationals, who were not in Abuja and Lagos, to work with local airlines to make travel arrangements while flights were still available. The Embassy, in a notice titled, “Health Alert: US Mission in Nigeria”, urged American citizens to be in Abuja and Lagos as soon as possible to join the arranged flights back to the US.

The notice read, “At present, there are no scheduled flights to the United States. However, we are actively exploring options and attempting to secure flights despite global airport closures and travel restrictions.

“We will email US citizens immediately once we have flight details, routes, and costs. US citizens, who are considering returning to the United States, are urged to travel to Abuja or Lagos as soon as possible.

“The Embassy and Consulate are unable to assist with lodging, food, or transportation costs, and some hotels have closed or are closing.

“To disseminate important information and alerts for US Citizens including possible evacuation flights, the State Department uses the Smart Traveller Enrolment Programme as its primary messaging system. US Citizens in Nigeria, who want to be informed about emergency flights and receive other alerts should enrol in STEP immediately.”

Diplomats Warn of Virus Explosion

Some Western diplomats, last week, warned that the number of persons infected with the virus could witness a significant rise in the coming weeks on account of the poor handling of the situation by government. Nigeria currently has over 81 confirmed cases and one death from the pandemic.

The diplomatic community contended that infections could rise to over 10,000 in the coming weeks, as there were at least 5,000 persons, who had come in contact with infected persons in the country. This category of persons, it was believed, had mingled with thousands of others in the society without realising they had the virus, which is largely asymptomatic in this part of the world.

“This is the real danger. A lot of people, who have had contacts with original carriers of the virus don’t even know they have the ailment and have in fact gone ahead to mingle with hundreds and thousands of others in the society, spreading the virus further,” said a senior diplomat attached to one European high commission in the country.
The diplomat, who spoke to an online newspaper on Friday, explained, “From information we have in the diplomatic community, there could be an explosion of confirmed infections in the coming weeks. It is going to disrupt a lot of things.”

Another diplomat, whose country was reported as having provided technical support to African nations battling the spread of the virus, also echoed the same sentiment, when he said the situation in Nigeria was dire, because the number of untested infections far outweighed those examined by the government agencies.

It is alleged that so far only about 200 persons have been tested for coronavirus in Nigeria due to the unavailability of testing kits. But this figure is being disputed because Lagos alone is said to test between 120 and 150 daily.
Although in the week, a Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, donated testing kits and protective items to Nigeria and other African countries to help combat the virus, hundreds of potentially infected persons are yet to be examined in Nigeria, therefore increasing the risk of an epidemic in the West African state.

“We could be having tens of thousands of confirmed cases across Nigeria in a few days from now. There are thousands of people with the virus already on the loose in the country and many of these people cannot be traced. They have taken this pandemic into every nook and cranny of this country,” the diplomat stated.

He advised Nigeria to act fast to avert a full-blown war, adding, however, that Western countries would continue to provide technical support to help Africa and the rest of the world conquer the virus.

Nonetheless, some Western countries are said to have begun to evacuate their citizens from Nigeria and other African countries. An example was an Air France flight, which Thursday moved 260 Europeans from Nigeria to France to prevent them from being infected with the virus. This followed a one-week permission to Air France and KLM by the federal government to evacuate Europeans from the country as a result of the spread of the pandemic.

Similarly, on same Thursday, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms. Catriona Laing CB, said the mission was exploring available options to send staff and their families back to the United Kingdom.
The World Health Organisation said Nigeria and other African countries battling COVID 19 must conduct more tests to show the true picture of things and avert a major crisis.

8 New Cases as El-Rufai Tests Positive

Nigeria recorded eight new cases of COVID 19 carriers, including El-rufai, who personally announced the results of his test, bringing the total number of infected persons in the country to 97.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced this yesterday, saying of the total 97 cases, Lagos has 59, FCT 16, Ogun three, Enugu two, Ekiti one, Oyo seven, Edo two, Bauchi two, Osun two, Rivers one, Benue one and Kaduna one.
Announcing his test result Saturday evening, El-Rufai said, “Earlier this week, I submitted a sample for COVID-19 test. The result came in this evening and I regret to say to say it is positive.

“According to the protocol managing the COVID -19, I am in self isolation as requested by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control – that is for someone that is showing no symptoms.”

He called on the people of the state to continue to observe preventive measures announced by the state government.
“It is important that everyone should stay home and stay alive”, El-Rufai said, adding that his deputy, who is in charge of the task force on coronavirus, would continue to issue statements from time to time.

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who broke the news of the state’s index case to journalists in Makurdi after a meeting of the State Action Committee on COVID-19, said the infected person, one Susan Okpe, had returned from the United Kingdom a few days earlier. The governor stated that the blood sample of the affected lady was taken to Abuja alongside others and tested for the virus at the NCDC, stressing that the others tested negative.

Advising against stigmatisation, he noted that about eight contacts were being observed and pointed out that staff of the facility where the patient went for medical attention would also be isolated and monitored for the required number of days.

Ortom said as part of proactive measures to prevent the spread of the disease, major markets would be closed from Monday, 30th March 2020, and hinted the possibility of closing roads linking Benue and other states in the days to come.
He, however, said shops and medical stores would be open to the public with hand sanitisers placed at strategic entry points to the shops for use by customers.

He reiterated the ban on social gatherings such as funerals, weddings, Church as well as Mosque activities, urging Christians and Muslims to worship at home until the situation improves.

Humanitarian Ministry Targets Vulnerable Groups

The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, announced the decision to target the vulnerable in the society after a meeting of the COVID-19 response committee, comprising all the agencies under her supervision. Farouq said work must commence immediately.

“We are in an emergency and work must start immediately. Given the current global crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must work together and deploy all of our resources in unison to support the national efforts for maximum impact,” she said.

The National Emergency Management Agency will anchor the delivery of services and relief to people most especially, the vulnerable groups, along with the other agencies, including National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the North East Development Commission (NEDC) and the four components of the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIPs); namely N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme (NHSFP).

The minister said the ministry-led intervention would prioritise prevention and community engagement and increase sensitisation to curtail spread of coronavirus particularly, among the person of concern in the implementation of the initiative to drive the overall national strategy adopted by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

The ministry also directed all its agencies to make available both human and material resources to NEMA and the PTF for use in the response to the pandemic.

Ministers Donate Half of Salaries to COVID-19 Cause

The 43 ministers in the federal cabinet have announced the donation of 50 per cent of their salaries for the month of March 2020 to support government’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

A statement issued in Abuja on Saturday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, quoted the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, who coordinated the donation, as saying it was a gesture of solidarity and support for the federal government’s efforts to tackle the disease, which at the last count has afflicted over 92 persons in the country.

”This global virus outbreak will require nations, continents and smaller communities to pull together to contribute their resources and support one another. This will facilitate an early resolution of the problem,” Mohammed further quoted Senator Saraki as saying.

Plateau Takes Tougher Measures, Shuts Down Borders

The Plateau State Government has taken tougher measures to prevent any case of the virus in the state, appealing to citizens to endure and comply with the orders in the interest of all.

Addressing the press in Jos on Saturday, the Secretary to State Government (SSG), Professor Danladi Atu said, “In order to ensure that we prevent any case from coming into the State, government has rolled out measures including shutting of markets; ban on festivals; restriction of gatherings to not more than 50 people; ban on weekly Sunday markets at Ahmadu Bello Way, Bukuru and environs; closure of night clubs and drinking joints.

“As of yesterday Friday 27th March 2020, there is substantial compliance and the government commends the good and peace loving citizens of Plateau State who have adhered to the directives.

“However, the government takes exception to the non-challance and flagrant disregard of the directives by some individuals and groups who have remained recalcitrant. They have also mobilised their followers to disobey the orders of government, which is meant to protect the lives of the people.

“Let me categorically make it clear that nobody is above the law and government is taking necessary action. In line with the directive of Government for full implementation of compliance, the Governor has asked Security agencies to take the necessary measures on such persons.”

Also, Atu said the state has decided that tricycles would no longer take more than 1 passenger, while Saloon cars will only take 4 passengers including the driver.

On border restriction, Atu said, “Effective Sunday 29th March 2020, there will be prohibition of vehicular movement into Plateau State from all border entry routes from 6pm to 7am. All people coming into Plateau State should note and take note of this and prepare their trips to avoid unnecessary inconveniences.

Oyo Imposes Curfew as Governor Goes Into Isolation

With cases in Oyo State now three, the state government has taken additional measures to contain a further spread of the virus by introducing a dusk-to-dawn curfew between 7 pm and 6 am, while at the same time closing some markets in the state to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is just as the governor, Seyi Makinde has gone into isolation to observe if he has been infected or not, even as the state is monitoring 84 other people suspected of contracting the virus.

The state COVID-19 Task Force, which made the disclosure in a statement issued in Ibadan, the state capital, stated: “The COVID-19 confirmation test for two suspected cases have come back POSITIVE. The isolation process has been initiated. 84 Persons of Interest have been identified, and contact tracing and collection of samples have commenced.
“The state’s diagnostic centre set up in collaboration with the University College Hospital is now ready. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) certification is still pending but the Director-General of NCDC has made a pre-statement about the molecular laboratory in Oyo State.

“The index case remains stable and is still under observation in the isolation unit at Agbami Chest Centre, Jericho. The number of confirmed cases in Oyo State is now three.

“As a result of this, I have directed that the following additional measures be put in place: a dusk to dawn curfew (7 PM to 6 AM); no gatherings of more than ten people should be held anywhere in Oyo State. From Sunday night, March 29, 2020, all markets will be closed except those selling perishable food items
Also, Makinde made the disclosure of his isolation while speaking on phone to a live private radio programme monitored in Ibadan, saying the Coronavirus was no respecter of anyone and that he took the decision to be on self-isolation based on the advice given by the NCDC.

“I am now in self isolation, yes, I have been advised by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to isolate myself, because I had contacts with some people. All the governors, who had contacts with some of the people who have it have been advised to isolate themselves. The governors’ forum advised us to do so.

“This disease is no respecter of anyone, whether you are rich or poor. I am currently on isolation. It is unfortunate that some people, rather than assist themselves or the people, are criticizing. When they want to criticise, we are not saying that they should not criticise, but I care for the people of Oyo state.”

Meanwhile, Makinde, on Saturday informed residents of the state that his government was already working on palliatives to ease the pressure on residents of the state following the partial shutdown of activities as part of the precautionary measures put in place by the government to curtail the spread of Covid-19.

He, however, stated that the state would need to work on accurate data and design to ensure that the palliatives get into the hands of residents with genuine needs for them and not get cornered by middlemen.

Uzodinma Locks Down Imo State

Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, has ordered a complete lockdown of the state, effective from yesterday as part of the government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
In a State broadcast, the governor ordered that all markets be closed indefinitely and prohibited all forms of marriage ceremonies. He also announced the ban of all forms of burial and funeral ceremonies and declared that all forms of religious worships in churches and mosques, including crusades and open evangelism were prohibited.
Uzodinma further directed that all borders into the state be barricaded with road blocks and that those coming into the state must be given a clean bill of health by the health officials attached to the check points, before they are allowed entry. He equally directed all civil and public servants in the state, except those on approved essential duties, to stop work immediately.
He said a combined team of military, police and other security agencies would be deployed to the streets to ensure strict compliance with the directives.

Edo Confirms Second Coronavirus Case

The Edo State government has confirmed a second index case of coronavirus pandemic in the state
Last Tuesday, the first case was confirmed in the person of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Francis Okiye who travelled to United Kingdom and has since being quarantined.
Confirming the second index case whose name was not given, Special Adviser to Governor Goodwin Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie urged residents of the state, especially traders and businesses to support the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration’s efforts to curtail the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state by complying with the basic precautionary measures and other guidelines to contain the scourge.
Meanwhile, chairmen of the local councils have in the state intensified campaigns to complement efforts by the state government in checking the spread of COVID-19.
Inaugurating a 20-man Local Government Taskforce Committee on COVID-19 management, the Chairman of Uhunmwode Local Government Area (LGA), Hon. Napoleon Agbama, said the committee would ensure residents were sensitized on precautionary measures put in place by the Federal and State Ministries of Health to check the spread of COVID-19.

US Releases $274m to Nigeria, Others

At the weekend, the United States of America announced an initial investment of nearly $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to help countries in need to fight the raging coronavirus and other related health issues.
A statement by the US Department of State said US’ government agencies were working together to prioritize foreign assistance based on coordination and the potential for impact. The statement read: “The U.S. government is leading the world’s humanitarian and health assistance response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are mobilizing all necessary resources to respond rapidly, both at home and abroad. As part of this comprehensive and generous U.S. response, the State Department and USAID are providing an initial investment of nearly $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to help countries in need, on top of the funding we already provide to multilateral organizations such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
The funds will be shared out to different countries across the world.
Out of the funds, US is committing “more than $7 million in health and humanitarian funding to Nigeria.
US State Department said the find “will go toward risk communication, water and sanitation activities, infection prevention, and coordination.
“This assistance joins more than $5.2 billion in U.S. health assistance and more than $8.1 billion in total assistance for Nigeria over the past 20 years.”

Rivers Considers Palliatives to Residents

The Rivers State Government has said it was considering palliatives to residents to ease their pains as a result of the closure of markets and other restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19.
This is as Governor Nyesom Wike expressed satisfaction with the level of compliance in respect of the government’s directive on the closure of markets, saying the state government was committed to checking the spread of the virus in the state.
Speaking yesterday after leading the state Task Force on enforcement of the ban on public and religious gatherings to monitor compliance with the directive of the state government, Wike said government would consider palliatives in the next phase of intervention, noting that the focus for now was to check the spread.

“When you talk of palliative, you are aware that the federal government gave Lagos State N10 billion as support. And so many people in Lagos have also made various donations. But in this state, we have not received a dime from any person. For the time being, people should make the sacrifice. The issue of palliative will be in the second phase.”

Activist Charges Govt to be Honest in Fighting COVID-19

A human rights activist, Comrade Mulade Sheriff has charged the federal government, the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory Minister not to politicise the fight against COVID-19, so as to save Nigerians from death.
Mulade, the National Coordinator of the Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, (CEPEJ), gave the charge in Abuja while speaking with journalists and expressed sadness over the way and manner the deadly disease was being handled in Nigeria without adequate health equipment, personnel and public enlightenment on the need for Nigerians to adhere strictly to WHO guidelines.

Although he commended President Muhammadu Buhari, the Ministries of Health and Information, State Governors, as well as NCDC for taking bold steps to lock down the States, restricting human movement through daily media announcements, the CEPEJ boss however urged the authorities not to politicise the curbing of the killer virus from spreading in Nigeria.

NUJ Makes Case for Journalists

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the umbrella body for all Journalists in the country has called on the federal and state governments to provide safety kits and palliatives to journalists to enable them do their work in safety and relative comfort.

It said it was of great importance that government must come up with ways of cushioning the effect of this pandemic on media houses in order to ensure they sustain the tempo of their coverage of it.

In a joint statement by Comrade Chris Isiguzo, National President and Shuaibu Usman Leman, National Secretary, the NUJ also said journalists on assignment should bear in mind that responsible and ethical journalism is vital to the reporting of this pandemic.

COVID-19: Tinubu Advises FG to Increase Naira Expenditure

  • Seeks tax reduction for firms, suspension of VAT
  • Urges CBN to print more naira notes, lower interest rate to spur borrowing

Obinna Chima

As the world races to enact measures to suppress the effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has advised the federal government not to reduce its budgetary expenditure. Tinubu suggested, instead, that the government should increase its public expenditure by 10 to 15 per cent. He gave the advice in a statement titled, “A Message on the Coronavirus: A Time for Unity, A Time for Thought, A Time for Action,” released today on his 68th birthday celebration.

The statement was, apparently, in lieu of a colloquium, which had been held in the past 11 years on Tinubu’s birthday. He said in line with current social distancing measures against the spread of the coronavirus, the organisers of the event had decided to postpone it.

The former Lagos State governor said to save both lives and livelihoods in times of emergency, like the present one, extra inflation from enhanced government spending was a necessary price to pay. He also advised the federal government to announce a tax credit or partial tax reduction for companies, adding that the Value Added Tax (VAT) should be suspended for the next two to four months to help lower import costs and protect businesses against shortages.

Tinubu advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to lower interest rates to stimulate borrowing and private sector activities. He described COVID 19 as a health and medical problem with heavy economic costs, saying it is blind to social, economic, and tribal boundaries, and imposes a need for cordiality and love.

Citing interventions by governments in most developed economies, including China, he advised the federal and state governments to begin to prepare appropriate responses to counteract the effect of grimmer emergencies, just in case the situation deteriorated gravely, in the face of falling oil prices and dollar shortfall.

The APC leader, discussing the effects of the current pandemic, stated, “This does not, however, necessitate a corresponding shortfall in public sector naira expenditures. The US controls dollar issuance. We control naira issuance, as is our sovereign right. Just as America has used its sovereign right to issue its currency to stave economic disaster, so, too, may Nigeria issue naira for the same purpose.

“The natural instinct will be to reduce spending. Such reductions may be prudent for individuals and households. For government to move in this direction only feeds economic carnage by amplifying economic hardship. Prudent fiscal policy is generally ‘countercyclical.’ As the private sector shrinks, government does more.

“At minimum, the federal government must stick to its naira budgetary expenditures. In fact, government should increase naira expenditures by at least 10 – 15 per cent during an emergency.”

According to him, the federal government cannot become naira insolvent because it has the ability to issue the national currency.

“Consequently,” Tinubu stated, “should circumstances require increased spending, we should not hesitate to do so; but we must keep the watchful eye to ensure inflation does not climb too high. However, to save both lives and livelihoods during a moment of historic emergency, a touch of extra inflation from enhanced government spending is a small price to pay. In fact, it is a price that must be paid.

“The alternative may be a harmful deflation which historically has proven more difficult to tame and cure than a small inflationary increase.”

He added, “Allocations to state and local governments should be included in this addition. If not, we risk subnational recessions in important sections of the country.

“If the virus is largely kept from becoming a widespread public health menace, government should accelerate spending and actual work on key infrastructural projects particularly regarding transportation.

“This will lower costs while bolstering the economy by generating employment and business activity. If the virus does become a large-scale public health challenge, more funds should be allocated to the health sector.

“Government should announce a tax credit or partial tax reduction for companies or firms. VAT should be suspended for the next two-four months. This will help lower import costs and protect against shortages.

“We need to protect the people from food shortages and high prices. As such, we must quickly improve farm-to-market delivery of agricultural produce. Also, government should initiate a crash programme to decrease spoilage of agricultural produce by construction of storage facilities in local marketplaces in and around major cities and towns throughout the country.”

Tinubu stressed the need for the establishment of strategic grain reserves, where government should facilitate steady supply by establishing minimum prices for basic food products.

He said, “The CBN should lower interest rates to spur borrowing and private sector activity. CBN and other financial regulators should be alert to signs of fragility in the financial markets and banking sector. The central bank should be prepared to enact extraordinary measures should the financial sector exhibit stress.

“The CBN should be prepared to give banks liberal access to its loan discount window to ensure adequate liquidity within the banking sector. The Cash Reserve Requirement for banks should be revised downward.

“Also to ensure liquidity, the CBN should be willing to expand its balance sheet and improve liquidity by purchasing government bonds and other instruments held by banks and other institutions.

“The Nigerian stock market is falling. CBN and others should be planning how they might intervene to prevent a potential run on the stock market. Potential measures include expanding Quantitative Easing to enable the central bank to purchase strategically important instruments trading in the stock market and instituting a moratorium on margin calls.
“The corona crisis will shrink the inflow of dollars. Hopefully, this is temporary, no more than a few months. CBN can allow some downward pressure on the naira without energetically intervening to defend the exchange rate. Only if and when the rate seems that it might dip precipitously should the CBN intervene.

“The Bank may want to revisit its decision prohibiting non-institutional Nigerian dollar holders from participation in open market operations. Greater leniency will bring more dollars into the CBN.

“If economic trouble does come, government must be willing to freeze payment of certain consumer-related private debts. Evictions, foreclosure and light and water cut-offs might have to be suspended. Suspension or partial reduction of payment of school fees for our most indigent families must be considered (that is when schools reopen) while government offers temporary support to the schools themselves.”

He called on the international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to be cooperative and forward-leaning in the current “sobering period”.

According to Tinubu, “We have entered a sobering period. We face a challenge we cannot see but one that can find us all too easily. As individuals, this puts every one of us at a startling disadvantage.

“Each is rendered vulnerable by the reckless act of his neighbour. Each is made safer by the enlightened conduct of a stranger. The very nature of this assailant calls us toward greater unity and kindness.

“In the normal push of our daily affairs, we tend to focus on what divides us. We are either APC, PDP or another political affiliation. One person is rich. Another is poor. There is the labourer then there is the boss.

“One person is of the north, another of the south, with both often acting as if the boundary between the two cannot be traversed. We are of different ethnic groups; these identities mean so much to us that we behave as if the affiliations are the very source of our humanity.

“In this, we tend to forget God. Even when we worship God, we divide ourselves in ways that too often bring violence to a way of life meant to bring peace and compassion.

“But, the coronavirus is now here. If we carry forth in our usual ways, we may well carry ourselves into national disaster. Normal practices will not suffice. We all must do better lest we all fail and suffer the grave consequences of collective failure. We pray that this terrible cloud will pass from us. However, we must prepare for the possibility that it may linger to rain hard upon us.”

Tinubu advised against the myth that the virus was not a black man’s disease.

He said, “We hoped that our hot climate would bake and destroy the virus. That wish now appears too optimistic. We even said our history in dealing with malaria and other tropical diseases granted us some type of immunity.

“Well, I doubt that immunity exists as there is no scientific evidence supporting this claim. If such an immunity exists, it is at most incomplete and so unreliable as to be of no avail to large segments of our population.

“The rich cannot bargain with the disease or pay it off. It neither reads bank account statements nor is it intimidated by them. The poor, likewise, are subject to it for it has no mercy nor cares about one’s prior or present hardships. Neither does it seem to study geography.

“Northerner and southerner are equally its prey. It will attack those who pray at the altar in church as well as those who face the Qiblah when praying in the mosque. To corona, we are all the same. Thus, to fight corona, we must treat each other the same, as brothers and sisters in one national family under one heaven.”

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Jump to 97

Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing total number in the country to 97

Announcing this Saturday night, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said of the eight cases, four were reported in Oyo State, two in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), one in Kaduna and one in Osun State.

According to NCDC, Lagos has 59 cases, FCT has 16, Oyo has seven, Ogun has three, Enugu, Osun and Bauchi have two each, while Ekiti, Rivers, Benue and Kaduna have one each.

So far, three have been discharged, one has died while 93 persons are currently being managed

SATURDAY MARCH 28, 2020

Buhari’s Media Aide, Garba Shehu, Tests Negative

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, tested negative for COVID-19 on Saturday.

Shehu has been in isolation since Tuesday when the news of the Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari’s infection with the disease broke.

He had to go into isolation having been one of the presidential aides, including ministers, who had close contact with Kyari before showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Announcing the result of his test on his Twitter handle, @garsheu, Saturday, Shehu advised others in his category who had been in isolation to remain in such isolation and continue to work from home.

“My test proved negative for the virus, Alhamdu Lillahi. Notwithstanding,I advise everyone that we continue the isolation and work from home,” he tweeted.

 Kaduna Governor, El-Rufai, Tests Positive for Coronavirus

By John Shiklam in Kaduna

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has tested positive for Coronavirus.

The governor disclosed his status on Saturday in Kaduna.

He said: “Earlier this week, I submitted a sample for COVID-19 test.

“The result came in this evening and I regret to say to say it is positive.

“According to the protocol managing the COVID -19, I am in self-isolation as requested by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control- that is for someone that is showing no symptoms.”

He called on the people of the state to continue to observe preventive measures announced by the state government .

“It is important that everyone should stay home and stay alive” he said.

El-Rufai said his deputy who is in charge of the task force on Coronavirus will continue to issue statements from time to time

El-Rufai is the second governor to test positive for the coronavirus. Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed had earlier in the week tested positive. .

Nigeria curently has 89 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Three of the cases have been discharged. while one has died.

 Nigeria Records 8 New Cases of COVID-19, Spread to Benue
Martins Ifijeh
Nigeria has recorded eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing total number in the country to 89.
Announcing this Saturday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said of the eight cases, seven were reported in Lagos, while one was confirmed in Benue State.
Of the total 89 cases, Lagos currently has 59, Federal Capital Territory 14, Ogun and Oyo three each, Enugu, Edo, and Bauchi has two each, while Rivers, Osun, Benue and Ekiti has one each.
NCDC said: “Three has been discharged, one dead, while 85 are currently being managed”

COVID-19: Two Test Positive in Enugu

By Christopher Isiguzo and Gideon Arinze in Enugu

Enugu State on Friday evening confirmed two new cases of coronavirus.

The state Ministry of Health confirmed that two patients who voluntarily presented themselves tested positive for the virus.

A statement by Dr. Ifeanyi Agujiobi, Permanent Secretary, Enugu State Ministry of Health, disclosed that the patients voluntarily contacted the ministry on arrival from United Kingdom (UK) and requested the COVID-19 test which came out positive.

“So far, the patients have remained in isolation and the Enugu State Multi Sectoral Rapid Response Team has commenced contact tracing.

“The Enugu State Government expresses her gratitude to these patients who reported to the Enugu State Ministry of Health following the announcement that all returnees from overseas in the last 14 days should report for evaluation.

“We still wish to encourage all those that returned recently from overseas to contact the Enugu State Public Health Department through these dedicated lines- 08182555550 or 09022333833.

“We urge the general public not to panic as health personnel are already positioned to respond to the present situation even as all should observe high level of personal hygiene, maintain the social distance protocol and stay home,” Agujiobi said.

Meanwhile, the state government has said it will completely shut down all markets as well as entry and exit points to and from the the state starting from 6pm on Tuesday, March 31.

The state ordered the closure of all land borders and inter-state transportation in the state till further notice, with effect from 6pm on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, except those on medical emergency services.

In a statement by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Simon Uchenna Ortuanya, the state government also ordered the closure of all markets in the state, “no matter the size, till further notice, with effect from 6pm on Tuesday, the 31st day of March, 2020”.

The statement added that other categories exempted from the closure include “those dealing on food items, water, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and other basic items of daily domestic need who must comply with the standard hygiene protocol as stipulated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), including frequent hand washing with soap, use of sanitizer and social distancing”.

According to Prof. Ortuanya, “All local government chairmen are hereby directed to ensure strict compliance with the closure of the markets within their respective local government councils, without prejudice to the exceptions above.”

He appealed for understanding from the residents and citizens of the state “at this difficult time as no sacrifice is too much to save the lives of our people”.

The state government also directed the security agencies and the state Medical Response Team to enforce all the directives as stated above.

COVID- 19: Bauchi Fumigates Govt House 

By  Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

As part of efforts to curb the spread of  COVID-19 in the state, the Bauchi State Ministry of Health has disclosed that the state rapid response committee on coronavirus has fumigated the state government House and residences following the confirmation of Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed’s positice status.

The State Commissioner of Health, Dr Aliyu Maigoro, who made the disclosure yesterday while updating journalists on the pandemic said so far a total of 70 samples had been taken of which 47 tested negative while results of 21 other suspects were pending.

According to him, seven donor agencies promised to support the state. He called on the federal ministry of health to assist the state with containers to take samples or testing kits.

He said the two confirmed victims did not exhibit any sign or symptom of the disease but had been isolated and were receiving care.

While assuring that government is on top of the situation, the commissioner recommended regular hand washing, taking of plenty of water, fruits, avoiding unnecessary crowds, touching of eyes, nose, mouth, coughing and sneezing in the midst of people as some measures to avert the spread of the disease.

Maigoro also advised the public in the state to comply strictly with the guidelines on the disease control and provide useful information to the state response team on the pandemic.

 

 

Celebrating High-profile Positive  Cases of Covid-19  Wrong, Dangerous, Says PGF DG

 Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Director General of Progressive Governors Forum, Dr. Salihu Lukman, has decried the inhuman disposition of many Nigerians who appear to be  celebrating high-profile positive  cases of Covid-19 in the country, describing it as misplaced and dangerous.

Lukman in a statement issued yesterday said that the pandemic  was far more serious in Nigeria  given citizen’s mindset, adding that most commentaries in the media is largely about evaluating what government is doing or not doing.

Appealed to every person living in Nigeria, he said tackling the challenge of Covid-19 require very good synergy of initiatives between government and citizens.

Lukman noted that If advanced countries like US, Italy, France, Spain, UK,  were battling the virus with devasting consequences, it should be clear to all that the challenge is beyond infrastructural capacities such as hospitals, doctors, medical personnel, drugs, equipment, among others.

He stated: “Yes, capacity is very much required but given the speed with which Covid-19 spread across the population, ability of governments to develop the needed capacity will be overwhelming.

“Therefore, the current attitude of many Nigerians focusing on lamenting the state of health sector and what could appear to be the inhuman disposition that celebrate the unfortunate high-profile cases of Covid-19 positive cases in the country is misplaced and dangerous.

“By all means, we can criticise our governments and our leaders, but we need to do that by demonstrating our commitment to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 through clear actions, recommendations and initiatives to mobilise citizens to also play their roles.”

The Director General stressed that the fight against Covid-19, from all the evidences would only be won by combination of government and citizens’ initiatives.

“Where are our civil society leaders with all the claimed selfless services and international networks around issues of health and welfare services? This is the time to showcase those competencies and networks by joining all the taskforces setup by the federal and state governments to mobilise complimentary initiatives.”

Ministers Donate Half of March Salaries to Support Fight against COVID-19

Olawale Ajimotokan

The 43 ministers in the federal cabinet have donated 50 per cent of their salaries for the month of March 2020 to support government’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, quoted the Minister of

State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, who coordinated the donation, as saying it was a gesture of solidarity and support for

the federal Government’s efforts to tackle the disease, which at the last count has infected 81 persons in the country.

”This global virus outbreak will require nations, continents and smaller communities to pull together to contribute their resources and

support one another. This will facilitate an early resolution of the problem,” Mohammed further quoted Senator Saraki as saying.

The ministers also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his leadership role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

COVID- 19: Bauchi Fumigates Govt House 

By  Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

As part of efforts to curb the spread of  COVID-19 in the state, the Bauchi State Ministry of Health has disclosed that the state rapid response committee on coronavirus has fumigated the state government House and residences following the confirmation of Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed’s positice status.

The State Commissioner of Health, Dr Aliyu Maigoro, who made the disclosure yesterday while updating journalists on the pandemic said so far a total of 70 samples had been taken of which 47 tested negative while results of 21 other suspects were pending.

According to him, seven donor agencies promised to support the state. He called on the federal ministry of health to assist the state with containers to take samples or testing kits.

He said the two confirmed victims did not exhibit any sign or symptom of the disease but had been isolated and were receiving care.

While assuring that government is on top of the situation, the commissioner recommended regular hand washing, taking of plenty of water, fruits, avoiding unnecessary crowds, touching of eyes, nose, mouth, coughing and sneezing in the midst of people as some measures to avert the spread of the disease.

Maigoro also advised the public in the state to comply strictly with the guidelines on the disease control and provide useful information to the state response team on the pandemic.

 

 

Celebrating High-profile Positive  Cases of Covid-19  Wrong, Dangerous, Says PGF DG

 Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Director General of Progressive Governors Forum, Dr. Salihu Lukman, has decried the inhuman disposition of many Nigerians who appear to be  celebrating high-profile positive  cases of Covid-19 in the country, describing it as misplaced and dangerous.

Lukman in a statement issued yesterday said that the pandemic  was far more serious in Nigeria  given citizen’s mindset, adding that most commentaries in the media is largely about evaluating what government is doing or not doing.

Appealed to every person living in Nigeria, he said tackling the challenge of Covid-19 require very good synergy of initiatives between government and citizens.

Lukman noted that If advanced countries like US, Italy, France, Spain, UK,  were battling the virus with devasting consequences, it should be clear to all that the challenge is beyond infrastructural capacities such as hospitals, doctors, medical personnel, drugs, equipment, among others.

He stated: “Yes, capacity is very much required but given the speed with which Covid-19 spread across the population, ability of governments to develop the needed capacity will be overwhelming.

“Therefore, the current attitude of many Nigerians focusing on lamenting the state of health sector and what could appear to be the inhuman disposition that celebrate the unfortunate high-profile cases of Covid-19 positive cases in the country is misplaced and dangerous.

“By all means, we can criticise our governments and our leaders, but we need to do that by demonstrating our commitment to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 through clear actions, recommendations and initiatives to mobilise citizens to also play their roles.”

The Director General stressed that the fight against Covid-19, from all the evidences would only be won by combination of government and citizens’ initiatives.

“Where are our civil society leaders with all the claimed selfless services and international networks around issues of health and welfare services? This is the time to showcase those competencies and networks by joining all the taskforces setup by the federal and state governments to mobilise complimentary initiatives.”

Ministers Donate Half of March Salaries to Support Fight against COVID-19

Olawale Ajimotokan

The 43 ministers in the federal cabinet have donated 50 per cent of their salaries for the month of March 2020 to support government’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, quoted the Minister of

State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, who coordinated the donation, as saying it was a gesture of solidarity and support for

the federal Government’s efforts to tackle the disease, which at the last count has infected 81 persons in the country.

”This global virus outbreak will require nations, continents and smaller communities to pull together to contribute their resources and

support one another. This will facilitate an early resolution of the problem,” Mohammed further quoted Senator Saraki as saying.

The ministers also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his leadership role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

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

•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.

NNPC, IOCs Mobilise N11bn for Fight against COVID-19

By Emmanuel Addeh and Peter Uzoho

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in Nigeria and independent oil companies in the upstream and downstream sectors, said yesterday that they were contributing about N11 billion in an effort to push back the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The oil firms said the donation would be made to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as part of its support to combat the Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

According to a statement by NNPC’s Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr. Kennie Obateru, the Group Managing Director of the corporation, Mele Kyari, unveiled the donation in Abuja yesterday.

Kyari said in recognition of the impact of the pandemic on the Nigerian population and the economy, the oil and gas sector embarked on an industry-wide collaborative initiative to support the effort to combat the ailment and its attendant impact.

He said: “The intervention initiative is in alignment with the ongoing Federal Government’s efforts and in collaboration with the NCDC to curb the pandemic.

“It is aimed at supporting our national healthcare delivery facilities and covers three key thematic areas: provision of medical consumables; deployment of logistics and in-patient support system; and delivery of medical infrastructure.”

The NNPC boss added that the three thematic support initiatives amounted to $30 million (N11bilion naira) and would be delivered in phases, starting yesterday.

He noted that the increasing demand for medical services, medical consumables covering testing kits, medical protective suits and ambulances to the highly impacted areas across the federation informed the intervention of the oil industry.

The NNPC helmsman added that as a responsive industry, the oil and gas industry was taking the action to strengthen the collective national resolve to stem the pandemic.

He stated that the effort was a collaboration between the NNPC and its partners in the upstream and downstream sector of the nation’s oil and gas value chain.

“As a national oil company, the corporation on its own, would equip the intensive care unit of the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital with 16 beds; provide ventilators and a dedicated laboratory.

“The medical infrastructure would be made available to the hospital immediately.”

Kyari noted that the industry was prepared to make further contributions to the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the medical items to be donated to the NCDC include 200 ambulances, 86 ventilators, 2,000 test kits, over 4,000 coveralls and laboratory equipment.

Other items include one diagnostic centre and several medical equipment.

Pathologists Worried over Inadequacy of Testing Centres

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

As number of Nigerians infected by the Coronavirus continues to rise, the College of Nigerian Pathologists (CNP) has asked federal government to substantially decentralise the testing centres as a strategy to accelerate the control of the outbreak.

In a statement issued yesterday by the CNP President, Professor P. O. Olatunji, the body warned against the use of non-validated test kits in handling Covid-19 disease tests.

On the restriction of testing centres to five facilities in Lagos, Irua in Edo State, Ede in Osun State and the national reference laboratories in Abuja, CNP said there were competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists in the tertiary hospitals that carry out COVID-19 tests , thereby spreading out the testing centres across the country.

“We do not see any reason why our tertiary healthcare centres where competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are situated, cannot carry out COVID-19 tests.

“We urge the federal and state governments to deploy a portion of the COVID-19 budget to bridge whatever deficiencies exist in our tertiary diagnostic laboratories, “ it said.

Olatunji said members of the CNP had been playing leading roles in case identification, case management and development of guidelines and protocol for infection prevention and control of COVID-19.

CNP also called for the adoption of a more innovative and quicker diagnostic approach as against the NCDC recommended Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) being used at the moment.

The statement also said that CNP was concerned about a possible abuse of Chloroquine arising from its purported usefulness in treating COVID-19 infection.

According to CNP, although some evidence was emerging about chloroquine efficacy, there was need for caution against inappropriate use of Chloroquine due to its damaging effect to the eye and interference with the functioning of the heart.

World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics said that over 400,000 people had been infected, by Coronavirus, leaving more than 18,000 of them dead. In addition, the economic fallout in economies across the globe both developed and developing had been enormous.

However, CNP said there was a cheering news as the disease had shown about 95% survival rate.

It said there was therefore no need to panic or get confused or over-react, adding that people should keep to all preventive and protective instructions – washing hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water weren’t available.

It advised people not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and to avoid close contact with people who were sick, sneezing or coughing

Nasarawa Gov Thanks God for Testing Negative

By Igbawase Ukumba

Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State yesterday thanked God for testing negative from the CONVID-19 despite having had contact with persons who were confirmed positive of the virus.

This was even as he equally expressed appreciation to God for his deputy, Emmanuel Akabe, as well as the Emir of Lafia and chairman of the state council of chiefs, Justice Sidi Bage (rtd), for coming out clean from the CONVID-19 disease test carried out on them recently.

The governor stated this at a press briefing in Lafia, the state capital, adding that a man suspected with symptoms of the virus in isolation at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) had also tested negative to the virus.

Sule continued that as a result of his contact with persons who were confirmed to be positive to the disease, he resorted into self-isolation in order not to infect his family, aides and associates with the virus.

He said: “Consequently, I sought for the services of medical experts who came and took my blood sample, alongside that of my deputy and the Emir of Lafia, for a laboratory test for the disease. When the result came out, we were both found to be negative.”

The governor then banned worships in churches and mosques across the state as part of precautionary measures to curtail spread of the Coronavirus.

According to him, “All social gathering including weddings, naming ceremonies are suspended, if not, attendance should be restricted to not more than 50 people.”

This was even as he added that all markets were closed with exception of those selling food items and pharmaceutical shops.

Sule, however, concluded that there was no confirmed case of COVID-19 in the state, but advised residents to be mindful of the virus by always taking precautionary measures to contain disease in the state.

I’m Sound, Calm, in Good Spirit, Assures Gov Mohammed

By Segun Awofadeji

The Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, has assured the people of the state and his well-wishers that he is sound, calm and in good spirit despite being infected with COVID-19.

In a message issued by Comrade Mukhtar Gidado, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on Media and made available to newsmen yesterday, the governor assured that he was strong, capable and equal to the task.

Governor Mohammed who only regretted that his condition would not allow him to serve his people at this critical time of need, said by Allah’s grace, the challenges were surmountable.

The governor thanked well-wishers for their concern and care, especially their prayers as well as appreciated their love, encouragement and good wishes.

“By the grace God, we shall have the courage, strength and faith to overcome all the tribulations. Allah is the Greatest! He is Sufficient and Merciful. May these tests be the utmost expiation of our sins, limitations and inadequacies.

“Insha Allah we shall overcome. With humility and gratitude, I wish all the people of Bauchi and Nigeria Allah’s bountiful blessings, prosperity and protection from the scourge of sickness, insecurity and poverty,” he said.

Governor Mohammed however appreciated the numerous calls, flurry of texts massages and WhatsApp posts sympathising with him, prayed God to continue to guide and protect all of them out there.

“Thank God I am still leading the fight against our numerous challenges from isolation.”

Fayemi Tests Negative

By Victor Ogunje

The result of Coronavirus test conducted on the Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has been released and turned out to be negative.

Fayemi in his tweeter handle yesterday said : “I just received my test result from NCDC and it is negative. Thanks to all for your concern.

“This, however, calls for continued vigilance on the part of everyone. Covid-19 is real and we cannot afford to be complacent,” he stated.

Fayemi, had on Monday gone on self-isolation over suspicion that he had came in contact with some people already tested positive for the disease.

However, as part of the desperate measures to enforce Fayemi’s order directing the closure of markets and shops to curb the spread of Coronavirus, combined forces of security agencies have been deployed in the Ado Ekiti metropolis.

The security agencies, comprising soldiers, police and operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, were deployed around 5.20p.m. on Thursday after the ultimatum given by Fayemi, had elapsed.

Governor Fayemi, had on Thursday issued a directive that all shops and major markets like the popular Oja Oba, Irona Market, Basiri Market and others be closed down with effect from 5p.m. on Thursday.

The governor however, exempted sellers of drugs, food items and other essential commodities from the order.

The heavily deployed security agencies immediately took over areas like Atikankan, Irona, Okeyinmi, Ijigbo and the Oja Oba market to enforce the order, which made the sellers to scamper for safety.

They were seen in large number at all the areas where there was large concentration of market stalls.

The action was more at Atikankan where many Hausa sellers with large concentration were plying their trades.

When called for confirmation, the Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti Command, Mr. Sunday Abutu, said the security agencies must support the government to ensure that every action taken is enforced to guarantee safety of all citizens .

“Since the issue of Coronavirus started, the police as an institution have been working with other stakeholders to make sure that the lives of the citizens are protected and that we will continue to do”.

Concerning the upsurge of robbery at some sections of Ado Ekiti, especially at Emirin Estate and Tenibegiloju along Polytechnic road, Abutu said the police had mapped out strategies to tame the attendant crimes that could accompany the stay at home order .

“We know that the stay at home order will lead to increased crimes and we have stepped up our night patrol across all divisions.

“We are also putting in place other security measures to ensure that the lives and property of our people are safe with the situation caused by Coronavirus.

“We are appealing to our people to shun vices and cooperate with police through useful information, because all our divisions have been mandated to work hard this time to make Ekiti a no go area for criminals”, he said.

FRIDAY MARCH 27 2020

US Coronavirus Cases Hit 100,000

The United States now has 100,000 known cases of coronavirus, passing a new milestone, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

The mark comes shortly after the United States this week moved into first place in the world, passing China and Italy, in the number of known cases

Davido’s Fiancee, Chioma, Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Chioma, Davido’s fiancee, has tested positive for the coronavirus that is gradually spreading through the country. The ‘Risky’ singer took to his Instagram page to announce the news.

According to the singer who recently returned from the States, he had gone for the COVID-19 test with his wife and other associates that they had come in contact with to ensure that they were safe from the virus on March 25.

Chioma who had recently returned from London with their baby tested positive. The singer,  his baby and associates however tested negative.

The afro-pop sensation wrote that his wife was yet to show any symptoms but has been quarantined. 

“I have also gone into full isolation for a minimum of 14 days,” he wrote while thanking his fans in advance for their prayers and well-wishes.

Davido had earlier cancelled his ‘Good Time Tour’  in North America scheduled for March and April because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The couple’s love story came into limelight last year with Davido singing and featuring his beau in his music videos. One of his popular songs that drew attention to their relationship was ‘Assurance’.

Last month, the singer released visuals of his ‘1milli’ single which saw the couple in a traditional wedding occasion. They welcomed their child last October.

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Rise to 70

By Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded five new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 70.

Announcing this Friday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said three of the cases were from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), while the other two were from Oyo State.

So far, eight states and the FCT have been affected. Lagos has 44 cases, FCT 14, Ogun three, Oyo three, Bauchi two, Ekiti one, Edo one, Osun one, and Rivers one.

NCDC said: “Of the 70 confirmed cases in Nigeria, three have been discharged while one case has died.”

COVID-19 Cases May Rise to 39,000, Says Lagos Govt

…As NCDC activates four new laboratories for testing

By Martins Ifijeh and Ayodeji Ake

The Lagos State Government has warned that if residents of the state refuse to adhere to social distancing, the number of confirmed cases may reach 39, 000.

This is even as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated four new laboratories as part of efforts to expand its testing capabilities and ensure no COVID-19 case is left unconfirmed.

Speaking at a news briefing Friday, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi said it was very important for Lagosians to adhere to social distancing, adding that it was one of the measures to halting the spread of the respiratory disease.

He said: “Our mathematical modelling shows that the worst-case scenario is that we may see up to 39,000 cases in Lagos, but if everyone practises good social distancing, the figure will be limited to 13,000.

“If we add social distancing to active contact tracing, then we will be able to bend the curve further. The figures may seem alarming at this point, but this is just to emphasise to the Lagos community to follow instructions of the incident commander to make sure that we practice social distancing.

“Looking at the same timeframe from the introduction of the index case, you can see that Lagos State is not seen anywhere near what Spain, Italy, and Iran are showing. So, at weeks two and three of our index case, we are flat; and at week four, we have 37 cases; while at the same fourth week, Italy, Iran, and Spain had more than 20,000 cases,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has stated that it has activated four new laboratories as part of efforts to expand its testing capabilities.
Stating this on THISDAY sister broadcast station, Arise News Channel Friday, the Director General, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said one of the centres will be in Abakaliki, one in Port Harcourt and one in Ibadan.

He said: “Lagos and Abuja are activating treatment centres. This needs to also happen in other states. We need to preserve the hospitals for those that are severely ill, and in other to do that, we need to have alternative treatment and isolation centres where most people that do not require ventilator can be put together safely. We are not ready yet, but we are working and increasing our level of preparedness everyday.

“The minister of health is completely focused on this and he has been going around everyday making sure we have this facilities and he has been calling up the commissioners.”

“Most states have identified treatment centres and we are calling on the governors to take personal responsibility to make sure that these spaces are ready. People do not take it seriously until they have their first, fifth and 10th case .

While commending Lagos State for showing leadership, scaling up treatment, diagnosis and information, he cleared the air on the misinformation regarding the six confirmed cases recorded in a vessel Thursday.

He said: “on the six cases from a vessel, the ship hadn’t berthed yet in Lagos port when we went on helicopter to meet it. We then tested 50 people on the ship for the virus. Six eventually came out positive.”

COVID-19: Lagos Rolls out Economic Stimulus for Residents

*Targets 200,000 Households in Phase 1
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 has unveiled economic stimulus package for the indigent and the most vulnerable in the society.

A statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, said the stimulus, which comes in food packs, to be distributed to every local government in the State, was aimed at cushioning the effect of the fourteen 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, saying the food packs are produced for a size of six people per household and would last for at least fourteen days.

“We have packaged dry food stimulus for about two hundred thousand 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.

“This is a catalytic initiative of our administration with the hope that well-meaning corporate organisations and private individuals can step up to complement the efforts of the government’’ Sanwo-Olu said.

The Commissioner of Agriculture, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, earlier said the Government would be working with the existing database of the state – using the Lagos State Social register and 4000 community development association register in 377 wards.

He said the economic stimulus was part of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration’s initiatives tailored towards ensuring that food security is sustained in Lagos.

COVID-19: Honeywell Flour Mills to Support Low-Income Families with Food Packs

*Applauds Lagos govt’s plan to feed 200,000 families

As Lagos government takes stringent measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, Honeywell Flour Mills has said it will support the state government’s goal of feeding 200,000 low-income families by providing customised Honeywell Flour Mills food packs.

In a statement on Tuesday, the company said “These packs, containing various food products, will feed one family for one month.”

It said, “The COVID-19 crisis reminds us of how intertwined we all are and presents an opportunity for every member of society to show responsibility and take action for the greater good.

“Honeywell Flour Mills believes strongly in the power of community and in line with our mission of using enterprise to make our world better, we are partnering with Lagos State in its bid to feed 200,000 low-income families during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Expressing support for the Lagos State government’s objective of implementing social distancing policies across the state, the company said its recognises the unfortunate challenge this restriction of movement would place on many Lagosians who need to leave their homes daily to earn an income to feed their families.

“In this regard, we will be supporting the Lagos State Government’s goal of feeding 200,000 low-income families by providing customised Honeywell Flour Mills food packs. These packs, containing various food products, will feed one family for one month,” it stated.

The company also commended the “leadership of Lagos State in spearheading the efforts to help alleviate the burdens of the less fortunate amongst us caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” adding “our thoughts and prayers are with everyone at this trying time.”

NNPC, 32 Operators Commit $30m to Combat COVID-19 in Nigeria
By Peter Uzoho  
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and 32 indigenous oil and gas operators have donated $30 million as part of an industry-wide collective support in the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria.
The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, disclosed this Friday via his tweeter handle: GMD @MKKyari.
…Details later.

Pathologists Urge FG, States to Decentralise Covid-19 Testing Centres

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

As the numbers of Nigerians infected with coronavirus continues to rise, the College of Nigerian Pathologists (CNP) has asked the federal and state governments to substantially decentralize the testing centres as a strategy to accelerate the control of the outbreak.

In a press statement issued Friday by the CNP President, Prof. P. O. Olatunji, the body warned against the use of non-validated test kits in handling Covid-19 disease tests.

On the restriction of testing centres to five facilities in Lagos, Irua in Edo state, Ede in Osun State and the national reference laboratories in Abuja, CNP said there are competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists in the tertiary hospitals that carry out COVID-19 tests thereby spreading out the testing centres across the country.

“We do not see any reason why our tertiary health care centres where competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are situated, cannot carry out COVID-19 tests.

“We urge the federal and state governments to deploy a portion of the COVID-19 budget to bridge whatever deficiencies exist in our tertiary diagnostic laboratories,” it said.

Olatunji said members of the CNP have been playing leading roles in case identification, case management and development of guidelines and protocol for infection prevention and control of COVID-19.

CNP also called for the adoption of a more innovative and quicker diagnostic approach as against the NCDC recommended Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) being used at the moment.

The statement also said that CNP is concerned about a possible abuse of Chloroquine arising from its purported usefulness in treating COVID-19 infection.

According to CNP, although some evidence are emerging about Chloroquine efficacy, there is need for caution against inappropriate use of Chloroquine due to its damaging effect to the eye and interference with the functioning of the heart.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics said that over 400,000 people have been infected with coronavirus, leaving more than 18,000 of them dead.

In addition, the economic fallout in economies across the globe both developed and developing has been enormous.

However, CNP said there is a cheering news as the disease has shown about 95% survival rate.

It said there is therefore no need to panic or get confused or overreact, adding that people should keep to all preventive and protective instructions — washing of hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

It advised people not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and to avoid close contact with people who are sick, sneezing or coughing.

China Reports First Local Transmission of COVID-19 in 3 Days

China has reported its first locally transmitted COVID-19 infection in three days, although cases involving travellers from overseas continued to dominate the total number of new cases.

So far, China has recorded 81, 340 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3, 292 deaths since the outbreak started in Wuhan city December 19.

China’s National Health Commission said on Friday that 55 new coronavirus cases were reported on mainland China on Thursday, with all but one case involving so-called imported cases. There were 67 new cases a day earlier.

The one locally transmitted case was in Zhejiang province, the health commission said.

COVID-19: Iran’s Death Toll Rises to 2,378

Iran is battling the worst COVID-19 pandemic in the Middle East region, with at least 2, 378 persons said to have died since the outbreak started in the country.

The Special Adviser to the Health Ministry, Ali Reza Vahabzadeh said on Friday that the virus had killed another 144 people in the country, pushing the death toll to 2,378 amid 32,332 confirmed cases.

Authorities have urged people to stay home but have not imposed the sweeping lockdown seen elsewhere in the region.

Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted they have the outbreak under control despite concerns it could overwhelm the country’s health facilities.

Pets Could Be Infected by COVID-19, Virologist Warns

A virologist, Steven Van Gutch, has advised people to wash their hands before touching their pets after a cat was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Brussels, Belgium.

The cat was said to have contracted the virus from its owner who earlier tested positive to the respiratory disease.

Gutch said although the infection appears to be isolated, it was best peope take precaution when handling pets.

He said:“A week after the owner developed symptoms, the animal also developed symptoms. It was diarrhoea, vomiting and breathing difficulties. The researchers found the virus in the cat’s faeces. Two dogs were previously reported to have been infected in Hong Kong but neither of those animals had symptoms.

“There are no indications that this is common. It is also important to note that it was a transfer from human to animal and not from animal to human. The virus does not normally pass from animal to human. We therefore consider the risk to people to be small. ”

The Federal Food Agency in Belgium has made a number of recommendations to protect pets.

The Belgian government said: “If an owner becomes infected with the COVID-19, they are requested to keep the animal inside and to keep contact between owner and animal to a minimum.

“The National Council for Animal Protection (CNPA) said the development should not be a cause of alarm. 

“Animals are not vectors of the epidemic, so there is no reason to abandon your animal,” the organisation said in a statement,” it added.

Malaysia Reports 130 New COVID-19 Cases

Malaysia has reported 130 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total in the country to 2,161 infections, the highest so far in Southeast Asia.

According to its Ministry of Health, the number of deaths from the virus has risen to 26.

Earlier on Friday, Malaysia announced a stimulus package worth 250 billion ringgit ($58.28 billion) to help cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has reported 65 new COVID-19 infections. It is the biggest daily rise in the city, taking the total number of cases in the Chinese-ruled city to 518, health officials said.

Of the latest cases, 41 had recently returned from travelling abroad.

With Highest Covid-19 Cases, US Seeks Foreign Medical Professionals

By Adedayo Akinwale

The United States (US) has urged medical professionals around the world seeking to work in US, particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to approach the nearest embassy or consulate to request a visa appointment.

The US which had in the past few months put in place visa restrictions made the plea after recording the highest number of known cases of coronavirus in the world with more than 85, 749 confirmed cases.

The US cases piled up Thursday, surpassing China and Italy.

The US in a statement published Thursday March 26 on the website of the Department of State read: “We encourage medical professionals seeking to work in the United States on a work or exchange visitor, particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to reach out to the nearest embassy or consulate to request a visa appointment.

“For those foreign medical professionals already in the United States:

“J-1 Alien Physicians (medical residents) may consult with their program sponsor, ECFMG, to extend their programs in the United States. Generally, a J-1 program for a foreign medical resident can be extended one year at a time for up to seven years.

“Note that the expiration date on a U.S. visa does not determine how long one can be in the United States.”

As of Friday, the United States has at least 85,749 cases while China was reporting 81,782, while there have been more than 550, 530 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.

COVID-19 Cases Rise to 550,530, Death Toll Now 24,903 Globally

By Martins Ifijeh

At least 550, 530 persons have been infected by COVID-19 across the world with the United States having the highest infected cases.

The global death toll has also risen to 24,903 as of 12:45 GMT, March 27, 2020, according to Worldometer.

US currently has 85, 749 infected persons and 1,304 deaths, edging out China which has 81, 340 infected cases and 3, 293 deaths, and Italy which has 80, 589 cases and 8, 215 deaths.

The US President, Donald Trump said the country was waging a war on the virus using every financial, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and military resource, to halt its spread and protect its citizens.

With about 40 percent of Americans under lockdown orders, Trump urged citizens to do their part by practicing social distancing while also staying at home.

With fears mounting of a global recession if not depression, leaders from the Group of 20 major economies held crisis talks by video link Thursday, pledging a “united front” to fight the outbreak — along with an enormous financial injection.

“The virus respects no borders,” the leaders said in a statement.

“We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic.”

They also pledged “robust” support for developing nations, where coronavirus could next take hold after ravaging China and then Europe.

But the unity pledged by the G20 has been in short supply, with China and the United States trading blames over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

And Italy as well as Spain, which has the second-highest death toll, objected to a draft economic plan by the European Union which they saw as too weak.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wants a “strong and sufficient” financial response that deploys “innovative financial instruments truly adapted to a war,” his office said.

NCDC Activates Four New Laboratories for Testing COVID-19
By Ayodeji Ake
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated four new laboratories as part of efforts to expand it’s testing capabilities.
Stating this on THISDAY sister broadcast station, Arise News Channel Friday, the Director General, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said one of the centres will be in Abakaliki, one in Port Harcourt and one in Ibadan.
He said: “Lagos and Abuja are activating treatment centres. This needs to also happen in other states. We need to preserve the hospitals for those that are severely ill, and in other to do that, we need to have alternative treatment and isolation centres where most people that do not require ventilator can be put together safely. We are not ready yet, but we are working and increasing our level of preparedness everyday.
“The minister of health is completely focused on this and he has been going around everyday making sure we have this facilities and he has been calling up the commissioners.”
“Most states have identified treatment centres and we are calling on the governors to take personal responsibility to make sure that these spaces are ready. People do not take it seriously until they have their first, fifth and 10th case .
While commending Lagos State for showing leadership, scaling up treatment, diagnosis and information, he cleared the air on the misinformation regarding the six confirmed cases recorded in a vessel Thursday.
He said: “on the six cases from a vessel, the ship hadn’t berthed yet in Lagos port when we went on helicopter to meet it. We then tested 50 people on the ship for the virus. Six eventually came out positive.”
British PM Boris Johnson Tests Positive for Coronavirus

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus, the government has said.

According to BBC, Mr Johnson has mild symptoms and will self-isolate in Downing Street, after being tested at No 10 by NHS staff.

“He was tested for coronavirus on the personal advice of England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty,” a statement said.

He will still be in charge of the government’s handling of the crisis, the statement added.

In a tweet, Mr Johnson said: “Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus. I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.

Mr Johnson was last seen on Thursday night as he clapped outside No 10 as part of a nationwide gesture to thank NHS staff.

There are more than 11,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, and 578 people have died.

It comes after the Prince of Wales also tested positive for the virus earlier this week.

Prince Charles, 71, is to be displaying mild symptoms “but otherwise remains in good health”, a spokesman said.

By Omololu Ogunmade
President Muhammadu Buhari Friday 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 whooping 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.
The statement added: “The President extols every other helping hand that has been lent by individuals, groups and organizations, which may not necessarily be in the public domain, noting that God who sees all things will abundantly recompense.
“President Buhari recommends these laudable strides to other high net-worth Nigerians and organizations, stressing that hand in hand, the country will overcome the challenges brought by the pandemic, and chart new course in nationalism and brotherhood.”

With 85,500 Coronavirus Cases, US Overtakes China

United States of America  now has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country, with more than 85,500 positive tests, according to the latest figures collated by Johns Hopkins University.

Latest figures show that US has overtaken China’s 81,782 cases and Italy’s 80,589.

But with almost 1,300 Covid-19-related fatalities, the US death toll lags behind China’s 3,291 and Italy’s 8,215.

Coronavirus: Katsina Shuts down Land Borders 

  • Suspends Friday, Sunday religious activities

Francis Sardauna in Katsina

The Katsina State Government has ordered the closure of land borders and routes linking the state to other parts of the country with effect from Saturday, March 28, 2020 to curtail the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The government also suspended the weekly Friday prayers by Muslims and Sunday service for Christians and other social gathering such as weddings and political events across the state.

The state Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs, Mr. Abdulkarim Yahaya Sirika, disclosed this in a statement issued to journalists on Friday.

He explained that movements in and out of the state are banned beginning from 6:00 am on Saturday, March 28, 2020.

He therefore urged residents to minimise all gatherings in view of the warning by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in order to tackle the spread of the dreaded pandemic.

Sirika said: “In continuation with its efforts to contain the possible spread of coronavirus pandemic in the state, His Excellency, the Governor of Katsina State, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, has directed the closure of all borders with neighbouring states and Niger Republic.

“To this effect therefore, movement of people into the state is strictly prohibited with effect from 6:00am on Saturday, 28th March, 2020.

“However, fuel tankers and vehicles carrying food items and other essential commodities will be allowed into the state subject to their screening and test at the point of entry. Meanwhile people are at liberty to move within the state.”

The commissioner urged the people of the state to comply strictly and continue to pray for God’s intervention against the pandemic in the state and the country in general.

In a related development, the state government has directed all civil servants in the state to stay at home till further directive.

The sit-at-home order, which commenced Friday, however does not affect workers providing emergency and essential services in hospitals, fire services, media houses and water board.

The state Head of Service, Idris Usman Tune, who issued the order in a statement, said government would monitor the situation up to March 29 and will issue further instructions.

He said: “While appealing for cooperation of workers in the state, the government is looking forward to total compliance with the sit at home order.”

Muoka Leads Congregational Prayers against COVID-19

By Mary Nnah

The General Overseer of The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministries, Pastor Lazarus Muoka on Thursday, during his deliverance service at the headquarters, fervently prayed against COVID-19.

Leading the congregational prayers, Muoka declared that the evil kingdom responsible for the spread of the virus shall be no more.

Standing on the Scriptural authority bestowed on the born again Christians written in Mathew 18:18 which says, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” Muoka thus bound and banished the evil spirit in charge of the virus.

He decreed that its power to cause the death of anybody be it American, Asian, Australian, African and European is henceforth destroyed.

Praying further, the man of God asked the Lord Almighty to intervene and deliver Nigerians in present hopeless situation as He did for His people in the days of the Bible when the plaques and pestilences ravaged the land of Egypt.

He affirmed that with God all things are possible and assured the worshippers that the spread of COVID-19 will cease for God answers our prayers.

Muoka attributed the pandemic to a programme of anti-christ. He said through prayers, the church will vehemently resist its activities.

Referring to the ban on religious meetings, the man of God said that the church, being an organisation that is not only heavenly conscious, but health conscious has adhered to the government directives, adding, “we are calling on our members across the state to key into any move that would make the pandemic disease a thing of the past”.

He urged every member of the church to maintain personal hygiene, and do the best to join the campaign against the spread of the disease in the church, homes and business places.

Consequently, as preventive measure to further protects the worshippers from the spread of the virus; the General Overseer has suspended all activities at its mega auditorium in Lagos headquarters.

Addressing the press after the meeting, the Public Relations Officer of the Church, Pastor Louis Chidi, said before now, the church places very high premium on the spiritual and physical lives of its members because he understands that man is made of the soul, spirit and body.

Accordingly, the church has provided sanitisers at every entry point of the church because a healthy man is he whose sound health is directly proportional to his mental and spiritual health.

“Our pastor in addition to his holiness and righteous messages to the church also taught members how to prosper and be in good health vis-à-vis personal hygiene, particularly washing of their hands with soap regularly, as well as sanitising their hands.

That was even before the Christian Association of Nigeria’s directive came that churches should provide sanitisers to their members and encourage them to wash hands with soap”, he said.

COVID-19: Lagos Begins Disinfection of Markets, Turns Onikan Stadium to Isolation Center

Sunday Ehigiator

In a bid to curb further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lagos State Government has commenced the disinfection of markets in the state.

Also,  the state government has turned the popular Onikan Stadium in the state into isolation center.

The commencement of  disinfection exercise was revealed on Friday by the states’ Environmental Health Officers Association of Nigeria, via their Twitter handle, @TheEhoanLagos.

According to the tweet, the disinfection is being managed by EHOAN.

“The Disinfection is going to be round the state managed by @TheEhoanLagos thru the LGAs,” it stated.

Compliance with COVID-19 Advisory: Buhari, Osinbajo Lead by Example

Since the declaration of Coronavirus a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, self-isolation amongst other measures are increasingly being adopted as effective means of checking the spread of the disease across the world, including Nigeria where top leaders are also complying with the advisories.

Leading the pack in observing self-isolation and social distancing are President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who both worked from their respective official residences, as figures from relevant authorities indicated a surge in the number of confirmed cases.

Still leading by example, both leaders were reported to have gone into self-isolation and further undergone the COVID-19 tests in compliance with established protocols by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

In the same vein, President Buhari and his deputy, Prof. Osinbajo have been noted for their symbolic salutation styles at public events, prompting other leaders across different fields and levels of government to adopt similar styles, all in a bid to stay safe and check the spread of the disease.

In a unique way of leading Nigerians, especially Christian faithful, to observe social distancing, the Vice President encouraged the live streaming of last Sunday’s service at the Aso Villa Chapel, a Christian worship center at Nigeria’s seat of power.

Worship at that particular service was streamed live on social media with not more than 10 church officials conducting proceedings while other faithful including the Vice President followed from home.

On Monday, the Vice President, according to his spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, deployed technology to continue to discharge official engagements like holding meetings via video-conferencing, while still observing social distancing.

“VP Osinbajo yesterday at the office conducted his meetings via video conferencing, while observing social distancing. Today, he continues his work from the home office, as he is in self-isolation in accordance with NCDC protocols,” Mr Akande tweeted.

Even as test results of Prof. Osinbajo and his close aides showed negative, the Vice President, up until Wednesday continued to observe all NCDC protocols on social distancing and hygiene advisories.

Following this, some State governors who were suspected to be exposed to some confirmed COVID-19 cases, have gone into self-Isolation and declared their status.

Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who is also Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), has been tested and is awaiting the result, but has since gone into self-isolation.

In a tweet on his official handle yesterday, Fayemi said, “I just took a COVID-19 test, having gone into self-isolation since yesterday (Tuesday) evening.”

Other governors also in self-isolation include: Abdullahi Sule of Nassarawa, Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Sani Bello of Niger and Godwin Obaseki of Edo.

As compliance to expert advisories relating to hygiene and social distancing increases, it is expected that more individuals including highly placed political leaders will cooperate with authorities to check the spread of COVID-19.

But despite their exposure to some of the confirmed cases at the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, some State governors are yet to go into isolation as reports indicate that they are still carrying on with their respective public engagements. The governors are Mallam Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna; Akwa Mr Emmanuel Udom of Ibom; Alhjai Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe; Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara; Alhaji Bello Matawalle of Zamfara; Prof. Babagana Zulum of Borno; Alhaji Mai Mala Buni of Yobe; and Mr Darius Ishaku of Taraba.

The NCDC, in its isolation guidelines for Nigeria, stated that anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case and returning travelers from high risk countries should self-isolate for at least 14 days.

FG Traces 4,370 Contacts as COVID-19 Cases Jump to 65

  • Buhari releases N10bn to Lagos, N5bn to NCDC to fight pandemic
  • SGF, four ministers, four govs test negative
  • Lagos Assembly passes punitive law, to discharge six patients
  • Bauchi confirms second case
  • Air France evacuates 378 Europeans, UK explores options

Our Correspondents

The federal government said thursday that it was tracing at least 4,370 people of interest suspected of having contacts with or being in close proximity to persons whose COVID-19 status had been confirmed to be positive.

The central government’s revelation preceded President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement last night that he had received briefings from appropriate agencies on the status of COVID-19 in the country, saying he had directed the immediate release of N10 billion grant to Lagos State and another N5 billion to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for tackling the raging pandemic.

Buhari said the grant would enable Lagos State increase its capacity to control and contain the outbreak, while also supporting other states with capacity building, adding that the money for NCDC would help it to equip, expand and provide personnel to its facilities and laboratories across the country.

The president stated: “The Nigerian Air Force is already making its fleet available to the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, to enable a better coordinated and more effective response across the country.

“To protect our homeland from external exposure, I directed the immediate closure of our International Airports and Land Borders for four weeks in the first instance, to enable us to put up the appropriate policies, processes, and infrastructure to cope with suspected and confirmed cases at home, without risking a compounding of the situation with more imported cases.”

Saying the inconvenience caused by the flight and travel restrictions to Nigerians abroad, who wanted to return home was regrettable, but necessary for the greater good of the country, the president thanked them for their understanding and cooperation.

He listed other measures he had taken: “I have also directed that only cargo vessels that have been at sea for more than 14 days be allowed to dock in our ports after the crew have been tested and confirmed disease-free by the Port Health Authorities. This 14-day restriction, however, does not apply to vessels carrying oil and gas products as by their nature, there is minimal human contact.

“We have also suspended the movement of commuter trains to limit the spread of the virus to other parts of the country.
“I have directed the NCDC to draft all its recent retirees back into service to beef up our manpower as we respond to the pandemic.

“Furthermore, all NCDC staff and experts who are away on training or international assignments are to return immediately. Already the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is conducting an evacuation mission to bring back some of our specialists in Central Africa, to enable them to support the national response.”

Buhari commended the monetary policy authorities for their financial intervention to support entrepreneurs and companies in a difficult time and stated that he looked forward to fiscal measures that would minimise the negative impact of the pandemic on the livelihood of millions of Nigerians.

He reminded Nigerians that he had begun the process of review of the 2020 Budget, stating that he directed the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, to work with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, to ensure that all production of essential items such as food, medical and pharmaceutical products continued unhindered.

“We are engaging our international friends and partners to share knowledge and to seek their support in our response to the pandemic,” Buhari said, adding: “We are grateful for the show of support thus far – we have already started receiving goods and supplies intended to help us scale up our efforts.”

He commended the hard and heroic work being done by the nation’s medical personnel, the NCDC, Port Health Authorities, Security Agencies, State Governments, and all ad-hoc staff and volunteers.

“I urge all Nigerians to be mindful of those among us who seek to spread panic and misinformation, and sow confusion at this time. We must all pay attention only to the relevant government agencies working day and night to make accurate and useful information available to the public,” he said.

COVID-19 Cases Rise to 65

So far, 65 people have tested positive to the pandemic with 14 new cases recorded yesterday, the highest in a day since the spread of the disease to the country on February 27 by the Italian index case.

A breakdown of the 14 new cases, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), showed that 12 were confirmed in Lagos, bringing the tally to 44, while two were confirmed in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to make its count stands at 12.

“Of the 14 cases, six were detected on a vessel, three were returning travellers into Nigeria and one was a close contact of a confirmed case,” NCDC tweeted yesterday.

From the 65 total cases, Lagos has now recorded 44, FCT 12, Ogun three, Ekiti, Edo, Oyo, Bauchi, Osun and Rivers States all recorded one each.

While 62 cases are under isolation and receiving treatment, three had been discharged after their viral load regressed back to negative. One person had died.

THISDAY also gathered that the fumigation of the State House, including the office of the president commenced thursday.

Bauchi State also recorded a second case as the state government identified a patient described as a friend of the Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, who tested positive to COVID-19, as also testing positive to the virus.

However, the results of tests conducted on some governors, ministers and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who took the COVID-19 test, having come into contact with the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, who tested positive, showed they tested negative for the virus.

The rising incidence of the pandemic has prompted the federal government and states to ramp up efforts to curb the spread. Some states have ordered the closure of their boundaries to interstate movements, an action which drew condemnations from lawyers who described the ban as illegal and unconstitutional.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed yesterday outlined fresh actions by the federal government to deal with the pandemic.

The minister, at a press briefing in Abuja where he gave the number of people being traced, urged those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities.

He also raised the alarm that Nigeria is on the verge of reaching the level of community spreading of COVID-19 and called for collective efforts to stop it immediately else the country will record exponential cases in the days ahead.
Mohammed, however, said outside the “aggressive measures’’ being taken in containing the spread of COVID-19, the federal government was considering “tougher measures” to enforce compliance in order to stop the spread of the disease to states without incidence.

Reacting to the status of the president, Mohammed said: “Mr. President is well, kicking and in charge,” adding that “at the appropriate time, he will address the nation.”

He also confirmed THISDAY’s story yesterday that ministers and other top government officials were tested for the virus, adding that he was not at liberty to know the results.

“As for me, I tested thursday and the result came out negative. After the test, we were supposed to go on self- isolation. But giving the nature of the crisis we have at hand, we cannot disappear. But we are taking the necessary measures,” the minister said.

Mohammed identified some of the measures being considered by the federal government to contain the virus to include stopping inter-state/inter-town travels – except for essential services; closing all motor parks and inter-state rail stations, and using fire-fighting and other adaptable vehicles and personnel to fumigate cities and towns.

“We will be considering and announcing new measures from time to time, but rest assured that whatever decisions we take will be in the best interest of Nigerians,” he added.

The minister said while he did not intend to sound apocalyptic, time was running out, warning that if Nigerians did not urgently and more aggressively enforce the recommended measures, they would have a short window within which to stop the pandemic.

He confirmed that the federal government had received donated safety and test kits from the Jack Ma Foundation in China, which include: 100,000 face masks, 1,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and 20,000 test kits.
He said some of the supplies would be distributed to the frontline health workers, while the test kits would be shared among the five test laboratories in the country.

The minister added that the federal government was also taking measures to increase the number of bed spaces for the isolation of suspects.

“The facilities we have now include a 40-bed hotel, the 60-bed Medical Centre in Zuba and the 160-bed centre in Abuja. We are still looking at other facilities within the Federal Capital Territory.

“As we said during our last press conference, contact tracing is very critical to stopping the spread of the virus. Today, we have 51 cases covering eight states: Lagos – 32, FCT – 10, Ogun – three, Ekiti – one, Edo – one, Bauchi – one, Osun – one, Oyo – one and Rivers – one.

“We have 4,370 people of interest whom we are tracing. We urge those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities. We urge Nigerians to support the authorities in this regard.”
While noting the decision of at least five domestic airlines, Air Peace, Aero, Azman, Dana and Arik, to suspend flight operations, the minister said the suspension would boost the efforts of the government to check the spread of the pandemic.

Relief as SGF, Akeredolu, Diri, Ehanire, Mamora, Others Test Negative

There was relief thursday as the SGF, Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu; Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri; Nasarawa State Governor, Mr. Abdullahi Sule; Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora; and Minister of State for FCT, Dr. Ramatu Aliyu, all tested negative to the virus.
Akeredolu shared the message that was sent to him by the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro, indicating that the test was negative.

Diri’s acting Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, said in Yenagoa thursday, that the test result of the governor was obtained at NCDC-accredited laboratory at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo State.
“The result showed that Governor Douye Diri had ‘no evidence of COVID-19 infection,” Alabrah said.
Sule, his deputy, Dr. Emmanuel Akabe and a man suspected with symptoms of COVID-19 in isolation at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) in Nasarawa State all tested negative for the virus.

The deputy governor of the state, who is chairman of the state Quick Response Committee, yesterday in Lafia, the state capital, said: “Governor Abdullahi Sule, I and the man in isolation at the DASH in Lafia have all given our samples in Lafia. It was taken for a test at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the results for all the three of us proved that we are negative.”

Mamora in a WhatsApp message said the test conducted on him on Wednesday came out negative.
The FCT junior minister confirmed her negative status on her personal Twitter handle yesterday, saying: “Dear compatriots, I am glad to inform you that my results came out this afternoon and tested negative to #COVID-19.”
Briefing journalists yesterday on the pandemic, Ehanire said the top presidency official who tested positive on Monday was being attended to at a secure government facility in an undisclosed location based on peculiarities of his case.
The minister, who declined further comments on the identity of the president’s aide and location of his treatment said the health condition of the patient could not be revealed except with his consent.

While explaining the handling of the case of the top aide, Ehanire said: “We have four categories, up to 80 per cent may have little or no symptoms; some will have mild, some moderate, and some severe symptoms and will require oxygen and ventilator and those with severe symptoms are the ones that will go to Gwagwalada. The others will be in facilities where they will be taken care of. The president’s aide, who tested positive, is receiving treatment in a secure facility in the country; he does not need category four treatments; he requires general treatment.”

He added that most of those who were known to have had contact with the presidential aide had undergone test with the NCDC and contact tracing for all casual contacts and close contacts had been done.
He said he had the permission of the SGF and that of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Mr. Abdulaziz Marshi, to reveal the results of their tests, which are negative.

The trio was among the contacts of the top presidential aide.
“I am one of those who tested and it came out negative. The permanent secretary and the Secretary to the Government of Federation also tested negative. Every other person that did the test has to reveal his status by himself,” he said.
Ehanire also opened up on the fears about the state of health of other top government functionaries who might have had close contacts with the top presidential aide, saying that they had been tested and were awaiting the results.

Speaking further on the condition of the president’s aide and Bauchi governor, the minister said at present they had not developed symptoms, adding that they were being kept in isolation in a secure government facility where they were being monitored and checked but that if they got to a critical level they would be moved to a higher facility.

Bauchi Confirms Second Case

The confirmed cases of the virus have increased to two in Bauchi State.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Aliyu Maigoro, announced this during a press conference thursday.
According to him, the second case is a 62-year-old male and a close friend of the state governor.
Maigoro explained that 48 samples were taken for test and two had been confirmed positive.
He added that 37 others returned negative while the results of nine samples were still pending.

Six COVID-19 Patients to be Discharged in Lagos

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Health, Dr. Tunde Ajayi, has said six of the patients at the Infectious Disease Hospital had recovered and would soon be discharged.
Ajayi via his twitter handle, @thetundeajai, said: “Six of our #COVID19 in-patients have recovered and will be discharged soon. There is something Lagos is doing right. Lagos takes the lead.”
The cheering news came just as the Lagos State House of Assembly passed an emergency bill yesterday empowering the governor with extensive powers to deal with the pandemic and stipulating punishments, including a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for anyone who violates the directives of the governor.

Lawyers Kick as States Close Boundaries to Interstate Movements

Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Mr. Ebun-olu Adegboruwa and Mr. John Baiyeshea have said it is illegal for state governors to close borders over fear of COVID-19.

They spoke against the backdrop of some states such as Rivers, Kano, Kogi, and Osun banning interstate movements.
Adegboruwa stated that the right to freedom of movement is guaranteed to every citizen of Nigeria under section 41 of the 1999 Constitution and also under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

He noted that through this fundamental right, every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part of Nigeria and no citizen of Nigeria shall be refused entry to or exit from any part of Nigeria.

“Consequently, no state governor is allowed to deny any citizen of Nigeria the right of movement into or exit from any state in Nigeria, even under emergency situations such as coronavirus. There has to be a law backing up such policy or declaration,” he said in a statement.

Adegboruwa argued that most states in Nigeria share boundaries with other states such that denial of access to one state may lead to denial of access to other states.

Baiyeshea also told THISDAY that the states lacked powers to shut borders.
According to him, the constitution makes the closure of sky, sea and land borders the responsibility of the federal government.

He, however, said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a serious crisis, including a constitutional crisis in the country, stressing that whatever action was taken by state governors should not be an issue at this stage.
He blamed the action of the governors on the failure of the federal government to take prompt initiative against the spread of the disease.

COVID-19: Smile Assures Uninterrupted Services, Offers Free Data

By Emma Okonji

As the global pandemic of Coronavirus persists, West Africa pioneer 4G LTE broadband service provider, Smile Nigeria, has enjoined all Nigerians to strive to be safe by observing all necessary safety precautions. To this end, the company has created data free access to websites for everyone, on its network, to have easy access to up-to-date information on the pandemic. The websites are: http://covid19.ncdc.gov.ng/ and https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

In a statement issued today by the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband service provider, it said: “Appreciative of the current restriction of movement, aimed at combatting the ravages of Coronavirus in Nigeria, Smile has taken steps to remain fully operational and serve the best interest of its customers in this challenging time. Consequently, it has created many online platforms to enable its teeming customers to recharge, make enquiries and seek assistance. Smile customers can henceforth utilize these platforms: Instagram @smilecomsng; Twitter @smilecomsng; and Facebook Smile Communications Nigeria.”

Smile also advised customers to visit the Smile website on smile.com.ng to chat with a representative via web chat or send an email to customercare@smile.com.ng or call the Smile help line on 0702 044 4444 for assistance and enquiries.

 

The Charlatan-in-Chief in COVID-19 Pandemic

By Adeola Akinremi

In a serious time of COVID-19, when red alert is placed on increase risk of cross-border and community transmission by the world leaders, President Muhammadu Buhari’s storied absent leadership and tradition of ducking responsibility for tough decisions, is to blame for the surge in the number of cases across the country.

In another sign of incompetence that resonates with how President Buhari badly managed Nigeria’s national security crisis that has now turned into a festering sore, the handicap president again ignored all prompts to act to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country–starting with the first imported case by an Italian visitor, until members of his executive cabinet are struck by the disease. This follows a gamble of traveling to countries with cases of the novel Coronavirus by these government leaders.

First, Buhari’s inertia during crisis period re-surfaced with COVID-19 crisis. As he often do, the president failed to address the nation in the face of a pandemic, until the parliament forced him to do so, after a March 17 parliamentary debate on COVID-19.

It is the hallmark of leadership to infuse courage in the heart of citizens during crisis. But Buhari has no capacity to lead in crisis time. He simply couldn’t understand why he needed to address the nation with encouraging words in a time of fear.

The other sad story is the composition of Nigeria’s COVID-19 Task Force. It is untenable that in a country with intellectually sound infectious disease experts, Buhari couldn’t find a single one to play a prominent or lead role in the taskforce.

Mr. President gave the seriousness of our health and safety, and our ability to sleep with sound mind to Boss Mustapha, a government secretary whose experience in healthcare crisis management is limited and his country-wide political influence is challenged.

In the taskforce, beside a Center for Disease Control’s representative, the only man in the taskforce with healthcare management experience is the state Minister of Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, a fine gentleman whose previous work as a medical doctor is helpful, except that he has worked more on political campaign strategies than in the surgical room in the last 20 years. It is unclear, if Mamora ever worked in any healthcare emergency. It is even worse that he’s a subordinate in the taskforce.

Since end of January, countries have stepped up precautions as COVID-19 crossed borders with community spread, even as people freely moved from one country to another, particularly from China to other countries.

This means that the Nigerian government has all the opportunities to study the countries already in crisis, learn from their failures and implement plans to fence off spread of the virus in the country. But leaderhip failure in Nigeria is a continuum. The missteps and missed opportunities came from Nigeria’s delay in shutting down its airports and land borders before the virus boomeranged.

Surely, the president’s men will rush to justify his slow response as observance of freedom of movement but in emergency where lives are in danger, it is the number one duty of a president to protect lives. The real story actually is that many government officials were intentionally out of the country during this global health crisis and the government waited for their return before taking it’s now too late decision to lockdown the country.

By mid-February, when other countries in Africa suspended direct flights to China, thereby limiting the risk that an infected passenger will disembark and spread the virus, Nigeria did not take any serious decision on flight suspension.

The COVID-19 is already taking its toll on the country with the ‘big and mighty’ coming down with sickness associated with the virus that has killed more than 17,000 people in the world and more than 150,000 cases. There are more symptoms reported by people impacted by the disease that are equally novel, that is, different from the initially known symptoms of coughing and weakness. There are people reporting loss of taste and smell.

For instance, the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery has said “anecdotal evidence is rapidly accumulating from sites around the world that anosmia and dysgeusia are significant symptoms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” For what it means, anosmia is the loss of smell while dysgeusia is an altered sense of taste.

There is something more worrisome about COVID-19 in Nigeria that we all need to pay attention to. It is that a vast majority of Nigerians do not know what underlying health conditions that they have. This is because most people don’t go for physical examination or medical check up to put it simply. It is my exhortation that every Nigerian living in the country observe diligently the recommended social distancing approach, act to protect others by behaving as if you already have the virus, report If you experience any of the symptoms or at least have an unusual fever.

And if you’re looking for leadership in this time of crisis, look up to Lagos State, where the proactive and pragmatic leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu means more than hope. President Buhari is a pure pretender with no capacity to govern, but his masquerading leadership is what Nigerians have to put up with till 2023.

Private Sector Coalition Targets N120bn to Overcome COVID-19

  • CBN, Zenith, Access, GTB, UBA, Dangote, Otedola foundations pledge N1bn each

Obinna Chima

Leading players in the private sector have coalesced under the Nigeria Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19, to mobilise resources to support the concerted efforts by the federation to fight the pandemic that has spread to eight states.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who broke the news of the formation of the coalition at a media briefing in Lagos yesterday said it planned to raise N120 billion for the acquisition of healthcare facilities for advocacy about the virus across the country, among others.

According to Emefiele, the objective of the coalition is to mobilise private sector thought leadership, mobilise private sector resources, increase general public awareness, education, and buy-in, provide direct support to private and public healthcare ability to respond to the crisis as well as support the federal government’s efforts.

He said: “In response to the impact of the COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy, the CBN has in the last few days begun engaging Nigerian compatriots and stakeholders in the private sector on how to provide support to the Nigerian government in procuring equipment, funding and materials to combat the menace of this unfortunate pandemic in Nigeria.”

According to Emefiele, although the number of cases so far in the country stood at 51 as of thursday, the private sector leaders were concerned that the number might rise exponentially in the next few weeks.
He added that Nigeria must prepare for the worst in responding.

Emefiele said the CBN, on behalf of the Bankers’ Committee and in partnership with the private sector led by the Dangote Foundation and Access Bank, came together to form the Nigeria Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19.

“This coalition was created out of the urgent need to combat the unfolding COVID-19 crisis in Nigeria. The rate at which the virus is spreading is unprecedented and it appears we are fighting our most lethal adversary today.
“So far, the federal government has made strides in the fight, but, it is clear that the private sector needs to step in to support efforts being made,” the CBN governor said.

Emefiele explained that four major committees have been set up which include the Steering Committee; the Funding Committee; Operational Committee and the Technical Committee.

“Steering Committee to provide leadership and steer the coalition and committees in procuring all needed funding, equipment and materials for the battle against this pandemic.

“The steering committee will be chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who currently chairs the Federal Government Committee on Covid-19. Other members of the committee will be announced later.
“The second one is the Funding Committee. This committee will be responsible for the initial funding of this effort. Membership comprises the CBN, Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Segun Agbaje, Abdulsamad Rabiu, and Femi Otedola.

“Each member of this committee is expected to contribute at least N1 billion to this effort. More members are invited and allowed as long as they are willing to contribute N1 billion,” he added.
Emefiele said the Operational Committee would be responsible for project management, logistics, communication and advocacy.

He said: “This comprises the CBN, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, GTBank, Stanbic IBTC, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank and Nigerian Breweries.

“We held a video conference with the Bankers’ Committee this morning and membership of this committee was agreed during the video conference meeting.

“The fourth is the Technical Committee. This Committee is responsible for gathering data about the equipment and materials needed nationwide. They will also be responsible for intellectual leadership around testing issues, treatment protocols, isolation centers, etc.

“Membership Comprised of National Centre for Disease Control, WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Federal Ministry of Health and select members of the operational and funding committee.”

According to him, the coalition will be working with reputable institutions and consultants, including the Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, Dr. Christian Happi and Dr. Phillip Onyebujo.

Emefiele said information gathered so far revealed that to procure all needed equipment, material and all infrastructures needed to fight the pandemic, “over N120 billion needs to be raised.”

He said the Bankers Committee and the stakeholders would be required to step up to support this endeavour.
“We are already engaging other important stakeholders in Nigeria and abroad, such as the NNPC and players in the oil industry.

“An account will be set up at the Central Bank of Nigeria to receive both naira and foreign currency from our donors.
“The Technical Committee will be providing information about the venue where equipment and materials will be received just for those who wish to donate materials and equipment.

“They have made a commitment to provide funding, equipment, and material as well,” Emefiele added.
He assured Nigerians that at the end of the process, reputable accountants would be engaged to account for how the funds were utilised as well as account for the materials donated.

“The need for all Nigerians to play a role in this fight cannot be understated as we are quite literally in the fight of our lives. I must highlight the fact that this is not just about bringing money. Your time, your services, your products will all be helpful.

“The committee has already begun work and we will keep you updated of our progress,” he said.
Responding to a question about private sector organisations that may not have up to N1 billion but would be willing to contribute, Emefiele said: “If you want to contribute N1, we would receive; if you want to contribute N1 billion or more, we would receive the fund and we assure you that we would account for it.

“But what we are saying is that we have created a core group who would like to be identified that they are in the funding committee.

“Naturally, what you expect is that practically everybody would want to be in that committee. But we are saying that to be a member of that committee, you must be somebody who is willing to contribute at least N1 billion,” he said.

How Creatives are Coping with COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the globe, the creative industry is hit the most with cancelled shows and closed clubs. Vanessa Obioha chats with creatives on how they are surviving the pandemic

The creative industry has been badly hit by the novel coronavirus since the Lagos state government enforced restrictions on social gatherings. The Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered closure of clubs and restricted the number of social gatherings to 25 as a preventive measure to curb the spread of COVID-19, thus affecting music shows, film festivals, and other events tied to the creative industry.

“It’s terrible for the business though,” said Matthew Ohio, a showbiz promoter and founder of Industry Nite. “Entertainment, hospitality, travel sectors are the hardest hit. We thrive from social activities and interactions, which is what everyone is running away at the moment. Shows are cancelled, venues are closed, clubs are affected.”

Ayoola Sadare, the convener of the annual Lagos International Jazz, Afrobeat and Fuji Festival which usually holds in April, in commemoration of the annual Jazz Appreciation Month, moved the event to September.

“The festival has been postponed till September. This decision was made over a month ago when we anticipated that events might unfold like this. I am sure all jazz and music lovers would agree that it’s the best decision in line with the situation on ground and government directives. I believe they are also adhering to the stay home orders.”

For celebrity dancer Kaffy, the directive from the government required her to shut down her dance studio and gym. She also postponed her 20th anniversary celebration slated for May to August.

“We postponed the event till August. We are praying that we would have conquered coronavirus by then and get everyone back together. Safety however is my top priority, not the event. Everybody understands what is going on in the world right now so things are still in place. Our resource persons and other invited guests from within and outside the country are considerate and empathetic with us. They are very supportive and can’t wait for the pandemic to end. The feedback has been very amazing. They say man proposes, God disposes. It’s all for the best.”

The crippling of socioeconomic activities inadvertently is a big financial loss to operators in the creative industry. Ohio noted that almost everyone is affected by the closedown of social venues.

“It’s a heavy financial loss to everyone. From owners of venues, food vendors, production companies, ticketing companies , musicians, a whole entire ecosystem. Unlike some other sectors that can still partially operate such as the finance, digital and telecoms, the entertainment industry is completely shut down.”

Ohio however sees a beacon of light in the midst of the crisis. He advised that online streaming platforms are the best bet for creatives to showcase their work.

“Stream and content. The few people who are probably benefiting at the moment are streaming platforms such as Netflix, Youtube, MusicTime, iTunes etc. Everyone is at home watching or listening to something on the internet so if you have content, this is the time to put it out there. If you have a streaming platform, this is the time to promote it because everyone is stuck at home.”

Creative entrepreneurs like Samuel Olatunji who made his directorial debut with the movie ‘Dear Affy’ prior to the outbreak in Nigeria said he is exploring other distribution channels such as Iroko, Africa Magic channels and Netflix.

Kaffy said she already moved her dance and fitness classes to online while also educating her fans on the pandemic.

“Most entertainers, particularly musicians have used online channels to drive traffic. I think it’s going to push more people to be creative. I will implore entertainers who are very influential to use this opportunity to be more empathetic and educate people. I still see some influencers uploading pictures of them at parties to undermine the gravity of the pandemic. That’s not right.

“This is the time to use their platforms to educate their followers who may not understand the danger of not adhering to the social distancing order by the government. This is the time to educate people, to teach them proper hygiene and how to boost their immune system. Businesses definitely would be affected but online streams and downloads will increase.”

In a city like Lagos that thrives on social gatherings, the staying at home orders is not an easy step to follow. Nollywood actor and director Ramsey Nouah said he is doing the needful by practicing self-isolation.

“It is the only way to reduce spread and death counts to the minimum and a better life for us.”

Ranti, an opera performer who played the lead character in Ike Nnaebue’s stage play ‘Off-Key’ recently, said she is finding it hard to accustom to social distancing.

“It is tough to have to think twice about simply going to the market or grocery store. However, it is great to have more bonding time with my family. I‘ve had rehearsals cancelled, meetings, interviews postponed. I‘m just grateful for life, it’s forcing me to reprioritize what is truly important,” she said, adding that she needs some momentum boost.

“I had some momentum building as the year started and now it feels like I’m fighting to keep it going. There is so much to worry about – the virus and the people impacted all over the world. I’m trying my best to view this time as a self-development retreat. I’m back to learning a new language, reading abandoned books, checking up on loved ones.”

Like other creatives, she’s also moving her work to social media.

“I could definitely do more with social media. This is a good reminder that more than ever, people need to hear some encouragement instead of just bad news from every corner. This may be a good time to get more people listening to some of my positive lyrics such as ‘there is a fire inside of you and me…together…we’ll rebuild the future…’ It is such a difficult thing to isolate or distance oneself but it’s the least we can do to show we care about ourselves, those around us and the world at large.”

Prolific filmmaker Femi Odugbemi finds the social distancing the perfect inspiration to complete abandoned works and read books.

At the moment, he is reading the creative works of Zakes MDA, a profound South African writer whom he met at the Johannesburg Film Festival last year.

“He is one of South Africa’s great writers. It was an amazing experience spending time with him. His storytelling is incredible. Right now I’m reading two of his books ‘Black Diamond’ and ‘Rachel’s Blue’. I’m also reading T.D Jakes’ ‘Crushing: How God Turns Pressure into Power.’”

Odugbemi has also devised a way to make his stay at home more productive. First thing he does is to turn off the news “It’s so depressing.”

He then proceeds to make a list of the things he wants to accomplish every day.

“The crazy thing is I don’t have to dress up to do everything. I finish my exercise and I’m ready to work. I discovered that I accomplished much by midday. I realise that truthfully our destiny is consumed by Lagos traffic. By the time you go from home to work, you probably would have lost one to two hours. But in that same time at home, I have ticked off two to three things on my to-do-list. This is very eye opening and explains why technology companies abroad are comfortable with their workers working from home. I’m kinda liking it. It’s healthy. There are no distractions. I believe one can make staying at home very productive if they inculcate self-discipline,” he concluded.

 

UBA Provides N5bn to Fight COVID-19 in Africa

  •  Nigeria gets lion’s share of N2.5bn

Nume Ekeghe

The United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) thursday announced a donation of over N5 billion ($14 million) through its UBA Foundation, to catalyse a comprehensive pan-African response to fight the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A statement by the bank explained that the donation would provide significant and much needed support to Nigeria and 19 other African countries, by supplying relief materials, critical care facilities and financial support to governments.

A breakdown of the support programme showed that N1 billion ($2.8 million) would be given to Lagos State Government; N500 million ($1.4 million) to the Federal Capital Territory(FCT), N1 billion ($2.8 million) to the remaining 35 states in Nigeria; and N1.5 billion ($4.2 million) to UBA’s presence in countries in Africa.

In addition, the bank said N1 billion ($2.8 million) would go to medical centres for equipment and supplies as well as for free telemedicine call centre facility.

The pan-African bank also stated that it would fund a medical centre immediately in Lagos, Nigeria, with beds for isolation and ICU facilities, managed and operated in partnership with Heirs Holdings’ healthcare subsidiary, Avon Medical Hospital.

In addition, UBA said it would provide free telemedicine platform, that is physician-led, to provide direct access to medical advice to citizens, in compliance with social distancing requirements.

Commenting on the intervention, the Chairman, UBA Group, Mr Tony Elumelu, said: “This is a time when we must all play our part. This global pandemic must bring citizens, governments and business leaders together – and quickly.

“As we see a rapidly increasing number of cases of the coronavirus in Nigeria and Africa, the private sector has to work hand in hand with various governments, in stemming the spread of the global pandemic.

“We commend the efforts of governments and we are keen to partner and contribute our resources to the collective effort, that will ensure the response to the pandemic is swift and effective.”

Operating in 20 African countries and globally in the United Kingdom, the United States and France, the United Bank for Africa has a strong record of supporting its communities, through challenging times.

 

THURSDAY MARCH 26, 2020

COVID-19: Lagos Begins Fumigation of Public Places
By Rebecca Ejifoma
The Lagos State Government has deployed more equipment for the fumigation of public spaces in the state as part of measures to halt the spread of COVID-19.
The Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a statement on his Twitter page @jidesanwoolu said the  new equipment will help in halting the COVID-19 pandemic.
 “We are aware that to totally rid our state of this scourge, all our public spaces must be disinfected, fumigated and sterilised.”
Sanwo-Olu noted: “Aggressive times call for aggressive measures. Therefore, we will aggressively tackle this novel virus and bring its catastrophic reign to a complete end.”
Covid19: Niger Suspends Friday, Sunday Services for Muslims, Christians
By Laleye Dipo
The Niger State Government has suspended the weekly Friday prayers by Muslims and Sunday service by Christians as one of the ways to discourage large gatherings of people of more than 20 and to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Chairman of the state Committee on Covid-19, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, gave the directive in a statement made available to newsmen in Minna on Thursday.
Matane also placed a ban on all congregational prayers by both Christians and Muslims.
He explained that the suspension of the  Jumma’at prayers and church services are part of the state government’s precautionary measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
“Government has a duty to work with all religious leaders and other stakeholders  to ensure that everything humanly possible is done to reduce the chance of the virus taking root and spreading in the State,” he said.
Matane therefore appealed to the people of the state to abide by all instructions and guidelines issued by the state government, saying that coronavirus could increase with mass gatherings.
He also called on the people of the state to “show more understanding and teamwork” while the pandemic lasts and prays for God’s protection over the spread of coronavirus disease in the state.
In the meantime, the 12-hour curfew imposed on the state effective from Wednesday has been reduced to 10 hours.
The curfew is now from 10am to 8pm as against the previous 8am to 8pm.
For the second day running, the state was in partial lockdown as the restriction of movements of people and vehicles took effect.
All markets, petrol stations and departmental stores were opened up to 10 am but later closed.
COVID-19: Fumigation of Presidential Villa Begins
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Presidency Thursday in Abuja commenced the fumigation of the Presidential Villa following the outcome of COVID-19 test conducted on the Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari,  which turned out to be positive on Monday.
Since Thursday morning, every part of the State House including the office of the chief of staff is being sprayed with disinfectant.
This came as some staff in the office of the chief of staff who have been in self-isolation since Tuesday when their boss tested positive are yet to be tested and currently lamenting their continuous stay in isolation.
THISDAY learnt that fumigation experts arrived the Presidential Villa at about 9.30am on Thursday and commenced intensive fumigation of all the offices and environs of the Villa.
THISDAY also learnt that at about 11.15am Thursday, the fumigation experts were already in the main building housing the offices of President Muhammadu Buhari as well as the floors, corridors and major pathways leading to his office.
They were said to be dressed in white outfits with masks and other protective materials.
A source said, “These people are not from the Villa. They came from outside, from the town (Abuja city). They are dressed in complete white overalls, masked and wear other protective gears.
“The dressing is similar to how the National Centre for Disease Control people wear their
protective gears.”

 

Coronavirus Death Toll Rises Above 1000 in US

The United States has registered more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths as the country confirmed more than 69,000 cases.

The US Senate passed a sweeping $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses, and the healthcare system. It has gone back to the lower house for approval.

Meanwhile, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has launched an appeal for $2bn in international humanitarian aid to help poorer countries tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 472,000 people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. More than 114,000 have recovered, while more than 21,000 people have died.  (Aljazeera)

UBA Commits N5bn to Fight COVID-19 Across Africa

By  Obinna Chima

The United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) on Thursday announced a donation of over N5 billion ($14 million) through its UBA Foundation, to catalyse a comprehensive pan-African response to fight the COVID-19 global pandemic.

 A statement from the bank explained that the donation would provide significant and much needed support to Nigeria and 19 other African countries, by supplying relief materials, critical care facilities, and financial support to governments.

A breakdown of the UBA support programme showed that N1 billion ($2.8 million) would go to Lagos State Government; N500 million ($1.4 million) to Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; N1 billion ($2.8 million) to the remaining 35 states in Nigeria; N1.5 billion ($4.2 million) to UBA’s presence countries in Africa; N1 billion ($2.8 million) for medical centres with equipment and supplies; and free telemedicine call centre facility.
*More details later
NERC Boss Tests Negative for Coronavirus
By Emmanuel Addeh
The Management of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), said on Thursday that its Chairman, Prof. James Momoh, had tested negative for the Covid-19 virus.
There had been apprehension over Momoh’s health status earlier in the week,  following media reports that he was part of a delegation of the  Federal Government which recently visited Germany and Egypt.
Describing the insinuations as misleading, the regulatory agency noted that the chairman had however carried out a test , which it said came out negative.
Some of those Prof. Momoh was said to have participated alongside with, including senior government officials,  are now in self isolation after the meeting with the executives of Siemens in Germany.
A statement by Mr Michael  Faloseyi, the Manager in charge of Government, External and Industry Relations, in Abuja, however said that Momoh had taken the test just to be sure, adding that he had been given a clean bill of health after his return from the United States.
“Breaking the news of his test result, Momoh said, ‘I have been tested negative to COVID-19.
“But let me say that this is a trying moment that requires our collective efforts. I will advise our media houses to hold themselves to the highest standards of professionalism.
“Rumours and misinformation can frustrate the significant efforts of the government, private sector, and the international community in combating this virus,” he said.
He prayed for the healing of those receiving treatment, including the Chief of Staff to the President,  Abba Kyari, who tested positive to the virus recently.
The commission said that in line with the advice from the relevant health authorities, NERC had taken some preemptive measures to protect its staff from exposure to COVID-19.
“Such efforts include scaling down on the number of staff in the office for the next two weeks. During that period, the commissioners and top management report for work, while those in the essential services departments maintain a roster of duty.
“The commission has also reduced visitors’ access to its headquarters building as the Registry Department operates from the reception.
” Staff in the Forum Offices across the country are on instruction to receive complaints from electricity consumers using the information communication technology platforms.
” These efforts are to be in place for the next two weeks as part of the lockdown exercise of the Federal Government,” NERC stressed.
It noted that Momoh who had been in isolation since his return from the USA last week, has offered to complete the isolation period.
Momoh thanked his well-wishers and members of the public who had expressed fear over his status as he moted that only “God has the final say in the affairs of men.”

South African Police Arrest Two COVID-19 Patients for Failure to Self-isolate

  • Charge them with attempted murder

By Rebecca Ejifoma

The South African Police have arrested two persons positive to COVID-19 for failure to self-isolate.

They have now been charged with attempted murder.

The Police Minister, Bheki Cele, announced the charges, Wednesday during a press conference, where he detailed the enforcement of an incoming lockdown meant to curtail the spread of the pandemic.

Cele said: “If you break these law of regulations, you could be six months in, or fined, or both.”

According to him, two people have been charged already for deliberately moving around after they were advised not to.

The police minister added: “So it is not a fairytale to say the law will act and act very harsh on you.”

According to the AFP, the first confirmed case was a 52-year old salon owner diagnosed on March 18 and instructed to quarantine for at least 14 days.

Police spokesperson, Vish Naidoo, said local officials raised the alert on Tuesday after one of the men was seen around the western city of Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal province.

“He allegedly continued with his business, and in doing so disregarded the instructions by a doctor. The man has since been arrested and taken to hospital,” Naidoo added.

The second charge was filed against a male tourist, who tested positive for COVID-19 while on holiday at Kruger National Park.

“The man ignored instructions to remain in his hotel room and went to the nearby town of Saint Lucia, where he interacted with an unknown number of people,” the police spokesman noted.

South Africa is said to have recorded the highest number of COVID-19 infections on the African continent with 709 cases confirmed so far.

As a result, the President, Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown after the number of infections multiplied six-fold in just eight days.

Naidoo noted: “Only essential trips to grocery stores, pharmacies and medical appointments will be permitted during the lockdown, which will be enforced by army troops.”

Speaking further, he said the simplest and best way to combat the spread of the virus was to “stay home”.

“It is exactly that stubborn behaviour that has caused us a national lockdown,” he added.

Ministers to Take Tests as COVID-19 Bites Harder, Spreads to Eight States

•Infects Prince Charles
•Osinbajo tests negative
•With cases rising to 51, more govs self-isolate
•FG directs pharmaceutical research institute to identify herbal medicines active against pandemic
•Votes N16.5bn to curb spread
•CBN directs non-critical staff to work from home
•Dangote, banks to provide medical tents, urge govt to allow private labs conduct tests

Our Correspondents

Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is to conduct tests on ministers to determine their status following their contacts with some of the confirmed cases of COVID-19, THISDAY learnt wednesday.

No fewer than five governors have also gone into self-isolation as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the virus following their close proximity to some infected persons, especially their colleague in Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, and Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, both of whom tested positive to the virus.

It was also gathered that the ministers, some of whom had self-isolated, had been directed to take the test as many of them had contact with Kyari in the course of their official engagements.

THISDAY had exclusively reported yesterday that some of the ministers had gone into self-isolation when the test showed Kyari to be positive.
The spread of COVID-19 to Aso Rock, the seat of power, has triggered anxiety among top government officials and prompted the presidency to scale up steps to curb the disease, which has so far infected 51 people since its outbreak in February.

Of the five more cases recorded yesterday, there were two fresh incidences in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), two in Lagos and one Rivers, bringing the number of infected states to eight and FCT.

However, amid the gloomy situation, there was cheering news wednesday as the result of the test conducted on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who had self-isolated in the last two days, was negative.

Osinbajo’s media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, confirmed the status of the vice president wednesday.
There were also reports that Prince Charles tested positive while the only case of COVID-19 in Edo State was identified as the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Frank Okiye.

THISDAY gathered that the federal government directed all the ministers to proceed on self-isolation and to allow the NCDC to ascertain their COVID-19 status. It also directed the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) to develop models for identifying herbal medicines active against the pandemic.

THISDAY also gathered that the Presidential Taskforce on the Containment of the COVID-19, headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, has been thrown into confusion as almost all its members who recently held meetings with Kyari have now gone on self-isolation for 14 days.

A presidency source told THISDAY yesterday that the situation is causing concern as governance is almost being crippled.
According to the source, most of the ministers who attended last week’s Federal Executive Council meeting are being suspected of being infected by the virus.

The situation is said to have jolted most of the ministers some of whom were said to be angry at the health risk they were exposed to.
“Everybody is in disarray. Almost every minister is on self-isolation – the same with all members of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19. They held meeting twice with the Chief of Staff on Saturday and Sunday and they all shook hands with him,” he said.

The source explained that the implication is that the ministers would be technically on suspension from duties till the next 14 days after they have been tested and their result is known before they could resume work.

THISDAY gathered that even the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, was not at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja yesterday to receive the aircraft that brought in the medical equipment donated by a Chinese billionaire, Mr. Jack Ma.
The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Alhaji Abdullahi Marshi, was at the event.

Governors that THISDAY confirmed were on self-isolation were Mr. Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) and Alhaji Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa).

However, the governors were said to be asymptomatic and only went into self-isolation in compliance with NCDC protocols.
THISDAY gathered that some other governors are also on self-isolation but refused to issue official confirmation.

The Deputy Governor of Edo State, Hon. Philip Shaibu, who announced the self-isolation of Obaseki, identified Okiye as the index case of the COVID-19 reported on Monday in the state.
He said Okiye who had travelled to the United Kingdom, came back and went into self-isolation at the Irrua Specialist Hospital, Irrua in the state.

“He sent his sample for testing and the test came back positive. He is in a stable condition and his family members have been tested and the tests came back negative,” Edo deputy governor said.
He noted that the two persons the speaker got in close contact with were his wife and daughter whose samples had been taken and the result came out negative.

According to him, Obaseki went into self-isolation following his close contact with Mohammed and Kyari.
He said: “On his own, the governor avoided meeting with everybody when he arrived Benin from Abuja and has maintained social distance before going into self-isolation.”

He also stated that 111 persons were being tracked by the state government, adding that 64 had been contacted out of which six has been isolated and five samples were taken for testing.

The deputy governor urged residents of the state not to panic as the government was taking measures to curtail the spread of the disease.
Niger State Government also said the governor went into self-isolation as a result of his presence at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) meeting on March 18, attended by his Bauchi State counterpart.

A statement by Bello’s Chief Press Secretary, Mrs. Mary Berje, said the governor self-isolated considering the fact that as a public figure, he must have had contact with some confirmed contact cases of COVID-19.

“The governor has also directed that all his close aides and all cabinet members should subject themselves to self-isolation.”
Like his Niger State counterpart, Oyetola was said to have gone into self-isolation since he returned from Abuja on Tuesday where among other official functions, he attended the NGF meeting.

His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Ismail Omipidan, told THISDAY in a telephone interview yesterday that it was after he took a COVID-19 test, which turned out negative, that he performed some official functions.

At a press briefing yesterday to announce the spread of COVID-19 to the state, Oyetola said his wife had also tested negative for the virus.
He appealed to citizens to take the necessary action to avoid any precarious transmission.

“I want to passionately encourage all returnees from the UK, the US, Europe, the West African countries and indeed other high-risk countries to self-isolate and submit themselves to test, so as to assist the government in containing the spread of the virus,” he stated.
He announced the closure of markets with effect from tomorrow; and commencement of screening at all its 10 land borders in addition to the ban on all public gatherings.

Fayemi, who doubles as the NGF chairman, announced yesterday on his Facebook page that he had gone on self-isolation following his contact with some persons who had tested positive.

He urged the people not to panic over the development, saying he took the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease.
Fayemi’s counterpart in Nasarawa State said he self-isolated following his contact with Kyari on March 14 at the wedding ceremony of the son of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu.

However, Kogi State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, refuted claims that Governor Yahaya Bello tested positive to the virus.
NGF Director General, Mr. Asishana Okauru, and his wife, a former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Ifueko, have also self-isolated after having contacts with some persons that have tested positive to the virus.
In a statement signed by him, Okauru said: “I wish to inform the general public that my wife together with my entire household will be proceeding on self-isolation.

“We are taking this action following my exposure to His Excellency, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, who today announced the positive outcome of his test for COVID-19.

“My wife and I would be undergoing COVID-19 testing this week.”
He said he attended different meetings of the NGF and the Nigerian Economic Council (NEC) last week, which were also attended by Mohammed.

Nigeria’s Cases Climb to 51 in Eight States, FCT

An update by the NCDC showed that five more cases were recorded yesterday, bringing the total number in the country to 51 in eight states and the FCT.

The NCDC said two of the cases were recorded in FCT; two in Lagos; and one in Rivers.
“Three are returning travellers into Nigeria and two are close contacts of a confirmed case,” NCDC said.

So far, Lagos has 32 cases, FCT 10, Ogun three, Ekiti one, Oyo one, Edo one, Bauchi one, Osun one and Rivers one.
While 48 persons are presently in isolation receiving treatment, two of the cases have been successfully treated and discharged and one person died on Monday.

20 Osun Judges on Self-isolation

Osun State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, also yesterday confirmed that 20 judges from the state who recently returned from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates were on self-isolation.
He said the judges went into isolation shortly after they arrived in the state pending when their medical status would be ascertained.
Isamotu spoke on the sidelines of a press conference in Osogbo, where the governor told journalists about the index case in the state.

CBN Directs Non-critical Staff to Work from Home

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed its staff in non-critical roles to stay at home and work remotely effective yesterday.
It, however, said it remained fully operational despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen most public institutions scale down their operations.

The banking sector regulator, in a statement by its Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, said: “Following the current impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the global economy coupled with efforts by the Nigerian government, including partial lockdown in some states and at the federal level, to check the spread of the virus in Nigeria, the CBN wishes to inform stakeholders and members of the Nigerian public that the bank will remain open for business during this period.”

According to him, as a responsible public institution and regulator, the CBN has triggered its business continuity plans to ensure that its operations remain undisrupted at this present time when social distancing has become key to checking the further spread of the virus.
He said the CBN had directed deposit money banks (DMBs) and other financial institutions to do the same, adding that the welfare and safety of staff and their families, and indeed all Nigerians, remain a top priority to the central bank.

World Bank to Deploy $150bn for Economic Recovery

The World Bank Group has expressed its readiness to deploy about $150 billion over the next 15 months to stimulate economic recovery of countries affected by the pandemic.
The pandemic has led to unprecedented disruptions to global supply chains, sharp drop in global crude oil prices, turmoil in global stock and financial markets, and lockdown of large swaths movements of persons in many countries, among others.
These outcomes have had severe consequences on households’ livelihoods and business activities, resulting from a drop in global demand, declined consumer confidence and a slowdown in production.

The World Bank Group President, Mr. David Malpass in his remarks from the G20 Finance Ministers conference call on the COVID-19 pandemic said these were difficult times for all, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable.
For the World Bank Group, he said the first goal is to provide prompt support during the crisis, based on a country’s needs.
He noted that it was vital for governments of countries affected by the pandemic to shorten the time of recovery and create confidence that the recovery can be strong.

Malpass noted the bank is currently restructuring existing projects in 23 countries.

Testing Positive Not Death Sentence, Says Presidency

The presidency yesterday in Abuja said testing positive to the virus was not a death sentence, adding that the State House, like the entire country, is under a partial lockdown but not completely shut.

Speaking on the turn of events in the Presidential Villa, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the seat of power was not shut down but its activities were on a low key.

“Well, things are a bit on a low key. It doesn’t mean that the State House is shut down. It’s just that things are a bit on the low key just like the rest of the country.

“The rest of the country is also on a low key. There is a partial lockdown in most parts of the country. So, what is happening at the State House can also be called a partial lockdown but not a complete lockdown,” Adesina said.

Asked to confirm the report that Buhari tested negative for COVID-19, Adesina pushed the question back to the reporter and made his remarks on the basis of the reporter’s submission.

“What did you hear about the result?” he asked the reporter.
“They say it’s negative,” the reporter responded.
Then, Adesina retorted: “Good. So, that calls for rejoicing with him. Anybody that does the test and tests negative, we will rejoice with that person, and anybody that does it and tests positive, it’s not a death sentence.
“We also would pray along with the person. Give the person our goodwill and best wishes and they will surely come out of it. Even the index case in Nigeria recovered and has been discharged.”

Adesina also spoke on the suspension of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, saying the meeting was suspended because over 50 people attend the forum every week and the number exceeds the specification for convergence this season.
On the decision pruning number of State House correspondents, he said the number of correspondents was large and contravened the current rule prohibiting more than 50 people from congregating at a place.

Prince Charles Tests Positive for COVID-19

Meanwhile, Prince Charles has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement from the Buckingham Palace.
The 71-year-old and his wife, Camilla, who does not have COVID-19, are currently self-isolating in Scotland.
It stated: “The Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus

“He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.

“The Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) has also been tested but does not have the virus.
“In accordance with government and medical advice, the prince and the duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.” The couple was tested by the state-run National Health Service (NHS) in Aberdeen shire in northeast Scotland, it said.

“It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks,” it added.

Queen Elizabeth II, 93, and her husband Prince Philip, 98, retired to Windsor Castle, outside London, on March 19.
They brought forward their Easter break by a week because of the pandemic. Britain has more than 8,000 confirmed cases of the disease, and 422 people have died.

 

WEDNESDAY MARCH 25, 2020

COVID-19: Nigerians Slam Former Lagos PPRO Dolapo Badmus for Allegedly Refusing to Self-isolate after UK Trip
By Rebecca Ejifoma
Some Nigerians have taken to their Instagram pages to slam the former Police Public Relations Officer of Lagos, CSP Dolapo Badmus, after allegedly returning from the United Kingdom and refusing to go on self-isolation yet advising others.
The trolls accused her via her IG page, @opetodolapo, Tuesday. She was said to have deleted all pictures of her stay in the UK on March 17 and came up with advice for prevention.
One of her followers, who resides in the UK, Cutie_julls on IG, claimed, “Mama posted pictures of herself in London on 17th of March and I took screenshots to give her shout outs. Today I remembered and visited her page only to find out that she has yanked all her London visit pictures of her page,” she fumed.
“But why are Nigerians suddenly afraid to admit that they’ve been travelling overseas?”
However, Cutie_julls’ accusations seem to be gaining grounds as she backed it up with screenshots of Dolapo in the UK sharing with her Instragram followers her experience with a selfie post. “It’s so cold here. I think hot weather is better…”.
The post, which was already viewed by 1,053 persons, have suddenly gone missing, hence, IG followers lashed out.
This attack is coming after Dolapo posted an update on the COVID-19 with an advice on her IG page. “Cases are increasing ….. Folks let’s be more careful! Since this disease hub is mouth, (sneezing and coughing), let’s avoid mouth to mouth contact like kissing. Avoid anyone whispering to your ears or coming too close to communicate with you! Above all, distancing is the best now….may God help us”.
Cutie_julls attacked yet again and tagged the Nigerian police and the president: “Mama police, I hope you are doing your two weeks isolation. It’s a must, honey. @nigerian_po|ice_force @muhammadubuhari please kindly check your staff. This is to help them and all other citizens. Let’s stop the panic”.
Cutie_julls added: “Please are you back from UK? And I hope you’re observing the two weeks mandatory self quarantine that the FG has put in place for all those that recently returned from affected countries. I know as of 17th March, you were in the UK. I live in the UK and I know how badly we’ve been affected. I hope you are isolating as this coronavirus is no respecter of status or position. Thanks ma.”
Cutie_julls slammed her further: “Shame on you @opetodolapo. I took a screenshot immediately I commented on your page because I knew you might either block or delete my…”
Meanwhile, efforts to reach her to respond were futile.
COVID-19: NAF Hands over Medical Donations from Jack Ma Foundation to Health Ministry
Sunday Ehigiator
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has handed over medical materials donated by the Jack Ma Foundation, China to the Federal Ministry of Health in Abuja.
The donated medical materials, which consist of 107 boxes of medical supplies and equipment, comprising surgical masks, medical disposable protective clothing, face shields and detection kits, weighing about 3,000 pounds, were airlifted in a single mission on Tuesday Night, using the NAF C-130 Hercules aircraft (NAF 913) and handed over by the NAF Aircrew to a delegation from the health ministry led by the Permanent Secretary, Abdullahi on Wednesday.
Speaking to the press after inspecting the delivered items, Abdullahi thanked the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar for the timely deployment of aircraft to airlift the items to Abuja.
He said: “We appreciate NAF officers and men who participated in the airlift mission for their professional conduct. The donated items would go a long way in supporting government’s effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the Country.”
The NAF leadership, through a statement signed by the Air Commodore Director of Public Relations, Ibikunle Daramola, also expressed the readiness of the Service to provide any form of support within its statutory responsibility of providing aid to civil authority, as the nation continues to work assiduously to deal with the threat posed by COVID-19 pandemic.
Presidency: There’s Partial, Not Total Lockdown, of Presidential Villa 
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The presidency Wednesday in Abuja said the State House, like the entire country, is under a partial lockdown but not completely shut, as a result of the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
Speaking on the turn of events in the Presidential Villa, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, insisted that the seat of power was not shut down but its activities are on a low key.
“Well, things are a bit on a low key. It doesn’t mean that the State House is shut down. It’s just that things are a bit on the low key just like the rest of the country. 
“The rest of the country is also on a low key. There is partial lockdown in most parts of the country. So, what is happening at the State House can also be called a partial lockdown but not a complete lockdown,” Adesina said.
Asked to confirm the report that President Muhammadu Buhari tested negative for COVID-19, Adesina was very diplomatic in answering the question as he neither confirmed nor denied it.
Instead, he pushed the question back to the reporter and made his remarks on the basis of the reporter’s submission.
“What did you hear about the result?” he asked the reporter. “They say it’s negative,” the reporter responded.
Then, Adesina retorted: “Good. So, that calls for rejoicing with him. Anybody that does the test and tests negative, we will rejoice with that person, and anybody that does it and tests positive, it’s not a death sentence.
“We also would pray along with the person. Give the person our goodwill and best wishes and they will surely come out of it. Even the index case in Nigeria recovered and has been discharged. 
“So, God that has shown us mercy thus far, will continue to show that mercy. Anybody that tests positive is not a death sentence. They will be attended to. They will be tested, and they will be fine.”
Adesina also spoke on the suspension of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, saying the meeting was suspended because over 50 people attend the forum every week and the number exceeds the specification for convergence this season.
However, he said suspension notwithstanding, consultations are ongoing with relevant government officials and executive decisions taken whenever necessary.
“The council was suspended because of the size. You have over 50 people seated in the council chambers whenever the meeting holds and that is not advisable at a time like this.
“But if there would be a very important decision to be taken, you can always summon the relevant people – three, four or five and hold a small meeting and arrive at a decision.
“It does not mean that one man is going to be taking all the decisions. Of course, yes, there are executive decisions but the ones that must pass through consultations, which must have a buy in of the Federal Executive Council can always be discussed at a smaller meeting,” he explained.
The presidential media adviser also spoke on the decision restraining majority of the State House correspondents from accessing the Presidential Villa this period, saying the number of correspondents is very large and contravenes the current rule prohibiting more than 50 people from congregating at a place.
He denied reports alleging that the journalists were banned, pointing out that restriction on their entry to the State House, is only a precautionary measure against further spread of the disease.
He said: “Ban is a wrong word. Anybody that uses that word, ban, is just operating from a mindset, and you know that Nigerians love conspiracy theories but this one is no conspiracy at all. There is no ban.
“What happens is that in the press gallery, you have about 108 journalists in that single hall and it goes contrary to the spirit of the times. The times dictate that you don’t have too many people congregating in one place.
“Imagine 108 journalists, if one of them happens to catch the virus, he spreads it among all the journalists. “So, we said for now, let them stay away, not much is happening for now. But we picked a certain number,  representatives of the media.
“They will come in, if there is anything, they will cover and those outside will also not miss because there would be a system in which they can share reports.
“So, ‘ban’ will be a wrong word. It will be operating from a mindset of conspiracy and there is no conspiracy here at all,” he insisted.
On other measures taken to forestall the entry of the disease into the Villa, he said: “Of course, you know when you come into the State House, you have about three, four, five spots in which your temperature is tested and you have to sanitize your hand, and if you come in and your temperature is way above a certain figure, then you will be advised to go for test and take care of yourself.
“So, I think so far, so good. Before you will go into the general area, you will meet about three areas of test and before you get into the president’s area, you will meet like another two. So, I believe that a lot has been done to ensure that those who operate in the presidency are taken  care of.”

COVID 19: CBN Directs Non-critical Staff to Work from Home

 Obinna Chima

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed its staff in non-critical roles to stay at home and work remotely, effective Wednesday.

The Bank, however, said it remains fully operational despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen most public institutions scale down their operations.

The banking sector regulator disclosed this in a statement signed by its Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okorafor.

“Following the current impact of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) on the global economy coupled with efforts by the Nigerian Government, including partial lockdown in some States and at the Federal level, to check the spread of the virus in Nigeria, the CBN wishes to inform stakeholders and members of the Nigerian public that the Bank will remain open for business during this period,” Okorafor explained.

According to him, as a responsible public institution and regulator, the CBN has triggered its business continuity plans to ensure that the Bank’s operations remain largely undisrupted at this present time when social distancing has become key to checking further spread of the virus.

He said the CBN has also directed deposit money banks (DMBs) and other financial institutions to do same, adding that the welfare and safety of staff and their families, and indeed all Nigerians, remain top priority to the central bank.

“Consequently, with effect from Wednesday, March 25, 2020, till further notice, only essential staff of the CBN Head Office and the 37 Branches of the Bank will be expected to report for duty daily. In other words, our staff in non-critical roles have been directed to stay at home and work remotely, when their services are required.

“We have also directed all our staff to follow stipulated guidelines by the Federal Ministry of Health, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other relevant health agencies of government to curb possible spread of the virus in Nigeria.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the CBN, in line with its mandate of ensuring monetary and price stability, will remain open for business during these trying times,” the statement added.

COVID 19: Kwara Bans Social Gatherings, Closes Motor Parks, Markets

By Hammed Shittu in Ilorin. 

Following the spread of Covid-19 to neighbouring states of Osun, Oyo, and Ekiti, the Kwara State government Wednesday ordered a lockdown of the state by placing a ban on social and economic activities with immediate effect.
The government said all motor parks, markets, taxi and commercial motorcycle operators, mosques and.churches, and other social gatherings had been closed.
The deputy governor, who is also the chairman, technical committee on Covid-19, Mr. Kayode Alabi, disclosed this in Ilorin on Wednesday while addressing newsmen on the activities of its  technical committee on  Covid-19 in the state.
He said that, the development became imperative so as to protect the lives of the residents of the state.
Alabi  said that, the government would put security arrangement on ground so as to ensure compliance in the state.
He explained that, the lock down of the state would curb spread of the virus by people from affected neighbouring states.
He said that fast food operators in the state should do take-away and must not allow any customer to sit down to eat in their business premises henceforth”.
While assuring the members of the public of prompt preventive measures to curb the spread of  covid-19 in the state, Alabi said that, the government would not rest on its oars so as to make the state covid-19 free.
He therefore called on the people of the state to cooperate with the government in the task of curtailing the spread of the pandemic in the state.
On the insinuations that the state governor, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, has been in isolation for allegedly shaking hands with the  top federal officials that have tested positive for the virus, Alabi said  “I want to say emphatically that, our governor is not in isolation and he is hale and hearty”.
COVID-19: Kaduna Bans Operations of Motorcycles, Taxis, Tricycles 

John Shiklam in Kaduna

The Kaduna State Government has banned the operations of motorcycles, taxis and tricycles in the state, saying they do not satisfy the conditions for social distancing.

The Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, who announced the ban in a state broadcast on Wednesday, said the  decision was taken after Governor Nasir el-Rufai met with senior government officials to review the level of compliance with the measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19.
She however said commercial buses are allowed to operate, but must comply with the new rule of not more than two passengers per row.
She said government will suspend all forms of pubic transportation if circumstances compel it to do so.
She said the state government “will today (Wednesday) be taking steps to stop the Abuja-Kaduna train service which needs to be suspended for a few weeks”.
According to the deputy governor, the  government has directed all utility vehicles that have been assigned to officials to be recalled in order “to enhance the state’s capacity for rapid response and contact tracing, monitoring and supervision of surveillance activities should any positive case be identified’’.
‘’The vehicles should be parked in the yard of the Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructure. Drivers of the utility vehicles should also report to the Commissioner of Public Works to submit their contact details,’’ she directed.
According to Dr. Balarabe, “Payment of salaries for March 2020 has commenced and advised everyone to be financially prudent, given the tough times that lie ahead.
‘’The state government is committed to getting food and necessities across to identified vulnerable groups should a lockdown become inevitable.
‘’The required supplies are being procured while a system of distribution to the persons that most need them is being worked out.”
She said the state government will continue enlightenment campaigns in the media to help people stay safe and save lives.
Balarabe reiterated the ban on large gatherings, the closure of markets, with the exception of traders in food, medicines and essential items, including the need for people to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel.
‘’Government recognises that compliance with these measures come with a level of inconvenience for which we readily apologise. But we trust that everyone understands the necessity for these sacrifices as the most pragmatic way to keep people safe and alive,’’ she added.

 

Coronavirus: 20 Osun Judges in Isolation after Visit to UAE

 

By Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo

Osun State Commissioner for Health Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, Wednesday  confirmed that 20 judges from state who recently travelled to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirate were currently in self isolation.

He said the judges went into isolation shortly after they arrived the state to ascertain their medical status as the virusjravages the world .

Isamotu made this known on the sidelines of a press conference at the Osun State government house in Osogbo, where the governor briefed journalists about the index case in the state.

The Commissioner said, “Yes, they are presently in self isolation, I can’t disclose any hospital, it is not necessary that they go to the hospital before being isolated.

“There are many people who are even positive for the virus, but stay in their homes to isolate themselves without going to the hospital. The judges are in self isolation and we are monitoring them”.

The judges had attended International Conference in the Middle East country between March 9 and March 20, before returning back home over the weekend.

COVID-19: 436,000 Confirmed Cases, 19,600 Deaths Recorded Globally

*Europe now epicenter of virus

The humanitarian costs of the coronavirus outbreak continue to mount, with more than 436,000 people infected globally, according to the Financial Times.

The number of people confirmed to have died as a result of the virus has now surpassed 19,600.

The virus’s proliferation has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, meaning it is spreading rapidly in different parts of the world.

More than 180 countries have confirmed cases so far.  The epicentre of the coronavirus is now Europe, with the largest number of confirmed cases in Italy, and death tolls growing more quickly in Italy and Spain than they did in China at the same stage of the outbreak.

In many countries one or a small number of regions have borne the brunt of the virus. Lombardia has eclipsed Wuhan as the most badly affected region in the world, and in Spain Madrid could soon surpass even that.

US states also show very different trajectories. Washington saw the first outbreak in the US, but its death toll has risen relatively slowly since then. New York’s mortality curve is much steeper. In most western countries case numbers have been increasing by about 33 per cent a day, a sign that other countries may soon be facing the same challenge as Italy.

The Asian city-state of Singapore and the territory of Hong Kong are on a different trajectory in terms of the growth in case numbers. The rate of increase has so far been relatively contained through rapid and strict measures.
Covid-19: Fayemi Orders Closure of Markets in Ekiti
* APC shuts secretariat
Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has taken more stringent measures by directing all markets in the state that do not sell essential commodities such as foodstuff, medicine, medical equipment and water to be closed down effective from 5.00 pm Thursday, March 26, 2020.
This is in a bid to curtail the spread of the dreaded coronavirus (Covid-19) in the state and by ensuring that citizens observe the social distancing practice, among other measures.
The governor’s directive was contained in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Yinka Oyebode, in Ado-Ekiti, on Wednesday.
The statement directs all medicine stores that are open to the public to make sure they do not sell or display any other items whatsoever, while those selling food stuffs should not display or sell anything outside food stuffs.
Similarly, the governor has appealed to commercial drivers and the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in the state to reduce the outrageous fares being charged commuters mainly students who have been returning home in their numbers following the closure of schools in the state.
“Pharmacy stores are also urged not to hike the prices of essential drugs,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, members of the public are reminded of the ban on gatherings that are above 20 persons either for social, communal or religious purposes as a monitoring and enforcement taskforce has been dispatched across the state.
The governor urged all citizens in the state to join hands with the government and its agencies in the collective war against the coronavirus pandemic.
Similarly, the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has closed down its state secretariat for 14 days to help in stemming the tide of coronavirus in the state.
A statement by the party’s Publicity Secretary, Hon Ade Ajayi, on Wednesday, said the closure became inevitable to help Governor Fayemi find a lasting solution to the spread of the scourge.
The party appealed to Ekiti residents to comply with the directive by Fayemi not to hold any gathering of more than 20 persons in every home, church, mosque and other public institutions.
“The temporary closure will last for two weeks as agreed by the Central Working Committee members of the APC state Exco.
“During this period, we also place a ban on party rallies, ward meetings and other political gatherings until further notice.
“We urge our party members to maintain social distancing and personal hygiene during this critical period,” APC advised.
The party commended Governor Fayemi for taking proactive measures to contain Covid-19, saying this has helped in taming  the spread of the pandemic.
“The prompt closure of all private and public institutions was right. We stand by Governor Fayemi and all the decisions he had taken since Ekiti recorded the first victim.
“The governor being a humanist that is passionate about the wellbeing and development of humanity resolved to shut all institutions and also directed that all civil servants must work from home with assurances that their salaries will be paid despite this development,” APC said.

Covid 19: Theologians’ Association Chides Pastors Disobeying Restriction Order

By Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta

The Association of Christian Theologians (ACTS) Tuesday took a swipe on some church leaders who are yet to comply with government’s directive that there should be no public gathering of more than 50 persons, in the move to curtail the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

The ACTS is the regulatory body for all Christian theological institutions in Nigeria.

In an interview with THISDAY in Abeokuta, Ogun State, its National President, Prof. Olakunle Macaulay, said it was lamentable that some clergymen could not separate spiritual matters from public health, going by widespread reports that some churches with large crowds still gathered to worship last Sunday.

Rationalising the clerics’ defiance to the directive, Macaulay said it could only be traced to the high level of illiteracy among those parading themselves as pastors, noting that majority of them had neither formal nor thorough theological education.

The octogenarian, who is also the national coordinator of International Christian Conscience Initiative (ICCI), said, “The Coronavirus is a pandemic that up till now, no nation has found a solution to.

“The medics and scientists alike are doing their best to solve the problem but we are still hopeful and praying for a breakthrough.

“It’s unfortunate that we have many Christian leaders who are not educated and they account for the ranks of those who refuse to comply with government’s directive that no gathering should be more than 50, in order to prevent the spread of the Covid 19.

“It’s essential to note that the present situation demands that we should be reasonable with whatever we are doing; as whatever can save Nigeria and Nigerians should be the concern of patriotic Nigerians.

“Christianity does not mean congregating alone; it also means understanding the will of God and obeying it. So, staying at home, praying and reading your Bible to prevent the spread of Coronavirus does not make you less Christian.

“Even, Jesus Christ approved of the medical profession, when he said that those who are sick need physicians; but here, Nigerian Christian leaders overdo many things by spiritualising everything.”

The ACTS president, who is a nephew to the late nationalist, Herbert Macaulay, particularly has some knocks for pastors who did not undergo theological education before mounting the pulpit.

“They (such pastors) are victims of the economic situation in Nigeria. They use the church as a way of making money rather than preaching the true word of God. No doubt, they are victims of circumstances.

“I’m sure, if any one of them is offered job in an oil company, he will throw away the hoods and cassock, and rush to take the juicy offer.

“So, those who want to lead the Church should submit themselves to formal, thorough theological education,” he advised.

Edo Speaker Tests Positive for Coronavirus, Gov in Self-isolation
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Mr. Frank Okiye, who recently returned from the United Kingdom, is the first confirmed case of Coronavirus in the state.
The Deputy Governor, Mr Phillip Shaibu, who disclosed this on Wednesday also said Governor Godwin Obaseki had gone into self isolation as a precautionary step following contact with Bauchi  Governor Bala Mohammed and chief of staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, both of whom have tested positive.
Shaibu said the speaker who returned from the UK recently went straight into self-isolation at the Irrua Specialist Hospital, Irrua, Esan Central local government area of Edo State.
“He (Speaker) sent his sample for testing and the test came back positive. He is in a stable condition and his family members  have been tested and the tests came back negative”, the deputy governor stated.
He noted that the two persons the speaker got in close contact with were his wife and daughter whose samples had been taken and the result came out negative.
The National Centre for Disease Control.had announced on Monday that Edo had recorded a confirmed case of coronavirus, but did not mention the individual who tested positive
 
According to Shaibu, Obaseki went into self-isolation following his close contact with the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Muhammed and the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari, who had both tested positive.
He said, “On his own, the governor avoided meeting with everybody when he arrived Benin from Abuja and has maintained social distance before going into self isolation.
Meanwhile, Shaibu said 101 persons were being tracked by the state government, adding that 64 have gotten in touch, six have been isolated and five samples taken.
The deputy governor urged residents of the state to help curtail the spread of the disease.
He listed the measures as the procurement of 40 drums of hand sanitizers to be distributed to all local government areas, palaces and other public places.
Besides, he said government still maintained that gathering of persons above 20 persons should be strictly adhered to.
He said markets remain closed except for those selling essential commodities such as food items and medicine, adding that the state COVID-19 Response Committee would continue to meet on daily basis to review the situation.

CONVID-19: Rivers Govt Closes All Borders

*Bans vehicular movements in and out of state

Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

 

Rivers State Government has announced the closure of air, sea and land routes into the state with effect from Thursday in what it said is a move to check the spread of CONVID-19.

In a broadcast Wednesday, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, said the measure became necessary in view of recent developments.

He said: “It is with gratitude to God that I announce to you that our State would have been infected with coronavirus yesterday, but for the vigilance of security agents who, acting on a tip-off prevented an infected person from boarding a flight from Abuja to Port Harcourt.

“The infected person beat all security measures that were put in place at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and was to sneak into Port Harcourt before security agents stopped her.

“Based on this alarming Information, the State Security Council met yesterday and reviewed measures already put in place and decided that there was urgent need to adopt stringent measures to protect those living and doing business in the state from the virus.

“The council has therefore taken the following painful decisions: With effect from 6pm on Thursday, March 26, 2020, the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa will not be open to air traffic. While we may not have the right to stop flights from entering Port Harcourt, we cannot allow anybody coming from the airport to enter our State. We are confident that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other federal agencies will cooperate with us.

“All Land and Sea Borders will be closed. Vehicular movements in and out of the state have been banned. In essence, no vehicle will leave Rivers State for any other State and no vehicle will be allowed to enter the state.

Wike said the new measures will be in place till further notice.

He noted:  “Let me reiterate that the situation we are facing requires drastic measures because coronavirus has ravaged many countries.

“Security Agencies have been empowered to strictly enforce this directive. There will be no room for sacred cows because the virus is no respecter of persons.

“May I once again call for the support and understanding of everyone living and doing business in Rivers State to help the relevant Government Agencies implement these measures to check the spread of coronavirus to the state.”

The Rivers State Governor added: “At this time in our national life, we must shun primordial sentiments and face the reality on ground.

“I am confident that God being on our side, the temporary hardship we are facing today will come to an end very soon.”

Wike recounted earlier measures taken by the Rivers State Government to tackle coronavirus, emphasising that they were still in force.

He said: “In that broadcast, I announced the setting up of surveillance posts at our land and sea borders, beginning from Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

“I also informed you that after due consultations with religious leaders, all forms of open worship including crusades and vigils were banned.

“Public Burials and weddings were prohibited, while public parks, night clubs and Cinemas were directed to close down.”

Electricity Workers Threaten to Shut down Power Sector over Covid-19

  • Accuse minister of laxity

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

Nigeria electricity workers under the aegis of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) have threatened to shut down the power sector if the Ministry of Power and other employers in the sector fail to take adequate precautionary measures to protect staff.

In a letter to the Minister of Power, Sule Mamman, the General Secretary of NUEE, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said the minister would be held responsible for the transmission of COVID-19 to any staff in Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) especially its headquarters for his failure to comply with the federal government’s directive on people that travelled to countries with high cases of infection to self-isolate.

The letter read in part: “Our attention has been drawn to the return of the Minister of Power Sule Mamah from his trip to Germany and Egypt while on the entourage of the Chief of Staff to the President. The Minister despite the President’s directive to self-isolate; reported at the office in the midst of agitation and complaints from the staff at TCN headquarters, Abuja. If not for the intervention of the Union, there would have been pandemonium at the office, on Monday, March 23, 2020.

“In view of recent developments, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) wishes to state unequivocally that the Minister of Power – Sule Mamman will be held responsible for the transmission of COVID-19 to any staff in TCN especially its headquarters for his failure to comply with the federal government’s directive on people that travelled to countries with high cases of infection to self isolate.

“Besides, NUEE wishes to warn employers in the Power Sector especially those whose staff constantly have an interface with customers/public, that should they fail to, within twenty-four (24) hours take adequate precautionary measures to protect staff, we will be forced to pull out our members and will not be held responsible for any consequence arising there from. Employers of labour in the power sector are hereby urged to take necessary measures to ensure the safety of staff in the power sector.”

Prince Charles, Heir to the British Throne, Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Prince Charles has tested positive for coronavirus, Clarence House has confirmed.

The Prince of Wales, 71, is in the government’s high risk category because of his age.

A Clarence House spokesman said: “He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.

“The Duchess of Cornwall has also been tested but does not have the virus. In accordance with Government and medical advice, the Prince and the Duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.

“The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire where they met the criteria required for testing.

“It is not possible to ascertain from whom the Prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”

The couple is understood to be self-isolating separately at Birkhall in Scotland.

Concerns for the heir apparent were raised last week when Prince Albert of Monaco became the first royal to test positive for the disease.

They had been at the same event in London at the beginning of March.

The Royal Family had been taking precautions and following government advice since the outbreak of coronavirus in the UK.

At the Commonwealth Day Service on 9 March, the last major royal event before many engagements were postponed, the royals avoiding shaking hands.

Prince Charles has been seen adopting the namaste greeting instead of shaking hands.

Covid-19: Governors’ Forum DG, Wife in Self-isolation

  • NGF secretariat staff advised to self-isolate
  • Govs meeting cancelled

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The Director General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Asishana Okauru, and his wife, Ifueko Okauru,who is former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), have embarked on self-isolation after having contacts with several persons that have tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a statement Wednesday morning signed by him, Okauru said, “I wish to inform the general public that my wife together with my entire household will be proceeding on self-isolation.

“We are taking this action following my exposure to His Excellency, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State who today announced the positive outcome of his test for COVID-19”.

He said that he attended different meetings of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the Nigerian Economic Council last week, which were also attended by the Bauchi State Governor.

Consequently, he announced, “my wife and I would be undergoing COVID-19 testing this week”.

Okauru further stated that all of the organizations to which his wife is affiliated have already begun ‘Work from Home’ in line with earlier Government directive.

In fact, he said, “through DAGOMO Foundation Nigeria Ltd/GTE, and in her personal capacity, my wife was already in the forefront of raising awareness around COVID-19.

“All members of NGF secretariat that were exposed will be observing self isolation. We encourage all those who were invited to the NGF meetings for presentations to also do same.

“By our actions, we hope to encourage others who are exposed and not sure of their status to undergo self-isolation and make themselves available for the test, where applicable”, the governors forum Director General said.

He said that at the NGF meetings held, “all necessary precautions as advised by the NCDC were taken, but we cannot make any assumptions about our status. We will self-isolate and take the stringent measures possible to protect the general public.”

Meanwhile, the meeting of governors scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the health impacts of the coronavirus on the economies of states has been put off. No new date has been fixed for the meeting .

Osinbajo Tests Negative for COVID-19

By Omololu Ogunmade

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who went into self-isolation on Tuesday has tested negative for COVID-19, THISDAY has learnt.

Announcing the result of COVID-19 test conducted on the vice-president, via a tweet on his Twitter handle, @babaloveme3, at 8:22am Wednesday, his political adviser, Senator Babafemi Ojudu,, said the outcome of the test was negative.

“Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo tests negative,” Ojudu had tweeted.

The vice-president was said to have been forced into self-isolation on Tuesday because he was one of the personalities who had contact with the Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari, who had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

Disclosing Osinbajo’s self-isolation on his Twitter handle, @akandeoj, on Tuesday night, his spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the vice-president had been working from home having gone into self-isolation.

According to the tweet, Osinbajo’s decision to self-isolate was in compliance with the directive of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC).

Akande further disclosed that the vice-president held meetings on Monday through video conferencing in observance of social distancing.

“VP Osinbajo yesterday (Monday) at the office conducted his meetings via video conferencing, while observing social distancing.

“Today, he continues his work from the home office, as he is in self-isolation in accordance with NCDC protocols,” Akande tweeted.

 

Nigeria Records Two New Cases of COVID-19, Bringing Total Number to 46

By Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded two more cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the country to 46.

Announcing this Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said one of the cases was from Lagos, while the other one was from Osun State.

It said: “Both cases are returning travellers to Nigeria in the last seven days. As at 07:00 am March 25, there are 46 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with one death recorded.”

Osinbajo, Ministers Self-isolate as Kyari, Mohammed Test Positive

•Buhari not infected
•COVID-19 tally rises to 44, spreads to sixth state
•Relief as ventilators, test kits arrive Nigeria
•Sanwo-Olu closes non-essential markets, banks
•National Assembly shuts down
•NNPC tells staff to work from home

Our Correspondents

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, some ministers, senior government officials, and top business executives who recently had contact with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari, have gone on self- isolation, THISDAY has learnt.
Their self-isolation followed Kyari’s testing positive for COVID-19 after a trip to Germany where he had talks with officials of Siemens in Munich on improving power supply in Nigeria.

However, while Kyari, who had travelled to Germany on March 7 and returned on March 14, but did not show any symptoms, tested positive, the president, one of those who had contacts with him, tested negative.
With the spike in the COVID-19 incidence, federal and state authorities have ramped up efforts to tame the pandemic by stepping up measures to promote social distancing and flattening the curve.

Among the new curbs yesterday were the suspension of plenary, for two weeks, by the two chambers of the National Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives; the ban on interstate travelling as well as the closure of markets, except for those selling foodstuffs and drugs, and courts by the Lagos State Government; and a directive by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to all non-managerial staff to work from home.

However, efforts at tackling the pandemic got a boost yesterday with the arrival in Nigeria of test kits and ventilators donated to Africa by Chinese billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate, Jack Ma.

THISDAY learnt that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), had tested the president and Kyari on Monday and yesterday informed them of the results.
Kyari and Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, were among the four new COVID-19 cases discovered yesterday to bring the toll to 44, covering six states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Of the 44, two persons had been discharged and one died.
Osinbajo’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, in a tweet yesterday on his Twitter page, @akandoj, said the vice president was working from home as he was on self-isolation in accordance with NCDC protocols.

He said: (The) “VP Osinbajo yesterday at the office conducted his meetings via video conferencing, while observing social distancing.
“Today, he continues his work from the home office, as he is in self-isolation in accordance with NCDC protocols.”
It was gathered that Kyari had gone on self-isolation in a private house in Abuja.

A press conference scheduled by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, for 3.30 p.m. yesterday to give Nigerians an update on COVID-19, was hurriedly put off.
Although no official reason was given for the cancellation, a presidential source said the minister was instructed to cancel the briefing.
THISDAY gathered that the press conference was expected to give an update on the tracing of ministers, senior government officials, influential politicians and top business executives, who had contact with the chief of staff.

A minister confided in THISDAY yesterday that he had gone on self-isolation because of his recent contact with Kyari.
“I am currently on self-isolation because I had contact with the Chief of Staff to the President recently in the cause of my official duty. Some of my colleagues are also on self-isolation for similar reasons,” the minister stated.

It was also gathered that a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who also had contact with Kyari was on self-isolation in his private house in Abuja.
A top government official told THISDAY that the chief of staff was on self-isolation where he was being monitored by medical personnel because he’s not showing severe symptoms of the disease.

Asked if he was not expected to be moved to Abuja University Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada where victims of COVID-19 are being treated, the source said it was not compulsory that everyone who tests positive must be taken to the hospital.
According to him, if the patient is not showing severe symptoms of COVID-19, he can merely be given bed rest, noting that most of the victims of the disease naturally, recover.

He added that over 80 per cent of victims recover without any intervention.
He said: “He may test positive and not show severe symptoms and so be in self-isolation. The symptoms in over 80 per cent cases are mild as they manifest modestly. Most people will recover without intervention. Fatality is common in old people.

“They only have to be monitored to find that the situation is not deteriorating. He can be on bed rest and given drugs related to the symptoms he’s showing. If the symptom is fever, he can be given paracetamol.
“He will be given water to help him hydrate. His blood sample will be taken to know that he’s not showing any signs of deterioration. The treatment given to them is just to support the immune system.”

According to him, most of the victims of the disease who die are those who show respiratory symptoms like pneumonia and that is why ventilators are needed.
The source explained that staff working with Kyari who had had contact with him had been asked to self-isolate.
THISDAY also learnt yesterday that some notable presidential aides who had contacts with the chief of staff had gone into self-isolation.
Some of them contacted by THISDAY to confirm their status opted to keep mum.

Asked if there is no necessity to subject such staff to tests, the source said no test would be conducted on them unless they show signs of the ailment.
According to the source, while it is ideal for everyone to be tested, the test cannot be carried out on every suspected case until the person shows symptoms of the disease.
The members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 yesterday visited the State House for undisclosed reasons.

Led by their chairman and incumbent SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, members of the group visited the office of the chief of staff.
The group declined to speak on their mission in the State House.

Members of the group in the visiting team included Ehanire; Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Investment, Ms. Sadiya Farouq.
Earlier in the day, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, and the Governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu Masari, had visited the State House for undisclosed reasons.

Bauchi Gov Tests Positive

The Bauchi State Government yesterday confirmed that Mohammed had tested positive for COVID-19.
A statement yesterday by the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Mukhtar Gidado, also said Mohammed, who was tested on Monday by NCDC, had gone into self-isolation after his result turned positive.

“This is to inform the general public that the result of the six initial tests carried out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on His Excellency, Senator Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, his family and aides that accompanied him to Lagos are out.

“Of the six initial tests carried out, one sample was confirmed positive for COVID-19. The positive result happened to be that of His Excellency, Senator Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, the Executive Governor of Bauchi State,” the statement explained.
The governor had earlier gone into self-isolation after having contact with the son of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who had tested positive of the virus.

Test Kits, Ventilators Arrive in Nigeria

Nigerians may soon experience relief as test kits and ventilators sent to Nigeria by the Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, arrived in the country yesterday and thus raising hope of the possibilities of conducting more tests that may be considered necessary.
Patients showing respiratory symptoms can also have access to ventilators, which can help their breathing system.
Ethiopian Airlines brought in the ventilators and the test kits yesterday.

COVID-19 Cases Climb to 44, Spread to Six States

In an update yesterday on its official Twitter page, @NCDCgov, the NCDC put the number of new cases at four more, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 44.
Announcing the new cases, the NCDC said Bauchi, Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) recorded one case each.
NCDC said: “Of the four cases, one had travel history to Germany, the other to the United Kingdom, while one is a contact of a previously confirmed case.”
NCDC did not mention from which country the last person came into Nigeria.

So far, Lagos has 29 cases; FCT, eight; Ogun, three; Ekiti, one; Oyo one; Edo, one and Bauchi State, one.
While 41 persons are presently in isolation receiving treatment, two of the cases have been successfully treated and discharged and one died on Monday.

National Assembly Suspends Plenary for Two Weeks

As part of the efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the National Assembly yesterday suspended activities for two weeks.
The Senate suspended plenary for two weeks and expressed concern for the lack of sufficient testing kits to fight the epidemic in the four NCDC isolation centres across the country.

President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, who announced the suspension at the end of an executive session of the Senate that lasted for over an hour, said: “The Senate resolves to adjourn sitting for two weeks from today due to the pandemic of COVID-19 ravaging the entire world.”
According to him, the Senate will resume plenary on April 7.

Lawan, however, gave an assurance that the Senate will be ready to attend to urgent national matters during the two-week break.
“However, the Senate would be on hand in case of emergency on any national issue that requires its attention,” he added.

He advised Nigerians to observe all preventive measures recommended by the NCDC.
While calling on the federal government to immediately set aside a special intervention fund to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria, Lawan advocated the release of financial assistance to states for the same purpose.

Shedding more light on the epidemic, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, told reporters after plenary that “for over two weeks now in the Senate plenary, we have been observing no-hand shake and I can assure you that no senator has tested positive to Coronavirus.”
According to him, the nation did not have enough testing kits in the four isolation centres across the nation.

The House of Representatives also announced that plenary and other activities would be shut down for two weeks.
The Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, made the announcement at the resumption of plenary yesterday.
Gbajabiamila said the shutdown was not a holiday, but an act of necessity in furtherance of the social distancing and isolation guidelines that have proven to be effective in preventing secondary transmission of the COVID-19.

He stated that the House would continue to observe developments and respond as the circumstances demand, adding that if it becomes necessary, the House may reconvene to act on emergency legislation and possible amendment of the Appropriation Act, 2020.
He also assured all doctors, nurses and other medical professionals on duty call that the House will ensure that the tools needed to protect themselves and practice effectively are provided.

He appealed to members to restrict all non-essential movements and observe self-isolation and social distancing according to NCDC guidelines.
The National Assembly also asked all staff to remain at home for two weeks in the first instance effective today.
The Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, stated this in a two-page circular dated March 24, 2020.

NNPC Asks Workers to Work from Home

Like the National Assembly bureaucracy, the NNPC has instructed its employees who are not in the management cadre to work from home, effective from yesterday.
The NNPC said the order was in compliance with the federal government’s directive following the increasing cases of COVID -19.
It said the instruction affected all office-based staff below management level across all its formations.

A statement in Abuja by the corporation’s Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr. Kennie Obateru, said the directive, which was conveyed to the NNPC workforce through a message signed by the National Oil Company’s Group Managing Director, Malam Mele Kyari, directed all NNPC Strategic Business Units to activate their business continuity plans immediately.

Obateru noted that the decision to allow SBUs to continue work was to ensure minimal disruption to operations while protecting staff from exposure to the COVID-19.
“The NNPC leadership, since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, has been providing daily enlightenment to staff on how to keep themselves and their families safe from infection,” he stated.

On the reported death on Monday of Mr. Suleiman Achimugu, the NNPC condoled with the family of the late engineer who it said passed on in the early hours of Monday after a bout with COVID-19.

Lagos Bans Interstate Travels, Closes Markets, Courts

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday stepped up measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state with a directive closing all markets and courts effective from tomorrow.

He also encouraged the private sector, including banks, to follow the steps of the public sector by focusing on online services.
Sanwo-Olu stated these after a meeting of the state’s Security Council in Lagos.
The governor, who described his directive as not a lockdown, however, said the new order would be for seven days in the first instance.
He also reduced the number of people who can gather together from 50 to 25.

He said all travels to Lagos by air or by road would no longer be encouraged and urged all public parks, gym, swimming pools to close down with immediate effect.
According to him, security agents have been ordered to strictly enforce the directive as anyone who contravenes it will be dealt with.

The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has also appealed to guests who attended the recent Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA), organised by the pay-TV company, Multichoice Nigeria Limited, to self-isolate as one of the attendees had tested positive to COVID-19.
Among movie and showbiz stars at the event were Funke Akindele, popularly called by her moniker, Jenifa, and her husband; Uzor Arukwe, Seun Akindele, Iyabo Ojo, Toyin Abrahams and her husband; and TuFace, Banky W and his wife, Adesua, a movie star.

Enforce Quarantine Now, ANAP Tells FG

Meanwhile, the Atedo N. A. Peterside (ANAP) Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank has called on the federal government to use various agencies at its disposal to enforce quarantine following the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

It also recommended that government should separate people who are vulnerable to the virus, including sick and old from young Nigerians to curb further spread of the disease.
In a report signed by the Chairman, ANAP, Chief Atedo Peterside and made available to THISDAY yesterday, he said: “Most young people survive the illness from the virus. It can be fatal for people aged 45 years and upwards and those with underlying lung, liver, kidney, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

“They need to be kept in a room by themselves and shielded from other members of the family, especially from young ones that are carriers of the virus or who can survive the illness. “However, it is a fallacy to say it is the disease of the elderly and young people should not care. It is simply humane to avoid infecting vulnerable, sick people by young people.

“I recommend that the government makes use of various agencies at their disposal to enforce quarantine, help distribute food and prevent crime.
“Government is waking up to its responsibilities and some state governments are shutting down schools; universities have been shut down, but a lot more has to be done.”

ANAP said the federal government should move into full national lockdown now.
“We also, recommend that government partners with the private sector and NGOs. This will require some distribution of food and other basic amenities to keep the most vulnerable at home.

“It is now that companies, churches, mosques and wealthy individuals should use much of their money to distribute to poor areas to help them stay at home,” he stated.
Other members of the group include the Vice Chairman, Abubakar Mohammed, George Etomi, Ayo Ahonkhai, Matthew Kukah, Salamatu Suleiman, Adwoa Edun, Yinka Sanni, Funke Aboyade, Ndidi Nnoli-Edozien, Leo Ekeh, Innocent Chukwuma, Ayisha Osori, Buti Sam Kputu, Lambert Shumbusho, Ibrahim D. Waziri, Dudu Manuga, Lucy Surhyel Newman and the Project Coordinators, Tariye Peterside and Kunbi Dixon.

Beware of COVID-19 Ransomware, FG Warns Nigerians

 

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The federal government has alerted Nigerians to the existence of an Android-based malicious and fraudulent COVID-19 Ransomware Application, which claims to provide updates on the virus and infections near the user.

In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the Ransomware blocks access to users’ personal data and accounts and threatens deletion, unless users pay one hundred US dollars ($100) in Bitcoin within 48 hours.

He said the Ransomware App, detected on the website www.coronavirusapp.site, prompts users to download an Android App purportedly for COVID-19 map tracking and heat map visuals.

Mohammed said the development confirmed warnings against cybercriminals seeking to exploit the growing spread of the virus for nefarious gains.
He, therefore, called on the general public not to download the Ransomware App, urging them to seek updates on the pandemic only from the appropriate authorities.

COVID-19 Levels the High and Low

Martins Ifijeh

World over, middle- and low-class people often bear the major burden of disease outbreaks. The infections, the deaths and the devastations are mostly the preserve of the poor and ‘ordinary’ people in the society.

But there seems to be a shift in the epidemic spread of COVID-19. It does not respect status as it has moved from one high profiled person to the other, including politicians, entertainers, media influencers and those who are often referred to as the elites.

The pattern of spread has now resulted in several high profiled persons and their families scrambling for tests as they may have, in one way or the other had contact with some of their kinds who have tested positive to the virus.
Here are the big names battling the disease:

Vice President of Iran, Masoumeh Ebtekar

The Vice President of Iran, Masoumeh Ebtekar was diagnosed with COVID-19 on February 27, making her one of the seventh government official to test positive to the disease in a country afflicted with over 24, 800 cases of COVID-19.

Wife of Canadian Prime Minister, Sophie Trudeau

On March 12, the Wife of Canadian Prime Minister Sophie Trudeau tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a brief trip to the United Kingdom where she had a speaking engagement.
Sophie has since been placed under isolation and treatment. Her husband has described her symptom as mild, noting that she would come out of it in few weeks.
Canadian and UK authorities said they were contacting all the persons she had contact with in both countries, and that they have been advised to self-isolate themselves for 14 days.
Although her husband Justin has tested negative for COVID19 following his wife’s status, he has since gone into self-isolation for 14 days.

Iran’s Religious Leader, Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi

Among the seven high profiled persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Iran is its religious leader, Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi. He was a member of the clerical body that appoints the supreme leader in Iran.
Bathayi, who was 78 years old, died of the disease two days after he commenced treatment.

US Senator, Rand Paul

On March 22, Rand Paul became the first United States Senator to test positive for the coronavirus. The news was relayed on his official Twitter account, where a spokesperson said he’s doing fine and in self-quarantine.
Paul, who has since commenced treatment said he was not aware he had met with someone who tested positive to the virus, adding that he was asymptomatic.
He said he will join his colleagues at the senate after his quarantine period was over, adding that he will continue to work for the people of Kentucky despite the temporary setback.

Mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez

On March 13, THE Mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez tested positive for COVID-19. He announced his status himself in a video on his social media accounts, adding that he was asymptomatic as at the time of getting his result.
Since his diagnosis, he has been sharing daily “digital journals” to update the public on his condition and local government efforts to fight the pandemic.
He wrote: “In my fifth digital journal, I explain how my condition directly ties into the importance of social distancing, as well as another bold action the City of Miami is now taking to promote that. We are in this together,’ he added.

Nigeria’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari

Nigeria’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, yesterday tested positive for COVID-19, a situation that has now made him the first government official in the country to have the virus.
Kyari, a close ally to President Muhammadu Buhari, was away in Germany in early March with a delegation of other Nigerian officials for meetings with Siemens AG. It is unclear if he self-isolated before he was tested.
The news of his status has rattled Aso Rock; the seat of power, as it is believed he has had contact with other government officials.

Wife of Spain Prime Minister, Begona Gomez

The Spanish government announced that the wife of Spanish Prime Minister, Begona Sanchez tested positive for the virus on March 14. The announcement came soon after the prime minister announced sweeping state measures to curb the spread of the virus.
At least 39, 000 persons have tested positive for COVID-19 while almost 3000 persons have died from the disease in the country. The country is currently on lockdown.

Arch Duke of Australia, Karl von Habsburg

On March 17, the Archduke of Austria, Karl von Habsburg confirmed he had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The archduke, who heads the historic House of Habsburg-Lorraine, has been in self-quarantine since March 12 after testing positive for the virus. He called into Austrian TV network oe24 to inform the public of his condition:
“It is annoying, but I am fine. It is not the Black Plague. I thought it was the usual flu. When a friend called me that he had a positive test at a congress in Switzerland, I was also tested.”

Hollywood Couple, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson

On March 11, Hollywood superstar, Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife, Rita Wilson has tested positive for COVID-19, adding that they contracted the virus in Australia.
Hanks was said to have been preparing for the shooting of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic when he and Wilson started to feel cold and flu symptoms. The couple subsequently tested positive for the virus and assured they were isolating themselves during their recovery period.
According to a March 16 report from People, after a five-day stay at a Queensland hospital, the couple is now recuperating at a rented home in Australia.

British Actor, Idris Elba

British actor and musician Idris Elba shared a video via Twitter on March 16 to announce that he had tested positive for COVID-19. While he said he remains asymptomatic, he decided to go for testing after discovering he was exposed to someone who had been diagnosed with the virus.
Elba appears in the video with his wife, Sabrina Dhowre. He urges viewers to take up global solidarity, social distancing, and soap to combat the spread of the virus.
He said: “This morning I tested positive for COVID-19. I feel okay, I have no symptoms so far but I have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus. Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing,” he added.

Hollywood Star, Olga Kurylenko

On March 15, Olga Kurylenko, who starred as Daniel Craig in the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace, said she tested positive for COVID-19. The Ukrainian–born French actress shared the news on Instagram, where she urged followers to take the virus seriously.
She said: “Locked up at home after having tested positive for COVID-19. I have actually been ill for almost a week now. Fever and fatigue are my main symptoms. Take care of yourself and do take this seriously.”

Jazz Legend, Manu Dibango

Cameroonian jazz legend Manu Dibango died on March 24 of COVID-19, according to an announcement on his Facebook page.

His family, while announcing his death wrote: “It is with deep sadness that we announce to you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove.

“His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organised when possible. The 86-year-old was admitted to the hospital to receive treatment for the COVID-19.

March 18. Dibango, who was a member of the legendary Congolese ensemble African Jazz, is best known for his 1972 hit “Soul Makossa.”

Arsenal Coach, Mikel Arteta

The Head Coach of Arsenal Football Club, Mikel Arteta was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 12. The 37-year-old club manager and former player was the first in England’s football Premier League to test positive for coronavirus. According to an official club statement, the team’s training center has since been closed, and Arteta is self-isolating in line with public health guidelines.

TUESDAY MARCH 24, 2020

 

Kyari’s Covid-19 Test: State House in Sober Mood

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The Presidential Villa, Abuja wore a different look Tuesday after the Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari, tested positive for COVID-19.

Activities were low key in the Villa while State House staff and presidential aides were in sober reflection.

There were also concerns on people’s faces as nobody seemed to know who would be the next victim.

Some staff and appointees wore face masks with almost everyone cuddling the hand sanitizer.

Added to the mood was the transfer of the Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi, out of the Villa to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.

THISDAY learnt Tuesday that a number of the staff in the chief of staff’s office and other presidential aides who had contact with him
are currently in isolation.

Also, the number of State House correspondents in the Villa has been pruned from over 100 to only 13.

A circular released by the Deputy Director, Information, Mr. Attah Esa, said the pruning was done in accordance with the directive to reduce the number of people gathering anywhere to 50.

Covid-19: Uzodinma Shuts down Night Clubs, Late Night Eateries

* Civil servants above 45 to stay at home
Amby Uneze in Owerri

Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, has shut down all night clubs, late night eateries, and civil servants above 45 years have been asked to stay at home, while assuring the people of the state of his government’s preparedness to tackle head on the Coronavirus crisis rocking the nation and the world at large.

Speaking on Tuesday, during the flag-off of the distribution of hand sanitizers to ministries, agencies, markets, churches, schools and other public places in the state, Uzodimma also ordered the partial shutdown of the workforce.

Uzodinma said: “In continuation of our programme to nip the spread of coronavirus in the bud, government has decided to close all nite clubs and late night restaurants. From Wednesday, civil servants above 45 years will be encouraged not to come to work because they are the most vulnerable group.”

However, he said those on essential services will continue to come to work and promised that adequate measures have been put in place for their safety.

The governor reiterated that his government will continue to be proactive in the fight against the virus and enjoined all citizens of the state to keep away from crowded places and strive to upgrade their personal hygiene.

According to him, “We are consistent with our commitment to the fight against coronavirus. Our commitment to ensure that citizens’ awareness is put in place is unwavering. We will continue to remain vigilant to ensure that all things needed to enlighten our people about this dreaded disease are put in place.”

While admitting that coronavirus is real and spreading fast, the governor assured the people of the state that he is ready to guard against anything that will bring the disease to the state.

“Today, we decided to procure hand sanitizers and we will distribute them to all nooks and crannies of the state,” he said.

Uzodimma further promised that his administration will continue to do its best to ensure that the state is safe.

He encouraged the citizens to watch out for coronavirus symptoms and go for test, stating that Imo State has one of the best isolation ventres in the country.

COVID-19: Kano Orders Workers to Stay at Home for 14 Days

Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

The Kano State government has directed civil servants to stay at home for 14 days with effect from Wednesday, March 25 as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic to the state.

A statement made available to THISDAY in Kano, Tuesday, signed by the Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, on the outcome of the special session of the State Executive Council meeting held at the Africa House, Government House, however, said that essential service workers to be identified by the government, are exempted from the stay-at-home order.

The commissioner explained that the council approved the measures to ensure the prevention and spread of the virus through contacts at government offices across the state.

Garba said that while the state is yet to record a single case of the deadly disease, as part of measures to curtail its spread, the council has from Wednesday, banned the inflow of large capacity buses into the state.

He said this was in consideration of the risk involved in the mode of operations of the buses that involves stuffing of passengers and the in orderly sitting arrangement in the buses.

The state government, the statement added, is working tirelessly to ensure the virus do not find its way to the state and if it does, the government is prepared to control and manage it.

The commissioner urged residents to ensure adherence to health instructions released by the federal and the state’s Ministry of Health on how to prevent the disease as well as ensure personal hygiene.

Other resolutions of the council included the release of N21,410,000.00 and N17,114,000.00 for the conduct of 2020 Interim Joint Matriculation Examination at the College of Education and Preliminary Studies and Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso College of Arts and Remedial Studies respectively.

He said the council also approved the sum of N15,561,200.00 and N11,440,800.00 for the 2020 NECO and 2020 NABTED Examinations in respect of qualified candidates all from College of Science and Technical Schools Board.

Garba also announced that the council has approved the release of N10,189,897 for the payment of compensation in respect of the demolished service station at Kano Line Terminus belonging to Messrs Equatorial Petroleum Coastal and Process Limited affected by the construction of State Road/Kofar Nassarawa flyover.

COVID-19 Task Force Visits Presidential Villa

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

Members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Tuesday visited the State House for undisclosed reasons.

Led by their chairman, Boss Mustapha, members of the group visited the office of the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who had tested positive for the virus.

The group declined to speak on their mission in the State House.

Members of the group in the visiting team included the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; and Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Investment, Ms Sadiya Farouq.

Earlier in the day, the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, and the Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Masari, had visited the Villa, for different reasons.

Covid-19: Senate Adjourns Sitting Till April 7

Deji Elumoye and Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The Senate has adjourned sitting till April 7 so as to avoid the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the upper chamber.

President of the Senate,  Dr Ahmad Lawan, who announced this on Tuesday at the end of a two-hour executive session, said the adjournment was necessitated due to the Coronavirus epidemic ravaging the nation.

He, however, stressed that the upper chamber of the National Assembly will be on hand to attend to urgent national issues whenever the need arises.

Details later…

 

Covid-19: House Suspends Plenary Indefinitely 

Udora Orizu in Abuja

In a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, The House of Representatives has announced that plenary and other activities of the House will be suspended indefinitely.

The Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, made the announcement at the resumption of plenary on Tuesday.

It would be recalled that in a chat with THISDAY on Monday, The Chairman House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, said aside from barring visitors from entering the National Assembly complex, the House might review the need to stay at home for members and aides unless when it is absolutely necessary to meet.

More details later …

 

BREAKING NEWS…. Buhari Tests Negative for COVID-19, Kyari is Positive

 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has tested negative for the COVID-19 virus (Coronavirus), following a test for the disease that was carried out Monday on the president by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), THISDAY can report.

The NCDC has informed the president on the outcome his negative result this morning in Abuja.

According to presidential sources, the test for the president was necessitated after his Chief of Staff, Mr. Abba Kyari tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

Kyari had travelled to Germany on Saturday, March 7th to meet with officials of Siemens in Munich on the Nigerian electricity expansion programme.

He returned exactly one week later on Saturday, March 14th, but did not show any symptoms.

He was said to have been at a meeting on containing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria all through Sunday, where he reportedly started to cough.

Subsequently, he voluntarily submitted himself for testing and was informed of his status on Monday.

Kyari has however gone into absolute isolation following the test result.

THISDAY gathered that he is hale and  hearty showing no symptoms apart from the occasional cough.

Details later…

COVID-19: FG Gets Tougher, Moves to Deploy Military to Curb Spread

•Nigeria records first death as cases rise to 40, spread to Edo State 

•Govt directs total closure of land borders, suspends FEC, Council of State meetings 

•Recalls retired doctors, nurses, urges Lagos, Abuja residents to stay at home 

•Presidency asks lawmakers to submit to medical checks 

•CJN shuts courts nationwide

Our Correspondents

As the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases rose to 40 yesterday with the discovery of 10 new incidences and Nigeria recording its first fatality since the virus seeped into the country last month, the federal government yesterday outlined tougher steps to curb the further spread of the disease.

The new measures include government’s preparedness to deploy the military in tracing and apprehending recalcitrant case contacts, the indefinite suspension of statutory meetings such as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Council of State, closure of the nation’s land borders to human traffic, and restriction of activities in Lagos, with the largest concentration of cases in the country, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with the directive that people on non-essential services should stay at home.

To boost the medical workforce to fight the virus, the federal government recalled doctors and nurses from retirement.

The presidency has also written to the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and the House of Representatives, with an exhortation to them to prevail on lawmakers, who just returned from trips to countries with high cases of COVID-19, to submit themselves for medical checks.

Besides, to complement the efforts of the federal government to curb the spread of the disease, which has now spread to five states with the discovery of an incidence yesterday in Edo State, more states and the FCT Administration have ordered a large proportion of their workforce to stay at home while Niger State has clamped a 12-hour curfew on the state. Apart from Edo, the other states with cases of COVID-19 are Oyo, Ekiti, Ogun, and Lagos. The FCT is also infected.

However, amid the concerted efforts by local authorities in Nigeria to check the spread of the pandemic, the United Nations warned the global community to prepare for hard times ahead, saying the world was at war with the virus.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, announced the federal government’s decision yesterday in Abuja.

Mustapha said the Council of State meeting earlier scheduled for Thursday had been postponed.

In addition, the federal government also resolved that all land borders that had hitherto been under a partial closure would now be closed to human traffic for four weeks effective, from yesterday.

The SGF also added that a circular would soon be issued to the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi- Esan, for immediate action to be taken to protect federal civil and public servants from the pandemic.

“If and when the need arises, any national assets required for use in the response to COVID-19 shall be mobilised and deployed. The federal government is at the highest level, engaging with state governors in order to ensure a collaborative and effective response to COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, adding: “All Abuja and Lagos residents are strongly advised to stay at home, avoid mass congregation of any kind as well as non-essential outings, until further advice is given.”

He said the taskforce would continue to monitor the global and domestic developments, while it has isolated Lagos and Abuja for particular attention in view of their population, mobility, and number of cases already reported.

Mustapha added that advisories had been issued and measures taken, including “escalating the nation’s capacity for testing and detection through the acquisition of more testing kits and establishment of additional test centres, enhancing contact tracking, deepening awareness creation, closure of schools and tertiary institutions and the total ban on international travels, which commenced at 12.00 midnight tonight at all the nation’s airports.”

Last night, the Head of Service of the Federation gave effect to the federal government’s directive on the need to safeguard the welfare of its service personnel. She told all civil servants from level 12 and below to stay at home from today till further notice.

Former PPMC MD, Achimugu, Becomes First Fatality Figure

While giving an update on the epidemic yesterday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported the death of an infected case, but did not disclose the name of the deceased.

But THISDAY later identified the deceased as a former Managing Director of the Pipeline Products and Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Suleiman Achimugu.

Announcing the death yesterday, NCDC said: “The case was a 67-year-old male who returned to Nigeria following a medical procedure in the United Kingdom. He had underlying medical conditions, including multiple myeloma and diabetes, and was undergoing chemotherapy.”

Achimugu died in the early hours of Sunday.

In confirming his death, his family said his remains had been buried according to Islamic injunctions.

The statement signed by Mr. Abubakar Achimugu on behalf of the family called for prayer for the repose of his soul and healing for all other COVID-19 patients undergoing treatment.

Cases Rise to 40

While announcing the number of the new cases yesterday, NCDC said of the 10 new cases, six were from Lagos, three from Abuja and one from Edo State. This brings the total number of cases in the country to 40.

Sharing the information on its Twitter handle, @NCDCgov, the agency said of the 40 confirmed cases, two had been discharged after successful treatment of the disease; one  died while 37 others were still under isolation and undergoing treatment.

Shortly after the NCDC’s announcement, Lagos State Government provided further details on three of the six new cases from the state.

The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said one of the three patients came into Nigeria from Ukraine since March 15.

He said: “The other two had a travel history to the United Kingdom. They both came into Lagos on March 13 and March 20 respectively.”

FG Threatens to Use Army, Police for Contact Tracing

With the rapid spread and reports of case contacts refusing to report for testing and self isolate, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday advised Nigerians to prepare for tougher measures as part of government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mohammed told journalists in Abuja yesterday that the federal government would not hesitate to deploy the military and other security agents for contact tracing in cases where persons suspected to have contacted the virus do not voluntarily show up for testing.

He said: “We should be ready for tougher measures. The forms they will take will be out from the end of today or tomorrow. But Nigerians should be ready for tougher measures. If we don’t do proper contact tracing, the figure will multiply every five days. Nigerians must take ownership of this initiative.

“We will not hesitate to use any platform, including the military and the police, to enforce social distancing, and to ensure that proper tracing is done because we are talking of a situation where if we do not take time, there are several hundreds of thousands, who will be infected.

“Containment is very cheaper than cure. A few people have helped. If you know you travelled recently, give yourself up to relevant agencies.”

Presidency Asks Lawmakers to Submit to Medical Checks

As part of the containment strategy, the presidency has implored members of the National Assembly, who just returned from trips abroad, to subject themselves to COVID-19 test.

The Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, in separate letters to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, urged them to ensure that the lawmakers present themselves for screening at the airports.

In the two separate letters dated March 21, Kyari noted that senators and members of the House of Representatives were not presenting themselves for screening at the airports.

He said: “As you are aware, these airport screenings are our primary line of defence and refusal by any citizen to subject to these tests is a threat to our nation.

“Accordingly, you are kindly requested to direct all senators who returned to Nigeria from foreign trips to report themselves to the nearest NCDC test centre with immediate effect.”

CJN Orders Temporary Closure of Courts

Meanwhile, the impact of the ravaging pandemic has also hit the judiciary, following an order by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, suspending all courts’ activities.

Justice Muhammad’s directive was contained in a fresh circular dated March 23 to all heads of courts.

The closure, which is for an initial two weeks, comes into effect from today.

However, the CJN said the judges could attend to pressing issues and or time-bound cases in their courts.

“In view of the reality of COVID-19 in the country and in order to take further preventive steps, all heads of courts are, from tomorrow (March 24) directed to suspend court sittings for an initial period of two weeks at the first instance, except in matters that are urgent, essential or time-bound according to our extant laws,” he said.

INEC Suspends Regular Activities

The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced the Independent National Electoral Commissions (INEC) to announce the suspension of its regular activities.

It, however, said the suspension did not affect preparations for the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Imo states.

In a statement issued by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, the commission said the directive was in line with the advisory on social distancing from WHO and the NCDC.

Okoye said the commission had taken the following additional measures to protect its staff, visitors and the general public.

According to him, “Effective from Tuesday 24th March 2020, all regular and non-essential activities will be suspended in its headquarters and offices nation-wide for 14 days in the first instance.”

He added that the regular quarterly meetings with stakeholders, namely: political parties, civil society organisations, the media, security agencies and all other meetings had been suspended until such a time when normalcy returns.

World is at War, Says UN Chief

Amid the various measures to tame the virus, the Secretary-General of United Nations, Antonio Guterres, yesterday raised the alarm over the spread and deaths from COVID-19, saying the world was certainly at war.

Guterres, in a video on the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak on the world, called for more commitment from governments to combat the effect the outbreak would have on economies.

“We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the UN — one that is spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives,” he said.

Guterres said labour organisations across the world could lose as much as $3.4 trillion in income by the end of the year.

He added that above the crisis, the effect on humans, especially the vulnerable would be disastrous if governments did not intervene by doing things differently.

The human crisis, he said, called for solidarity, as the human family was stressed and the social fabric was being torn.

“My central message is clear, we are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.

“We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times. The creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis and the magnitudes of the response must match its scale. Our world faces a common enemy. We are at war with a virus,” he stated.

Tomorrow, Guterres would launch a COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. He would be joined by the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Mark Lowcock; WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; and UNICEF Executive Director, Ms. Henrietta Fore.

More States, FCT Tell Workers to Stay at Home

 

•Bauchi gov in self-isolation 

•Aisha Buhari advocates complete lockdown

Our Correspondents

The rising cases of COVID-19 yesterday forced more states to ask their non-essential workers to stay at home in a desperate effort to check the spread of the pandemic.

Edo, Kaduna, Niger, Bauchi and Osun states joined Lagos, Kwara, Zamfara, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi states in slamming a stay-at-home order on their workers, particularly those from level 1-12.

Edo State Government, which yesterday confirmed its first case, said the measure and many more had been put in place to curtail the spread of the pandemic in the state.

The Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, while briefing journalists in Benin City on the preparedness of his government in tackling the spread of the virus in the state said though the state was witnessing its first case, there was no need to panic.

“COVID-19 is not a death sentence, so there is no need to panic. With swift identification and proper and management and care, many persons who had been infected with the virus have made full recoveries if we all work together to take the right precautions,” he said, advising citizens to practise social distancing to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

He prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people and said all schools remained closed in the state until further notice.

The governor said public transportation would remain in operation but warned against crowding in commercial vehicles.

“All public officers below grade level 12 (except those providing essential services such as fire and healthcare) should work from home till further notice,” he directed, adding: “Citizens are advised to postpone unnecessary travels in and out of Edo state and if possible stay at home.”

Kaduna to Enforce Restriction on Large Gathering

In Kaduna State, the government said it would commence the enforcement of restrictions on large gatherings, especially in churches and mosques.

Governor Nasir el-Rufai announced this yesterday in a broadcast to the people of the state.

He said security agencies had been directed to ensure compliance across the state.

The governor warned that “the state government will not hesitate to impose a statewide curfew, should that become the only way to enforce compliance and make everyone understand the collective danger that we face.”

The governor also announced that relevant federal authorities had been contacted to stop the Abuja-Kaduna train service in order to limit the danger from contact on the train and influx from people who might have been exposed to infected persons.

Civil servants from Level 12 and below have also been directed to remain at home for the next 30 days, effective from today.

Workers providing essential services, especially in the health, security and emergency service sectors are, however, exempted from the directive.

El-Rufai said: “Kaduna State Government has decided to move from advice to actual enforcement of its restrictions on large gatherings, especially in churches and mosques.

“Security agencies have been directed to ensure compliance across the state.

“These agencies will also enforce compliance with the decision to close all schools, whether public or private, religious or secular, Islamiya or run by Christian missions.

“The emphasis on prevention is the only logical thing to do because our health system cannot cope with an outbreak of Covid-19.

“It is better to impose restrictions and save lives, than to be complacent and bury victims.”

Niger Imposes 12-hour Curfew

Niger State government has restricted the movements of people throughout the state in the daytime following Governor Abubakar Sani Bello’s announcement of 12-hour state-wide curfew.

The curfew, according to the governor, is from 8.00 a.m to 8.00 p.m, the period most business activities take place and this would become effective from tomorrow.

In a broadcast, Bello also said civil servants from level 1 – 12 should remain at home but those on essential services should move round to perform their duties.

The governor directed all traditional rulers to ensure Almajiri schools in their domains are closed immediately, while also banning all hawking and street begging.

He also ordered the closure of all public and private schools and institutions in Niger State from Monday.

Bello reduced the number of people that could gather at a given event from 50 to 20 and directed that all public offices, including Ministries, Departments, and Agencies should provide hand washing items at the entrance of their facilities.

Six FCT Area Councils Shut down

Also, the FCT Administration has directed the closure of all the six Area Council secretariats in the FCT indefinitely as a precaution to the spread of Covid-19.

The affected Area Councils are Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Bwari, Kuje, Gwagwalada, Abaji, and Kwali.

In addition, all the workers in the affected secretariat have been ordered to stay at home.

The Chairman of the FCT Association of Local Governments Nigeria (ALGON), Mr. Mustapha Danze, conveyed this decision yesterday when he addressed the media at AMAC secretariat on behalf of other council chairmen.

Danze, who is the Chairman of the Gwagwalada Area Council, said all the six council secretariats would remain closed pending when further directives would be issued.

Bauchi Gov in Self–isolation

Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, went into self-isolation yesterday after having contact with former vice president Atiku Abubakar’s son, Mohammed, who tested positive for the virus.

According to a statement by the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Mukhtar Gidado, Mohammed went into self-isolation following “the report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that the son of the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, had tested positive for the COVID-19 upon his return from an international trip through Lagos.”

The statement said the governor, who recently returned from an official trip to Lagos, met with the Atiku’s son on an Aero Contractors flight where they shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.

“The governor did not exhibit any symptom of the disease, but based on the recommendation of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, he will remain in isolation in order to avoid the risk of spreading the disease.”

The statement added that the blood sample of the governor had been taken for clinical test and for the period of the test, the governor and his entourage would remain in isolation.

Osun Grants Civil Servants Two-week Leave

Osun State Government yesterday told its junior and middle-level civil servants to proceed on two-week leave effective from today as part of measures to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

In a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Prince Wole Oyebamiji, the precautionary measure was taken to forestall any possible outbreak of Covid-19 anywhere in the state.

He stated: “All officers from Grade Level 1 – 12 in all services of the state should proceed on two weeks leave beginning from Tuesday (March 24).

“All officers on essential services in health and medical facilities, environmental sanitation, fire services, water corporation, and all other essential services, are, however, to report for duty as usual.”

Aisha Buhari Advocates Total Lockdown

In a related development, the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, yesterday called for a total lockdown across the country in a bid to fight COVID-19.

Aisha, who made the call on her Twitter handle, @aishambbuhari, said as much as governors’ decision to shut schools was commendable, it would be counter-productive with parents of schoolchildren going to work.

According to her, keeping children away from school while exposing their parents to contacts with people would make no difference as the exposed parents would return to meet their children at home.

She added that only a total lockdown and sit-at-home declaration could avoid further spread of the disease.

“It is commendable that state governors have closed down schools; however, this could be counterproductive if parents are still going to work. We should not isolate students and expose their parents.

APC, PDP Shut down Secretariats

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has shut down its national secretariat in Abuja for two weeks.

The National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has also directed a partial shutdown and skeletal activities at its national secretariat in Abuja from today.

The National Chairman of APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, while addressing the staff yesterday in Abuja, said if the situation did not improve, the shutdown might be extended.

Oshiomhole noted that the decision to shut down the party secretariat was a result of the conversation held by National Working Committee (NWC) members.

Also, a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party  was already adopting pre-emptive health safety measures to safeguard lives in all  its offices nationwide.

 

MONDAY MARCH 23, 2020

 

 

Breaking: Nigeria Records Four New Cases of COVID-19, Bringing Total Number to 40

Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria had recorded four new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the country to 40.

Stating this Monday night, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said of the four cases, three were from Lagos while one was from the Federal Capital Territory.

It said: “Two of these cases are returning travellers.”

 

 

 

Eko Hotel Remains Open, Scales Down Services to Minimise Coronavirus Risk

By Demola Ojo

The Eko Hotels and Suites has clarified its decision to scale down operations following misinterpretations which followed an earlier statement where it said it would be scaling down services.

According to a statement today by its management, the hotel takes pride in prioritizing the safety of its guests, staff and community and is taking extensive precautionary measures in fighting COVID-19.

This informed the decision to only keep open Eko Signature hotel, Eko Hotel, 1415 Seafood/Steakhouse, Kuramo Sports Cafe, Lagoon Breeze and Calabash Bar, in adherence to government’s instructions of having not more than 20 people gathered in the same space.

“A significant number of our administrative staff have been advised to work from home. This is because we strongly concur with the precautionary measure of social distancing, in order to eliminate the spread of the COVID-19 virus,”” the statement said.

It further stated other measures to include; educating staff and providing visible information to guests about COVID-19 around all four hotel buildings; providing hand gloves and face masks to every security guard, especially those who check the temperature of everyone that uses any of the entrance gates into the hotels’ premises; mounting hand sanitizer dispensers near elevators, entry way to the halls and meeting rooms, and other public spaces around the hotels’ premises.

Other measures include making sure the housekeeping team is continually disinfecting all surfaces around the premises at intervals; providing hand gloves and face masks to all staff who have direct contact with guests within the hotels’ premises; encouraging staff to properly wash their hands with soap and water at 20 minute intervals and minimizing the movement of staff by housing the staff servicing its operations within the premises of the hotel.

 

 

Coronavirus: Ogun Police Release Detainees

Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta

As the fear of more people contracting the killer Coronavirus disease heightens, the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Kenneth Ebrimson, Monday ordered the immediate release of all persons detained for minor offences in all police facilities across the state.

Ebrimson gave the order through a statement issued by the state’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Abimbola Oyeyemi.

Oyeyemi, a deputy superintendent of police, said, “The CP has ordered the immediate release of all suspects being detained for minor offences in all police facilities across the state, as part of the preventive measure; while the police medical team has been directed to take the awareness campaign (on Coronavirus) to market places and detention facilities, to ensure public safety.”

However, the police authorities in the state also warned that following the order by the federal and Ogun state governments banning all forms of social and religious gathering, they were ready to embark on full enforcement of the banning order.

“To that effect, all the command’s tactical squads as well as Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers have been activated to ensure the full implementation of the order and make sure that the order is obeyed to the letter,” the police spokesman stated.

He added that members of the public could reach the command through its control room number 08081770416 or 08081770419, if they noticed anywhere where the banning order is not being obeyed.

Meanwhile, a cleric, Pastor Lai Bamidele, has warned law enforcement agents against the use of the Coronavirus pandemic to extort members of the public, stressing that this moment calls for sober reflection globally.

Bamidele, who is the General Overseer of  Glorious End-Time Evangelical Ministries, told THISDAY in Ifo, Ogun State Monday that much as Christian leaders were willing to comply with the Under-50 gathering order aimed at safeguarding public health, overzealous policemen and other law enforcement agents should not capitalise on people’s vulnerability to intimidate or extort them.

“All over the world, countries had been taking preventive measures to combat the spread of the disease, but in our own case in Nigeria, we believe in the fire-brigade approach and relish taking to the bandwagon effect.

“Some of the steps we are taking now that are affecting the socio-economic wellbeing of the country, would not have been necessary if we had safeguarded our ports of entry at the outbreak of the disease,” he remarked.

The cleric, however, urged Christians and Muslims in the country to keep praying and continue to be law-abiding, noting, “No problem is too difficult for God to solve.”

COVID-19: In Ogun, It’s Now 20 Persons Per Gathering

Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta

In furtherance to its effort at curtailing the spread of Coronavirus, the Ogun State Government Monday lowered the threshold of those who may gather in one place at a time, from 50 to 20.

The latest action thus implies that no church or mosque can congregate with more than 20 persons at a time, and that those attending burial, wedding or sundry ceremonies cannot exceed 20

Announcing the latest development in a statement Monday, the Chief Press Secretary o Governor Dapo Abiodun, Mr. Kunle Somorin, said, “The decisions were taken after the daily review of developments at a meeting chaired by the Incident Commander, His Excellency, Prince Dapo Abiodun, MFR, Governor of Ogun State”.

He said apart from that, the government had also resolved that all heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies as well as the Local Governments are to draw up rosters that would ensure that no more than 20 percent of their workforce across all cadres work daily, “thus ensuring that most staff come to work once a week”.

Health workers, fire service and Ogun State Emergency Management Authority (OGSEMA) are exempted from this arrangement. Also, all teachers in Public Primary and Secondary Schools are to proceed on their vacation immediately.

“All Government offices, irrespective of where they are, are to maintain social distancing, provide hand sanitizers and hand washing facilities, among other hygiene measures, at all times,” the statement added.

However, the state government has also extended the frontiers of the restriction orders to include a ban on visits to all government offices, stating that they are put on hold until further notice.

“Also, banks, telecommunications and other similar service providers that offer services in hubs and or bays are required to ensure that no more than 20 clients are in their service areas at a time.

“Social distancing must be maintained between those who will be on the queue or waiting halls by at least five feet between clients. Those outside the halls should maintain similar standards of social distancing,”

The government also set some rules for marketers and commercial vehicle operators, warning those whoever flouts the order will be accordingly dealt with.

Meanwhile, the government said some religious leaders that flouted the restriction order on the number of congregation last Friday and Sunday respectively, had tendered their apologies to government and promised to comply accordingly.

“Although, the leadership of the religious organisations involved had apologised to the government and people of the State for the overt indiscretion and promised to observe all measures associated with the fight against COVID-19 henceforth, government wishes to reiterate its commitment to public safety through various measures, including the enforcement of the ban on high-density gathering.

“Henceforth, any group of more than 20 persons that congregate in the name of any meeting – spiritual or secular – shall be visited with the full wrath of the law. The State Task Force has been mandated to ensure full and total compliance,” the state government warned.

 

 

COVID-19: FCTA Impounds 72 vehicles for Overloading 

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

In spite of the directive by the FCT Administration against overloading of vehicles to stem the spread of Coronavirus in the nation’s capital, at least 72 drivers have reportedly contravened that order.

Chairman of the Ministerial Task Team on Decongestion of Traffic, Attah Ikharo, told newsmen in Abuja that 72 vehicles were impounded across the territory by the enforcement team comprising men of the Federal Road Safety Corps,  the Directorate of Road Transport Services and the Police Force.

“I was at Nyanya this morning where we observed the level of compliance. I observed at Dutsen-Alhaji, Area one by Rain Oil and from what I gathered from different government agencies, about 72 cars were impounded as at 12noon today,” Attah said.

He said drivers were only allowed to carry only three passengers at the back, as against their practise to load four passengers in the vehicles.

He said the administration was also discussing with drivers of high capacity buses to reduce, if possible, totally eliminate standing on high capacity buses, adding the enforcement team will also discourage overcrowding at the entry points where a  conductor will have some people hanging with him.

“Though we have not been able to make any arrest on that one yet,  we are hoping that by Monday we will commence intensive enforcement on high capacity buses, to discourage those who are standing and those who hand around the doors.

“But we are appealing to commercial motorists  particularly those of high capacity buses to please live their windows open for proper ventilation

and ensure passengers by the windows live them open because often times passengers by the window side want to take air that is sufficient for them without considering other passengers inside the buses.”

COVID-19: Lagos Police Arrest Three Pastors for Flouting Govt’s Directive

Sunday Ehigiator

Three pastors were arrested by the Lagos State Police for conducting church services last Sunday in violation of the state government’s stipulation of maximum of 20 persons per gathering.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Operations, Lagos State, Mohammed Ali, confirmed the arrest of the pastors on Monday, adding that they were not detained but warned to comply with the government’s directive to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

He said: “I also implore churches and other religious organisations to follow suit.

“Any religious leader caught disobeying the directive of the state government would face the consequences,” he added.

COVID 19: Borno IDPs Camps on Lockdown

By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

All internally displaced persons camps in Borno state are on lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus in the state.

The lockdown announced by the state government on Monday, imposes  a four-week ban on visitors to all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the state, and it is one of the state’s strategy to containing the outbreak of the virus in the state.

The governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum had last week appointed the state’s deputy governor, Umar Kadafur to chair a high powered multi-stakeholder response team for coronavirus.

In the team are all agencies of the United Nations led by the World Health Organization and Borno’s ministries of health, education, transport, information, local governments, religious affairs and agencies involved with humanitarian affairs.

The lockdown on IDPs camps was announced by Chairperson of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (BOSEMA), Hajiya Yabawa Kolo who is a member of the Response Team appointed by the governor.

Kolo announced the ban during a meeting with 51 camp managers on Monday in Maiduguri.

According to her, the state took the decision as one of the strategies to prevent the transfer of the virus between the camps and the larger society with its associated dangers.

She said the measure became necessary as some of the neighbouring countries like Chad Republic and Cameroon had recorded suspected cases.

She lamented that despite closure of the borders by the neighbouring countries, there was still influx of IDPs into the state.

The Borno SEMA Boss directed all camp managers from Gamboru-Ngala, Damasak, Kalabalge, Banki, Bama and Monguno not to accept IDPs from any neighbouring country into their camps.

She said; “We know we have a lot of threat around us following record of suspected cases of the virus in Cameroon and Chad and we have some border towns very close to those countries.

“We do not want to go to the issue of response because even in developed countries, it was difficult for them to contain this pandemic. So at our own level, we are positioning ourselves to see how best we can stop the virus from transmitting in the state” she noted.

COVID-19: Declare State of Emergency Now, Falana Tells Buhari

By Martins Ifijeh

Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to issue a proclamation of a state of emergency in Nigeria immediately, as part of measures to halt the spread of COVID-19.

He said this was the legal backing required for the enforcement of measures against the disease.

Falana, in a statement made available to THISDAY Monday, said Nigerians, especially highly placed political and religious leaders, have ignored government directive because the measures were not backed by any law in the country.

He said: “In order to stem the dangerous trend the government should put necessary legal measures and mechanisms in place without any further delay.

“In particular, the attention of the Nigerian people ought to be  drawn to section 45  of the Constitution which provides that the fundamental rights of citizens to personal liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and association etc may be infringed upon or restricted in the interest of public health and public safety.

“Once the proclamation is issued and published, it is required to be approved  by a resolution supported by two-thirds majority of each house of the National Assembly. Once  the measures are set out in the said proclamation they will have the force of law capable of being enforced by the police and other  security agencies.”

He said if President Buhari fails to declare a state of emergency, state governors should proclaim Executive Orders to address the health challenge.

FG Cancels Heads State of Lake Chad Basin Meeting over Coronavirus

.*Begins contact tracing of coronavirus patients

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has cancelled the meeting of the Heads of State of the Chad Basin Commission scheduled for next week, over the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made this disclosure on Monday in Abuja.

He said that even though some political and religious leaders had either denied the existence of coronavirus or defied the directives to avoid a large gathering, President Buhari took the decision as a leader to demonstrate great responsibility at this time so as to avoid putting the lives of the general public in danger.

Mohammed also vowed that the long arm of government would soon catch up with those who willfully flout the directives aimed at checking the spread of the coronavirus disease.

He also sought the cooperation of the public in the area of contact tracing by the health services to find people who may have been exposed to the contagion, saying those who have come into close contact with others who have coronavirus are at higher risk of infection and of potentially infecting others.

“For those who will not cooperate by submitting to the authorities, as required, the government will use all lawful means at its disposal to trace and bring them in,” Mohammed said.

More to follow …

 

 

Covid-19: Atiku Releases Son’s Itinerary Since Arrival in Nigeria

 

*Says son’s wife, child tested negative

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Former vice president and presidential candidate of the PDP in the last general election,  Atiku Abubakar, has clarified the circumstances that led to one of his sons testing positive to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement signed by his media aide,  Paul Ibe,  the former vice president said that the clarification was to stem the various misinformArion about his son testing positive for the virus.

According to Atiku, “The clinical case returned to the country on 17th March via Switzerland from some business engagements in France and Switzerland.

“He attended a private meeting of six (6) persons same day in Lagos, stayed in his private house for the night and took an Aero 5.20pm flight to Abuja on the 18th”.

He said that his son  did not travel with his family or any other but travelled alone by Emirates Airline and moreover that he wore face mask as a precautionary measure since his arrival in Nigeria.

According to Atiku,  his son  did not show symptoms of infection and that he voluntarily placed a call to NCDC on arrival in Abuja late on the 18th to inform them he had returned from COVID-19 prone country and desired to be tested.

He further stated,   “On the 19th, NCDC took his blood sample which result came positive on the 20th. He subsequently went into self isolation to protect his family within his own house”.

In the meantime, he said that his son’s wife and their child had since tested negative, adding that the two persons are currently in self isolation.

The former vice president therefore said,  “We urge members of the public to disregard the perfidious information that the case accessed open locations. He was not at Play Lounge nor any other club in Abuja as being mischievously bandied about”.

He also explained that his son  neither attended the Friday Jumu’a prayers nor any social gathering until his evacuation to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital on the 20th where he is being treated and managed.

He thanked  Nigerians for their prayers and support through this difficult time, adding,  “Once again, it needs to be restated that the risk and danger of #COVID19 is real. Ensure you follow the World Health Organization and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines on how to stay safe”.

 

Covid -19 Forces Indefinite Closure of FCT Area Councils

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

All the six Area Council Secretariats in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have been shut down indefinitely as a precaution to the spread of Covid-19, also known as Coronavirus, in the territory.

The affected Area Councils are Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Bwari, Kuje, Gwagwalada, Abaji and Kwali.

As a fallout of this development, all the workers in the affected secretariats have been ordered to stay at home.

The Chairman of the FCT Association of Local Governments Nigeria (ALGON), Mustapha Danze, conveyed this decision Monday when he addressed the media at AMAC secretariat on behalf of other council chairmen.

Danze, who is the Chairman of the Gwagwalada Area Council, said all the six council secretariats will remain closed pending when further directives are issued in the future.

He said all council staff were expected to strictly comply with this directive.

The six Area council chairmen disclosed that the decision to close the secretariats was reached when they met on Monday. They also resolved that the decision was taken in the interest of the staff and all FCT residents.

 

 

 

Coronavirus: NSCIA Orders Closure of All Mosque in FCT

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has ordered immediate closure of all mosques in the Federal Capital Territory as a way of stemming the steady spread of the coronavirus contagion among the Muslim faithful during prayers.

The Director of Administration of NSCIA, Alhaji Yusuf Nwoha, said in a statement issued on Monday that the decision was taken on the same day by the council under the leadership of its President, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, after consultations with Muslim scholars and other relevant stakeholders.

Nwoha said that the order for the mosques to close was with immediate effect.

While describing the decision as hard, he said Muslims should see it as necessary and join hands with federal government and its agencies in the sustained fight against the spread of Covid-19, which has already been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organizations (WHO).

He added that the decision to close down Mosques was not alien to Islamic tradition and culture as it could be traced to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, when under such situation, the Mu’adhdhin was asked to inform the faithful to pray in their dwellings.

“The NSCIA therefore solicits the cooperation of the Imams and all Muslims in the FCT to ensure compliance to this directive as it is in the interest of all and sundry,” the statement said.

 

Access Bank Shuts down Lagos Branch over Visit by Customer Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus

Ayodeji Ake

One of the leading banks in Nigeria, Access Bank, has shutdown its Ligali Ayorinde, Lagos branch over visit to the branch by one of its customers who has now tested positive for coronavirus.

The bank in a statement made available to THISDAY Monday said a customer who visited the branch March 16 had tested positive for the virus.

Access bank disclosed that the customer was currently being monitored at Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba.

It said customers who visited the bank last week should commence 14-day self-quarantine, adding that if any one develops symptoms, they should contact NCDC through their toll-free lines.

The statement read: “We have just confirmed that an individual who visited our Ligali Ayorinde Branch on Monday March 16, 2020, had tested positive for COVID-19. He was symptom-free as at the time of visit and he is currently being monitored at an isolation centre in Yaba.

“In line with our emergency response plan and following regulatory practices, the branch has been temporarily closed for thorough disinfection. Persons who had any contact with the concerned individual are currently in isolation.

“Should you feel sick or exhibit any of the COVID-19 symptoms, please contact the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on 08009700001 or send a text message to 08099555577 to find out what to do,” it said.

 

 

Aisha Buhari Calls for Total Lockdown

 

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, Monday called for total lockdown across the country in a bid to fight COVID-19.

Mrs. Buhari who made the call on her Twitter handle, @aishambbuhari, said as much as governors’ decision to shut schools is commendable, it will yet be counter-productive as long as parents of school children go to work.

According to her, keeping children away from school while exposing their parents to contacts with people will make no difference as the exposed parents will return to meet their children at home.

She reasoned that only a total lockdown and sit at home declaration can avoid further spread of the disease.

“It is commendable that state governors have closed down schools; however, this could be counterproductive if parents are still going to work. We should not isolate students and expose their parents.

“It us remember that they will meet at home.

 

Niger Imposes Curfew over Coronavirus 

 

Laleye Dipo in Minna

Niger state government has restricted the movement of people throughout the state in the day time following Governor Abubakar Sani Bello’s announcement of a 12-hour statewide curfew.

The curfew according to the Governor is from 8am to 8pm the period most business activities take place and will become effective on Wednesday.

In a broadcast to the people of the state, Bello also said that civil servants on grades level 1 to 12 should remain at home with the exception of workers on essential services who are allowed  move round to perform their duties.

The governor in the broadcast  directed all traditional rulers to ensure almajiri schools in their domain were closed immediately while also banning all hawking and street begging.

The governor declared: “Niger State Government will enforce all preventive measures as advised by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), especially social distancing and hand washing routines” adding that : “All public and private schools and institutions in Niger State are to remain closed” from Monday.

Bello reduced the number of people that can gather at a given event from 50 to 20 directing that all public offices including Ministries, Departments and Agencies should provide hand washing items at the entrance of their facilities.

“The general public including market men and women must practice social distancing and hand washing with soap regularly” he ordered before advising the public to be “vigilant, adhere strictly to personal hygiene, social distancing and seek medical attention in the event of symptoms.

“We also call on individuals with travel history from countries and states with cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to ensure self-isolation and report to the nearest Health facility in the state”

Bello disclosed that government had strengthened its surveillance system to detect any case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) including investigation and monitoring of any outbreak adding that the Isolation Centre at General Hospital, Minna and isolation rooms in all the General Hospitals have been upgraded.

Bauchi Gov Quarantined after Contact with Atiku’s Son who Tested Positive for Coronavirus 

From Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

Bauchi state Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed,  has gone into self – isolation after having contact with Atiku Abubaka’s son who has been tested positive for coronavirus.

A press release signed by the Senior Secial Assistant on  Media to the Governor, Comrade Mukhtar Gidado, Monday, said “This followed the report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control(NCDC) that the son of the former Vice President, Mohammed Atiku Abubakar was tested positive to the Coronavirus upon his return from an international trip through Lagos”.

Governor Bala Mohammed who recently returned from an official trip to Lagos, met with Mohammed Atiku Abubakar in the Aero Contractors aircraft where they shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.

“The governor did not exhibit any symptom of the disease, but based on the recommendation of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, he will remain in isolation in order to avoid the risk of spread of the disease”.

The release noted that the blood sample of the governor had been taken for clinical test, adding that for the period of the test, the governor and his entourage will remain in isolation pending the outcome of the clinical result.

Breaking: Lagos Records New Case of COVID-19

By Martins Ifijeh

The Lagos State government has confirmed a new case of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the state to 25, and that of the country to 36.

Announcing this on its Twitter handle, @LSMOH, the Lagos State Government said the patient arrived Nigeria from Ukraine since March 15.

The state has so far recorded three cases Monday. The other two had travel history to the United Kingdom. They both came into the country March 13 and March 20, 2020.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said it will no longer announce individual cases henceforth, adding that each states will update the public on cases in their location.

Former PPMC MD, Achimugu, Dies of COVID-19

*Family mourns

By Martins Ifijeh

The former Managing Director, Petroleum Pricing Monitoring Corporation (PPMC), Suleiman Achimugu, has become the first casualty from COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

Late Achimugu was said to have returned from the United Kingdom Tuesday after undergoing surgical procedure for underlying illness.

Announcing the death Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said: “The case was a 67 year old male who returned to Nigeria following a medical procedure in the United Kingdom.

“He had underlying medical conditions, including multiple myeloma and diabetes, and was undergoing chemotherapy.”

Achimugu died in the early hours of Monday.

Of the 35 cases recorded in Nigeria, 32 are currently on isolation and treatment, two have been discharged, while one has died.

Meanwhile, the family of the deceased has said that his remains have been buried according to Islamic injunction.

The statement signed by Abubakar Achimugu on behalf of the family called for prayer for the repose of his soul and healing for all other Coronavirus patients undergoong treatment.

The statement read.

“Our family is deeply saddened to inform you of the sudden deof the familyath of our beloved Father, Uncle, Brother and friend. Engr. Suleiman  Achimugu (former Md of PPMC).

“He died of COVID 19 on 22/03/2020 some days  after he arrived Nigeria from the UK.  He was in self isolation upon his return from the UK and personally called NCDC after experiencing some discomfort that are related to COVID 19 symptoms.

“He tested positive and was promptly evacuated to the specialist hospital. He died while recieving treatment.

“We implore the general public to pray upon his soul and the recovery of infected persons .Your thoughts and prayers  would be appreciated.

“Please maintain the public social distancing and restriction advice as we all walk through this very difficult time.

“He has since been buried according to Islamic rites.May Allah SWA have mercy on him.Ameen”

 

Covid-19: Presidency Writes N’Assembly, Wants Senators, Reps Returning to Nigeria to Undergo Screening

* Visitors turned back at National Assembly gate

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The Chief of Staff to the President,  Abba Kyari, has written to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to ensure that members of the National Assembly returning to the country present themselves for screening at the airports.

In two separate letters to the two presiding officers of the Senate and House of Representatives dated March 21, 2020  and signed by the Chief of Staff to the President,  Abba Kyari,  the presidency complained that Senators and Members of the House of Representatives refused to present themselves for screening at the airports.

Also at the National Assembly gate,  Monday, many visitors were turned back by officials of the sergeant at arms office manning the gate.  The visitors were asked to go back and wait till there would be information for them to visit.

They were told that the Senate in particular had stopped receiving visitors till further notice.

Even journalists without proper means of identifications were turned back.  This may not be unconnected with the Senate decision that it has closed down its gallery as well as stopped all public hearing till further notice.

The letter sighted by THISDAY at the National Assembly complex said the letter was sequel to the complaint by the Minister of Health in the attitude of the lawmakers,  urging the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to use their offices to ensure that the lawmakers comply and ensure that they are screened at the airports.

The letters stated that screening of people arriving from airports remain one of the defence the federal government has over the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter titled COVID-19 AIRPORT Screening read thus:

“It has been brought to the Honourobte Minister of Health recently reported to this office that some Senators   are refusing to subject themselves to medical screening at airports.

“As you are aware, these airport screenings are our primary line of defense and refusal by any citizen to subject to these tests is a threat to our nation.

“Accordingly, you are kindly requested to direct all Senators who returned to Nigeria from foreign trips to report  themselves to the nearest NCDC test centre with immediate effect”.

The same letter with the same content was written to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

During Thursday plenary sitting of the Senate,  some senators complained of space distancing of their colleagues that just returned from overseas trip.

It was as a result of this, that the senate went into a closed door session after which they announced a partial closure of the Senate to the public.

President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, announced the decision of the Senate to suspend public hearings and restrict access to its chamber over growing concerns of Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread in the country.

The announcement came after the Senate embarked on a closed session at the resumption of plenary to deliberate on the devastating impact which a spread of the disease may cause in the absence of preventive measures.

“The Senate resolves to suspend all public hearings till further notice as a result of the Coronavirus, COVID-19.

“In addition, the Senate gallery will remain closed to the public till further notice including excursions from schools and organisations from Tuesday 24th of March, 2020,” Lawan said.

Breaking: Nigeria Records First Death from COVID-19

Martins Ifijeh

The federal government has confirmed the first death from COVID-19.

Announcing this Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the case was a 67 year old male who returned  to Nigeria following a medical procedure in the United Kingdom.

It said: “He had underlying medical conditions, including multiple myeloma and diabetes, and was undergoing chemotherapy.”

Of the 35 cases, 32 are currently on isolation and treatment, two have been discharged, while one has died.

More details later ….

Breaking: Nigeria Records First Death from COVID-19

Martins Ifijeh

The federal government has confirmed the first death from COVID-19.

Announcing this Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the case was a 67 year old male who returned  to Nigeria following a medical procedure in the United Kingdom.

It said: “He had underlying medical conditions, including multiple myeloma and diabetes, and was undergoing chemotherapy.”

Of the 35 cases, 32 are currently on isolation and treatment, two have been discharged, while one has died.

More details later ….

COVID-19:  MTN Orders Staff to Work from Home

By Chiamaka Ozulumba

Following the lockdown of social gatherings to 20 persons per meeting point, in compliance, MTN Nigeria has announced that its staff would now work from home.

The company’s Senior Manager, External Relations, Funso Aina said that the telcos operations would continue to run at full scale with essential staff working limited hours on-site.

He said: “MTN Nigeria has directed its team to start working from home from Monday as parts of precautionary measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We also plan to announce the temporary closure of some of our stores.Those that remain open will operate reduced hours and maintain strict and social distance measures.

“The situation unfolding around the world is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime and is a reminder that we are all more connected than we ever know,” he added.

 

Nigeria Records Five New Cases of COVID-19, Bringing Total Number to 35

By Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded five new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 35 in the country.

Announcing this on its Twitter handle, NCDCgov Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said: “Five new cases of COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria: Two in FCT, two in Lagos, and one in Edo.”

It said two of the cases were returning travellers from the United Kingdom.

Of the 35 cases, two have been discharged.

More details later..

Bolivia Suspends Presidential Election over COVID-19

An electoral court has postponed Bolivia’s general election over the COVID-19, according to local media.

Voters were due to head to the polls on May 3 to elect a permanent successor to former President Evo Morales, who resigned in November.

According to the Pesident of the Supreme Election Tribunal Salvador Romero,

Bolivia’s congress will have to enact legislation in order to select a new date for the elections.

Breaking; Atiku’s Son Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Son of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has tested positive for coronavirus.

Annoincing this on his twitter handle @atiku, the former vice president who was also the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 general election said the National Centre for Disease Control had been duly informed.

He also said his infected son had been moved to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital Abuja for treatment.

The NCDC had earlier on Sunday put the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria at 30. It is however unclear if Atiku’s son is among the 30 cases or a fresh case..

Atiku’s Son Tests Positive as COVID-19 Cases Escalate to 30

 

•Lagos now has 22, FCT 4, Ogun 2, Ekiti 1, Oyo 1 

•Churches defy mass gathering restriction, hold services  

•Sanwo-Olu directs civil servants to stay at home for 14 days 

•CJN asks judicial officers to comply with social distancing 

•IG directs AIGs, CPs to enforce restriction orders, says citizens should stay away from police stations 

•Global death toll rises to 13,799, confirmed cases hit 322,278 in 189 countries, 100 die in 24 hours in US, UK’s body count now 244 

•German Chancellor Merkel quarantined, US senators seek medical advice after colleague tests positive

Our Correspondents

The first high profile case of COVID-19 broke yesterday as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar announced that his son had tested positive for the pandemic.

Atiku’s announcement came through his Twitter and Facebook platforms last night, several hours after the federal government had said eight new cases of COVID-19 in Lagos, Oyo and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), had brought the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 30, spread over four states and the FCT.

Although the former vice president did not divulge the identity of the son, he said he had duly informed the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and that the son was moved to Gwagwalada Specialist Teaching Hospital in Abuja for treatment and management.

He said: “My son has tested positive to coronavirus. @NCDCGov has been duly informed, and he has been moved to Gwagwalada Specialist Teaching Hospital in Abuja for treatment and management. I will appreciate it if you have him in your prayers. Stay safe, coronavirus is real. -AA.”

A close family source told THISDAY that the son, who returned from Switzerland recently, is responding to treatment and is in a stable condition.

The global death toll from the pandemic has since jumped to 13,799, with 322,278 persons confirmed to be positive in 189 countries across six continents, compelling the World Health Organisation (WHO) to warn Nigeria and  other countries affected that lockdown approach alone can’t defeat the growing spread of the disease.

Following the increasing cases in the country, the federal government and some state governments had shut down schools and international airports, advising citizens to observe social distancing by avoiding the gathering of more then 20 people.

Despite the restrictions, many churches across the country held services yesterday, increasing the possibilities of an escalation of the pandemic in the country.

Concerned by the disobedience to the restrictions, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, yesterday ordered Zonal Inspectors-General of Police and State Police Commands Commissioners to enforce social restriction orders imposed by government at all levels.

He also directed the Zonal AIGs and Command CPs to guard against cases of unnecessary arrests and detention of suspects, telling citizens to stay away from police stations.

Announcing the new cases on its Twitter handle yesterday, @NCDCgov, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said six of them were from Lagos, while one each is from Oyo State and the FCT.

It said: “The three cases from Lagos had a travel history to high-risk countries in the last seven days. They have all been placed under isolation and treatment.

“Breaking down these figures means Lagos has recorded 19 cases, Abuja four, Ogun two, Oyo one and Ekiti one.

“Of the total 27 cases, two have been discharged. We are working closely with the affected states, including the FCT identify and follow up with contacts. If you have returned to Nigeria from any country in the last 14 days, please stay in self-isolation.”

In a separate update, NCDC confirmed three more cases of COVID-19 in Lagos, bringing the number of recorded cases in the state as at yesterday to six, and that of the country to 30.

Stating this on its Twitter handle Sunday, @NCDCgov, the centre said two of the latest three new cases were returning travellers while one was a contact of a confirmed case.

It said: “As at 05:28 pm on March 22, there are 30 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with no deaths.”

The Lagos State Government through the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, gave further details on the first three new cases from the state, noting that one of the three cases was a 51-year-old Briton, who arrived in Nigeria on March 8 via BA75 flight.

He said: “The second patient is a Nigerian on connecting flight KL0582 London Amsterdam/KL0587 Amsterdam to Lagos. He arrived in Nigeria on March 14.

“The third case is a 65-year-old citizen of the United States of America who arrived in Lagos about six weeks ago.”

In a related development, the Governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde, who doubles as the Chairman, State COVID-19 Task Force said the case from the state had been placed under isolation and treatment.

He said: “The COVID-19 confirmation test for the suspected case at Bodija has come back positive. The result was released at 17:35 PM of March 21, 2020. Oyo State Public Health Officials are collaborating with the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan’s team on the case.

“A follow up on the Ekiti COVID-19 case revealed that the person was picked up directly from Lagos Airport to a private apartment in Ona Ara Local Government Area.

“The Health Authorities have contacted the family concerned and the community has been alerted for intensified contact tracing and self-isolation of identified close contacts.

“The information given that he stayed in some hotels in Ibadan has been found to be false.”

He also stated that another returnee from Texas, USA, has also been identified at Oluyole Local Government Area, adding that she has been kept in self-isolation with close monitoring by the state’s epidemiological team.

Makinde urged all recent returnees  to identify themselves to health ministry officials and self-isolate for 14 days.

“We have released funds for Activation of Emergency Operation Centre at the Ministry of Health and establishment of Diagnostic Centre for the screening of Coronavirus and other related infectious diseases to be stationed at the UCH, Ibadan,” he said.

The governor said the equipping of the newly designated Oyo State Infectious Disease Centre at Olodo that has the capacity for over 100 cases had started, releasing telephone helplines of the state Ministry of Health to be contacted in case of any suspected case around the state as 08038210122; 08023229267; 08073431342.

Churches Defy Mass Gathering Restriction, Hold Services

However, many churches in at least 15 states and the FCT yesterday defied the restriction on mass gathering and held their normal Sunday services.

The 15 states include: Bauchi, Enugu, Katsina, Ebonyi, Ogun, Taraba, Kwara, Sokoto, Kogi, Benue, Kano, Kaduna, Oyo, Adamawa and Plateau.

However, most churches in Lagos and Osun States adhered to the restriction, while Ondo and Ekiti States recorded partial compliance.

THISDAY gathered that churches in Jos, Plateau State held their usual services yesterday without restrictions.

It was also gathered that the congregation mixed up during praise and worship time, with only a handful of members seen with face masks at the beginning of services, but they soon removed them as the services went on.

At some of the churches visited by THISDAY in the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) in Abuja, normal church services were being observed with a huge turnout, although there were few places where the attendance was low.

Sanwo-Olu Directs Civil Servants to Stay Home for 14 Days

In Lagos State that has 22 cases, the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday directed all workers under the state government to observe a stay-at-home order for 14 days in the wake of the increasing cases of COVID-19 in the state.

Addressing journalists at the State House Marina, Sanwo-Olu said the directive would take effect from today, adding that all officers from Grade 1-12 are to observe it.

The governor urged members of the public to refrain from visiting the state secretariat, urging them to utilise other available options to carry out their transactions, including online and via phones.

The governor, however, added that the directive would not apply to first responders, including staff of LAWMA, LASEMA, Fire Service, LASAMBUS, and LASEPA among others.

He also encouraged private-owned organisations to take a cue from the state government and direct their staff to work from home for the period.

IG Orders AIGs, CPs to Enforce Social Restriction Orders

As part of the containment efforts, the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu, at the weekend directed the Zonal Inspectors-General of Police and State Police Commands to enforce social restriction orders imposed by government at all levels.

He also directed the Zonal AIGs and Command CPs to guard against cases of unnecessary arrests and detention of suspects.

The IG directed them “to ensure that all legitimate orders given in pursuant to the containment efforts are strictly enforced within their areas of jurisdiction.”

The IG, in a statement by Force Headquarters, said the detention of suspects must be reduced to the barest minimum and that only very serious cases such as terrorism, armed robbery, homicide and other non-bailable offences should warrant detention.

He further directed that adequate measures be emplaced to screen persons to be committed into police custody.

Adamu “ordered Command CPs to immediately publicise phone numbers of their Command Control Rooms, Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and other tactical commanders using the conventional and non-conventional media in order to facilitate alternative interacting and reporting options between the public and the police.”

The statement signed by Force PRO, Mr. Frank Mba, affirmed that in compliance with the federal government’s directive that all tertiary institutions be shut, the IG has ordered the immediate closure of the Nigeria Police Academy as well as all police primary and secondary schools nationwide while the force medical services were empowered and directed to step up sensitisation programmes across commands, formations and barracks in the country.

Police Detainees Regain Freedom in Ogun

Perhaps in compliance with the IG’s directive, the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Kenneth Ebrimson, yesterday ordered the immediate release of all persons detained for minor offences in all police facilities across the state to avoid the spread of the pandemic.

Ebrimson gave the order through a statement by the state’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Abimbola Oyeyemi.

Oyeyemi, a deputy superintendent of police, said: “The CP has ordered the immediate release of all suspects being detained for minor offences in all police facilities across the state, as part of the preventive measure; while the police medical team has been directed to take the awareness campaign (on COVID-19) to market places and detention facilities, to ensure public safety.”

Eko Hotel Announces Partial Closure of Its Services

Also following the lockdown of social and religious gatherings to 20 persons per meeting point, in compliance, Eko Hotel & Suites has announced a partial closure of its services because of COVID-19.

In a statement issued yesterday on its Facebook page, the hotel said it will temporarily close down some of its services including the spa, gym, pool, conference and banquet facilities.

“It is with great difficulty, but with the safety of you and our community in mind, that we have made the decision to temporarily close our Eko Suites Hotel, Eko Gardens Hotel, 88 Restaurant, Lagos Irish Pub, Sky Restaurant, My Thai Restaurant, Red Chinese Restaurant, Crossroads, the spa, gym, pool, and conference and banquet facilities.

“However, part of Eko Signature and Eko Hotel, as well as Kuramo Sports Cafe, Calabash Bar, Lagoon Breeze, 1415 Seafood and Steakhouse are still operational,” it said.

CJN Urges Judicial Officers to Comply with Social Distancing

From the judiciary came the news that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, has directed all judicial officers to comply with the guidelines issued by the NCDC and other relevant bodies towards containing the spread of the deadly disease.

Muhammad, who gave the directive in a circular issued on March 20, 2020, to judicial officers said the need to comply is of utmost importance because the disease which is spreading wide and fast has no known cure.

The CJN in the circular titled: “Preventive measures on the Spread of COVID-19 and the Protection of Justices, Judges and Staff of Courts,” said that the matter is of grave concern to the judiciary, hence the need to reduce crowd in the courts and order judiciary environments.

It stated: “Consequently you are expected to take all necessary steps to ensure that the safety of management and staff within your jurisdiction by averting large gathering of people in view of the risk it may pose.

“As you all know, all federal judicial bodies are expected to continue work, however, as much as possible, efforts must be made to ensure that members of the public coming for official matters/meetings/conferences within your jurisdiction do not exceed the recommended number.”

Lockdown Alone Can’t Tackle Outbreak, WHO Warns Nigeria, Others

As the death toll from COVID-19 jumped to 13,799, with 322,278 persons confirmed to be positive, WHO has warned Nigeria and other countries affected that lockdown approach alone can’t defeat the growing spread of the disease.

Although an estimated 96,000 people have so far recovered from the disease worldwide, at least 10, 000 people are still in critical condition, a situation that predicts more fatalities will be recorded.

WHO urged governments to show leadership to defeat the virus.

A WHO Chief Emergency expert, Mr. Mike Ryann, who spoke yesterday on BBC said: “What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them.

“The danger right now with the lockdowns is that, if we don’t put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.”

US Records 100 Deaths in 24 Hours, Senator Tests Positive

The novel coronavirus epidemic has claimed more than 100 lives in the past 24 hours in the United States, bringing the total to 389 deaths as of Sunday, according to an authoritative tally from Johns Hopkins University.

According to the university, the states of New York (114 deaths), Washington (94 deaths) and California (28 deaths) have been the hardest hit by far. The virus has infected at least 30,000 people nationwide.

Senators in the country panicked yesterday as one of them, Senator Rand Paul, revealed he had tested positive to COVID-19 after mingling with his colleagues for days as they negotiated a new set of economic stimulus.

He becomes the third member of Congress to test positive, raising concerns of senators who are now seeking medical advice on what to do.

UK’s Body Count Rises to 244

In Britain, 11 more people have died after testing positive for COVID-19 in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – taking the UK total to 244, according to Sky News yesterday.

There have been seven fatalities in Wales over the last 24 hours, taking its total to 12 and a further three in Scotland, where the number of deaths overall now stands at 10.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Quarantined

In Germany, the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has quarantined herself at home after having contact with her doctor who tested positive for COVID-19.

Her spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said she was informed of her doctor’s test result on Sunday shortly after a press conference.

Seibert said the doctor had administered a precautionary vaccine against pneumococcal infection on Merkel on Friday.

He said the chancellor would undergo regular tests in the coming days, and that she would continue to work from home in the meantime.

The country has lost 93 people to the disease with 24,806 confirmed cases

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Nigeria’s COVID-19 State of the States

 

Martins Ifijeh

While all 36 states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory are gradually locking down activities in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, the disease seems to have intensified its coverage in the country.

As at yesterday, it has infected 30 persons, comprising of 28 Nigerians, an Italian and one American in four states and the FCT; a situation that has now prompted the federal and state governments to initiate more stringent measures to halt its community spread.

The states so far affected are Ogun, Lagos, Oyo and Ekiti. FCT, the seat of power has also recorded cases.

Ogun State

Unlike Ebola outbreak in 2014 where the Liberian index case, Mr. Patrick Sawyer, was recorded against Lagos State, the index case from COVID-19 outbreak was reported to have been identified in Lafarge Africa Plc in Ogun State for suspicion of having the virus after he developed its symptoms, prompting his host to call on the Lagos State government, which eventually evacuated him to the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba where he tested positive to the disease.

Eight days after, a staff of Lafarge Africa, who had contact with the Italian index case also tested positive to the disease.

They have both been discharged from the Lagos isolation centre after their viral load regressed back to negative.

Lagos State

Lagos state is presently the epicenter of the disease in Nigeria as 22 persons have been confirmed to have tested positive to the virus in the cosmopolitan state.

It recorded its first case of the disease March 17 when a 30 year old female, who returned from the United Kingdom tested positive to the virus.

She was independent of the Italian case. She is presently under treatment.

On March 18, the state recorded five more cases.

Just barely 24 hours after, it recorded another three cases. One of the cases had contact with the 30 year old Nigerian woman who had tested positive to the virus March 17.

By March 21, Lagos recorded another seven cases; a development that prompted the state government to institute a number of stringent measures against the virus, as it was believed there could be community spread of the virus.

The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, closed down schools, reduced religious gatherings to 50 per time, and called on residents of the state to limit their movements to crowded places.

Sunday, the state again recorded another six confirmed cases, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 22.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said many of the cases were recovering.

Ekiti State

While Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, was announcing the five confirmed cases in Lagos March 18, he also mentioned that the 6th case was from Ekiti.

While most residents of Ekiti believed the Ekiti case had contact with a diseased American, who was suspected to be positive to the virus in the state, the state government traced his status to one of the confirmed cases in Lagos.

 

Oyo State

Oyo is the latest state to be affected by the virus. Its Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, in a statement yesterday said the female patient was picked up directly from Lagos airport after flying into the country last weekend.

Federal Capital Territory

The Federal Capital Territory is the second most hit region after Lagos. It presently has six confirmed cases of the virus.

Ehanire announced its first case on March 21 where three persons were reported to be infected by the virus. On Sunday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) also announced three more cases, bringing the total to six in the FCT.

Other States

Although other states have intensified measures against the disease, it is believed there is already community spread of the virus in the country, prompting states to suspend school, religious and other social gatherings.

However, 32 states do not have any case but lack isolation centres at the moment.

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…It’s 30 Patients and where they came from

 

Martins Ifijeh

By global health prediction, disease outbreaks are only 36 hours away from potentially entering any country of the world irrespective of how farther apart the index country and the receiving nations are geographically placed.

It, however, took Nigeria 59 days to get its first confirmed case of COVID-19, a new coronavirus disease, which broke out from Wuhan City in China since December 31, 2019.

Twenty-four days after the first index case of the virus was recorded at the Infectious Disease Centre in Lagos, Nigeria’s burden of the virus has surged to 30 with the majority of the cases confirmed to be exported into the country from nations with a high burden of the disease.

So far, the federal government has named countries of import of the virus into Nigeria to be United Kingdom, Italy, France, Canada, Spain, Netherland, and the United States.

9 Cases from …United Kingdom

Of the 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, at least nine of the patients came into the country from the United Kingdom, hence representing the country with the highest import of the respiratory disease into Nigeria.

Majority of the patients had travelled to the country within in February and did not have symptoms of the disease when they left the UK for Nigeria.

The UK is one of the countries with a high burden of the disease. As of yesterday, at least 5, 683 persons have been infected, while about 300 have died from the disease.

Nigeria last week closed its borders to 15 countries, including the UK.

4 Cases from …United States

According to the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who on different occasions provided travel histories of COVID-19 confirmed cases in Nigeria, at least four of the cases were said to enter into Nigeria from the United States.

The country presently has a burden of over 30,000 infected cases and 388 deaths. It has now surpassed Spain’s burden thereby becoming the 3rd most-affected nation by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite being one of the countries with the best healthcare globally, its health force fear it may be overwhelmed should the virus surge beyond its present number.

Already, the outbreak is already having a toll on the country’s economy with 283 persons said to have lost their jobs last Friday due to the outbreak.

2 Cases from …France

 

So far, at least two of the 30 confirmed cases in Nigeria came into the country through France. Although the two cases are presently receiving treatment, it is believed one of them infected another Nigerian before he tested positive and commenced treatment.

France is one of the high-risk countries for COVID-19. It presently has over 14, 000 infected cases and 562 deaths.

One case each from Spain, Netherland, Italy and Canada

Although Italy is referred to as the epicenter of the outbreak in Italy, only one case has been announced by the Nigerian government to have come into its territory from the country.

The only Italian case so far mentioned is the index case of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

Italy’s death toll has surpassed that of China, with over 53, 000 persons said to be infected, while 4, 823 persons have died so far.

Italy has a high old population and those most at risk of COVID-19 deaths are old persons above 65 years, and persons with underlying illnesses.

Spain, Netherland and Canada have so far imported one case each into Nigeria.

4 Cases of Community Spread

While countries often guide against the import of foreign diseases into their country, the greatest fear from pandemics is the community spread of the disease.

Community spread of a disease is a public health term, which refers to person to person transmission of disease.

So far, Nigeria has had four community spread of the COVID-19. The Italian index case infected a Nigerian in Ogun. The 30-year-old female, who came into the country from the United Kingdom, infected another woman. As at the last count, this has so far been transmitted to four persons in the country.

The federal and state governments have instituted a lockdown of activities in their respective domain as part of plans to halt community spread of the disease; as this remains the fastest way diseases can spread across people in a particular region.

7 Cases …unannounced origin

 

During the announcement of each confirmed case in Nigeria, the federal government, either through the Ministry of Health or the NCDC gives details on the travel history of the patients.

It, however, didn’t give detail on seven cases. While it is certain they were not exposed to the virus through community spread, the country with which they imported it has never been mentioned.

The Nigerian government has not also mentioned whether any case was imported into the country through China, the epicenter of the disease despite Nigeria’s high trading partnership with the country.

SUNDAY MARCH 22, 2020

COVID 19: Lagos Issues Public Transport Guidelines

Segun James

As part of the efforts by the Lagos State Government to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the state, the government Sunday issued a guideline on the operation of public transportation in the state.

The government in a statement by the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde states that “henceforth all stakeholders in public transportation in the State are to sanitize their parks and garages regularly and continuously before and after each trip.”

Also transport operators are expected to have at the entrance to their parks and garages, washing hand equipment with soap and running water.

“All Operators are not allowed to over crowd or over load their vehicles at this point in time, Passenger’s spacing must be fully observed. NCDC recommends that at least 2m (5feet) distance is required between anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness. No standing in all BRT and LBSL bus operations

“All buses should be at 60% capacity and not 100% with all Air Conditioning System in public transport be put off.”

Oladeinde also said that all drivers and their conductors should always wear hand gloves and nose guides while in transit

Turkish Airlines Reschedules Nigeria Flights Ahead of Airport Shutdown

Following the announcement of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to shut down international airports in Lagos and Abuja for all flights, starting from Monday, 23rd March 23, Turkish Airlines, Sunday, said it would reschedule its flights for Tuesday, March 24 to Monday, March 23.

A statement by the airlines on Sunday said the rescheduling was to accommodate passengers of the cancelled flights and ensure they all reach their destination before the closure of airports.

The statement said “as the airline that always put the travel security at the forefront, Turkish Airlines will continue to monitor the latest developments on the situation with the national and international health authorities and take appropriate precaution.”

(Updated) COVID 19: Stay Home for Two Weeks, Sanwo-Olu Orders Civil Servants

Segun James

Lagos State Governor, Babajide-Sanwo-Olu, has ordered civil servants in the state to stay away from work for two weeks.

Sanwo-Olu, who gave the order during a live press conference on Sunday, said the order applies to civil servants on grade level one to 12.

This order, he however said, does not apply to workers on essential duties.

“We are shutting down almost 70 per cent of our workforce from Monday, 23rd of March 2020. We are shutting down levels 1-12 in our public service for the next 14 days.

“We know the enormity of the task at hand and we are ready for it. We are working with market leaders and even public transport unions to ensure social distancing.

“Self-Isolate for at least 14 days if you are just returning to Nigeria. That would be the right thing to do.

“We must always rise to our challenges. We will win with the cooperation of Lagos residents. We have done this before, we will do it again.”

The Governor who expressed worry over increasing rate of confirmed cases in the state at a press conference held in Lagos House Marina, urged the private sector to bench their non –essential services staff to effectively tackle the pandemic disease.

He said it had become necessary for him to address the residents again because of the confirmation of an additional six cases within 72 hours he briefed on the disease bringing the total in Lagos State to nineteen confirmed cases.

“First let me say that these confirmations are evidence the system is working, that we are actively and met tracking and testing suspected cases. Let me also reiterate that all confirmed cases have been isolated at the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Yaba’’

Sanwo-Olu added that the state government had been working closely with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). the World Health Organization (WHO) and the private sector to halt the spread of this disease.

The Governor who hailed Lagosians for obeying his directive on large congregation of people above 50, said the state government would arrest anyone or group found to be frustrating government’s efforts.

Sanwo-Olu pointed out that the directive was not meant to deprive anybody of his or her freedom, saying,’’ Many mosques were closed on Friday and many churches shut down today.’’

“In addition to all the previous directives issued so far. I am now hereby directing all public officers in the entire unified public service from Grade Levels 1 to 12 which constitutes 70 percent of the entire public service workforce to stay at home from Monday 23″ of March 2020. for 14 days in the first instance.

‘’We will review this as time goes on. Members of the public are advised to refrain from visiting public offices. and to transact as much business as is possible through the telephone and online channels’’.

‘’This stay at-home order does not affect medical personnel. Fire Service. LASEMA. LAWMA and other first responders and essential services. We are working to ramp up our capacity to take on new cases as they’re confirmed; other Health facilities will on due time be deployed to support the Mainland Infectious Diseases Hospital.’’

The governor added that the state government would set up more facilities in Yaba to contain a likely upsurge in Coronavirus cases, saying more health workers were being trained and retired health personnel were also being put on notice that they may be recalled to serve in these trying times.

 

 

COVID-19: German Chancellor, Merkel, Quarantined

 Angela Merkel has gone into quarantine after being informed that a doctor who administered a vaccine to her has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Merkel’s spokesman said the German chancellor, who is 65, was informed about the doctor’s test shortly after holding a news conference Sunday announcing new measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel had received a precautionary vaccine Friday against pneumococcal infection.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. About 93,800 people have recovered, mostly in China.

Seibert said in a statement that Merkel would undergo “regular tests” in the coming days and continue with her work from home for the time being.

Merkel had earlier expressed her gratitude to Germans who were following the rules on social distancing, saying it was important to remain at least 1.5 meters (about five feet) apart to reduce the likelihood of infection.

The development illustrated how even world leaders aren’t free from the risk of infection.

“With a certain distance the risk of infections is reduced almost to zero,” Merkel told reporters. “Whether you are half a meter apart or 1.5 meters apart makes a huge difference

Seconds later, she was informed that her doctor had tested positive for COVID-19 (TIME)

COVID-19: Eko Hotel Announces Partial Closure

By Chiemelie Ezeobi

Following the directive limiting social and religious gatherings to 20 persons per meeting point by the Lagis State Government to halt the spread of coronavirus, Eko Hotel & Suites has announced a partial closure of its services.

In a statement issued on Sunday on its Facebook page, the hotel said it will temporarily close down some of its services including the spa, gym, pool, conference and banquet facilities.

Meanwhile, the hotel said the temporary closure would not affect other services, including parts of the hotel.

The statement read thus, “It is with great difficulty, but with the safety of you and our community in mind, that we have made the decision to temporarily close our Eko Suites Hotel, Eko Gardens Hotel, 88 Restaurant, Lagos Irish Pub, Sky Restaurant, My Thai Restaurant, Red Chinese Restaurant, Crossroads, the spa, gym, pool, and conference and banquet facilities.

“However, part of Eko Signature and Eko Hotel, as well as Kuramo Sports Cafe, Calabash Bar, Lagoon Breeze, 1415 Seafood and Steakhouse are still operational.

“We urge you to take the necessary precautionary steps advised by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in staying safe, as we fight COVID-19 together!”

 

COVID-19 Death Toll Climbs to 13,799

*Lockdown alone can’t tackle outbreak, WHO warns Nigeria, others

Martins Ifijeh

Death toll from COVID-19 has jumped to 13, 799, with 322, 278 persons confirmed to be positive with the virus in 189 countries across six continents, the World Health Organisation (WHO) records show.

This is even as the world health body has warned Nigeria and 185 other countries affected that only lockdown approach can’t defeat the growing spread of the disease.

Although an estimated 96,000 people have so far recovered from the disease worldwide, at least 10, 000 people are still in critical condition, a situation that predicts more fatalities will be recorded.

One of the major countries most hit by the latest death rate from the disease is Spain, which has recorded 374 deaths and 3, 107 confirmed cases within the last 24 hours, bringing the total deaths and cases in the country to 1756 and 28, 603 respectively.

Echoing measures taken by Italy – Europe’s hardest hit country – the Spanish government declared a state of emergency on Saturday, ordering the closure of all non-essential shops as well as bars, restaurants, cafes, football grounds and cinemas.

Residents have been ordered to stay at home, allowed out only to buy food and medicine or travel to work, health centres or banks. Travel is also allowed for those looking after the elderly or dependents.

Save for a handful of people walking their dogs or picking up groceries, most streets in Madrid were empty.

Although the WHO and Worldometrics have not released figures yet for Italy’s burden since last night, the country Sunday recorded over 800 deaths in one single day. its death figures have surpassed that of China. China has 81,054 confirmed cases with 3, 261 deaths, while Italy has 51, 578 confirmed cases and 4, 825 deaths, the highest fatality by any country since the disease started.

Although China’s cases have declined with no recorded deaths since the last three days, it was not so lucky Sunday as it recorded 46 new cases and six deaths between Saturday and Sunday. Of the 46 new cases, only one was recorded as community spread, while the remaining 45 were exported cases.

The country said since it has made progress in the fight against the outbreak, it would now send health experts to Italy and Spain to help tackle the deadly virus.

To halt import of the spread from other countries, it has now started diverting all international flights due to arrive in Beijing starting Monday another airport where passengers will undergo virus screening, according to government agencies Sunday.

International flights that were scheduled to arrive in the capital will land instead at one of 12 airports. Passengers who clear screening will then be permitted to re-board the plane, which will then fly to Beijing, the regulator said.

Among the new cases recorded in China, record 14 were in the financial hub of Shanghai and 13 were in Beijing, a decline from 21 the previous day.

In Canada, death toll has climbed by 46 per cent. Officials in the country announced that the total number of COVID-19 deaths jumped to 19, an increase of 46 percent. The total number of infected cases rose from 1,099 to 1,328, according to John Hopkins University.

Afghanistan Sunday recorded its first death, according to the country’s health ministry.

The Spokesman of the Ministry of Public Health, Wahidullah Mayar said a 40-year-old man died in the Northern Balkh province.

Afghanistan has 34 confirmed cases of the virus and there are fears its vulnerable health system, devastated by years of war, would be overwhelmed by an outbreak.

Breaking: Lagos Records Three New Cases of COVID-19

By Martins Ifijeh

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)  has confirmed three more cases of COVID-19 in Lagos State, bringing the number of recorded cases in the state Sunday to six, and the total number in the country to 30.

Stating this on its Twitter handle Sunday, @NCDCgov, the centre said  two of the cases were returning travellers while one was a contact of a confirmed case.

It said: “As at 05:28 pm on March 22, there are 30 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. 2 have been discharged with no deaths.”

More details later..

 

Breaking: COVID-19: Sanwo-Olu Orders Civil Servants to Stay at Home

Sunday Ehigiator

In an effort to further curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has mandated all civil servants from level one to 12 to remain at home effective from Monday, March 23, 2020.

The governor disclosed this, Sunday during a live press conference at the state’s secretariat.

More details shortly…

Breaking: COVID-19: Sanwo-Olu Asks Civil Servants to Remain at Home

Sunday Ehigiator

In an effort to further curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has mandated all civil servants from level one to 12 to remain at home effective from Monday, March 23, 2020.

The governor disclosed this, Sunday during a live press conference at the state’s secretariat.

More details shortly…

Covid-19: Mountain of Fire Suspends Activities in Lagos, Ogun

The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM), has said that it is suspending all church activities at all of its branches in Lagos and Ogun States forthwith till further notice incompliance with the ban on gatherings and religious activities by the Lagos and Ogun State governments,

A leading healing and deliverance ministry, the church this weekend released prayers  to arrest the continuing spread of the dreaded coronavirus disease and advised Nigerians not to take panic.

General Overseer (GO) of the MFM, Dr. Daniel Kolawole Olukoya, in a statement by his Media Office, signed Mr. Collins Edomaruse   reminded Nigerians of the various steps being taken by the Federal and State Governments to contain the pandemic

CONVID-19 : Churches Open in Oyo 

Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan

Churches in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital and other towns in the state, Sunday defied the order of the state government to avoid gatherings of more than 50 persons in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-19.

While the state government made the closure of worship centres and religious gatherings voluntary, it however strongly advised churches, mosques and other religious centres not to have more than 50 people gathered in the same place at once.

However some churches visited by THISDAY Sunday opened for service with large gathering of members in attendance.

The Stone Church,  Mokola, Ibadan recorded large number of members, but with the church providing water for washing hands as well as sanitizer for members.

Also, the sitting arrangement was altered from the previous ones with large space among members while they were implored not to shake hands or hug themselves.

Service also held at the Cook Memorial Baptist Church, Oja Oba, Ibadan, which also witnessed large presence of members.

A member of the church, Prince Segun Adeyemo, while speaking with THISDAY, said the church opened for service based on the directive of the President of the National Baptist Convention (NBC) and National President, Christians Association of Nigeria (NBC), Rev. Supo Ayokunle, that it should gather to pray against Coronavirus.

He added that the church only operated skeletal service, stating that after Sunday Service, it was prayers thereafter.

At the Assemblies of God Church, Mokola, Ibadan, members were made to wash their hands and sanitizer applied before they were allowed into the church.

 

 

COVID-19 Cases in Nigeria Rise to 27, Spread to FCT, Four States

By Martins Ifijeh

The federal government has announced five new cases of COVID-19 in Lagos, Oyo and the Federal Capital Territory, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 27.

Making this known on its Twitter handle Sunday, @NCDCgov, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said three of the cases were from Lagos, while one each from Oyo State and the FCT.

It said: “The three cases from Lagos had travel history to high risk countries in the last seven days. They have all been placed under isolation and treatment.

“Breaking down these figures mean Lagos has recorded 19 cases, Abuja four, Ogun two, Oyo one and Ekiti one.

“Of the total 27 cases, two have been discharged. We are working closely with the affected states, including the FCT identify and follow up with contacts. If you have returned to Nigeria from any country in the last 14 days, please stay in self-isolation,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government through the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi has given further details on the new cases from the state, noting that one of the three cases was  a 51-year-old Briton who arrived Nigeria on March 8 via BA75 flight.

He said: “The second patient is a Nigerian on connecting flight KL0582 London Amsterdam / KL0587 Amsterdam to Lagos. He arrived in Nigeria March 14.

“The third case is a 65-year-old citizen of the United States of America who arrived in Lagos about six weeks ago,” Abayomi added.

Meanwhile the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, who doubles as the Chairman, State COVID-19 Task Force, said the case from the state had been placed under isolation and treatment.

He said: “The COVID-19 confirmation test for the suspected case at Bodija has come back positive. The result was released at 17:35 PM of March 21, 2020. Oyo State Public Health Officials are collaborating with the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan’s team on the case.

“A follow up on the Ekiti COVID-19 case revealed that the person was picked up directly from Lagos Airport to a private apartment in Ona Ara Local Government Area.

“The Health Authorities have contacted the family concerned and the community has been alerted for intensified contact tracing and self-isolation of identified close contacts.

“The information given that he stayed in some hotels in Ibadan has been found to be false.”

He also stated that another returnee from Texas, USA, had also been identified at Oluyole Local Government Area, adding that she has been kept in self-isolation with close monitoring by the State Epidemiological Team.

“All recent returnees are again urged to identify themselves to ministry officials and self-isolate for 14 days.

“We have released funds for: Activation of Emergency Operation Centre at the Ministry of Health.

“Establishment of Diagnostic Centre for screening of Coronavirus and other related infectious diseases to be stationed at the UCH, Ibadan.

“Equipping of the newly designated Oyo State Infectious Disease Centre at Olodo that has the capacity for over 100 cases,” he added.

He also released telephone helplines of the state Ministry of health to be contacted in case of any suspected case around the state. The numbers are, “Oyo State Ministry of Health Helplines: 08038210122/ 08023229267/ 08073431342.

Breaking: Abuja Records New Case of COVID-19, Bringing Total Number in Nigeria to 27

By Martins Ifijeh

The Federal Capital Territory has recorded another case of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases recorded in Nigeria to 27 since the outbreak started in Nigeria.

Announcing this Sunday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), through its Twitter handle, said so far Lagos has recorded 19, Abuja four, Ogun two, Ekiti and Oyo one each.

Details later ..

 

Coronavirus: FCTA Orders Arrest of Drivers Who Overload their Vehicles

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

FCT Administration has issued an immediate directive to road traffic enforcement officers across the city to arrest drivers who overload their vehicles with passengers.

The order was issued on Sunday morning by the

Chairman, FCT Ministerial Task Team on Traffic Management, Mr Ikharo Attah.

Attah said it would be grossly inappropriate for drivers to fully pack their vehicles with passengers for pecuniary gains at a time the world is advocating social distancing as a means of fighting covid-19.

“Those carrying two passengers in front of their vehicles would have their vehicles impounded and drivers licence seized. Besides the health risks, it is also unsafe as the driver finds it difficult to adjust his gear and hand break,” he warned.

He also added that High Capacity Bus drivers would also be properly checked to ensure that they do not overload their buses.

He called on all transport operators, particularly those only permitted to operate at the suburbs, such as commercial motorcycles and tricycles to also avoid overloading.

The order is also directed at managers of motor parks and transport unions to obey the directives of the FCT authority limiting any gathering to a maximum 50 persons.

Attah also advised transporters to be observant of their passengers and report those with signs of respiratory  challenges to appropriate health authorities for prompt examination.

COVID-19: Winners Chapel Defies Lagos, Ogun Govt Ban

Sunday Ehigiator

At the Living Faith Church in Ota, social distance was not observed as members of the church sat close to each other.

No temperature check was done on any member of the church. Hand sanitizers were also not used.

The first and second services were held normally.

The General Overseer, Living Faith Church, Bishop David Oyedepo encouraged members to attend their usual house fellowships this Wednesday, adding that announcement on steps to be taken against COVID-19 would be announced to members at their various house fellowships.

COVID-19: How Lagos, Ogun Churches are Defying Govt Ban 

By Sunday Ehigiator

Despite Lagos and Ogun governments’ ban on religious gatherings of more than 50 persons in a bid to halt community spread of COVID-19, many churches have defied the ban.

For instance, Living Faith Church (also known as Winners Chapel) Bus from Bolade Oshodi in Lagos is currently conveying members to Canaan Land.

The bus which is supposed to be four persons per roll is admitting five persons per roll, while some even sat on other passengers’ legs.

A bus ideally meant for 28 persons is presently conveying 39 adults and five children to Canaanland, Ota in Ogun State.

Also worthy of note is the fact that there is no temperature check and sanitizers are not being provided for passengers in the bus moved.

Passengers are heard discussing the outbreak of coronavirus.

“No one, and nothing can stop us from God’s house. We serve a living God. That is why we are called Winners Faith.”

“God give us strength against any COVID-19.”

Oyo Records First Coronavirus Case

*Keeps US returnee in isolation

Martins Ifijeh and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan

Oyo state has recorded its first case of Coronavirus.

Governor Seyi Makinde who doubles as the Chairman of the State Covid-19 Task Force, made the disclosure in his Twitter handle Sunday morning, saying the suspected case who has been in isolation eventually tested positive.

He said although the result was released at 17:35pm on March 21, it got to the state late in the night and was received by the Task force.

He added that another UK returnee suspected of having the virus had been identified and kept in isolation in Oluyole Area of the state.

Makinde added that the state government had released funds for the Activation of Emergency Operation Centre at the Ministry of Health as well as the establishment of Diagnostic Centre for screening of Coronavirus and other related infectious diseases to be stationed at the UCH, Ibadan.

According to him, “The Covid-19 confirmation test for the suspected case at Bodija has come back positive. The result was released at 17:35 PM of March 21, 2020. Oyo State Public Health Officials are collaborating with the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan’s team on the case.

“A follow up on the Ekiti covid-19 case revealed that the deceased was picked up directly from Lagos Airport to a private apartment in Ona Ara Local Government Area.

“The Health Authorities have contacted the family concerned and the community has been alerted for intensified contact tracing and self-isolation of identified close contacts.

“The information given that he stayed in some hotels in Ibadan has been found to be false.

“Another returnee from Texas, USA, has also been identified at Oluyole Local Government Area. She has been kept in self-isolation with close monitoring by the State Epidemiological Team. All recent returnees are again urged to identify themselves to Ministry Officials and self-isolate for 14 days.

“We have released funds for: Activation of Emergency Operation Centre at the Ministry of Health.

“Establishment of Diagnostic Centre for screening of Coronavirus and other related infectious diseases to be stationed at the UCH, Ibadan.

“Equipping of the newly designated Oyo State Infectious Disease Centre at Olodo that has the capacity for over 100 cases.”

He  also released telephone helplines of the state Ministry of health to be contacted in case of any suspected case around the state. The numbers are, “Oyo State Ministry of Health Helplines: 08038210122/ 08023229267/ 08073431342.”

Breaking: Oyo Records First Case of COVID-19

By Martins Ifijeh

The Oyo State Government has confirmed a case of COVID-19 in the state, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 26.

The Governor, Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, who confirmed this in a statement on Sunday morning said: “The COVID-19 confirmation test for the suspected case at Bodija has come back positive. The result was released at 17:35pm of March 21, 2020.

“A follow-up on the Ekiti COVID-19 case revealed that the deceased was picked up directly from Lagos Airport to a private apartment in Ona Ara Local Government Area,” he said.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), via its Twitter handle, NCDCgov, Sunday had earlier confirmed three new cases in Lagos, and noted that they had travel history to high risk countries in the last seven days.

 

CBN Directs Oil Companies to End FX Sale to NNPC

•Plans special naira, dollar intervention for health companies

 •Total economic stimulus now N3.5trn

Obinna Chima and Nume Ekeghe

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday directed all oil companies in the country, both international and domestic, to immediately stop the sale of foreign exchange (FX) to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). It said henceforth, oil companies should sell their FX to the CBN.

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, gave the directive while briefing journalists at the end of an extraordinary Bankers’ Committee meeting in Lagos. Emefiele explained that the directive, which was aimed at shoring up FX supply in the country, was in line with the new policy on price modulation that the federal government announced last week.

The CBN governor stated, “All related oil companies are to sell FX to CBN and no longer NNPC. Whether you are in the oil service industry or oil production, upstream, midstream or downstream, all oil related companies must sell their FX to the CBN and no longer to the NNPC, for the purpose of funding the importation of petroleum products, given the new policy on price modulation.”

The federal government had last week deregulated petrol pricing, directing the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to modulate pricing in accordance with prevailing market dynamics and oil market developments. Subsequently, NNPC announced that its outlets would sell petrol at N125 from today, N18 reduction from the N143 it was previously sold.

Emefiele said the committee discussed the health and economic crisis caused by the novel Corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic, which resulted in escalating worldwide infections, deaths, disruption in global supply chains, travel restrictions, and turmoil in the international financial markets. He said it was resolved that the central bank and banks would collaborate at this critical time with one coherent strategy to provide confidence to customers, counter parties, the public and, most importantly, put Nigeria first.

According to him, the industry has learnt lessons from previous crises, including the 2008 global financial crisis and oil price slump of 2016. The experiences, he said, would be applied in dealing with the current crisis.

“The industry resolved that profit will not be the primary motive at this time. Rather, preserving confidence, financial stability and support for the economy will be the overriding objectives,” he said.

The CBN governor stressed that engagements would be held with correspondent banks, trade creditors, and trading partners regarding existing Letters of Credit (LCs) and trade commitments.

He explained, “We would be holding engagements with our correspondent banks and trading partners. In 2016, when we had same incident, we had same engagements with our trading partners and correspondent banks, who provide credit lines to customers through Nigerian banks.

“During those engagements at that time, we told everyone that those obligations would be met. We are saying at this time, there is no need to panic.

“We would be dimensioning the size of all those commitments and obligations. Just like we succeeded in 2016, once more I am saying they would be paid.

“The industry is committed to resolving these commitments in a comprehensive and orderly way. There will be transparent and open communication with all counterparties.”

Emefiele pointed out that in view of the significant disruption of the global supply chain, the Bankers’ Committee advised Nigerians and companies to prioritise their import needs and focus more on sourcing raw materials and inputs locally.

“Indeed, there is no choice, but to focus on sourcing your raw materials locally because with various lockdowns that are happening in different parts of the world, all countries are locking their borders, making it impossible for raw materials and inputs to leave their borders,” he stated. “Therefore, we do not have any choice, but to look inwards.”

He added, “The Bankers’ Committee noted the success of the CBN’s 43 items policy and encouraged it to strengthen it and other measures targeted at export promotion and/or import substitution to position Nigeria as a key global producer and build a self-sufficient economy.”

According to the CBN Governor, the committee discussed the financial system’s implication and operationalisation of the policy measures earlier announced by the CBN. He listed them to include additional moratorium of one year on CBN intervention; interest rate reduction on intervention facilities from nine per cent to five per cent; creation of N50 billion targeted credit facility for affected households and SMEs; and granting regulatory forbearance to banks to restructure terms of facilities in affected sectors.

Others include strengthening the apex bank’s loan-to-deposit ratio policy; activation of the N1.5 trillion InfraCo project for building critical infrastructure; additional N100 billion in healthcare loans to pharmaceutical companies, healthcare practitioners intending to expand/build capacity; and the N1 trillion in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors.

He said the combination of the measures, which amounts to over N3.5 trillion in stimulus, was to ameliorate the pains arising from the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.

Emefiele added, “Given that this crisis is first and foremost a public health crisis, we are paying particular attention to our health industry.

“As aforementioned, global supply chains have been disrupted, including dominant drug supply channels from China and India. In fact, many countries have or are planning to ban export of drugs and medical supplies from their countries.

“Clearly, we have no choice but to produce these items locally. As a result, the Committee has identified a few key local pharmaceutical companies who shall be granted naira and FX funding facilities to support procurement of raw materials and equipment required to exponentially increase local drug production in Nigeria.

“These loans would be granted at single-digit interest rate and for long tenors, include granting the necessary moratorium.

“These include, but are not limited to, Emzor, Fidson, GSK, May & Baker, Unique Pharma, Swiss Pharma, Neimeth, Sagar, Orange Drugs, Dana Pharma, etc.”

He disclosed that in the course of the meeting, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, called in requesting that the Committee should pay special attention to the health sector, saying the fiscal authorities are willing to grant necessary incentives and waivers to encourage operators in the healthcare sector.

Emefiele also disclosed that this week, the central bank would convene a meeting with pharmaceutical companies to discuss ways to support them to immediately begin to expand their plants and machineries with a view to becoming self-sufficient.

Nigeria Moves to Lockdown as 10 New Cases are Confirmed in Lagos, Abuja

•NRC shuts down rail operations

 •Death toll rises to 12,978, infected cases jump to 304,035 globally

•Lagos reduces social gathering to 20 people

•Police to enforce restriction order

Chiemelie EzeobiChinedu EzeRebecca Ejifoma in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

After recording 10 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total to 22, but with two fully recovered and discharged, the federal government, on Saturday, announced sterner measures to control the spread of the pandemic. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) issued a directive restricting all international flights to all Nigerian airports from tomorrow. But exempted from the ban are “emergency aircraft, state aircraft and any other aircraft that might be so approved by the appropriate authority,” according to a clarification by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) dated March 21, 2020.

NAMA said, “However, any Intentional flight operation that might be so approved shall be required to submit manifest to the Port Health authority prior to arrival in Nigeria.

“Domestic flights shall continue normal operations at all airports.”

In a letter addressed to both domestic and foreign airlines, NCAA said in addition to earlier restriction of flights to Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu airports, it would from tomorrow ban all international flights to Lagos and Abuja airports.

That was as the Emirates Airline said it would be suspending all flights into Lagos and Abuja from its base in Dubai, starting tomorrow, March 23, due to the effect of the Coronavirus. The pandemic has infected 304,035 globally and claimed 12,978 lives, with Italy bearing the highest death number in the world. Italy’s daily coronavirus death toll rose by 793 Saturday, bringing the total to 4,825

In further stringent measures to suppress the spread of the virus, the federal government through the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) shut down train services across the country, starting, also, tomorrow.

Lagos State, where the first case of Covid-19 was discovered, announced some new measures as a way of curbing the spread of the virus, chief among which was a reduction in the number of persons at social gatherings. From 50 announced in an earlier directive, the state government reduced the number to 20, and commenced immediate enforcement of the order.

NAMA Shut Airspace to Inbound and Outbound Flights Midnight Today

NCAA, in the letter with ref no NCAA/DG, AIR/11/16/106, dated March 21, 2020 and issued from Lagos, stated, “Further to our earlier letter on restriction of international flights into Nigeria, we wish to inform you that effective Monday 23rd March at 2300Z to 23rd April at 2300Z, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos (DNMM) and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (DNAA) will be closed to all international flights.

“This is in addition to the closure of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano (DNKN), Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu (DNEN), and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa (DNPC) effective Saturday 21 March at 2300Z.

“Henceforth, all airports in Nigeria are closed to all incoming international flights with the exception of emergency and essential flights.

“Domestic flights will continue normal operations at all airports. All airlines are required to submit passenger manifest to Port Health Authorities prior to the arrival of flights into Nigeria.”

NCAA’s Director-General and Chief Executive Officer, Captain Musa Nuhu, signed the letter.

The closure of Nigeria’s five international airports to foreign flights effectively marks a lockdown of the country, as airlines and airports record huge revenue losses that could rise to a trillion dollars, if COVID-19 remains unabated in the days ahead.

NRC, in its own letter dated March 21, 2020 and signed by Deputy Director, Public Relations, Yakubu Mahmood, for Board and Management, said the decision to suspend train services was “in view of the report of the already known Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. Further information on passengers’ trains services will be made available in due cause to our esteemed passengers.”

Apart from suspending operations to the Nigerian airports, Emirates Airline said it would also cancel three already booked flights to the country. It apologised to passengers for the inconveniences caused by the cancellation.

The airline said, “Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the aviation industry, Emirates will be suspending operations into Lagos and Abuja.

“EK785/786; EK781/782 and EK783/784, the above listed flights are cancelled from March 23, 2020. We regret any inconveniences that this may cause. As the situation is being reviewed, we will keep you posted. Passengers may visit our website for the latest travel update information.”

10 New Cases of Covid-19 Confirmed

Confirming the 10 new cases of Covid-19, the Federal Ministry of Health said three of the new cases were discovered in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, while the remaining seven were from Lagos State. These brought the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria to 22.

A statement issued Saturday by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said all 10 new cases were Nigerians. Ehanire said nine of them had travel history to Canada, France, Netherlands, Spain and United Kingdom and had returned to Nigeria in the past one week; while the 10th case was a close contact of a previously confirmed case.

The minister said the three cases in Abuja were being treated at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Gwagwalada, while the seven in Lagos were treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Yaba.

“All 10 new cases have mild to moderate symptoms and are currently receiving treatment. As of the 21st of March 2020, 22 cases have been confirmed, two cases have been discharged and there has been no death from COVID-19 in Nigeria. The Federal Government of Nigeria remains committed to working with states to provide optimal care for all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country,” he said.

Ehanire explained that contact tracing was on-going to identify all persons, who had been in contact with the new cases.

He said Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health had heightened screening at all air, land and sea points of entry into Nigeria and adapted the protocols to reflect the travel guidance issued by the Presidential Task Force on the Control of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to the minister, the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), supported by partners, has continued to coordinate response activities and strengthen preparedness capacity across states nationwide.

He stated, “An intensive national risk communications campaign is on-going to inform Nigerians about COVID-19. The Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), working closely with states and the Presidential Task Force on the Control of Coronavirus (COVID-19), continues to review response activities and institute measures to protect the health of Nigerians.

“It is important that Nigerians strictly adhere to social distancing and other necessary precautions in place. These measures include taking the following precautions below to protect yourself and your family:

“Wash hands regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitiser if no water and soap is available. Social distancing is crucial to reducing the spread of COVID-19 through use of no-touch greetings, maintaining at least two metres distance between yourself and anyone, who is coughing or sneezing.

“Other safeguards include staying home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Immediately call NCDC’s 24/7 toll-free number 0800 9700 0010. Do not self-medicate, avoiding or postponing events with large gatherings of people, including schools, workplaces, places of worship, crowded supermarkets and pharmacies, social and sporting events.

“Persons with a persistent cough or sneezing should stay at home until they recover. Make sure you and people around you observe hand and respiratory hygiene by covering your nose with tissue when sneezing or coughing.

“Immediately dispose of tissue in a covered bin and wash your hands with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based sanitiser if no water and soap is available, coughing or sneezing into the sleeve of your bent elbow if no tissue is available and avoid all non-essential travel to all countries.”

Lagos State Govt Issues Guidelines

The Lagos State government issued similar guidelines. Announcing this through the Ministry of Information and Strategy, the government said, “The Lagos State Government has banned all religious or social gathering of over 20 people within the state. It is important we all adhere to this directive.”

The ministry added, “If you feel sick or have symptoms such as fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, cough or sneezing, call these emergency numbers 08000CORONA, 08023169485 08033565529 or 08052817243.”

Police Vows to Enforce Restriction Order

Consequently, the Lagos State Police Command is set to commence enforcement of the ban on social gatherings, clubs, parties, ceremonies and religious congregations of more than 20 persons. According to the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Bala Elkana, defaulters will face the wrath of the law.

The police in Lagos said, “Lagos State Police Command wishes to inform the general public that the command in compliance with the guidelines and directives issued by both the federal government and Lagos State government on prevention of the spread of COVID-19, which the World Health Organisation has declared as a pandemic, has embarked on massive enforcement of the ban order.

“To that effect, the command has deployed adequate resources across the state to ensure that the orders are fully obeyed. The order imposed bans on social gatherings, such as, wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies, burial ceremonies, parties, clubs and religion gatherings of people more than 50 (now 20 in Lagos).

“Commercial vehicles carrying passengers above capacity (overloading) are also part of this order. Members of the public are encouraged to avoid overcrowding themselves at bus stops, market places, business places and scene of incidents.

“The Commissioner of Police Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu, called on the good people of Lagos State to obey the safety regulations put in place for the benefit of everyone. We must be alive and healthy before socio-economic activities will be effective.

“The command has rolled out its medical team to market places for awareness creation and police detention facilities to safeguard the safety of suspects. The Commissioner of Police has ordered the immediate release of suspects arrested for minor offences as part of preventive measures. Together, we can prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Already, following Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s directive on ban of public gathering above 20 people, a combined team of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) and Lagos State Safety Commission have set out to enforce the ban. The team has sealed Prime Mall Mega Plaza located in Lekki  and three other event centres for flouting the state government’s directive on public gathering.

Worried by growing cases of the deadly coronavirus in the state, Sanwo-Olu had on Friday banned public gatherings of over 20 people in the state as part of measures to prevent the pandemic.

Speaking during an enforcement operation, General Manager, LASEPA, Dr Dolapo Fasawe, and the Director-General Lagos State Safety Commission, Lanre Mojola, said the safety of Lagosians was paramount to the state government.

Fasawe said it was gratifying that most event centres complied with the directive. She said among the areas visited were a film house at Lekki, Shoprite, Balmoral, Federal Palace Hotel, and the Dome.

The LASEPA head added that the enforcement team also sealed Regency, Maltinos Event & Suites and Imperial at Jobi Felle, Ikeja, as well as Prime Mall Mega Plaza at Lekki, where a surprise party was to be held.

She said, “The banning of public/social gathering by Mr Governor became imperative to save our dear state and prevent our people from contacting the virus. COVID- 19 has become a global pandemic, therefore, serious measures, such as this, must be taken to reduce the spread and further stem the outbreak of the pandemic.

“It is advisable we adopt social distancing by keeping at least six-foot distance between ourselves and others to prevent transmitting the virus seamlessly.

“For now, let us avoid crowds and large gatherings, such as weddings, concerts, sporting events, conferences and so forth. We are not unmindful of the implications of the restrictions, but it is crucial we collectively limit and control the spread.

“Lagos State is not in isolation, it’s a global pandemic, therefore, this strong efforts to suppress and push it back for the safety of all.”

Fasawe said the inspection and monitoring exercise was not to impose hardship on them but to access the compliance level, educate the public on the need to obey, and ensure total compliance.

“We appeal for understanding and support of all and sundry at this time. We should continuously keep our environment clean, watch our hands and avoid unnecessary contact with people,” she added.

On his part, the director-general of the safety commission, Lanre Mojola, expressed satisfaction with the monitoring exercise and enjoined the public to support the government in the fight against the menace. Mojola said the war on the deadly virus could only be won if everyone obeyed a simple directive to avoid actions or activities that could put everyone at risk.

Covid-19/THE Toll…

 

•Italy recorded 33 deaths per hour yesterday

•Ravages 7 members of a family killing 4 in New Jersey

•Official: 80% of people in Madrid will likely get virus

How States in Nigeria Are Gearing Up

By Our Correspondents

Across the globe, scientists and medical experts are racing against time on how to end the scourge of Covid-19 earlier than the current projection of up to 18 months.

United States Vice President, Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence have both tested negative for the Coronavirus, his office announced Saturday night.

The test became necessary when one of his staff tested positive to virus.

Pence is leading the administration’s coronavirus task force and has been a regular presence at President Donald Trump’s side in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the death toll from coronavirus around the world continue to mount, rising to 12,978 with Italy recording 4,825 cases and a single-day death toll of 793, an average of 33 deaths per hour. In New Jersey in the United States of America, the horror  of the virus was laid bare as it ravaged seven members of a single family, killing four.

The matriarch of the large New Jersey family, Grace Fusco, died Wednesday night without ever knowing that her two oldest children had died before her. Mrs. Fusco, 73, died after contracting the coronavirus — hours after her son died from the virus and five days after her daughter’s death, a relative said.

On Thursday, another child who had contracted the virus, Vincent Fusco, died, the relative, Roseann Paradiso Fodera, said.

Three other children remain hospitalised, two of them in critical condition, revealed Ms. Paradiso Fodera, the family’s lawyer who is Mrs. Fusco’s cousin and is serving as a spok.

Spain’s death toll has also increased to more than 1,300, while in Iran, the number of deaths hit another grim milestone of 1,500 as the country marks the beginning of the Persian New Year.

However, Spain official warned that a scary 80 per cent of people in Madrid will likely get coronavirus.

But whilst many are optimistic that the world would soon see the back of the virus, governments all over the world are not resting on their oars but taking initiatives to suppress a further spread of the virus.

In Nigeria, there are already positive Covid-19 cases of 23 persons, including 10 new cases announced yesterday. But in the early hours of Sunday morning, Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde announced that one person had tested positive at Bodija in Ibadan raising the number of positive tests to the Coronavirus in the country to 23.

That is not only disturbing but calls for reflection. Situation report across the 36 states reveals a disturbing sense of unpreparedness.

First, there are no testing centres in many of the states to quickly carry out testing and speedily get result. As a matter of fact, four out of the six geopolitical zones in the country have no centres. According to report by a national newspaper, there are no testing facilities in the South-east, North-west, North-east and North-central zones of the country, heightening fears among millions of people in the 19 states in the regions of what would likely happen when the urgent need to be tested arises.

In all, there are five laboratories in the country that have the requisite facilities to test for the virus and they are located in the South-west and South-south. This complemented two federal laboratories in Lagos and one in Osun State.

Another laboratory is in Edo State (South-south), while the only one in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) takes care of the whole northern region and to some extent, the South East.

The laboratories identified for the test include the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja; the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo State; the Virology Laboratory in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH); the Nigeria Institute for Medical Research (NIMR); and the Lagos African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease in Osun State.

With this dire situation, a major outbreak is easily going to overwhelm the very fragile healthcare system with grave consequences for lives. Yet, amid these massive inadequate facilities, the various states are scrambling to shore up whatever they can in preparation for the very grim possibility of an outbreak.

Lagos: Rising to the Occasion and Showing Leadership

If Lagos State was prepared for a pandemic outbreak, it was because the state, as it is today, was the index state for the Ebola challenge some years ago. Today, the hospital boasts a 100-bed isolation facility, the only one in the country. And with the current statistics, 22 cases have been recorded in the country, with Lagos leading the pack.

But the state had upgraded its isolation facilities at the IDH in the case of an escalation in the number of cases, revealing that two additional containment centres had been created with 100-bed spaces and necessary medical equipment to manage cases.

Also, there are two mobile isolation wards of 15-bed capacity each stationed in the hospital. Today as the number of cases continues to rise, the state government has closed all school for one month, while forbidding social gathering of more than 20 people in the state.

Enugu: Working on the Situation Reports

The Enugu State Government has demonstrated its commitment to contain the rampaging COVID 19 pandemic by approving the sum of N320 million in readiness for any outbreak in the state.

Though the state has not recorded any cases except a Septuagenarian, who was quarantined but later tested negative after her samples were subjected to necessary tests.

A breakdown of the sum according to the state medical team led by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Ifeanyi Agujiobi showed that N150 million would be used to tackle the issue of Coronavirus and ensure that the state is fully prepared, while the sum N80 million was for the procurement of important and essential drugs that might be needed to treat and manage Coronavirus, Lassa fever and other communicable diseases.

Consequently, the government approved the immediate upgrade and relocation of the state Isolation Centre to ESUT Teaching Hospital, Parklane, Enugu, since the existing structure at Colliery hospital, Enugu is said to lack the necessary facilities as recommended by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

There’s also an approval of N100 million to be kept in the Emergency Operation Centre account, in case of any emergency, whilst the toll free lines are 117 and 112 including 08182555550 as a dedicated line for emergency response.

Edo: Embracing the Community Approach

The Edo State Government has taken serious steps to suppress the outbreak of COVID-19 with Governor Godwin Obaseki, holding extended meetings with critical stakeholders, including the traditional rulers, religious leaders and grassroots politicians at the weekend, with a view to harmonising strategies aimed at safeguarding the public.

The governor said Edo State was adopting the strategy of consulting these leaders because of their strong connection with the grassroots and people across all spectra of the society as well as their effectiveness in passing information and eliciting effective action to stem falsehood and panic among the people.

Apart from extensive consultation with traditional, religious and political leaders for intensified sensitization, the state has reactivated her contact tracing mechanism earlier used to contain other infectious diseases such as Lassa Fever, and a strong emphasis on rigorous screening at ports of entry into the state.

Also, there is rigorous temperature testing system established across the state in collaboration with medical and paramedical organisations. This is in recognition of the fact that the state is a major transportation hub with constant inflow of people. Temperature tests are conducted on passengers at the Benin Airport and motor parks across the state. The strategy is such that those whose final destination is Edo State and others commuting through the state are subjected to temperature tests.

FCT: Taking Every Precaution Necessary

Federal Government has begun to construct a permanent Isolation and quarantine centre for the immediate management of Coronavirus near the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada.

But in the interim, the federal ministry of health has designated the Intensive Care Unit at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital solely for Coronavirus patients, who may be referred there.

Attached to the ICU at the Gwagwalada are special purpose ambulances meant to respond to any emergency situation, laboratory for Testing of Coronavirus cases/hotline. Abuja is believed to be one of the places with most equipped laboratories for the testing of Coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

At the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, Port Health Services and NCDC officials have a modern infectious disease screening facility to handle incoming and out-boarding travellers. The airport health services unit also has standby ambulance for easy evacuation of patients that test positive to Covid-19 virus.

Ondo: Following the Lead

All schools in Ondo State have been closed with effect from Friday, March 20, 2020 on the order of the state government in a statewide broadcast by Governor Oluwatotimi Akeredolu to control the spread of Coronavirus.

The government has also reactivated the Infectious Disease Hospital, established in the wake of the Ebola Virus to serve as isolation centre in case of any outbreak of COVID-19 in the state.

The facility located on Igbatoro Road in the outskirt of the Akure, the state capital, is equipped with equipment meant to treat patients. Though the government did not ban public gathering either in religious centres or social gatherings, government has been advising residents against events that involve large crowd

The government has however postponed indefinitely, the Convocation ceremony of the Ondo State University of Science and Technology, now Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology Okitipupa scheduled for yesterday.

Katsina: When Timing Is of the Essence

In Katsina, the government has inaugurated an Isolation Centre at the General Hospital, Katsina, and provided ambulances to tackle any outbreak of Coronavirus in the state. The state has so far recorded only one suspected case of the virus and the patient has since tested negative.

Governor Aminu Bello Masari has therefore ordered the immediate closure of both public and private schools in the state for 30 days with effect from March 23, 2020.

Commissioner for Health, Nuhu Yakubu Danji, who confirmed this to THISDAY, added that government had also reactivated its Emergency Response Committee and purchased medical equipment, including personal protective equipment.

He said members of the committees would proactively monitor, supervise and coordinate government’s response to the disease in rural and urban cities across the state.

In addition, he said government had commenced the training of health workers including disease surveillance and notification officers and clinicians on how to handle suspected cases of COVID-19

Niger: Boasting Assertive Leadership

Though there has not been any reported case of Coronavirus in any part of the state, the Niger state government has taken some measures to ensure the disease did not break into the state or at the very least, spread.

Among the steps is the closure of all public, private and tertiary institutions across the state effective from Monday. The government has held series of meetings with owners of the schools especially, the private ones to ensure they key into the initiative. As a result, all the institutions had rescheduled their timetables to make sure students complete the writing of their second term examinations yesterday.

The government has also announced a ban on all public gatherings with more than 50 people in addition to stopping all seminars workshops and other programmes that could assemble this number of people.

According to the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, the state has set aside the sum N28.7m to fight the virus with the bulk of the amount going to the setting up and equipping isolation wards and sensitising the general public.

Anambra: Not Taking Chances

There is though no established case of Covid-19 in Anambra State so far, the state government is however not oblivious of the dangers associated with the disease. Thus, in its effort to ensure that the state remains free from the pandemic, the state has set up task force to ensure that all hospitality homes in the state keep to all preventive measures while dealing with their guests.

Chidi Kalu, chairman of the committee said they would also be teaching the basic hygiene procedures for convid-19, how to use the infra-red thermometer screening machine, the alcohol based sanitizer, as well as ensuring that every guest is screened and documented in order to track and checkmate the eventual track of convid-19.

In response to the activities of the pandemic across the world, the government has announced a ban on social gatherings and schools in the state. A press statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu, stated that the ban is to take effect from Monday, 23rd March.

THISDAY gathered that beyond the ban on public gathering and schools, crowded markets like Eke Awka market and the Onitsha main market might also be affected.

Ebonyi State: Salt of the Nation Not Lagging Behind

The Ebonyi State Governor, Chief David Umahi, had ordered  closure of all private and public nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the state as part of measures to curtail the spread of the pandemic in the state.

In a statement by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Kenneth Ugbala, the governor also closed down night clubs and restricted night activities in the state.

Umahi also directed the Ministry of Health and State Committee on Anti Coronavirus to deploy all health officers in all markets, rice mills, banks and other public event management centres to carry out test on people.

Sokoto: Redefining the Red Alert Syndrome

Sokoto State government has provided three isolation centres and dispelled rumours over suspected case of COVID 19 in the state. Commissioner for Health, Dr Ali Inname, told the THISDAY yesterday that the Ministry of Health was constantly monitoring the situation across the state.

Inname said the centers were located at Amanawa Infectious disease hospital, Usmanu Danfodio Teaching Hospital and a special centre at the Specialists Hospital in the state capital.

The commissioner however urged residents to go about their normal activities and observe the precautionary measures of cough etiquette, hand hygiene, social distancing, avoiding large crowd and seeking healthcare early.

Other measures were providing of professional advise for necessary gathering, mandatory self isolation for all returnees from COVID 19 endemic countries, engagement with ministry of education, Airport Authority, and other security operatives in the state. Inname added that ambulance services would also be provided 24 hours for the isolation centres.

Oyo: Not Ready to Learn the Hard Way

The Oyo State Government has declared an emergency over the Coronavirus pandemic by ordering the immediate closure of schools and the inauguration of emergency operation centres, among other measures.

Governor Seyi Makinde made the disclosure after the inaugural meeting of the state’s COVID-19 Task Force, held at the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan.

He said the schools would remain closed till after Easter while the government would use the period of the forced break to evaluate the situation and put protective system in place in the schools.

Other measures to be put in place include activation of Emergency Operation Centres and a Diagnostic Centre while the Maternal and Paediatrics Centre, Olodo, Ibadan, has been re-designated as the State Infectious Disease Hospital.

Two ambulances to be on standby to attend to cases of Coronavirus, Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs), located in all the 33 Local Government Areas and 35 Local Council Development Areas, to continue their surveillance activities.

Plateau: Appealing to Common Sense

Though there is no confirmed case of coronavirus in Plateau State, the state has established three isolation centres in readiness for any eventuality. They are Bingham University Teaching Hospital, Jos, Jos University Teaching Hospital, Jos, and Plateau Specialist Hospital, Jos.

The isolation centres, according to the Commissioner of Information, Mr. Dan Manjang, are properly prepared to provide adequate comfort for suspects.

The state has also ordered all public and private schools shut ranging from Nursery, Primary, Secondary, to Tertiary institutions. It has also placed restrictions on attendance of marriage and burial ceremonies in the state, warning that only family members are expected at such ceremonies that must not witness a crowd of over 50 persons.

The state also warned that all tricycles, taxis and buses must have hand sanitizers for their passengers, while cultural and traditional ceremonies are totally suspended.

According to the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Danladi Atu and State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Nimkong Lar Ndam, worship places must not gather a congregation of over 50 worshippers, adding that water, soap, and hand sanitizers must be provided for the worshippers.

Abia: Getting Everyone Back to Work

Following the first index case of CVID-19 in Nigeria, the Abia State government had set up an inter-ministerial committee to manage her preparation and response to the pandemic. The committee headed by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Joe Osuji also has as members, his counterparts from information, homeland security, and science and technology.

Consequently, two isolation centrers have been set up at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) and Amachara Specialist Hospital, all in Umuahia, the capital city.

According to the Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, “The facilities are purpose-equipped for isolation of patients with such infectious diseases, including those who may be present with Coronavirus. A third isolation centre is being prepared at the Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), Aba while a fourth centre would be set up at Abia North senatorial district.

Kogi: Guided by the Reports

Following the confirmation of Coronavirus and increase in the number of people tested positive in the country, the Kogi State government has put the state on red alert and put in place certain measures to suppress the spread of the deadly disease in the state.

Commissioner for Health, Dr. Saka Haruna Audu made this known at a stakeholders meeting held at the Ministry of Health, Lokoja, adding that the ministry would collaborate with his counterparts in the Information, Education and Transport to map out strategies on how to handle the pandemic.

The State, Audu said, has organised sensitization exercises and awareness campaigns across the state, adding that the ministry would engage in house to house campaign, create awareness in schools, higher institutions of learning, popular market places and motor parks.

He noted that government would increase the capacity of Health Workers by training them on how to identify the disease and care for infected patients with appropriate precautionary measures and application of Standard barrier nursing tactics.

He, however, advised the general public not to panic, as governments at all levels have intensified efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, disclosing that Kogi has set up temporary Isolation wards at the Confluence Advanced Medical Diagnostic & Imaging Centre (CAMDIC), Lokoja.

Osun: A Step at a Time

Presently, there is no case of Covid-19 in Osun State. Perhaps, it is the reason the state doesnot have any isolation centres. But the state is making up by responding to the national emergency through sensitisation of the people on the development.

For example, the government has shut down schools and other public institutions as well as gathering of too many people of more 50. The ban will affect all Schools, Churches, Mosques, Night Clubs and Sports arenas among others, in the state.

Government, which advised the citizenry not to panic, especially, because no case has been recorded in the state so far, noted that it arrived at the decision it took after wide consultations with health professionals and stakeholders in the health sector over COVID-19.

This position was however contained in a statement by Ismail Omipidan, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, where he stated that the mere fact that a few cases had been reported in neighbouring states makes it imperative to act.

Ekiti: Leaving No Stone Unturned

Following the death of a 27-year-old male American, who was visiting Nigeria from Richmond, Virginia, USA, in the company of his caregiver, a Nigerian female, also of Ekiti origin, while conveying them around their holiday destinations, the government of the state believed it was the avenue through which Coronavirus came into the state.

Although Governor Kayode Fayemi had since briefed the US embassy in the country including staying in touch with the family of the deceased, it was clear to the governor Covid-19 might have begun to spread.

To that extent, Fayemi, recently barred social, political, religious and family gatherings of more than 20 persons as part of efforts to check the spread of the virus.

In addition, he announced that all public and private schools as well as institutions in Ekiti State would be closed down from Monday, March 23, even as he directed that, “all non-essential workers in private and public sectors are encouraged to work from home from Monday, March 23”.

In a statewide broadcast in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, Fayemi said, “Now that we are aware of its presence in our midst, we must leave no stone unturned to make Ekiti State coronavirus (COVID-19) free. We must combat and curtail its spread by ensuring our people are actively involved in government’s efforts to fight this global pandemic. While the world frantically searches for a cure, our best and only defence, is prevention.”

Kwara: Taking It Slow and Steady

The Kwara State government has announced the closure of all public and private schools in the state from tomorrow, March 23. This was contained in a statement issued in Ilorin by the Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Rafiu Ajakaye.

The statement also noted that Kwara has no confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 as at this moment, but that “The government is nonetheless putting in place all measures to keep the people safe at all times.

“The synergy with the port authorities has been strengthened to ensure thorough screening of people coming into and going out of Kwara State while the state’s isolation centre has been fully equipped to take care of any eventuality.

“Members of the public may contact these telephone numbers to report anything related to the pandemic: 08064369063, 090293978826. The state is on red alert as the world confronts this pandemic”.

Bauchi: Simply Battle Ready

The Bauchi State Government has established and equipped four Isolation centres across the state, preparatory for any incidences of Coronavirus in the state.

Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed has also constituted an Action Initiative Against the outbreak of coronavirus and the spread of the Lassa fever in the state.

The team is headed by the deputy governor, Senator Baba Tela, and assisted by relevant health agencies and international health partners, like the UNICEF and WHO

The chairman of the State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA), Dr Rilwanu Mohammed, stated that though the state was yet to detect any case of coronavirus, the establishment of the centres was geared towards curtailing the communicable disease.

The government has however engaged very effective sensitisation and enlightenment campaign on the virus in all the motor parks, markets, worship centres and among others, in adding to closing down all schools.

Imo: Making Sense of a Difficult Situation

As part of efforts to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus, the Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma has ordered the immediate closure of all primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the state. He also announced plan to establish a Specialist Hospital for this disease.

Governor Uzodimma who made a broadcast to the people of Imo State on measures to prevent and control the virus (COVID-19), Friday, stated that he was taking elaborate steps to ensure that the health and wellbeing of Imolites remain priority of his administration.

He has therefore inaugurated a Protection and Control Committee headed by Prof. Maurice Iwu to commence a round the clock surveillance of all strata of the state for effective prevention and control of the disease. There are also arrangements to test all passengers arriving at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri for symptoms of the virus.

Also, A State-of-the-art modern Ambulance has been provided for the Committee to facilitate its operations. An isolation centre has been set up within the state sapital to quarantine any person who tests positive to the virus. A test centre has equally been set up in Owerri to examine those with symptoms of the virus.

Ogun: In Safe Hands Already

In Ogun State, government is upgrading the Isolation Center in OOUTH; there’s ongoing reconstruction of a General Hospital into an Isolation Center; state is intensifying SensitisationStrategyIsWorking campaign on personal and respiratory hygiene at the State, LG and ward levels.

There’s a Mobile Application named COVID-19 App to all Primary Health Centers in Ewekoro Local Government area to aid information sharing among health workers and prompt notification of the state in the event of any suspected case.

Apart from collaborating with the Nigeria Immigration Service that is working with health workers in border areas, the Case Management Team of Ogun State Ministry of Health was in Lagos for three days training to study the index case management

Delta: Heightened Readiness and Alert

So far, no case of COVID-19 has been reported in Delta State, however, the state government, through its Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mordi Ononye has announced the establishment of six state of the art special isolation centres and hostels in Warri, Oghara, Koko, Sapele seaports and Asaba Airport, immediately the first case of the virus in Nigeria was announced.

The state readiness is supported by the insurance sector.

That has since been increased to 12 with the main centre within the FMC Asaba, in anticipation of COVID-19. The isolation centres are all standard medical facilities initially created to handle Lassa Fever cases in Delta, but the centre at the FMC Asaba has been upgraded in response to COVID-19 outbreak.

The government has done remarkably well in case of an outbreak

Several events, including the 2020 entrepreneurship and agricultural training scheme launch/exhibition scheduled for last Thursday have been cancelled while all primary, post-primary and tertiary institutions are to be shut indefinitely from Wednesday March 26, 2020 on the orders of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

Handbills, posters, jingles and newspaper advertisement are being used to sensitize the general public on the extreme personal and environmental hygiene practice.

Kano: Prepared for the Worst

In Kano State, there is no reported case of corona virus despite the rumour of three cases that have all tested negative.

The government said the state remained free from the virus and assured the people that it was intensifying surveillance and emergency preparedness as well as a response committee to detect any suspected case for prompt action.

Commissioner for Health, Dr. Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa, said government had also equipped the state isolation center at Yargaya hospital in case of any emergency.

The government has also directed the closure of public and private schools, including tertiary institutions across the state as part of precautionary measures against the threat posed by the virus.

Akwa Ibom: Working on Facts

Akwa Ibom State Government yesterday dismissed rumours that Coronavirus had reached the state.

But long before the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in Nigeria, Governor Udom Emmanuel had instructed the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong to be on top of the issue and equally directed an Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Task Force to be immediately set up in the state.

Sao far, the state has been creating awareness through the media to sensitize residents with relevant information on COVID-19 in English, pidgin and local dialects.

Also, surveillance, prevention and infection control measures have been instituted in hospitals across the state. Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) has been distributed to all health facilities to facilitate infection prevention and control.

The Emergency Operation and Treatment Centre (EOC), in Ikot Ekpene is to serve as an isolation/treatment centre to receive, and care for any confirmed case of COVID-19.

Adamawa: Embarked on House-to-House Campaign

The Adamawa State government has put in place an isolation centre for screening of patients as part of measure to suppress coronavirus in the state.

Commissioner for Health, Professor, Abdullahi Isah said there was no case of corona virus in the state and that the case of two school pupils that created tension tested negative.

But the Commissioner for Information and strategy, Dr. Umar Garba, said the government has embarked on house-to-house campaign, using its public health system to create awareness on the virus.

He said some medical personnel have embarked on training to enable them handled any eventuality in the state, even as he appealed to the people to take personal hygiene seriously.

Borno: Proactive and on Standby

There are though no cases of coronavirus in Borno State, the state government has put in place measures to stem the spread of the disease.

Already, the isolation centre dedicated to the victims of Lassa Fever, has been designated for coronavirus. The centre presently accommodates 100 beds but has been extended to accommodate 120.

Commissioner for Health, Dr. Salihu Kwaya-Bura disclosed that all medical facilities were on red alert and could be deployed in times of emergency. He noted that all entries into the state were strictly being monitored to check against the spread into the state.

Further measures have been put in place to ensure that the disease did not get into the internally displaced persons camps, even as schools are expected to be closed this week.

Governor Babagana Zulum has however inaugurated a high-powered response team for prevention and control of the disease. The team led by the deputy governor has the commissioner of health as its secretary.

Rivers: Sifting the Facts from Fear

There is currently no reported or confirmed case of CONVID-19 in Rivers State. But the state has been on red alert. The State Government had earlier set up a five-man inter-ministerial committee on aggressive public enlightenment.

And so far, the committee has met with community development committees (CDCs), religious groups, the media, principals/head teachers of schools, traders associations, national union of road transport workers (NURTW), military/paramilitary agencies, the police, international oil companies and Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).

Thus, on Friday, the state ordered the closure of all the public and private schools as well as universities in the state, while restricting activities of religious organisations. The government also vowed to punish defaulters of the emergency measures.

Governor Nyesom Wike said the state was in a state of alert, because it is the headquarters of the hydrocarbon industry and also a major commercial hub in the country.

He claimed that the state had trained 158 surveillance and ad-hoc personnel and had set up one treatment centre, holding centres in the two Teaching Hospitals and all General Hospitals in the State and that all were fully functional.

Taraba: Addressing the Basics

In the past three days, Taraba State has taken several measures to prevent the spread of Convid-19, top of which is the closure of both public and private schools in the state from primary to tertiary institutions beginning from tomorrow, March 23, including banning of gatherings of more than twenty people.

Governor Darius Ishaku, who announced the measures in a statewide broadcast on Saturday, also ordered recreational centres such as bars, restaurants, viewing centres and other related venues not to operate beyond 7pm.

Ishaku equally advised the people of the state to maintain social distances and avoid intimate etiquettes especially, handshakes, hugging and kissing, saying such intimate acts have been identified by medical experts as the easiest ways of contracting the virus.

Other measures announced by the state government includes designation of the Federal Medical Centre, Jalingo and the Specialist Hospital as isolation Centres, though THISDAY gathered that the hospitals are yet to be adequately equipped to render such services, while a toll free line is also yet to be provided.

THISDAY have gathered that the FMC Jalingo, being a centre for the treatment of Lassa fever has some protective gadgets in its stores for the use of medical personnel pending, when the government would make further supplies.

Cross-River: Beyond the Academic Jargons

In Cross River State, official information has it that there has been no recorded case of Covid-19 in the state that shares hundreds of kilometres of land and maritime boundaries with the Central African country, Cameroon.

Commissioner for Health, Dr. Betta Edu, said despite the non-recording of any confirmed case of Covid-19, the state had moved early enough to establish and equip Isolation centres at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), and the General Hospitals in Ogoja in the northern part of the state.

She said the Isolation Centres were equipped with hospital beds, screens, air conditioners, examination beds, plastic tables and chairs, bedside lockers, non contact infrared thermometers, digital blood pressure equipment, stethoscope, digital thermometers, safety boots, washing machines, PPEs, mackintosh, etc.

Aside from the Isolation Centres in Calabar and Ogoja, the state government said its long borders with Cameroon, from the south to the north of the state has been provided with monitoring centres, where people moving across the borders of both countries are screened.

As an additional measure at containing the spread in the country, Edu announced on Friday that all public gatherings of over 100 people have been banned until further notice.

Despite the efforts and measures put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, there are complaints that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still holding campaign rallies preparatory to the local government elections in the state scheduled for March 28, 2020, a development widely condemned as capable of causing infection and spread of the virus.

Gombe: Leveraging the Team Spirit

Disturbed over the scourge of the corona virus, the Gombe State Government has mobilised its Rapid Response Team and placed the emergency operations centre on red alert.

Speaking on the state of preparedness for Covid-19 by the state government, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the governor, Ismaila Uba Misilli said, “We have commenced intensive community enlightenment, sensitisation and mobilisation towards prevention in the state and massive IEC materials are being distributed statewide”.

According to him, “We have procured PPEs and required consumables for management of cases and health workers are being trained. The state government has a 20-bed isolation facility and approval has been given for procurement of ventilators and other equipment needed”, adding that, “We’ll continue to monitor situation at state, regional and national levels”.

Yobe: Disabusing the Mob Mentality

There was a scare of coronavirus in Yobe State about two weeks ago, when someone was suspected to have the virus. He was isolated and tested, the result however came out negative and he was freed to reunite with the society.

But as preparation for any attack of the disease, the state has already established an isolation centre at the General Sani Abatcha Specialist Hospital, Damaturu. It has Data Centre at Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) located in New Bra Bra Housing Estate, Damaturu, while the Oxygen Centre is situated in the State University Teaching Hospital also in Damaturu.

There is no official statement on the closure of schools but Yobe State University is already closed in compliance with the directives from the National Universities Commission (NUC).

Mosques and Churches are also not closed as at the moment but there is rumour on the streets that schools might be ordered closed tomorrow.

SATURDAY MARCH 21, 2020

COVID-19: LASEPA, Lagos Safety Commission Begin Enforcement, Seal Four Events Centres 

 

Chiemelie Ezeobi

 

Following Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s directive on ban of public gathering above 20 people, a combined team of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) and Lagos State Safety Commission have started enforcing the ban.

During the enforcement, the team sealed Prime Mall Mega Plaza located in Lekki  and three other event centres for flouting the state government’s directive on public gathering.

Worried by growing cases of the deadly coronavirus in the state, Governor Sanwo-Olu had on Friday banned public gatherings of over 20 people in the state as part of measures to prevent the pandemic.

The governor had also warned religious bodies, families, residents, academics, professionals and other categories of residents in the state to limit  gatherings a maximum of 20, saying that the law enforcement agencies would be deployed to ensure compliance.

Speaking during the enforcement of the governor’s directives, the General Manager, LASEPA, Dr Dolapo Fasawe, and the Director-General Lagos State Safety Commission, Lanre Mojola, said the safety of Lagosians was paramount to the state government.

Fasawe said the enforcement team swung into action in with compliance  governor’s directive, noting that it was gratifying that most event centres complied with the directive while a few failed to.

Among the areas visited, according to her included, a  film house at Lekki, Shoprite, Balmoral, Federal Palace Hotel, the Dome and, amongst others.

She added  that the enforcement team also sealed Regency, Maltinos Event & Suites  and Imperial at Jobi Felle, Ikeja as well as  Prime Mall Mega Plaza in Lekki, where a surprise party was to be held.

She said: “The banning of public/social gathering by Mr Governor became imperative to save our dear state and prevent our people from contacting the virus. COVID- 19 has become a global

pandemic, therefore serious measures such as this must be taken to reduce the spread and further stem the outbreak of the pandemic .

“It’s advisable, we adopt social distancing, by keeping at least six feet distance between ourselves and others to prevent transmitting the virus seamlessly.

“For now, let us avoid crowds and large gatherings such as weddings, concerts, sporting events, conferences and so forth. We are not unmindful of the implications of the restrictions, but it is crucial we collectively limit and control the spread.

“Lagos State is not in isolation, it’s a global

Breaking: COVID-19: FG Stops Railway Operations in Nigeria

Sunday Ehigiator

As part of efforts to curb further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, the Board and Management of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), has halted the operations of all passenger trains.

In a statement made available to THISDAY Saturday and signed by the Deputy Director, Public Relations, NRC, Mr. Yakub Mahmood, the decision to halt the passengers train takes effect from Monday, March 23, till further notice.

“The Board and Management of me Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) have decided to stop all passengers’ trains operation as from Monday 23th March 2020.

“This is in view of the report of the already known, COVID-19 outbreak.

“Further Information on passengers’ trains services will be made available in due cause to our esteemed passengers.”

COVID-19: Lagos Police Command Set to Enforce Ban on Ceremonies, Social Gatherings 

Chiemelie Ezeobi

The Lagos State Police Command is set to commence the ban of the state government on  social gatherings, clubs, parties, ceremonies and religious gatherings of more than 50 persons.

According to the state Police Spokesperson, DSP Bala Elkana, defaulters will face the wrath of the law.

He said: “Lagos State Police Command wishes to inform the general public that the command in compliance with the guidelines and directives issued by both the federal government  and Lagos State government on prevention of the spread of COVID- 19 which the World Health Organisation has declared as a pandemic, has embarked on massive enforcement of the ban order.

“To that effect, the command has deployed adequate resources across the state to ensure that the orders are fully obeyed.

“The order imposed bans on social gatherings such as, wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies, burial ceremonies, parties, clubs and religion gatherings of people more than 50.

“Commercial vehicles carrying passengers above capacity (overloading) are also part of this order. Members of the public are encouraged to avoid overcrowding themselves at bus stops, market places, business places and scene of incidents.

“The Commissioner of Police Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu, called on the good people of Lagos State to obey the safety regulations put in place for the benefit of everyone. We must be alive and healthy before socio economic activities will be effective.

“The command has rolled out its medical team to market places for awareness creation and police detention facilities to safeguard the safety of suspects.

“The commissioner of police has ordered the immediate release of suspects arrested for minor offences as part of preventive measures. Together we can prevent the spread of Covid 19.

“For information or complaints regarding covid 19 called the following toll free number 080097000010 or text Coronavirus to 24453.“

 

 

 

Breaking: COVID-19: Lagos Reduces Social Gathering from 50 to 20

By Rebecca Ejifoma

With the 10 new confirmed cases of persons infected with COVID-19, the Lagos State Government has warned that henceforth all social gatherings should be limited to 20 people, cancelling its initial order on 50 people.

The state government, which announced this through the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Saturday said: “The Lagos State Government has banned all religious or social gathering of over 20 people within the State. It is important we all adhere to this directive.”

It further advised that the ideal social distancing practice is at least one metre.

“If you feel sick or have symptoms such as fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, cough or sneezing, call these emergency numbers 08000CORONA, 08 23169485 8033565529 or 08052817243,” the ministry urged

 

 

Breaking: COVID-19: FG Suspends All International Flights to Nigeria

Sunday Ehigiator

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has announced the suspension of all international flights into Nigeria.

Along with other recently closed international airports, it has now included Lagos and Abuja airports to the list.

In a statement made available to THISDAY Saturday and signed by the Director General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, the body said this takes effect from Monday, March 23.

He said: “Further to our earlier letter on restrictions of international flights into Nigeria, we wish to inform you that effective from 11pm on  Monday, March 23, to 11pm of April 23, 2020, Muritala Muhammed Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, will be closed to all international flights.

“This is in addition to the closure of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, effective Saturday, Match 21.

“Henceforth, all airports in Nigeria are closed to all incoming International flights with the exception of emergency and essential flights. Domestic flights will continue normal  operations at all airports.

“All airlines are required to submit passenger manifest to ports health authority, prior to the arrival of flights into Nigeria. Please be guided accordingly.”

Nuhu had earlier stated that all persons arriving into Nigeria who might have visited the countries affected by the travel ban 15 days prior to arrival, would be subjected to supervised self-quarantine and testing for 14 days.

He said, “The travel restriction is applicable to all flight crew from the affected countries.

“All operators wishing to operate into Nigeria are required to operate with two sets of flight crew; one set to operate into Nigeria and one set to operate out of Nigeria.”

(Updated) Nigeria Records 10 New Cases of COVID-19

By Martins Ifijeh

The Nigeria government has confirmed 10 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the country to 22.

Although two of the 22 cases have been discharged, including the Italian index case, after their viral load returned negative, the country now has 20 patients in various isolation wards across the country.

In a statement made available to THISDAY Saturday, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said of the 10 cases, three were from the Federal Capital Territory, while seven were in Lagos.

He said: “All 10 new cases are Nigerian nationals; nine of them have travel history to Canada, France, Netherlands, Spain and United Kingdom, and they returned to the country in the past one week. The 10th case is a close contact of a previously confirmed case.

“The three cases in the FCT are being treated at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Gwagwalada while the seven new cases

in Lagos are being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH). Yaba.”

Ehanire said all 10 new cases have mild to moderate symptoms and were curently receiving treatment.

Breaking down the burden of the outbreak in the country, he said although 22 cases have been

confirmed since virus was confirmed February 27, two of the patients have been discharged, while no death has been recorded.

He said: “The federal government

remains commited to working with states to provide optimal care for all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.”

He emphasised that contact tracing was ongoing to identify all persons who have been in

contact with the new confirmed cases.

“The Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health has heightened screening at all air, land and sea points of entry into Nigeria and adapted the protocols to reflect the travel guidance issued by the Presidential Task Force on the Control of

Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) supported by partners continues to coordinate response activities and strengthen preparedness capacity across states nationwide.”

He said an intensive national risk communications campaign was ongoing to inform Nigerians about COVID-19, adding that the ministry was working closely with states and the Presidential Task Force on the Control of Coronavirus (COVID-19) to review response activities and institute measures to protect the health of Nigerians.

Ehanire said: “It is important that Nigerians strictly adhere to social distancing and other

necessary precautions in place. These measures include washing of hands regularly with soap and water, or the use an alcohol-based sanitiser if no water and soap is available.

“Social distancing is crucial to reducing the spread of COVID-19 through the use of no-touch greetings, maintaining at least two metres distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing, as well as staying home if unwell.”

‘No FIRS Staff Tested Positive for COVID-19’

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja 

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has stated that no member  of its staff tested positive to COVID-19 as being peddled on social media.

A statement by its Director, Communications and Liaison  Department, Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmad, stated “unequivocally that no member of staff at the FIRS has tested positive to COVID-19 as being peddled on social media.”

“The attention of the Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Muhammad Nami and the management of the Service has been drawn to the fake news making the rounds on social media that a member of staff at the FIRS has tested positive to COVID-19.

“The Service can confirm that a member of staff who went to pick his wife from the airport following her return from a trip abroad is currently and voluntarily observing the federal government advisory of self-isolation alongside his spouse at the couple’s home since Monday.”

“Both husband and wife have not visited any FIRS offices or events since the wife retuned to Nigeria last Sunday. More importantly, both husband and wife have only been in self-isolation for five days and have NOT tested positive to Covid-19,” the Service said.

According to the statement,  before now, all FIRS offices had taken necessary precautions to protect both staff and  esteemed taxpayers from Covid-19 through such safety measures as social distancing, temperature testing, disabling of the biometric sign in, and provision of hand sanitizers for staff and visitors to its offices nationwide as advised by the Federal Ministry of Health.

It therefore, advised  members of the public to discountenance the claim that an FIRS official had tested positive to Covid-19.

COVID-19: Lagos to Use Blood Sample of Discharged Index Case to Treat Future Patients

By Segun James

As the first case of Coronavirus in Nigeria, an Italian tested negative and certified fit to go home, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has revealed that the man has graciously donated a unit of white blood before he was discharged.

The Governor who is the Incident Commander in the fight against the pandemic flu said the white blood, otherwise called plasma is rich in antibody proteins that target COVID19 virus, the request to the index victim to donate the white blood cell

Although the Governor did not state what medicine was used to treat the man who has now been handed over to the Italian Diplomatic Mission in Nigeria, he said that the white blood plasma has now been frozen in the State’s Bio-bank and will be useful in handling new cases.

He said: “the blood plasma will be beneficial for the treatment of new patients in the absence of a defined therapeutic drug for COVID-19”.

Governor Sanwo-Olu applauded the professional handling of the index patient by the Lagos State medical personnel, the EOC team and others who collaborated with the State Government and the Federal Government for the success recorded.

“As the COVID-19 Incident Commander for Lagos State, I am glad to inform you that the index case, an Italian gentleman is now negative.

“Through a combined effort of Lagos State, Ogun State and Federal Health Authorities, we were able to limit the transmission of the virus to a single contact. This involved aggressive contact tracing and containment strategies.” Sanwo-Olu said.

COVID-19: NAFDAC Approves Chloroquine Production for Clinical Trial

Sunday Ehigiator

In search of cure for COVID-19, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has approved the production of chloroquine for clinical trials.

The Director General of the agency, Mojisola Adeyeye, made the announcement on Friday.

According to Adeyeye, NAFDAC was not approving Chloroquine for the treatment of COVlD-19 but for clinical trials to find treatment for the virus.

“NAFDAC is not approving Chloroquine as a product that can be used for Coronavirus because there is no submission to us for registration, but because it is under clinical trials, NAFDAC approves medicines meant for clinical trials.

“Therefore, the medicine is being approved just for the clinical trials,” Adeyeye said.

Furthermore, she called on experts and researchers that are interested in doing a clinical trial on Chloroquine to approach approved outlets.

“Right now, we have asked one company to make a batch of Chloroquine for the purpose of the clinical trial.”

Air Peace Stops Passenger with Suspected Coronavirus from Boarding at MMA2

*Says ailing passenger recently returned from UK

Chinedu Eze

A Nigerian passenger who was billed to travel from Lagos to Asaba on Air Peace flight on Friday was stopped and isolated by the airline’s Coronavirus screening team when it discovered that he was very sick at the domestic terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, known as MMA2.

An official of the airline told THISDAY that the passenger was supposed to travel on Monday but deferred his flight to Friday probably because he was too sick to travel.

On Monday, Air Peace deployed personnel at every airport it operates in to check passengers’ temperature and subject them to hand sanitization and anyone with high temperature was referred to Port Health.

It was when the temperature of this passenger was being checked that the airline personnel discovered that he was very sick and the temperature was very high.

The airline isolated him immediately and notified the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Port Health.

THISDAY also learnt that the passenger, who was immediately denied flight by Air Peace, returned recently from UK and that he had been taken to hospital where he had undertaken treatment without informing concerned authorities, the Lagos State Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Air Peace, Mrs. Toyin Olajide, confirmed the incident and disclosed that the passenger was checked in by proxy; maybe, because he did want to be noticed to be sick, but the management of the airline had deployed staff who strictly monitor passengers checked in by agents, especially since the Coronavirus became a pandemic.

“A passenger who we learnt came into the country from UK and was very sick was stopped by our screening team when he was found to be very sick and we referred him to NCAA, FAAN and Port Health.

“Our records showed that he was supposed to travel on Monday but he moved his flight to Friday but because of the stringent measures we put in place, our staff was able to detect him. We made it mandatory that every passenger must be screened and must use sanitizer before boarding our flight. He was not allowed to board our flight, he was immediately isolated.

“We made sure he did not come to Air Peace counter and for the fact that he was checked in by proxy, we suspected he had something to hide. All those who are checked in by agents are closely monitored by our staff.

“We commend government for what it is already doing to curtail the spread of this coronavirus but Nigerians expect government to intensify efforts to stop the spread. We are collaborating with government to ensure that the disease is stopped from spreading in the country. We also commend our staff for its vigilance without which this case would not have been detected,” Mrs. Olajide said.

THISDAY did not have access to the passenger for his reaction, but an airport worker who craved anonymity said that passengers and other airport workers at the terminal were apprehensive and afraid when they heard that the passenger came from the UK.

The management of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), the operator of MMA2 was said to have given the passenger hand gloves and mask after he was isolated.

COVID-19: Chloroquin to Undergo Clinical Trial, Says Lagos Govt

Martins Ifijeh

The Lagos State Government will be conducting clinical trial on the effectiveness of chloroquine in the prevention or management of COVID-19 infection, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi has said.

Abayomi who disclosed this Friday while giving updates on COVID19, said the clinical trial was initiated against the fast spreading news that chloroquine could be effective in preventing and managing COVID19.

The Commissioner however said that the use of the drug has not yet not been ascertained as an effective treatment of the virus, adding that the state was still watching the global research space to clearly define the efficiency of the drug in the control of the diseases.

He said, “We do not have any hard evidence that chloroquine is effective in preventing or managing COVID19. We are watching the global research space to clearly define its efficiency in COVID19.

“Chloroquine has significant side effects and should not be used without medical supervision as it may cause more harm than good.

“Citizens should take the advice of their physicians and await the directive of the Ministry of Health on the use of chloroquine and not use it without medical supervision.”

The commissioner urged the public not to panic but strictly abide by the instructions of the government.

Abayomi appealed to citizens not to take advantage of the present situation on COVID19 to hike or hoard domestic consumables and enrich themselves. He however urged members of the public to continue to be their brother’s keeper and join hands with government to curtail the spread of the virus.

“It is condemnable to use this situation to enrich yourselves by hoarding or hiking the prices of domestic consumables for profiteering. We should be responsible citizens in the quest to make Lagos disease free”, he said.

Coronavirus: FG Adds Austria, Sweden to List of Countries on Travel Ban

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on PTF COVID-19 has announced the inclusion of Austria and Sweden to the list of countries affected by the travel  ban in the light of the outbreak of coronavirus disease.

A statement by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, who is also the Chairman of PTF on COVID -19, said Austria and Sweden had been included to join  China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, United States of America, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland in which flight restriction was earlier placed.

The addition of the two European nations now brings the total number of countries affected by the travel ban imposed by Nigeria to 15.

 

 

FG Suspends Medical Outreach over Covid-19 

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHDA) has suspended the implementation of the Integrated Medical Outreach Programme earlier scheduled to commence from March 23rd till March 27 in all states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) due to Coronavirus.

The Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the NPHDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said that the suspension was because of the increase in number of Coronavirus cases in Nigeria.

A statement signed by the

Head, Public Relations at NPHCDA, Mohammad Ohitoto, said the outbreak of the virus would unavoidably affect the rollout of the I-MOP initiative.

“Experts have recommended that crowded places be avoided to reduce chances of spreading the virus. Thus, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency has temporarily suspended the I-MOP intervention being an activity that will pull Nigerians to health facilities in large numbers,” he said.

He said the management of the NPHCDA had assured Nigerians that a new date will be communicated in due course.

He also expressed the hope that with the measures being put in place by the federal and state governments, the epidemic will be contained in the shortest possible time.

 

 

Osinbajo Chairs FG/States Special Committee on COVID-19 

*Committee to coordinate federal, states’ responses to coronavirus

In a collective effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria, state governors under the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC) have set up a Special Committee to coordinate Federal and States’ responses to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Committee which started deliberations immediately after the NEC meeting on Thursday is chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, with the Governors of Jigawa, Edo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kebbi and Ogun States as members.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, said the establishment of the Special Committee mandated to coordinate the responses of the Federal Government and States especially as it relates to the socio-economic implications of the pandemic on Nigerians, was the major outcome of the Council meeting.

The statement said the council meeting featured several presentations on COVID-19 ranging from the economic to  financial and public health dimensions.

It said NEC also strongly recommended that public gatherings should be discouraged and the maximum numbers in any large gathering should be worked out by respective state governments, including schools, social gatherings, and worship centres.

Briefing NEC on COVID-19 and Nigeria’s response, the Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora and the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, noted that as at March 17, 2020, 152 countries had  been confirmed to have coronavirus cases.

The presentation disclosed that in Nigeria there were 53 persons tested, 12 confirmed cases, zero deaths, one case discharged, and 3 states with confirmed cases were Lagos, Ogun, and Ekiti States, while the type of transmission showed six cases imported from Italy, United States of America and the United Kingdom.

Ehanire who led the presentation said the strategic objective of the response includes early detection, confirmed cases and contact tracing, developing and maintaining the capacity to effectively manage cases, coordination and communication with Nigerians, noting that about 80 percent of people recovered from the disease without the need for special treatment.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha who heads the Presidential Task Force also briefed Council on steps already taken by Federal Government to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The statement said at the Council meeting, the following presentations on COVID-19 were made, Briefing on COVID-19 pandemic and Control Measures by the Minister of Health; Effect of COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian Economy by the Chairman Economic Advisory Council; Effect of COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian Economy: What is being done, by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Effect of COVID-19 pandemic on Nigerian petroleum revenues: What is being done, by the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; and managing the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on monetary policy by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Also giving an update on the effect of COVID-19 on the oil and gas sector,according to the statement,  the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr Mele Kyari, said the pandemic had impacted negatively on crude oil production and consumption and was further complicated by the quantity of the crude oil available before the pandemic came in, stressing that this has led to a sharp decline in the price of crude oil to about $22/pb as  at Thursday.

He said, “the price of production now is higher than the selling price of oil, making it very difficult for oil producing companies and nations.”

He, however, noted that it was not a hopeless situation for Nigeria as measures were being taken to curtail the negative impact it may bring such as reducing the cost and increasing the production “even though budget level for crude oil is $57pb and when the reality of $30pb comes to play, we will still fulfill our obligation to FAAC.”

The NNPC boss also noted that the drop in the crude oil price had significant impact on the price of petroleum products and as a result of that change the price of petroleum products particularly PMS has been brought down to N125 on Wednesday and all NNPC service stations had been directed to comply.

it said NEC also got an update on the balances of the Excess Crude, Stabilization, and the Natural Resources Development Fund, accounts.

The Excess Crude stood at $72, 220,756.74 as at 17th March 2020, while the Stabilization account was put at N35, 806,389,699.67 during the same period. Natural Resources Development Fund account stood at N109, 360,903,475.60 during the period under review.

 

 

COVID-19: Lagos to Close all Sports Facilities

Sunday Ehigiator

The Lagos State Sports Commission Chairman, Sola Aiyepeku has announced the closure of all sporting facilities and activities in the state effective from Monday, March 23, 2020.

Aiyepeku who made this disclosure on Thursday, March 19, said the action was necessary as part of measures to deal with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a responsible body, the safety and wellbeing of recreational and professional athletes as well the general population is of high priority to the State Government.

“In line with the directive of the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in discouraging gatherings of more than 50, we have taken the step of suspending sporting activities at all Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC), facilities from Monday, March 23, 2020.”

Aiyepeku maintained that sports in Lagos requires a healthy and safe citizenry and “once the pandemic is under control, activities on pitches and tracks will resume.”

He also noted that the step to close all facilities was taken in the best interest of Lagosians.

 

 

Spain Records over 200 Deaths in 24hours

Ayodeji Ake

Spain has recorded over 200 deaths from COVID-19 within the last one day.

According to Aljazeera, Spain’s death toll increased from 209 to 767 overnight, while Russia announced its first death  in a 79-year-old woman.

Meanwhile,, Italy has recorded 475 deaths from COVID-19 in a single day.

As part of preventive measures against the deadly virus, the world stepped up efforts against the pandemic by closing schools, shutting down cities and imposing strict border controls.

The United Kingdom according to report was the latest to announce closure of schools, while the United States and Canada, have closed their border to all, but essential traffic.

Nearly 220,000 people have now been confirmed with the coronavirus globally, while at least 84,000 people have recovered from COVID-19. More than 8,800 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

 

 

COVID-19: FG Shuts Federal Tertiary Institutions, Unity Colleges

Kuni Tyessi in Abuja  As the affected numbers of persons with the dreaded Coronavirus increases, the Federal Government has directed heads of federal institutions and principals of Unity Colleges nationwide, to as a matter of urgency close down the institutions in order to curtail the spread of the disease.

So far, three hundred of the infected cases are found in African countries, many of which are either returnees from countries with significant endemicity, or primary contacts of such returnees in which over 160,000 persons have been infected worldwide, of which over 6000 have died.

The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Arc. Sonny Echonu who disclosed this, Thursday, said the decision to close down the schools was to protect and safeguard the lives of students and pupils from the deadly scourge.

Already some state governments and the management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) have closed down schools and the scheme to checkmate the spread of the virus.  Echono said: ”We have directed all higher institutions to close this weekend. Unity Schools that have completed their exams are to close immediately. Others are to hurry and close the latest on 26th March.”  The permanent secretary said the ministry will monitor development as total closure might be ordered at any moment.

Similarly, President of the Guild of Medical Directors,  Prof. Femi Dokun-Babalola has said that testing of the virus should go beyond the usual temperature test and there should be a general warning that all travellers coming into the country must as a matter of necessity, self quarantine for at least two weeks.

He said this was because “it is possible and even likely, more cases of COVID-19 may have entered our shores un-detected.”

Emphasising that enhanced measures will go a long way in further protecting Nigerians  from the ravages of the COVID-19 epidemic, he added that similar measures had been taken in Ghana, Sudan and South Africa, among other nations in Africa.

“In particular, it is our opinion that restrictions should be placed on flights coming from meso-endemic and hyper-endemic countries. Nigerians coming in from the UK in particular should ALL be tested beyond the usual temperature check, and advised to go on quarantine for fourteen days at home if negative.

“We suggest that Nigerians coming in from these countries should be quarantined for fourteen days as required by the WHO.

At the moment, several Europeans are streaming into the country only to embark on a journey to the USA by Delta airlines.

“We also believe that a more robust protocol should be introduced for the detection of cases including random tests in households where foreign trips have just been completed.”

THURSDAY MARCH 19TH, 2020

COVID-19: Lagos to Close all Sports Facilities

Sunday Ehigiator

The Lagos State Sports Commission Chairman, Sola Aiyepeku has announced the closure of all sporting facilities and activities in the state effective from Monday, March 23, 2020.

Aiyepeku who made this disclosure on Thursday, March 19, said the action was necessary as part of measures to deal with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a responsible body, the safety and wellbeing of recreational and professional athletes as well the general population is of high priority to the State Government.

“In line with the directive of the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in discouraging gatherings of more than 50, we have taken the step of suspending sporting activities at all Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC), facilities from Monday, March 23, 2020.”

Aiyepeku maintained that sports in Lagos requires a healthy and safe citizenry and “once the pandemic is under control, activities on pitches and tracks will resume.”

He also noted that the step to close all facilities was taken in the best interest of Lagosians.

Spain Records over 200 Deaths in 24hours
Ayodeji Ake
Spain has recorded over 200 deaths from COVID-19 within the last one day.
According to Aljazeera, Spain’s death toll increased from 209 to 767 overnight, while Russia announced its first death  in a 79-year-old woman.
Meanwhile,, Italy has recorded 475 deaths from COVID-19 in a single day.
As part of preventive measures against the deadly virus, the world stepped up efforts against the pandemic by closing schools, shutting down cities and imposing strict border controls.
The United Kingdom according to report was the latest to announce closure of schools, while the United States and Canada, have closed their border to all, but essential traffic.
Nearly 220,000 people have now been confirmed with the coronavirus globally, while at least 84,000 people have recovered from COVID-19. More than 8,800 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

COVID-19: FG Shuts Federal Tertiary Institutions, Unity Colleges

Kuni Tyessi in Abuja

As the affected numbers of persons with the dreaded Coronavirus increases, the Federal Government has directed heads of federal institutions and principals of Unity Colleges nationwide, to as a matter of urgency close down the institutions in order to curtail the spread of the disease.

So far, three hundred of the infected cases are found in African countries, many of which are either returnees from countries with significant endemicity, or primary contacts of such returnees in which over 160,000 persons have been infected worldwide, of which over 6000 have died.

The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Arc. Sonny Echonu who disclosed this, Thursday, said the decision to close down the schools was to protect and safeguard the lives of students and pupils from the deadly scourge.

Already some state governments and the management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) have closed down schools and the scheme to checkmate the spread of the virus.

Echono said: ”We have directed all higher institutions to close this weekend. Unity Schools that have completed their exams are to close immediately. Others are to hurry and close the latest on 26th March.”

The permanent secretary said the ministry will monitor development as total closure might be ordered at any moment.

Similarly, President of the Guild of Medical Directors,  Prof. Femi Dokun-Babalola has said that testing of the virus should go beyond the usual temperature test and there should be a general warning that all travellers coming into the country must as a matter of necessity, self quarantine for at least two weeks.

He said this was because “it is possible and even likely, more cases of COVID-19 may have entered our shores un-detected.”

Emphasising that enhanced measures will go a long way in further protecting Nigerians  from the ravages of the COVID-19 epidemic, he added that similar measures had been taken in Ghana, Sudan and South Africa, among other nations in Africa.

“In particular, it is our opinion that restrictions should be placed on flights coming from meso-endemic and hyper-endemic countries. Nigerians coming in from the UK in particular should ALL be tested beyond the usual temperature check, and advised to go on quarantine for fourteen days at home if negative.

“We suggest that Nigerians coming in from these countries should be quarantined for fourteen days as required by the WHO.
At the moment, several Europeans are streaming into the country only to embark on a journey to the USA by Delta airlines.

“We also believe that a more robust protocol should be introduced for the detection of cases including random tests in households where foreign trips have just been completed.”


COVID-19: US Approves Chloroquine as Treatment for Patients
Sunday Ehigiator
The United States government has approved the anti-malarial drug, chloroquine for use as a treatment against the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
President Donald Trump, while addressing reporters, on Thursday, said, “We’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately, and that’s where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has been so great.”
“They have gone through the approval process. it’s been approved. They took it down from many, many months to immediate. So we’re going to be able to make that drug available by prescription”
COVID-19: Buhari’s Daughter in Self-isolation
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
One of the daughters of President Muhammadu Buhari (name withheld) who returned from the United Kingdom Thursday is now in self-isolation, THISDAY has learnt.
Her mother and First Lady, Aisha, who personally disclosed this, said the young lady is not in self-isolation because she is showing symptoms of COVID-19 but rather in compliance with the advice of the Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Mrs. Buhari also said the decision to put her in isolation had become imperative, because the UK is one of the countries with prevalent spread of the disease.
She advised all parents to encourage their returning children to also undertake similar action.
Mrs. Buhari who also said she had shut down her office for two weeks because of the threat of the disease, advised Nigerians to embrace the principle of hygiene and always use sanitizers, praying that the disease would be overcome.
She said: “Good afternoon Nigerians. Earlier today, my daughter returned from the UK being among the high burden listed countries of COVID-19.
“Based on the advice of the Hon. Minister Of Health , Presidential Task force on COVID – 19 and that of NCDC, She is on Self Isolation, not because she displayed any symptoms of the Covid-19 .
“Please, I urge all parents to do the same if possible as prevention is better than cure. Similarly, I have shut down my office for two weeks with immediate effect while essential staff can work from home as a result of some Staff who recently returned from the UK .
“I commend the North Western Governors including Niger and Kwara on preventive measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 at their security meeting yesterday in Kaduna.
“Let’s keep following the  advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, which encourages maintaining social distancing, high hygiene culture through regular washing of hands with soaps and sanitizers.
“Let’s adopt preventive measures and ensure the safety of our families and that of General public. “We will overcome the Covid-19 pandemic if we all take the necessary precautions at the same time! God bless you all.”
COVID-19: RCCG Restricts Services in Lagos, Ogun
Sunday Ehigiator
Following the directive from Lagos and Ogun State government, prohibiting public gatherings in religious centers, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) has announced restrictions of services in provinces and regions in both states.
A statement signed by the Assistant General Overseer on Administration and Personnel, RCCG, Pastor J.F. Odesola, Thursday, said provinces with 50 members and below were to maintain status quo, while those with members above 50 were to hold services in their different house fellowships.
Odesola said: “We refer to the directive from the Lagos and Ogun state governments placing a ban on all religious meetings and gatherings of more than 50 worshippers as part of precautionary steps towards managing the further spread of the COVID-19 disease.
“Parishes that have the facility to run more than one service can also do so, under the strict directive that worshipers won’t exceed 50 people per service.
“One supervising minister and an usher could be seconded to each centre for collation of necessary reports (attendance, new converts, new comers, etc).
“All Centers are requested to connect to Dove Television to join the Iive broadcast from the General Overseer during the period. Kindly be Informed that this arrangement shall be In operation for next few weeks, based on the position of the government,” he said.
COVID-19: LASU Postpones 24th Convocation Ceremony 
Rebecca Ejifoma
The Lagos State University Management has postponed its 24th convocation ceremonies  indefinitely, which was scheduled for March 20 to 27 this year.
The postponement is as a result of the prevailing health threats caused by COVID- 19 pandemic and the resolution of the federal and state governments to discourage the gathering of people in public places.
The management, which issued a press release through its Coordinator, Centre for Information, Press and Public Relations, Ademola Adekoya,  expressed  sadness over the inconvenience the postponement might cause, stressing that it was for public good
He said: “Further information on the 24th Convocation Ceremonies will be made available in due course”.
COVID-19: Ogun Shuts Schools, Worship Centres
Rebecca Ejifoma
Following the global spread of COVID-19 and the recent ban on all high-density gatherings in Ogun State, Governor Dapo Abiodun has extended the ban to schools and religious gatherings.
In a statemnt made available to THISDAY Thursday, the Chief Press Secretary, Ogun State, Kunle Somorin said the schools will remain closed indefinitely from Friday.
He said: “All religious centres and activities including regular and special services that bring together 50 or more persons in the same place were banned with immediate effect.
“These measures will be reviewed at regular intervals in response to the development surrounding the COVID-19.”
The government enjoins all parents and guardians who have their children and wards in any boarding facility within the state to immediately evacuate them and return them to their respective homes at the close of schools on Friday, March 20, 2020.
“Governor Abiodun acknowledges and appreciates religious leaders for their advice, understanding, solidarity and support, as they jointly search for solution to the pandemic,” he noted.

COVID-19: Italian Index Case Now Negative, to Be Discharged after Second Test

By Martins ifijeh

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has said the Italian index case of COVID-19 has tested negative and will be discharged after confirmation by a second test

Stating this at a press briefing Thursday, he said the virus in his system had regressed and had gone to zero.

The Italian was first confirmed February 27 after he flew into Lagos February 25, and then visited Lafarge Africa Plc, Ewekoro in Ogun State.

The second COVID-19 case was a Nigerian, who had contact with the Italian and was isolated in Ogun State. He has since been discharged after testing negative.

Coronavirus: FCTA Orders Closure of Schools, Restricts Religious Activities

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The FCT Minister, Mohammed Musa Bello, has directed the closure of all public schools in the Territory in the light of the rising cases of coronavirus in the country.

The closure takes offect from March 20, 2020.

The minister has also ordered all social and religious activities to be restricted. Shopping malls and other large business premises without sanitisers and safety measures are to be shut down immediately.

 More to follow …

NLC Issues Advisory to Nigerian Workers over Coronavirus Outbreak
*urge them stop handshakes
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged workers in the country to brace up for the challenges posed by the fast spreading Covid-19.
As part of measures to contain the spread of the virus, the labour movement admonished workers to adopt safe practices, including avoiding shaking of hands, crowded places and to observe good personal hygiene.
Addressing a press conference Thursday afternoon, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said that workers are encouraged to cue in to the hygiene practices as recommended by the global health body, the World Health Organization (WHO).
On the economic front, NLC urged the federal government to put forward policies that would mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on businesses.
He also said that government should ensure that workers are not neglected and that employers pay their workers their entitlement during the period of the outbreak.
Wabba further said that as part of government’s intervention efforts to arrest the spread of the virus, all those coming into the country from high burden nations should be quarantined until proper health investigation is conclusively carried out.
Details later…

(Updated) Lagos Records Four New Cases of COVID-1

*Commences contact tracing for 1,300 persons
By Martins Ifijeh
The Lagos State Government has recorded four new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria to 12.
It also noted that it has now commenced contact tracing for 1, 300 persons who have had contact with the new cases and the previously announced six.
Although one of the 12 cases had been discharged after his viral load regressed to negative, 11 are now placed under isolation and treatment at the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba, Lagos.
Disclosing this during a press briefing Thursday, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi said 19 people were tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday in Lagos and that four out of them had tested positive to the virus and had been isolated for treatment.
He said: “The first of the four new cases who tested positive to the disease was a woman who had contact with the female patient who came from United Kingdom some days ago.
“The second new case is a female who returned from France on March 14 on a Turkish airline, TK 1830.
“The third case is a Nigerian male in his 50s who had not travelled anywhere, but was tested positive to the disease.”
Abayomi stated that the fourth new case was a Nigerian male who arrived the country on March 13 from Frankfurt to Lagos on Lufthansa airline, flight number LH568.
The commissioner, however, said more tests were still being carried out, saying that it was clear that there were combination of imported cases and local transmission.
“The Executive of Lagos State is meeting on the next stage on social distancing. The best way to slow the rate is to halt movement of the virus from person to person,” he said.
He appealed to people on the two flights to self-isolate themselves and to reach the government.
“Currently, we are following over 1,300 people right now to find information about the state of their health and the number is increasing,” he added.

Coronavirus: Niger Orders Closure of Schools

Laleye Dipo in Minna

The Niger State Government has announced that all educational institutions in the state including tertiary schools should be closed from Monday next week.

The action by government is a preemptive one aimed at forestalling the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

It is also a follow-up to the decision of governors in the North-western geo-political region of the country at their recent meeting held in Kaduna where the governors of Niger and Kwara States in the North-central zone were in attendance.

The government’s action was contained in a statement by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, in which he also stated that all public gatherings have been suspended by the state government.

Matane disclosed that the closure of the public, private, and tertiary institutions is for a period of 30 days, while the suspension of all public gatherings is with immediate effect.

He revealed that the measure to shut down the schools for 30 days and suspend public gatherings is part of government’s deliberate efforts to contain the global spread of coronavirus pandemic.

Matane called on the people of the state to always uphold the highest degree of personal hygiene, remain calm and adhere strictly to all safety measures earlier announced by the state Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Health had earlier announced that government had set up a coronavirus isolation centre at the Minna General Hospital, while isolation wards have also been set up in other health facilities across the state.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr Makun Sidi, who made this known, also disclosed that the state has started the production of hand sanitisers as a way of making it accessible to everyone, as well as reduce the cost, pointing out that mass mobilisation of the people has also begun.

Suspected Case of Coronavirus in Katsina Tests Negative

By Francis Sardauna

The Katsina State Government has said that the person suspected to have been infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state tested negative after laboratory examination.

The state Commissioner for Health, Mr. Nuhu Yakubu Danja, who disclosed this while briefing journalists on Thursday, said they had put in place precautionary measures to keep citizens from being infected with the deadly virus.

The ministry had on March 18, 2020 confirmed that the state had recorded its first suspected case of COVID-19 in Dutsin-Ma Local Government Area of the state.

Danja urged residents of the state to go about their legitimate business, shun spreading unverified information through the social media and maintain high level of personal hygiene.

He said: “Recall that yesterday (Wednesday) March 18, 2020, a press conference was held by the officials of the ministry where we briefed you that there was a suspected case of COVID-19 in the state and informed you that we are waiting for the result.

“I am pleased to inform you that the result is out and it is negative. Therefore, Katsina State has no case of COVID-19. I like to call on the good people of Katsina State to keep calm and remain informed about updates on information about COVID-19.

“Residents should maintain high levels of personal and environmental hygiene such as frequent hand washing, use of alcohol based sanitizers, practice, cough etiquette, avoid mass social gathering except where necessary, visit the nearest health facility and give all necessary information including travel history when you are unwell.”

He explained that the state government would continue to do everything humanly possible to safeguard the citizens through the provision of effective healthcare services across the state.

COVID-19: Prepare for the Worst, WHO Warns Nigeria, Other African Countries

By Martins Ifijeh

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned Nigeria and other African countries to prepare for the Worst case scenario as COVID-19 continues to spread across the continent.

This is even as figures show there is a growing number of cases of the virus in Africa with 633 persons said to be infected while 17 deaths have been recorded so far in 34 African nations.

The Director General, WHO, DR. Tedros Ghebreyesus in his daily press briefing Wednesday, said Africa must ‘wake up’, adding that in other countries, the health body has seen how the virus accelerates after a certain tipping point.

The Gambia, Mauritius and Zambia have all reported their first cases of the virus in the last 24 hours.

Nigeria has also experienced it’s bout of the surge, as five new cases were recorded Wednesday.

The WHO said: “There are now 633 confirmed COVID19 cases in Africa in 33 countries and 17 deaths. In past 24 hrs, The Gambia, Mauritius and Zambia have announced first cases. @WHO is supporting countries with surveillance, diagnostics & treatment.”

South Africa has become the continent’s new focus of concern as cases nearly doubled to 116 from two days before.

Although the pandemic is in its early days on the continent, health experts have warned that even facilities in Africa could be overwhelmed by the virus’ spread.

“I think Africa should wake up. My continent should wake up,” Ghebreyesus cautioned

No African country has so far instituted a total lockdown of their country despite the recent developments

For instance, despite the jump in cases in Lagos, a crowded cosmopolitan city with over 22 million people, commuters continue to pack themselves into buses, a scenario that has caused the wide spread of the disease in most Asian countries and the European continent.

Meanwhile, sub-Saharan Africa has seen its second death from COVID-19, in Burkina Faso, which has one of the continent’s highest number of cases but has not imposed measures such as closing borders or banning religious services. Sudan previously reported a death.

In Kenya, police said a man accused of having the coronavirus was beaten to death. A police report obtained by The Associated Press said the man was returning home from a night out Wednesday when a group of youth approached and “took advantage of his drunkenness.”

In Ethiopia, the U.S. Embassy noted a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment after cases emerged there. “Reports indicate that foreigners have been attacked with stones, denied transportation services, being spat on, chased on foot, and been accused of being infected with COVID-19,” a security alert said.

Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, announced restrictions on the entry of travelers from countries with more than 1,000 coronavirus cases, including China and the U.S., and suspended visas on arrival for their citizens.

Nigeria has had eight cases of the virus, all in people recently arrived from abroad — one of the latest a six-week-old baby. The country said one of the new patients, an American, had entered via a land border, a first.

Three other African nations announced their first virus cases: Gambia, Zambia and Djibouti. Thirty-three of Africa’s 54 countries now have cases, with a total of at least 529 midday Wednesday.

Somalia, which announced its first case this week, closed schools and universities for two weeks and warned against public gatherings as the country with one of Africa’s weakest health systems tries to stop the virus’ spread.

“This is really a very scary moment,” said Hassan Kafi, a medical student in the capital, Mogadishu. The country has suffered from nearly three decades of conflict.

Uganda, which has no cases, banned travel to the worst-affected countries. It also suspended religious gatherings and restricted the number of people at weddings to 10 in a country known for mass ceremonies.

Health experts from some 20 African nations participated in a video conference with doctors in China on how to contain the virus.

“This is an extremely important step in terms of knowledge share,” said Kenya’s cabinet health secretary, Mutahi Kagwe

Africa has lagged behind the global curve for coronavirus infections and deaths, but in the past few days has seen a significant rise in cases.

Experts have repeatedly warned about the perils for the continent, given its weak health infrastructure, poverty, conflicts, poor sanitation and urban crowding.

Medical authorities in the poor Sahel state of Burkina Faso announced Wednesday that the number of infections there had risen by seven to 27 — and that one of them, a 62-year-old diabetic woman, had died overnight.

The country’s main opposition party, the Union for Progress and Change (UPC), said in a statement that the victim was its lawmaker Rose-Marie Compaore, the first vice president of the parliament.

South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised economy, reported a more than one-third jump in cases, with 31 new infections bringing its tally to 116.

Nearby Zambia announced its first two confirmed cases — a couple that returned to the capital Lusaka from a 10-day holiday in France.

As of Wednesday, a tally of reported cases compiled by AFP stood at more than 600 for all of Africa.

Of these, 16 cases have been fatal: six in Egypt, six in Algeria, two in Morocco, one in Sudan and one in Burkina Faso.

Those figures are relatively small compared to the rest of world — the global death toll has passed 8,800 with almost 210,000 total infections.

WHO chief Tedros said sub-Saharan Africa had recorded 233 infections, but warned the official numbers likely did not reflect the full picture.

“Probably we have undetected cases or unreported cases,” he said.

COVID-19 Cases in Africa Hit 633, Death Toll Now 17

The number of persons infected by COVID-19 in Africa has climbed to 633, the World Health Organisation has said.

The Gambia, Mauritius and Zambia have all reported their first cases of the virus in the last 24 hours.

Nigeria has also experienced its bout of the surge, as five new cases were recorded Wednesday.

The WHO, which stated this in the early hours of Thursday, through it’s Twitter handle, @WHOAFRO, said; “633 confirmed COVID19 cases in Africa in 33 countries and 17 deaths. In past 24 hrs, The Gambia, Mauritius and Zambia have announced first cases. @WHO is supporting countries with surveillance, diagnostics & treatment.”

COVID 19: Guild of Medical Directors Says Temperature Test not Enough, Call for Extra Vigilance

By Kuni Tyessi

In the face of the ravaging Corona Virus across the globe, and with eight confirmed cases in Nigeria, the Guild of Medical Directors has called for more vigilance especially at the nation’s airports.

The guild in statement by its president, Prof. Femi Dokun-Babalola, said testing should go beyond the usual temperature test and there should be a general warning that all travellers coming into the country must as a matter of necessity, self quarantine for at least two weeks.

He said this is because “it is possible and even likely, more cases of COVID 19 may have entered our shores un-detected.”

Emphasising that enhanced measures will go a long way in further protecting Nigerians from the ravages of the COVID 19 epidemic, he added that similar measures have been taken in Ghana, Sudan and South Africa, among other nations in Africa.

“In particular, it is our opinion that restrictions should be placed on flights coming from meso-endemic and hyper-endemic countries. Nigerians coming in from the UK in particular should ALL be tested beyond the usual temperature check, and advised to go on quarantine for fourteen days at home if negative.

“We suggest that Nigerians coming in from these countries should be quarantined for fourteen days as required by the WHO.
At the moment, several Europeans are streaming into the country only to embark on a journey to the USA by Delta airlines.

“We also believe that a more robust protocol should be introduced for the detection of cases including random tests in households where foreign trips have just been completed.”

At the moment, over 160,000 persons have been infected worldwide, of which over 6000 have died.

Three hundred of the infected cases are found in African countries, many of which are either returnees from countries with significant endemicity, or primary contacts of such returnees.

Kaduna CAN Urges Church Leaders to Support Govt in Fight against COVID-19

By John Shiklam in Kaduna

 

The Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has asked church leaders to join forces with government and health workers to stop the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement on Thursday in Kaduna, the Chairman of the association, Rev. Joseph Hayab, said the church should not be ignorant of the global pandemic.
He said the challenge of coronavirus is now a global pandemic and many countries across the world have recorded cases of the virus.
He said: “The church in Nigeria, therefore, should not be ignorant of this global pandemic.”
According to him, the church can “help to reduce the spread of the virus by suspending our large gathering activities for the meantime”.
Hayab said: “The church, as a school of faith, which is known for having large gatherings for church services, wedding, burial, prayer meetings, crusades and revival services must endeavour to join forces with government and health workers to stop the spread of this virus.”
He said the role of the church is not just to pray, but to also take concrete steps to ensure the wellbeing of its flocks and the country at large.
“Accordingly, CAN, Kaduna State, therefore, wishes to appeal to all pastors and church leaders to read through official guidelines and information about the virus and enlighten their members,” he said.
He urged the church to disregard unverified and misleading social media information about the disease.
“Let us make use of information available from the Ministry of Health and other recognised government agencies” the statement said.
Hayab said CAN believes in the efficacy of prayers, stressing however that Christians should make use of the pulpit to say only what is medically correct.
“It will not be proper for a pastor to tell his members to come for prayers and special anointing only, without doing what is needful, such as the washing of hands regularly, keeping required distance to avoid contacts that may lead to being infected by the virus.
“We can also help to reduce the spread of the virus by suspending our large gathering activities for the meantime.
“Pastors can use unit leaders to reach out to members and also the cell groups’ prayer teams to enlighten members about the virus. By so doing, we could reach out to more members without large gatherings.
“Again, all churches should provide hand sanitizers at the entrance of the church so that those coming for service clean their hands before going into the church.
“CAN will be happy to have health workers to come to church premises with genuine equipment to test worshippers.
“If possible, let us minimise handshakes and hugs to help fight the spread of the virus.
“While we pray that God will reward our efforts by bringing a quick solution to this global health challenge, we call on churches to shorten the duration of services by holding brief services, unless necessary.
“CAN will work with government and their health agencies to educate and mobilize faithful in fighting this virus, believing that with the right information and proper guidance from all leaders and stakeholders, we can fight and stop the spread of this virus.
“Finally, CAN is calling on our President (Muhammadu Buhari) not to allow anyone to play politics with this serious challenge.

“The federal government should assemble qualified experts to develop simple messages for transmission and distribution at places of worship, motor parks, airports, schools and in every gathering,” he said.

At Last, FG Restricts Travel from US, UK, France, 10 Others

  • Records five new COVID-19 cases, shuts NYSC camps nationwide
  • Lagos suspends gathering above 50 persons, joins North-west govs to close schools

Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Olawale Ajimotokan, Adedayo Akinwale, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Martins Ifijeh, Chinedu Eze, Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos, and Francis Sardauna in Katsina

Nigeria wednesday stepped up efforts to check further spread of COVID-19 as it slammed a travel ban on 13 nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom and China.

The travel restriction, which also affected COVID-19 high-risk nations like Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Spain, France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, was announced just as five fresh cases of the pandemic were recorded in the country.

With the five new cases, Nigeria now has eight incidents of the pandemic since the index case occurred in February.
Another suspected case of COVID-19, it was learnt, was also being looked into yesterday in Katsina State.

Following the travel ban, announced by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, the federal government also temporarily suspended the issuance of visa on arrival policy, which came into effect in January 2020. The suspension is part of measures to curb the further spread of COVID-19 into the country.

In addition, it ordered the immediate closure of ongoing National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps nationwide.
To complement the federal government’s efforts in battling the pandemic, the North-west Governors’ Forum has directed that schools within the region should be closed for 30 days.

Mustapha said the restrictions, which will last for four weekends, subject to review, will come into effect from Saturday.

He said the latest measure, which followed Tuesday’s ban by the presidential task force on public officials and civil servants from overseas travels was taken after an assessment of the global situation.
According to him, the listed countries are those with over 1,000 cases domestically.

Under the new containment scheme, all persons arriving in Nigeria, who might have visited these countries, 15 days prior to such arrival, will be subjected to supervised self-isolation and testing for 14 days.

The SGF urged public health authorities of countries with a high burden to conduct diligent departure screening of passengers and also endorse these travel advisories to their nationals to postpone travels to Nigeria.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already declared COVID-19 a pandemic disease.

FG Confirms Five New Cases of Pandemic

Giving details of the five new cases in a statement yesterday in Abuja, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said they were uncovered within the last 36 hours.

Out of the five new cases, three arrived from the United States while two came in from the United Kingdom.

He said: “We are still collating information on the travellers; two of the three from the US are Nigerians, a mother, and a six-week-old baby. The third patient is an American national, who crossed the land border and becomes the first COVID-19 case not arriving by air. The two cases from the UK are Nigerians.

“A detailed travel history of each person is being compiled and contacts are currently being traced to identify persons who have recently been in contact with anyone.

“The National Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and supported by partners, is supporting response in the state. The federal government, through the Federal Ministry of Health, is conducting a risk assessment to help guide decision making.”

FG Shuts NYSC Camps Nationwide

Earlier wednesday, the federal government ordered the immediate closure of the ongoing NYSC orientation camps nationwide over COVID-19 fears.

The 2020 Batch ‘A’ Stream One NYSC members arrived in camp on March 10 and were expected to leave three weeks after.
However, the Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, yesterday said the NYSC members would be released to resume at their places of primary assignment.

He tweeted that the closure was a precautionary measure on COVID-19.

The Director-General of NYSC, Brig-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, who also confirmed the development in Katsina yesterday, said the closure became necessary following the outbreak of the disease in the country.

He confirmed that no corps member, staff or camp official had contracted the virus, urging corps members to ensure personal hygiene in their places of primary assignment.

Katsina Announces First Suspected Case

Also wednesday, the Katsina State Government said a first suspected case of COVID-19 had been recorded in the state.

The Permanent Secretary, in the state Ministry of Health, Dr. Kabir Mustapha, told journalists in Katsina that the patient, who returned from Malaysia, developed some symptoms that warranted further investigations.
According to him, the patient is currently in self-isolation.

Mustapha said his samples had been taken and results expected by today, adding that contact tracing would commence as soon as the results were out.

He said the ministry had taken all precautionary measures and was closely working with the NCDC on the matter.
According to him, the patient’s history of travel is a high index and the symptoms reported at the clinic prompted actions.

He said since his arrival in the state, the patient had resulted in personal protection of using a face mask and was in self-isolation.

Mustapha urged people in the host community of Dutsinma Town to be cautious of their movements and gatherings.

Brief Nigerians Now, Senate Tells Buhari

Worried by the outbreak of the pandemic in the country, the Senate yesterday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to address Nigerians on the federal government’s preparations and efforts aimed at addressing the pandemic as well as its effects and implications.

It also urged the federal government to take more pro-active steps like travel ban, tighter border control, restrictions on large gatherings and banning of some citizens of other countries from entering Nigeria.

It called on all related government agencies to keep Nigerians abreast of all cases of the scourge worldwide while banning flight operations from all international airports except Lagos and Abuja.

Other drastic measures the Senate canvassed included the banning of flights from countries with intense cases of the virus.

The resolutions were sequel to the adoption of a motion moved by Senator Danjuma Goje, who came under Senate Rule 43 to stress that though the Senate discussed the effects of the scourge on Tuesday, emerging details showed that the effects of the disease would have a catastrophic effect on Nigerians and Nigeria if drastic action is not taken.

Supporting the motion, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, called on Nigerians to be more careful on how Nigerians relate to each other, pleading that more care should be taken as in the case of Ebola outbreak in Lagos.

Also, Senator Ajayi Borofice noted that Nigeria borders are porous and urged the federal government to ban those travelling to the US through Nigeria as well as ban people coming from epicenters of infection from coming to Nigeria, till when the situation improves

The President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, in his concluding remarks, called for improved measures to be taken so as prevent the uncontrollable outbreak of the disease in Nigeria.
“Even if our environment is hostile to COVID-19, we need to be extremely careful. We won’t know when it adjusts to the environment and become very potent,” he stated.

The Senate in its prayers urged the National Assembly to support the federal government to fight COVID-19’s spread and called for a Special Intervention Fund to combat the disease.

House Urges FG to Ban Open Religious Gathering

As part of the measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic, the House of Representatives has called on the federal government to ban open congregation of worshippers for the time being following the recording of five new cases of coronavirus in the country.

It also resolved to shut out visitors from coming into the House indefinitely, while calling on the National Assembly management to immediately make provision for testing of any entrant into the legislative House.
The decision of the House was a sequel to the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance moved by Hon. Zakare Chawai on the need to ban foreign airlines from coming into the country.

In his lead debate, Chawai said if the foreign airlines are banned, especially from COVID-19 ravaged countries, there was a need for the federal government to put in place all necessary protocols and palliative measures.

In his submission, the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, said open religious gathering should be banned for now as it was done in countries like the Vatican City, Iran and Saudi Arabia to curtail the spread of the virus.
The House, however, resolved that Nigeria should sign an agreement with Singapore for the supply of test kits for the virus, while public institutions should have the temperature testing kits.

The House also resolved that Ehanire should brief the House every week, but it, however, rejected the idea of shutting down all schools nationwide for 14 days.

Dangote’s Contractor’s Staff Tests Negative

Meanwhile, an Indian staff of Onshore Construction Company, an instrumentation contracting firm with Dangote Fertilizer Limited, who had shown symptoms associated with COVID-19 and subsequently isolated, has been confirmed negative.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, in his Twitter handle said: “An Indian national that was admitted in our facility yesterday (Monday) night with symptoms suggestive of #COVID19 has tested negative to #COVID19.
“He is doing perfectly well in our isolation unit. His case will be reviewed in the morning (Wednesday).”

Arik Air Suspends Flights to West Coast

Arik Air has temporarily suspended flights to all its West Coast destinations effective Monday.
The airline said it took the decision after a careful analysis of the spread of COVID-19.
The Chief Executive Officer of Arik Air, Captain Roy Ilegbodu, said: “The safety and well-being of our personnel and valued customers are paramount at this critical time. We do not want to take chances and this is why we have taken this decision”.

North-west Govs Close Schools

The North-west Governors’ Forum has directed that schools within the region should be closed for 30 days.
Rising from their meeting wednesday in Kaduna, the governors said the decision was to prevent citizens from contacting the COVID-19.

The Chairman of the forum and Katsina State Governor, Hon. Bello Masari, announced the decision of the governors in a communiqué he read at the end of the closed-door meeting.

He said: “Measures shall be taken in each of the states in consultation with examination bodies to close schools for a period of 30 days starting from Monday, 23 of March, 2020.

“In addition, all the states in the region shall carry out sensitisation campaigns to discourage large gatherings and to encourage citizens to uphold personal environmental hygiene.”

LCCI, NECA, NCAA Hail FG over Ban on 13 Countries

Meanwhile, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) have commended the federal government’s travel ban on 13 countries.

LCCI said Nigeria should prioritise health and safety over the economy and business.

The Director-General of LCCI, Dr. Muda Yusuf, told THISDAY that it is only the living that can do business.

Yusuf also noted that the ban would cause momentary disruptions in business and economy because of some Nigerian industries that required skills that are not readily available in the country.

He said: “There are international business meetings, conferences, exhibitions that need to take place which would have to be postponed or canceled. All of these have cost implications. But at a time like this, health and safety are paramount.”

NECA also applauded the steps taken by the federal government to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 by restricting travel ban for countries with over 1,000 cases to Nigeria.
This decision, according to NECA, will help Nigeria to cope in the management of the pandemic and ensure a COVID-19-free Nigeria.

However, the Director-General of NECA, Mr. Timothy Olawale, said the ban came a bit late from the date, the first index case was confirmed in Nigeria.

General Manager, Public Relations, at the NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, stated that NCAA would not authorise airlines from the shortlisted countries to come into the country by not allowing them have flight clearance to access any of the country’s entry points.
He added that NCAA would issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) immediately it received circular on the ban.

Minister of Health Briefs Govs on COVID-19

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

At the meeting of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) held last night, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire briefed the governors on the ravaging COVID-19 and what the federal government is doing to contain the disease.

The governors, it was learnt, resolved to set up committee to review the impacts of the epidemic on states

A source privy to the closed-door meeting told THISDAY that the governors were not happy because the country has only three testing centres and there are no testing centres in the entire 19 states of the north.

The governors insisted that each of the states must have a test and isolation centres in each state.

But speaking after the meeting, Ehanire said the governors wanted to know the cost implications of setting up the COVID-19 centres in their respective states.

The minister said that it was the governors that have pledged to set up isolation centres in their states.

“To get the story of how COVID-19 spread abroad and how it has come into Nigeria and what we have done so far. And they asked questions about our strategies, our approach and how it affects their states and our strategies and how they can have access to materials to be able to respond.

“I did not need to make an effort to remind the governors on what they should do because they all offered to play a role, which was very good. In fact they want to know the cost of building isolation centres, the cost of the equipment and the kits. And they want us to present them with them cost tomorrow. We are happy that there is such engagement by the governors.

Also briefing the meeting, the chairman of the forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi said that the forum received an update on the COVID-l9 pandemic from Ehanire.

“Governors pledged to work with the Ministry of Health to set up functional test and isolation centres in every state in the country.

“After an extensive discussion of the impact of the COVID-l 9 pandemic and falling oil prices in the Nigerian economy and the revenues of state governments, the forum constituted a sub-committee consisting of the Governors of Kaduna (Chair), Kebbi, Ebonyi, Ogun, Nasarawa, Edo and Jigawa states to comprehensive ly review the trend and advice state governments on the set of actions required to address challenges in economy.”

COVID-19: Nigeria Shuts Down All Sports Activities Indefinitely

Duro Ikhazuagbe

The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development Wednesday evening suspended all sports programmes and events in the country as a precautionary move against the spread of COVID-19.

In a circular sent to all the national sports federations under its watch and signed by a Director of FEAD, Mrs Tayo Oreweme, the Sports Ministry said this development was a follow up to the postponement of the 20th National Sports Festival and the closing down of all NYSC camps.

“In the effort to further ensure safe health and wellbeing of all athletes and sports loving Nigerians at large, I am directed to inform you that all National Sports Federations should suspend the organisation and/ participation in all national and international competitions, including qualification tournaments for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” observed the statement from the ministry.

Similarly, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) announced the cessation of all forms of football activities in the country for the next four weeks, as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.

According to the country’s supreme football-governing body, the shutdown affects all on-field activities the various National Teams, the Nigeria Professional Football League, the other Leagues, youth football programmes and even street football.

President of the NFF, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick said the cessation will be for four weeks after which the situation will be reviewed in line with events and trends worldwide.

He also advised all members of the football family to observe the various safety precautions and conduct as advised by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, such as hand-washing, the use of sanitizers and social distancing.

Pinnick also stated that the only football activity that will be permitted is the work of the NFF investigation committee into the death of Chineme Martins, which was inaugurated yesterday in Benin City and will submit its report within the next 10 days.

COVID-19: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Organisers Respond to Frustrated Athletes

Olympic organisers have warned “no solution will be ideal” in preparing for Tokyo 2020 after being accused of putting athletes “in danger”.

The summer showpiece is scheduled to begin on 24 July despite the relentless cancellation of sporting events as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi said the International Olympic Committee was “risking our health”.

Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson said training had become “impossible”.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) responded, stating: “This is an exceptional situation which requires exceptional solutions. The IOC is committed to finding a solution with the least negative impact for the athletes, while protecting the integrity of the competition and the athletes’ health.

“No solution will be ideal in this situation, and this is why we are counting on the responsibility and solidarity of the athletes.”

World heptathlon champion Johnson-Thompson, 27, is returning to the UK from her training base in France as a result of the country being in lockdown.

Tokyo 2020 organisers have pledged to deliver a “complete” Games but Johnson-Thompson said current guidance from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is confusing.

She said: “The IOC advice ‘encourages athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympics Games as best as they can’ with the Olympics only four months away but the government legislation is enforcing isolation at home, with tracks, gyms and public spaces closed.

“I feel under pressure to train and keep the same routine, which is impossible.

“I’m in a very fortunate place given the circumstances. I’m healthy, well supported and I have already qualified for the Olympics. But at this moment it’s difficult to approach the season when everything has changed in the lead up apart from the ultimate deadline.”

All club training sessions, events, competitions, club committee and face-to-face meetings, athlete camps, running groups and social events have been suspended across England, Scotland and Wales.

Several athletes have joined Johnson-Thompson in pointing to confusion on how they should prepare.

Stefanidi, who won gold for Greece in pole vault at Rio 2016, said: “This is not about how things will be in four months. This is about how things are now.

“The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family’s health and public health to train every day? You are putting us in danger right now, today, not in four months.”

Hayley Wickenheiser, a member of the IOC, has said the Olympic governing body’s decision to “move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity.”

Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) President Alejandro Blanco has told Reuters he would prefer this year’s Games be postponed.

Around 57% of the athletes set to attend the Games have so far qualified.

On Tuesday, the IOC asked athletes to continue preparations “as best they can”.

Jessica Judd, who represented Britain over 5,000m at the 2019 world championships, tweeted: “How on earth are we meant to carry on preparing best we can?

“Will someone share with me what races we can do to get times and whether trials will go ahead and when training can return to normal?”

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has insisted the Games will go ahead as planned in July.

WEDNESDAY MARCH 18TH,2020

Lagos Shuts Schools over Coronavirus

By Segun James

As part of the preventive measures against the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Lagos State Government is closing down all public and private schools with effect from Monday, March 23.

The state’s Ministry ofEducation in a statement signed by the Commissioner of Education, MRS. FOLASHADE ADEFISAYO stated that it had becomes necessary to prevent children and their teachers from becoming vulnerable to the pandemic.

“It is important for parents to ensure that their children practise ‘social distancing’ while at home, wash their hands regularly or use hand sanitizers and observe high standards of personal hygiene.

“Children should be encouraged to remain at home.

“The closure is not intended to create panic but to arrest the spread of the disease, which has become a global threat.

“The Incident Command Centre, headed by the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is the Incident Commander, will continue to trace all contacts of the identified cases,” she stated.

 

Coronavirus: Lagos Bans Large Religious Gatherings for Four Weeks

Segun James

Following the rising cases of Coronavirus in the country, Lagos state government has announced the ban on large religious gatherings, effective immediately.

The decision was contained in a communiqué signed at the end of an emergency meeting between the state government and religious leaders in the state Wednesday.

The ban which was tagged “suspension” will be for an initial four weeks, according to the communiqué which was read by the state’s Commissioner for Home Affairs, Mr. Olanrewaju Anofiu Elegushi, at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, Ikeja.

Elegushi read the directive on behalf of Nigeria Inter Religious Council (NIRC), Lagos chapter after extensive debate with the representatives of leaders from both Christian and Islamic organizations.

The meeting which lasted for hours was attended by the Grand Chief Imam of Lagos, Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Nolla, and the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos chapter, Apostle Alexander Bamgbola.

To ensure full implementation, a 15-man committee co-chaired by the Commissioner and Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mrs Adebunmi Adekanye, was set up.

While reading out the communique, Elegushi said, “It is better to offend people than to kill,” saying fifty persons are manageable for the religious leaders to control in mosques and churches.

“We hereby agree we should suspend all religious congregations that are over 50 within the state for four weeks. It is easy to establish contacts of about fifty people. To achieve this, a committee should be set up to monitor and report on daily basis.

“While the constitution allows for freedom of association and worship, we are of the opinion that we should exercise our rights with extreme caution so as to avoid contracting and spreading this disease.

“We hereby appeal to you to please pay close attention to people coming into our places of worship, anyone found showing symptoms of this disease should immediately be reported to the appropriate authorities.

“We should put in place measures that will ensure cleanliness of our environment bearing in mind that, cleanliness is next to Godliness.

“Aside our normal ablutions, our worshippers should be encouraged to make use of hand sanitizers, avoid bodily contacts as much as possible and ensure safety measures in and around their places of abode.

The government and the religious leaders agreed that the ban will apply to congregation of over 50 persons.

Before the meeting, Mr. Elegushi had briefed newsmen on the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the meeting with the religious leaders was to “discuss a burning issue that has suddenly crept into our country Nigeria and by extension, our dear state, Lagos.

“You will recall that about two weeks ago, we called a meeting where a similar discussion and sensitisation on the Corona Virus (COVlD-19) was done, at that meeting experts in the medical field and those handling the Coronavirus issue in the state were on ground to educate us on this pandemic disease.

“As a responsible and responsive government, it behoves on us to bring our Religious Leaders up to speed on the unwanted disease that is subtly creeping into the state, the Coronavirus.

“A stitch in time saves nine as the saying goes and you will all agree with me that, we must nip the spread in the bud before it becomes endemic in our state. This disease is not from here and we have to keep it at bay before it wrecks havoc in our state. We cannot afford to treat it with kids’ glove as the lives of Lagosians are sacrosanct.”

“Few days ago, another case was discovered of a woman who came in from the UK and reports we are having says that she was at a conference where the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister attended. The fact of the matter is that, this disease can be simply contacted and spread through contact with infected persons. Now the question is, how do we know who is infected amongst our numerous congregation who has come to worship.

“While the constitution allows for freedom of association and worship, we are of the opinion that we should exercise our rights with extreme caution so as to avoid contacting and spreading of this disease.

“Mr Governor has directed that we should call this meeting with you in order to drive home the point that, this disease is real and it can only be avoided or prevented if we educate our worshippers on the dos and don’ts of the Coronavirus.

“We hereby appeal to you to please pay close attention to people coming into our places of worship, anyone found showing symptons of this disease should immediately be isolated and reported to the appropriate authorities,” he stated.

COVID-19: CBN to Pump N1trn into Economy

By Obinna Chima

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Wednesday announced the injection of an additional N1 trillion across all critical sectors into the economy.

The fund is to boost local manufacturing and import substitution and is in line with the its efforts to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy.

The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this in Abuja.

He explained: “The CBN is directing all deposit money banks to increase their support to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. In local drug manufacturing, in increased bed count in hospitals across Nigeria, in funding intensive care as well as in training, laboratory testing, equipment and Research & Department (R&D).

“In addition to the N50 billion soft loans to small businesses already announced, the CBN will increase its intervention by another N100 billion in loan this year to support the health authorities to ensure laboratories, researchers and innovators work with global scientists to patent and or produce vaccines and test kits-in Nigeria to prepare for any major crises ahead.

“The details of how these facilities can be accessed will be released soon. Secondly, given the continuing impact of the disease on global supply chains, the CBN will increase its intervention in boosting local manufacturing and import substitution by another N1 trillion across all critical sectors of the economy.

“The management of the CBN will meet with the Bankers Committee this Saturday at 10.00am to work out the modalities.

“Thirdly, an Implementation Committee that will action the private sector contribution of N1.5 trillion Infrastructure funding that will link farming communities to markets as agreed at the Going for Growth Roundtable last week will be set-up next week.”

….More details later

 

Coronavirus Spreads to 170 Nations, Infects 207,000 People

Martins Ifijeh

Despite the introduction of stringent measures by several countries, COVID-19 has spread to 170 countries, and has infected over 207, 000 persons globally.

The disease, which has killed at least 8, 074 people already, surged within the last 24 hours.

From 196,771 infected cases Tuesday, not less than 9,000 cases have been added to the growing list.

Also, six new nations were added to the number of nations affected; all within one day.

Of the six latest affected countries, Africa becomes the most hit, as Gambia, Zambia and Djibouti recorded their first cases Wednesday. 31 countries in Africa have now been affected.

Pundits believed by the time the burden of the disease starts reducing across other continents, Africa may become the hard knock to crack in terms of elimination of the virus from the world.

Nigeria on Wednesday experienced a bout of the surge as five new persons have been confirmed to have tested positive to the disease in Lagos (four) and Ekiti State (one).

While China’s infection rate has reduced and still pegged at below 81, 000, the country experienced 11 new deaths in the last one day.

The country has instituted a total lockdown on its territory; ensuring no new case is exported out of the country. It also enforced the ‘sit-at-home’ order in a bid to halt in-country spread of the virus.

Iran Tuesday recorded 16,169 confirmed cases 988 deaths. As at Wednesday evening, infection rate jumped to 17, 361, while death rate increased by 147, totaling 1, 135 deaths.

Iran has been suspected to have delayed revealing about the spread of COVID 19 in its country and under-reporting the cases. A number of countries have traced their coronavirus to Iran. Many government officials and politicians including MPs in Iran have contracted the disease. Some of which have unfortunately died.

Amid fears of further spread, Iran has temporary released approximately 70,000 prisoners, according to Mizan news agency.

Italy Wednesday reported 345 new COVID-19 deaths in the country over the last 24 hours taking its total death toll to 2,503 – an increase of 16 percent.

The total number of cases in Italy rose to 31,506 from a previous 27,980, up 12.6 percent – the slowest rate of increase since the contagion came to light on February 21. Italy is the European country hardest hit by coronavirus.

Spain’s infected cases are 13, 919, which is a sharp increase from yesterday figurew of 11,200 it now has a death rate of 623. After Italy, Soain is the second worst hit European country.

Germany, South Korea France and US are not left out of the global surge of the virus. Germany has recorded 10, 120 infections and 27 deaths; South Korea has 8, 413 infected cases and 84 deaths, France has 7, 730 infections, while US has 7, 339 infected cases and 116 deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the COVID-19 pandemic as the “defining global health crisis of our time”, and urged countries to test all suspected cases of COVID-19.

 

Global Coronavirus Cases  Rise to 200,000, Death Toll Hits 8,000

The coronavirus has now infected more than 200,000 people and killed more than 8,000 globally, with almost 80,000 people having recovered from the infection, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for more “aggressive” action to curb the coronavirus in Southeast Asia after the European Union, now at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, moved to seal off its borders

Southeast Asia is facing a wave of infections that started from an event at a mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur attended by some 16,000 people.

Malaysia now has the biggest outbreak in the region.

Europe has moved to close its external borders as hard-hit Italy reported an additional 345 deaths from the virus, and France imposed a draconian lockdown unseen during peacetime.

In the United States, meanwhile, the virus has now spread to all 50 states. (Aljazeera)

The coronavirus has now infected more than 200,000 people and killed more than 8,000 globally, with almost 80,000 people having recovered from the infection, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for more “aggressive” action to curb the coronavirus in Southeast Asia after the European Union, now at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, moved to seal off its borders

Southeast Asia is facing a wave of infections that started from an event at a mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur attended by some 16,000 people.

Malaysia now has the biggest outbreak in the region.

Europe has moved to close its external borders as hard-hit Italy reported an additional 345 deaths from the virus, and France imposed a draconian lockdown unseen during peacetime.

In the United States, meanwhile, the virus has now spread to all 50 states. (Aljazeera)

Coronavirus: Lagos May Ban Large Gatherings
*Religious houses to be affected
By Segun James
Following the rising cases of coronavirus in the country, Lagos state government may any moment from now announce a ban on large gatherings.
THISDAY gathered that the state government is currently holding a meeting with religious leaders in the state to inform them of its decision on social distancing as a measure to check the spread of coronavirus.
Details later…

Nigeria Confirms 5 New Cases of Coronavirus

Nigeria has confirmed five new cases of coronavirus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the country to eight.
According to a tweet by the National Centre for Disease Control, all the five new case have a travel history to the United States and United Kingdom.
The confirmation is coming on the heels of a travel ban imposed on 13 high-risk countries by the federal government  on Wednesday.
Details later…

Coronavirus: FG Suspends Visa on Arrival Policy, Bans Travellers from 13 High-risk Countries

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The federal government has announced the temporary suspension of the issuance of visa on arrival policy which came into effect in January 2020 as a measure to curb the further spread of COVID-19 into the country.

It also announced a far-reaching restriction of entry into the country by travellers from 13 countries.

The Chairman of Presidential Task Force on the containment COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, made the announcement at a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday.

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said the restrictions will come into effect from Saturday, March, 21, 2020 and will be for four weeks subject to review.

He said the latest measure, which followed Tuesday’s ban by the Presidential Task Force on public officials and civil servants from overseas travels, was taken after an assessment of the global situation.

Travellers from the countries affected by the federal government restrictions are China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland.

Mustapha said the listed countries were those with over 1,000 case domestically.

He also stressed that all persons arriving in Nigeria who might have visited these countries, 15 days prior to such arrival, will be subjected to supervised self-isolation and testing for 14 days.

He urged public health authorities of countries with high burden to conduct diligent departure screening of passengers and also endorse this travel advisories to their nationals to postpone travels to Nigeria.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared Coronavirus a pandemic disease.

Nigeria Imposes Travel Ban on 13 High-risk Countries

Federal Government has placed a travel ban on 13 high-risk Coronavirus countries.

The countries affected by the ban announced on Wednesday were China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland

Below is the full statement by the Presidential Taskforce boss:
STATEMENT BY THE CHAIRMAN PRESIDENTIAL TASK FORCE PTF ON COVlD-19 0N MEASURES BEING TAKEN BY NIGERIA TO CONTAIN AND MANAGETHE PANDEMIC
Gentlemen of the Press,
You will recall that yesterday Tuesday 17‘h March, 2020 the Presidential Task Force on COVlD-19 set up by Mr. President was inaugurated and held its first briefing.
2. You will also recall that the PTF at the end of the meeting announced the ban on all forms of travels by public officers and civil servants until further notice,
3. This morning, we have found it necessary to brief Nigerians on further measures being taken after an assessment of the global situation. They are as follows:
i. The Federal Government of Nigeria is restricting entry into the country for travellers from the following thirteen (13) countries; China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland. These are all countries with over 1,000 case domestically;
ii. All persons arriving in Nigeria who might have visited these countries, 0fteen days prior to such arrival, will be subjected to supervised self-isolation and testing for 14 days;
iii. The Federal Government is temporarily suspending the issuance of all visas on arrival;
iv. The Federal Government is also counseling all Nigerians to cancel or postpone all non-essential travels to these countries; and
v. The Federal Government urges Public Health Authorities of countries with high burden to conduct diligent departure screening of passengers and also endorses this travel advisories to their nationals to postpone travels to Nigeria.
4. These restrictions will come into effect from Saturday, 21st March, 2020 for four (4) weeks subject to review.
Katsina Records Suspected Case of Coronavirus
By Francis Sardauna
The Katsina State Ministry of Health on Wednesday said that the state has recorded a suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Kabir Mustapha, who disclosed this at a press conference, said the suspected case is recorded in Dutsin-Ma Local Government Area of the state.
He said the victim, whose identify has not been disclosed, returned from Malaysia and developed serious symptoms of the dreaded disease that necessitated medical investigation.
He added that the victim is currently on self isolation and samples have been taken and results are expected Thursday.
He said: “As soon as the result of the test is out, contact tracing will commence immediately. The ministry is taking all precautionary measures and we are working with National Centre for Disease control (NCDC) on the matter.
“The patient’s history of travel was a high index and the symptoms reported at the clinic prompted actions. Since his arrival into the state, the patient was taking personal protection of using face mark and self isolation.”

Covid 19: NYSC Suspends 2020 Batch ‘A’ Stream 1, Orientation Course

Oghenevwede Ohwovoriole in Abuja

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has suspended the ongoing orientation course for the 2020 Batch “A” Stream 1 corps members.

According to a press release on Wednesday morning and signed by the Director, Press and Public Relation, Mr. Adenike Adeyemi, the management of the NYSC said: “Sequel to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the cancellation of the National Sports Festival, management of the National Youth Service Corps scheme wishes to announce the suspension of the ongoing Orientation course for the 2020 Batch ‘A’ Stream 1 corps members.

“Therefore, the corps members shall be posted to commence their primary assignments forthwith, while they shall be invited back to the orientation camps when the situation improves, just like it happened a few years ago when the nation was confronted by the Ebola virus threat.

“Management wishes to state that no corps member or camp official has contracted the virus.”

Recording COVID-19’s Third Case, FG Bans Foreign Travels by Public Officials

•Suspends National Sports Festival

Deji Elumoye, Omololu Ogunmade, Chuks Okocha, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Olawale Ajimotokan, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Duro Ikhazuagbe, Uche Nnaike and Martins Ifijeh in Lagos

With the confirmation of the third case of COVID-19 in Nigeria after a 30-year-old female tested positive to the virus, the federal government yesterday took additional measures to check the spread of the pandemic, banning foreign travels by public officials and suspended the National Sports Festival slated for March 22 in Benin, Edo State.

The federal government’s ban on foreign travels would affect all public and civil servants in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other government parastatals.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, at the inaugural meeting of the Presidential Task Force on the Control of the COVID-19 Outbreak in Nigeria, said the decision was taken to scale the country’s health emergency to the highest level and prevent further spread of the contagion.

He asked civil servants to shelve all seminars, meetings, bilateral, multilateral, conferences and workshops slated for foreign countries.
According to him, the ban remains in place until the situation on the containment of the virus abates.

He added that in view of this development, all requests by public workers to travel abroad, including all approvals given earlier, have been revoked.
After the task force meeting, which lasted for several hours behind closed door, the committee also advised the general public to cancel or postpone non-essential overseas trips, including, business, vacations to some of the countries that have recorded clusters of coronavirus infections and deaths.

Mustapha listed the worst affected countries, which Nigerians should stop travelling to as China, USA, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Germany, UK, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Spain and Japan.
He advised Nigerians returning from all the aforementioned countries to self-quarantine for 14 days at home and ensure they follow the guidelines by the NCDC on the procedures for self- isolation.

He added that all travellers coming from countries with COVID-19 transmission that have recorded 1,000 cases and above will be actively followed up for 14 days by the health authorities.
While tagging the virus as the most important health emergency in this generation, which must be treated as such, the SGF said the federal government supported measures by the high burdened countries on the containment of the contagion, including the directive to remain indoors.

Third COVID-19 Case Recorded

The federal government said yesterday that it has commenced contact tracing of those who had contact with the patient, who arrived in the country from the UK on March 13.
It said it was tracing all the people that flew with her on the airline and others she had met in Lagos.
In a statement given to THISDAY yesterday, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said: “Upon arriving in Nigeria, she underwent a self-quarantine, which has minimised the risk of the spread of the virus to other persons. She went through this because of the stringent measures put in place by the federal government.

“She subsequently developed symptoms of fever and cough on March 16, at which point she voluntarily called the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) toll-free call line to report her condition. Officials from the Lagos State Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) were immediately dispatched to her home to collect samples, which upon testing, came out positive for the coronavirus.”

He said the lady was currently at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos, where she has remained clinically stable and responding to treatment.
Ehanire added that the federal government, along with the Lagos State government, has commenced intensive contact tracing to help identify all persons she had contact with since her return.

“We expect the number to be small because of her sensible decision to go into self-isolation from the time of her arrival. We commend her for following the recommended guidelines to the letter. We will continue to assess the situation and adjust the response accordingly,” he stated.
Ehanire explained that many people infected with COVID-19 will experience only mild symptoms and recover without incident.
He, however, added that of great concern were those with existing underlying medical conditions and senior citizens, who are known to be more vulnerable to the virus.

Ehanire cautioned: “We strongly advise these citizens to stay more at home. All Nigerians are required to continue taking necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families. These measures include regular handwashing with soap and water and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

“Nigerians should maintain at least two metres distance from persons with persistent cough or sneezing. Those coughing should engage in good respiratory hygiene, which means covering their mouth and nose with tissues or handkerchiefs when coughing or sneezing. If none is available, they can cough into their elbows or the sleeve of their dress. They should dispose of the used tissue papers properly.”

As part of efforts to trace the people the new case might have had contact with, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has called on members of the public, who travelled along with the lady on British Airways to stay at home and isolate themselves.

Abayomi, who spoke at a press briefing in Lagos yesterday to corroborate the minister’s statement, said: “If you are a passenger on flight BA 75 that arrived Lagos on March 13, 2020, stay at home and isolate yourself for 14 days. Also, call our lines now: 08000corona, 08023169485, 08033565529.”
He also mentioned that the Italian index case was yet to be discharged as he was still secreting the virus.
“His health is stable, except that he has not tested negative. Once that happens and we reconfirm, we will be happy to discharge him,” he said.

National Sports Festival Suspended

The suspension of the sports meeting was announced yesterday by the Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, who said the measure, was part of the federal government’s efforts to check the potential spread of the pandemic.
“Following the briefing of Mr. President from me and the Minister of State for Health on COVID 19, Mr. President approved the immediate postponement of Edo Sports festival to a future date,” he stated, adding: “President Mohammadu Buhari approves the postponement of the National Sports Festival Edo 2020 as a precautionary move against COVID-19 spread.”

The event billed to be hosted by Edo State Government was meant to draw no fewer than 11,500 participants, a number which the government felt was too risky to congregate in view of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.
Briefing journalists in the State House after a meeting with the president, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Minister of Youths and Sports, Dare, said the decision to postpone the meeting was taken at a meeting involving themselves, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control yesterday morning.
According to Dare, yesterday’s meeting was a culmination of his constant contact with the Ministry of Health, Edo State Government and the local organising committee (LOC) since the outbreak of the disease.

He said after the meeting, they opted to brief the president on the decision and consequently, the president gave them the directive to postpone the event as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
He said: “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development because of the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival has been in close touch and consultation with the Ministry of Health – particularly with both the minister of health and the minister of state, health.

“We’ve also been in consultation with the governor and deputy governor of Edo State, the LOC, and the MOC but we have had the Ministry of Health take the lead. Based on the daily review on developments, we got assurances that we could go ahead. But because we are dealing with a dynamic situation, this morning, we had a meeting at the Ministry of Health in the office of the Minister of Health with the Minister of State, Health present, I, the permanent secretary and the Director-General of NCDC.

“Shortly after the meeting, which lasted for about 45 minutes, we proceeded to the presidency to brief Mr. President. After briefing Mr. President, Mr. President took the initiative and gave the directive that the National Sports Festival, christened Edo 2020 should be postponed as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19. A new date will be communicated later based on development around COVID-19.”

Echoing Dare, Mamora said the decision was an affirmation of his submission at the press conference, he addressed on Monday where he told health correspondents that whatever decision that still needed to be taken as the developments on the disease unfold would definitely be taken.
The minister also said taking that decision had become imperative because there could be some people in the crowd that might have contacted the disease without knowing and hence, it would only result in its rapid spread.

Against that background, he said the only way to forestall the monumental spread of the disease is to ensure that the principle of social distancing is respected adding that religious gathering or any other large gathering is not advisable at this time.
Mamora said: “We felt that in the overall interest of Nigerians and national health security, it is better to err on the side of caution and therefore, we conveyed to Mr. President our thought and Mr. President thereafter kindly agreed that it was best for us to have this postponement.

“One of the things that we need to give attention to over the postponement is the possibility of people carrying the virus even without knowing – what we called A-symptomatic. That is, they carry it but they don’t even know because they are not manifesting symptoms. And what we need so far is that up to 80 to 81 per cent of people would either be A-symptomatic – that is not showing any symptoms or where they show symptoms, the symptoms may just be mild and moderate and this is a major source of what we call community transmission.

“So, the principle of social distancing has to be respected. That is preventive or advising against the congregation of a large number of people starting from the national sports festival which stands postponed. That also extends to religious gathering or any other gathering that would have a large number of people. It is not advisable at this point in time.”

Economic Advisory Council Lists Imminent Gloomy Effects of COVID-19 on Nigeria

Also yesterday, the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) in Abuja highlighted the gloomy impacts that COVID-19 would have on the Nigerian economy if the pandemic lasts long on the global scene.

Leading the eight-man team to a meeting with the president in the State House, the council chairman, Prof. Doyin Salami, listed such “sobering” imminent effects of the disease (if it lasts long) to include: slower growth, uncertainty, a further drop in oil prices, lockdowns gaining grounds around the world, oil glut, trade imbalance, drop in foreign reserves, and rise in unemployment.

A statement by the president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Salami explained that there would be slower growth because the supply and demand sides of global economy would be affected.

In the same vein, he said the council submitted that uncertainty would pervade the economy because the situation would erode confidence as governments across the globe would jettison cooperation and choose to act unilaterally.

Furthermore, Adesina said whereas the council told Buhari that many countries of the world would go into economic recession, Nigeria in its own case could survive the looming economic woes if only it opts to work hard.
“The PEAC stressed that the projections may seem dire, but the worst may be avoided with hard work and scrupulous implementation of policies,” the statement said.

He said the council. Therefore, recommended, among others, a possible revision of the 2020 budget, with priority spending on healthcare, reprioritisation of expenditure on infrastructure to focus on projects nearing completion with pro-poor effects.
Other recommendations by the council, according to the statemen