Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates

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TUESDAY 7TH APRIL, 2020

 

Covid-19: UITH Suspends Senior Medical Consultant over Unethical Conduct

*Fear grips Offa muslim community over Kwara index case

By Hammed Shittu

Following the confirmation of two cases of Covid-19 by Kwara State government, the Management of University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital has ordered the immediate suspension of Prof. A K Salami as a Senior Consultant in the hospital.

The suspension of the senior consultant according to THISDAY checks might not be unconnected with his alleged refusal to give the management of the hospital the real facts about the patient he brought to the hospital on April 1, for medical treatment.

It was gathered that Prof. Salami claimed that the patient, who just returned from UK where he attended the graduation of one of his children, was suffering from food poisoning instead of Covid-19, consequently exposing him to health workers and patients before he died at the hospital.

The state state government had on Monday night confirmed two Covid-19 cases arising from UK returnees to the state according to a statement by the spokesman of state’s Covid-19 Technical Committee, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye.

Meanwhile, there are growing concerns in Offa Muslim community following the confirmation of the covid-19 positive status of the wife of the deceased by the state government.

THISDAY investigations further revealed that, there were serious concerns in Offa Muslim community now as the Covid-19 Technical Committee had reportedly began contact tracing of those whom the wife of the deceased might have innocently had contact with, particularly the Imams who also innocently performed the burial rites of the deceased.

The suspension of the Senior Consultant is contained in a terse statement signed by the Director of Administration of UITH , Dr. David. S. Odaibo.

The two-paragraph letter titled, “Immediate Suspension of Professor A.K Salami,” reads ”The Management of University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital hereby suspend Prof A K Salami as a Senior Consultant in the hospital.

“This is as a result of his unethical conduct in the admission, management and eventual release of the corpse of a suspected Covid -19 patient who died in the hospital on the 3rd of April, 2020.”

Before now, the UITHC had in a letter with Ref no UITHMB/DA/PER/86/1/232 dated April 6,2020 signed by its Director of Administration David Odaibo set up a 10-man Committee under the Chairmanship of Professor E.O. Afolayan to among others investigate the allegations of the Covid-19 suspected case that was brought in by a member of staff, Professor A.K Salami, and died on April 3, 2020.

The suspended Professor Salami had claimed in his report at the hospital that the victim, Alhaji Jimoh Muideen, a chartered accountant who recently returned from United Kingdom where he attended one of his children’s graduation ceremony, was suffering from food poisoning.

It was several anonymous calls that revealed that the victim actually self-isolated since his return and that Prof. Salami actually brought him to the hospital when things went out of hand before the victim died the following day.

The UK returnee was later taken to his hometown of Offa for burial according to Islamic rites.

Following the circumstances surrounding his death, the management of UITH embarked on fumigation of the emergency department of the hospital.

Apart from this, the hospital advised all those who had close contact with the deceased while in the hospital to go into self-isolation.

 

Boris Johnson Receives Oxygen Support in Intensive Care

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been receiving oxygen treatment for coronavirus in intensive care, a senior member of the Cabinet confirmed.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said in an interview with the BBC that the Prime Minister was “not on a ventilator” but had “received oxygen support.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that Johnson was “receiving the very best care” at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, after being taken into intensive care at 7 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET) on Monday.

“And of course, one of the reasons for being in intensive care is to make sure that whatever support the medical team consider to be appropriate can be provided,” he said.

Johnson’s hospitalization has highlighted the lack of a formal line of succession in the UK government. Johnson nominated the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, who also holds the title of First Secretary of State, to deputize for him “where necessary.”

Few formal powers are invested specifically in the UK prime minister and key decisions are taken collectively by the Cabinet or its sub-committees. Many statutory powers are held by individual secretaries of state. But in recent decades, holders of the UK’s top political office have adopted a more presidential style, and the sweeping nature of the ruling Conservative Party’s most recent election victory was attributed to Johnson’s personal appeal with voters.

“The Prime Minister has a team around him who ensure the work of government goes on,” Gove told the BBC. He said Johnson had a “stripped-back diary” last week to make sure he could follow the medical advice of his doctors.

Gove confirmed that Raab was now in charge of seeing through Johnson’s plan to tackle the novel coronavirus. “Dominic [Raab] takes on the responsibilities of chairing the various meetings the PM would’ve chaired but we’re all working together to implement the plan that the PM has set out,” he said.

But Gove sidestepped a question about who held the “nuclear codes,” saying he would not discuss national security issues.

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the House of Commons defense select committee, tweeted good wishes to Johnson but added: “It is important to have 100% clarity as to where responsibility for UK national security decisions now lies. We must anticipate adversaries attempting to exploit any perceived weakness.”

Johnson was taken to hospital on Sunday evening. At the time, Downing Street said the decision was a precaution because the Prime Minister continued to suffer from a cough and a fever ten days after testing positive for the coronavirus. But his condition deteriorated on Monday, Downing Street said, and he was moved to the intensive care unit at St. Thomas’ Hospital.

Gove told Sky News on Tuesday morning that Cabinet ministers were not told about the Prime Minister’s deteriorating condition until nearly an hour after Johnson was taken into intensive care.

Asked whether the government had been up front with the public about Johnson’s condition, and whether the Cabinet had been taken by surprise, he replied: “Yes we were. The [daily coronavirus] briefing that was given at 5 o’clock was given at a time when we didn’t know about the deterioration in the Prime Minister’s condition.”

“We were informed subsequently. The Prime Minister was admitted to intensive care at 7 o’clock, and that information wasn’t given to us in government — to those in the cabinet — until just before 8 o’clock.” (CNN)

COVID-19: Ogun Confirms Two Fresh Cases

Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta

As the statewide lockdown ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari entered the third day, the Ogun State Government Monday evening confirmed that it had uncovered two fresh cases of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

The state Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, who addressed journalists at his private residence in Iperu Remo, Ikenne Local Government Area of the state, said the two new COVID-19 patients were discovered in Mowe axis of Obafemi-Owode and Ilaro town of Yewa South Local Government area of the state respectively.

Disclosing that the two new COVID-19 patients had no travel history, the governor said the two new cases thus, brought the total number of the case in Ogun to six of which three have been discharged after completing their 14-day incubation period.

“It is therefore important for us all to protect ourselves and our community from this invisible but dangerous virus by observing all the guidelines and shed off any carefree attitude that some may have been adopting towards the virus. COVID-19 is real. It is here also in Ogun State,” he warned.

While reiterating the determination of his administration in ensuring that COVID-19 is stopped in the state, Abiodun also explained that the state would by Tuesday, take delivery of equipment for the molecular test laboratory that will assist the state in hastening the test of any suspected case of COVID-19.

This, he noted, was in addition to the drive-in test centres and the enrolment of some specific private hospitals across the state, which he said are designated incident centres and first responders in the management of the pandemic.

 

COVID-19: Private Sector Relief Fund Hits N21.588bn as FG Lists Chinese Doctors’ Role

•Says foreign physicians not to practise but install equipment, train Nigerian personnel
•Unfolds guidelines on use of face masks
•Cases move to 238
•Lagos discharges two more patients

•Survivor narrates experience
•British Prime Minister Boris Jonson moves to intensive care unit

Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Obinna Chima, Martins Ifijeh, Funmi Ogundare in Lagos and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin

The private sector relief fund, championed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to raise funds to combat COVID-19 has rallied to N21.58 billion.
According to a CBN update yesterday on the private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) Relief Fund, domiciled with the apex bank, the cash, which totalled N19.488 billion as at last Friday, rose to N21.588 billion following fresh donations from some individuals and organisations.

The federal government also yesterday shed more light on the mission of Chinese doctors to Nigeria, which has been buffeted by criticisms from some organisations and individuals.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who doubles as the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, told reporters in Abuja that contrary to misconception, the Chinese doctors are not coming to Nigeria to treat COVID-19 patients.

Rather, they would superintend over the installation of medical equipment to facilitate the treatment of COVID-19 patients and the training of personnel to handle the equipment.
House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, however, said the Chinese medical team must be made to undergo the necessary checks as provided by Nigerian law.

The duo spoke just as Kwara State confirmed two cases of COVID-19 in the state, while Lagos State Government discharged yet another two patients yesterday after they tested negative for the virus following their treatment at its Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba.

A statement yesterday on behalf of the coalition by the Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, said the amount excluded the N2.4 billion pledges by three individuals and organisations yet to be redeemed. They are Lafarge Plc and MTN Nigeria, that pledged N1 billion each and John Coumantatous (Flour Mills Nigeria Plc), who pledged N400 million.

The initial list of 37 donors, which grew to 47 as at last Friday, was 50 as of yesterday (excluding those yet to redeem their pledges).
Some of the donors on the latest list included Chief Mike Adenuga, Raj Gupta of African Steel Mills Nigeria Ltd., Modupe and Folorunsho Alakija of Famfa Oil Limited and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), all donating N1 billion each to the relief fund.
The statement reiterated the coalition’s appreciation to the donors for their contributions to the relief fund.

Okoroafor, while urging more Nigerians and corporate bodies to contribute to the fund, charged Nigerians to do their part in checking any further spread of the virus in Nigeria.

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

CACOVID had last Monday said work had started to provide and equip medical facilities in the six geopolitical zones.
The medical facilities included the creation of testing, isolation and treatment centres as well as the provision of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and molecular testing labs.
CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had said CACOVID was targeting N120 billion for the acquisition of healthcare facilities and advocacy about the virus across the country, among others.

FG Lists Chinese Doctors’ Roles

The federal government yesterday, following the spate of criticisms over the invitation to the Chinese medical team to assist in combating COVID-19 in Nigeria, gave more details on what their roles would be during the mission.
SGF, at a press briefing to keep the media abreast of the presidential committee’s activities, urged the Nigeria Medical Association of Nigeria (NMA), one of the critics of the Chinese doctors’ planned trip, to see reason with the offer by China to assist Nigeria with medical doctors and health workers in the fight against COVID-19.

He said the Chinese team’s visit was being planned by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) to support Nigeria’s fight against the pandemic.
His clarification followed the explanation by the National Coordinator of PTF COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, that the United Nations (UN) and international donor agencies had agreed to support Nigeria with 50 ventilators worth about $1.4 million. The equipment is expected to be supplied this week.

Mustapha decried the opposition to the Chinese offer by NMA and labour unions, clarifying that the Chinese doctors would not practise in Nigeria because they were not accredited by NMA.
One of the grounds of NMA to the Chinese doctors’ presence in Nigeria is that they are not licensed by local authorities to practise medicine in the country as required by law.

Giving more details on the invitation of the Chinese doctors, Mustapha said CCECC, which has been in Nigeria for over 40 years, offered to import about 256 equipment and items in different quantities, notable among which are: 1,300,000 medical masks, over 150,000 pieces of assorted personal protective equipment as well as another 50 ventilators.
He, however, added that qualified medical professionals would be needed to install, test the equipment and train the personnel that would handle the donated items.

Besides, the Chinese company also proposed to sponsor public health experts to help strengthen the Nigerian public health capacity and advise on processes and procedures.
“However, I wish to clarify that all countries of the world seek for and receive help in the fight against COVID-19. The support coming from China is a corporate social responsibility initiative by CCECC, a company with a total value of infrastructure contracts worth $10 billion in Nigeria,” Mustapha said.

SGF added that the Chinese doctors won’t practise in Nigeria as the company has indicated that the doctors would share their experiences with Nigerians on how they contained the virus, which first began in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China, last year before its escalation to other parts of the world.

He said: “The Chinese doctors are not accredited by NMA, so they cannot practise in Nigeria. I don’t see where the fear is. They cannot see our patients and cannot manage our patients. We are learning from experiences. Some of the things we have put together that took us to where we are today and received the commendation of the UN are as a result of sharing experiences.

“The world is a global village if you are not willing to share experiences and you want to operate in isolation, you will not make progress.

“We have read of how the Chinese and South Koreans dealt with their situation, so I don’t see anything wrong in listening to them. As a matter of fact, they have become experts in that field. It started with them. Nobody can give you better information on how to manage the COVID-19 than the Chinese. I don’t think we should drag ourselves into unnecessary controversies.

“They are not accredited by the Nigeria Medical and Dental Council, so they can’t practise here.
“They will offer their experiences; they will train our people and equip the hospital they have adopted.”
He said they would convert the THISDAY Dome to a hospital, adding that they would also bring their people to install their equipment for the use of Nigerians.

“Let us not generate unnecessary controversies on who is coming or who is not coming,” Mustapha said, adding: “All we are concerned as PTF is the welfare of the people and we are responsible enough to make decisions that will protect the people of this country at the direction of the president.”

According to him, Nigeria is in a state of war against the virus and the time should not be devoted to unhelpful controversy.
He also urged Nigerian medical professionals to see the positive aspects of the gesture as an extension of development in the field of medicine, saying PTF recognises and respects the competence and capability of Nigerian doctors and other medical personnel.

On the lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states, SGF said only President Muhammadu Buhari could extend the 14-day lockdown, if necessary.

He said the objectives of the lockdown, which was primarily for containment to be able to trace or track those that had contacts with the first index case and by extension those established to be infected had been achieved.

“From the statistics I have just confirmed, what it shows is that 34 per cent of infection is by returning travellers, 25 per cent is among contacts of those cases. But there is a development that we are keeping eyes on, which is 41 per cent whose sources are unknown. That is an indication that we are succeeding,” he added.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who also took turns to brief reporters, expatiated on the mission of the Chinese medical team.
He said the team would be coming to help augment government’s efforts at building capacity to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team would also share their knowledge, skills and real-life experience of fighting COVID-19 with Nigerian personnel to strengthen the management of COVID-19 cases, especially with regard to critical care.
To further allay the fears of Nigerians over the health status of the Chinese team, Ehanire said all those included in the team would be fully screened and be made to undergo health regulations governing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chinese Doctors Must Undergo Laid-down Protocol, Says Gbajabiamila

Gbajabiamila said the Chinese medical team must undergo the necessary checks as provided by Nigeria.
The speaker, after a meeting of the leadership of the House with Ehanire and his deputy, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, said the measure became necessary to take precautions and allay fears expressed by many Nigerians.
He said the meeting was conveyed following widespread complaints that trailed the announcement of the coming of the Chinese medical team.

He said: “There are a lot of complaints about why we are bringing in Chinese doctors. It is incumbent on us, as lawmakers, to intervene, following the concerns of our constituents to understand the issues and get the right information to them. Our duty is to protect the Nigerian people, and every opportunity to increase our knowledge will not be thrown away.

“Having listened to you, what we are taking away from this meeting is that Nigeria needs this intervention from the Chinese, but you have to make it mandatory that they observe all the protocols laid down for the disease.

“As you explained that they won’t have direct contact with Nigerian patients, you have to make sure that they go through our official immigration laws, they have to get work permit waivers because they are coming here to work.”
Gbajabiamila added that the doctors have to be quarantined for 14 days as stipulated by the protocol and the ministers should educate Nigerians about this to avoid misconceptions.

FG to Unfold Guidelines on Use of Face Masks

Also at the media briefing in Abuja, the federal government said it would in the next 48 hours approve a national protocol for the use of face masks as a means of containing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the centre would today unveil protocol for the use of face masks by Nigerians.

While giving an update on the activities of the centre, Ihekweazu said the draft protocol for the face mask was ready but remained to be synchronised.
“I did say we will release a policy on face mask this week; that policy is almost completed. In fact, the draft is being looked at by various colleagues to ensure that they were all aligned. By tomorrow or next, we shall be releasing that policy for all of us to align with,” he said.

He also gave an update on the number of laboratories to be added to its network, saying four more testing laboratories each in Kano, Kaduna, Jos, and Maiduguri, would be activated between today and Thursday.

Kwara Confirms Two COVID-19 Cases

Kwara State Technical Committee on COVID-19 yesterday confirmed two separate cases of COVID-19 in the state.
One is the wife of University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) patient, a UK returnee, who died last Thursday and the other is another UK returnee.

Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, who is also the spokesman of the Technical Committee on COVID-19, in a statement, said: “This statement is issued at 18:33pm, a few minutes after the government received official confirmation of test results from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Test Centre in Ibadan. The government will address a news briefing tomorrow morning at 11.00 a.m to give details and further measures now being taken to tackle the development.”

Lagos Discharges Two More Patients

In Lagos State, the government announced the discharge of two more COVID-19 patients after their viral load returned to negative.
This brings to 31 the total number of discharged patients from the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba and 35 the total number of discharged cases in Nigeria.
The Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said in a statement that the persons had reunited with their families.

He said: “I have more great news for you from our Infectious Disease Hospital. Two more female patients have recovered fully, tested negative twice consecutively and have been discharged from the facility today.
“With the newly discharged patients, we now have a total of 31 people that have fully recovered from COVID-19 in Lagos and discharged to join the community.”

Survivor Narrates Experience

A COVID-19 survivor, Miss Ayodeji Osowobi, who was recently discharged from an isolation centre in Lagos, yesterday shared her experience with Arise TV, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, saying it feels great to be back to her comfort zone.
She said she heard so many misconceptions about the pandemic, including claims that it did not exist in Nigeria or that young people could not contract the disease.

She said: “I am here to say that it is a lie. I am 29 years old and I still got infected. For every young person out there, a strong immune system is great but does not shield you.
“I am healthy and strong but COVID-19 does not care if you are young or old. As far as you are not practising social distancing and if you are exposed to an infected surface, you will contract it.

“In my ward, there was a young baby who was infected as well. My heart was broken to see that a young child was infected. It only means that nobody is actually safe from this.”
Asked how long it took for the symptoms to manifest after she returned from a trip to the United Kingdom, she said: “I returned and I started feeling feverish on the plane, but I felt it may be due to the stressful week and tiredness.

“When I arrived in Lagos, I still felt weird and something wasn’t right. I practised social distancing as much as I could and I didn’t rule out the chances that it could be COVID-19.

“When I got to the counter and checked my temperature and saw that it was really high, I told my family members not to touch me or come close. I had the symptoms. Then, I had to isolate myself and reached out to NCDC.”
Osowobi added that she was the first female case that was confirmed after she was picked up by the ambulance around midnight to the isolation centre.

“It was midnight when the ambulance came to pick me at my house to the isolation centre. There was nobody to receive me and I had to stay in the ambulance for two hours and later nobody cared to ask me how I was feeling.
“I think the female nurses had not handled such a situation before and I know that everyone is scared to come in contact with me.

“I was unpleased with how the situation was handled at first, but the process was seamless, considering the information I gave to the Ministry of Health to see how they could help. When I got into my ward, the nurses were caring and they were coming to say a word of prayer and ask after my wellbeing. I was the class captain of the ward.
“They supported and encouraged me. In one of the episodes, I actually threw up and it was difficult for me to control my body at that time.

“The nurse didn’t lash out at me but tried to help me clean up, which I will never forget. The pros overweighed the cons because they were very kind. I saw them three times every day – morning, afternoon and evening. They were always coming to check our vitals and gave us medications and food.

“The cleaners too, I must commend them and the doctors. They really made the COVID-19 process a bit easy. It was very hard to even drink water. It wasn’t perfect at the beginning but I am grateful for every care that I got from there,” she added.

Speaking on how the system at the isolation centre could be improved, she said: “Every system has its own lapses- even the most advanced countries with the best health care; they are struggling through the process. Yes, there were moments that were not perfect, but at the end of the day, it is a learning curve and I did my best to give feedback to them on a daily basis on what could be improved on and changed and also the diet that should be introduced.

“They did make effort to make amends and as days went by, they were able to infuse some of the feedback into the services they were providing.

“They fed us and we could always make things better in terms of balancing the nutrient. They worked on the feedback. In terms of facilities, the sanitary part of it can also be improved.
“But again, there was nobody to talk to and nothing to watch; so, I was bored and lonely. Days after, there was something to watch.

Boris Johnson Moves to Intensive Care Unit

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of UK, Mr. Boris Johnson, was moved to an intensive care unit yesterday after his condition with COVID-19 worsened.

CNN reported that Johnson, 55, was first admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London on Sunday evening for what he said were “routine tests,” adding that he was in “good spirits.”
But the apparent change in the leader’s health has shocked the nation, with politicians from his party and the opposition voicing their support for him as the UK battles a widespread pandemic outbreak.

“Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the Prime Minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

According to Downing Street officials, Johnson remains conscious and has been moved to the intensive care unit as a precaution, in case he requires ventilation.

The move strikes a sharp contrast to earlier reports on Johnson’s condition: during his period of self-isolation, Downing Street had said Johnson’s symptoms were “mild,” and on Sunday said his hospitalisation was just a “precautionary step.”

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson had said earlier on Monday that Johnson spent a “comfortable” night in hospital, but would not comment on reports Johnson was given oxygen. Officials are no longer describing his symptoms as mild.

Downing Street on Monday said that Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is the First Secretary of State and the most senior cabinet minister, to deputise for him where necessary.
Raab chaired Monday’s regular morning COVID-19 briefing and made a televised statement, saying the government would continue Johnson’s direction in responding to the outbreak.

 

MONDAY 6TH APRIL, 2020

NMA, TUC Reject FG’s Plan to Invite Chinese Doctors to Fight COVID-19

•Confirmed cases rise to 232, five deaths
•Lagos discharges 10-year-old, four others
•Osun releases index patient, 110 Ivorian returnees
•Africa CDC warns doctors against prescribing Chloroquine
•UBTH confirms three cases, isolates 24 health workers

Chiemelie Ezeobi, Segun James, Emma Okonji, Martins Ifijeh, Rebecca Ejifoma in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) have rejected the plan by the federal government to invite Chinese doctors to assist in tackling the COVID-19 scourge in the country.

This development is coming as the Lagos State Government has discharged a 10-year-old and four other COVID-19 patients from the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba.
Nigeria has, however, recorded 18 new cases, bringing to 232 the total number of confirmed cases in the country.

Five of the 232 have died while 33 have been discharged.

In addition, the Osun State Government has released returnees who were isolated over uncertainty about their COVID-19 status.

The state government has also discharged the index case after the patient fully recovered from the virus.

The NMA expressed dismay over the intention of the federal government to invite Chinese doctors into the country at this time of the global pandemic, saying their presence would dampen the morale of the frontline health workforce.

“The invitation demeans their sacrifices so far in this pandemic. We fail to see how the 18-man team would impact the current efforts in any significant way,” the NMA stated in a statement issued yesterday by its President, Dr. Francis Faduyile.

The association urged the federal government to rescind the decision in the overall interest of the country.

It described the government’s move as a “thing of embarrassment to members of the NMA and other health workers who are giving their best in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic under deplorable working conditions and a fragile health system to be subjected to the ignominy of not being carried along in arriving at such a decision.”
It said the association would review its participation in the fight against COVID-19 considering the grave implications and the risk to the lives of its members should the government allow the Chinese team to come to Nigeria.

It said: “The lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), grossly inadequate test kits and test centres across the country and the absolute lack of any form of insurance for the workforce are primordial issues begging for attention at this time.

“We are, therefore, profoundly dismayed to learn that the federal government is instead inviting the Chinese who from available accounts are not out of the woods themselves. The spike in cases and the death toll from COVID-19 in Italy coincided with the arrival of the Chinese in the guise of offering assistance. Even the United Nations has only just recently commended the efforts of Nigeria so far.”

The NMA expressed concern that the government did not take into consideration the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in Nigeria as enshrined in the Medical and Dental Council Act, adding that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigerian should have been consulted to grant necessary approvals to foreigners to interact with Nigerian patients.

It stated that while the association appreciates the commendable work done by doctors and health workers at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the various isolation centres nationwide, it expected the government to show appreciation by channeling the available resources and donations to improving testing facilities to detect more cases and ramp up capacity to train more workers.

According to Faduyile, NMA is aware of a large pool of general medical and specialist practitioners who are either unemployed or underemployed that can be engaged instead of bringing foreigners who aside from national security concerns may not be conversant with the country’s culture, terrain and peculiar challenges.

NMA said: “The association believes that this invitation is ill-timed and of no overbearing significance considering that whatever experiences the Chinese have can be shared by digital technology through conferencing bearing in mind that Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu has only just returned from China.

“We are not averse to the donation of equipment and supplies because we can always do with such support as even the developed countries receive support.

“In rejecting the invitation of the Chinese doctors, the NMA would instead urge the federal government to review and approve better welfare incentives to the frontline medical personnel. The provision of adequate personal protective equipment, opening and properly equipping more isolation centres and health facilities across the country is an excellent first step.

“Deploying more resources to facilitate testing as we are beginning to witness community transmission of COVID 19 is equally a better application of scarce resources.”

It advised the government to declare a state of emergency in the health sector and use the opportunity to fix the health institutions as a matter of urgency in a bid to stem the rot.

“The NMA urges the government to expand the Presidential Task Force to include other critical stakeholders, including journalists and the civil society to ensure more robust engagement, especially as the decisions of the task force has implications for the health, wealth and security of our country.”

Toeing the same line, the TUC urged the federal government to drop the idea of inviting the Chinese doctors.

The union said the move would not be necessary since Nigerian doctors were capable of combating the pandemic.

In a statement issued yesterday by its President, Mr. Quadri Olaleye, and the Secretary-General, Mr. Musa-Lawal Ozigi, the union said the minimal number of infection and deaths was a proof that the country was not doing badly in the handling of the situation.

“Truly, the Chinese authorities have done well by not recording more cases in their country. It is novel and also shows how proactive and committed they are to the crises.

That notwithstanding, we insist that we do not need them now; rather we shall continue to adhere to the precautions reeled out by the health professionals to make the job easy,” it said.

The TUC also noted the debate about the connection between 5G network and the virus.

It said: “Although the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim, in a statement has said no licence had been issued as regards 5G in Nigeria, but at the same time we saw an official letter from a telco company notifying Nigerians that they are the first in West Africa to conduct a trial on 5G technology.

“That makes it a bit confusing. We would want the federal government to set up a committee of professionals to research on the development as it will help to address the fears of many Nigerians. We must collectively work to ensure the welfare, health, and security of Nigerians are not taken for granted. We must be circumspect now.”

Lagos Discharges 10-year-old, Four Other Patients

The Lagos State Government has discharged a 10-year-old and four other COVID-19 patients at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba.

This brings to 29 the number of COVID-19 patients who have fully recovered and have been discharged after testing negative for the virus.

Announcing the patients’ discharge yesterday, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said: “Today, I am happy to inform you that five more patients, comprising two males and three females, including a 10-year-old girl, have tested negative twice for COVID-19

“These five patients have been discharged to reunite with their families. This brings to a total of 29, the number of patients who have fully recovered and have been discharged from our facility at Yaba.”

He said although there was a strong indication that the state was winning the battle against COVID-19, it was imperative that residents remained steadfast to curtail the spread.

“I strongly advise that we continue to observe social distancing. Let us stay at home and stay safe to save lives,” Sanwo-Olu stated, adding: “I want to also use this opportunity to advise Lagosians against stigmatising the discharged patients. We need to do all we can to support them to get over the experience as soon as possible.”

Sanwo-Olu also announced the death of a victim of the pandemic in the state, lamenting, however, the death of the patient, which brought to two, the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the state.

The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, had earlier yesterday tweeted that a 36-year-old man died of the virus in the state.

He said the Nigerian died on Saturday in a private facility.
Abayomi confirmed the death as the second virus fatality recorded in Lagos.

Lagos Police Arrests Funke Akindele for Violating Restriction Orders

Also yesterday in Lagos, the police arrested Nollywood actress, Ms. Funke Akindele, popularly called Jenifa, for violating the stay-at-home restrictions placed by the federal government.

The police also urged her husband, Mr. Abdul Bello, popularly known as JJC Skillz, and another artist, Mr. Azeez Fashola, a.k.a Naira Marley, to report to the station today or risk being declared wanted.

The actress and her husband had hosted family and friends to a birthday party at their Amen Estate residence in Lagos.

Nigerians had flayed Akindele for her role in the party given that she was an ambassador of NCDC and Dettol, two organisations promoting social distancing in the fight against COVID-19.

Videos of Akindele carrying out her ambassadorial work by campaigning for good hygiene and social distancing had also surfaced, making a mockery of the party she held to celebrate her husband’s birthday.

In a statement by the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Bala Elkana, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), the police said the arrest was because she violated the restriction emplaced by the government.

It stated: “The attention of the Lagos State Police Command was drawn to a viral video showing a large number of persons mainly in the entertainment industry in an estate, along Ajah, Ibeju-Lekki axis, Lagos celebrating a birthday party organised by Funke Akindele Bello and her husband.

“Police detectives from the State CID Yaba were promptly drafted to the location. Funke Akindele was arrested.

“Investigation is ongoing, efforts are intensified to arrest the remaining persons in the video, among whom are Azeez Fashola a.k.a Naira Marley and Abdul Rasheed Bello a.k.a. JJC Skillz.

“They are in their best interests urged to report at the State CID Yaba on Monday or risk being declared wanted.”

Osun Discharges Index Case, Releases 110 Ivorian Returnees

Meanwhile, the Osun State Government has also discharged the index case in the state and released 110 Ivorian returnees who were isolated over uncertainty about their COVID-19 status.

The Governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, told reporters in Osogbo that 127 persons from Cote d’Ivoire, who came into the state recently have all been tested, adding that 17 of them tested positive for the virus.

“Upon their arrival in the state, as a proactive measure, we immediately quarantined them at an isolation centre in Ejigbo.

“We later discovered upon profiling that some of these returnees are indigenes and residents of other states such as Oyo, Lagos, Ogun, Imo, Edo, Delta, and Abia, among others. Of the 127 isolated and tested returnees, 17 tested positive for COVID-19 while 110 returned negative. Of the 17, we also have persons from other states,” he said.

The governor added that the returnees who tested positive were undergoing adequate and proper treatment at the care centre and were all stable, expressing the hope that they would soon recover safely from the virus and rejoin their families.

“The 110 whose results came back negative have been released to join their families.

Among them are: 11 going to Oyo State; two are going to Lagos State; one to Ogun State; three each to Edo and Abia States; four to Delta State and one to Imo State while 85 will remain here in Osun.

“The released persons have also been advised to observe all prescribed safety and preventive measures and to contact the state if they start to feel unwell,” he said.

Confirmed Cases Rise to 232

While also giving an update yesterday on the pandemic, NCDC said 18 more persons had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total count to 232.

NCDC, in a tweet, said 11 of the cases were from Lagos, four from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), two from Edo State and one from Kaduna State.

It said: “As at 09:30 pm 5th April, there are 232 confirmed cases of #COVID19 reported in Nigeria. Thirty-three have been discharged with five deaths.”

A breakdown of the figure is as follows:

Lagos- 120; FCT- 47; Osun- 20; Oyo- 9; Edo- 9; Bauchi- 6; Akwa Ibom- 5; Kaduna- 5; Ogun- 4; Enugu- 2; Ekiti- 2; Rivers-1; Benue- 1, and Ondo- 1.

Africa CDC Warns Doctors against Prescribing Chloroquine

Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) has warned doctors not to prescribe Chloroquine for COVID-19 patients and that patients should in turn not accept such drugs from doctors.

It added that Chloroquine had the potential to cause heart problems, blindness, neurological issues as well as other forms of toxicity.

In a statement to set the record straight on the growing quest by researchers and medical personnel on the use of Chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, it said it was concerned by the inaccurate information being distributed through traditional and social media regarding prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

It said: “Based on a review of evidence and expert assessment, we recommend that physicians should not prescribe, and individuals should not take Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine to prevent or treat COVID-19 except under clinical trial or monitored emergency use of unregistered or investigational interventions (MEURI). These drugs can cause neurological, ophthalmic, cardiac and other forms of toxicity.

“Physicians should not prescribe and individuals should not take Lopinavir/ Rotinavir, Remdesivir or other medications to prevent or treat COVID-19 except under clinical trial or MEURI.”

It, however, recommended that paracetamol, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be used to relieve symptoms of fever and/or myalgia due to viral infection.

It said physicians should use evidence-based guidance when treating patients with COVID-19 infection, such as that published by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Clinical trials and MUERI should follow WHO guidance on ethical issues in infectious disease outbreaks.

“We will continuously update its guidance based on the latest available clinical evidence,” it said.

The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention also warned that using Chloroquine phosphate without a prescription and supervision of a healthcare provider can cause “serious health consequences.”

The CDC said doctors and other public health officials should discourage the public from misusing non-pharmaceutical Chloroquine phosphate (a chemical used in home aquariums) and further advised patients and the public that Chloroquine, and the related compound Hydroxychloroquine, should be used only under the supervision of a healthcare provider as prescribed medications.

UBTH Confirms Three, Isolates 24 Health Workers

The University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) has isolated some of its health workers exposed to COVID-19 patients, the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Prof. Darlington Obaseki, has said.

In a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, Obaseki said the health workers were exposed to the patients prior to the confirmation of their status.

He said: “We have so far received three patients who have been confirmed positive with COVID-19. The two surviving patients are currently being cared for by our dedicated staff in an isolation ward with restricted access.

“Prior to confirmation of their COVID-19 status, some of our healthcare staff was exposed to them while using only personal protection, which includes surgical face-masks and gloves.”

He said currently, all the staff that were exposed to the patients were asymptomatic and that they were being monitored closely according to current guidelines.

He said: “Further measures have been put in place to ensure that our staff are not unduly exposed to risks of infection with COVID-19 in the course of them providing care for patients who come to the hospital for various reasons.

“Healthcare workers are on the front lines in this pandemic and therefore at a higher risk of being exposed than the general public.”

Pandemic Has Exposed Poor Quality Leadership in Nigeria, Says Okogie

In a former Archbishop of Lagos, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, has said the outbreak of COVID-19 has been a dangerous yet a revelatory moment in Nigeria, having exposed the low-grade leadership style of government.

According to him “It is dangerous because this deadly pandemic has infected over a million and killed thousands of citizens of our planet. No one seems to know when and how it will end. But COVID-19 is also revelatory, a blessing in disguise because it has exposed Nigeria as a country where the quality of leadership is of low grade. What we have known but has been denied for so long is now shown to us as an incontrovertible fact that the quality of leadership in our country must improve.”

The cardinal, in a statement at the weekend, which he personally signed, however, said in the midst of poor-quality leadership, Nigerians must speak in laudatory terms about Sanwo-Olu; his Commissioner for Health, Abayomi, and his entire team for rising to the occasion.

“For right or wrong reasons, Lagosians have been critical of his government since its inauguration on May 29, 2019. But it must be admitted that with a population said to be close to 15 million, if Governor Sanwo-Olu and his team had not provided outstandingly exemplary leadership, we would have had a more dangerous situation in our hands,” he said.

Okogie added: “At the risk of making a hasty judgment, it is to be placed on record that, as at the time this is being written, Sanwo-Olu and his team have largely prevented the spread of the virus in Lagos.

“Let us pray for them and encourage them so that they will continue to show exemplary leadership to other political office holders in Nigeria.”

According to him, “COVID-19 has also revealed to us that, rather than invest in good health care service delivery in Nigeria, we have a political arrangement that makes it possible, even encouraging, to waste Nigeria’s money on government officials and health tourism abroad. Thanks to our country’s constitution dubbed federal. The government in Nigeria is embarrassingly big, sinfully expensive, prone to corruption, and scandalously inefficient. Nigeria cannot adequately invest in the sectors of health and education because, among other reasons, the constitution of Nigeria has established offices that will require an endless flow of petrol-dollars to maintain.”

 

BoI Supports COVID-19 Fight with N700m

By Dike Onwuamaze

Nigeria’s Development Finance Institution, Bank of Industry (BOI) has joined other corporates and philanthropists in supporting the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria through the donation of N700 million into the relief fund.

The Bank at the weekend announced that it has contributed N500 million of its relief funding to the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

It anticipated that the donation would go a long way to help in providing more testing, isolation and treatment centers across all geo-political zones.
In addition, the Bank said it would be providing financial support of N100 million to the FCT Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 as well as another N100 million to support the Lagos State government.

“This level of contribution will advance regional efforts to combat the spread of the pandemic through the supply of critical care equipment, facilities and essential relief aid.

“At this pivotal moment in the history of our great nation, we stand in solidarity with the Federal Government and our colleagues across various industries,” said Bank of Industry MD/CEO, Olukayode Pitan.

“We are optimistic that if we all play our part, we will beat COVID-19, and we will see Nigeria recover and thrive”, he added.
BOI also reaffirmed its commitment to continue to provide access to finance to Nigerian enterprises, in line with its strategic mandate.

Research Institutes Secure $20m Grant, Seek COVID-19 Cure

By Emma Okonji

Partners in the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator have announced grants of $20 million to three institutions—the University of Washington, University of Oxford, and La Jolla Institute for Immunology – to fund clinical trials in order to identify highly potent immunotherapies for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grants mark the first investments to come from the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a large-scale initiative launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard, to speed the development of and access to therapies for COVID-19.

Currently, there are no broad-spectrum antivirals or immunotherapies available to prevent or treat Coronavirus also known as COVID-19.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mark Suzman, who disclosed this, said: “These grants to leading institutions in their fields will advance our understanding of how existing drugs and antibodies can contribute to addressing the pandemic we’re facing around the world.

“These initial investments through the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will bring rigor to the study of these potential solutions. The way forward will be informed by sound science and shared data.”

In addition, newly announced funding from government and philanthropic donors has added to the Accelerator’s initial funding. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative committed $25 million and the U.K. government committed £40 million last week.

The additional funds would allow the Accelerator to continue making grants to study repurposed drugs and investigate biological compounds for activity against COVID-19. More funding would be needed to move promising therapies through development and scale-up.

Two of the newly announced trials would fund an investigation of two well-established drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, that have known antiviral properties.

These drugs have been used to treat malaria and a variety of rheumatological conditions for more than 50 years. The trials aim to determine whether the drugs are effective as pre- and post-exposure preventive therapy for COVID-19. While these drugs both show initial promise, rigorous scientific evidence is needed to make decisions on how, where and within which populations to use them in this pandemic.

The University of Washington will conduct a multi-site clinical trial in Western Washington and the New York City area, in collaboration with New York University’s School of Medicine, investigating whether hydroxychloroquine can effectively prevent COVID-19 in people already exposed to the infection.

The trial would enroll up to 2,000 asymptomatic men and women who are close contacts of persons with confirmed or pending COVID-19 diagnoses.

Participants will be randomly assigned to take hydroxychloroquine or a placebo over two weeks, and samples will be collected and tested daily to confirm new COVID-19 infections across the two groups.

Sandoz, a Novartis division, has donated the hydroxychloroquine doses needed to conduct the study. Participant enrollment will begin in April, and results will be available in late 2020.

The Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) will lead a placebo-controlled prophylaxis study of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in preventing COVID-19 in at-risk health care workers, frontline staff, and other high-risk groups. At least 40,000 participants in Asia and Europe will be randomized to receive either chloroquine (East Asian countries), hydroxychloroquine (United Kingdom and Europe), or a matched film-coated placebo as daily prophylaxis for three months. The one-year project, known as COPCOV, aims to determine definitively whether these drugs can prevent COVID-19 and thus protect the vital health care workforce. Participant enrollment will begin in April and initial results will be available by the end of the year.

COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Lead at Wellcome, Nick Cammack, said: “Investment in research is the world’s only exit strategy from COVID-19. Drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics are vital to saving lives, to ending this pandemic, and to preventing it from happening again. Now is the time to evaluate whether existing drugs will prove to be safe and effective. We urge others to join us in this collective global effort.

Investing now, at scale, in the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is vital if we are to change the course of this pandemic.”

In addition to funding drug trials, the Accelerator will provide $1.73 million to the La Jolla Institute for Immunology to establish a Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium, known as CoVIC. The effort will bring together scientists from around the world and enable them to share and evaluate candidate antibodies side by side in a blinded, multidisciplinary analysis to identify ideal therapeutic combinations. Antibody therapies can be used to protect frontline health care workers, contacts, and others who are exposed, as well as treat those who have already become sick.

Vice Chairman of Mastercard, Mike Froman, said: “These grants are an important next step in the Therapeutic Accelerator’s commitment to identifying and scaling treatments to combat COVID-19.

“In order to provide therapeutic solutions to this global pandemic, particularly for those most vulnerable, we need to speed up the research and development process through a collaborative funding effort by the private sector, philanthropic organizations, and governments. We welcome the participation of additional organizations that can contribute the resources needed to help bring an end to this crisis.”

Google Releases $6.5m to Tackle Fake News about COVID-19

By Emma Okonji

Google has said it is providing $6.5 million in funding to fact-checkers and nonprofit organisations that are fighting against misinformation around the world about COVID-19 spread.

Google said the funds would help address the challenge of the ongoing spread of misinformation related to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Through its Google News Initiative (GNI), Google is providing the funds to support media outlets and fact-checkers working to combat misinformation around the Coronavirus pandemic.

Google will be supporting Africa Check in Nigeria, and Data Leads in partnership with BOOM Live in India to leverage data from Question Hub. This will be complemented by an effort to train 1,000 journalists across India and Nigeria to spot health misinformation.

Google’s online resources are being updated to support the vital work journalists are doing and the GNI Training Center has tools for data journalism and verification in 16 languages, with a global team of Teaching Fellows delivering workshops entirely online in 10 languages.

The News and Information Credibility Lead, Google News Initiative News Lab, Alexios Mantzarlis, said: “Health authorities have warned that an overabundance of information can make it harder for people to obtain reliable guidance about the coronavirus pandemic. Helping the world make sense of this information requires a broad response involving scientists, journalists, public figures, technology platforms and many others.”

Some other media outlets and nonprofits around the world which will receive support through the Google News Initiative (GNI) include First Draft, a nonprofit that is providing an online resource hub, Full Fact and Maldita.es, which will coordinate efforts in Europe focused on countries with the most cases, CORRECTIV in Germany, LatamChequea, coordinated by Chequeado, in the Spanish-speaking world and Latin America, the collaborative verification project Comprova in Brazil, SciLine, based at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Australian Science Media Centre, creators of Scimex.org among others.

“We also want to do more to highlight fact-check articles that address potentially harmful health misinformation more prominently to our users and we are experimenting with how to best include a dedicated fact check section in the COVID-19 Google News experience. Already, we have made Google Trends data readily available in localized pages with embeddable visualizations,” Mantzarlis said.

Reporters across the globe need to understand and explain how the world is searching for the virus. Local Google Trends data is available for journalists, health organizations and local authorities to help them understand people’s information needs around the world.

Fact-checkers and health authorities also need help to identify topics that people are searching for and where there might be a gap in the availability of good information online. Unanswered user questions can provide useful insights to fact-checkers and health authorities about content they may want to produce, Mantzarlis said, adding that Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Covid-19: Order NNPC To Reopen Refineries Now – IPMAN Begs Buhari

By Sylvester Idowu

As a way of sustaining the economy at this critical period of global meltdown due to Covid-19 pandemic, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), has advised President Muhammadu Buhari, to immediately direct Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), to reopen all refineries in the country.

Chairman Delta state chapter of the IPMAN, Comrade Zino Onaemor, who gave the advise in Warri, said there could never be a better time for the Federal Government to look inwards on how to improve the nation’s economy than now.

He observed that the nation’s earnings from oil revenues would continue to depreciate as long as the Coronavirus pandemic continues globally, noting that the earlier the government considers the appropriate usage of its crude through local production to sustain the economy, the better for the nation.

“We are currently faced with a sad situation that requires a very drastic approach to keep our economy floating before we run into a more difficult and pitiable situation that could be worse that what we experienced during the recession period in this country.

“Since we are operating a mono economy and the people that buy oil from us are presently being devastated by the Coronavirus, thereby reducing the global prices of oil drastically, what a sensible government should be doing right now is making use of our crude by refining it locally to sustain our economy.

“We have our oil and we cannot drink it; let the Federal Gvernment direct NNPC to put the nation’s refineries back on stream, especially Warri Refinery that had no problems before being shut down by NNPC.

“We are aware they have been importing petroleum products to sustain the demands in the country, but if our refineries are working, it would go a long way in reducing these burden as these refineries can go into production to reduce the over dependent on importation.

“Our refineries have the capacity and full potentials of refining all the petroleum products PMS, AGO and DPK we needed for our daily consumption if they can be well managed and maintained to run at maximum capacity”, he said.

Onaemor also queried the rationale behind government’s decision to reduce only the prize of PMS (fuel) and does nothing about DPK and AGO that were equally being imported, stating that if the government can reduce pms price, then it can also effect reduction in the prices of these products to reduce the burden on the masses.

COVID-19: Kwara Hails Elumelu, Others

By Hammed Shittu

The Kwara State government has commended the financial support of the chairman of the BUA Group Abdulsamad Rabiu, chairman of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Tony Elumelu, and the United Bank for Africa, among others, in their support to the national and subnational campaigns against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the state’s spokesman on Technical Committee on COVID-19 , Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye said, “The government appreciates the N1billion donation that Alhaji Rabiu has made to seven states of the federation including Kwara State to bolster the national response to this pandemic.

“Similarly, the government is profoundly grateful to Mr. Elumelu and the UBA for their donation of a whopping N28.5 million to the Kwara State Government to combat this crisis.”

According to the statement, “These gestures, which are a corporate social responsibility at its finest, are most welcome at this critical time when government’s resources are understandably stretched because of the global oil crisis partly engineered by this unexpected health emergency that threatens the entire human race.”

The statement said the government needs all the help it could get to face down the pandemic, calling on other corporate bodies and philanthropists to donate to the Technical Committee to help its effort to curtail the virus.

The statement stated, “Donations can be made to the committee through Kwara State COVID-19 Support Bank Account 1022751448 at UBA.

“The corporate bodies or individuals wishing to assist the state may either pay into this account, donate essential materials for government to take care of the poor, or do their own private support to persons of their choice.”

The committee meanwhile has cautioned people against politicising the global pandemic for selfish gains, adding: “the nature of the enemy we face is such that all hands must be on deck and all of us must forget making any political mileage out of the situation while concentrating our energy only on curtailing it immediately.

“Anyone who wishes to contribute anything should please send it through the right channels. This time calls for sober reflection. It is no time to score cheap political gains at the expense of public health.”

NSIA Insurance Joins Fight against COVID-19

The NSIA Insurance said it has joined other private sector operators and individuals in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.

The company said it is doing this through financial support to the umbrella body of insurance underwriters, the Nigerian Insurers Association’s (NIA) COVID-19 Support Fund for combating the pandemic.

The association, which seeks to contribute to legislation and decisions made by the government in the best interest of the economy, recently volunteered to acquire testing kits and protective gears to help further mitigate the spread of the virus.

The NIA also announced a donation of N1 million free life insurance cover to each of the health workers and allied professionals catering for the needs of COVID-19 patients, a gesture that has been made possible through the collective contributions of insurance companies in Nigeria.

According to the MD/CEO of NSIA Insurance, Ebelechukwu Nwachukwu, “We urge the general public to comply with local authorities and stay indoors while following the World Health Organisation’s guidelines for staying safe during this period.

“Our hearts go out to those families who have lost dear ones in the course of this pandemic and pray that they would have the strength to pull through the pain”.

Nwachukwu added, “Our staff members are currently working remotely, though our offices are closed, which means that we are still very much available to do business. We have an array of life products that we encourage customers to take at this time.

“We also would want people to take householder insurance policies now since everyone is home and may need it for possible eventualities. Insurance at a time like this should be taken seriously.”

NSIA Insurance offers a wide range of insurance services at competitive rates to meet the changing financial, investment, and lifestyle needs of its corporate, commercial, and individual customers.

COVID-19: NSC Moves to Avoid Spread at Seaports

By Eromosele Abiodun

The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, has warned those who have no immediate need to be at the seaports to stay at home to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

He also debunked claims by some agents that the ports were closed, adding that only essential goods are to be cleared in the port at this time The NSC boss made this known while speaking at a port stakeholders’ forum it organised with Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), to sensitise critical stakeholders in the maritime industry.

He stressed that only essential cargoes would be cleared at the ports for now, due to the lockdown directive by the federal government to contain spread of Coronavirus.
Bello, observed that even in countries hard hit by the virus, port operations have continued without hindrance. He added that essential commodities such as drugs, medical equipment and consumables critical for the Nigerian people needed to be cleared.

According to him, “If as a freight forwarder you do not have business to do at the port, please don’t come out, stay in your house. Today when I came to Apapa, I was surprised at the number of vehicles I saw, it seems there has been no lockdown, this is very wrong, people must stay at home, except it is essential, please don’t come out.”
He disclosed that he has been interfacing with the Lagos State Commissioner of Police over some freight forwarders that were arrested on their way to the port adding that the freight forwarders have now been released.

Bello, said the outbreak of the coronavirus further showed the need for electronic transactions at Nigerian ports.

He said the ports needed to have a national single window where agencies would be talking to each other.

Also, Bello said truck drivers going to the port to pick essential cargoes must also practice necessary health guidelines.

He informed that the NSC would take stricter observation of people who come to the ports by the buses provided by the council.

On his part, the Registrar of CRFFN, Samuel Nwakohu, noted that only freight forwarders who have essential goods to clear at the port would be allowed in, while those with luxury goods would have to wait until the lockdown is over.

Nwakohu, added that there are presently six banks in operations for freight forwarders who needs to clear their essential goods.

Specifically, he said, “The primary aim of the government as it stands today is to look after our health, and that is why they have taking all the steps they have taken.

“It’s not business as usual, I said to my freight forwarders, after today, the executive secretary and I will approach the customs, the goods that will be cleared will be only those who have essential goods, if you have luxury goods you will have to wait until the shutdown is over.

“Let me also state that you cannot clear goods whether it is luxury items or essential items if the banks are not there to provide services.

“As at today we have six of them Zenith Bank Plc, UBA Plc, First Bank Nigeria Plc, FCMB Plc, GT Bank Plc with the names of their staff so that you can call them.”

Stakeholders present at the meeting included President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tony Iju Nwabunike, Founder of NAGAFF, Dr Boniface Aniebonam, President of Shippers Association Lagos State, Jonathan Nicol, Vice President of ANLCA, Dr. Kayode Farinto, NAGAFF President, Increase Uche, AMARTO Chairman, Remi Ogungbemi.

Others were: President of NAFAC, Mr. Yinka Bakare, Chief Austen Kelly and former commissioner of transport Lagos State, Comrade Kayode Opeifa.

Nigeria Records Eight New Cases of COVID-19

By Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 232 the total number of confirmed cases in the country.

Announcing this Sunday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said of the eight cases, five were from Lagos, two from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), while one was from Kaduna State.

It said: “As at 09:30 pm April 5, there are 232 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. 33 have been discharged with five deaths.”

A breakdown of the cases show that Lagos has recorded 120 cases, FCT 47, Osun 20, Oyo and Edo nine each, Bauchi six, Akwa Ibom and Kaduna five each, Ogun four, Enugu and Ekiti two each, while Rivers, Benue and Ondo one each.

UK Prime Minister Hospitalised over Coronavirus Symptoms

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for tests, 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus, Downing Street has said.

He “continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus”, a spokeswoman said – including a high temperature.

It was described as a “precautionary step” taken on the advice of his doctor.

The prime minister remains in charge of the government and urged people to follow its social distancing advice.

“On the advice of his doctor, the prime minister has tonight been admitted to hospital for tests,” the spokeswoman said.

“This is a precautionary step, as the prime minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus ten days after testing positive for the virus.”

She added: “The prime minister thanks NHS staff for all of their incredible hard work and urges the public to continue to follow the government’s advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Mr Johnson has worked from home since it was announced that he had tested positive for coronavirus on 27 March.

He chaired a coronavirus meeting via video-link on Friday morning.

He was last seen in public applauding the NHS and other key workers from his flat in Downing Street on Thursday. (BBC)

Arguments of Despair Over COVID-19

Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that an unnecessary period of bickering delayed critical response time as the Akwa Ibom State government expressed anger over the procedure adopted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to disclose the first case of COVID-19 in the state

The war against COVID-19 in Nigeria registered its first round of unnecessary speech-making five days ago when the Akwa Ibom State government complained loudly and expressed disapproval over the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC) announcement that five cases of Coronavirus were identified in the state. After a round of huff and puff about the first confirmed case of the infection in Akwa Ibom, Governor Udom Emmanuel eventually moved into action to contain the disease.

With the established case of COVID-19 in Akwa Ibom, the number of states which have reported, at least, one confirmed case of the infection in Nigeria now stands at 12, apart from the FCT.

A breakdown of states where cases of the novel virus have been confirmed as at 11:15am on April 5, show that there are 224 confirmed cases, 27 discharged, 5 deaths, Lagos- 115, FCT- 45, Osun- 20, Oyo- 9, Edo- 9, Bauchi- 6, Akwa Ibom- 5, Ogun- 4, Kaduna- 4, Enugu- 2, Ekiti- 2, Rivers-1 Benue- 1 and Ondo- 1. This information was distributed by APO Group, a media relations consulting firm and press release distribution service in Africa and the Middle East on behalf of the NCDC.

Last February 24 when an Italian, the first index in Nigeria was reported in Lagos, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu rose quickly to the occasion. The measures adopted by the state has been widely commended by the Federal Government and global institutions. For many, Lagos became an example of how to respond to the pandemic. At that time, other states including Akwa Ibom were, at best, living in denial of the existence of the disease. Although, it is still within the critical bracket, the Lagos State government has demonstrated respectable capacity by giving very serious attention to the pandemic. It would take over one month and following a lot of badgering from concerned persons and groups for President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a national emergency in a broadcast to the nation on March 29.

Akwa Ibom Governor Denies Reports of COVID-19

One week before the Presidential broadcast on COVID-19, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State had debunked reports on social media platforms on the status of Coronavirus disease in the state.

He insisted there is no confirmed case of the virus anywhere in the state.

Governor Emmanuel said his administration had put in place adequate measures to curtail the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus in the state.

“You may have read a rash of mischievous information peddled by certain media platforms on the status of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our State.

“I want to assure the public that the rumours and information going around on social media are completely false. For emphasis, let me state here unequivocally that there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 disease in Akwa Ibom State.

“As a matter of fact, the measures put in place at our airport is comprehensive and has no parallel anywhere in West Africa,” the governor boasted.

He disclosed a number of measures taken to curtail the spread of the disease. Emmanuel ended the address, saying there was no, “need to shut down our public schools,” which were supposed to close in one week’s time.

Early Warning for FCT, Akwa Ibom, Seven Other States
In the second week of February, about two weeks before the first COVID-19 index case was identified, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had listed Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Enugu, Delta, Bayelsa and the Federal Capital territory as states with high risk of Coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria.

Dhamari Naidoo, Technical Officer, Health Emergency Programme of the UN specialized agency, disclosed in Abuja that after a risk assessment, Nigeria was rated high because of frequent travel between Nigeria and China. She noted that WHO focused on the nine states that have ports of entry into the country (land, water and air).

While Lagos and Akwa Ibom’s neighbours, Rivers and Cross River went to work on the caution, there was apparent complacency in Akwa Ibom. For instance, while Governors Ben Ayade and Nyesom Wike of Cross River and Rivers states respectively shut schools and access into their states, in Akwa Ibom, it was business as usual. Therefore, it is not surprising that out of all the states that got the early warning from WHO, Akwa Ibom is the hardest hit with five established case of Coronavirus, because Akwa Ibom did not handle the challenge as well as other states.

The Akwa Ibom State government constituted its Coronavirus taskforce almost one month after the WHO notice. Assuring newsmen of the state’s preparedness, Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, disclosed that the state government had equipped facilities in private and public hospitals and also put on the alert. He said that isolation wards were constructed in hospitals with emergency operation centre in Ikot Ekpene. He added that the state government was in close contact with the NCDC, which had already inspected facilities in the state.

Surprising Argument with NCDC

Following its assumed preparedness and the supposed cooperation with the NCDC, it was shocking to find the public space awash with dispute between the Akwa Ibom State government and the NCDC over the presence or otherwise of COVID-19 in the state. Immediately the NCDC announced discovery of five cases of the novel virus in the state, the state countered it and demanded a “reconfirmation.”

Through its Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, Akwa Ibom State government claimed that there was “a disturbing breach in the test and reporting procedure” by the NCDC. Its major contention was that the agency should have reported its finding first to the state government instead of going public with the news.

Ukpong argued that “All 5 reported positive test cases have been contacted and they have showed no COVID-19 symptoms.

“Owing to the irregularities observed in the testing and reporting procedure, Health Care Professionals in Akwa Ibom State have called for an immediate reconfirmation test on the 5 reported cases,” the statement said.

The government said samples they have sent to the NCDC for the COVID-19 testing have all returned negative results.

“While the tests were being processed in NCDC approved test facilities, all suspected cases were held in isolation.

“Health Care Professionals in Akwa Ibom State have appealed to the NCDC to ensure that all future tests are conducted following due process in order to maintain continued confidence in the process,” the statement said.

Some doctors who were contacted at the University of the Uyo Teaching Hospital sided with the state government. They claimed that the 17 persons whose blood samples were taken were their colleagues who voluntarily drove to the state ministry of health. “Till now nobody has told them of the result and they are still interacting with the rest of the us and other members of the public. They have not been quarantined. Is the NCDC not supposed to tell them if their test result was negative or positive? We agree that the state government reacted late, but once the NCDC established presence of COVID-19 in Akwa Ibom, the right to do was to inform the state government to activate its protocol on the novel virus.”

As a direct of the foggy information on who the five health workers at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) are, staff of the hospital are reported to be reluctant to report for duty, in a bid to avoid contracting Coronavirus.

However, the Chief Medical Director of Ibom Specialist Hospital, Professor Emmanuel Ekanem has been in the news giving messages of hope. Commending the leadership of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, he praised the team spirit among health care professionals in the state, saying there will be no mortality in Akwa Ibom after the COVID-19 scourge. He hinted that the five Coronavirus victims in Akwa Ibom were in stable condition.

NCDC Insists There’s COVID-19 in Akwa Ibom

However, the NCDC has maintained that its COVID-19 statistics on Akwa Ibom cannot be contested. Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of the agency, emphasized the importance of doing away with politicking. He said, “This is not a time to release press statements against anybody. It is time to come together.”

Insisting that the test was carried out in a trusted laboratory, Ihekweazu claimed, “Every new case in a state always leave a little bit of anxiety and people need time to accept that these results are what they are. I have no reason to doubt the results coming out from any of our labs and especially the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital. There is no result anybody will give without verifying. We are working very hard to make sure these results are correct. Sometimes we delay in releasing these results because the test is being repeated so that we can be very sure,” he added.

The NCDC boss appeared to reassure the Akwa Ibom State government of another window of opportunity for confirmation. According to him, the reported cases “will be retested at a specific time. After every positive case, we would retest anyway after three to four days. The only way to know if people are recovering or not is by retesting them so that will be done.”

Jolted into Action

A couple of hours after the NCDC disclosure of COVID-19 cases in Akwa Ibom, Governor Udom Emmanuel announced a 14-day lockdown in the state to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

Emmanuel revealed that the confirmed cases were mostly health professionals, who had contact with a foreigner that later tested positive for the virus. He said the lockdown was to enable tracing those, who may have been exposed to the five confirmed victims.

He stated only properly identified persons on essential duty will be allowed to go about their lawful duties, “I am hereby announcing a complete cessation of movement in the state extended to period of 14 days. There will be no movement of persons except those on essential duties, who must carry a proper means of identification. The confirmed cases who are mostly healthcare professionals are in good health and have so far presented no symptoms. They have been moved to the isolation centres for proper management and the process of contact tracing has begun. All business premises, markets, shops, motor parks and offices must remain closed during this period. The only exception will be pharmacies and grocery shops. All events of any nature are prohibited during this period. Relevant security agencies have been briefed and they will ensure strict compliance with this directive.”

In view of the serious and imminent threat to public health by the pandemic, Governor Udom Emmanuel has exercised the powers conferred on him by “Sections 4 and 8 of the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Section 1 (1) (c) of the Akwa Ibom State Infectious Disease(Control of Spread) Law, 2014, and all other enabling powers.” The new law covers all the 31 local government areas of the state.

“The whole area of land mass and water that constitute Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria consisting of thirty-one (31) Local Government Areas is hereby declared a Local Health Area.”

The directives ensure that: commercial tricycles shall carry not more than two passengers only; mini buses shall carry not more than one passenger per row; and a private vehicle shall carry not more than two persons at the back seat and one on the front Seat.

“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,” the governor said.

Although the government placed a ban on all public parks, shops, eateries, clubs, restaurants, markets and offices within the state, it however granted waiver on those selling foodstuffs, drugs and other essential commodities.

According to the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Udoh, the state government will prosecute anyone found culpable of disobeying the directive.

Ministry Asks for N95.1million

Further evidence that the Akwa Ibom State government has accepted the test results from the NCDC emerged from a memo MH/COM20/GH/VOL.V/284 dated April 2-2020 from Ukpong seeking Governor Emmanuel’s approval for the sum of Ninety-five million, one hundred and thirty-four thousand Naira (N95,134,000.00) to provide materials and maintain volunteers for a period of four weeks at Ibom Specialist Hospital where the CO)VID-19 positive patients are being managed.

The piece of communication tilted, ‘Memo on Treatment/Containment of the Spread of COVID-19 in Akwa Ibom State’ revealed that “Unfortunately, Akwa Ibom State has recorded five positive cases all linked to an American medical personnel on free medical mission to the state. Consequently, state public health has taken the positive cases to our isolation centre in Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo for treatment, other measures to trace their contacts have been put on high gear.”

QUICK FACTS:

*The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has announced that five cases of Coronavirus were identified in Akwa Ibom State, but the state government complained that the disclosure did not follow established protocol

*With the established case of COVID-19 in Akwa Ibom, the number of states which have reported, at least, one confirmed case of the infection in Nigeria now stands at 12, apart from the FCT

* A breakdown of states where cases of the novel virus have been confirmed as at 11:15am on April 5, show that there are 224 confirmed cases, 27 discharged, 5 deaths, Lagos- 115, FCT- 45, Osun- 20, Oyo- 9, Edo- 9, Bauchi- 6, Akwa Ibom- 5, Ogun- 4, Kaduna- 4, Enugu- 2, Ekiti- 2, Rivers-1 Benue- 1 and Ondo- 1

*At the time when the first index case in Nigeria was discovered in Lagos last February, other states including Akwa Ibom were, at best, living in denial of the existence of the disease

*Although, it is still within the critical bracket, the Lagos State government has demonstrated respectable capacity by giving very serious attention to the pandemic

* It would take over one month and following a lot of badgering from concerned persons and groups for President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a national emergency in a broadcast to the nation on March 29

* One week before the Presidential broadcast on COVID-19, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State had debunked reports on social media platforms on the status of Coronavirus disease in the state. He insisted there is no confirmed case of the virus anywhere in the state

*In the second week of February, about two weeks before the first COVID-19 index case was identified, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had listed Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Enugu, Delta, Bayelsa and the Federal Capital territory as states with high risk of Coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria

*Out of all the states that got the early warning from WHO, Akwa Ibom is the hardest hit with five established case of Coronavirus, because Akwa Ibom did not handle the challenge as well as other states

* The Akwa Ibom State government constituted its Coronavirus taskforce almost one month after the WHO notice

*Immediately the NCDC announced discovery of five cases of the novel virus in the state, the state countered it and demanded a “reconfirmation.” Through its Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, Akwa Ibom State government claimed that there was “a disturbing breach in the test and reporting procedure” by the NCDC

*However, the NCDC has maintained that its COVID-19 statistics on Akwa Ibom cannot be contested. Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of the agency, emphasized the importance of doing away with politicking

*A couple of hours after the NCDC disclosure of COVID-19 cases in Akwa Ibom, Governor Udom Emmanuel announced a 14-day lockdown in the state to prevent the spread of Coronavirus

*In view of the serious and imminent threat to public health by the pandemic, Governor Udom Emmanuel has exercised the powers conferred on him by “Sections 4 and 8 of the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Section 1 (1) (c) of the Akwa Ibom State Infectious Disease(Control of Spread) Law, 2014, and all other enabling powers

*A memo: MH/COM20/GH/VOL.V/284 dated April 2-2020 from Health Commissioner of Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Dominic Ukpong seeks Governor Emmanuel’s approval for the sum of Ninety-five million, one hundred and thirty-four thousand Naira (N95,134,000.00) to provide materials and maintain volunteers for a period of four weeks at Ibom Specialist Hospital where the CO)VID-19 positive patients are being managed

COVID-19 SCARE: TIME FOR HUMANS TO EVOLVE

I believe in God. My belief is enunciated in the Roman Catholic Credo. Now, in this twenty-first century, with much scientific knowledge around, belief in God can be reconciled with belief in the process of evolution; apparently, evolution is a very slow, time-enabled process. Apparently. But this view that evolution is a slow time-function process may not necessarily hold for humans. Given all his intelligence and abilities, it does appear that Homo Sapiens is one frail organism after all. As the world changes so rapidly in its ecosystem complex relationships, man is finding it increasingly hard to adapt. Now, too, I believe that God created man and He bequeathed man with wide mental faculty to adapt to and adapt the conditions of the world to suit the living-niche of man as the need arose.

This past century (I have in mind the year of the Spanish flu pandemic, 1918, as baseline) and at irregular but comparatively frequent intervals through 1957 (the year of the Asian flu pandemic), 1968 (the year of the Hong Kong flu pandemic), the 2000s (the years of swine flu, MERS, SARS) and now to the 2019-2020 annals reckoning of the COVID-19 flu pandemic, man has shown susceptibility to infections of the nasal and oral orifices that present the major pathways to the interior of the human machine. These infections are of the respiratory kind and they are hurting man, altering the balance of his societies, and we must all accept that if tweaked one way or the other with malevolent intent by human malevolent forces (that is, biological warfare) these infections are capable of quite diminishing the human race.

Thus, what next? The time has come for humans to use their God-given knowledge to adapt to an increasingly hostile situation. How so? There are mooted propositions here and there that human, as biological species, may have reached its zenith of existence by the means of pushing its body-mass to survive in an earth where sunlight with its associated radiations are rife, where solar flares stream towards the human habitat plus other extra-solar radiations, where asteroids threaten from time to time, where toxic natural earth-emissions and artificial effluents are released from time to time, etc.

The human body has taken enough beating as it is already. Thank God for the wisdom He has given us, and we can now use this wisdom to implement safe living condition for the human species whereby, according to those mooted propositions, cybernetics and artificial intelligence (AI) are synergised to create cyborgs that will “exist” alongside humans and help share our burdens of “living” in a world with fast-changing ecosystem signatures. These cyborgs will do all our basic tasks for us (agriculture and food processing, especially) and humans will only “exist” to appreciate the wonders and the fruits of their labours because it is humans who laid the blueprints for these cyborgs in the first place.

Sunday Adole Jonah,
Department of Physics, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State

 

SUNDAY 5TH APRIL, 2020

Anxiety at UBTH as 25 Health Workers Exposed to COVID-19 Patients Go into Isolation

*Patients allegedly hid travel history before testing positive

*Sources say 13 newly graduated medical doctors among health workers affected

By Adibe Emenyonu

Anxiety has enveloped the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) following the isolation of not less than 25 of its health workers who were exposed to three patients who hid their travel history at the time when they tested negative for coronavirus but later tested positive.

One of the three patients has died following complications from an underlining ailment.

A source said: “The patients were admitted via A and E with complaints of cough, difficulty in breathing, catarrh but they all denied their travel history. Clearly, the Nigerian patients have decided to kill/endanger health workers.

“They were initially tested as negative and they were then transferred to the open ward where they had contact with many doctors, nurses, cleaners, and health workers. One of them deteriorated so bad that they repeated covid test for all of them after 72hours- it came back positive.

“The one that deteriorated had kidney problems and is now dead; and because of this, 25 medical doctors have now gone into isolation in UBTH. Of those 25, thirteen are doctors who just graduated from medical school.”

A statement on behalf of the Chief Medical Director, Prof. Darlington Obaseki, by the hospital’s Public Relations Officer, Joshua Uwaila, on Sunday, confirmed the three positive cases and death of one of the patients.

The statement also confirmed that health workers exposed to the three positive cases had gone into self-isolation following.

The statement said the surviving two of the three patients were currently being cared for in an isolation ward with restricted access.

“Prior to confirmation of their COVID-19 status, some of our healthcare staff were exposed to these patients while using only Personal Protection (surgical face-masks and gloves).

“Currently all staff who were exposed to these patients are asymptomatic and they are being monitored closely according to current guidelines.

“Further measures have been put in place to ensure that our staff are not unduly exposed to risks of infection with COVID-19 in the course of their providing care for patients who come to the hospital for various reasons.

“Healthcare workers are on the frontlines in this pandemic and therefore at a higher risk of being exposed than the general public. The management and staff of UBTH while ensuring standard precautions at all times to prevent the spread of this disease, crave the support and understanding of the general public as we fight this raging battle to contain and curb COVID-19”, the said.

Meanwhile, the UBTH CMD has announced the engagement of an insurance company by the hospital management to activate an insurance cover for all frontline staff involved in the management and treatment of COVID -19 positive patients in the hospital.

The CMD listed the insurance policy to include life insurance that covers payment of N5 million to dependants in the event of natural death, accidental death.

Others are the payment of N5 million to affected staff during critical illness or permanent disability and N250,000 for temporary disability and N500,000 for medical reimbursement.

The CMD, who explained that the insurance cover was exclusive of payment of daily allowance for feeding and transportation which were being worked out, stated that the policy was for all frontline staff involved in the management of COVID-19 patients.

He further assured that the welfare and safety of all members of staff of the hospital was also the management’s priority.‎

Air Peace Delivers FG’s Medical Supplies to Fight Coronavirus

By Chinedu Eze

The federal government has taken delivery of its first batch of medical supplies in the fight against the spread of coronavirus pandemic and for the treatment of the infected.
Air Peace aircraft Boeing 777 with registration number 5N-BWI, landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja from Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday night.

An inside source disclosed that the flight left Nigeria early Saturday for the seven-hour flight to Turkey and was able to lift the supplies and returned to Nigeria before midnight.

The source also disclosed that this was the first batch of the medical supplies from the federal government, noting that the airline would leave for China Monday for another batch of medical supplies from the federal government.

“Air Peace will also deliver another supplies for the federal government. It will leave for Beijing on Monday for 15 hours non-stop flight to China with its B777-ER with registration number 5N-BVE,” the source said.

The Chief Operating Officer of Air Peace, Mrs. Toyin Olajide, on behalf of the airline, gave kudos to the federal government for its efforts to rid Nigeria of the coronavirus disease, noting that the Nigerian government is way ahead of some countries in the fight against the virus, which is devastating mankind.

“The management of Air Peace commends the federal government for being proactive in the preparation for emergencies, preventing the spread of the virus and also providing the kits and other medical equipment for the treatment of those infected by the pandemic. This shows that government is ready to fight this disease and it is even more prepared than the governments of some of the advanced nations in the measures and strategies adopted to eradicate the virus,” Olajide said.

 

(Updated) Nigeria Records 10 New Cases of COVID-19, One Death
By Martins Ifijeh
Nigeria has recorded 10 New cases of COVID-19, bringing to 224 the total number of confirmed cases in the country.
One new death has also been recorded, bringing the total number of persons hat have died from Coronavirus to five.
Announcing this Sunday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said six of the cases were from Lagos, two from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and two from Edo State.
It said: “As at 11:15 am on April 5, there are 224 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. 27 have been discharged with five deaths.”
Breakdown of the figures show that Lagos has recorded 115 cases, FCT 45, Osun 20, Oyo and Edo nine each, Bauchi six, Akwa Ibom five, Ogun and Kaduna four each, Enugu and Ekiti two each, while Rivers, Benue and Ondo have one each

COVID-19: Survey of 6,200 Doctors Shows Hydroxychloroquine is Best Treatment

•FG proposes N500bn special intervention fund to NASS
•Five more test positive, total now 214 cases
•Plateau nurses, midwives threaten to down tools
•Doctors without borders warn of devastating effect in IDP camps
•Edo begins televised classes for SSCE, NECO students
•Over one million infection cases recorded, 64,675 deaths globally, as US death toll rises to 8,452

Our Correspondents

As scientists and researchers all over the world scramble to develop treatment for the deadly coronavirus (COVID 19) that has infected over one million people globally and claimed 63,894 lives, many doctors have said the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine seems to be the most effective treatment for patients. But few doctors are prescribing it in the US, as in other hard-hit countries like Spain, according to a survey.

The survey of 6,200 doctors around the globe published by Daily Mail of UK revealed that while few corners of the world were untouched by the virus, the pandemic was being handled very differently from country-to-country.
An adviser to Sermo, the leading global social platform for physicians and largest health care professional survey company, which conducted the survey, Dr Murali Doraiswamy, urged that countries should take note of what was working for doctors and governments elsewhere and move quickly to adopt practices that were saving lives.

This survey further buttresses the report by French research study, which allegedly confirmed a combination of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and Azithromycin as effective in treating COVID-19 patients. The French study report was published by TECHSTARTUPS.
Last week the Federal Government of Nigeria through National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Ministry of Health granted Lagos State license to commence clinical trials of chloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, Nigeria confirmed five new cases with three in Bauchi and two in FCT raising the total number of coronavirus infections in the country to 214.

Also yesterday, the federal government approached the National Assembly for an approval for its proposed intervention fund of N500 billion to combat COVID-19. The proposal was tabled at a meeting between the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, and the leadership of the National Assembly.

That was as Medecins Sans Frontieres, otherwise called Doctors Without Borders, called for immediate improvement in water and sanitation facilities in all the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Borno State, saying should the virus sneak into the camps, the result would be devastating due to overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions.

Meanwhile, Edo State Government said it would begin a state-wide televised classes for students in Senior Secondary Schools preparing for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and National Examinations Council (NECO), following the disruption in academic activities occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.
In Plateau State, nurses and midwives threatened to stop work due to lack of protective kits for those assisting with the management of the virus outbreak.

Doctors and governments across the globe are struggling to develop treatments for coronavirus. While most nations have issued guidance for doctors to standardise care for coronavirus patients, there are no clinically proven treatments for the devastating infection.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a multinational trial of several treatments, including the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, and remdesivir, a drug developed to treat Ebola. The trials are taking place in countries including Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and Thailand.

To push the federal government’s intervention fund proposal, Ahmed, accompanied by senior officials from her ministry, met with the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, and intimated them with the proposal to establish a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the Senate President, Ola Awoniyi, stated that the meeting was a follow-up to one held last Wednesday between the National Assembly leadership and members of the Presidential Task Force set up to manage COVID-19, headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha. Yesterday’s meeting held at the National Assembly Complex and was also attended by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase; and other principal officers from both chambers.

Speaking at the meeting the minister said, “What we are proposing is an establishment of a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund. This fund that we are proposing, that should be created, will involve mopping up resources from various special accounts that the government as well as the Federation have, to be able to pull this N500 billion.”

In addition to the identified special accounts from where the money would be drawn as loans, Ahmed said the proposed intervention fund would be sourced from grants being expected and loans from multilateral Institutions.
“Our general view is that this crisis intervention fund is to be utilised to upgrade healthcare facilities as earlier identified. The federal government also needs to be in a position to improve health care facilities, not only in the states, but to provide intervention to the states,” Ahmed stated.

She explained to the lawmakers that the fund, if approved, would also take care of special Public Work Programmes currently being implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
“We know that there will be a need for the parliament to agree and approve the taking of loans from these special accounts and we will be coming back with a proposed bill in that regard that will define what the fund will be used for,” the minister said.

Earlier in his remarks, the Senate President said the meeting was in fulfilment of an earlier promise to provide support as the need arose in the fight against the coronavirus.
Lawan stated, “Just like we told Nigerians, when there is need for us to meet or to take legislative action in ensuring that the government responds appropriately to developments, issues, and challenges in the country, we will do so. This meeting, the second in the series after we shut down the National Assembly for two weeks, is a clear testimony of what we have said.

“Governance requires that we work together, so we want to listen to those things that you have on your side and how we can also play our constitutional role in ensuring that Nigerians continue to benefit from governance and how we are able to weather the storm created by COVID-19.

“Going forward, we need to interact more, because very fundamental decisions will need to be taken, and these decisions can only be said to be constitutionally legal if the legislature gives its stamp of authority for the executive to implement and execute. I think coming to us for those loans is critical, because we are in an emergency and time is of the essence. So, we must work as expeditiously as possible to ensure that we place the request before the National Assembly.

“I think time has come for us to redefine the implementation of the Social Intervention Programme, probably going out to communities to give them N20, 000 per person might not be the best way to go. It is still an effort, but I think we need a better approach that will be more efficient.”

The leadership of the National Assembly resolved to meet again tomorrow with the executive over the latter’s request.
THISDAY gathered that the leaderships of both the Senate and House of Representatives were unsatisfied with the presentation by the finance minister, hence, the adjournment to Monday. Apart from requesting more information on the proposed fund, the National Assembly leadership was also said to have expressed concern about the disbursement of the COVID-19 fund so far, while stressing the need for accountability and transparency.

Leader of the Senate, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, who attended the Saturday meeting with the executive, told THISDAY after the meeting, “The National Assembly leadership at the meeting made some observations and suggested areas that need to be looked up again.” Abdullahi said another meeting had been scheduled for next week, “While the National Assembly will reconvene at the appropriate time afterwards.”

Similarly, Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who was also part of the Saturday meeting, told THISDAY that the talks would continue on Monday. Abaribe said the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouk, had been invited to the Monday meeting to address issues about the disbursements of COVID-19 funds, among others. He added that other top government officials were to be part of the meeting to throw more light on the post-isolation strategy of government, saying the National Assembly believes N500 billion being asked for is too small and there will be need for further discussion on the issue.

“The Intervention fund matter would also be further discussed because the National Assembly feels that it’s rather too small and the suggested ways of deploying it would need further elaboration,” he stated.
On how soon the National Assembly will reconvene to consider the executive proposal on COVID-19 funding, Abaribe declared, “The National Assembly resumption issue is to be discussed between the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House to agree on what to do.”

US Death Toll Rises as Global Cases Climb Past One Million

Confirmed cases of coronavirus infection globally shot past 1,200,372 with 64,675 deaths even as the United States was now prominently at the centre of the pandemic. Currently, the US has more than 310,286 cases, while the New York State is hardest hit with more than 113,704, as of yesterday morning.

About 8,452 people in the US have so far died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins data. New York has the highest death toll, with 3,565 deaths, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Cuomo also said Saturday that China was facilitating the shipment of 1,000 ventilators to his state, as he continued to shop for more of the lifesaving device ahead of a growing number of coronavirus patients, who are expected to need them.

“This is a big deal and it’s going to make a significant difference for us,” Cuomo said, adding that the State of Oregon volunteered to send 140 ventilators to New York.

Cuomo also said he was looking for ventilators closer to home, and had issued an order that forces even private hospitals in the state to redistribute ventilators to the hospitals most in need.
“I want this all to be over,” Cuomo said, noting, “It’s only gone on for 30 days since our first case. It feels like an entire lifetime.”

Plateau Nurses, Midwives Threaten Strike over Lack of Protective Gear

Nurses and Midwives in Plateau on Saturday threatened to abandon their duty posts if the state government failed to provide them with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) as they tried to curb the spread of COVID-19. Addressing the press under the auspices of National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Plateau State Council, the association, led by Mrs. Briskila Dabit, said, “Everyone knows about the danger of COVID-19 and how that it is posing serious challenge in Nigeria and the world as a whole. It will be unfair on the side of government to expose our members to the virus without personal protection equipment.

“We have decided to down tools in all health centres, including hospitals and Isolation centres if the state government will not provide our members with necessary protection equipment. It is no longer news the havoc the ravaging virus is causing to health workers across the globe; we need protection if we must do our duties as patriotic citizens.

“As I speak with you, we lack PPE in our hospitals and isolation centres. Consequently, we have directed our members not to attend to any patient with a suspected case of coronavirus without PPE.”
However, reacting to the allegations, Dr. Simon Macham, Director of Press Affairs to Governor Simon Lalong, said the nurses’ concerns were driven by lack of information.

Macham said, “Regarding personal protective equipment, the government has already purchased about 400 pieces and is also in the process of producing more locally here in Plateau State. The distribution to various hospitals and isolation centres will soon commence.
“As for the COVID-19 committee, they are also captured in one of the sub-committees. What, perhaps, is happening is that they may not have been carried along properly at that level and the government will address it immediately.”

Doctors Without Borders: COVID-19 Portends Grave Danger in IDP Camps

Medecins Sans Frontieres, also called Doctors Without Borders, warned that should COVID-19 break out in the camps, the result will be devastating as a result of overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. A statement by the organisation on Saturday said, “After more than a decade of armed conflict, outbreaks of severe malnutrition, malaria, measles and cholera, approximately 1.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Borno State now face the spectre of COVID-19.

“Many live in vastly overcrowded camps with poor water and sanitation facilities, limited supplies of hygiene essentials, such as soap and water, and often no individual space at all.

“Functioning health infrastructure in Borno is scarce, and the capacity to refer patients is extremely limited. With so many people already vulnerable to outbreaks of disease, essential humanitarian assistance must be maintained; water and sanitation facilities must be improved in IDP camps; and frontline health workers on whom the population will depend, must have access to personal protective equipment.”

The statement further said, “MSF has been working in Borno State since 2014, and during that time we have borne witness to deplorable conditions for IDPs, many of whom already suffer from illnesses endemic to overcrowded settlements, such as water-borne diseases and respiratory tract infections, like pneumonia, which has been identified as a significant threat when coupled with COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on healthcare systems, economies and populations worldwide and it poses a substantial threat in Borno. However, even if COVID-19 were not present in Nigeria, the need for humanitarian assistance in Borno would still be massive. In just over a month, rainy season will commence, bringing with it a surge in cases of malaria and malnutrition.

Edo Govt Begins Televised Classes for SSCE, NECO

Following the disruption in academic activities by the coronavirus pandemic, the Edo State Government will tomorrow begin a state-wide televised classes for students in Senior Secondary School students preparing for the West African Senior School Examination (WASSCE) and National Examinations Council (NECO). A statement by the Commissioner for Education, Jimoh Ijegbai, said the classes would be televised everyday from 12noon to 1pm on the state-owned television station, Edo Broadcasting Service (EBS). The statement noted that the move was part of government’s effort to curtail the spread of coronavirus.

“Edo State Ministry of Education, in collaboration with Edo State Broadcasting Service (EBS) and the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), is organising a television programme for students in Senior Secondary Schools, particularly those writing the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and National Examinations Council (NECO) for the year 2020 May/June/July,” the statement noted.

It said students would be taught Mathematics on Monday and English on Tuesday, while Physics, Biology, Geography, Civic/Economics and Chemistry would be televised on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
The government urged parents and guardians to draw the attention of their children and wards to the opportunity during the stay-at-home period.

Rivers Urges Traditional Rulers to Imbibe New Values

Rivers State Government called on traditional institutions in the state to imbibe new values and extend same to their domains to aid the fight against COVID-19. The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, made the call yesterday in Port Harcourt while speaking to representatives of traditional institutions drawn from all 23 local government areas of the state.

The commissioner, who was speaking at a sensitisation and awareness creation meeting with the royal fathers, said one key area the traditional rulers were expected to play a key role was in social distancing in the closely knit culture of their people and ensuring that large numbers of people do not gather.

“We have a culture that handshake, embrace, and the like are part of us. Now that the virus is here, we’re advocating social distancing, just as we’re explaining here today. We also advocate that people should not gather in large numbers,” Nsirim said.

He explained that the meeting was prompted by the need for the traditional rulers to borrow a leaf from the proactive stance of Governor Nyesom Wike, whom he said commenced preparation for the prevention of the coronavirus weeks before the only index case was noticed in the state.

“His Excellency did not wait for us to get an index case before resorting to proactive measures. Our committee was set up so many weeks before we had an index case in Rivers State. The Emergency Operations Centre was also set; the Treatment Centre was set, and fully equipped. This shows that the government is very responsive,” he stated.

In his remarks, Chairman of the State Council of Traditional Rulers, King Dandison Douglas Jaja, the Amanyanabo of Opobo Kingdom, expressed delight over the meeting, noting that it would clear the air on misinterpretations surrounding the coronavirus.

PDP Directs Members to Scale Up Personal Interventions

The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Saturday directed its members across the country to intensify their personal efforts to assist vulnerable Nigerians in their neighbourhoods to mitigate the socio-economic effect of the COVID-19 lockdown directives. PDP also called on more Nigerians to join public-spirited individuals and groups in extending assistance to vulnerable citizens in the effort to contain and check the spread of the pandemic in the country.

A statement by the national publicity secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, stated that the call was against the backdrop of the manifest failure of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government to shelve its greed and corruption to make adequate provisions for social palliatives and other panaceas to Nigerians, despite the immense resources at its disposal. Ologbondiyan said the PDP position was also in line with its manifesto and guiding principles to ensure the security of the people. He said the wellbeing and happiness of all citizens, irrespective of creed, ethnicity and political persuasion, was not negotiable and called on all Nigerians to look beyond primordial considerations and join forces to defeat the virus.

The party lamented as worrisome the fact that the APC government remained lethargic and allowed sheer incompetence and greed to constrict it into unnecessary parochialism in the handling of the COVID-19 issue.
“Our party also bemoaned the lack of accountability and the manifest sleaze in the disbursement of financial palliatives with allegations of diversion of billion of naira to private purses to the detriment of poor Nigerians. Indeed, such is not the way to go,” PDP said.

PDP urged the federal government to be transparent and involve more capable Nigerian medical experts, researchers as well as equipment manufacturers to assist in checking the spread of the pandemic in the country.

PDP, in another statement, charged the National Assembly to comprehensively scrutinise the overall profile of the N500 billion proposed by the federal government as intervention fund against the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the fund reached the desired target. The party also urged the legislature to examine the expenditure layout and put adequate clauses to eliminate diversion, ensure prudence as well as guarantee broad-based transparency in target-specific disbursements across all need areas in the fight against the pandemic.

A statement by Ologbondiyan stated that the call was predicated on apprehensions in the public space over allegations of fraudulent diversion of fund in the recent disbursement of N20,000 social palliatives, with many Nigerians rejecting the figures put out by the government. The party urged the National Assembly to request the federal government to furnish it with details of how the N500 billion would be spent; what amount would be spent as interventions to individuals and families as well as a template that guarantees that the fund gets to the targeted vulnerable Nigerians.

Oyo Records One New Case, To Fumigate Markets This Week

Oyo State recorded another case of COVID-19, bringing to nine the total of cases in the state. Acting Chairman of the state’s taskforce on COVID-19, Professor Temitope Alonge, confirmed that the latest case was a close contact of the second confirmed case that subsequently developed symptoms. Alonge said the patient had been moved to one of the isolation centres in the state, while activities at the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) were being ramped up and reviewed to meet the evolving nature of the pandemic.

“With the index case in the state already discharged, the other seven cases remain stable,” Alonge said. He noted that the diagnostic centre located inside the University College Hospital had commenced full and timely testing of samples, saying it is committed to a turnaround time of less than 24 hours to provide results for samples taken.

“His Excellency is pleased at the progress that has been made at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Olodo, Ibadan, with the training of key personnel and the readiness of the centre to receive patients starting from Monday, April 6,” a statement by Alonge said.

NCDC Evacuates, Isolates Scores at NNPC, Abuja Estate

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) evacuated and put in isolation several persons at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Estate in Garki, Abuja. NCDC took the action after an infected individual at an apartment in the estate located in the heart of the Federal Capitalist Territory (FCT) tested positive to COVID-19 at the weekend.

It was also learnt that the NCDC had begun a complete disinfection of the entire flat and its environs, following the incident that caused panic in the area where some of the corporation’s bigwigs reside.
One of the occupants of the estate, who was said to have tested positive just returned from the United Kingdom (UK), but had stayed in self-isolation after his return.

The corporation, while confirming the incident, however, noted that contrary to insinuations of massive infection in the estate, the case was an isolated one that was being dealt with by the NCDC. It explained that the said case involved a non-member of staff of the NNPC, who developed symptoms of the disease at the estate.

A statement by NNPC’s Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr Kennie Obateru, in Abuja, said the national oil company was aware of all the actions taken to tackle the singular case, which for now remained an isolated incident.

Obateru stated about the infected person, “His case was said to have been confirmed positive by the NCDC after undergoing a laboratory test. And in line with NCDC approved protocol, all residents of the affected apartment were moved out and placed in isolation, while officials of NCDC undertook a disinfection of the flat and adjoining areas to eliminate the chances of community infection.”

NNPC said it had long embarked on a public awareness campaign within the organisation and beyond, including sharing with the residents of the estate guidelines on successful self-supervised isolation. It noted that this was to ensure strict adherence to all NCDC prescribed safety measures designed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the corporation announced an additional N10 billion contribution by the petroleum industry to the fight against COVID-19, to bring the total donation so far by the sector to N21 billion.

Obateru said the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, handed over five ambulances to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce for the Control of Coronavirus (Covid-19), Boss Mustapha in Abuja.

The corporation noted that the ambulances marked the first instalment of the industry’s collective donation of N11billion, which it said had been shored up to N21 billion. It added that Aiteo Exploration and Production Company Limited, an NNPC Joint Venture Company partner, donated the ambulances.

While calling for a collective effort in the fight against the pandemic, NNPC disclosed that the support for the cause was an on-going one, saying whatever is received afterwards would be delivered to the committee.
It said that the oil and gas industry, under the leadership of the corporation, had come together to contribute their quota to the effort to stem the pandemic.

The SGF, in his response, applauded NNPC and the entire oil and gas industry for the support extended to the federal government in the campaign against the pandemic.
Conducting the two top government officials round the 190-bed facility donated by the petroleum industry, Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, stated that the THISDAY Dome, Abuja, that would house the bed spaces was donated by yet another of NNPC partner, the Sahara Group. He said other NNPC partners, local and international, had continued to implement projects in their host communities.

Kyari said, “Aside from consignments of medical consumables and logistics facilities, we are embarking on construction of at least two permanent hospitals and a world-class diagnostics centre in each of the geopolitical zones in the country.
“All these are over and above our regular social investments through various CSR initiatives.”

He explained that the donation was collaborative, drawing support from the energy group, the private sector, and a Chinese company, CCECC, to fight COVID-19 pandemic.
The NNPC helmsman disclosed that the 190-bed facility would be ready for use in two weeks, stating that donations are in kind. He reiterated that respective going concerns would provide the medical materials pledged following their companies’ procurement procedures.

Kyari announced that the corporation had set aside a 60-bed capacity to support the fight against the pandemic in Utako. He said the facility, located in the heart of Abuja, would equally be ready in the next two weeks.

He explained that the Utako facility would be equipped with oxygen generating plants, ventilators and other medical logistics that would support the fight against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to him, it would also have 10 Intensive Care Units that would serve as a back up to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Isolation unit in Gwagwalada.

 

COVID-19 May Worsen Instability in Nigeria, Others, Warns MIF

Tobi Soniyi

Except Nigeria and other countries in Africa handle the crisis created by COVID-19 with care, it may fuel further conflicts and instability, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (MIF) has warned.

The warning is contained in a report released by the foundation during the week. The report is titled COVID-19 in Africa: a call for coordinated governance, improved health structures and better data.

In its 22-page report, the foundation said apart from the economic impact the virus would have on the economy in Africa, it may “test the institutional fragility of some countries, fuelling further conflicts and instability.”

Many countries in the continent are facing internal security challenges ranging from armed insurgencies to terrorism and banditry.
Already, the United Nations Economic Council for Africa (UNECA) had warned that the pandemic would hit economic growth from an expected 3.2 percent down to 1.8 percent .

But the report said: “If not addressed in a collective and organised way, this could reverse the positive growth of the past decade and impact areas where Africa has steadily progressed, be it the fight against malaria or against poverty.”
Moreover, according to the report, this could spill over beyond the economy.”

The report noted that the spread of COVID-19 “is accelerating across the world. In Africa, most countries have now confirmed cases and the number of fatalities is rising.

“If allowed to spread unmanaged, the impact on African citizens and economies will be substantial”, the report added.
It noted that despite factors mitigating against the spread of the virus in the continent, including the average age of African citizens, which is the lowest globally, and factors relating to the continent’s climate, the foundation warned that, Africa might yet be worst hit by this invisible disease.

“Africa’s already fragile health systems, coupled with a high burden of respiratory and diabetic diseases and densely packed urban agglomeration, are likely to increase the vulnerability of the continent and the lethality of the virus”, it warned.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization (WHO), had earlier called on Africa to “wake up” to the COVID-19 threat and prepare for a worst-case scenario.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation warned that public health systems across the continent would quickly be overwhelmed if the virus took hold in Africa, a continent that is home to over a billion people.

The report listed some immediate challenges calling for action in the continent, first suggesting that sound and coordinated governance, which it observed, was needed across the continent.

The report noted that any pandemic required by nature a general coordination of efforts across national and regional borders, and with multilateral actors and partners, even more so in a globalised world.

Secondly, the report said there was an urgent need to act on the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in 2015 and address the specific weaknesses of Africa’s health structures: improve health systems, and citizens’ access to them, and more generally strengthen data and statistical capacity.

Thirdly, it noted that only 10 African countries provided free and universal health care to their citizens, while healthcare in 22 countries was neither free nor universal.

“Governments need to make swift improvements in handling and improving access to basic health services,” it said.
It noted that many countries in the continent were less prepared for the effective point of entry screening and monitoring of travellers and treatment of cases.

“Efforts to strengthen and enhance preparedness could help to save lives. Data coverage on health facilities and health outcomes in Africa is low,” the report said.

The report said: “Only eight African countries have complete birth registration systems. This impacts the timely production of data, crucial during health emergencies.

“Quality statistics, and the funding and autonomy of National Statistics Offices, are essential for all stages of evidence-based decision-making and policy formulation, namely in health care.
“With the general weakness of health structures, from human

resources to equipment and supply chains, working together is critical now more than ever.

“Many National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs) have been created after health systems failed to respond to crises due to fragmented and insufficient responses.

“Finding ways to collaborate and work together to fight this

challenge, protect lives and improve health capabilities is critical,” the report said.

 

 

SATURDAY 4TH APRIL, 2020

 

COVID-19: NCDC Isolates Residents of Abuja NNPC Estate
 
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
 
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has evacuated and placed in isolation residents of an apartment at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Estate in Garki, Abuja.
The disease control agency took the action after an infected individual at an apartment in the estate located in the heart of the Federal Capitalist Territory (FCT) tested positive to the COVUD-19 at the weekend.
It was also learnt that the NCDC had begun a complete disinfection of the entire flat and its environs, following the incident which caused panic in the area where some of the corporation’s bigwigs reside.
One of the occupants of the estate who was said to have tested positive just returned from the United Kingdom (UK), but had stayed in self-isolation after his return.
However, the corporation, while confirming the incident, noted that contrary to insinuations of massive infection in the estate, the case was an isolated one which was being dealt with by the NCDC.
It explained that the said case, involved a non-member of staff of the NNPC,  who developed symptoms of the disease at the estate.
A statement by the corporation’s Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr Kennie Obateru, in Abuja, said that the national oil company was aware of all the actions taken by to tackle the singular case, which for now, has remained an isolated incident.
“His case was said to have been confirmed positive by the NCDC after undergoing a laboratory test.
“And in line with NCDC approved protocol, all residents of the affected apartment were moved out and placed in isolation, while officials of NCDC undertook a disinfection of the flat and adjoining areas to eliminate the chances of community infection,” the organisation stressed.
The NNPC said it had long embarked on a public awareness campaign within the organisation and beyond, including sharing with the residents of the estate guidelines on successful self-supervised isolation.
It noted that this was to ensure strict adherence to all NCDC prescribed safety measures designed to tackle the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Meanwhile, the corporation has announced an additional N10 billion by the petroleum industry to put the total donation so far by the sector at N21 billion.
Obateru said that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva,  handed over five ambulances to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce for the Control of Coronavirus (Covid-19), Boss Mustapha in Abuja.
The corporation noted that the ambulances marked the first instalment of the industry’s collective donation of N11billion, which it said had been shored up to N21 billion.
It  added that Aiteo Exploration and Production Company Limited, an NNPC Joint Venture Company partner donated the ambulances.
While calling for a collective effort in the fight against the pandemic, NNPC disclosed at the event that the support for the cause was an ongoing one, saying that whatever was received afterwards would be delivered to the committee.

 

Osun Confirms One COVID-19  Patient Missing from Isolation Centre
 
Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo

Osun State government has confirmed that one Coronavirus patient is  missing from an isolation centre at Gedu in Ejigbo local government area of the state.

This was contained in a statement issued  by the Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, in Osogbo, the state capital.

The statement debunked earlier report that six persons were missing from the Isolation centre.

According to her, only one person could not be accounted for by officials stationed at the Isolation centre out of the 127 persons at the facility when the headcount was done.

There had been unconfirmed reports that six persons who tested positive fir COVUS-19 escaped from an isolation centre at Gedu in Ejigbo and that the state government had launched manhunt for the missing persons.

The reports had listed the names and phone numbers of the six infected persons purported to have escaped as: LAWAL Waliyulah, Masifa Ejigbo. 08063691573; LASISI Murafat, Olugbodi’s compd Ejigbo, +22505368845; Ganiyat Alabi.
08075441187; Yusuff Afees, Ile Alawe, Ejigbo.07011196193 ; Isola Abibat, Ile Olori, Ejigbo 08055905010; Nua Oyeleye, Ile Jesu, Oguro Ejigbo, 08109375276 and, Juel Olasupo, Ile Baale Ejigbo, 08149584397

Reacting, Egbomode in the statement titled “The Truth About Ejigbo Returnees”, said “a quick check showed that the name and number of the first person on the list of the purported missing patients, is indeed currently in our facility in Ejigbo”.

“Nothing can be further from the truth. As a government, we have not issued any statement to confirm or deny such story. Besides, a quick check showed that the name and number of the first person on the list of the purported missing patients, is indeed currently in our facility in Ejigbo.

“Recall about a week ago, we received 127 returnees from Ivory Coast and we have kept them since then to avoid community transfer of the virus.

“This morning we embarked on a headcount and found out that only two persons could not be accounted for by officials stationed at the Isolation centre out of the 127 persons.”

She said, “We want to reiterate that any official(s) found culpable will also be dealt with accordingly.

“We implore members of the public to discountenance the alarm being raised. We will continue to do everything to protect the lives of our citizens in this fight against Coronavirus.”

Benue Gov, Deputy, Others Test Negative for Covid-19

By George Okoh

The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom; his Deputy, Mr Benson Abounu; and Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development, David Olofu, have all tested negative for coronavirus.

Governor Ortom, who received the result of the test on Saturday from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), encouraged other Benue people to voluntarily go for the COVID-19 test.

He commended the state Action Committee on Coronavirus and all other individuals and organizations for making selfless contributions towards eradicating the pandemic.

The governor expressed delight that of all the persons so far tested, there is no fresh positive case of COVID-19 in the state aside the first confirmed one.

He urged the people to continue to observe personal hygiene by frequently washing their hands with soap, using sanitizers and maintaining social distancing, to avoid contracting the disease.

Ortom assured the people that his administration will not relent in its drive to prevent the virus from spreading within the state.

COVID-19: Lagos, Edo Record First Deaths, Cases Rise to 210
•FG threatens to extend lockdown
•Chinese medical team on the way to Nigeria
•Over 4000 Britons seek evacuation
•Onyeama: No cause for alarm over countries evacuating citizens
•Sanwo-Olu, wife test negative
•Lagos discharges 4 more
•Lai Mohammed: Families of dead COVID-19 victims can’t claim bodies
•Ehanire declines to name drug healing patients
•UN commends FG
•U.S. records 1,169 deaths in 24 hours

Our Correspondents

Nigeria recorded two new deaths from Coronavirus friday, thus bringing the total death so far in the country to four. The number of confirmed cases also rose to 210, from 190 on Thursday.

The deaths, according to a tweet from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control last night, were recorded in Lagos and Edo states.

The NCDC tweeted: “Two new deaths have been recorded in Lagos and Edo State. As at 10:30 pm, 3rd April, there are 210 confirmed cases of #COVID19 reported in Nigeria. Twenty new cases of #COVID19 have been reported in Nigeria; 11 in Lagos, 3 in the FCT, 3 in Edo, 2 in Osun & 1 in Ondo.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, yesterday said government could extend the 14-day lockdown should Lagosians and residents of Abuja and Ogun State not behave themselves.

The minister, who is a member of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, disclosed this in Abuja when he featured in a forum to give an update on government efforts at containing the pandemic.

He said, “If we don’t behave ourselves, there is a likelihood that the lockdown will be extended, but if we behave ourselves, there might not be an extension and I hope we do so.

“If we stay at home for two weeks and we are doing everything we are supposed to do, we should be able to effectively contain the disease.
“Therefore, my appeal to Nigerians is that they should obey the directive on social distancing, personal hygiene and shun gatherings; after two weeks, we will resume our normal life.

“But if they think it is a joke, then we may have to stay at home more than the two weeks.”

The minister also disclosed that the Federal Government was planning to meet with indigenous manufacturers to discuss and facilitate the local production of Personal Protective Equipment, to enhance the fight against the coronavirus.

Mohammed said that the Minister of State for Health, Olorunnibe Mamora, and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investments, Adeniyi Adebayo, would meet with the manufacturers on behalf of the government.

He said that the move had become necessary in view of the shortage of the equipment and the need to encourage and develop local manufacturing of medical equipment.
He said, “PPE is in short supply globally and we want to see how we can start manufacturing them locally.

“All over the world, people are making mask locally because there is a short supply of masks.

“Those ones we got from Jack Ma have been shared with the states.
“We call them starter packs and they contain masks and test kits. We have given them to states according to their needs. Naturally, Lagos got more because it is the epicenter of the virus.

“We are trying to source the PPE more locally, but one thing about PPE is that if you don’t get it right, you may lose more lives.”

The Minister also says the corpses of persons who died of COVID-19 cannot be claimed for burial.

He said such corpses would be handled by the ministry of health because they are contagious.

Ehanire Declines to Disclose Drugs Being Used for Treatment

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, yesterday declined to disclose the drugs being used, successfully, in treating COVID-19 patients in the country.

There are records to show that some patients have already been cured and discharged.

Ehanire, who spoke during the daily briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja yesterday, amid several fingers pointing at Chloroquine, said the most important thing was that people were getting treated and getting result.

He said revealing the name of the drugs being used could make people resort to self-treatment and possibly overdose.

Ehanire said: “The drug or drugs being used are matters of interest to doctors who are providing treatment. Doctors advise each other on which drugs they used and I believe as time goes on, they will compile a report on what worked and what didn’t work.

“As I said earlier, the treatment centres in Lagos are using certain drugs for clinical trial and they will be able to add from their experience to the body of knowledge and what worked and what didn’t work. You may have also read that some people suffered from chloroquine poisoning in Lagos because they thought this was the best way to treat themselves.

“It is not for you to go and purchase and treat yourself. So, I won’t advise anyone looking for the name of the drug when you are not even sure you have that sickness.”

Chinese Medical Team Coming to Nigeria

Enahire further disclosed that a medical team from China would arrive the country in a few days.

He also said a group of Chinese companies working in Nigeria had donated medical supplies to support the country’s fight against COVID-19.

He said the items include commodities such as personal protective equipment and ventilators.

“I have been notified of medical supplies from China, courtesy of a group of Chinese companies working here in Nigeria. A special cargo aircraft shall leave Nigeria in a few days to collect the items which include commodities, personal protective equipment and ventilators,” he said.

“An 18-man team of Chinese medical experts, including doctors, nurses and other medical advisers shall come along with the flight to assist us. I must at this juncture commend our frontline workers who are doing a great job in case identification and management.

“As we prepare to contain COVID-19, we must not lose sight of other health challenges in our country. Routine health service must continue in our hospitals. Only a wing of tertiary health centres should be used for infected patients.”

The minister said nearly 3,000 samples have been tested for the disease, adding that Nigeria will witness an increase in confirmed Coronavirus cases despite the lockdown.

Also at the briefing, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari had instructed security agencies to deploy tact while enforcing the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory.

Buhari had, on March 29, ordered the lockdown in the three locations for an initial period of 14 days to tackle the spread of the coronavirus in the country, while some other states followed suit.

Mustapha said reports indicated that there was a high level of compliance with the lockdown order in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT.

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said the Federal Government had ramped up its synergy with the state governments through video conferencing communication and the platform of the governors’ forum.

According to him, the President’s directive is that security agencies should enforce the lockdown order with discretion but Nigerians should be law-abiding.

The SGF said, “The PTF finds it very necessary to appeal to our law enforcement agencies to deploy tact and caution in the course of enforcing the rules even in the face of provocation.

“We similarly appeal to all Nigerians to be law-abiding, exercise patience and self-restraint. The message from Mr President is that no Nigerian should, on account of these rules, suffer any harm or pains during this period or any other time in our national life.

“To the Nigerian traders and businessmen and women, we appeal for resistance to the urge to hike prices of goods and commodities during this period as our compassionate nature must prevail.”

Mustapha stated that it was the best time for citizens to be considerate and to show empathy for their fellow countrymen.

Lagos Discharges 4 More Victims

The Lagos State Government has discharged four Coronavirus patients, bringing the total number of discharged persons in the state to 23.

Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, disclosed this at a news conference yesterday. The state had earlier discharged 19 patients.

Confirming the development, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos tweeted, “More great news from our Infectious Disease Hospital as four patients – three females and one male have recovered fully, tested negative twice and have been discharged.

“This gives us a lot of hope as we continue to listen to our health experts and provide the resources to beat COVID-19.”

UN Commends Nigeria

The United Nations has praised Nigeria for its handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, while speaking at a virtual news briefing in New York, referred to Nigeria as a “developing country that has shown a remarkable capacity to respond to the Coronavirus.”

“I have to say this; some of these developing countries have shown a remarkable capacity to respond. I was quite impressed to see, for instance, Nigeria putting in place and immediately establishing a hospital. And I saw difficulties in countries that are much more developed to do quickly the same.”

Lockdown: Falana Tells Buhari to Withdraw Soldiers

A Human Rights Activist, Femi Falana (SAN) has asked the federal government to withdraw armed troops from enforcing the lockdown order placed on the Federal Capital Territory; Lagos and Ogun States.

He said deploying armed troops was illegal and unconstitutional based on precedent judgements of the courts of the land.

He reminded the federal government of its legal obligation “to confine the Military to their demanding assignments, especially in these trying times of insurgencies and encroachment into the country’s territories.

U.S. Records 1,169 Deaths in 24 Hours

The United States has recorded 1,169 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, ending yesterday morning, the highest single-day toll from the disease so far in any country.

Data from the John Hopkins University show a total of 5,926 deaths have been reported in the US, which also has the highest number of cases worldwide at 245,570.

In Italy, which had the global single-day record of deaths at 969, a total of 13,915 have now been killed by COVID-19 — the highest death-toll globally.

About 115,242 persons have also been infected by the disease in the European country.

Spain, the third worst-hit country, has also recorded 112,065 infections so far.

Europe remains the most affected region with at least half a million cases — more than half of the total infections worldwide.

The picture is less gloomy in Africa with 7,028 cases and 284 deaths across 50 countries, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sanwo-Olu, Wife Test Negative

Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his wife, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu have tested negative to COVID 19.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who announced this on his official Twitter account, also revealed that personal aides of the governor and the First Lady who got tested for the Coronavirus are all negative.

According to the tweet: “I am happy to announce that #COVID19Lagos Incident Commander, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu @jidesanwoolu, the first Lady of Lagos @jokesanwoolu and their immediate family members, as well as aides have all tested negative to #COVID19.

The health commissioner, however, urged Lagosians to keep up with the social distancing practice, saying that the state was poised to winning the battle against the coronavirus.

“We thank Lagos residents for their concern and support. We urge all to maintain social distancing. Together we can defeat #COVID19! Please stay safe #ForGreaterLagos,” he said.

Onyeama Says No cause for Alarm over Foreign Countries Evacuating Citizens

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama has said there was no hidden agenda behind some countries evacuating their citizens from Nigeria.

At least, 637 Europeans were evacuated from Nigeria and Benin Republic on Thursday, a move that left many wondering if there was cause for concern.

During the press briefing of the presidential task force on COVID-19 in Abuja yesterday, a journalist had asked Onyeama if leaving the country was an indictment on Nigeria’s health system, to which the minister responded that it was not necessarily so.

Onyeama said those who had left did so to enable them make use of a system that they are familiar with, should the need arise.

He added that the diplomatic staff of most of these countries were still in Nigeria, and that they have no plans of leaving.

“It is basically a case where people are more familiar with the health system in their various countries and so prefer to go to the various countries so in the event that they might have to be confined, they would be in more familiar surroundings and they would also have access to medical practitioners and facilities that they are used to,” Onyeama said.

“So, that is really the reason. And you will find that a large number of those countries evacuating citizens still have their heads of mission and ambassadors and other staff here in Nigeria and there are no plans of leaving.”

FG to Evacuate Nigerians Abroad

The federal government said it was pondering the option of evacuating many Nigerians that are stranded outside the country as a result of the escalation in the global cases of coronavirus infection.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema gave this hint yesterday in Abuja when the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefed the media on the containment of the pandemic.

Onyema said the federal government had raised concerns about the plight of stranded Nigerian citizens. The disease, which has been categorized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), has disrupted the global aviation industry and has forced many countries to shut their borders.

The minister said government had put its foreign missions in the know about the plan and has asked them to verify the number of those affected.

The Chairman of PTF on COVID- 19, Boss Mustapha similarly disclosed that the federal government was working with other stakeholders to structure medical and life insurance cover for the frontline health workers exposed to coronavirus.

Mustapha, who is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said the move was in recognition of the danger to which the workers were exposed.

He urged them to put in their utmost best as the country stands up to the ravaging pandemic, in addition to assuring them of government’s commitment.

The SGF added that the government had, through the Ministry of Agriculture, approved the restocking of the national grains reserve with 100,000 metric tonnes.

On the guidelines on market operation, the SGF clarified that what federal government did was to tighten the process, while adding that markets closed by the governments of Lagos, Ogun and FCT would remain closed.

He said the consideration of four-hour business that was given for markets to operate within a limited time had to do with satellite markets in the neighbourhoods, which he said could function every other day, not on daily basis.

The Director General, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweze has said that there remains no specific treatment for coronavirus.
He said the best treatment for the pathogen was to sustain the respiratory culture of the patients until they recovered on their own.

Ihekweze said that about 4,000 people have so far been tested, and that a new lab was activated in Abuja yesterday to bring the number of labs in the country to eight, which improves the centre’s capacity to run tests. He said a new lab will also be commissioned in Kano on Tuesday.

4,000 UK Citizens Seek Evacuation

Over 4,000 citizens of the United Kingdom have indicated interest in returning to their country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The British high commission in Nigeria broke the news in a tweet yesterday.
This is coming despite Nigeria’s less number of coronavirus cases compared to the figures in the UK.

In UK, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is 38,168, according to Worldometer, a website which provides real-time updates on the disease situation globally.
With only 135 recoveries so far, 3,605 persons have been confirmed dead over there.

The commission said it was working to evacuate its citizens, especially “stranded United Kingdom travellers who aren’t long term residents in Nigeria”.

“We fully understand the anxiety many of you face around #COVID19. Our offer of help is to stranded United Kingdom travellers who aren’t long term residents in Nigeria. Over 4000 people have expressed interests in return flights. We’re working around the clock to support you all,” the tweet read.

COVID-19 Private Sector Relief Fund Increases to N19.4bn

By Obinna Chima

The total contribution to the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) set up by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to raise funds to combat the pandemic is now N19.488 billion as at yesterday, up from the N15.325 billion reported on Wednesday.
This amount, however, excludes the N3.4 billion pledges by four individuals and organisations yet to be redeemed.

The Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, disclosed this in a statement on behalf of CACOVID.

The list of contributors to the fund has increased to 47 individuals and organisations (excluding the four yet to redeem their pledges), higher than the 37 recorded on Wednesday.

The updated list showed that Takagro Chemicals Limited, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Ekeoma Ekeoma, Ahmadu Mahmoud, Jennifer Ramatu Etuh Foundation, ADG International Resources, and Prosharena Limited, were the latest contributors.

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

Okorafor noted that the coalition thanked the donors for hearkening to the clarion call championed by the CBN and the private sector.

He, however, urged more Nigerians and corporate bodies to key into the coalition with a view to supporting the fight against the pandemic, stressing that Nigeria could overcome the scourge with support from all.

CACOVID had on Monday, disclosed that work had started in earnest to provide and equip medical facilities in the six geopolitical zones.

The medical facilities included the creation of testing, isolation and treatment centres, as well as the provision of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and molecular testing labs.

A breakdown of this had shown that 1,000 beds were donated to Lagos; Kano (500 beds); Rivers (210 beds) Abuja (200 beds); Enugu (200 beds); and Borno (200 beds); and expect to be operational within 10 days.

“The next phase will see locations set up in Katsina, Ogun, Bayelsa, Anambra, Bauchi and Plateau to be ready within three weeks. The remaining states of the Federation will be set up in the last phase within the next five weeks,” the group had started.

The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had said CACOVID was targeting N120 billion for the acquisition of healthcare facilities and advocacy about the virus across the country, among others.

Emefiele had explained that four major committees have been set up which include the Steering Committee; the Funding Committee; Operational Committee and the Technical Committee.

“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 had said.

A breakdown of the earlier contributions to the fund showed that the CBN and President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote donated N2 billion each into the fund while Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu (Bua Sugar Refinery); Segun Agbaje (GTBank); Tony Elumelu (United Bank for Africa); Chief Oba Otudeko (First Bank); Chief Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank); Herbert Wigwe (Access Bank); and Femi Otedola of Amperion Power Distribution, donated N1 billion each.

Other donors included Pacific Holding Ltd, Union Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Citi Bank Nigeria Ltd, FCMB, Fidelity Bank, Ecobank Nigeria, African Steel Mills and Multichoice Nigeria Limited.

Other contributors include FSDH Merchant Bank, FBN Merchant Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, Coronation Merchant Bank, Sun Trust Bank, Providus Bank, Wema Bank, Unity Bank, Heritage Bank, Nova Merchant Bank, Polaris Bank, and Keystone Bank.

Also, Globus Bank, Titan Trust Bank, Takagro Chemicals Ltd, Ahmadu Mahmoud, and Handy Capital Ltd made up the list of those that have so far made contributions into the CACOVID relief fund domiciled at the CBN.

Unite to Defeat Coronavirus, NIMN Urges Nigerians

By Ernest Chinwo

The National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN) has urged Nigerians to adhere strictly to the health advisory published and announced by the relevant health authorities such as WHO, Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC, to manage and contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

In a statement signed by NIMN President/Chairman of Council, Tony Agenmonmen, the institute said with unity, Nigeria would defeat the disease.

According to him, it will be stating the obvious that the increasing cases of COVID-19 infection globally, and in Nigeria in particular, is alarming, stressing that this was creating heightened apprehension and fear as the end to the scourge seems not to be in sight.

He however said this was not the time to give in to despondency, surrender to helplessness, and resign ourselves to fate.

“Rather, this is the period to dig deep into our reservoir of courage and resilience, and be resolute in our collective avowal to confront the monster challenge of Coronavirus pandemic. Last time, together we defeated Ebola. This time, united, we can also defeat Coronavirus,” he said.

Agenmonmen said the restrictive measures announced by the federal and various state governments to combat the pandemic would no doubt cause great hardship and inconvenience to Nigerians, but they represent necessary sacrifices they had to make in the wake of the serious challenge posed by CONVID-19.

He said, “We note and commend the various palliatives already announced by the federal government. We urge the government to ensure that these palliatives are not hijacked and that they reach the intended recipients. We further urge the government to do even more in alleviating the impact on the significant population of our people whose daily means of livelihood has been pulsed as a result of the various restrictions.

“We urge the Federal Ministry of Information, through the National Orientation Agency to live to the challenge of educating our people, especially those in the rural areas, about the pandemic and the preventive steps to take.

CISLAC Demands Accountability on Donated Funds

By Ugo Aliogo

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in conjunction with Transparency International in Nigeria have commended the ongoing donations by indigenous groups towards combating the COVID-2019 virus pandemic and its socio-economic impacts, while calling for total accountability of the utilisation and distribution of funds.

A statement made available to THISDAY and signed by the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, lauded the recent constitution of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 response with specific responsibility to coordinate donations for efficient and impactful spending.

They stated that they were surprised that the selection and appointment into the Committee did not take cognisance of representatives from the media and other credible governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working “on anti-corruption, transparency and accountability in governance and public financial management.”

The statement explained that in times of global public emergency, proactive measures to ensure judicious utilisation and distribution of these funds are needed more than ever.

They remarked that the inclusion of media and other accountability entities in the Committee would compel transparency and accountability in the utilisation and dissemination of information on managed funds.

The statement said at this critical juncture, Nigeria could not afford mismanagement and misappropriation of public and donated funds.

The statement further noted that the diversion or misappropriation of the funds would be tantamount to total betrayal, unpatriotic, and selfishness in the management of the nation’s treasury which are punishable under relevant laws.

According to the statement, “While we monitor with keen interest the response of various authorities to the commitment of the federal government towards alleviating the impact of the newly pronounced lockdown in some states, we demand sincere effort to ensure relief materials and other financial and material assistance are deployed accordingly to citizens irrespective of their socio-economic status with holistic and transparent strategy to adequately distribute relief package to citizens at the grassroots level.

“We also observe that ongoing development has further revealed the government’s inadequate preparedness to mitigate impact of the pandemic and other national emergency with existing poor national storage capacity for food and other basic needs to respond adequately.

“Let us recall that, according to United Nation Children Education Fund (UNICEF) only 26.5 per cent of the population use improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities. Furthermore, around 75 million Nigerians do not have access to electricity.

“Given the global trend, we observe that the lockdown cannot be meaningful without adequate proactive measures by the Government on the provision of basic amenities such as sufficient food supplies, access to water and regular power supply to genuinely address the plights and agitations of common citizens, whose daily means of income would be largely affected. Any lockdown must take into consideration these underlying infrastructure deficits.

“We, therefore, call on the Federal Government, relevant authorities and anti-graft institutions to ensure proper accountability in the utilisation and distribution of the donated funds. All distributed funds need to be recorded and pro-actively published so that impartial and objective verification is enabled.”

Mining Company Donates N3 Million, Face Masks to Nasarawa Govt

By Igbawase Ukumba

A mining company, Kenyang Mining Company Nig Ltd, yesterday donated N3 million to the Nasarawa State Government as its contribution to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

The company, which has its operational base in Udege area of Nasarawa Local Government Area also donated 30,000 face masks to the state.

Presenting the cheque to the state governor, Abdullahi Sule, at the Government House in Lafia, representative of the company, Mr. Raymond Zhau, said the donation was part of the company’s efforts at supporting government and people of the state in containing the spread of virus.

He said: “As a friend of Nasarawa State, we want to offer our help to the government to enable them have better control and fight against Coronavirus. From the company, we are offering 30, 000 face masks, as medical support and apart from that, we are donating N3 million to the government account.”

He appreciated the government of Nasarawa State for according the company with a conducive working environment through the years, saying hence they must work together as a family to contain the spread of the virus.

Receiving the donations, Governor Sule thanked the company for the assistance rendered to the state, assuring that the donations would be used to the benefit of the people of the state.

“With all the efforts being put in place by governments at various levels, COVID-19 will be contained in Nigeria,” Sule assured.

Gregory University Joins Race to Find Vaccine, Cure

By Emmanuel Ugwu

As the world awaits the discovery of definitive vaccine and curative medicine for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gregory University Uturu (GUU), Abia State, has mobilised its scientists and medical researchers for a possible breakthrough.

Founder/Chancellor of the university, Professor Greg Ibe made this known in a statement he personally signed to outline the various ways GUU was intervening in the fight against Coronavirus in Abia State and Nigeria in general.

He announced that a marching order had already been given to the relevant Colleges and departments in the university to commence the joint research and come out with possible vaccine and medicine for COVID-19.

According to him, the joint research team comprises Colleges of Pharmacy, Basic Health Sciences, Medicine and Surgery, Natural and Applied Sciences as well as Departments of Biochemistry and Alternative Medicine.

He also said that Gregory University, which had been making waves in the top rungs of private universities in Nigeria, has embarked on mass production of potent hand sanitisers through its Entrepreneurship Department for subsequent distribution to Abians.

The GUU Chancellor said that they would distributed to those involved in providing essential services, including health workers, security personnel, members of National Union of Road Transport Workers(NURTW), among others.

Kwara Residents Battle for Survival over Stay-at-Home Order

By Hammed Shittu

Battling to cope with the stay-at-home order of the Kwara State Government, residents of Ilorin, state capital yesterday trooped out enmasse in search of means of survival.

However, as at the time of filling this report, the state is yet to record the COVID-19 incident in the state.

The development according to THISDAY checks might not be unconnected with the sufferings being experiencing seven days after the state had been partially locked down.

A visit of our correspondent to some of the economic areas of Ilorin yesterday revealed that, shops, opened at the popular, Taiwo, Unity roads, Ipata Market, Muritala Road and several others during monitoring yesterday morning even as residents came in large number to buy.

Likewise in Ahmadu Bello area of GRA Tanks, Fate, University of Ilorin Road, among other areas.

Situation was the same in Offa, Lafiagi, Patigi and Baruten areas of the state where residents came out having exhausted their foodstuff stocked at home and no palliative was supplied.

Speaking with our correspondent yesterday, Mallam Kayode Zubair said that he needed to open his phone shop at Challenge area of Ilorin because the foods he brought home had been exhausted.

He said, “If we are running away from being killed by Coronavirus, must we allow hunger to kill us at home? And no support was coming from anywhere, so we need to come out.

“Let me tell you, anyone depending on food supplies from the state government is wasting his time because they know themselves, we won’t be considered.

That’s why you see people trooping out to source for foods”

Meanwhile more donations entered the coffer of the state government yesterday as Alhaji Kamaldeen Yusuf, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer of the multi-billion Kamwire Holdings, based in Ilorin, donated N20m in support of the palliative being put in place by the government

Chairman, Palliative Committee and Emir of Shonga ,Dr. Haliru had on Thursday said that the distribution would start this weekend through wards across the 16 local governments in the state.

At press time no record of Covid-19 victim had been reported in the state.

C’River to Distribute Food Items to 44, 000 Vulnerable Homes

By Bassey Inyang

The Cross River Government has announced that it would distribute food items to about 44,000 homes across the state to cushion the economic difficulties that the people were faced with due to the total lockdown of the territory to possibly prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making the announcement in Calabar yesterday, state chairman of the Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Betta Edu, said the 44,000 households that would be supplied with food items were the most vulnerable in the state.

The state Chairman of COVID-19 Taskforce, Dr. Betta Edu, said this at an interactive session with newsmen in Calabar.

Edu said already, food items among them rice, garri, plantain, yams and others had been procured for distribution as directed by the state Governor, Professor Ben Ayade.

“In line with Governor Ben Ayade’s directives, we have procured food ready for distribution to vulnerable people in the society consisting of 44,000 households.

“The state government has the interest of the people at heart. The gesture is to ameliorate the vulnerable in the critical stay-at-home period.

“As a state government, we have also produced 5,000 sanitisers ready for distribution. We are expecting another 5,000, although we have the challenge of bottles,” Edu said.

Edu who is the State Commissioner for Health, stated that the list of those to benefit from the food items were members of vulnerable households as contained in the register obtained from the state World Bank Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) programme.

Edu disclosed that the state government had procured 5,000 bottles of sanitisers that would also be distributed for use by the people across the state.

Concerning the status of the state with regards to the number of infected persons, she stated that the state was currently infection-free.

“As we speak, Cross River has been declared COVID-19 free. We want to state that our borders and all entry routes into the state will remain shut until the pandemic is contained in the country,” Edu said.

She also said that the facemasks produced by the garment factory in Calabar will be distributed free to residents of the state, and that it is mandatory for everyone to use the mask while in public, and private places at all times.

Uzodinma Unveils Imo Isolation Centres

Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, has unveiled the Imo Initiative Programme ramping up the fight against contagious diseases in the state.

He said yesterday, during the inauguration of COVID-19 Isolation Centres that “As we focus firmly on COVID-19 because of its awesome potency, we must never lose sight of the fact that other threats to our collective safety and peaceful existence abound. Crime, other contagious diseases and disasters inclusive.”

Governor Uzodinma expressed happiness that even with the ever rising confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, Imo State had been spared from any confirmed case.

This, he said was to the glory of God and the relentless efforts of the government and co-operation of the people. He noted “Yet as a people, we must remain vigilant, creative and disciplined in our response to this monstrous virus to ensure that it never gets to our state and if it does, that we must not be caught napping.”

On some of the recent measures put in place by government to prevent COVID-19 from entering the state and in the unfortunate event that it does, Governor Uzodinma assured of his readiness to fight it to a standstill.

He stated that six well equipped Isolation Centres were now in place in the state at Okigwe General Hospital, Aboh Mbaise General Hospital, Orlu General Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Owerri, General Hospital Umuguma and the Ultra-Modern Well-being Centre, Owerri, Orlu Road, all inaugurated simultaneously.

The governor further stated that an operational ready Test and Treatment Centre for Corona virus was also in place in Owerri metropolis with a molecular laboratory to test all viruses, COVID-19, Ebola and others.

He equally noted that well trained and equipped medical experts from National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) were on ground to test for the virus, if there was anyone with symptoms and to treat any confirmed case.

In addition to the existing State Taskforce on Covid-19, Governor Uzodimma stated that taskforces had been set up at the local government areas and ward levels with 28 state-of-the-art ambulances provided to fortify the state in readiness for any emergency.

Governor Uzodimma who reiterated that he would address with all seriousness, the health, security and environmental challenges of the people, called for support towards the Imo Initiative policy.

Throwing further light on the initiative, Governor Uzodimma said: “Imo Initiative is a comprehensive package that seeks to clinically confront and conquer the health and safety challenges of Imo people. It is a programme designed to keep our people safe and healthy beyond Covid-19.”

Tension in Kwara over Death of UK Returnee at UITH

By Hammed Shittu

Palpable tension yesterday pervaded Ilorin, Kwara State capital as the Coronavirus pandemic disease ravaging the world may have claimed the life of a United Kingdom returnee from the state at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Ilorin(UITH).

The deceased, a Chartered Accountant, Alhaji Jimoh Muideen was said to have just returned from UK where he attended the graduation ceremony of one of his children.

It was gathered that the deceased was said to have been on self-isolation for over 13 days now after he returned from UK and thereby suspecting to be nursing COVID-19 infection.

Sources close to the hospital told our correspondent yesterday that the sickness of the deceased was said to have become critical on Wednesday and was subsequently rushed to the emergency ward of the teaching hospital.

Sources added that after several efforts by the medical team to revive him, the deceased gave up the ghost on Thursday night at the hospital.

It was further learnt that, the deceased who hails from Offa in Offa Local Government Area of the state had been buried according to the Islamic rites.

However, in a statement issued in Ilorin yesterday by the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital(UITH) signed by the union chairman, Dr. Muhammed Adeboye, “a patient on self-isolation for 13 days following his return from the UK (hence, suspected case of COVID-19) was admitted yesterday (Thursday) and died at the Medical Emergency ward today, Thursday 2nd April, 2020.

“Close contacts of the patient (doctors and nurses that attended to him and his family members) have started self-isolation while we await possible confirmation of COVID-19.

“In the spirit of proactiveness by the management of the hospital, the Medical Emergency has been shut down and the process of fumigation has been initiated.

“We strongly advise you all to ensure you are well protected with the full PPE kit while attending to any patient because all patients are potential carriers of this highly contagious virus and it is our earnest hope that our staff will always be protected from this deadly virus.”

Meanwhile, the state’s technical committee on Covid-19 yesterday denied that the state had recorded a case of coronavirus (COVID-19), adding however that all the six samples of suspected cases so far tested in the state had been negative.

In a statement issued in Ilorin signed by Media spokesman of the committee .Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye said that, “The committee states that there is no fact at this moment to support suggestions that a male patient who died on Thursday night at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital was a COVID-19 patient.

“Findings by the medical advisory subcommittee revealed that the patient and his wife arrived from the United Kingdom, reportedly came to Ilorin on 20th March, 2020, and went into self-quarantine without reaching out to the government or the technical committee.

“On the 13th day of the self-quarantine, the husband suddenly had difficulties breathing after reportedly eating dinner and was rushed to the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital. Efforts to resuscitate him proved abortive and he was pronounced dead.

“The deceased, a Muslim, was promptly taken to Offa, his hometown, where he was interned on Thursday.

Owing to the travel history of the deceased, all the medics who attended to him at the UITH have gone into self-quarantine.

Similarly, family members who have had contact with the deceased and his wife have been directed to do same. For caution, samples have been taken from his wife and four others and results are expected in the coming days.

“The committee hereby repeats that there is no record that the UITH patient ever tested positive for the virus.”

The government, meanwhile, has flagged off the distribution of the first phase of palliatives from the Kwara Central Senatorial District with Asa local government area of the state as the first point of call.

Emir of Shonga and chairman of the subcommittee on palliatives Dr. Haliru Yahaya Ndanusa told reporters in Ilorin that commodities for the first phase comprise 19,400 bags of 10kg rice; 19,400 of 5kg of semovita; 1,940 packs of spaghetti; 9700 packs of salt; 4,850 packs of sugar; and 38,800 (1 litre) of vegetable oil.

He also said that garri (cassava flakes) and tomato purée donated to the government were to be distributed.

“We have the first batch of palliatives already delivered. More are being delivered while we expect more to be delivered to the subcommittee in the coming days. We are beginning the distribution from the Central and we urge people to be patient as we will be as fair as possible to everybody,” the emir said.

“The credibility of what we do depends on how calm our people are and maintain social distancing. We have made arrangements for security. We have asked the trusted locals and community based organisations to try to prevent the rush and maintain social distancing.”

Covid-19: Elizade JAC Donates T6 Pickup 4WD to Lagos State

By Bennett Oghifo

Elizade Autoland/JAC Motors has donated a new JAC T6 Pickup 4WD to Lagos State in support of the fight against Corona Virus (Covid-19).

The pandemic has led to the shutdown of virtually all activities both from government and private sectors, thereby crippling major sectors of the economy.

According to a statement by the company, the Managing Director/CEO, Elizade JAC Autoland, Demola Ade-ojo said the initiative was part of their social responsibility to support the efforts of the government at this trying time.

He acknowledged the efforts of organisations that have supported in various capacities, saying “It is rather unfortunate that we are in a trying period in Nigeria due to the global pandemic; to defeat this, all hands must be on deck.

Therefore, I am beckoning on business leaders and entrepreneurs in the private sector to give maximum support to the government against the spread of the Covid-19.

“I acknowledge efforts of organizations who have supported in different capacities and want to say “This shall pass”. I also commend the Lagos State government for being proactive in its response to curb the spread of the disease to a large number of the citizens of Lagos State.”

JAC Motors is the only Chinese brand with full range of vehicles across all segments in Nigeria. Some of the models include the J4 sedan, S2, S3, S5, S7 (SUVs) as well as T6 pickup, Sunray bus X5 pickup, L40 Truck and the N-Series-3tons, 4tons, 5tons, 7tons and 10 tons which can be adopted to various applications.

COVID-19: FRSC Orders Transport Operators to Use Manifest

In its bid to mitigate the spread of corona virus amongst passengers, the Federal Road Safety Corps has ordered all categories of transporters to ensure full compliance with the provisions of Regulation 108 (1) of the National Road Traffic Regulation 2012 on compulsory passenger manifest.

A statement by the Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem said they arrested 144 transporters for overloading of vehicles, and has directed all public transport operators to imbibe necessary precautionary measures in their parks and terminals as failure to adhere strictly to this order will attract the necessary sanctions.

The statement said that the Corps Marshal, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, who gave the order stated that the Corps observed that despite the palpable spread of the virus, public transport operators continued to board passengers to full capacity without consideration to social distancing, passenger manifest and seat spacing of passengers. This unhealthy behaviour if not put to check on time, has the potentials to fuel the spread of the virus.

He emphatically noted that all passengers travelling; not only during the epidemic regime but at all times, have the statutory obligation to write down their full information in the passenger manifest before commencement of the trip. He noted that putting down details of passengers on a manifest is a mandatory and acceptable practice all over the world, that the document contains basic information including contacts of next of kin of all the passengers travelling in the vehicle for ease of identification and contact in the case of any eventuality.

The emphasis on the need for compulsory adherence to the NRTR 2012 provision is to make sure that details of all passengers conveyed in each vehicle are adequately collected so as to arrest further spread of the virus per chance any of the passengers is tested positive even after the trip. He warned passengers to comply by filling the passenger manifest before their journey commences as any transporter who violates this order will be made to face the wrath of the law when apprehended.

On overloading, the Corps Public Education Officer stated that the figures of the arrests was drawn from 16 states with the highest number of arrests recorded in the Federal Capital Territory where a total of 52 overloaded vehicles were impounded while Lagos State followed suite with a total of 17 arrests.

He gave the list of states where more than five arrests were made as Plateau 14, Delta 13, Benue nine, Adamawa six, and Katsina with a total of six arrests. While Nasarawa and Ogun State recorded five arrests each, Niger and Kwara recorded four each, Osun three, Rivers and Akwa Ibom had two each with Zamfara and Enugu recording the lowest arrest of one per state.

You would recall that in the earlier caution on overloading of vehicles issued by the Corps, the spokesperson noted that the essence is to maintain social distance amongst passengers in vehicles as a panacea to mitigating the spread of the deadly virus.

To this end, Kazeem said that the Corps Marshal, has ordered all pubic transporters to ensure full compliance with the following key precautionary measures amidst the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. The directives read as follows:

All public transport operators to sanitise their parks/terminals regularly (at least before and after each trip) with emphasis on objects and areas that people frequently come in contact with such as rails, grab handles and seats;

Provide hand washing points with running water, hand wash equipment, detergent and alcohol based sanitiser;

Maintain reasonable social distancing on seating arrangements for waiting passengers in their parks and terminals;

Provide temperature readers and test all passengers before boarding and alcohol based sanitisers in their vehicles for the use of all occupants including drivers and conductors.

Other directives are as follows; all public transport operators are to clean surfaces and things people mostly come in contact with such as-vehicle door handles, key fob, steering wheel, dashboard, door buttons, seatbelts, gear shifters, touch screen, etc before and after each trip; passengers must sanitise themselves before boarding and all drivers and conductors to wear hand gloves and nose masks while on transit.

Oyeyemi also directed that no passenger should be allowed to stand in all mass transit buses as well as no use of air conditioning system in all public transport vehicles.

All public transport operators must strictly observe adequate spacing of passengers as crowding or overloading of vehicles will not be tolerated.

While encouraging all passengers to maintain a clean and healthy habit by washing their hands with soap before and after each trip, the Corps Marshal called on road users to report any public transport operator that fails to comply with any of these guidelines to the Federal Road Safety Corps Command nearest to them, or call the following numbers: 0800CALLFRSC or Toll free number 122 or National Traffic Radio live lines 09067000015, 08052998090.

Clearly stating the name of the Operator, location of park/terminal, vehicle registration number (as applicable), date and time.

Accordingly, he reassured motorists that the Federal Road Safety Corps believes that Nigeria will definitely overcome this trying period soonest, especially when we come together as a single force to adhere to the basic health and safety rules as postulated by relevant health authorities.

 

FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

COVID-19: Ondo’s Index Case is Military Officer, Akeredolu Reveals

By James Sowole

Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has said the COVID-19 index case in the state is a military officer who has just returned from India.

“He has been in isolation since he returned and has been monitored by the medical team of the Military and our state team throughout this period.

“Upon showing some symptoms, his samples were taken and the diagnosis confirmed by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control at their lab in Ede. We have now commenced the transfer of the officer to the state isolation center,” the governor said.

Akeredolu had earlier on his Twitter handle announced the status of the state on CONVID -19 table.

The governor said: “We have just received confirmation of our first positive COVID-19 case this evening. The infected person is currently under isolation and would be monitored

“We have activated all necessary protocol to locate all contacts and we’ve been working closely with NCDC @ NCDC gov.”

The governor’s tweet was followed by a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo.

The statement read: “It is with great concern that the Ondo State Government announces the first index case. A suspected case tested positive to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We thank God for His protection thus far. Ours has been a case of anxiety while we enjoyed a COVID-19 free state status. This development has, however, repudiated that enviable status even as we urge all to be vigilant and keep ourselves within the princints of measures put in place.”

Ondo Records First Case of COVID-19

By Martins Ifijeh

Ondo State has recorded its first case of COVID-19, bringing to 191 the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria.

The Governor of the state, Rotimi Akeredolu, announced this on Friday via his verified Twitter handle, @RotimiAkeredolu.

He revealed that the state government received the report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) shortly before he made the announcement.

He said: “The infected case has since been placed under isolation and would be monitored.

“Residents of the state should stay calm. The government has put necessary measures in place to identify all the contacts of the patient.”

According to the governor, the government was working closely with the NCDC adding that the infected person is in a stable condition.

 

Israel Health Minister Contracts COVID-19, as Netanyahu Re-enters Quarantine

Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, a leading member of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, has tested positive for COVID-19, forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to re-enter precautionary quarantine, officials said Thursday.

According to the prime minister’s office, Netanyahu’s previous quarantine, imposed earlier this week after one of his staffers tested positive for the novel coronavirus, had ended Wednesday night.

The premier’s new seven-day self-isolation was imposed following his contacts with the 71-year-old Litzman..

Litzman of the Gur Hassidic sect — whose wife also tested positive — is the most prominent member of the hard-hit ultra-Orthodox community to test positive for the virus that has infected more than 6,200 Israelis.

“Litzman and his wife feel well, are receiving treatment and will be quarantined and supervised,” a health ministry statement said.

The ministry added that its Director General, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, along with other senior officials, will also enter quarantine following contacts with Litzman.

Israeli media also reported that the head of the Mossad spy agency, Yossi Cohen, may also be compelled to self-isolate after having had contact with Litzman, but that information could not be immediately confirmed.

FG Explores Local Manufacture of Face Masks, Ventilators

* NCDC adds 3 new laboratories

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The federal government has started discussions with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) to explore the potential for local production of medical consumables such as face masks, gloves, sanitizers, and even equipment like ventilators used in the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who made this known on Friday at a media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on Coronavirus, said that clinical trials and other processes are ongoing at the treatment centres in Lagos to try and validate therapeutics for COVID-19 treatment.

He also disclosed that a special cargo aircraft shall be leaving Nigeria in a few days time for China to collect gifts of medical supplies from the country donated by a group of Chinese companies operating in Nigeria.

Also, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has revealed that three new laboratories for testing coronavirus infection came on stream on Thursday thereby scaling up the number of tests to 3,000.

Speaking during the briefing, Ehanire said that due to the looming global shortages of protective equipment for Covid-19, the federal government had begun consultations with local private sector concerns to explore the possibility of production of face masks, gloves, sanitizers and even ventilators.

According to the minister, “Directors at the Federal Ministry of Health had discussions with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to explore potentials for local production of medical consumables such as face masks, gloves, sanitizers, and even equipment like ventilators.

“This is in view of the looming global shortages of medical supplies for response, due to high demand by all countries. Clinical trials and other processes are also ongoing to validate therapeutics for COVID-19 treatment.”

Ehanire said the ministry had been notified of gifts of medical supplies from China, courtesy of the group of Chinese companies working in Nigeria, adding that a special cargo aircraft will leave Nigeria in a few days to collect the items.

He listed the items donated by the Chinese companies to include commodities, personal protective equipment and ventilators.

“Of great interest is an 18-man team of Chinese medical experts, including doctors, nurses and public health advisers, who shall come along with the flight,” he said.

The minister, who stated that the global number of COVID-19 cases has crossed the one million mark just three months after the outbreak was first reported in Wuhan, China, urged Nigerians not to take the situation lightly.

He gave an update of the state of the outbreak in Nigeria, saying: “We have recorded 190 positive cases as at afternoon on Friday.

“We have recorded 10 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, so that cumulatively, as of the 3rd of April, we have190 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, across 12 states and the FCT, two fatalities and 20 cases discharged from treatment. There are 98 in Lagos State, 48 in FCT, Osun 20, Oyo 8, Akwa Ibom 5, Edo, Kaduna and Ogun four each, Bauchi three, Enugu and Ekiti two each, while Rivers and Benue have one each.”

The ministry further said that there may be indications of sustained community transmission of the virus in the sense that 30% of the cases have incomplete epidemiological information, while 51% were imported cases and 19% were contacts of known cases.

He said that health officials were using the small window of opportunity remaining of the lockdown to intensify investigations to identify cases and their sources.

He said that the ministry expected to see an increase in cases as a measure of improvement in case finding.

“If social distancing and other measures are adhered to, the incidence of positives cases can be controlled. We have tested nearly 3,000 samples so far in Nigeria, we are working hard to scale up our capacity in a targeted approach.

“Coronavirus Treatment Centre Accreditation Committee was inaugurated yesterday by the Minister of State for Health and has begun developing an accreditation checklist, as well as a protocol for management of isolation centres,” he said.

Ehanire added that the ministry was compiling a list of trained health workers to man the new centres as they become operational.

The minister denied knowledge of the alleged escape of Covid-19 positive patient from the isolation facility in Bauchi State.

Also speaking during the press conference in Abuja, the NCDC D-G said that the protective kits received from the Chinese philanthropist, Jack Ma, was being validated by a team of experts before being deployed for use.

While providing further updates, Ihekweazu said that about 6,700 contacts have been identified, out of which 71 per cent had been traced.

He also said that 4,000 tests for coronavirus have been carried out.

According to Ihekweazu, the centre had activated three new reference laboratories, two in Lagos and additional one in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

With the three new laboratories, he said the country now has eight reference laboratories for the testing of Covid-19 cases, while another laboratory located in Kano will be activated latest by Monday to further boost the testing capacity in the country.

He explained that NCDC was considering opening up sample collection centres in places like Lagos and Abuja by next week in order to speed up the process of testing the samples.

He also said that NCDC is focusing more attention on the upsurge in coronavirus infection in Osun State to see how the spread can be halted.

On whether the centre will recommend the enforcement of use of face mask by all Nigerians, Ihekweazu said the issue was being studied, adding that the decision will be taken by the government at the appropriate time.

COVID-19: Pally Group Donates Four Trucks of Eggs to Lagos Govt

By Ugo Aliogo

As part of efforts to support the economy of Lagos State during the 14 days lockdown, Pally Group has donated four trucks of eggs to the state government, a statement made available to THISDAY has said.

“Pally Group is a group of companies with a diverse portfolio of products and services including Pally Agro Products Limited, Pally Foods, Crest Pharmaceuticals and Swift Drycleaners,” the statement said.

The statement explained that the beneficiaries of the eggs were COVID-19 patients and Lagos Healthcare workers.

The Chairman of Pally Group, Mr. Nwapali Onyeagu, in the statement said: “Our organisation’s intent for a voluntary contribution to donate 250 crates of eggs per week to Lagos Healthcare workers and COVID-19 patient was to support the state government’s efforts against the spread of COVID-l9 in the state.

“This gesture is a voluntary effort and a Corporate Social Responsibility, (CSR) initiative of our Organisation, Pally Agro Product Limited. A total of 1000 crates for four weeks will be donated in four batches of 250 crates weekly at your preferred/directed centre for four weeks during the stay at home directive of the State government.

“As a corporate citizen, we want to use this as a support to our fellow citizens and Healthcare workers in Lagos state working to curtail the spread of the virus in this trying time. Thank you for the privilege and honour to serve our fellow men. Kindly accept the highest assurances of our regards.”

Speaking on behalf of the state government, the Permanent Secretary of the state Primary Health Care Board, Dr. Olugbemiga Aina, stated that the gesture was highly appreciated.

Aina said: “The Lagos Primary Health Care Board acknowledges the receipt of your correspondence as part of your CSR, we look forward to establishing a long-standing relationship with your organisation.”

Lagos Discharges Four New Patients

By Martins Ifijeh

The Lagos State Government has discharged four more COVID-19 patients after their viral loads returned negative

This brings to 23 the number of discharged patients from the Infectious Disease Centre Yaba since the outbreak February 27. In total, 24 persons have now been discharged in Nigeria.

Announcing this at an ongoing press briefing Friday, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Dr. Akin Abayomi , said most of the remaining patients had mild illness, some with moderate symptoms, while only few have severe symptoms.

“Only one or two are in severe situations. They otherwise have difficulty in breathing. But so far it’s not

Nigeria Records Six New Cases of COVID-19

By Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded six new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 190.

Announcing this Friday, the Nigeria centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the cases were recorded in Osun State.

It said: “As at 11:00am on April 3, there are 190 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. Twenty have been discharged with two deaths.”

A breakdown of the figures show that Lagos had 98, Federal Capital Territory 38, Osun 20, Oyo eight, Akwa Ibom five, Ogun, Edo, Kaduna have four cases each, Bauchi three, Enugu and Ekiti two each, while Rivers and Benue have one each

Eritrea Announces 21 Day Lockdown to Fight COVID-19

Eritrea has ordered its citizens to remain in their homes for the next 21 days as part of measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Officials in Eritrea have reported 18 cases of COVID-19 so far, including one person who contracted the disease in Eritrea without any history of foreign travel, a statement by a national COVID-19 taskforce said.

Since announcing its first case on March 21, the government has already banned commercial flights, closed schools and halted public transport.

But these steps have been “vexingly inadequate”, the taskforce said, urging “much more stringent measurea.

 

COVID-19 is Worst Global Crisis since World War II, Says UN Sec.Gen.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the world faces the most challenging crisis since World War II, as COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep across continents.

Stating this during the launch of a report on the Socioeconomic Impacts of COVID-19 yesterday, he said the looming devastation from the pandemic could bring recession that may have no parallel in the recent past.

He said: “There is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict.

“I am calling for a much stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the social and economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing.”

 

Africa’s COVID-19 Cases Climb to 6,737, Spread to 50 Countries

 

There are now at least 6, 737 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 50 African countries, with a number of the nations imposing a range of prevention and containment measures against the spread of the global pandemic.

According to the latest data by the Africa Center for Disease Control on COVID-19 in Africa, the number of deaths due to COVID-19 on the continent stands at 251 while 536 persons have so far recovered from the disease.

African CDC data shows that in North Africa, Algeria has recorded 847 cases, Egypt 779, Libya 10, Morocco 638, and Tunisia 394.

In West Africa, Burkina Faso has recorded the highest with 282 cases, Ghana 195, Cote D’ Voire 190, Senegal 190, Nigeria 184, Mali 31, Guinea 30, Togo 36, among others.

In Central Africa, Cameroon has recorded 233, DR Congo 123, Congo Brazzaville 22, Gabon 18, Equatorial Guinea 15, Chad seven and Central Africa Republic six.
For the Southern African region, South Africa has recorded 1, 380 cases, Madagascar 57, Zambia 36, Mozambique 10, among others.

 

COVID-19: Lagos Discharges 11 More Patients as Cases Rise to 184

  • FG distributes Jack Ma’s 110,751 masks, shields, overall gowns to states
  • Successfully traces 4,260 contacts
  • Opens accounts for COVID-19 engagements
  • Emefiele tests negative
  • Global cases surpass one million mark
  • WHO asks countries on lockdown to provide for the poor

Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Martins Ifijeh in Lagos

Lagos State Government has discharged 11 more COVID-19 patients, the largest single batch since the index case was admitted on February 27, after their viral loads returned negative.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu broke the news yesterday on his Twitter handle, @jidesanwoolu, just as the federal government announced the distribution of 110,751 face masks, face shields and overall gowns donated by the Chinese billionaire, Mr. Jack Ma, to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The federal government has also opened an account for the management of COVID-19 cases in the country.
It, however, urged Nigerians to expect possible astronomical rise in the number of positive cases of the COVID-19 in the coming days as it had successfully located 71 per cent of the 6,000 contacts it was tracing.

By yesterday, the country recorded 10 new cases of the virus, jacking up the total to 184.

However, the 10 new cases, announced by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), did not include six new cases recorded in Osun State, and independently announced by the state government, which brought the number of patients in the state to 20.

Akwa Ibom State Government also yesterday denied any positive case of the virus in the state as reported by the NCDC, saying all the five reported positive cases had been contacted and they showed no symptoms.

With the discharge of 11 patients yesterday, Lagos State Government has so far successfully treated 19 people at its Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba since the outbreak of the pandemic.

In total, 20 persons have now been discharged in Nigeria.

Giving details on the discharge of the 11 patients, Sanwo-Olu said they had fully recovered and had returned home to their families.
He said: “I am happy to break to you, my good people of Lagos, the news of the release today of 11 more patients from our facility in Yaba.
“They have fully recovered and have tested negative for COVID-19 and have been allowed to return home to their families.”

He identified the patients to include two females and nine males, adding that their results came out negative in two rounds of test.
“I want to use this opportunity to, once again, thank our frontline health workers and other professionals for their service.

“Let me reiterate that this is not the time to relax, but to maintain our vigilance because of the community infection that we are beginning to see,” he stated.

He said at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state would hoist a flag of victory.

FG Distributes Jack Ma’s 110,751 Masks, Shields, Gowns to States

Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Senator Femi Ojudu, yesterday announced the distribution on the COVID-19 protective gear on his Facebook wall, Ojudu Babafemi.

His post was accompanied by a table that gave a state-by-state breakdown of the distribution of the materials donated by the Chinese billionaire.
The table showed that the government distributed 99,642 face masks, 9,999 face shields and 1,110 overall gowns.

The Jack Ma Foundation in China had last week donated a 107-box load of medical supplies to Nigeria.
The breakdown of the distribution of the personal protective equipment shows that Lagos State got the highest share with 27,678 face masks, 2,596 face shields and 165 overall gowns.

This was followed by the FCT with 14,115 face masks, 1,906 face shield and 161 overall gowns.
So far, Lagos and the FCT have the highest numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country with Lagos currently on 98 cases, while the FCT has 38.
Ogun State received 4,375 face masks, 671 face shields and 58 overall gowns, while Bauchi, Edo, Ekiti Osun, Oyo and Rivers states received 1,912 face masks, 291 face shields and 26 overall gowns each.

Other states received 1,500 face masks, 110 face shields and 20 overall gowns each.
The personal protective equipment is to help in halting community spread of the pandemic in the country.

FG Successfully Traced 4,260 Contacts as Cases Rise to 184

The federal government also stated that it had successfully located 71 per cent of the 6,000 contacts of the positive cases it was tracing, representing about 4,260 contacts, adding that the number of cases might rise in the coming days.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, at a press conference by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, said the projection on the possible rise in COVID-19 cases was based on the improvement in tracing of contacts and testing capacity of the laboratories.

“As contact tracing and testing is being ramped up, more and more contacts will be traced and number of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 is expected to rise. Initially, with the tracing of over 71 per cent of the close to 6,000 contacts and improved turn-around time for testing, more positive cases are expected,” he said.

The minister, however, added that there were potent worry about persons, especially those returning through the land borders, who ran the high risk if they were with an infected person for a long time like transit in a crowded bus or car.
According to him, it’s important that people restrain themselves to travels that are very essential either by air or by land, national or international.

“In this regard, all Nigerians are advised to stay where they are except if they are returning from a previously arranged journey or business trip,” he said.

Ehanire said as part of efforts to bring more stakeholders on board, he met with the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) on Tuesday where they expressed their readiness to contribute their quota in the containment of COVID-19.

He said government had asked the NMA to plead with their members who wish to serve as volunteers to assist in tackling the disease.

NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said there had been an unprecedented increase in the number of tests carried in the various laboratories.
He explained that NCDC was able to record the feat of increased number of tests following the activation of two new laboratories in Ibadan and Abakaliki.
According to Ihekweazu, the centre has so far been able to trace 71 per cent of the contacts of the positive cases.

Ihekweazu said the aid kits donated by Jack Ma had been dispatched to all the states of the federation.

NCDC Uncovers 10 New Cases as Tally Rises to 184

NCDC also said yesterday that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country had risen to 184 after it discovered 10 new cases.
Of the 10 new confirmed cases, seven were from Lagos while three were from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Of the 184 cases, 162 are currently being managed, 20 have been discharged while two have died.
Breakdown of the figures showed that Lagos currently has 98 cases; FCT, 38; 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.

FG Opens Accounts for COVID-19

Meanwhile, the federal government has opened an account for the management of COVID-19 cases in the country.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, at the daily media briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, said he was informed via a letter by the Accountant General of the Federation that the account was opened on Wednesday.

Mustapha, who is also Chairman of PTF on COVID-19, stated that although no funds had been credited into the account, the federal government would exercise control over the management of the multi-sectoral engagements on the account and would be able to render account on it.

“I have just received a letter from the Accountant General of the Federation informing us of the account that has just been opened yesterday. Ultimately, no funds have got into any account. Hopefully in coming days we will receive funding for the work of the PTF in terms of the different activities, on multi-sectoral engagements. That is the one federal government will have control over and at the end of the day will account for it,” he added.
He explained that the account is different from three other accounts opened for COVID-19 engagements in Nigeria by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the United Nations Family.

He said the CBN account was being handled by the Governor of the CBN and Alhaji Aliko Dangote, for which they have outlined a steering and technical committee to buy equipment on combating the pandemic.

He said at the end, they would write their report to the donors for the purpose of accountability, while adding that the government and PTF do not have control over the account.

Emefiele Tests Negative for COVID-19

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has tested negative for the COVID-19.
THISDAY gathered that the test result came out yesterday.
This brought about joy among staff of the apex bank and associates of the governor.

Provide Food for the Poor, WHO Tells Countries on Lockdown

World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned Nigeria and other countries implementing lockdown orders to ensure their poor populations have food and other essential items, saying failure to do so might have unintended consequence on the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO also said pending when the researchers find vaccines and cure for the treatment of COVID-19, countries should only choose medicines of public safety and efficacy.

WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said yesterday that social distancing and lockdown would help slow down the spread of COVID-19 when the citizens, especially the vulnerable ones, have food and other life essentials, adding that if these two were unavailable, the purpose of lockdown may not be achieved.

He said: “Countries are asking people to stay at home and they are shutting down population movement to limit the COVID-19 transmission. These steps can have unintended consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable. I call on countries to ensure these populations have food and life essentials during the crisis. We must minimise the potential impact of this crisis on the food supply chain, and the unintended impact on global trade and food security.
“Governments’ response to COVID-19 should include the one for vulnerable people and those living with disability. Those living with disability must not be discriminated against in medical decision-making. Their rights must also be protected.”

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally has surpassed one million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
More than 51,000 people have died from the disease and at least 208,000 persons have recovered from it.
The number of cases has hit 1,004,533 with 51,563 dead and 210,519 recovered.

The United States surpassed China, where the first known infection was documented on December 19, 2019, as the country with the most confirmed cases of the virus on March 26.
There are more than 234,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., with over 47,000 in New York City alone. At least 5,600 persons have died in the country from COVID-19.

As the virus continues to spread across the U.S., China has reported few new infections locally in recent weeks after imposing extreme social distancing measures for two months.

The country said last week that it planned to ease its restrictions in Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic, on April 8.
Some European countries, including Italy, Spain, France and Germany, have become some of the areas hardest hit by the virus. Italy has reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the world at more than 13,900.

In the Middle East, Iran has by far the most confirmed cases of any country in the region with more than 50,000. Israel has reported at least 6,800 cases.

There are an estimated 7.8 billion people on Earth, which means at least .01 per cent of the world’s population is now known to have the virus. Public health experts have warned, however, that the number could be higher, citing testing shortages in some areas and people who may be asymptomatic and unaware they are infected.

 

IATA: Nigerian Airlines Lose 3.5m Passengers, $760m Revenue to COVID-19

  • NCAA suspends issuance of certificates to airlines, pilots

Chinedu Eze

International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said Nigerian airlines have airlifted 3.5 million fewer passengers resulting in a $760 million revenue loss since the onset of the disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic.

The fallout of the setback would endanger 91,380 jobs and $650 million contribution to the Nigerian economy, the associations stated in a statement obtained yesterday by THISDAY.

The pandemic has also prompted the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to suspend the issuance and processing of Air Operating Certificate (AOC) and other related certificates to aviation personnel.

IATA, therefore, reiterated its call for urgent action from governments in Africa and the Middle East to provide financial relief to airlines as the latest IATA analysis indicated that the two regions’ airlines have potentially lost $23 billion.

IATA said African airlines lost about $4 billion, while Middle East airlines lost $19 billion, which translates into a drop of industry revenues by 32 per cent for Africa and 39 per cent for the Middle East for 2020 as compared to 2019.

Its breakdown showed that Ethiopia airlifted 1.6 million fewer passengers resulting in a $0.3 billion revenue loss, risking 327,062 jobs and $1.2 billion in contribution to Ethiopia’s economy, while Kenya airlifted 2.5 million fewer passengers resulting in a $0.54 billion revenue loss, risking 137,965 jobs and $1.1 billion in contribution to Kenya’s economy.

IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Mr. Muhammad Al Bakri, said to minimise the broad damage that these losses would have across the African and Middle East economies, it was vital that governments step up efforts to aid the industry.

“Many governments in the region have committed to provide relief from the effect of COVID-19. And some have already taken direct action to support aviation, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. But more help is needed. IATA is calling for a mixture of direct financial support, loans, loan guarantees and support for the corporate bond market tax relief,” the association stated.

IATA said it was also starting to see governments in the region providing some financial and tax reliefs, including deferral of aircraft lease payments by the government of Cabo Verde, an extension of VAT refund payment dates in Saudi Arabia and positive considerations for financial relief from governments across the region including Jordan, Rwanda, Angola and the UAE.

“The air transport industry is an economic engine, supporting up to 8.6 million jobs across Africa and the Middle East and $186 billion in GDP. Every job created in the aviation industry supports another 24 jobs in the wider economy.

“Governments must recognise the vital importance of the air transport industry and that support is urgently needed. Airlines are fighting for survival in every corner of the world. Travel restrictions and evaporating demand mean that, aside from cargo, there is almost no passenger business. Failure by governments to act now will make this crisis longer and more painful. Airlines have demonstrated their value in economic and social development in Africa and the Middle East and governments need to prioritise them in rescue packages. Healthy airlines will be essential to jump-start the Middle East and global economies post-crisis,” IATA said.

NCAA Suspends Issuance of Certificates to Airlines, Pilots

Meanwhile, NCAA has suspended the issuance and processing of AOC and other related certificates as a result of the increasing spread of COVID-19.
AOC is the approval given to airlines for them to carry on flight operations and NCAA also issues certificates to pilots, engineers, cabin crew and others for them to carry on their professional activities.

In a letter dated April 1 and signed by NCAA Director-General, Captain Musa Nuhu, told industry stakeholders that aircraft or facility inspections and operational audits paid for by airlines remained suspended until June 30.

It added that no applications or ongoing applications shall be processed during this period for AOC, Approved Maintenance Organisations (AMO), Aircraft Type Certificate Acceptance, Aircraft Registration and Related Matters, Modifications and Repairs, Airworthiness Certificates, Maintenance Clearance Certificates (MCC) amongst others.

The letter said all existing operators intending to renew their approval certificates and Aircraft Maintenance Clearance Certificates must submit applications and proof of payment electronically, adding that NCAA would conduct desktop evaluations of document and request additional evidence or documents where necessary.

The letter stated that no applications for extensions of maintenance intervals shall be considered during the period, except for essential and emergency flights approved by the Minister of Aviation.

According to the letter, inspections, checks and audits paid for by clients are suspended until further notice.

For the validity of personnel licences, NCAA stated that no new aviation personnel licences would be processed or issued during the lockdown.

“All personnel whose licences are due to expire after April 1 can exercise the privileges of their licences for an extended period of up to June 30. This applies to pilots, air traffic controllers, cabin crew, aircraft maintenance engineer, flight dispatchers, aeronautical station operators, air traffic safety electronics personnel and designated examiners. Medical certificates will be extended for a period of up to June 30,” the letter stated.

Meanwhile, the House Committee Chairman on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji, has appealed to airlines and private organisations within the aviation sector not to abandon their staff in this period of uncertainties occasioned by the pandemic.

Nnaji, who represents Nkanu East/West Federal Constituency of Enugu State, said he was disturbed by the memo issued to its staff by Max Air to the effect that it would not pay its workers’ salaries during the two-week lockdown directive by the federal government.

“The memo, which has now gone viral, further stressed that the state of no-pay would extend if the situation persists and my major worry is that other organisations in the sector may do the same if care is not taken,” he said.

 

COVID-19: Banks Raise N5.65bn to Kick-start Private Sector Contributions

Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has announced that the CBN, on behalf of the Bankers’ Committee, and in partnership with the private sector have come together to form the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19.

Under the plan, it was agreed that banks would contribute monies at four levels.

UBA, First Bank, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank would each donate N500 million whilst banks such as Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, FCMB, Sterling Bank, Union Bank and Stanbic Bank were expected to donate N250 million each.

Those in the category of banks to donate N100million each include Citibank Nigeria, Standard Chartered Bank, Unity Bank, Wema Bank, Heritage Bank, keystone Bank, Polaris, Providus, SunTrust, Jaiz, Coronation, Nova, FBNQuest, FSDH Merchant Bank and Rand Merchant Bank.
In the category of N50million are the newly licensed banks such as Globus Bank, TAJBANK and Titan Trust Bank.

By this arrangement, members of the banks would have donated an approximate N5.65bilion war chest, towards efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
This whopping amount excludes contributions from the CBN and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).

Commenting on the development, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Lancelot Ventures Limited and Director, BOC Gases Nigeria Plc, Mr. Adebayo Adeleke, said, “It is a good measure. All should do whatever is necessary to combat the pandemic. Our collective survival is under threat.” An analyst, who craved for anonymity, commended the initiative by the CBN and the banks. According to him, this a major corporate social responsibility that every responsible company operating in the country should be involved in at this time when there is an obvious threat to the collective existence of every citizen, adding that all hands must be on desk to arrest the situation.

Whilst many have applauded the move, others differ in opinion.
National Coordinator of United Shareholders Front (USF), Mr. Gbenga Idowu, and Nornah Awoh, an activist shareholder said the private sector operators should have been allowed to do something on their own like Guaranty Trust Bank Plc which donated a 110-bed capacity hospital to the Lagos State Government to tackle the challenge.

However, providing clarifications, Emefiele said, “the coalition was created out of the urgent need to combat the unfolding COVID-19 crisis in the country in view of the rate at which the virus was spreading. Although the Federal Government has made giant strides in the fight, it is clear that the private sector needs to step in and support efforts already made”.

According to him, the objectives of the coalition are to: mobilse private sector thought leadership and resources, increase general public awareness, education and buy-in, provide direct support to private and public healthcare providers’ ability to respond to the crisis and support government effort. Consequently, the coalition has set up four major committees comprising of a steering committee to provide leadership and steer the coalition and committees in procuring all needed funding, equipment and materials for the battle against the pandemic.

The 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 are expected to be announced later.

 

THURSDAY 2ND APRIL 2020

COVID-19 Cases Surpass One Million Worldwide

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally has surpassed one million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 51,000 people have died from the disease and at least 208,000 persons have recovered from it.

The United States surpassed China, where the first known infection was documented on December 19, 2019, as the country with the most confirmed cases of the virus on March 26. There are more than 234,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., with over 47,000 in New York City alone. At least 5,600 persons have died in the country from COVID-19.

As the virus continues to spread across the U.S., China has reported few new infections locally in recent weeks after imposing extreme social distancing measures for two months. The country said last week that it plans to ease its restrictions in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, on April 8.

Several European countries, including Italy, Spain, France and Germany, have become some of the areas hardest hit by the virus. Italy has reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the world at more than 13,900.

The Middle East, Iran has by far the most confirmed cases of any country in the region with more than 50,000. Israel has reported at least 6,800 cases.

There are an estimated 7.8 billion people on Earth, which means at least .01 per cent of the world’s population is now known to have the virus. Public health experts have warned, however, that the number could be higher, citing testing shortages in some areas and people who may be asymptomatic and unaware they are infected.

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Climb to 184

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Nigeria has recorded 10 new cases of COVID-19 bribging the total number of confirmed case to 184..

Announcing Thursday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said of the 10 new confirmed cases, seven were from Lagos while three were from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

Of the 184 cases, 162 are currently being managed, 20 have been discharged while two have died.

Breakdown of the figures show that Lagos currently has 98 cases, FCT 38, 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: Goodluck Jonathan Foundation Donates to Abuja IDP Camps

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The Goodluck Jonathan Foundation has distributed food and WASH (Water, Hygiene and Sanitation) materials worth millions of naira to different internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Abuja to help them cope with the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic.

The Executive Director of the Foundation, Mrs. Ann Iyonu, who distributed the materials to various IDP camps in the FCT on Wednesday said as an organisation with a vision of promoting inclusive government in Africa, it became necessary to assist vulnerable groups in the FCT to help them cope with challenges of COVID-19.

According to her: “the consequences of COVID- 19 include human insecurity; threats to peace and livelihood. As advocates of peace, inclusive government, sustainable development and social justice we are stakeholders in nation building.

“Our visit to these camps is a token of our commitment to the values we preach. We are here to show solidarity to these vulnerable groups. There is no better time to demonstrate what we advocate than now when the world is in a crisis.”

Items distributed include: bags of rice, cartons of groundnut oil, sanitary towels, hand sanitizers, bathing soap and other relief items.

The Goodluck Jonathan Foundation is a non – governmental organisation founded in 2015 by Nigeria’s former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to promote peace, inclusive government and justice in Africa.

You will recall that last week , Chairman of the Foundation, Dr. Jonathan, called on Nigerians to show solidarity and take actions in order to win the war against COVID-19.

Breaking: Lagos Discharges 11 COVID-19 Patients

Martins Ifijeh

The Lagos State Government has discharged 11 more COVID-19 patients after their viral loads returned negative.

This brings to 19 the number of discharged patients from the Infectious Disease Centre Yaba since the outbreak February 27. In total, 20 persons have now been discharged in Nigeria.

Announcing the news on his Twitter page Thursday, @jidesanwoolu, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the 11 persons have fully recovered and have returned home to their families.

He said: “I am happy to break to you, my good people of Lagos, the news of the release today of 11 more patients from our facility in Yaba.

“They have fully recovered and have tested negative to COVID-19 and have been allowed to return home to their families.”

He said the patients include two females and nine males, adding that their results came out negative in two rounds of tests.

“I want to use this opportunity to, once again, thank our frontline health workers and other professionals for their service.

“Let me reiterate that this is not the time to relax, but to maintain our vigilance because of the community infection that we are beginning to see.”

He said at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state will hoist a flag of victory.

 

Emefiele Tests Negative for COVID-19

By Obinna Chima

The Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has tested negative for the COVID-19.

THISDAY learnt that the test results of the central bank governor was returned on Thursday.

The development, it was also gathered brought about joy among some central bank officials.

Ekiti Confirms Third Case of Coronavirus

By Victor Ogunje

The Ekiti State Government has confirmed the third case of coronavirus at one of its isolation centres.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, said a 23-year-old male suspect has been placed on symptomatic treatment and investigation.

Dr Yaya-Kolade also said the second person, who fell victim of the disease in the state, as announced by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), is a 42-year-old male of Ekiti origin.

The commissioner, at a press conference with newsmen in Ado-Ekiti, noted that the male patient travels often by the nature of his job and had been to the airport in Lagos in the last 14-days, which could trigger his infection.

Yaya-Kolade said he had been admitted into the isolation centre, while the environment team will be going to disinfect his premises as soon as possible.

She said: “We have another suspected COVID-19 case which is currently quarantined pending the availability of his test result.

“Ekiti State has one discharged case, one positive case and one suspected case as at today, April 2, 2020.”

The commissioner enjoined all Ekiti residents to comply with Governor Kayode Fayemi’s stay-at-home directive and “observe preventive measures of frequent hand washing with soap and running water, avoid bodily contact with anyone, cough or sneeze into your curved elbow, disinfect surface regularly and maintain social distancing”.

While answering questions from newsmen, the commissioner said Ekiti State has only one ventilator, adding that the state government is sourcing for more.

CONVID-19: UCH CMD Tests Negative Seven Days After

By Kemi Olaitan

The Chief Medical Director (CMD), University College Hospital (UCH), Prof. Abiodun Otegbayo, who last week tested positive for Coronavirus, has tested negative.

The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the hospital, Mr. Toye Akinrinlola, made the disclosure in a release issued Thursday.

The release read, “I have the pleasure to announce that the repeat test of the UCH CMD, Prof. Jesse Abiodun Otegbayo, has returned negative. He had earlier tested positive to the COVID- 19 Virus last Friday.

“Prof. Otegbayo had on Sunday personally said in a statement that he tested positive for COVID- 19 and admonished all those who had contact with him to go on self quarantine.

However, his samples were taken again on Tuesday, 31st March, 2020. Today, at about 3.00pm, the result came out Negative.”

Lockdown: Provide Essential Commodities for the Masses, ASUU Tells FG, States

By Kemi Olaitan

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has called on the federal and state governments to back the lockdown across the country with provision of everyday existential needs of the masses.

The President of the union, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, in a statement titled ‘COVID-19: Together We Shall Win’, in Ibadan, warned that unless everyday needs of the people are made available “the emerging lockdown of the country may not achieve its desired result of promoting self-isolation and social distancing”.

He said there must be reasonable supply of electricity, water and unbroken chain of food items, adding that the union’s intervention in distributing sanitisers and other sensitisation materials to check the spread of COVID-19 has taken place at the University of Ibadan and University of Jos and such endeavour will continue in all the chapters nationwide

Ogunyemi warned that unless the needs of people are made available, the federal and state governments may face rebellion from the people which will be counter productive, urging the governments to see how education and health will become top priorities after this pandemic, as working together, the country will overcome.

According to him, “Access to electricity and running water and an unbroken chain of food supply and availability of other essential items should be key components of the policy called ‘lockdown’. Unless the people’s survival needs are factored into the equation, governments at the national and sub-national levels may be courting an uncontrollable regime of rebellion which may be counterproductive to the cause of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

“It can be argued that no issue has ever brought humanity so close for many decades as recently done by the coronavirus or COVID-19. The lesson in all of this is, more than ever before, the world has come to realize that issues of health and safety know no territorial boundaries and political leaders everywhere had better worked with everyone to make our world safe for all. ASUU subscribes to this winning formula and path to collective health.

“In this our shared globe, no one is safe epidemiologically, socially or physically until everyone is safe. We can conquer the fear emerging from the manifestation of this global pandemic in our little corners.

“We can contribute to the global movement for prevention and control of its spread by applying the health guides and information from the World Health Organisation and other professional institutions and agencies in our personal and family lives as well as by sharing them to help others around us stay safe and healthy.”

As You Lockdown, Provide Food for the Poor, WHO Tells Nigeria, Others

*Says countries must choose only medicines with public safety

By Martins Ifijeh

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned Nigeria and other countries implementing lockdown orders to ensure their poor populations have food and other essential items, saying failure to do so might have unintended consequence on the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

He also said pending when the researchers find vaccines and cure for the treatment of COVID-19, countries should only choose medicines of public safety and efficacy.

Stating this Thursday, the Director General, WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said social distancing and lockdown will help slow down the spread of COVID-19 when the citizens, especially the vulnerable ones have food and other life essentials, saying if these two were unavailable, the purpose of lockdown may not be achieved.

He said: “Countries are asking people to stay at home and they are shutting down population movement to limit the COVID-19 transmission. These steps can have unintended consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable. I call on countries to ensure these populations have food and life essentials during the crisis. We must minimize the potential impact of this crisis on the food supply chain, and the unintended impact on global trade and food security.

“Governments’ response to COVID-19 should include the one for vulnerable people and those living with disability. Those living with disability must not be discriminated against in medical decision-making. Their rights must also be protected,”

He said the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Mordi has commenced the approach in the country of over 1.38 billion persons, adding that he has announced a support package of $24 billion for the most vulnerable in the country who will be affected by the lockdown and stay-at-home order the government imposed on the country as a means to halt the spread of the disease.

Ghebreyesus said: “India’s palliative measures included free food rations for 800 million disadvantaged people, cash transfer to 204 million poor women, free cooking gas for 80 million households, among others.”

The DG said for countries unable to implement the palliative and other social welfare packages, the international community should offer them debt relief. “There should be a broad and expedited agreement on debt relief as this will be essential to enable them care for their people and avoid economic collapse.

He also warned that in the face of lack of vaccines and cures for COVID-19 which has now affected over 800, 000 persons, countries must only recommend medicines of public safety and efficacy that would benefit the people.

“The essential medicines needed most are the ones that satisfy the priority healthcare needs of the population, and the ones selected with due regards to disease prevalence and public health relevance, evidence of efficacy and safety and comparative cost effectiveness. Another essential medicine needed is the one intended to be available within the context of functioning health systems at all times in adequate amounts in the appropriate dosage forms with assured quality and adequate information and at a price individuals and communities can afford,” he added.

Although Nigeria has not recommended any drug for the treatment of COVID-19, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has ordered May and Baker Pharmaceutical company to commence clinical trial on the drug.

COVID-19: Kano Receives N353m Donations

By Ibrahim Shuaibu

The Kano State fund raising committee on COVID-19 has received donations to the tune of N353,909,118:00 from members of the public.

The Chairman of the 40-man committee, Prof. Muhammad Yahuza Bello, at a press briefing on the activities of the committee on Thursday, said: “As of yesterday (Wednesday), the total amount collected and deposited at Kano State COVID-19 Support account domiciled at UBA stood at N353,909,118:00 only. It is worth noting that apart from major donations listed above, various amounts (varying from N10 to thousands of naira) are being deposited into the account.”

Apart from the cash donations, other donations in kind were given by the Lee Group, which donated fumigation materials; Marshall Biscuits, 21,000 cartons of biscuits; and Kaura Macaroni donated 1,000 cartons of macaroni.

Also, the Poultry Association of Nigeria, Kano State branch donated 60,051 pieces of eggs and Alhaji Abba Sumaila donated 5,000 sacks of spaghetti.

Other donations in kind included Aliko Dangote, who donated 600-bed isolation centre facility at Sani Abacha Stadium, while Alhaji Abdulsamad Isyaka Rabiu donated a three-storey building at Court Road to serve as COVID-19 Isolation Centre.

The chairman of the committee warned that the committee is apolitical and and will do its best to reach out to the most vulnerable in the society.

He also described the fight against COVID-19 as collective, while calling on the public to comply with experts’ advice on the fight against the pandemic.

“I must also add, at this juncture that this committee is not a political one and has nothing to do with politics. You can all attest to this from its composition. It is purely an entity borne out of compassion, kindheartedness, sympathy and humanitarian gesture.

“It is aimed at assisting and supporting the weak, the poor, the needy and anybody that could conveniently be termed as vulnerable at this trying moment of our history.

“The fight against COVID-19 is not for governments alone; it is a collective fight, a flight everyone of us need to give helping hand for the good of all of us,” he said.

FG Distributes 99,642 Face Masks, 9,999 Face Shields, 1,110 Overall Gowns to States

By Martins Ifijeh

As part of efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria, the federal government has distributed 99, 642 face masks, 9, 999 face shields and 110 overall gowns to 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The Jack Ma Foundation in China had last week donated the 107 box load of medical supplies to Nigeria.

The Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Senator Femi Ojudu, Thursday announced the distribution on his Facebook account, Ojudu Babafemi.

The breakdown of the distribution of the personal protective equipment shows that Lagos State got the highest share with 27, 678 face masks, 2, 596 face shields and 165 overall gowns. This was followed by the FCT with 14, 115 face masks, 1, 906 face shield and 161 overall gowns.

So far, Lagos and the FCT have the highest numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country with Lagos currently having 91 cases, while the FCT has 35 confirmed cases of the COVID-19.

Ogun State received 4, 375 face masks, 671 face shields and 58 overall gowns, while Bauchi, Edo, Ekiti Osun, Oyo and Rivers States each received 1, 912 face masks, 291 face shields and 26 overall gowns.

Other states each received 1, 500 face masks, 110 face shields and 20 overall gowns.

It is believed the personal protective equipment would help in halting community spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.

US Coronavirus Death Toll Surges, Now over 5000

The number of people who have lost their lives to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has surged again and now stands at more than 5,000.

There were 884 coronavirus-related deaths in the US in 24 hours—a new record—according to Johns Hopkins University, which has become the leading authority on tracking the global pandemic.

Around the world, cases of the coronavirus are closing in on a million with over 938,000 people having received a positive diagnosis.

There have now been over 47,000 deaths related to the pandemic, but over 194,000 people have recovered (Daily Beast)

COVID-19: Private Sector Relief Fund Nets N15.325bn as Cases Hit 174

•FG issues guidelines, protocols on lockdown
•Lists measures taken to combat pandemic
•Moves to accredit more treatment centres
•Osinbajo wants more public enlightenment
•Presidency knocks Soyinka for faulting restrictions
•American evacuated after testing positive in Lagos

Our Correspondents

The total contribution to the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) set up by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to raise funds to combat the pandemic stood at N15.325 billion as at yesterday, a statement by the apex bank has said.

This is just as data released yesterday by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed an upswing in the number of confirmed cases, which rose to 174 as 35 more people tested positive to the pandemic, the highest so far since the disease broke in Nigeria on February 27.

Meanwhile, the federal government has also rolled out more measures to deal with COVID-19 and cushion the effects of the pandemic on the populace even as it issued the implementation guidelines for the lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as well as Lagos and Ogun States.

Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval, the federal government will also release 70,000 metric tonnes of grains from the national reserves for distribution to the poor and the vulnerable to cushion the effect of the lockdown on the people.

The list of contributors to the COVID-19 fund, according to a statement issued on behalf of the coalition by the Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, showed that CACOVID, which was inaugurated last Thursday, has so far attracted contributions into the relief fund from 37 individuals and private organisations.

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

A breakdown of the contributions showed that the CBN and President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote donated N2 billion each into the fund while Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu (Bua Sugar Refinery); Mr. Segun Agbaje (GTBank); Mr. Tony Elumelu (United Bank for Africa); Chief Oba Otudeko (First Bank); Chief Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank); Mr. Herbert Wigwe (Access Bank); and Mr. Femi Otedola of Amperion Power Distribution, donated N1 billion each.

Other donors included Pacific Holding Ltd, Union Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Citi Bank Nigeria Ltd, FCMB, Fidelity Bank, Ecobank Nigeria, African Steel Mills and Multichoice Nigeria Limited.

The statement listed other contributors to include FSDH Merchant Bank, FBN Merchant Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, Coronation Merchant Bank, Sun Trust Bank, Providus Bank, Wema Bank, Unity Bank, Heritage Bank, Nova Merchant Bank, Polaris Bank, and Keystone Bank.
Also, Globus Bank, Titan Trust Bank, Takagro Chemicals Ltd, Ahmadu Mahmoud, and Handy Capital Ltd made up the list of those that have so far made contributions into the CACOVID relief fund domiciled at the CBN.

Okorafor noted that the coalition thanked the donors for hearkening to the clarion call championed by the CBN and the private sector.
He, however, urged more Nigerians and corporate bodies to key into the coalition with a view to supporting the fight against the pandemic, stressing that Nigeria could overcome the scourge with support from all.

FG Issues Guidelines, Protocols on Lockdown

The guidance for the lockdown, which was presented by the National Coordinator on COVID-19 Control, Mr. Sani Aliyu, at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 press briefing yesterday in Abuja, was broken into two sections.
It contains measures on how COVID-19 can be controlled in the FCT and two other states where the federal government has imposed restrictions on movement for 14- days.

It stated that for the period of the lockdown, all borders linking Lagos and Ogun and FCT to the rest of the country must be shut, except for the transportation of persons on essential duties, food, fuel, manufactured goods or donated relief items.
It prohibited the mass gathering of people, except for funeral services as guided by infection prevention and control regulations, for which social distancing rules apply and crowds are limited to not more than 20 persons.

It also listed the essential services and businesses that are exempted from the lockdown.
They include medical, retail, food and drink, logistics and transportation, hotel accommodation, financial institutions, places of worship, agriculture, aviation, manufacturing and communication.
Others are legal and security services and diplomatic mission, international development partners and honorary consulates.
The guidance stipulates that the staff members of supermarkets and food stores are to be screened for high temperature.
Those found to have a body temperature above 38oC should be denied entry and advised to immediately seek medical attention.
According to the protocols, the opening hours for stores in Lagos, Ogun, and FCT is now between 10 am and 4 pm daily for customers while for markets only, shops and stalls selling food and groceries shall be allowed to open to customers between 10 am to 2 pm every 48 hours or less frequently.

Some of the government agencies exempted from the lockdown include the Presidency, Department of State Services, CBN, Ministry of Agriculture, National Grain Reserves, Ministry of Aviation, Nigeria Customs Service, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, among others.

FG Approves Release of 70,000mt of Grains

The federal government is soon to start the distribution of grains from the national reserves to the needy following Buhari’s approval for the release of 70,000 metric tonnes of grains from the reserves.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the first tranche of 6,000 metric tonnes would go to Lagos, Ogun, and FCT while the remaining will go the other frontline states in the fight against the contagion.

“Mr. President has graciously approved the release of 70,000 metric tonnes of grains from the National Reserves for distribution to the poor, the vulnerable and those whose livelihood could be affected by this lock-up. The first tranche of about 6,000 MT will go to Lagos, Ogun, and FCT. The remaining will go to the other frontline states in the fight against COVID-19,” Mustapha, who is also the Chairman of PTF on COVID-19, said.

He added that in the continuing effort to ensure that very minimal destruction is inflicted on upstream oil and gas production, the president has also approved limited operations for operating companies, services, and logistics firms in the upstream services to ensure a regular supply of gas and export for domestic need.

The SGF explained that the president has approved exemption of essential staff of the seaport and other activities in the seaports of Port Harcourt.

FG Lists Measures to Combat Pandemic

Nigeria yesterday recorded 35 new cases of the pandemic, bringing the total number of its confirmed cases to 174.
The NCDC, in a breakdown of the new cases said Lagos and Osun states recorded nine incidences each; FCT, seven; Akwa Ibom, five; Edo, two; while Ekiti, Kaduna, and Bauchi recorded one case each.

Of the 174 cases, 163 are currently being managed; nine have been discharged while two have died.
A state-by-state analysis of the figure showed 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.

However, the presidency has listed about 50 measures taken by the Buhari administration to combat the pandemic.
Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the precautionary measures were carried out by federal government agencies and experts “under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.”

Among the measures, which Adesina listed in a statement yesterday, was the setting up of the presidential task force and the lockdown of Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja.

He also highlighted the release of funds to Lagos State, the epicentre of COVID-19 in Nigeria, and the support provided to the NCDC to boost its operations.

Adesina restated the president’s earlier message that in combating COVID-19, “there is no such thing as an overreaction or under-reaction, (rather) it is all about the right reaction by the right agencies and trained experts.”
Among the measures, which Adesina also attributed to Buhari, is the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to suspend its activities and that of the Chief Justice Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, to shut down courts in order to curb the spread of the virus.

FG Moves to Accredit More Treatment Centres

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, also spoke on efforts by the federal government to test more people suspected of contracting the virus.

According to him, a special committee is to undertake the inspection and accreditation of more isolation and treatment centres across the states to take care of infected patients.

He said a team comprising experts from NCDC, and the Federal Teaching Hospital, Irrua, headed by the Commissioner for Health of Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, will be visiting all the prepared isolation facilities in the states to accredit them after ensuring that they meet required hospital standards.

He also said the Office of the National Security Adviser will be joining the accreditation team since the pandemic is now being treated as a national security issue.

“All facilities, including private facilities where isolation and treatment of coronavirus infected persons are to be conducted, will be visited for accreditation by a team, comprising experts from NCDC, Federal Teaching Hospital Irrua and headed by the Hon. Commissioner for Health of Lagos State.”
Ehanire added that a team from Federal Specialist Hospital Irrua has arrived in Abuja to inspect facilities at the Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital.

As part of preparedness in the Abuja metropolis, the minister said the federal government had secured facilities that could contain 1,000-bed spaces for isolation and treatment of mild to moderate cases, with capacity for further expansion, if necessary.
Speaking on the allegation that the NCDC was concealing the identities of those that tested positive for the virus, especially the VIPs among them, Ehanire said it was part of the ethics of the medical practice to respect the patient’s privacy and seek consent before divulging anything about his health status.

Ehanire said 12 of the new cases came from the results of the tests conducted on passengers of a bus that brought some Nigerian travelers from Ivory Coast and Togo en route to Osun State.

He said a breakdown of the cases showed that 70 per cent are male and 30 per cent female.
“The age range is mostly between 30 and 60 years. I must stress that both men and women of all ages can be infected,” he added.

American Evacuated after Testing Positive in Lagos

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health has said an American who tested positive for COVID-19 had been evacuated to the United States.
He made this known while giving an update on his Twitter handle yesterday.

Osinbajo Wants More Public Enlightenment

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called for more public enlightenment and sensitisation on the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vice president urged governments at all levels to intensify efforts so that more Nigerians would become aware of the compelling and critical dimensions of the situation.

Osinbajo’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, in a statement issued yesterday, said the vice president presided over the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC)’s Special Committee on COVID-19 anchored from the Presidential Villa, Abuja via video-conferencing.
The meeting was the second for the committee tasked with coordinating the federal and state governments’ responses to the impact of the pandemic.
Osinbajo harped on the importance of the assignment and the urgency required.
“The federal government is already packaging further resources for a comprehensive economic response to alleviate the challenges of the pandemic, support the states and provide succour to Nigerians in a timely and effective manner.
“The newly created Economic Sustainability Committee constituted by the president will also be meeting this week to start its work and respond to the situation appropriately.

“The Special Committee of the National Economic Council on COVID-19 is working hard to develop additional measures to alleviate the challenges being faced by Nigerians because of the implications of the global pandemic in the country,’’ he said.

Peterside Faults Intervention Policies, Seeks More Proactive Measures

Meanwhile, the Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Chief Atedo Peterside, has faulted the government’s intervention policy and called for more proactive measures to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Peterside who spoke yesterday as a guest speaker on the Arise TV Morning Show, the broadcast arm of THISDAY, faulted the intervention policies of the federal government to combat the spread of the virus.

He said the country had no proper mechanism to track those flying in and out of Lagos and Abuja, and that the federal government had made the current threat of the virus to appear as if it was a challenge to only the people residing in Lagos and Abuja.

“In the first place, the sum total of our preparation is like a bucket waiting for a tidal wave. Those who understand Coronavirus know that the ability to curtail the virus in terms of spread is likely determined by the testing capacity. Another mistake from the federal government is that up till now, I have not heard of the strategy to bring back those that bolted away for fear of being confined in a place,” Peterside stated.

He applauded Buhari’s nationwide broadcast on Sunday, saying: “Because in reality when you have a strategy to confine those with the virus in a place, you should also have to be phenomenally clever and intelligent to know how to arrest those that will bolt for fear of being confined in a place.

“Buhari’s plan for those affected in Abuja, Lagos, Ogun states could be acceptable, but in his speech, I noticed there were no proper safety nets for those not affected in these states and for people in other states.

“You are talking about a lockdown and I considered the 200 million Nigerians and discovered that Buhari’s plan could only be perfect for about 160 million, without considering the other 40 million people that are unemployed. Again, with the intervention policy of the federal government, it is not certain if the planned distribution of relief materials will actually get to those it was intended to reach.”

 

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.

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