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Home Breaking Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates (II)

Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates (II)

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 Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates (I)

MONDAY 11TH, 2020

CBN Assesses Funding Requests for Nigerian-made COVID-19 Vaccines

•248 new cases bring tally to 4,399 with 778 discharged, 143 dead
•FG increases testing laboratories to 23
•CACOVID pledges more support for PPE producers
•Lagos, FCT, Borno, Kano discharge 82 more patients
•Rivers demolishes two hotels for flouting restriction order
•NJC approves online sitting of courts nationwide

Obinna Chima, Goddy Egene, Martins Ifijeh, Peter Uzoho in Lagos, Chuks Okocha, Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja, Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday said it was reviewing funding requests by local researchers to support the development of vaccines and drugs for COVID-19.

THISDAY had last week reported that paucity of funding had hampered efforts of the nation’s major research institutions to develop vaccines and curative drugs for the disease.

But the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in a telephone chat with THISDAY yesterday said the bank was perusing applications for funding by world class Nigerian private and public research organisations interested in the development of vaccines and drugs to fight the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the federal government, through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is scaling up testing capacities through the activation of three new COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country, bringing the total number to 23.

It also reported last night that Nigeria had recorded 248 new cases, bringing the total to 4, 399 in the country.

The centre said Lagos recorded 81 new cases, Jigawa 35, Borno and Kano 26 each, Bauchi 20, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 13, Edo 12, Sokoto 10, Zamfara seven, Kwara and Kebbi four each, Gombe, Taraba, Ekiti and Ogun two each, while Osun and Bayelsa recorded one each.
The number of those tested rose to 23, 835.

The Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) has also promised to increase its patronage of locally manufactured Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the battle against the spread of the virus.

However, the population of people being treated for the virus reduced at the weekend with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos, Borno and Kano States discharging 82 more patients.

Emefiele, in the interview, said the apex bank had received proposals from both public and private research organisations, and was considering them preparatory to approval and disbursement of funds to research to speed up the discovery of vaccines for the virus.

He added that out of the N100 billion healthcare intervention fund that the central bank unveiled in March, the first beneficiary, Fidson Healthcare Plc, one of the leading pharmaceutical manufacturing companies had received approval for N2.5 billion.

Emefiele said: “We are assessing the various proposals that have been sent to us by researchers for the development and trial of vaccines and in due course we would make some announcements about those that met our requirement and those we would support for vaccine.

“Also, from the N100 billion health sector facility, we have approved for Fidson Healthcare N2.5 billion to expand its plant into the production of ethical drugs and intravenous. So, we are also reviewing other requests for funding for the N100 billion facility and in due course we would make the announcement.”

The CBN had in March released guidelines for accessing its N100 billion credit support facility for its healthcare sector. The fund was announced as part of a raft of measures to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

NCDC Increases Testing Laboratories to 23 Nationwide

In the meantime, the NCDC has activated three new testing laboratories in the country, bringing the total number to 23 nationwide, to boost the nation’s testing capacity.

NCDC, which announced this yesterday through its verified Twitter handle @NCDCgov, said the newly activated laboratories were located at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) in Edo State, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, both in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

It said: “This brings the number of laboratories in Nigeria with the capacity to test for COVID-19 to 23.”

Private Sector Coalition Pledges Increased Support for Local Manufacturers

Also at the weekend, CACOVID promised to increase its patronage of locally manufactured Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the battle against the spread of COVID-19.

Responding to an enquiry from THISDAY during a telephone interview, one of the leaders of CACOVID and Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, stated that the coalition had been patronising manufacturers of locally made protective equipment since its formation.

He said: “We buy PPE locally. CACOVID will continue to support local manufacturers, whether it is for face masks or PPE, etc. The only things that we import are medical equipment that cannot be manufactured here, but are absolutely necessary for the treatment of COVID-19. Even the medication like Erythromycin, it is produced locally in Enugu.

“We have a technical committee and that committee is made up of people who are very strong in research and one of them is at Redeemers University.”

CACOVID said it had also donated fully equipped isolation centres and medical equipment to Ondo and Kwara States.

The donation was in response to pleas by governors of the two states and to strengthen the partnership with governments at all levels to help contain the pandemic.

The group, made up of leading private sector operators, had earlier donated similar items to Rivers and Enugu States, apart from the distribution of palliatives to the people, which the coalition commenced in Lagos last week.

CACOVID, while handing over a 100-bed space isolation centre and medical items in Ilorin, Kwara State said its efforts were meant to complement the federal government’s action against the spread of the virus and to end the pandemic in Nigeria.

Speaking at the handover to the Kwara State government, the spokesperson of CACOVID, Mrs. Grace Olagunju, said the gesture was to support the government to successfully fight the virus.

The representative of the state government, Chairman Medical Advisory Committee of COVID-19 Technical Committee in the state, Dr. Femi Oladiji, commended CACOVID for the gesture, stressing that it would help the state government in its efforts to successfully fight the pandemic.

In Akure, the Ondo State capital, the coalition donated medical equipment and beddings to Ondo State Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH), where 10 patients are currently undergoing treatment and three suspected persons are being isolated.

The Head of Ondo State COVID-19 Task Force, Dr. Busari Ismail, said though the three suspected cases had tested negative, they would still need to run another test before they could be discharged if they tested negative again.

Lagos, FCT, Borno, Kano Discharge 82 More Patients

Lagos, Borno and Kano States, as well as the Federal Capital Administration (FCTA), have discharged 82 more patients.

FCTA discharged 39 patients undergoing treatment at one of its isolation centres in Abuja.
It was the largest number of patients to be discharged at any particular occasion in the FCT since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The FCTA COVID-19 Situation Room said yesterday that the patients were discharged late on Saturday to bring the total number of those discharged to 85.

The Lagos State Government discharged 21 more patients from its isolation centres, bringing to 469 the total number of successfully treated persons in the state.
The Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said four of those discharged were females and 17 males, adding that they are all Nigerians.

He said: “Three were discharged from the Onikan Isolation Centre, one from the Eti Osa (Landmark) Isolation Centre, one from First Cardiology Hospital (an accredited private isolation facility), six from Lekki Isolation Centre and 10 from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba.

“They were discharged today having fully recovered and tested negative for COVID-19 in two consecutive test readings. With this, the total number of cases successfully managed and discharged from our isolation facilities has risen to 469.”

The Borno State Government also yesterday said 12 patients were discharged in the state.
This brings to 14 numbers of patients discharged since the pandemic was first reported in the state as two parents were earlier discharged a few days ago.

The Chairman of the state Committee on COVID-19 and Deputy Governor, Alhaji Umar Kadafur, in a statement, said of the 12, six were discharged by the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) Isolation Centre, while the remaining six were from state isolation centre at Bulabulin Ngaranam.

The Kano State government on its part discharged 10 patients undergoing treatment in its isolation centres.

With the new patients discharged, the total number of patients successfully managed and discharged in the state stands at 32.

The state’s Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, said in a statement made available to THISDAY in Kano, that the patients had fully recovered and tested negative for COVID-19 in two consecutive readings.

PDP Blames Spike in Cases on Poor Leadership by APC

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has decried the increasing cases of the pandemic, blaming it on what it described as the poor leadership by the federal government, controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC).

According to a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the increase in infection and mortality rates in Nigeria would have been curtailed if the federal government had articulated a quick national response to the pandemic.

The party noted that the situation had been worsened by alleged diversion of resources meant for the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

The PDP said it was distressing that since the outbreak of the pandemic in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari had not been seen to be leading from the front.

According to the party, the president addressed the country only thrice, after which he has remained out of public visibility, leading to the lack of effective coordination of the fight against the pandemic.
It accused the president of failing to act on suggestions on the administration of palliatives and production of homegrown therapeutics.
“President Buhari has woefully failed to spur and lead a strong teamwork of federal, state governments and the organised private sector for a proactive response that would have checked the spread of the pandemic in our country,” the party said.

Policeman Dies in Ogun

A policeman has died of COVID-19 complications at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Abeokuta in Ogun state.

TheCable quoted the FMC’s Head of Public Relations, Mr. Segun Orisajo, as saying in a statement issued yesterday that the officer had presented himself at the general outpatients department at the FMC on Friday, and died on the same day.

“His body is being prepared for release to his family for burial in strict compliance with World Health Organisation (WHO)’s guidelines.

“All staff that came in contact with the deceased are currently on self-isolation,” the statement said.

Rivers Demolishes Two Hotels for Flouting Order on Restrictions

Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday monitored the demolition of two hotels accused of violating the State Government Executive Order 6, banning the operation of hotels across the 23 local government areas of the state.

The hotels are Prudent Hotel, Alode, Eleme, and Etemeteh Hotel, Onne.

Addressing journalists after the demolition, Wike said the law must be obeyed, hence the state government’s decision to enforce it.

He said: “Government has no alternative but to apply the Executive Order, which I signed before the lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt. I called all the traditional rulers and council chairmen and told them to ensure that no hotel operates in the state.
“We are not saying it will be forever. This is for now, so that we know where we are: to reduce the cases and check the spread.

“Whether you are PDP or not, all we are saying is that nobody is above the law. If we can do this to a PDP person, then you know we are not discriminatory. Everyone must obey. Whether you are in PDP, SDP or no party, you must obey the law. If any other person does the same thing, the same rule will apply.”

He reiterated his declaration that no hotel should operate anywhere in the state.
“We said no hotel should operate within this period. Unfortunately, the PDP Youth Leader in Eleme joined others to flout the Executive Order. Therefore, the executive order will be applied.

“We said if any hotel operates, the government will bring down that hotel. We are doing what we have told people that we are going to do. Nobody wants to obey any rules. We are saying just for now, keep off, let us see how we can keep our people safe,” he said.
He explained that the focus on hotels is due to the fact that one of the cases in the state spread the virus from a hotel.

He said: “Look at the rate of infections, most of these people are found in hotels. Look at the man that died, he was at Mingi Hotel in Rumumasi. Due to that contact, we have had other seven cases.”

He added that those involved in the crime would be prosecuted and that the managing director of the hotel at Onne had been arrested.

The state government had on Saturday declared the Youth Leader of the PDP in Eleme Local Government Area and owner of Prudent Hotels, Mr. Princewill Osaroejiji, wanted for “various criminal activities.”

The state also offered N5 million reward to anyone who will give law enforcement agencies information that will lead to his arrest.

ANAP Seeks Curfew Relaxation, Extension of Business Hours

In a related development, the ANAP Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank has called on the federal and state governments to lift or adjust the dusk to dawn curfew across the country and extend the hours for the opening of businesses in the country.

The foundation said the suggestion was necessary to avoid physical contact and overcrowding resulting from the curfew and tight business opening hours, which it said was caused by people rushing to meet their engagements before the expiration of the deadlines, thereby increasing chances of COVID-19 contact.

ANAP in a statement yesterday jointly signed by its Chairman, Mr. Atedo Peterside, and the Vice-Chairman, Mr. Abubakar Mohammed, recommended that the federal and state governments should intensify behaviour change communication campaigns on physical distancing, hand washing and wearing cloth face coverings in public in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It urged the government to lift the curfew or limit it to 11 p.m.– 5 a.m. (no more than six hours) to help ease overcrowding, and lengthen business hours and reserve one or two hours for the exclusive service of the elderly, especially in banks and supermarkets, in consideration of their extra vulnerability to COVID-19.

ANAP further recommended that the government should prevail on businesses to enforce the physical distancing of two metres between customers; compulsory wearing of cloth face coverings in public places and public transportation; continued ban of physical congregational religious activities and other social events and/or ceremonies.

It said it strongly believed that implementing some or all of the above measures would help in achieving the government’s objective of easing hardship on the citizens whilst curbing the spread of COVID-19.

While commending the efforts of the federal and state governments and their agencies in dealing with multifaceted problems posed to the nation by the COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation noted the increasing awareness and responsibility of state actors and the renewed emphasis on educating the public on all that was important regarding COVID-19.

ANAP added: “After reviewing situation reports from various towns and villages across the nation, our conclusion is that governments must continue to monitor and define the extent to which they will modify partial lockdowns to allow for some economic activities thereby ensuring that the right balance between public health and economic sustainability is maintained.

“Whilst the easing and modification of lockdown measures have met with varying degrees of success, we underscore the need to increase the intensity of a sound and effective communication strategy which ensures that the public is alive to the dangers of COVID-19 and its potential for exponential growth if we let our guard down.

“Unchecked behaviour and violations of public health advice regarding minimising physical and social contact, observing personal hygiene e.g. failure to wash hands frequently and/or use of sanitizers and/or wearing cloth face coverings in the public will lead to the rapid spread of COVID-19.”

 

ECA: Africa Loses $65.7bn Monthly to Lockdowns

By Peter Uzoho

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has released a new report proposing to African nations various COVID-19 exit strategies following the imposition of lockdowns that helped suppress the spread of the COVID-19 in the region but with devastating economic consequences.

The United Nation’s agency however estimated that the lockdowns applied by at least 42 countries in Africa would cost the continent about 2.5 per cent of its annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP), equivalent to about $65.7 billion per month.

The report entitled, “COVID-19: Lockdown Exit Strategies for Africa”, issued yesterday in Adis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the ECA’s Communications Section, added that the estimated loss was separate from and in addition to the wider external impact of COVID-19 on Africa of lower commodity prices and investment flows.

According to the report, the seven exit strategies proposed by the ECA that provide sustainable, albeit reduced, economic activity are being tried around the world and outlines the risks involved for African countries.

The strategies include: improving testing; lockdown until preventive or curative medicines are developed; contact tracing and mass testing; immunity permits; gradual segmented reopening; adaptive triggering; and mitigation.

The report explained that the strategies were assessed with respect to the extent to which each strategy minimises uncertainty over fatalities, saying, in most cases, countries were applying a combination of several strategies such as testing, contact tracing and gradual segmented reopening. The ECA report maintained that under adaptive triggering, nations could ease lockdown once infections declined and re-impose if they begin to rise above intensive-care capacity.

It said these would require regular shutdowns lasting two-thirds of the year, making little difference to permanent lockdown from an economic perspective, pointing out that African health-care capacity was limited, meaning that capacity would quickly be exceeded, potentially resulting in fatalities.

The report noted that mitigation gradually allows the infection to spread across the population with some social distancing measures in place, adding that it is reportedly working in Sweden, where an estimated 25–40 per cent of Stockholm have contracted COVID-19, but relies on good adherence to basic social distancing measures and strong health-care capacity.

According to the report, this could imply considerable risk in African populations with low health-care access and unknown commodities.

It said firms surveyed by the ECA reported to be operating at only 43 per cent; 70 per cent of slum dwellers reported that they were missing meals or eating less as a result of COVID-19.

The report further noted that lockdowns forestalled severe vulnerabilities and that testing, contact tracing and easing restrictions may be possible for countries with sufficient public health systems and that have contained COVID-19 transmission, put in place preventive measures, engaged and educated communities, and minimized risks to vulnerable groups.

“Gradual segmented reopening may be needed in countries where containment has failed with further measures to suppress the spread of the disease being required where the virus is still spreading, notes the report. The spread of the virus is still accelerating in many African countries on average at 30 percent every week.

HEDA Cautions against Plans to Commence Vaccine Trial in Nigeria

The Human Enviromental Development Agenda (HEDA) has warned that any attempt to commence the clinical trial of the proposed COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria would be dangerous to the peace and wellbeing of the people.

The HEDA, in a statement it issued yesterday, said reports that the World Health Organisation, (WHO) would commence the trial of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country, would expose Nigerians to be used as guinea pigs and undermine the dignity of the people.

The rights group alleged that the WHO’s proposal has a lot of legal and health implications.

The Chairman of HEDA, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, who signed the statement, said it would begin legal proceedings against WHO and any other institution that might support the clinical trial of the vaccine in Nigeria.

He said HEDA would approach the African Human Rights Court and Nigerian courts to seek legal redress and stop any plot to undermine the self-esteem and rights of Nigerians.

“COVID-19 is not a Nigerian specific disease. It did not originate in Nigeria. Vaccine trials are an experimental phenomenon whose outcome and consequences remain unknown even to scientist that initiated them. That is why it is called trial vaccine. The possibility of the trial consuming human life is real,” Suraju said.

The WHO said last week that Nigeria would be willing to have the vaccine trial done in Nigeria as part of the global effort to contain the COVID-19.

But HEDA claimed that the trial vaccine has been trailed by controversies. “It appears there is a conscious effort to have the vaccine trials in African countries with Nigeria chosen as a pilot project. We can assure WHO that this decision will be contested by HEDA using all available national and international legal instruments,” Suraju said.

The WHO Officer in Charge in Nigeria, Ms. Fiona Braka, disclosed that efforts were underway to start the process in Nigeria while speaking during the Presidential Task Force Briefing on COVID-19.

But Suraju viewed with suspicious the fact that an official of the WHO would be the right person to announce to Nigerians that there would be a vaccine trial in the country, saying that it suggested a hidden agenda.

Braka revealed that 89 vaccines were being developed across the world to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Braka said: “Nigeria has also expressed interest to be part of this solidarity trial and efforts are underway to start the process in Nigeria too.”

47 Health Workers Test Positive for in Kano

The Kano State Government has stated that 47 health workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Coordinator of the state’s Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Tijjani Husaain,  disclosed this yesterday at a press conference in Kano.

He said the infected health workers had contracted the disease the previous week, adding that no medical personnel got infected in the last few days.

Husaain said the virus transmission has reduced among health workers following “prompt actions” of the state government.

He said the state has recorded 576 confirmed cases of the disease, out of which 32 patients have been discharged, while 21 fatalities have been recorded. “Out of the total number of confirmed cases in Kano State, we recorded 21 deaths,” he said.

On Saturday; we also recorded 84 new suspected cases of the COVID-19, bringing the total number of the suspected cases to 1,820 in the state.

“Between Saturday and Sunday, 29 of the 84 samples collected were confirmed positive to the virus. So far we have collected 2,072 samples in the state.”

The coordinator said over 1,000 frontline health workers in the state are undergoing special training on handling the disease.

He urged residents to adhere to the safety protocols such as social distancing, use of face mask and comply with the lockdown directive.

Ganduje: Repatriation of Almajirai Collective Decision of Northern Govs

Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, has said the repatriation of Almajiris to their states of origin was a collective decision of the Northern Governors’ Forum.

Ganduje explained: “But we are not making politics out of it, because we all believe that what they need mostly now is not noise making or publicity. What they need at this critical point in time is, care giving.

“We agreed at the Forum that all Almajiris should be moved to their states of origin. That is why we are sending, in good faith and procedures, all Almajiris that are not from Kano State to their respective states of origin.”

Speaking at the weekend at the state Task Force on COVID-19 media briefing held at the Government House in Kano, he pointed out that the exercise was not political and should not be politicised.

“The way we are sending back the Almajiris to their states of origin, that’s how we are also receiving Almajiris from other states who are Kano indigenes. But the fact that we are not making noise about it does not mean they are all healthy without COVID-19 infections.”

While making it categorically clear that some of the Almajiris brought to Kano during the exercise are also COVID-19 positive, the governor said: “People should also understand that these children were not infected in the process of transporting them to their respective states.

“So noise making should not be the way forward. All we are doing is simply to comply with the Northern Governors’ Forum decision that all Almajiris in our states should be taken back to their respective states, simple.”

150 Deaths Caused By Hypertension, Others, Bauchi Gov Insists

Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammad, has revealed that about 150 people died in Azare, the headquarters of Katagum Local Government Area in the last 30 days from hypertension and other related diseases.

Some residents in Azare on Saturday alleged massive deaths from a ‘strange ailment’ in the community.

They said about 301 people were feared dead in the last two weeks in the area.

Some associated the strange ailment with COVID-19.

But Governor Mohammad yesterday told journlists at the Government House that about 150 had died so far in the last 30 days according to a report received from the committee set up to investigate the strange death.

He said: “We have reviewed the rumour about Azare that it has become a morgue. It’s not true; we have gotten the statistics of the death in the last 30 days.

“About 150 died in Azare, an average of about eight death per day and most of them we have found the cause to arising from hypertension and other related diseases; it’s not true that people are falling and dying in Azare, even if that is the situation ,we are moving there as a government.”

Speaking on the enforcement of lockdown in Katagum and two other local government areas, the governor said it was sequel to the massive deaths and community transmission of COVID-19, which has risen.

Mohammad said he had directed the Deputy Governor, Baba Tela to relocate to Katagum axis to properly coordinate response that will ensure massive contact tracing and testing to enable the state government establish the actual number of people who contracted the disease.

Catholic Bishop Seeks Gradual Reopening of Churches, Mosques

Peter Uzoho

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Martins, yesterday appealed to the federal government to set out guidelines for the opening of churches and mosques in some states in the country, saying, “many are truly suffering, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically.”

Martins, said this while delivering his homily monitored via DSTV.

He stressed the need for the government to consult with stakeholders and come out with guidelines for such gatherings, which he said must be strictly adhered to.

According to the Lagos Archbishop, “If transportation, banking and other sectors would re-open and yet would be safe, we need to follow guidelines.

“Our leaders in government took this step in dialogue with stakeholders because those sectors are very important for the lives of people.

“Let me say dear brothers and sisters that the religious lives of people are also important. Many are truly suffering, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. “I believe it is important for our government to engage leaders of religious groups so that guidelines can be established for gradually unlocking our mosques and churches’ gates.

“Of course, no one wants to put the lives and well-being of anyone in danger. After all, when the pandemic is over, it is people that would come to worship.

“I believe that religious leaders would be responsible in this matter and would ensure that guidelines for re-opening that are mutually agreed are strictly adhered to. “That is why I believe it is not enough to simply say religious bodies remain banned. It is important rather to say the situation would continue to be reviewed. These are difficult decisions to make, but we do believe that when we think and talk together, great things can happen for God and for the nation.

“We pray that the Lord will heal our land and guide our leaders in the difficult decisions they have to make with regards to this present situation.”

Martins, pointed out that today, marks the eight Sunday that Catholics in Lagos have been unable to gather together physically for mass, a situation he said was sad.

“But, it is understandable because the coronavirus has continued to ravage the land.

“The number of infections is rising and also the number of deaths is also rising. We are seeing an increase in community infections. “However, our leaders in government have been able to recognise the fact that once a rat gets inside a house, the best thing to do is to set a trap for the rat, while you go about your life.

“I believe that, that was why they chose to relax the lockdown. But, not just simply relaxing, but by setting out guidelines that must be followed if we are to remain safe and if the economy will be gradually re-opened,” he added.

Bakare Donates Church Halls as Isolation Centres

The Serving Overseer of The Citadel Global Community Church, formerly known as Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare has donated three church buildings to the Lagos and Ogun state governments as isolation centres.

In a broadcast shared by the church yesterday, Bakare called on other churches, with multiple facilities to do the same, rather than criticise the government for shutting down congregational worship.

The Cable quoted him as saying that he had not asked the churches to do what he himself has not done, stating that his church had donated their facilities to the government in Lagos, while a private residence in Abeokuta has been granted to the Ogun state government.

“This morning, I would like to bring ethical correction to some of the lamentations of certain people within the church over the ban of congregational worship in churches across the land, while markets and hospitals are allowed to operate,” Bakare said.

“I am so glad that no only churches are prevented now from congregating, the mosques also are lockdown.

“The government order to open the markets to operate for a few days is to prevent hunger, especially in the life of daily earners because the palliatives from the government cannot go to every citizen.”

Lagos to Receive Free Medical Supplies from Stallion Group, Morsun Clinics

By Bennett Oghifo

Stallion Empowerment Initiative (SEI), the charity arm of Stallion Group, has partnered Morsun Mobile Clinic to offer free medical consultation and drugs to residents of Lagos State, using 11 clinics.

The group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Anant Badjatya, said they would treat over 70 common ailments prevalent in Nigeria, and that they would also reach over 20,000 people in the city in two months, according to a statement issued yesterday by officials of the group.

The statement added: “The service aims to provide some succour to people who cannot access hospitals due to overcrowding caused by the pandemic or for those who can’t simply afford a treatment.

“There is nothing greater than the safety of the people of this country, and it is our responsibility to support the government and the community in this time of need.”

Morsun Mobile clinics, the statement said, are strategically located in business districts for the easy access of the working communities. “These clinics are known for providing quality, affordable and accessible health care to Nigerians. In Lagos, they have seven existing clinics and four new ones that have been inaugurated this month.”

The group said Victoria Island has two well established clinics at Adeola Odeku Street and one close to the 1004 estate.  It also has one clinic each at Ajaye Road, Ogba; Aina Street, Ojudu; City Mall, Onikan Round About; Freedom Way, Lekki Phase 1; Ayangburen Road, Ikorodu. The four new ones are being strategically placed at Orile, Apapa Road; Ajah and Somulu to best cater for the working class.

The statement said: “Stallion Empowerment Initiative (SEI) in its endeavour works to develop scalable, impactful and sustainable programmes that shall leave a visible impact for the future generations in West Africa.

“The key focus is towards providing better education, health care, skills and capability building in youth communities. The association with the mobile clinic is a step towards fulfillment of accessible health care and wellbeing of the community.

“Stallion is working in close coordination with all stakeholders and the government to alleviate the circumstances of COVID patients, frontline workers and lots of daily wage earners who are most impacted by the lockdown.”

Southern, M’Belt Leaders Outraged over Influx of Almajiris into States

Deji Elumoye and Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Leaders of the Southern and Middle Belt parts of Nigeria have expressed shock and outrage at what they described as the complacency of the Nigerian security forces at the invasion of their areas by teenagers from far Northern Nigeria hidden in containers and trailers in spite of the ban of interstate movements by President Muhammadu Buhari , the Northern Governors Forum and all the Governors in the South and Middle Belt.

In a statement signed by Signed by Chief Edwin Clark for Pan Niger Delta Forum  (PANDEF); Chief Olu Adebanjo for Afenifere; Chief John Nnia Nwodo for Ohaneze and  Dr. Bitrus Porgu for The Middle Belt Forum, the leaders described the development  as “ominous development,” especially as it is coming after Boko Haram threatened openly  three weeks ago, that they were going to take their battle against Nigeria to the South-east and South-south.

The leaders of these Pan Nigerian leadership forum said that this is  very worrisome development in view of the silence of the National Security organisations, the National COVID-19 Committee and the Presidency since this story broke out.

“This development has brought about very strong suspicions amongst our people regarding the aim of the deployment of these young men.

“Their capacity to escape all border security checks until they reach many states in the South and Middle Belt points to a strong collaboration. God forbid that the Boko Haram threat is being surreptitiously executed.

The leaders of the Southern and Middle Belt leaders said that they will certainly not fold their arms and “allow massive influx of youths who have no reason to flout extant laws on interstate movements, no pressing national engagement in our areas, no verifiable occupation, no tests for COVID-19 and no pre-arranged accommodation, to come and forcibly occupy our forests and perhaps prosecute the threat of Boko Haram”.

They also expressed their shock on the silence of the federal government over this situation, describing it as is “ominous”.

According to them,  “the maneuvers appear deliberately planned and provocative. We will resist any threats to our invasion and the security of our lives and property with every amount of self- help available to us.

“To avoid further descent to an uncontrollable situation, we call on the federal government to publicly declare this invasion illegal, direct our National Security Organisations to flush them out now and ensure that they do not return.”

They recalled that not too long ago a former Chief of Defence Staff ,  General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) had warned Southerners and Middle Belts  to be ready for self-help.

Accordingly, they asked,  “we hope that his predictions have not become inevitable and that our nation can be saved a slide into lawlessness and its disastrous consequences. A stitch in time saves nine! We call on our people to be vigilant”.

CSR: Dangote Cement Donates Patrol Cars to Ogun Security Trust Fund

As part of its strategic Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) towards maintaining security of lives and property, leading Cement manufacturer in Nigeria, Dangote Cement Plc, yesterday donated 25 operational cars, fully equipped with security features, to the Ogun State Security Trust Fund (OSTF)

The donation was a fulfillment of a pledge made by the immediate-past Group Managing Director (GMD) of the company, Joseph Makoju, who promised the state government that Dangote Cement, as a responsible corporate citizen, would partner the government in ensuring the much desired security is maintained in the state and its environs.

Presenting the cars to the OSTF in Lagos State on behalf of the management of Dangote Cement Plc, the Independent Non-Executive Director, Mr. Emmanuel Ikazoboh, said the donation was informed by the need to boost the Fund’s operation “because security is essential to economic development.”

According to him, “No investor will be willing to put his or her funds in an economy where is insecurity rife with lawlessness and chaos. We are major investors in Ogun State, and as such, we prefer a state of orderliness and sound security which allows businesses to thrive.

“Ogun State Security Trust Fund was established in 2011 and refined in 2019 by the state Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun. The objectives of the Fund include the maintenance of security and welfare of citizens.

“I recall that on October 6, 2019, our then Group Managing Director, Joe Makoju, made a pledge on behalf of the company to present operational vehicles to the Fund. As a corporate socially responsible organisation, the security and well-being of our host communities remains in our minds.”

Ikazoboh said a major step towards encouraging investments and creation of employments is promoting and ensuring adequate security in the environments. “This is why we at Dangote Cement fully appreciate your state government several initiatives in the promotion of security and a safe operating environment for business,” he stated.

Ikazoboh called on all other responsible corporate social bodies “to join us in supporting the Ogun State Security Trust Fund through provision of necessary operational tools. “This collective support, we believe, will go a long way to ensure adequate security for all stakeholders in Ogun State.”

Collecting the keys of the cars, the Executive Secretary of the Fund, Opeyemi Agbaje, expressed the appreciation of the state government to the management of Dangote Cement Plc, saying the gesture would go a long way in helping the Fund to achieve its core mandate of maintaining security with ease.

CSOs Allege Breach of Federal Character Principle in Police Trust Fund Composition

By Peter Uzoho

Citing breach of the Federal Character principle and other illegal acts by President Muhammadu Buhari in the constitution of the board of trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund announced recently, civil society organisations (CSOs) have called on the president to review the board of the fund to reflect the federal character.

The CSOs listed the federal character principles violated by Buhari in the police trust fund’s composition as the appointment of retired Inspector General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba as chairman and Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto as Executive Secretary, both from the same geopolitical zone.

They argued that the two main principal officers of the fund’s board coming from the same geopolitical zone was against Section 14(3) of the Constitution.

The CSOs in a statement yesterday collectively signed by 82 of their member organisations, said other constitutional breaches and counter-productive decisions taken in the composition of the board of police trust fund included appointment of a former inspector general of police to chair the board; non consultation with key stakeholders and critical interests in the appointments; among others.

The CSOs said: “In the light of the foregoing observations and concerns, we demand that the president takes the following immediate steps:

Review the composition of the Trust Fund to ensure that it complies with the requirements of the law, particularly, the Federal Character Principle.

“Ensure adequate and wide consultations with critical stakeholders and interest groups to ensure that those who are appointed to represent them in the board enjoy legitimacy, credibility and trust.

“Ensure that the person to chair the Board is selected based on clear criteria which should include, among others, that the person comes from the private sector, has relevant experience, is suitable and competent in public management and has integrity and capable of inspiring trust.

“Explain the inconsistency in references to board membership in the Act and consider an amendment to the Act to address the concerns raised.”

“The constitution of the Board of Trustees for the Nigeria Police Trust Fund by President Buhari was announced on May 6, 2020 by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity).

The CSOs however noted that the constitution of the board was unduly delayed after the trust fund was passed into law in 2019 – nearly a year ago – to address the urgent need for alternative funding sources for the Nigeria Police to address the funding and equipment deficits and enhance the operational capability, training, welfare and morale of its work force.

They said that by the undue delay in constituting the board, nearly one year of the Trust Fund’s six years tenure had already been lost.

 They CSOs further said: “Apart from the delay in constituting the Board of Trustees and providing the initial take off grant by the federal government to enable the fund take off, we are concerned by a number of other issues arising from the constitution of the Board and the composition of its members

“The appointment of retired Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, as Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, and the appointment of Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto as the Executive Secretary of the Board breach the Federal Character Principle and Law.

“They both come from the same geopolitical zone.  Section 14(3) of the Constitution provides that “ The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”.

UK Extends Lockdown By Three Weeks

Britain’s COVID-19 lockdown will stay in place until at least June 1, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday, as he unveiled cautious plans to lift restrictions imposed seven weeks ago.

“This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week,” he said in a televised address but added that some primary school children could return and shops re-open from June 1.

Johnson said some public places could re-open from July 1 but warned that air passengers travelling to Britain faced quarantine measures.

The government has come under pressure to outline its exit strategy from the lockdown.

Britain has seen nearly 32,000 deaths in the outbreak — the second-worst cumulative death toll behind the United States, and the worst in Europe.

But despite passing the peak of the outbreak, Johnson said it would be “madness” to waste the sacrifices the public had made since the lockdown.

Further details of what he stressed were a “conditional plan” would be outlined in parliament on Monday (today).

It centres around a five-phase COVID Alert Level similar to the system in place for security threats, with one the lowest and five the highest.

Johnson said Britain had been at level four throughout the outbreak and “careful steps” were needed to move to level three, even as transmission rates varied around the country.

As a first step, the new guidelines again urge people who can work from home to but those who cannot to maintain social distancing and avoid public transport.

Johnson said there would be some easing of restrictions from Wednesday, allowing “unlimited exercise”, sport and sunbathing, but only within households.

“In step two, at the earliest by June 1, after half-term, we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into school, in stages, beginning with reception (age four to five), year one (age five to six) and year six (10-11),” he added.

In step three, “at the earliest by July… we will hope to reopen at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places, provided they are safe and enforce social distancing”, he added.

Johnson indicated restrictions could be reimposed, including locally, if there is a surge in cases.

“We have been through the initial peak but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous,” he added.

SATURDAY 9TH, 2020

Isolation Centres Running out of Bed Spaces, FG Warns

•Cases rise to 3,912, with 117 deaths
•Lagos, Kano, Zamfara struggle with places for patients
•Lagos fears patients may increase to 120,000, begins hydro-Chloroquine trial
•FG moves to resolve NCDC, Kogi row
•Fact finding mission lands in Jigawa State
•253 Nigerians back in Lagos from UK
•Buhari commends THISDAY, Dangote, BUA, GTBank, others
•WHO: 190,000 may die in Africa

Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja, Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Ibrahim Oyewale in Lokoja

The federal government yesterday raised the alarm that many states in the country may soon run out of bed spaces for COVID-19 patients at their isolation centres due to the increasing number of Nigerians testing positive to Coronavirus.

The desperate situation with COVID-19 patients’ accommodation came just as the Federal Ministry of Health said it had weighed in to resolve the disagreement between the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Kogi State government over the deployment of rapid response team in the state.

On the same day, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 3,912, up from the 3,526 recorded on Thursday. In all, 386 new cases were recorded nationwide yesterday. Deaths recorded also rose to 117 from 107 recorded on Thursday.

Speaking at media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on the Control of COVID-19 in Abuja, the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said some states were already experiencing difficulties accommodating patients in their over-burdened isolation facilities.

When asked to assess the bed space situation, Ihekweazu said:

“We are still plus or minus where we are. We have a big challenge on our hands in the country right now, especially in Lagos, Kano and Zamfara and in a few other states where the number of cases currently outweighs the capacity to continue implementing our policy of institutional isolation of all the patients, whether they are asymptotic, mildly symptomatic or severe. Right now, the reality that we are facing is that the implementation of that policy is very difficult.”

Also, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said the ministry and other organs of government were seeking measures to check or break transmission of the virus and so control its spread.
He said the ministry had employed tried, tested approaches and is applying innovative measures and guidelines in dealing with COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our ideal is still to identify all positive cases and isolate both the symptomatic and asymptomatic, to safeguard the health of the rest of the population, as well as provide care to the symptomatic,” he said.

With regards to the distribution of personal protective kits, Ehanire said that the federal government was making sure that every state got supplies according to the cases they have.

On drugs for treatment of COVID-19, Ehanire said that Nigerian clinicians are participating in World Health Organization’s (WHO) sponsored study to find out the efficacy of certain drugs, including Chloroquine and anti-ritroviral drugs.

As for those who claim to have developed herbal remedies for COVID-19, Ehanire said they can approach the Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development which would assess such claims before referring them to NAFDAC for certification.

On the controversy trailing the deployment of response team from the Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC to Kogi state, Ehanire said: it had to do with disagreement over processes.

He said the ministry was going to reengage the governor with a view to securing a working agreement to enable the NCDC officials to reenter Kogi State and complete their assignment.

“Kogi State is one of the two states that have said that they do not have COVID-19 patients and they seem to be sure about that so the agreement we had with them after discussion with the governors of the two states is that we will send a team of experts to validate that fact and to be able to engage the commissioners and the state governors and also the other public health authorities just for validation

“It is also for us to update our national records and to be able to report to the world what the situation is in our country because the whole world might not know that we don’t have any actual records from these two states.

We agreed to send the team from the Ministry of Health and NCDC to Kogi State yesterday but there were some differences as to processes which we need to explain to the state governor again and to work with his team to create atmosphere in which the NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health can complete their job,” he said.

The minister said the federal government deployed a multi-sectoral technical team on a fact finding mission to Jigawa State yesterday morning at the request of the governor.

According the minister, the challenge in Jigawa revolves around repatriated Almajiris, many of whom have tested positive for COVID-19.

On his part, the NCDC boss said the mandate of the centre in the states was merely supportive, adding that NCDC would usually intervene where its services were needed.

Ihekweazu gave update of new COVID-19 laboratories, saying that NCDC had activated two new laboratories in Rivers State.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation/Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha said the PTF had intensified the monitoring of the level of compliance with the advisories and guidelines already issued.

He said PTF had asked the security agencies to ensure strict enforcement.

“Nigeria is presently at the community transmission phase and yesterday – Thursday 7th May, 2020, we witnessed the highest single-day number of 381 confirmed cases. This could be considered worrisome but for the fact that this rise is associated with our increased testing capacity, which has provided an opportunity to detect hitherto hidden cases.

“However, this increased testing does not translate to higher fatality rates, as in the last few days, we have witnessed a good number of discharges and a continually reducing daily fatality rate.”

Lagos to Begin Hydro-chloroquine Trial

Lagos State government has made arrangements to begin a hydro-chloroquine trial on COVID-19 patients.

The state’s health commissioner, Prof Akin Abayomi, disclosed this yesterday while speaking at a press conference.

He also predicted that the total number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in Lagos State may increase to 120,000 between July and August.

Abayomi said the virus was expected to reach its peak in Lagos at that time, adding “Just a month ago, on April 7, we saw 10 cases per day, two weeks later it was 32, then 70 cases. We are now seeing above 100 cases per day. This shows our graph is moving in a gentle incline upwards.

“We definitely have not reached the peak of our outbreak, we suspect that the peak will happen sometime in July or August and so we are preparing for the oncoming of about 90,000 to 120,000 cases during that period. We are increasing our capacity and strategies to deal with this situation.”

The commissioner urged residents not to panic over the increasing cases witnessed in the state, saying it was caused by the presence of sample collection centres in 20 Local Governments.

Prof. Abayomi also disclosed yesterday that he was not infected with Coronavirus. The commissioner had earlier on Thursday announced that 10 persons associated with the Lagos State Government House, Marina, tested positive for the virus.

But he stated yesterday via Twitter that he did not test positive for the disease, urging the public to disregard false reports claiming otherwise.

FG Repatriates 253 Nigerians from UK

The federal government repatriated about 253 Nigerians from the United Kingdom yesterday, just as the British High Commission evacuated another batch of its citizens from Nigeria.

The Nigerians were brought back into the country by British Airways.

The flight landed at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos at 2:45 pm local time.

This was the second evacuation of Nigerians by the federal government, as Emirates on Wednesday started the evacuation of Nigerians from different parts of the world.

The Emirates flight brought in 256 Nigerians from the United Arab Emirates and it was slated that tomorrow, Sunday, Ethiopian Airlines would bring in about 300 Nigerians from the United States.

THISDAY learnt that on arrival the passengers were subjected to thorough checks by the Port Health with temperature screening by officials of the Port Health Services, as the passengers were led into luxurious buses onward to the isolation centers.

Officials of the Lagos State government and that of the NCDC and other partners in the evacuation process were on ground to ensure seamless facilitation of the evacuees.

The British Airways that brought in Nigerians evacuated about 215 Britons from Nigeria, thus repatriating about over 1800 of British citizens from Nigeria since the second week of the lockdown occasioned by Coronavirus pandemic, which started on March 23, 2020.

The British High Commissioner Catriona Laing said: “I’m so pleased we were able help Nigerians get back home whilst also helping more British nationals return home to the UK. We work around the clock to support British nationals who remain in the country.

“I want offer a huge thank you to the Nigerian government for their support and assistance in arranging these flights. The strong cooperation we have had from our Nigerian partners demonstrates the enduring bonds between our two countries”.

Buhari Commends THISDAY, Dangote, Others

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja commended THISDAY Media Group, Aliko Dangote, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Guaranty Trust Bank, among other individuals and organisations for their support for the fight against COVID-19.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said the President appreciated public-spirited Nigerians and organisations for what he described as their financial and material support for the fight against COVID-19.

Shehu said the President acknowledged the provision of isolation, treatment and laboratory centres and facilities by THISDAY, Dangote, Rabiu, Guaranty Trust Bank, among others, in several states and the Federal Capital Territory.

According to the statement, the president appealed to other privileged Nigerians and organisations to emulate these laudable gestures.

“We are facing a national challenge and all hands must be on deck to navigate this difficult course. In this respect, all types of assistance are welcome, big or small. The spirit behind the contributions is salutary,” the president was quoted as saying.

The statement also said records obtained from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation showed that 111 individuals and organisations had lodged N697, 538, 108 into the federal government’s Covid-19 eradication support accounts in the five designated banks between April 1-30, 2020.

190,000 May Die in Africa

Up to 190,000 people in Africa could die of coronavirus in the first year of the pandemic if containment measures fail, the World Health Organisation warned on Thursday.

The UN health agency cited a new study by its regional office in Brazzaville which found that between 83,000 and 190,000 could die and 29 to 44 million be infected during the period.
The research is based on prediction modelling and covers 47 countries with a total population of one billion, the WHO said in a statement.

Experts have consistently warned that Africa is particularly vulnerable to an outbreak, due to weak health infrastructure, high rates of poverty, numerous roiling conflicts and a proven susceptibility to previous epidemics.

But the virus has been slow to spread across the continent, which has yet not recorded the soaring number of infections or deaths seen in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.
WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said “while COVID-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smolder in transmission hotspots”.

Lagos Discharges 42

The Lagos State Ministry of Health has announced the recovery and discharge of 42 COVID-19 patients.

The Ministry made the announcement via its twitter handle, yesterday, stating that 20 females and 22 males – all ”42 more #COVID19Lagos patients; 20 females & 22 males; all Nigerians have been discharged from our Isolation facilities at Onikan, Eti-Osa (LandMark) and Lekki to reunite with the society.

The patients; 2 from Onikan, 32 from Eti-Osa (LandMark) and 8 from Lekki Isolation Centres have fully recovered & tested negative twice consecutively to #COVID19. With this, the number of patients successfully managed & discharged in Lagos has risen to 448, ”the tweet read

Drama as NCDC Officials Flee Kogi

There was a mild drama in Kogi State when NCDC officials sent to ascertain the COVID-19 status of the state fled to avoid being subjected to COVID-19 test.

The official, who reported at the Government House in Lokoja on Wednesday night mistakenly shook hands with the Protocol officer

Kogi is one of the two states yet to record a single COVID-19 case in the federation.

When the team met Governor Yahaya Bello the following day, he told them that the state had resolved to comply with the protocols of the NCDC by putting the officials in quarantine for 14 days and to also collect their samples to ensure they are COVID-19 free.

He predicated his decision on the fact that they came from an infested area.

The Officials said they were not ready to be tested for COVID-19 and went back to Abuja.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo told newsmen that NCDC should come hard on its Officials for violating its rules.

“Today, the Governor showed the statesmanship in him once again by appreciating the support of the NCDC and defending the health interests of his people.

“NCDC quarantined the Chinese professionals that came to give them technical support and also took their samples for test. It is a normal practice and protocol set by NCDC.

“So NCDC will have a lot to explain as to why its officials refused to be tested for COVID-19. How can we be sure of their status? What are their fears? Why did NCDC send people who are afraid of test to our State? What was their intention?

“The officials that came have done an integrity blow to the works of the NCDC. Is there something they are hiding? It is time NCDC opened up and apologise to the good people of Kogi State.

“How will they encourage people to come forward for testing when its own officials are afraid of test? This is sad

 

Edo Discharges 2 More Patients

By Adibe Emenyonu 
 

The Edo State Government has announced the discharge of two more COVID-19 patients, who have tested negative twice for the virus and cleared from the state’s isolation centres.

The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who disclosed this in a statement, charged all residents to support the state government efforts at stemming the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by complying with all laid down directives.

Obaseki said, “My dear good people of Edo State, we have just discharged two more COVID-19 patients after they tested negative twice for the virus. This brings the number of patients successfully managed and discharged from our isolation facilities to 12. We seek your support as we continue to make efforts to contain the spread of the virus.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner for Health, Dr. Patrick Okundia, noted that Edo has recorded 65 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four deaths, adding that the state has so far collected 625 samples for testing, out of which 423 have tested negative.

According to him, while the state had recorded 338 persons of interest (POIs) and line listed 666 contacts, 113 POIs and 380 contacts have been cleared after completing the compulsory 14-day follow up and tested negative.

He disclosed that the 65 confirmed cases were recorded in Oredo (39), Esan West (4), Egor (7), Ovia North East (6), Ikpoba-Okha (4), Uhunmwode (2), Etsako Central (1), Esan South East (1) and Akoko-Edo (1) Local Government Areas (LGAs).

The commissioner who said the state’s improved efforts at screening and testing were responsible for the rising number of confirmed cases, noted that Edo has screened over 85, 104 residents cut across the 18 LGAs and 192 wards of the state.

Okundia, however, reassured that the remaining cases that were yet to be discharged are on active treatment at various isolation centres in the state and are responding well to treatment.

The commissioner who identified screening and testing as essential in the government’s efforts at containing the pandemic noted, “The Edo State Government encourages all residents with symptoms of the disease to come out for screening, testing and treatment as early detection is key to containing the virus. When detected early, a patient’s chance for survival increases.

“We also urge you to comply with all government directives, aimed at ensuring the health and safety of all Edo people. Residents are advised to stay at home and observe social distancing guidelines and other precautionary measures against the spread of the disease, including regular handwashing with soap under running water and the use alcohol-based hand sanitisers. Cover your mouth and nose properly when sneezing and/or coughing. Also do well to report anyone with oversea travel history.”

 CACOVID Donates 100-bed Space Isolation Centre, Equipment to Kwara

By  Hammed Shittu

As part of efforts to support the Kwara State Government on the war against COVID-19 pandemic, a private sector group under the aegis of Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID yesterday donated a fully equipped isolation centre of 100-bed space with other needed equipment to the government.

The isolation centre is located at Sobi Specialist Hospital, Ilorin.

Other equipment  donated  by the group include 100 bins, stainless steel, and pedals 8; 1000 laboratory specimen bottles; 10 oxygen concentrators; 20 oxygen cylinders/regulators; 2500 syringes/needles; five trolleys/ward; 10 chlorine crystals; 1000 goggles; five monitors/patient multiparameters; and 2500 personal protective equipment (PPEs)-coveralls.

Speaking at the handing over ceremony in Ilorin, the leader of CACOVID, Mrs. Grace Olagunju, said that the gesture was basically meant to support the state government to successfully fight the virus in the state.

According to her,  “As you are aware, as a result of the pandemic that is ravaging the world and the country, CACOVID, a coalition of private sector organisations felt the need to join together with various governments and agencies.”

She said, Kwara State being one of the active governments we found it worthy to make our own contribution such that the state can fight the war and win.

“Of course our interest is health and lives of the citizens of every state, we felt as a responsible corporate organisation we should do this to support the state government.”

She nevertheless canvassed for the support, and understanding of all and sundry in the state to play their roles to enable the state government win the battle against the ravaging pandemic.

Olagunju noted that, “the fight is for everyone, so everyone should play our roles to kick the virus far away from Kwara”

The representative of state government, Chairman Medical Advisory Committee of Covid-19 Technical Committee in the state Dr. Femi Oladiji commended CACOVID for the gesture, stressing that it would in no small means help the state government in its efforts to successfully fight the pandemic.

“On behalf of my principal, the Kwara State government is very delighted for this land mark support from CACOVID, it would surely go a long way to support us in our various efforts to fight the pandemic, they would be very useful for us,’’ he said.

 Edo Orders Shut Down of Lagos Street to Business

By Adibe Emenyonu 
 

The Edo State Government has ordered the immediate shutdown of Lagos Street, an epicentre where non-indigenes ply their trade and commerce in Benin City metropolis, to check the spread of Coronavirus in the state.

The shutdown as gathered was as a result of the refusal of the traders to participate in the state ongoing testing exercise to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

This was confirmed in a statement by the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie.

According to the statement, the decision to shut down trading activities on Lagos Street followed the refusal of residents to comply with the state government’s directives to participate in the ongoing screening and testing exercise for COVID-19, as part of efforts to contain the pandemic.

He said, “The Edo State Government has ordered the immediate shut down of all form of activities including trading on Lagos Street, a business hub in Benin City, over refusal of the residents to participate in ongoing screening and testing exercise to halt the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Osagie said Lagos Street will remain closed to activities until residents in the area take part in the exercise to protect themselves and other members of the public, noting, “The participation of all residents in the exercise is important in curtailing the spread of the virus in the state.

“Being a business hub, a large number of residents in Benin City and other parts of the state visit Lagos Street daily for various activities making the area a hotspot for the spread of COVID-19.

This makes it important for residents and other persons in the area to participate in the exercise. Lagos Street will remain closed to all form of activities until the residents participate in the screening and testing exercise.”

Meanwhile, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN Edo State chapter yesterday demanded the reopening of churches in the state with full compliance to the extant guidelines.

Reopening of churches, according to PFN would assist government efforts in a number of ways.

In a communique issued at the end of Executive Committee meeting of the Edo State chapter, the PFN said the pulpit would increase awareness of Covid-19 and embark on aggressive intercession for divine intervention to terminate the evil plague that has defied human solution.

“PFN is not unaware of the efforts of the state Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and the efforts of churches to be closed for two weeks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Nigeria and in Edo State, the markets are allowed to run, and the populace is also allowed to move about to a reasonable extent which is commendable.

“PFN therefore demands that churches should be allowed to be reopened with full compliance to the extant guidelines,” said the communique.

The communique jointly signed by the PFN chairman, Bishop Mon Igbonisa and the Secretary, Reverend Solomon Udi  objected to the unwholesome harassment of pastors and members who opened their churches based on pronouncement of Governor Godwin Obaseki.

PFN then demanded the cessation of unlawful harassment of the church in Edo State.

Kaduna Discharges 10 Patients, Records 7 New Cases

By  John  Shiklam

Ten COVID-19 patients have been discharged in Kaduna State while seven fresh cases have been recorded.

The state government in a statement yesterday in Kaduna, said the seven new cases were recorded.

The statement signed by Muyiwa Adekiye,  Special Adviser on Media and Communication, also said seven  COVID-19 cases  had been recorded in seven local government areas of the state of Giwa, Igabi, Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Makarfi, Soba and Zaria.

According to the statement, majority of COVID-19 cases in the state had travel history, adding that such illegal inter-state travel was widening the spread of the virus.

The statement said, “This illegal travel has increased the danger of community transmission as infections have now been recorded in some mainly rural local governments on the borders of the state.”

The statement appealed for the vigilance and active involvement of all citizens in the effort to avert the spread of the disease in the state.

‘’Kaduna State now has 82 active cases, having discharged 10 patients and recorded one fatality.

‘’The latest cases include four persons with travel history outside the state, a senior citizen who received many visitors at home and two persons in the police barracks who are contacts of one of the policemen who tested positive.

“Positive COVID-19 test results have been recorded from seven Local Government Areas: Giwa, Igabi, Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Makarfi, Soba and Zaria,” the statement said.

The statement further noted that,  “many citizens of Kaduna State have endured inconveniences and consistently complied with the restriction of movement, including the prohibition of non-essential interstate movement,” regretting “that these sacrifices are being jeopardised by the actions of persons who violate the Quarantine Orders, and the misconduct of some law enforcement officers that have facilitated and indulged this grossly irresponsible pattern of interstate travel.”

It said the state government would continue “to engage the leadership of the concerned agencies on these dangerous lapses, given its consistent support for the security agencies posted to the state”.

The statement further pointed out that Kaduna state’s health system could be easily overwhelmed if community transmission occurs, as the situation in neighbouring states had shown.

It explained the state government  was  compelled to blockade many of the entry points and  deployed  its senior officials from their other vital roles in order  to personally man these borders.

“The Standing Committee appeals to the vast majority of law-abiding citizens to continue to expose and report persons engaged in interstate travel or who sneak into their communities.

‘’All citizens should please consistently exercise the personal responsibility and compliance with health protocols that have been outlined to help beat Covid-19” the statement urged.

MONDAY 4TH, 2020

Presidential Task Force Links Kano Deaths to COVID-19

•170 new cases move tally to 2,558 with 400 discharged, 87 dead
•NCDC seeks access to Remdesivir for treatment of patients
•Speaks with NAFDAC to facilitate approval for use
•Cautions against use of Hydroxychloroquine
•Cloth masks can offer 80% protection, says US study
•Handlers of Abba Kyari’s body test negative
•Dangote Foundation sponsors 400 tests per day laboratory in Kano

Ejiofor Alike, Segun James, Chinedu Eze in Lagos, Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

The Head of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 sent to investigate the high incidence of deaths in Kano State, Dr. Nasiru Gwarzo, yesterday linked the deaths to COVID-19, saying the results of 80 per cent of the tests conducted were positive for the disease.

His report came on the day the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the tally for confirmed cases of the virus had climbed to 2,558 with 400 discharged and 87 dead.

It said there were 170 fresh cases yesterday spread across 12 states, including Lagos 39, Kano 29, Ogun 24, Bauchi 18, Kaduna 15, Sokoto 12, Katsina eight, Borno seven, Nasarawa three, Adamawa two, and Oyo one.

Its Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, however, brought good news, saying the agency was excited by the emerging successful clinical trials of Remdesivir in the United States of America and that efforts were being made to access it for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Nigeria.

But in Kano, Gwarzo said the virus was the cause of the multiple deaths that had
ravaged the ancient city since its first index case last month.

Although the state Governor, Mr. Abdullahi Ganduje, had denied that the deaths were linked to the pandemic, Gwarzo was emphatic that the virus was the culprit.

“Let me inform us that most of the deaths recorded of recent and test carried out showed that coronavirus was the cause,” the task force head said, adding: “So, before the final report, which would be ready in the next one week or few days, it is necessary for people of Kano to wake up from their slumber that this is a serious issue.”

Gwarzo, who spoke to the BBC Hausa Service, and later during the official presentation and handing over of the mobile testing laboratory the Aliko Dangote Foundation donated to Kano State government, added: “We need to know what is happening, we are successful in identifying what the problems are and secondly we are happy on the level of cooperation between the private sector and other stakeholders. Many people have come out to support the state we cannot expand our investigation until we are certain.

“We have five cogent reasons to say that the mass death recorded in Kano is associated with coronavirus.”

He listed them as the age of the deceased persons, the concentration of the people in one place and “test we have constructed which have an element of COVID-19.”

NCDC Seeks Access to Remdesivir for Treatment of Patients

Meanwhile, the NCDC has endorsed the use of Remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, saying that the result of the clinical trial has revealed that it is of immense benefits.

Ihekweazu, while featuring yesterday on a programme on Channels Television, said the result of the clinical trial of the drug had shown that it was effective in treating COVID-19 patients.

The experimental drug was at the weekend authorised by the United States regulators for emergency use against COVID-19.

The agency also explained that Nigeria could not adopt the method of testing used in Ghana as there was a price to pay for testing at top speed.

Giving details on the use of Remdesivir, Ihekweazu said it held hope for the treatment of the virus, stressing that he was happy about the clinical trials of the drug because it could be used for emergency treatment of the virus.

He stated that NCDC would discuss with regulatory authorities, particularly the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), to speed up the regulatory process for Nigerians to access the drugs.

He said: “Remdesivir is the first drug that has shown efficacy. It was tried and it did produce benefits. This one has raised hope. We have to be careful about drugs because many of them have side effects, but I am happy that the clinical trial of Remdesivir is showing a positive result.

“What we now need to do is to gain access to these drugs. It is a difficult process at the moment but we have started the conversation to enable access to Nigerians. We will speak with NAFDAC to speed up the regulatory process so that we can make these drugs available and accessible to Nigerians. So, it is the first step. That is how science works.

“Sometimes, it is slower than we want it to be and we will like it to be. It is the same for vaccines and the same for drugs.”

Also commenting on the use of Hydroxychloroquine to treat patients, he said there was no evidence that the drug was effective in treating COVID-19 patients.

Reacting to criticisms that South Africa and Ghana with smaller populations have carried out more tests than Nigeria, the NCDC boss said Nigeria could not adopt Ghana’s method because it did not suit the country’s circumstances.

“It is not right for us to adopt Ghana’s style because it does not suit our circumstances. It has a price to pay. There is a price to pay for being at top speed,” he added.

On the situation in South Africa, he said he had worked in that country for three years before relocating to Nigeria and he knew what South Africa had invested in the past 50 years.

He stated that Nigeria’s target was to carry out two million tests in the next three months.

According to him, NCDC has been building testing capacity daily.

Speaking on the reported breakthrough with herbal cure in Madagascar, Ihekweazu said he did not have the details of the breakthrough and would not recommend such an herbal cure.

“I do think there is a role for traditional medicine but I need to understand what works and what does not work before recommending for anyone to use. In my position, I have to be careful what I recommend because it is not a personal opinion but an institutional position,” he added.

Also commenting on Nigeria’s efforts to get a vaccine for the pandemic, he described vaccine development for new disease as a long term venture, adding that Nigeria is “part of a global solidarity trial.”

“We are part of the global efforts in different research objectives. They are long term objectives,” he said.

Speaking on the Infectious Diseases Bill before the House of Representatives, Ihekweazu said such a bill was long overdue but it should not be enacted in the middle of a crisis.

“The middle of a crisis is not the best time to enact a bill. Public health is very broad and is largely implemented by states and local governments. So, there is a need for broader consultation. We were not part of the consultation,” he added.

Cloth Masks Can Offer 80% Protection, Says US Study

A new study has revealed that masks made from a combination of different fabrics such as cotton, silk, chiffon, flannel can provide 80 per cent protection against infections.

The new study obtained by an online newspaper, TheCable, shows that type of fabric and its arrangement can help improve protection against viruses, including the novel coronavirus.

The research team in America’s Argonne National Laboratory found that cotton, natural silk, and chiffon provides above 50 per cent protection against viral particles in aerosols, provided they have a tight weave.

Tightly weaved layers of cotton, the most widely used material for cloth masks, “could provide over 79 per cent depending on particle size while a combination of different fabrics such as cotton silk, chiffon, flannel can provide 80 per cent filtration coverage.”

The report, titled: “Aerosol Filtration Efficiency of Common Fabrics Used in Respiratory Cloth Masks” has been published by the American Chemical Society.

The report added that cotton quilt laced with batting provides the best protection at 96 per cent because of the “fibrous nature of the batting aids in the superior performance at small particle sizes.”

Earlier, researchers at Netherland’s National Institute for Public Health and the Environment and Public Health England (PHE) had found that in the event of surgical mask shortage, these masks are better than no mask at all.

“Any type of general mask use is likely to decrease viral exposure and infection risk on a population level,” the Netherland report had said.

FCTA Declares Abba Kyari Body Handlers COVID-19 Negative

The FCT Administration has said the individuals exposed during the burial of the late Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, have tested negative for COVID-19 and have reunited with their families.

The Acting Secretary, Human and Health Services Secretariat, FCTA, Dr. Mohammed Kawu, in a statement yesterday, said tests carried out on the individuals for the virus after their 14 days of isolation all came back negative.

Some highly placed government officials also attended the burial ceremony at Gudu Cemetery, Abuja on April 19 where all guidelines on social distancing were violated.

Lagos Discharges 22 More Patients

The Lagos State government yesterday announced the discharge of 22 COVID-19 patients while three others died.

The state Ministry of Health, via its Twitter handle, @LSMOH, said the state had now recorded a total of 28 COVID-19 deaths and discharged 247 patients who had recovered from the infection.

Lagos Issues Guidelines on Easing of Lockdown

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday issued guidelines on the resumption of movements in the state after the lockdown.

Sanwo-Olu said all movements in and out of the state were prohibited, except for people carrying out essential services or transporting essential products such as agro products, petroleum products, relief items, construction materials and registered courier services.

“All public servants in the entire Lagos State public service are to remain at home tomorrow, May 4, 2020.

“From Tuesday, May 5, 2020, only critical staff on Grade Levels 15 and above, and who have also been specifically adjudged as critical staff by their accounting officers will be expected to go to work,” he added.

He explained that all frontline workers across all levels are, however, expected to continue working.

“In the same vein, all staff of the local government and local council development area offices in the state are expected to remain at home at this time, unless directed by their LGA or LCDA chairmen.

“All open markets and stores will be allowed to operate on alternate days between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm. Markets and stores selling food items will open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, while markets and stores selling all other items, excluding food, will open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” he stated.

According to him, all civil servants on levels 15 and above living in Ogun State should adhere to the order of Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, restricting their movements within Ogun State till May 9.

He said the goal was to enable the state to achieve a balance between the protection of lives and the sustenance of livelihoods.

The governor said: “We have been able to take advantage of the lockdown to significantly boost our capacity to contain the threat of this pandemic and to roll out a robust package of palliative measures to you the good people of Lagos State.
“We opened new isolation facilities in Oniru and Gbagada, adding 120 beds to our capacity. We also opened a new testing facility at the Lagos State Bio-bank, while also scaling up our active community case search by opening sample collection centres across the state.

“The success of our efforts at ramping up testing is the reason why we are seeing an escalation in the number of cases in Lagos State.”

Aliko Dangote Foundation Sponsors Test Laboratory in Kano

The Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) has contracted 54Gene, a molecular diagnostics company specialising in research and diagnostics, to immediately set up a 400 test/day capacity laboratory in Kano State.

54Gene is accredited by the NCDC and has already set up laboratories in Lagos and Ogun States.

The laboratory, which was inaugurated yesterday in Kano, will start with a testing capacity of 400 tests a day, increasing to 1,000 tests daily by May 10.
The laboratory will be set up at Muhammadu Buhari Hospital in Kano, where an isolation centre is currently operational.

The President/Chief Executive of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said the foundation was supporting the federal government’s COVID-19 containment efforts in Kano State.

According to him, the new investment in support of increasing nationwide testing comes in addition to ADF’s support through the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

“CACOVID is already setting up a 310- bed isolation centre at Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano. We are extending that capacity by another 150 beds at the Abubakar Imam Urology Centre in Kano, which is being converted into an isolation centre now.

These two centres will be operational pending the final validation by the infection prevention and control team, which we expect will be completed in the coming days,” he said.

Dangote pledged the foundation’s commitment to reduce the number of lives lost to diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola and other deadly viruses in the state.

He said the foundation would not relent in using its investments in health, education and economic empowerment to help lift people out of sickness and poverty.

Zamfara Emir Dies While in Isolation

The Emir of Kaura-Namoda in Zamfara State, Alhaji Mohammed Asha, died yesterday in isolation.

He was said to have died of suspected COVID-19-related complications.

The Publicity Secretary for the Control and Prevention of COVID-19 in the state, Mr. Mustafa Jafaru, said the late traditional ruler had been in isolation at Yariman Bakura Specialist Hospital, Gusau.

16 Health Workers Infected in Borno, Says Commissioner

The Borno State Government has revealed that no fewer than 16 health workers have been infected with COVID-19 since the outbreak of the disease in the state.

The 16 in Borno are among the 113 health workers infected with the virus across Nigeria.

The state Commissioner for Health, Salisu Kwaya-Bura, made this known at the weekend in Maiduguri, during a media briefing on the pandemic, organised by the State Response Team on COVID-19.

Kwaya-Bura said the development showed the increasing risks being faced by health workers in the fight against coronavirus.

He, however, said urgent measures were being taken to protect the health workers, adding that about 2,000 Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) had been ordered by the state.

The commissioner, who is the secretary of the team, said a total of 69 people were infected with COVID-19 in the state, out of which nine had died.

“At the moment, none of our patients is at a critical state.

“They are at the isolation centres receiving medical attention; though the kind of attention varies for those with mild symptoms and those with moderate symptoms,”  Kwaya-Bura said.

He also announced that the team had increased its contact tracing and surveillance groups to 25, where 20 of them were out for tracing and five were respondents to alerts.

Earlier, the chairman of the team, who is also the state’s Deputy Governor, Umar Kadafur, said the inability of the team to brief the media on Thursday and Friday, was due to its busy schedule, part of which was the effort to expand the capacity of the state’s isolation centre.

Kadafur also disclosed that the government was making plans to expand the 100-bed capacity isolation centre to between 500 and 1,000 bed capacity.

He urged the public to observe all precautionary measures against COVID-19, particularly staying at home, physical distancing, wearing of masks and regular washing of hands.

Last week, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, cautioned health workers on treating suspected COVID-19 cases.

He explained that only health care workers with training in infectious diseases control are eligible to handle COVID-19 patients.

“If you hear us speaking here frequently against trying to treat coronavirus in private clinics, we are actually referring to those people who do so without having necessary precautions and training because they risk infecting themselves and go home and give this infection to their family.

“Healthcare workers who have no training have no business handling coronavirus,” he said.

The federal government had earlier barred private hospitals from treating COVID-19 cases, saying many of the health workers there are not trained to handle such a disease.

The federal government has now asked private hospitals willing to treat COVID-19 patients to register with their state’s health ministry and ensure proper training of staff.

Bauchi Records 10 New Confirmed Cases

*   NEDC donates two ambulances, medical supplies to state

By Segun Awofadeji

A 12 year old almajiri boy, who just returned from Kano, is among the 10 new positive cases of COVID-19 pandemic recorded in Bauchi State.

The confirmation of this new development was contained in the daily update of the COVID-19 Emergency Operation Center, which was released by the Ministry of Health to the general public late Friday evening.

The update stated that the state now has a total of 48 positive cases out of which 42 are active while six have been treated and discharged.

This was coming at the time the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) has donated two fully equipped ambulances and other medical equipment including ventilators, incinerators and other consumables to the Bauchi State Government to assist it in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

THISDAY checks revealed that the 12 year old almajiri boy was among those repatriated from Kano State earlier in the week whose samples were taken for test having exhibited some symptoms of the infection.

Our correspondent also gathered that when the results came in on Friday, he was the only one who tested positive and has since been taken to one of the isolation centres in Bauchi for treatment while results of others were being awaited.

The new case was confirmed by the Executive Chairman of Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency (BASPHCDA), Dr. Rilwanu Mohammed, when the State’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Aliyu Maigoro Mohammed, could not be reached and did not picked up the phone when he was called.

Rilwanu Mohammed added that the state would not rest in its efforts to ensure that the spread of the infection is contained and asked residents in the state to continue to adhere strictly to all the prescribed public health protocols put in place by the government.

Meanwhile, the Representative of the NEDC and Director Audit of the Commission, Mr. Yerima Gashua, has delivered the commission’s donations to the Chairman Taskforce on the Bauchi State CONVID-19, Senator Baba Tela, on Saturday.

Gashua said that the items were palliatives meant to alleviate the sufferings of the people in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that the commission is committed to making life more bearable for people of the region particularly in the face of the ravaging COVID-19.

He assured that the commission is ready to support the state government to make the proposed testing laboratory in the state a reality, declaring that, “as soon as the government is ready, the commission would come to make it operational in order to ease the problem militating against quick testing of samples in the state.”

The Deputy Governor, Senator Baba Tela, who received the donations on behalf of the state governor, said the items come in good time when palliative was needed for the people of the state in the face of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.

Tela assured that the items donated would be evenly distributed by the committee set up by the state government under the leadership of the Emir of Bauchi, Dr. Rilwanu Sulaiman Adamu, pointing out that other items so far received as donation would be pulled together for distribution.

Nestlé Donates N32m to Kano

By Ibrahim Shuaibu

Nestlé Nigeria Plc has supported the Kano State Government with the donation of N32 million worth of food and beverages items.

The donation was part of the company’s contribution of more than N700 million in products and cash donations to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

The donation would support individuals and families that were affected by the containment measures put in place by the state government to stop the spread of the COVID-19.

The donation was received on behalf of the state governor by the Special Assistant to the Kano State Governor on Food Security, Mr. Ahmada Haruna Zago, who is also a member of the Kano State COVID-19 Fund Raising Committee.

He commended Nestlé Nigeria for supporting the government’s efforts to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on the indigenes and residents of Kano State.

The Managing Director of Nestlé Nigeria, Mr. Mauricio Alarcon, said that the contribution to the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria is in line with the company’s vision of enhancing the quality of life Nigerians and contributing to their healthier future

Alarcon said that Nestlé would continue to play its role in ensuring uninterrupted availability of food and beverage products, which are critical for the sustenance and well-being of millions of Nigerian families who relied on the company to help feed their families every day

Kwara Imposes Curfew, Bans Movement

The Kwara State Government has announced additional measures to curtail community transmission of COVID-19 pandemic in the state and warned that insisting that the recent relaxation of the lockdown does not mean that the state was out of the wood.

Meanwhile, the state government has discharged another six COVID-19 patients who have tested negative twice

Their discharge has reduced the number of active cases of COVID-19 in the state from 14 to eight.

The Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, said: “Effective from today, Monday, May 4, there will be statewide curfew between 6p.m. and 6.a.m. until further notice. This is part of the agreement of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) to prevent non-essential and unauthorised movement that could spike infection rate.

“Also, in addition to the measures earlier announced on Friday May 1, the government hereby bans travels/movement from one local government to the other. This is especially true of local governments with clear borders.”

Ajakaye, who is also a member of Kwara State Technical Committee on COVID-19, also said that the measures that were previously announced are still in force until they are reviewed.

 “We repeat that we are not in any way out of the danger of this pandemic. The government will be as flexible as practicable in the phased reopening of the economy. But it will at all time prioritise the protection of lives. In other words, the level of threats of the virus will determine government’s response from time to time.

“The government insists that anyone who wants to go out must use face mask,” Ajakaye said.

Two Children among Newly-infected in Enugu

The Enugu State Government has announced four new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the state to eight.

The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ikechukwu Obi, made the disclosure in a statement yesterday in Enugu.

Obi said the new cases were two children and two adults.

He said: “These new cases are two adults and two children who live in Enugu and hail from Bauchi State, and travelled to Jos, Plateau State, with the case that was reported as the third positive case in Enugu.

“This brings the status of positive cases ever reported in Enugu to eight with six active cases and two discharged.”

Obi urged residents to continue to observe the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) recommended safety measures.

50 Almajiri from Kano Test Positive in Kaduna

Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, has disclosed that repatriated Almajiri children from Kano State account for 50 of the 59 active COVID-19 cases in Kaduna.

El-Rufai disclosed this on his accredited Twitter handle yesterday.

Kaduna State has 66 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Giving the details yesterday, Governor El-Rufai posted on Twitter that, “COVID-19 Update: The Kaduna State Ministry of Health this evening confirmed receipt of 16 more positive results, 15 of them from almajiris. The state has now recorded 50 cases from repatriated almajiris. Active cases have risen to 59.”

The state is still under 24hours quarantine, while the Government has since blocked all the major entries into the State to prevent further inter-state travel

SATURDAY 2ND, 2020

FG Dispatches Special Medical Team to Kano

•Squad to drive NCDC’s containment plan
•Cases now 2170, with 68 deaths
•SGF warns of spike in cases if protocols are ignored
•Don’t ease lockdown now, NMA warns again
•Curfew: Task force meets security agencies, plans enforcement
•Raymond Dokpesi, 7 other family members test positive
•NCDC: No enough bed spaces in all states
•WHO: 89 vaccines at different development stages
•Sanwo-Olu inaugurates 118-bed isolation centre
•UK evacuates 316 nationals from Lagos

Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja and Chinedu Eze in Lagos

A 14-man team comprising experts in different fields of health has been dispatched to Kano State by the federal government to complement efforts of the state’s government aimed at curbing the rampaging Coronavirus in the state.

On the same day, 238 new cases of Coronavirus were recorded in Nigeria, with Kano State alone accounting for 92 cases. The new figures take the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria to 2170. 351 people have recovered, while 68 others have died from the disease.

The multi-sectorial team of 14 specialists, which will arrive Kano State this morning, is made up of persons from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the Department of Hospital Services, the Department of Family Health, Infectious Disease Specialists, media and a special adviser.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who disclosed this yesterday during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, said frontline health workers in Kano would be trained and retrained to effectively manage the pandemic.

Ehanire said: “With regards to Kano, the main focus of the intervention is on training and capacity building of state health care workforce along with their various specialties on a very massive scale.

“On case management, medical, nursing, and clinic staff shall be trained or retrained. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency will engage its extensive Kano State network to drive testing demand by grassroots through community mobilisation so that NCDC strategy can be realised.”

The minister also disclosed that government had now activated 18 laboratories nationwide, to increase testing capacity and improve case management.

The Minister of State for Health Olorummibe Mamora deplored complaints that some health workers were extorting money from patients under the guise of buying protective kits for treatment.

“Any demand from patients to pay money for protective kits by health workers in the hospitals is illegal, unacceptable and will be investigated,” he warned.

Responding to what may have been the recommendations of the interim report on the situation in Kano State, Mamora said it merely helped the ministry to establish the mode engagement with the state officials in dealing with challenges.

In addition, Mamora said the report led to the deployment of a multi-sectoral team to Kano State.

He said that the PTF would set up a base in Kano to coordinate further measures to find out the causes of the mysterious deaths in the state.

The Director General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said that efforts were being made to solve the challenges currently facing Kano and other areas where new cases of COVID-19 were reported.

On whether the NCDC would carry out sample collection at the markets, he said all their actions were evidence-driven, adding that if there were sufficient reasons to do that, then the centre would definitely go ahead and do it.

The NCDC boss said the centre tested 2,000 samples on Thursday, stating that it was the highest ever since the outbreak of COVID-19.

On bed space, he said that so far there were altogether 3,500 beds in all the states.

He said that none of the states has met the requirements for beds space for isolation centres, adding that private sector organisations are encouraged to assist the states where they operate with isolation facilities.

SGF Warns of Spike in Cases If Protocols Are Ignored

Meanwhile, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Chairman of PTF on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha has warned Nigerians to be prepared for a spike in Coronavirus cases across the country if they ignored the protocols issued following the easing of the lockdown on the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Mustapha cited the experience of Ghana, Germany and other countries as nations that have experienced a jump in COVID-19 infections after they eased the lockdown.
He warned that there would be a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country if Nigerians fail to comply with the guidelines and protocols on easing of the lockdown, issued by the federal government.

“Ten days after Ghana relaxed the lockdown, the figures went up again. Germany and several other countries have had that experience and everybody is navigating the rough road, trying to find a solution to it. Part of what I see them do is that they try as much as possible in spite of the spike to ensure very strict compliance,” Mustapha said.

He asked Nigerians to emulate Sweden, which neither imposed a lockdown, nor a mandatory use of mask on its citizens besides compliance, which has been part of their culture.

“If we can get our people to realise that this is a collective responsibility, to work together; that these are guidelines that are meant for our own good, I think we will be able to cross that Rubicon,” Mustapha said.

He also called for the issue of border and interstate restriction to be looked into by both Lagos and FCT authorities.

He said the implementation of that order would be a major challenge given that many workers in both places reside in neigbouring states like Ogun, Niger and Nasarawa from where they commute daily to work.

Raymond Dokpesi, 7 Family Members Test Positive

The founder of DAAR Communications, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, his daughter-in-law, and six members of his family have tested positive for Coronavirus.

This came three days after his son and Chairman of the board of the company, Raymond Dokpesi Jnr, also tested positive for the virus.

According to ait.live, a test conducted by the NCDC on the Dokpesi family came out positive for eight members of the family.

Dokpesi and the other affected family members were, yesterday, conveyed by the NCDC to the isolation centre at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, where his son is receiving treatment.

The media mogul, who spoke to journalists shortly after the arrival of the ambulance, said “I am quite okay. I feel very well.”

Dokpesi Jnr had tested positive for COVID-19 after having symptoms of malaria.

However, after persistent bouts of cough, he was said to have contacted the NCDC, which later confirmed that he had the infectious virus.

Contact tracing immediately commenced with his family members. The test was later extended to senior management and members of staff who had been in close contact with the company’s index case.

The health authorities in the Federal Capital Territory had also carried out immediate fumigation of the entire DAAR Headquarters building sitting aloft the Kpaduma hills in Asokoro District of Abuja.

Sanwo-Olu inaugurates 118-bed Isolation Centre

As the Coronavirus cases in Lagos State near 1,000, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday, opened a new 118-bed Isolation Center in the Gbagada area of the state.

The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said on Thursday in Abuja that there was shortage of bed spaces in Lagos, which has more than 50 per cent of the total COVID-19 cases reported in the country.

“Across the country, we have about 3,500 bed spaces identified and available for COVID-19. But in Lagos, we are already struggling,” Ihekweazu said.

But yesterday, Sanwo-Olu’s Senior Special Assistant on New Media, Gawat Jubril, tweeted that the governor had commissioned another facility to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

“The Incident Commander of COVID-19 in Lagos and Governor of Lagos State, Mr Jide Sanwo-Olu today commissioned the 118-bed Isolation Centre at the Gbagada General Hospital, Lagos,” he tweeted.

Task Force to Meet Security Agencies over Curfew

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 yesterday said it would meet with security agencies this weekend to create modalities for the enforcement of the national curfew beginning on Monday.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on April 27 announced a “gradual and phased easing out” of the cumulative five-week lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory since March 30 to tackle the spread of the Coronavirus and declared a national curfew with effect from May 4.

The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, called on state government to enforce the new guidelines.

Mustapha said, “As mentioned earlier, the guidelines for phase one of the eased lockdown has been released. We urge all states to adopt them and ensure the creation of awareness and compliance.

“The PTF will be meeting with the security agencies this weekend to fashion out modalities for enforcement.”

WHO: 89 Vaccines at Different Development Stages Globally

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that 89 vaccines globally are currently in development stages for the prevention of COVID-19.

The Officer in Charge of WHO Nigeria, Dr Fiona Braka, made the revelation yesterday at the Presidential Task Force media briefing in Abuja.

Braka also said that seven of the vaccines were currently at the stage of clinical evaluation and trials.

The WHO officer said the organisation was committed to ensuring that once vaccines and medicines are developed they will be shared equitably among all countries and people.

She added that more than 100 countries, including Nigeria have offered to be to be part of the solidarity trial, which WHO and its partners, launched for the effective treatment of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus.

According to Braka, over 1,200 patients have been selected randomly from the first five countries to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combination.

She described the process for the ceritifcation of vaccine as very rigourous and thorough, because of the need to ensure that products that are approved for use meet the safety requirement.

UK Evacuates 316 from MMIA, Lagos

The United Kingdom evacuated about 316 Britons from Nigeria yesterday through a chartered British Airways flight which took off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos to Heathrow Airport, London at 4.46 pm local time.

Last week, the British High Commission disclosed that it had made arrangements for additional flights that would take 900 people back to the UK from Nigeria on government charter flights to around 2,000, following flights arranged two weeks back from Lagos and Abuja to London.

So far, 1,416 Britons have been evacuated to the UK in six flights in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cases Now 2170

Figures yesterday from the NCDC showed that the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria is now 2170. 351 people have recovered, while 68 others have died from the disease.

Kano state accounts for 92 of the new cases, 36 in FCT, 30 in Lagos, 16 in Gombe, 10 in Bauchi, 8 in Delta, 6 in Oyo, 5 in Zamfara, 5 in Sokoto, 4 in Ondo, 4 in Nasarawa, 3 in Kwara, 3 in Edo, 3 in Ekiti, 3 in Borno, 3 in Yobe, 2 in Adamawa, 1 in Niger, 1 in Imo, 1 in Ebonyi, 1 in Rivers, and 1 in Enugu.

Don’t Ease Lockdown Now, NMA warns again

The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has again asked the federal and state governments to discard plans to embark on gradual easing of the current lockdown meant to prevent the spread of covid19 across the country.

In a statement issued last night by the NMA President, Dr. Fancis Fraduyile, the doctors said that current trend in the spread of did not support the easing of the measures for now.

It said: “At the point we are today, the Nigerian Medical Association unequivocally states as follows: The easing of the lockdown even in phases is very premature. Nigeria should learn from her neighbour Ghana where the same action produced a 100% increase in infection rate in just a week.”

“As the incidence of the COVID-19 hits the 2000th mark by this weekend, just seven days after hitting the 1000th mark, it figuratively tilts the epidemiological curve towards an upward spike. More so, the revelation by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that the nation lacks for bed spaces in Lagos worsens this frightening scenario.

“The confusing situation in Kano is neither unravelled nor resolved. At the same time, some States continue to live in the delusion of zero COVID-19 incidences.”
The Association deplored what it described as “meddlesome pronouncements by some state actors on the management protocols for COVID-19 in the country”.

In particular, NMA said it viewed the directive by the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, for the use of a specific drug in the treatment of positive cases, as improper and unethical.

 

Fayemi Approves Money for Vulnerable, Sick, Bereaved Workers

Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

As part of the ways to fortify the cord of unity between the Ekiti State Government and workers, Governor Kayode Fayemi has promised financial help for  bedridden, vulnerable and widows in the civil service to mitigate their sufferings.

Fayemi said the COVID-19 pandemic may have robbed the workers of the opportunity of celebrating with the usual fanfare and joy but it will not take away the core values of prompt payment of salaries, pensions, gratuities and the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage across board.

Fayemi spoke in a statewide broadcast to workers to celebrate the 2020 workers’ day, yesterday.

The governor said: “I have accepted the list submitted by the leadership of organised labour, Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress with details of most vulnerable, sick , those that involved in accident, widows and widowers and approved money for them as a little leverage of government support in commemoration of this year’s May Day.

“As a government, we are determined to play our part at making work and its environment conducive for Ekiti workers. This, we believe is the only way that we can inspire our workers to give in their best in the implementation of policies and programmes of our government.

“I sincerely appreciate the leadership of the Service in our state for their donations to the COVID-19 account and the Food Bank. These gestures demonstrate the Public Service values of loyalty and service to the people”.

Fayemi said the labour movement in Ekiti State had been  resilient and  mature, sacrificial and patient, assuring that the welfare and improved working conditions of workers shall continue to be his  priority.

“Salaries, pensions and gratuities are being paid as and when due. I am sure you have received your April 2020 salary and all allowances due to our health workers who are at the frontline of COVID-19 response have been paid.

“We continue to pay the N30, 000 minimum wage for junior cadre in the public service and have reinstated merit based appointments to elevate the standards of the public service.

“Official vehicles have been allocated to serving and some retired Permanent Secretaries while we have increased our investment in training and capacity building for the public service. Also, it is on record that all outstanding promotions as at December 2019 had been addressed across the Public Service.

 “Work is progressing steadily on the abandoned structures at the State Secretariat complex to ease the challenge of inadequate office accommodation for our workers.

Housing and Car Loans are being granted to workers.

 “Our new policy of six months Maternity Leave for women in the public service which took effect from February 1, 2020, is aimed at reducing to the barest minimum infant and maternal mortality rate, as well as facilitate work-life balance for female workers in the state. All of these are geared toward making life and working more comfortable for Ekiti workers.”

Fayemi added that the Joint Negotiation Council was on the verge of concluding negotiations on the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage when the effects of the deadly pandemic Coronavirus dealt a fatal blow on global National and state economy.

“This may affect the resumption of negotiations but we are optimistic that the battle would be won soon and that the world economy would come out of the present recession to enable the state conclude on the process and its consequential adjustments.

Sanwo-Olu Doubles Life Insurance for Health Workers

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State yesterday during  the May Day anniversary to appreciate frontline health and emergency workers, whom he described as heroes, for sacrificing their personal well-being for the efforts at combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In appreciation of the sacrifices made by health workers in the state who he described as frontline officers against the pandemic, said “we approved a 400 per cent increment in the Hazard Allowance of Health Officers in the state for the month of April.

“We have also introduced a COVID-19 Allowance for all our frontline workers, which is a very generous amount that takes cognisance of the heightened risks of the jobs they have to do. All these are intended to appreciate the dedication of all our Health Officers in the fight against COVID-19,” he said.

Sanwo-Olu disclosed that the state government had procured additional life and health insurance for all frontline health workers to cater for the hazard they face in the ongoing battle against Coronavirus, bringing it to two-level protection. This is in addition to the approval of increment in the hazard allowance of frontline emergency workers.

He said: “I should also mention that we have put in place additional health and life insurance for all our frontline health workers in the state to ensure that they are adequately insured. This gives them insurance protection on two levels.

“It is only fitting that I dedicate this year’s commemoration of the Workers’ Day to celebrating the true heroes of this season, which are the health workers on the frontline of the battle against Covid-19.

Since this virus started to ravage our communities and disrupt our lives, these heroes have not just been going to work daily, they have been going to war daily against this unseen enemy.

“Workers across public and private sectors, who are represented by various Labour Unions, are the engine-rooms of our economy, and the nucleus of wealth generation. My administration will always seek harmonious relationship with workers for the progress and prosperity of our State. The prompt approval and payment of the new minimum wage is a proof that we care about the welfare of our workforce.”

With effect from last January, Gov. Sanwo-Olu said his Government had increased the employers’ contribution to employees’ Retirement Savings Account (RSA) from 7.5 per cent to 10 per cent. This, he said, complemented employees’ contribution of 8 per cent, bringing it to a total of monthly contribution of 18 per cent.

The Governor said the commemoration of Workers’ Day should be a reminder to stakeholders that the concept of development must be far-reaching and inclusive for it to benefit the society in general.

Describing labour force as “a critical stakeholder” in good governance and “engine-room” of the economic growth, Sanwo-Olu said his administration, since inception, had prioritised payment of new minimum wage to workers as a demonstration of his Government’s commitment to improving their welfare.

He also said his administration had continued to assist families of workers who die in the line of duty, adding that the State had not relented, despite COVID-19 pandemic, in paying 418 pensioners for their pension bond arrears.

 “Workers across public and private sectors, who are represented by various Labour Unions, are the engine-rooms of our economy, and the nucleus of wealth generation. My administration will always seek harmonious relationship with workers for the progress and prosperity of our State. The prompt approval and payment of the new minimum wage is a proof that we care about the welfare of our workforce,” he assured them

Sanwo-Olu said his administration had also approved the monthly release of a pension bail-out fund to the tune of N1.083 billion.

Sanwo-Olu disclosed that the State Government had procured additional life and health insurance for all frontline health workers to cater for the hazard they face in the ongoing battle against coronavirus, bringing it to two-level protection. This is in addition to the approval of increment in the hazard allowance of frontline emergency workers.

Sanwo-Olu said there was nothing that better amplified his Government’s devotion to the growth of the workforce than the launch of a knowledge-sharing platform tagged: “A Disruptive S.H.i.F.T”, which rewarded an outstanding public servant, Seun Ogunmola, with accelerated promotion from Grade Level 08 to 10.

He said the initiative reflected his administration’s resolve to harness the creativity and innovativeness of public servants to positively change the face of the State’s Public Service, with a view to achieving the vision of making Lagos a 21st century economy.

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) chairman in Lagos, Comrade Agnes Sessi, said despite the ravaging pandemic, the contribution of workers to the development of the State could not be undermined.

She prayed for all emergency and health workers on the frontline, stressing that the ravaging virus had affected many workers in all spheres.

She praised the Governor for the increment of hazards allowance from 5,000 to 25,000 for health workers, saying the gesture would truly serve as motivation for the frontline workers.

Her Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Comrade Gbenga Ekundayo, hailed the Governor for upward review of salaries and allowances for workers.

Wearing of Face Mask Now Compulsory in Rivers

Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

Rivers State Government has announced that wearing of face masks in public places was now compulsory in the state to check the rising incidence of the Coronavirus.

This is as the state also explained that it rejected the 1,800 bags of rice given to the state as palliatives from the federal government because the rice was expired and the mode of collection an insult to the state.

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike who disclosed this during a press conference in Port Harcourt yesterday, also expressed worry at the rising incidence of the pandemic in the state and blamed lapses by security agents who allowed people to beat the border lockdown announced by the state as responsible for the new wave of infections.

He said, “While we are not under any illusion about the presence of the risk of this virus in our midst, we are making tremendous progress that clearly underscores our belief that our aggressive strategy and targeted measures have been effective in curbing the spread seeing COVID-19 in our state.

“Accordingly, the directives and restrictions we have put in place to maintain social distancing must continue and all residents are advised to strictly follow and comply in the interest of the health and lives of everybody.

“In addition, the wearing of face mask in all public places is now compulsory throughout the State.”

He confirmed that six more persons had tested positive to Coronavirus in the state, bringing to 13, the total number of cases recorded in the state.

He stated that out of the 13 confirmed cases, nine were active while two had been discharged and two deaths, pointing out that the active cases were receiving medical attention at the state treatment centre.

The governor said: “As at today 1st May 2020, Rivers State has recorded 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections, four females and nine males.

 Out of this number, two have recovered and discharged, nine are active and receiving medical attention in our treatment centre, while unfortunately, two lost their lives because of COVID-19.

“Furthermore, apart from the sixth case who has no travel history, the rest were returnees to the state from Italy, United Kingdom, and Lagos or persons who had close contacts with already affected persons. Indeed, five of the most recent cases are all children and a relative of the second death case.

 “The logical conclusion therefore, is that the pattern of transmission of COVID-19 in the state is evidentially predicated on importation from outside, just as the rate of infection and progression is also relatively low and arithmetical, when considered from the date of the index case.

“This is not to say that we are at the peak of this crisis and that everything about the containment and transmission of COVID-19 is under control. No; we are not, because of the challenges occasioned primarily by the negative elements that continue to deliberately undermine and sabotage our efforts to protect our people from this disease.

“For instance, the 7th infected case was an offshore oil and gas worker who went and passed a night in a Lagos hotel before returning to Port Harcourt on the 9th of April 2020 with the aid of the security personnel manning our borders.

“When his symptoms started, he was admitted to a private hospital, (St. Martin’s Hospital) on the 20th and discharged on the 21st of April 2020 before testing positive to the virus after almost over two weeks of close contacts with other people.

“Had the security agencies not compromised their responsibility at the borders, this man would have been prevented from coming into Port Harcourt and threaten the lives of other people with this virus.

 “Again, on the 29th of April 2020, our surveillance team picked up two men from Niger Republic, who came into the state from Lagos with the help of security personnel despite the closure of the entry routes into the state.”

He explained that it was because of the failure of the security personnel controlled by the federal government to effectively man the state’s borders that the state established its own border security task force.

His words: “For us as a Government, every single new infection of COVID-19 in our state is one too many. We shall therefore continue to take every necessary measure to control and possibly end the transmission of this disease in Rivers State in spite of the enormous challenges and lack of concrete support from the federal government.

“It is for the very reason that we have taken our fate in our own hands with the establishment of the Border security task force, which has been mandated to provide and ensure a water-tight situation in all our entry and exit points and prevent any unauthorised entry and or exit of persons and vehicles into the State during the period of the closure.

“These are all Rivers sons and we expect them to protect the interest of the State at all cost, and not compromise and risk the health and survival of our people in exchange for some filthy naira notes.”

The governor also vowed to challenge the decision of the federal government to remove N11 billion from the Federation Account for the funding of the Nigeria Police without the consent of the state government.

He said while the state was not against the proper funding of the police, the Federal Government has no right to make such withdrawal without the consent of the state, as a part owner of the resources.

“We will challenge this in court. If you must take my money, you must first get my consent,” he said.

He expressed regret that security agencies in the country had been so politicised that they could no longer effectively perform their functions.

“It is on record that because security agencies arrested people who entered Rivers State illegally, the heads of all the agencies were all transferred: the heads of the Airforce, police, department of state services (DSS); all of them. New persons have been posted to the state. How can they work effectively when they know that one politician in Abuja can walk into their headquarters and insist that his transfer letter be written immediately?” he queried.

On the rejected palliative, Wike said it was an insult for the Federal Government to tell the state government to go to Cross River State to get its own share of the palliatives.

He said: “You don’t have to lose your dignity because you are poor. Come to think of it, we are not the only state that rejected the Federal Government palliatives.

“Oyo State rejected it, Akwa Ibom State rejected it. They are not edible. They even told us to go to Cross River State to carry a trailer-load of rice. I said no, I cannot go to Cross River to carry rice for Rivers people.

“You can’t just send rice to us without asking if that is what we want. Rivers people prefer garri to rice. In fact, the rice is expired.”

Ekiti Orders Mandatory Test for Corpses Entering State

Victor  Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

Despite the belief that Coronavirus is not active in human remains,  the Ekiti State Government has ordered compulsory certification for corpses being brought to the state to ascertain their  COVID-19 statuses.

The Coordinator of the State COVID-19 Task Force, Prof. Bolaji Aluko, spoke in Ado Ekiti yesterday while giving  an update on the pandemic.

Aluko regretted  that some  people were still trying to forcefully enter the state through the borders inspite of prohibition, saying those that were intercepted by security agencies on Thursday at Ido Ile Ekiti, were immediately returned to the borders.

He said: “Movement of corpses had earlier been banned outrightly in Ekiti. But because of this lockdown relaxation, corpses will now be allowed to move in and out of Ekiti from next week every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“But let me emphasise that corpses that must enter Ekiti must be certified through registration at the Ministry of Health to know their histories.

This is about our health and no compromise will be tolerated.”

Aluko stated that a total of 40,000 food palliatives had been distributed to vulnerable groups in the state, adding that another 50,000 would be added to cushion the effects of the present economic situation on the populace.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, disclosed that all the patients in isolation centres were stable and responding to treatment.

The commissioner however revealed that the second test conducted for the 45- year-old doctor infected by a dead COVID-19 patient was still positive, after the expiration of the 14 days isolation period.

“Another set of blood samples had already been taken from all the patients to ascertain their statuses before any of them can be released, because you have to be negative twice before being let out of the isolation centre.”

The Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Gbenga Agbeyo, said the state had taken delivery of four motorised fumigators donated to the state by Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi.

Agbeyo said the donation from the  traditional ruler would enhance state’s fumigating  capacity to be able to cover the 16 local government areas of the state.

FRIDAY 1ST MAY , 2020

COVID-19: Kano Probe Team Submits Interim Report

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Thursday gave an update on developments in Kano State, saying the Ministerial Task Team sent on a fact-finding mission to Kano has sent in an interim report.

He said the report provided information on the needs, strengths and weaknesses of the Kano response system.

“While I await a full report, this will guide the FMoH (Federal Ministry of Health) in supporting Kano State COVID-19 Taskforce with necessary material, training and human resources. They will include assembling and dispatching a technical team from Federal Ministry of Health and viral infectious disease specialists from Irrua Specialist Hospital to join a technical team from Lagos State Ministry of Health that is already on the ground in Kano at the request of the governor of Kano State,” he said.

According to him, the ministry is assembling a pool of experienced experts to support Kano State in the battling virus.

Already, the minister said, an emergency medical team from the Federal Ministry of Health had left Abuja with ambulances, five of which were donated by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), for Kano to provide emergency response.

Mustapha also confirmed that the federal government had released the equipment to Kano State.

Mustapha said the equipment, which was to be transported immediately to the state, comprised two Oxygen Concentration, three Ventilators, 280 Personal Protective Equipment, 51 face shields, 538 examination gloves, 25 boot covers, medical masks, and surgical gloves and unspecified numbers of infrared thermometers.

Dead COVID-19 Victims Not Infectious, Says FCDA

The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) has said a cemetery at Kaura District in Phase II of the Federal Capital City (FCC) does not constitute a long-term health danger to residents of the estates.

The clarification followed the complaint by the residents of Lokogoma Estates, who asked the FCT Administration to consider relocating the cemetery to another area on the fears that burying COVID-19 bodies at the cemetery threatened the neighbourhood through the contamination of boreholes.

FCDA, in a statement Thursday by the Media Assistant to the Executive Secretary, Mr. Richard Nduul, stated that except in cases of hemorrhagic fevers (such as Lassa fever and Ebola) and Cholera, bodies are generally not infectious.

“There is also little or no evidence of persons having become infected from exposure to bodies of persons who died from COVID-19. This is the position of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and further collaborated by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” the statement said.

COVID-19: Obaseki Declares Nursing Mother Wanted

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has declared one Amara Okoro, a nursing mother, wanted after she tested positive and became unreachable.

He said Thursday at a press briefing in Benin City, the state capital, that Okoro’s baby had started coughing and urged those with useful information about her whereabouts to report to the relevant security and health agencies.

The governor also extended the dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state by 14 days, effective from Thursday, as part of renewed measures to halt the spread of the virus.

He added that the government had decided to commence another round of distribution of relief materials to most vulnerable persons to reduce the economic hardship.

“I am extending the curfew in Edo State for another 14 days from 8pm to 6am. With the lessons which we have learnt from the first round of distribution, measures have been put in place to make sure that only the targeted persons receive these palliatives,” he said.

BUK Manufactures Ventilator to Fight Covid-19

By Ibrahim Shuaibu

In an effort to use its intellectual resources to fight Covid-19, the management of Bayero University Kano has constituted BUK Emergency Ventilator Team which on Friday displayed a prototype ventilator machine produced by the university.

According to the Chairman of the BUK Emergency Ventilator Team, Prof. Ibrahim Abdullahi of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the idea behind the production is for the university to contribute its quota in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “Due to the present Covid-19 pandemic, the university saw the need to contribute to the fight against the deadly pandemic. We came up with this idea.

“The ventilator operates in two modes. In mode one, the ventilator breezes for the patients. In mode two, the ventilator complements the breezing for the patients.”

The locally produced ventilator has the capacity of operating in two modes.

He added that the ventilator also has a controller that controls the breezing according to the patient’s requirement.

“It has ranges for the clinician to tune a particular breezing frequency to support the life of the patient,” he added.

“We produced one unit of the ventilator at the cost of N500,000. We used locally available material and locally available technology,” Abdullahi said.

He said BUK is making plans for mass and commercial production of the ventilator, adding that: “In the next step, we will produce and test for animals. What we have now is the prototype.

“We are making plans to engage companies so that we can go into mass production. For now, as a university, we produce in batches. We shall soon partner with companies for commercial production.”

Covid-19: Rivers Makes Wearing of Masks in Public Places Mandatory

By Ernest Chinwo

The Rivers State Government has announced that wearing of masks in public places is now mandatory to check the rising incidence of the coronavirus in the state.

This is as the state also explained that it rejected the 1,800 bags of rice given to the state as palliatives from the federal government because the rice has expired and the mode of collection is an insult to the state

The state Governor, Nyesom Wike, in a live press conference in Port Harcourt Friday, also expressed worry at the rising incidence of the pandemic in the state and blamed lapses by security agents who allowed people to beat the border lockdown announced by the state as responsible for the new wave of infections.

He said: “While we are not under any illusion about the presence of the risk of this virus in our midst, we are making tremendous progress that clearly underscores our belief that our aggressive strategy and targeted measures have been effective in curbing the spread seeing Covid-19 in our state.

“Accordingly, the directives and restrictions we have put in place to maintain social distancing must continue and all residents are advised to strictly follow and comply in the interest of the health and lives of everybody.

“In addition, the wearing of mask in all public places is now compulsory throughout the state.”

He confirmed that six more persons have tested positive to coronavirus in the state, bringing to 13 the total number of cases recorded in the state.

He stated that out of the 13 confirmed cases, nine are active, while two have been discharged and two deaths, pointing out that the active cases are receiving medical attention at the state treatment centre.

The governor said: “As at today 1st May 2020, Rivers State has recorded 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infections, four females and nine males.  Out of this number, two have recovered and discharged, nine are active and receiving medical attention in our treatment centre, while unfortunately, two lost their lives because of Covid-19.

“Furthermore, apart from the sixth case who has no travel history, the rest were returnees to the state from Italy, United Kingdom, and Lagos or persons who had close contacts with already affected persons. Indeed, five of the most recent cases are all children and a relative of the second death case.

“The logical conclusion therefore, is that the pattern of transmission of Covid-19 in the state is evidentially predicated on importation from outside, just as the rate of infection and progression is also relatively low and arithmetical, when considered from the date of the index case.

“This is not to say that we are at the peak of this crisis and that everything about the containment and transmission of Covid-19 is under control. No, we are not, because of the challenges occasioned primarily by the negative elements that continue to deliberately undermine and sabotage our efforts to protect our people from this disease.

“For instance, the 7th infected case was an offshore oil and gas worker who went and passed a night in a Lagos hotel before returning to Port Harcourt on the 9th of April 2020 with the aid of the security personnel manning our borders.

“When his symptoms started, he was admitted to a private hospital, (St. Martin’s Hospital) on the 20th and discharged on the 21st of April 2020 before testing positive to the virus after almost over two weeks of close contacts with other people.

“Had the security agencies not compromised their responsibility at the borders, this man would have been prevented from coming into Port Harcourt and threaten the lives of other people with this virus.

“Again, on the 29th of April 2020, our surveillance team picked up two men from Niger Republic, who came into the state from Lagos with the help of security personnel despite the closure of the entry routes into the state.”

He explained that it was because of the failure of the security personnel controlled by the federal government to effectively man the state’s borders that the state established its own border security task force.

“For us as a government, every single new infection of Covid-19 in our state is one too many. We shall therefore continue to take every necessary measure to control and possibly end the transmission of this disease in Rivers State in spite of the enormous challenges and lack of concrete support from the federal government.

“It is for the very reason that we have taken our fate in our own hands with the establishment of the Border Security Taskforce, which has been mandated to provide and ensure a water-tight situation in all our entry and exit points and prevent any unauthorized entry and or exit of persons and vehicles into the state during the period of the closure.

“These are all Rivers sons and we expect them to protect the interest of the state at all cost, and not compromise and risk the health and survival of our people in exchange for some filthy naira notes,” he said.

The governor also vowed to challenge the decision of the federal government to remove N11 billion from the Federation Account for the funding of the Nigeria Police without the consent of the state government.

He said while the state was not against the proper funding of the police, the federal government has no right to make such withdrawal without the consent of the state, as a part owner of the resources.

“We will challenge this in court. If you must take my money, you must first get my consent,” he said.

He expressed regret that security agencies in the country have been so politicised that they could no longer effectively perform their functions.

“It is on record that because security agencies arrested people who entered Rivers State illegally, the heads of all the agencies were all transferred: the heads of the Air Force, police, Department of State Services (DSS); all of them. New persons have been posted to the state. How can they work effectively when they know that one politician in Abuja can walk into their headquarters and insist that his transfer letter be written immediately?” he queried.

On the rejected palliative, Wike said it was an insult for the federal government to tell the state government to go to Cross River State to get its own share of the palliatives.

He said: “You don’t have to lose your dignity because you are poor. Come to think of it, we are not the only state that rejected the Ffederal government palliatives.

“Oyo State rejected it, Akwa Ibom State rejected it. They are not edible. They even told us to go to Cross River State to carry a trailer-load of rice. I said no, I cannot go to Cross River to carry rice for Rivers people.

“You can’t just send rice to us without asking if that is what we want. Rivers people prefer garri to rice. In fact, the rice is expired.”

COVID-19: With Rising Cases, FG Considers Home Treatment of Patients

  • Intensifies talks with hoteliers on use of facilities to expand bed spaces
  • Mulls use of military to secure isolation centres
  • Says 113 health workers infected nationwide
  • 204 new cases push tally to 1,932 with 319 discharged, 58 dead
  • With 80 fresh incidences, Kano displaces FCT as second epicentre with 219 infected
  • High hopes for vaccine developed by Oxford scientists

 

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

The federal government yesterday expressed concern about the rising cases of COVID-19, saying with the high prospect of patients outstripping the 3,500-bed spaces available in the country, it might consider home care treatment.

THISDAY had reported on Wednesday public health analysts’ advice to the federal government to prepare for a second lockdown on the projection that the pandemic incidence might climb to about 280,000 with 8,400 deaths in three months.

The analysts hinged their projections on the average infection rate of 14 per cent of tested persons, which stood at 1,532 of 10,918 as of Tuesday. They warned that with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC) target of two million people in three months, confirmed cases might be in the region of 280,000.

Confirmed cases have been on the upward trend since the warning. Last night, NCDC put the daily rise at 204, bringing the tally to 1,932 with 319 discharged and 58 dead.

It said the new 204 cases were reported from 18 states- Kano 80, Lagos 45, Gombe 12, Sokoto nine, Bauchi nine, Edo seven, Borno seven, Rivers six, Ogun six, FCT four, Akwa Ibom four, Bayelsa four, Kaduna three, Oyo two, Delta two, Nasarawa two, Ondo one and Kebbi one.

Acknowledging the gloomy immediate future, the federal government raised the alarm yesterday that rise in the incidences of the disease was threatening to overwhelm its facilities.

It, therefore, said it was intensifying talks with hoteliers in the epicentres of COVID-19, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos, Ogun and Kano, on the possibility of converting their facilities to isolation centres to complement the 3,500-bed spaces on the ground across the country.

The federal government also expressed worry over the rising of patients trying to run away from isolation centres and said it was in talks with the military to provide security for the centres.

Speaking at the daily press briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, told reporters that the country only had about 3,500-bed spaces only for COVID-19 management, adding that in Lagos, the epicentre of the pandemic, its capacity was being stretched.

He said the development might force the federal government to manage patients at homes by sending healthcare workers to treat them.

He said: “There is no doubt about it. We are struggling in some places, especially Lagos and to an extent in Kano and Abuja too. But the biggest challenge right now is Lagos where bed spaces are really tight.

“We are now trying to make more bed spaces available, but ultimately we might have to change our strategy and start considering homecare in certain circumstances where patients are able to provide rooms for their own management.

“Secondly, we will also have to support their care by enabling healthcare workers, who would go and treat them. Because of the realities we face, we might have to adjust our strategy in the next few days or weeks.”

He said the federal government was aware of the pressure for the use of the rapid diagnostic test, but that the technology would not produce accurate results as against what obtains with molecular laboratory testing.

“My responsibility is to make sure every result we get is accurate, and that is what we are doing at the moment,” he said.
He explained that instead of waiting for people to call or come for tests, officials have been deployed to go to the neighbourhoods in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja to take samples from people with symptoms for testing.

He also reacted to the issue of some states buying test kits themselves and using other faster devices for testing in their areas.

Ihekweazu said NCDC would not stop any state from doing so, but that the centre would insist on working with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) as far as the laboratory testing is concerned.

He cautioned that any state using test kits not endorsed by WHO or NCDC may be doing so at the risk to the lives of their people.

 

FG Woos Hoteliers for Bed Spaces in Lagos, Ogun, Abuja, Kano

Meanwhile, the federal government has made overtures to owners of hotels and other recreational facilities for bed spaces, urging them to show solidarity with efforts at tackling the pandemic outbreak.

It said the cooperation of the hotel owners are needed to allow government to make use of their facilities as isolation centres to manage the increasing cases of the virus.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, also said there was an immediate need for owners of hotels to make their facilities available for temporary use in emergency situations.

“Active community transmission and scale-up of case finding are expressed in increasing numbers of confirmed persons. As stated yesterday, bed spaces and isolation centres at state level need to match the increase and necessitate an appeal to all citizens, especially property and hotel owners, to recognise the imminent needs and the social responsibility of working with state governments to make facilities available for temporary use in emergency situations,” he stated.

According to him, everything should not be left to government alone as “we must all take collective ownership of the health and wellbeing of our citizens.”

On complaints that patients were being turned back by some hospitals for fear of being infected, Ehanire cautioned healthcare institutions and workers against such an act.

He said they should not be dismissing patients that come for normal treatment rather their duty should be to apply necessary guidelines in handling their treatment.

 

Mulls Use of Military to Secure Isolation Centres

Also speaking at the press briefing the Chairman of the Task Force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the federal government would engage the armed forces to provide surveillance and control of the isolation centres nationwide to prevent people with the virus from escaping from the centres.

Mustapha raised the alarm that perimeter fencing of the isolation centres was not enough to deter people of positive status from trying to escape from the treatment centres and putting the society at risk.

“Most of the facilities have perimeter fencing. And we have been in discussion with the security and armed forces about the need to provide surveillance and control over the isolation centres. I hope we will be able to perfect that in the days and weeks ahead.

“But let me say that perimeter fencing will not deter people from wanting to escape. Let me say this. I saw a video clip of the Kenyan experience- a very high fence, but they were throwing their luggage across the fence and were jumping. And I understood from the news that that same evening, they were apprehended in a club where they had gone to socialise.

“It is this that is informing my position that perimeter fencing will not stop anybody that wants to escape. It is just for our people to develop the culture and sensitivity that they are not just a risk to themselves but a risk to the larger community,” he said.

Mustapha warned that the gradual easing of restrictions on activities and movements should not be mistaken to mean life has returned to normalcy in the country.

 

113 not 300 Healthcare Workers Infected

Ehanire, however, disagreed with the figures given by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) that about 300 of its members were infected with the virus, saying latest figures showed that about 113 doctors mainly in the private health organisations, have been infected.

He said: “We have realised majority of these health workers are from private hospitals. That is why we have said health workers trying to treat COVID-19 patients in private hospitals must be trained for it. Health workers without training have no business treating people with coronavirus. Those in the frontline must adhere to advisories relating to the management of the disease.”

He advised citizens to adhere to advisories by staying home and limiting travels.
He said people should wear face masks when going outside, wash their hands regularly, practise respiratory hygiene and social distancing.

FG Suspends Admission of Inmates into Correctional Centres

The Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, said the federal government had suspended further admission of inmates into any of the correctional facilities nationwide as a precaution to stem the spread of COVID-19 among the inmates and the workers.

He added that the decision did not go down well with some state governors.

Aregbesola thanked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad; the National Judicial Council (NJC), and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, for approaching the courts and helping to reduce pressure on custodial facilities to admit new inmates.

Obaseki Declares Nursing Mother Wanted

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has declared one Amara Okoro, a nursing mother, wanted after she tested positive and became unreachable.

He said yesterday at a press briefing in Benin City, the state capital, that Okoro’s baby had started coughing and urged those with useful information about her whereabouts to report to the relevant security and health agencies.
The governor also extended the dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state by 14 days, effective from yesterday, as part of renewed measures to halt the spread of the virus.

He added that the government had decided to commence another round of distribution of relief materials to most vulnerable persons to reduce the economic hardship.

“I am extending the curfew in Edo State for another 14 days from 8pm to 6am. With the lessons which we have learnt from the first round of distribution, measures have been put in place to make sure that only the targeted persons receive these palliatives,” he said.

Dead Victims Are Not Infectious, FCDA Insists

The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) has said a cemetery at Kaura District in Phase II of the Federal Capital City (FCC) does not constitute a long-term health danger to residents of the estates.

The clarification followed the complaint by the residents of Lokogoma Estates, who asked the FCT Administration to consider relocating the cemetery to another area on the fears that burying COVID-19 bodies at the cemetery threatened the neighbourhood through the contamination of boreholes.

FCDA, in a statement yesterday by the Media Assistant to the Executive Secretary, Mr. Richard Nduul, stated that except in cases of hemorrhagic fevers (such as Lassa fever and Ebola) and Cholera, bodies are generally not infectious.

“There is also little or no evidence of persons having become infected from exposure to bodies of persons who died from COVID-19. This is the position of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and further collaborated by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” the statement said.

Lagos Discharges 12 More Patients

Lagos State continued to post good news on the management of COVID-19 cases as the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said yesterday that 12 more COVID-19 patients from its isolation centres had been discharged.

This brings to 199 the total number of successfully treated persons in the state.

He said the discharged patients were nine males and three females.

“One of the patients is Ukrainian. Six were discharged from the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, five from Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and one from Ibeju-Lekki. So far, 199 cases have been successfully managed,” he stated.

Kano Probe Team Submits Interim Report

Ehanire also gave an update on developments in Kano State, saying the Ministerial Task Team sent on a fact-finding mission to Kano has sent in an interim report.

He said the report provided information on the needs, strengths and weaknesses of the Kano response system.

“While I await a full report, this will guide the FMoH (Federal Ministry of Health) in supporting Kano State COVID-19 Taskforce with necessary material, training and human resources. They will include assembling and dispatching a technical team from Federal Ministry of Health and viral infectious disease specialists from Irrua Specialist Hospital to join a technical team from Lagos State Ministry of Health that is already on the ground in Kano at the request of the governor of Kano State,” he said.

According to him, the ministry is assembling a pool of experienced experts to support Kano State in the battling virus.
Already, the minister said, an emergency medical team from the Federal Ministry of Health had left Abuja with ambulances, five of which were donated by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), for Kano to provide emergency response.
Mustapha also confirmed that the federal government had released the equipment to Kano State.

Mustapha said the equipment, which was to be transported immediately to the state, comprised two Oxygen Concentration, three Ventilators, 280 Personal Protective Equipment, 51 face shields, 538 examination gloves, 25 boot covers, medical masks, and surgical gloves and unspecified numbers of infrared thermometers.

High Hopes for COVID-19 Vaccine Developed by Oxford Scientists

If tests of the Covid-19 vaccine are successful, Oxford scientists hope to be able to begin supplying millions of them by September, a report by France 24 said yesterday.

A vaccine against the virus developed in Britain, it says, has shown very encouraging results on rhesus macaque monkeys, among the animals closest to humans. The scientists working on the vaccine estimate that if they can prove its effectiveness, it could be ready as soon as September.

Its name is a mouthful, but it’s the vaccine on everyone’s lips: The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, currently being developed by Oxford University scientists, has in recent days shot ahead to become the most promising potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

On Thursday, the British drug maker AstraZeneca said it would help Oxford develop, produce and distribute the vaccine.
“Our hope is that, by joining forces, we can accelerate the globalisation of a vaccine to combat the virus and protect people from the deadliest pandemic in a generation,” AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said.
The partnership hopes to produce 100 million doses by the end of the year and prioritise supply in the UK, Soriot told the Financial Times.

The first good news came last week from a laboratory in the US state of Montana, where six rhesus macaques, who received a dose of the British vaccine a month ago, did not contract Covid-19 after being exposed to it. Other monkeys who had not been vaccinated caught the virus and fell ill.

“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” Vincent Munster, the scientist who conducted the experiment, told The New York Times.

Morgane Bomsel, a molecular biologist working on Covid-19 at the Cochin Institute in Paris, agrees. “It’s true that it’s better than if the tests had been carried out on mice,” she told FRANCE 24.

Bomsel considers the results encouraging, but warns against celebrating too soon, if only because details of the experiment conducted in Montana have not yet been published. “We don’t know yet, for example, what dose of the virus the macaques were exposed to, or how they were contaminated,” she said.

First tests on humans in Europe

Work on the ChAdOx1 nCov-19 vaccine is moving ahead quickly in Britain as well. On April 24, the Oxford vaccine was the first in Europe to enter the human trial stage, with 1,110 healthy volunteers recruited for the tests.
“The goal is to ensure that the vaccine is not toxic for the human body,” Bomsel said. In other words, before checking whether the ChAdOx1 nCov-19 protects from Covid-19, the researchers first need to guarantee that it is not dangerous.

 

THURSDAY 30TH APRIL , 2020

Covid-19: Wike Inaugurates Task Force on Border Closure

By Ernest Chinwo

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has inaugurated the State Task Force on Border Closure, saying he is determined to protect the people of the state from coronavirus.

He also announced that one of the new cases at the state’s treatment centre came from the oil rig of one of the oil companies.

Inaugurating the Task Force Thursday in Port Harcourt, Wike said the state government resolved to establish the Task Force on Border Closure following cases of sabotage at the state boundaries, where security personnel allowed unauthorized people access to the state without the mandatory health checks.

He said: “This Task Force is very important. When they don’t want you to live, you must devise means to survive.”

Wike expressed regret that most of the new cases in the state are people who slipped through the border and were allowed in by the security agencies.

He said: “You have to support the security agencies and don’t allow anyone to get into the state without approval.

“Anyone coming into the state must be screened by the health officials. Don’t join the security agencies to extort money from people.  If that happens, the essence of this Task Force is defeated.”

He charged the Task Force to work as if they are struggling to save their own lives, adding that that is necessary because the state is being sabotaged from all sides.

“We are being sabotaged at sea, land and at the domestic wing of the airport. Sometimes, they secretly receive flights and before we know the people sneak into the town. The Task Force in Ikwerre must check anyone coming from the airport.

“When we shout, they say we are fighting the federal government. All we are saying is help us to fight the virus. This is a matter of life and death. You must protect your people,” he said.

He reiterated that this is a non-conventional war, which has nothing to do with politics.

He charged the Task Force to always carry their identity cards as there would be no excuses from the operatives, adding that they have to work 24 hours daily.

He said: “We will not relax because if coronavirus escalates in this state, we will not get any form of support.”

On the recent cases, Wike said the oil companies are sabotaging the efforts of the state government as one of the new cases in the state was an oil worker at the rig.

“Most of these oil companies also sabotage us. One of the cases at the state treatment centre is an oil worker who came from the rig. He tested positive and now our health workers are tracing all his contacts to check the spread,” the governor said.

Responding on behalf of the Task Force, Donald Frank assured the governor that the operatives would work hard to carry out his directive.

 

 

Again Senator Distributes Palliatives to Constituents
By Laleye Dipo
The senator representing Niger east senatorial zone of Niger State in the National Assembly, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, has again released palliatives to members of his constituents, the second time within one month.
This time around Musa is giving 9,990 households in the 90 wards in the constituency  various food items which include bags of rice, vegetable oil, noodles, maize, detergents, salt and seasoning.
Each household will get a pack containing all of the items.
At a brief ceremony held in Minna on Wednesday, Senator Musa, who was represented by his Personal Assistant, Alhaji Sagir Tafida, said the “gesture is to cushion the effect of the lockdown on members of the constituency”.
Tafida said: “Senator Musa is aware of the plight of our people as a result of the lockdown and their inability to carry out their day-to-day business hence the decision to release the second phase of the palliative.
“You cannot keep people at home and not cater for them. We feel we should reach out to our people and help them to keep body and soul together.”
 
To ensure the palliatives get to the targeted beneficiaries, Tafida said: “We have put in place a monitoring committee that will work closely with the committees in each of the local government areas. We are taking nine days to do the distribution. Each day, we will focus on a particular local government area and make sure everyone is covered before we move to another local government the next day.
“So, you can be sure that there will be no room for anyone to divert the items.”
Representatives from each of the local government areas at the event commended Musa’s efforts and urged other politicians and appointees in the Senatorial zone to emulate the “good gesture”.
A month ago, Musa, during a similar exercise, shared 900 bags of rice, condiments to the nine local government areas in his constituency.
Covid-19: BUA Chairman Donates N100m to Kwara 
By Hammed Shittu
The Chairman of the BUA Group of Companies,  Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, has donated another N100 million to Kwara State’s campaign against Covid-19 pandemic.
The donation came a few weeks after he donated N1 billion to some frontline states including Kwara for the same purpose.
While this donation came directly to the state, the initial gesture was made through the private sector-led Coalition Against Corona Virus (CACOVID-19).
This was contained in a statement issued in Ilorin on Thursday signed by Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq and spokesman of state Covid-19, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye.
The statement said: “The new donation brings to N230m the total cash donations the state has received so far in its efforts to contain the deadly virus.
“The government is particularly grateful to Alhaji AbdulSamad — and all others like him — for the generous donations which have helped in no small measure to combat the fight against the pandemic.”
Covid-19: Akwa Ibom Reduces 2020 Budget from 597.7bnn to N366bn

By Okon Bassey

The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has amended the 2020 budget of the state from initial N597.7 billion to N366 billion, saying the decision is to meet up with the economic challenges due to coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world.

Also, the House explained that the amendment and passing of the budget into law carried out at Thursday’s plenary was sequel to a letter sent by the state Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, to the Assembly during its emergency plenary.

Briefing newsmen after the plenary, the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation and Finance, Mr Uduak Ududoh, said the recurrent expenditure of N111.22 billion earlier approved for 2020 budget has been reduced to N98.22 billion.

He added that the capital expenditure, which stood at N369.10 billion has been reduced to 186.94 billion, while the consolidated revenue charges now stood at N80.83 billion as against N116.93 billion.

Ududoh explained that the total budget size approved for 2020, which was N597.7 billion has now been reduced to N366 billion for the 2020 fiscal year, representing 38.8 per cent reduction.

The Speaker, Mr Aniekan Bassey, who presided over the plenary, said that the step taken by the governor to review the 2020 budget downward was very timely as a result of the economic recession experienced all over the world.

He commended the governor for setting up relevant committees to fight the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

The bill had earlier passed through the first, second and third reading and was passed into law after due consideration at the Committee of Supply, chaired by the Speaker.

The House Leader, Mr Udo Kierian, in his contribution, said that the fall in crude oil price in the international market has a negative effect on the 2020 budget, stressing that was the reason for the review.

Meanwhile, the House has adjourned plenary after the review of the budget and will reconvene on May 7, 2020.

 

COVID-19: FG Unveils Six-week Gradual Plan to Reopen Economy

  • Projects flattening of curve by June
  • Restricts banking operations to six hours
  • To enforce mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals
  • Orders 107,000 GeneXpert cartridges to fast track testing
  • To convert hotels to isolation centres
  • Infected persons increase by 196 to 1,728 with 307 discharged, 51 dead
  • Vaccine, likely ready September, says Pfizer

 

Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Emma Okonji, Martins Ifijeh and Nosa Alekhuogie in Lagos

The federal government yesterday unveiled plans to restart the economy that has been paralysed for more than four weeks due to measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also outlined operational guidelines in furtherance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast on Monday to relax the lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States from next Monday.

The reopening of the economy will be done in phases, spanning a total of six weeks and broken into three tranches of two weeks each.

The virus, however, afflicted 196 more persons yesterday bringing to 1,728 the total number of confirmed cases in the country.
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Lagos recorded 87 new cases, Kano 24, Gombe 18, Kaduna 17, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 16, Katsina 10, Sokoto eight, Edo seven, Borno six, while Yobe, Ebonyi, and Adamawa recorded one each.
It said so far 307 persons had been discharged, while 51 had died.

As part of its easement process, the federal government has limited the total operational hours for all commercial banks nationwide, starting from Monday, to only six hours per day from 8 a.m to 2 p.m.

All arrivals in Nigeria will now undergo mandatory supervised isolation for at least 14 days.

The federal government also announced its decision to purchase 107,000 cartridges to be used in the deployment of the GeneXpert machine already configured for the testing of people for the virus.

Also yesterday, the Lagos State Government announced the discharge of 49 more patients just as it has projected that the number of cases in the state will continue to rise until June when it is expected to slow down.

However, the state has placed four hotels on standby for conversion to isolation centres to absorb the expected surge.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja during the media briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the phased reopening of the economy was designed to reduce the pains of socio-economic disruptions.

He explained that the overnight curfew imposed by Buhari during the broadcast is applicable nationwide from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, effective from Monday.

“In line with Mr. President’s directive in paragraphs 38-41 of his broadcast, the PTF has developed sector-specific guidelines. The gradual reopening of the economy will span a total of six weeks broken into three tranches of two weeks each,” he said adding: “This phased strategy is designed to reduce the pains of socio-economic disruptions while strengthening our public health response, which would ultimately reduce the recovery of our economy and provide succour to the poor and vulnerable.”

He called for collaboration with the state governments. Asking them to coordinate market and transport associations to implement the directive of the president.

He directed the security agencies to strictly enforce the new measures that had been pronounced by the federal government.
The SGF stated that the technical team of public health experts sent by the PTF to Kano had commenced evaluation of the situation in the state.

He added that 50 trucks of assorted grains have been sent to Kano.

“I am pleased to also inform you that the operationalisation of the laboratories in Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and Bayero University Kano will considerably improve our response to the pandemic in Kano State,” he said.

FG to Enforce Supervised Isolation for all Arrivals

Mustapha also said there would be mandatory supervised isolation of persons arriving from outside the country for at least 14 days.

He said all state governments in collaboration with security agencies and relevant trade associations had been advised to ensure the strict enforcement of the measures.

He tasked the management of various offices, premises and businesses that will be gradually re-opened to ensure fumigation and decontamination and arrangement for physical distancing as well as to supply of hand sanitisers and handwashing facilities and enforce the mandatory use of face masks.

FG Restricts Banks to Six-hour Daily Operation

Unveiling the guidelines for the gradual easing of the lockdown, the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said the federal government had limited the total operational hours for all commercial banks nationwide, starting from Monday, to only six hours per day.

Aliyu said all banks would be allowed to operate only from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., together with other preventive measures in place, such as not having more than 20 persons in the banking halls, provision of hand sanitisers and measuring customers’ temperature.

He explained that there would be a ban on interstate movements except for essential services and a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

In addition, pharmacy shops will remain open overnight while construction of critical bridges will be allowed.
Aliyu said waivers would be given by governors to enable movement of construction workers.

Under the guidelines, restaurants will not open to the public but will be allowed to engage in home delivery service.
The guidelines encouraged manufacturing and production industry to run shift work and limit their staff to only 20 – 30 workers to maintain social distancing.

Schools are to remain closed indefinitely and are encouraged to continue with e-learning and e-teaching while all social activities such as concert, movies, and theatres are suspended indefinitely.

All government offices and staff will be allowed to open but strictly based on a specific grade level in order to reduce the amount of congestion in offices.

Neigbourhood markets will continue to open with the same standards and restrictions applied in the past.
Aliyu stated that there will be further discussions with state governments so as to have a common approach to the implementation of the guidelines.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the creative industry had been badly hit by the lockdown.

FG Orders 107,000 GeneXpert Cartridges to Fast Track Testing

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, at the press briefing in Abuja, said the ministry had ordered for 107,000 cartridges to be used in the deployment of the GeneXpert machine already configured for the testing for COVID-19.

“The GeneXpert is very useful because it can fast-track testing. We are going to order over 107,000 cartridges using the global fund facility that we have and if we are able to have the bio-safety cabinet for the 26 of them, we can boost the number of the GeneXpert machines we have in the country.

“With this, we can do quite a lot of testing. The good thing about them is they can give you results at a faster rate, within 45 minutes to one hour,” he said.

Ehanire added that his ministry is training primary health care (PHC) workers to fight against the pandemic.
“I am optimistic that significant control of community transmission will be achieved if the capacity of more than 220,000 primary healthcare workers across the 36 states and the FCT, as well as in the communities they serve, are strengthened and supported,” he said.

The minister listed another pressing urgency as the need to provide and prepare Isolation centres and more bed spaces in all states of the federation to cope with the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Ehanire added that the ministry had completed plans to train intensive care workforce for various parts of the country.
According to him, the increasing figure of confirmed cases underscored the ongoing community transmission, which is a major challenge and again necessitates a call on all citizens not to take COVID-19 lightly.

He said the intervention team sent to Kano State would start work on the outlines of providing technical support to the state COVID-19 task force, as well as planning capacity building for frontline health workers.
He urged the public to practice physical distancing by strictly maintaining a distance of at least two metres (six feet) between people always.

He advised that the elderly and anyone with pre-existing medical conditions (hypertension, tuberculosis, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease) should not attend gatherings and should avoid receiving non-essential guests during the pandemic.

394 Trucks of Grains Distributed to FCT, Lagos, Ogun, Kano

The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Ms. Sadiya Farouq, said 394 truckload of grains were distributed by the federal government from the national grains storage as food palliatives to the FCT, Lagos, Ogun, and Kano States.

Kano State received 50 trucks from its share of 110 trucks.
Farouq, who spoke yesterday at the PTF briefing, said the distribution was from the 70,000 metric tonnes of grains from the national reserves.
The minister said 9, 320 metric tonnes of grains had been sent to the FCT and the three states with high coronavirus cases.

Lagos Discharges 49 More Patients

The Lagos State Government has discharged 49 more patients from its isolation centres, bringing to 187 the total number of successfully treated cases in the state.

Announcing this yesterday, the state Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said 28 of the patients were females and 21 males, including a Greek.

He said: “The patients; 18 from the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba and 31 from Onikan Isolation Centre have fully recovered and tested negative to COVID-19 in two consecutive readings. With this, the number of patients successfully managed and discharged in Lagos is now 187.”

Lagos Projects More Rise in Cases until June

However, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has said the number of cases in the state will continue to rise until June when it is expected to slow down.

He explained that four hotels had been placed on standby for conversion to isolation centres to absorb the expected surge, saying that one in every five residents of the state who presents with respiratory symptoms has COVID-19.

Abayomi, during an interview on ARISE News Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, said yesterday that a study of the pattern of symptoms presented by Lagos residents showed that for every five persons with respiratory symptoms, one was likely to come down with the virus.

He said: “We know the numbers are rising, however, we have not reached our peak yet. We predict it will happen in the next two months. As the outbreak rises, we will review our strategies and then those with more moderate to mild symptoms will go to public health facilities. We may not get there, but that is the projection. We may even get there faster depending on the dynamics of infection.

“On the expected relaxation, I believe the economy is an integral part of health. You don’t cause a new problem because you want to solve another. Malnutrition will make people more vulnerable to the disease. With low immunity, one is more susceptible to dying from the virus. So the decision on relaxation is a way to balance the economy and health of the people.
“We can’t take research from China or the US and adopt them here because our environment is different. So we are driving the research agenda along with our colleagues to find our own solutions.”

According to him, the state is reviewing circumstances that led to every COVID-19 death and is looking at the patterns and characteristics of the people.

Abayomi said: “One thing we have found out is that age, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and immune-compromised illnesses are major factors leading to the deaths.

“With this knowledge, what we do know is that for anyone with any of these factors, we categorise them as high risk even if they do not have symptoms. Those who fit into these categories must be very careful.

“Our death rate is very low because we have a young population. Our environment may also play a role because we live on the equator where we are exposed to different types of coronavirus. I do not mean COVID-19 because that is just one part of the coronavirus,” he added.

Also speaking on ARISE News Channel, the Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Chris Bode, called on the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to train medical personnel in the private health sector to assist government-owned public hospitals in treating COVID-19 patients.

The professor of surgery also called for deep private sector investment in the health sector in order to achieve a high-level healthcare delivery system in Nigeria.

He added that government alone cannot achieve the right level of investment needed in the health sector.
According to him, medical personnel in both the public and private hospitals could treat COVID-19 patients, provided they are well trained to handle COVID-19 related cases.

He gave instances where COVID-19 patients are treated in the isolation ward of LUTH, with 58 of them currently receiving treatment with over 200 persons tested so far since the isolation ward was established three weeks ago.
Bode explained that Nigeria would achieve more in the healthcare delivery system if private investors invest more in the country’s healthcare system.

Vaccine May Be Ready by September, Says Pfizer

An American biopharmaceutical company, Pfizer, has said its COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for emergency use by September.
The Cable quoted the pharmaceutical giant as saying that it will begin testing the experimental vaccine in the US next week.
The announcement came a week after Germany approved the human trial of a possible COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine, named BNT162, was developed by Biontech, a Mainz-based company.

The company had said the vaccine would be tested in the US after the human trials in Germany.

The United Kingdom has also announced that there would be clinical trials of a potential vaccine.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said there are about 20 different potential COVID-19 vaccines currently in development.

US Company Successfully Treats 150 Patients

Meanwhile, Gilead Sciences, a biopharmaceutical company in the US, yesterday announced “positive data” in the clinical trial of Remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug, for the treatment of COVID-19.

TheCable reported that Remdesivir was originally developed by the company as a potential treatment for Ebola, but it failed.
According to the company, the drug was found to be effective on COVID-19 patients during the trial which began in February.
Gilead Sciences said it administered the drug on 397 severely ill COVID-19 patients and more than half of them were discharged within two weeks.

 

Breaking: Nigeria Records 196 New Cases of COVID-19

Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded 196 new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 1728 the total number of confirmed cases in the country.

Announcing this Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Lagos recorded 87 new cases, Kano 24, Gombe 18, Kaduna 17, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 16, Katsina 10, Sokoto eight, Edo seven, Borno six, while Yobe, Ebonyi and Adamawa recorded one each.

It said so far 307 persons had been discharged, while 51 had unfortunately lost their lives.

 

WEDNESDAY 29TH, 2020

UNIBEN Produces Clinically Tested Ventilator

A group of researchers at University of Benin (UNIBEN) has produced a clinically-tested ventilator to manage COVID-19 patients in the state.

UNIBEN’s Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Benedicta Ehanire, in a statement issued yesterday, said the feat was attained by researchers drawn from the institution’s Faculties of Engineering and Medical Sciences.

She said the group, led by Prof. Kensington Obahiagbon, took into consideration the peculiar circumstances of the country while producing the ventilator.

According to her, the project has now been presented to the university’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lilian Salami, alongside other members of the school management.

Speaking on the project, Obahiagbon said: “The ventilator was produced to work without electricity for at least one hour.”

FG Sets up Expert Study Group on COVID-19 Pandemic

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Tuesday said his ministry had set up a ministerial expert advisory committee, headed by a prominent virologist, to study the evolution and development of the COVID-19 outbreak and the responses in Nigeria.

Speaking Tuesday at the daily press briefing on COVID-19, he said the team would also advise on the national strategy and action plan, using lessons learned across the globe. 

“This will help us to identify and adopt the promising strategies and align our plans with best practices and advisories,” he said.

Ehanire added that there’s a national concern about the sharp increase of COVID-19 cases in Kano, concentrated in seven municipal council areas and also about certain so-called “unexplained” deaths.

He said his ministry had sent a nine-man delegation to Kano on a fact-finding mission and to support the COVID-19 response in the state. 

Trump Calls Buhari, Promises to Provide Ventilators

United States President, Mr. Donald Trump, has promised to send some ventilators to support Nigeria in the fight to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country, which has afflicted 1,532 persons and killed 44 while 255 have been discharged.

Trump, in a telephone conversation with President Muhammadu Buhari, gave assurances that the United States would stand by Nigeria in her fight to stamp out COVID-19.

According to presidential media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, the two leaders commiserated with each other on fatalities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in their respective countries.

They also shared ideas on how to successfully combat the global pandemic.

He said Buhari expressed condolences to the government and people of the United States over the fatalities recorded in the pandemic and expressed concern over the high rate of deaths caused by the disease across the world.

The statement added: “The associated negative impacts of the pandemic on the world’s economy also came up for discussion.

“The Nigerian president lauded his American counterpart for the various initiatives adopted by his government to contain the further spread of the virus across the United States.

“He indicated Nigeria’s readiness to cooperate with the United States to fight this common unseen enemy.

“President Buhari informed that Nigeria had taken a number of proactive measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 across the country.

“The president welcomed the valuable friendship and expressed appreciation to President Trump for reaching out at this time.”

However, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who earlier broke the news of the conversation between Buhari and Trump during the media briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, said the US president promised to send some ventilators to Nigeria to help in managing COVID-19 cases.

“President Buhari used the opportunity to brief the American president on the steps that Nigeria is taking to contain the spread of the disease.

“For his part, President Trump assured (Buhari) that the United States stands in solidarity with Nigeria in this difficult time and promised to send ventilators to support the country in its fight against the pandemic,” Mohammed added.

Also speaking, the Chairman of PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, warned that the next phase after the easing of the lockdown would be demanding as it would require personal responsibility from every citizen.

Mustapha said drawing from the experience of previous pandemics that ravaged the world, it would not be a party time for Nigerians.

“This is the time for each and every one of us to take personal responsibility and the only way we can take personal responsibility is to take heed to the advisory, the medical advisory of keeping a safe distance, of personal hygiene, of wearing masks, of avoiding unnecessary travel and visitations because what will happen to every one of us going forward will depend on what we do.

“Government is doing the best it can to provide safety, resources, and facilities for us to combat COVID-19 but the reaction of the citizens on individual and collective basis will determine whether we will succeed or not,” Mustapha stated.

NCDC to Test 2m Persons in Three Months

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has unfolded plans to test two million people within the next three months. 

Speaking at the daily press briefing on COVID-19, he said the move was in line with the charge given by Buhari while addressing the nation on Monday to expand the nation’s testing capacity.

He added that the centre would work with development partners to achieve the target.

He also explained that Nigeria had so far conducted a total of 12,004 tests.

Ihekweazu, who acknowledged that the country was behind some other nations in testing capacity and the number so far tested for the virus, expressed worry that certain human factors were inhibiting the NCDC’s drive to carry out more tests and contact tracing.

“We have learnt from every other country and we have found out that the only way to achieve this is to test more people. Our strategic group that is attending to this outbreak has set itself a target of testing two million people in the next three months.

“This is a very ambitious target. We are working very hard with our development partners and friends to equip our laboratories to be able to make this happen,” he stated.

Ihekweazu expressed concern that frequent non-essential travels by people are threatening the efforts of NCDC to check the spread of the virus in Nigeria.

He explained that the goal of NCDC is to avoid the spread of the virus and to keep states with no-case or few cases exactly that way.

Covid19: Sokoto Records Nine New Cases
By Onuminya Innocent 
The Sokoto State Government has confirmed nine new positive cases of Covid-19 pandemic in the state, thereby bringing the total number to 19.
The state Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal made this known in a statewide broadcast early Wednesday morning.
Tambuwal, in the broadcast, said: “Our dear citizens of Sokoto State. It is with heavy heart that I have to break this news to you this morning, of the results of tests carried out by the National Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) at the laboratory here in Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH), whereby 18 tests were carried out.
“Unfortunately, out of them nine turned out to be negative. Most of them, if not all, are persons that have had previous contacts with the two index cases that we have had initially.
“And, unfortunately, so far, out of the 54 tests carried out from Sokoto State, it means that we have 19 positive cases. Out of these, unfortunately again, we have recorded today three COVID-19 associated deaths. All of the three are patients having history of some other diseases diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.
“We pray that Almighty God shall grant them His mercies and may He heal those that are afflicted by this pandemic here in Sokoto, Nigeria and globally.
“I once again appeal to the people of Sokoto State to come to the further realization that COVID-19 is real. We must therefore continue to step up our game in observing laid down measures and rules; and protocols by the World Health Organization (WHO), Federal Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Health here in Sokoto State. We must continue to observe social distancing, frequent washing of hands and limiting our contacts.”
The governor stated further: “I appeal, once again, to the communities to continue to cooperate and support our security agencies that are keeping vigil at our border’s interstate and Niger Republic with the sole aim of protecting our lives. I urge them also to keep community vigil by also blocking those that are likely to come into, or are on their way to Sokoto State from other states or parts of the country; or any part of Niger Republic.”
Tambuwal maintained that the state shall continue to inform the task force team of any suspected case of either COVID-19 or any other symptoms observed.
He commended the people of the state for their vigilance, for the way they have been working and giving information to the task force and the government authorities.
“Once again, we pray that God Almighty shall have mercy on the souls of those who have lost their lives. And, may He continue to protect us,” he said.
Covid-19: Ekiti Doctors Seek Establishment of More Isolation Centres
By Victor Ogunje
As part of efforts to curtail the spread of coronavirus in Ekiti State, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has called for the immediate decentralisation of the isolation centres built in Ado Ekiti, the capital city.
The doctors said the upsurge in the number of active cases at the 10-bed isolation centre was terrifying, adding that it would be appropriate to establish more centres at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti and the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido Ekiti, as precautionary measures.
The medical practitioners appealed to Governor Kayode Fayemi to domesticate the agreements reached by their colleagues with federal government on the payment of new hazard allowance and  insurance cover for medical workers, to serve as morale booster at this precarious time.
This is contained in a statement by NMA Chairman, Ekiti chapter, Dr Tunji Omotayo, on Tuesday.
Worried by the increasing spread of the pandemic and its backlash on medical workers, Omotayo said: “We salute the government for upgrading the facilities at the state isolation centre, urgent efforts are needed to provide additional isolation centres in the tertiary health institutions in the state.
“Owing to the availability of specialist cadre practitioners, emergency and the intensive care units of these tertiary hospitals must function at full capacity at this time.”
Omotayo added that the disparity in emoluments between state and federal healthcare workers in the state is not a good recipe to boost morale.
“Full domestication of the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the federal government and healthcare workers for their Ekiti State counterparts will be a timely morale booster.
“Payment of outstanding salaries at this time would also restore faith and confidence in the system,” he said.
The NMA chief said inasmuch as his members were resolute to defeat the scourge, provision of appropriate preventive equipment in the management of COVID-19 cases is non-negotiable.
Omotayo appealed to security agencies enforcing the lockdown directive to always allow his members, whose families reside in neighbouring states to visit them without molestation.
“We have received complaints of harassment while transiting the state boundary axis. We request that they be granted passage on presentation of valid identifications.
“As the novel disease festers, healthcare professionals in general and doctors in particular have not been exempted and the enormity of the scourge has dawned on us,” he added.

TUESDAY 28TH, 2020

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Surge by 195 to 1,532
By Martins Ifijeh
Nigeria has recorded 195 new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 1532 the total number of confirmed cases in the country.
The number represents the highest so far recorded in a single day since the outbreak started in Nigeria February 27.
Announcing this early Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Lagos recorded 80 new cases, Kano 38, Ogun and Bauchi 15 each, Borno 11, Gombe 10, Sokoto nine, Edo and Jigawa five each, Zamfara two, while Rivers, Enugu, Delta, Nasarawa and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) one each.
NCDC said so far, 255 persons had been discharged while 44 had unfortunately lost their lives.

COVID-19: Trump Speaks With Buhari on Telephone, Promises to Send Ventilators to Nigeria

By Olawale Ajimotokan

United States President Donald Trump has promised to send some unspecified numbers of ventilators to support Nigeria in the fight to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The assurance followed his phone conversation with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, revealed some details about the conservation between the two leaders on Tuesday while giving his remarks during the media briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.

Mohammed said the telephone conversation which was centred on Nigeria’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was at the request of President Trump.

He said Trump also extended his best regards to the people of Nigeria.

“President Buhari used the opportunity to brief the American President on the steps that Nigeria is taking to contain the spread of the disease.

“For his part, President Trump, assured that the United States stands in solidarity with Nigeria in this difficult time and promised to send ventilators to support the country in its fight against the pandemic,” Mohammed said.

Covid-19: Ganduje Lauds Buhari’s Order of Total Lockdown of Kano

By Ibrahim Shuaibu

The Kano State Government has applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for his response aimed at combating the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic in the state and the country at large.

The state Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, said in a statement made available to THISDAY in the early hours of Tuesday that Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has commended the drastic measures announced by the president, saying that coupled with the effort of the state government, it would hopefully go a long way in mitigating the situation.

He also said: ‘’With the ongoing comprehensive investigation on the pandemic in the state, the deployment of additional federal government manpower, material and technical resources as announced by the president to strengthen and support the state government’s efforts would equally help in extenuating the pandemic.’’

Garba said while the test centres being managed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in collaboration with the state government are now fully operational, Governor Ganduje has assured the people that plans are underway to open three more with a view to aggressively reinforce testing and contact tracing measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The commissioner said the enforcement of a total lockdown for a period of two weeks in the state by the president would help in controlling and containing the pandemic and also prevent the risk of further spread to neighbouring states.

He expressed the state government’s readiness to support security agencies in ensuring effective enforcement, and called on the people to cooperate and show understanding by strictly abiding by the lockdown order.

While acknowledging that the lockdown comes at a hefty cost, the commissioner said that it still remains the major way of preventing the spread of the virus.

Garba also pleaded with the public to observe strict personal hygiene that include regular hand washing, physical distancing, wearing of masks in public and avoid large gatherings.

Akwa Ibom Spends N1bn to Fight Covid-19, Says Gov

By Okon Bassey

The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, has said that the state government has so far spent close to N1 billion in the fight against the Covid-19 in the state.

Speaking during a press conference in Uyo on Tuesday, the governor stated that the state government had received monetary donations and equipment from individuals and corporate bodies, adding that the figure would be made public at the appropriate time.

Emmanuel hinted that the federal government had also sent 1,800 bags of custom bonded warehouse rice to the state as palliatives for the lockdown, but regretted that the rice may not be suitable for human consumption.

Pointing out that the rice has shown serious signs of decay, the governor said the product would be subjected to scientific test to ascertain whether or not it should be distributed to the citizens.

“For the relief materials from the federal government, we got 1,800 bags of custom bonded warehouse rice. That gift is not good for me to distribute to my citizens. We have sent it for test, but it doesn’t look good enough for consumption,” he stressed.

According to him, the Covid-19 pandemic met the state prepared.

“100 per cent of the equipment at Ibom Specialist Hospital, including the 13 ventilators were bought before Covid-19.

“We have set up an additional isolation centre in Ibom Specialist hospital, with oxygen and everything; bought an additional 1500KVA generating set for Ibom Specialist hospital.

“We have a modern digital, functional situation room for every single test analysis and close to 50 medical experts who are manning them.

“As at today, everyone in Akwa Ibom who has met the criteria of case management in accordance with NCDC guidelines has been tested. I challenge anyone who has experienced Covid-19 symptoms and has been refused testing, to come out and say so,” he said.

The governor stated that the state has 407 medical doctors and 2,000 nurses to help in the fight of Covid-19; and paid tributes to health workers in the state who are cooperating with government to fight the disease.

“My heroes are the medical workers who have volunteered, who have exposed themselves to risk to ensure that they work during this critical season in order to make sure they manage this cases well. I am eternally indebted to these ones,” he said.

Emmanuel debunked the rumour that some members of his State Executive Council have contacted Covid-19 and were secretly treating themselves.

The governor, who came with all his Exco members, said: “Normally, on a day like this, I would not have loved to bring out my entire Executive, but I want to show the whole world and try to let people know that the bulk of what they read and hear are pure blackmail and has nothing to do with Covid19; and when I talk people may think we are trying to be defensive.

“In the past days, I have been receiving calls that my EXCO members, some say nine, some say 11 have tested positive and probably in their houses being treated of Covid-19.

“I want to let the whole world see that bulk of what they read in the past few weeks are based on nothing but blackmail. I am here with all the EXCO members with none of them with any symptom, with all of them healthy and hearty.

“84 specimens have been collected so far. We have only three active cases. Our recovering rate has been marvelous, the recovering cases are good. All the people waiting in the isolation unit have all gone home.”

Nasarawa Records First Case of Covid-19

By Igbawase Ukumba

The Nasarawa State Governor, Abbdullahi Sule, on Tuesday announced that the state has recorded its first confirmed case of Covid-19.

The governor broke the news during the state security meeting held at the Government House, Lafia.

The governor disclosed the identity of the person that has tested positive to the virus as a lady from Garaku, the headquarters of Kokona Local Government Area of the state.

According to Sule, “The lady, who is a trader, returned from Kano and developed some signs and was taken into isolation before she was tested positive.

“She is currently quarantined at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH), Lafia where we have good facility for such victims and she will be taken good care of.”

Detail later…

COVID-19: Private Sector Relief Fund Rises to N27.16bn

By Obinna Chima

Donations into the private sector relief fund championed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to raise funds to combat COVID-19 have risen to N27.160 billion as of April 23, 2020, up from the N25.894 billion reported previously.

This was disclosed in a statement on Tuesday, on behalf of the coalition by the Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor.

Also, the statement showed that the number of contributors into the fund has increased from the 107 reported previously, to a total of 123 individuals and organisations.

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.

“Above is a list of all contributors to the CA-COVID Relief Fund, as at Thursday, April 23, 2020. The coalition is grateful to all the institutions and individuals that have open-handedly donated to this fund.

“We urge others to consider contributing to this national solidarity to provide not only medical equipment and materials but also to render urgently needed palliatives to the poor and vulnerable segments of our society.

“We pledge to continually ensure full disclosure and accountability for all donations made,” the CBN spokesman added.

Covid-19: Fayemi Slashes Own, Deputy, Political Appointees’ Salaries by 50%

. Excludes civil servants

By Victor Ogunje

In view of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic to the economy of Ekiti State, Governor Kayode Fayemi has reduced the salaries of political appointees by 50 per cent.

Affected by this policy is the governor himself, his Deputy, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, and other appointed members of his cabinet.

But the policy will not affect civil servants in the state.

This was contained in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Muyiwa Olumilua, on Tuesday.

The statement said: “Consequent upon the ravaging effects of the Covid-19 scourge, the global economy has been severely affected, with the depression affecting Nigeria as a nation and expectedly, our dear Ekiti State.

“As a responsive and responsible government, the Fayemi-led administration has taken stock of our financial situation, vis-a-vis our constantly decreasing receipts from the federation account, as well as our dwindling internally generated revenue (IGR), and has been forced to wake up to the current realities of our fiscal position.

“With promises made to the Ekiti people while seeking their mandate, coupled with the moral duty of improving their welfare, a time for making difficult decisions is at hand, and make them we must.

“In light of the foregoing, His Excellency, Governor John Kayode Fayemi has directed that salaries of all political appointees in the state, will be slashed by 50%, with immediate effect.

“Savings from this pay cut will be channelled into the execution, and completion of developmental projects in the state, as hitherto planned. The pay cut will affect the governor himself, the deputy governor, and all political appointees down the line. Salaries of civil servants will not be affected by this directive, and shall maintain status quo.”

Olumilua said the sacrifice is for the welfare of the Ekiti people, which should take pre-eminence over and above all other considerations.

“Your patriotism, patience, and co-operation, is highly appreciated at all times,” he said.

 

Covid-19: Presidential Taskforce Committed to Unravelling Mystery Deaths in Kano, Says Leader

By Ibrahim Shuaibu

The leader of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Nasiru Sani Gwarzo, has said that it is committed to unravel the mystery behind the mystery deaths in Kano State.

The Presidential Task Force, which arrived Kano Tuesday, made the disclosure during a courtesy visit to Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje on Tuesday at the Government House.

Gwarzo, who is also the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Industries, Commerce and Investment, told Governor Ganduje that the team has been mandated by the president to evaluate the worrying situation in Kano and find a lasting solution to it.

He said with the experienced epidemiologists and other technical personnel at its disposal, the team is ready to support the state taskforce to review cases of Covid-19 pandemic and determine whether or not the mysterious death has any connection with it.

“We are here to support Kano and offer technical assistance. We are also mandated to evaluate the incessant death in the state and whether or not the cause of the death is natural or associated with COVID-19 pandemic,” Gwarzo said.

While welcoming the presidential taskforce, Governor Ganduje applauded President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to impose total lockdown on Kano to further curtail the spread of the virus.

Ganduje, who disclosed that “the spread of Covid-19 pandemic is directly proportional to the state’s population density”, noted that increasing cases in Kano is not unconnected to its population size.

He advocated the urgent intervention of the federal government in the fight against the virus, just as he called for the immediate reopening of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC) test centre in Kano to determine the status of suspects.

Covid-19: Rivers Evacuates 150 Vagrants to their States of Origin, Niger Republic

By Ernest Chinwo

The Rivers State Government through the Ministry of Social Welfare has profiled and evacuated 150 vagrants to Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, some states in the north, Niger Republic and some local government areas of the state.

The state Commissioner for Social Welfare, Mrs Inime Aguma, Tuesday led other officials of the ministry to profile all the vagrants before they were evacuated to their states and local government areas of origin.

Aguma said the evacuation exercise is a non-discriminatory programme aimed at protecting Rivers people, especially from the coronavirus pandemic.

She said that the exercise is not targeted at any ethnic group, but aimed at removing vagrants who may circulate coronavirus from the streets.

The Social Welfare Commissioner noted that the right arrangements have been put in place to ensure that the vagrants are transported to their respective locations in dignity.

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike had, on Monday during a state broadcast, directed the state Commissioner for Social Welfare to round up and deport all vagrants to their states of origin.

He said: “We have also directed the Commissioner for Social Welfare to round up and deport all vagrants, including the almajiris, to their states of origin to protect our people from the threat they present to the transmission of this pandemic.”

Covid-19: House to Sit Once a Week till Lockdown Order is Lifted

By Udora Orizu

Following the extension of the lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun States by President Muhammadu Buhari to curb the spread of coronavirus, the House of Representatives at the resumption of plenary on Tuesday resolved to sit once every week till the lockdown order is lifted.

The House made the resolution, following the adoption of a motion, titled ‘Regulating Plenary Sittings in the Period of Covid-19 Pandemic and Lockdown, pursuant to Order One, Rule 1 (2) of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives’ sponsored by Hon. Abubakar Hassan Fulata.

Presenting the motion, Fulata said the House is aware of the constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof and which responsibility could not be discharged because of the lockdown order.

He said the House is also aware of the provisions of Order Five, Rules 4 and 5 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, which regulate the sittings of the House from Monday to Friday on every legislative day except when it is on recess.

The lawmaker assured Nigerians that the Green chamber will provide legislative support to the executive arm during and after the lockdown.

Fulata said: “We are aware of the Stimulus Plan of the federal government to cushion the effects of Covid-19 pandemic on the Nation’s economy. On 24 March, the House of Representatives adjourned plenary sessions for a period of two weeks to enable members enlighten their constituents of the dangers of coronavirus infection, also known as Covid-19. Because of the lockdown order issued by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on Sunday, 29 March, 2002, the resumption which was earlier scheduled for 7 April, 2020 was suspended and subsequently adjourned indefinitely. We are desirous to provide legislative support to the Executive arm by approving measures to address the welfare of the citizens during the period of the lockdown, as well as the period after the lockdown.”

Covid-19: Closure of ECOWAS Offices in Abuja, Lagos Extended Till Monday

By Adedayo Akinwale

Following the extension of the lockdown imposed by the federal government as part of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has extended the closure of its offices in Abuja and Lagos till Monday, May 4, 2020.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, gave the directive in a statement issued on Tuesday.

He said: “The ECOWAS Commission has given directives for the extension of the closure of ECOWAS Offices in Abuja and Lagos to the 4th of May 2020.

“This follows the extension of the lockdown imposed by the Government of Nigeria, as part of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“As a consequence of this directive, all staff of ECOWAS institutions in Abuja and Lagos are to continue to stay and work from home until further notice while also following the guidelines and advisory on Covid-19 pandemic issued by WAHO and the Nigerian authorities.”

Brou said as at 26th of April 2020, the cumulative number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the region stood at 7,905 with 201 deaths, 2,401 recoveries and 5,294 active cases in all the 15-member states, while the number of confirmed cases in Abuja and Lagos were 141 and 731 respectively.

The Commission however commended the Federal Government of Nigeria for taking the decision which has helped to contain the exponential spread of the disease.

MONDAY 27TH,2020

COVID-19 Patient Gives Birth to Baby Girl in LUTH
By Martins Ifijeh
A 40-year-old COVID-19 patient has successfully delivered a baby girl at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba.
Announcing this Monday, the Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, said both the patient and her 3.3kg baby were doing fine.
He said: “A team of LUTH doctors, anaesthetists and nurses has just delivered a COVID-19 woman of a bouncing baby girl this afternoon. Both the 40-year old mother and the 3.3kg baby are doing fine.
“I express gratitude to these gallant men and women and all warriors making the nation proud in the face of this scourge.”

COVID-19: Steady Rewind Mode on Global Civilization

By Ajibola Olayinka

Prologue

It was 2020, a year seen only once in a century. Records were dug out of outlandish events on the spectaculars only seen in the something twenties and 2020 was believed to belong to the pantheon. There was the 1720 plague, 1820 cholera, 1920 Spanish flu and now 2020 Coronavirus. The 100 years clock-set has remained a mystery beyond the Nostradamus 1551 writings interpreted as prediction of the current crisis. Individuals, families, corporations and nations were occupied with planning, scenarios and futuristic modelling to make history out of the leap year.

When the smoke of Coronavirus (COVID-19) spewed out of Wuhan China therefore, the emergence was a butt of joke from the rest of the world. Social media was inundated with the usual animal consumption by Chinese without respect for preparation and promptly concluded this as the veritable source of the new attack. The height of disbelief even by those who should know better came from America’s White House when the President dismissed the “Chinese Virus” that it will not see the end of the day in the United States. Her citizens were daily glued to the television interviews and campaigns for the next presidential election and the new leader.

For the rest of the world, it was business as usual. While the world played the ostrich, globalization continued unabated with people, aircraft, luxury ships, etc. ferrying mankind and goods from one end of the world to another end. You can control your action but you cannot control its consequences. Before the world could usher in the 2020 new year, the raging infection has scattered to political, economic and social centers of the universe ready to wreak unprecedented havoc never seen before in this generation.

It was obvious the universe has gone on a forced holiday. Others believe the earth is ripe for Sabbath or a year of Jubilee. The megalomaniac concluded it is the apocalypse before the earth crash. Welcome to a new world on reverse gear as COVID-19 Pandemic is gifting the world rewind mode from civilization to the early man.

Pandemics or War?

The acceleration dynamics confounded the experts and the World Health Organization (WHO) quickly moved the Virus (code named COVID-19) from a local infection to a global pandemic. Discovered in December 2019, it has zigzagged to global extremes within weeks due to movement of people, goods and cargoes. The pestilential devastation peaked by mid-February in Hubei province in China and this compelled the supreme commander to take over its management. Horror films and videos were salaciously served daily how human packs of the dead were moved to the graves as statistics of the disease. Mega hospitals were constructed in record time to accommodate the sick. In spite of elaborate procedures by health authorities, the novel virus has no known medication for now. Patients at the critical stage only got access to Ventilators to recover bursting lungs and loosing breath and once it went beyond this, a new death record was created. This was only in China.

Fleetingly, there was the rude incursion of conspiracy theories. The virus was the outcome of the launch of 5G, the latest generation of the data super highway invented to deliver explosive score-card with China and the western nations on the forefront. China must have embarked on a biological warfare to show her superiority over America and the Wuhan results were outcome of tests carried out. There were also outright denial that Coronavirus was a figment of WHO imagination. Unfortunately, the virus is a novel landfall and data about it were few and far between. Nevertheless, the transmission continued on its exponential scale, unprecedented in this generation.

Subsequently, Europe and the United States became the epicenter and curves in Italy and Spain in particular started climbing north very fast. With the emergence of the moment of truth, panic set in as hospitals could no longer hold massive infected patients while hotels, luxury ships, military bases and sport facilities were augmented to accommodate the pandemic surge. Cities and countries became locked down in all the nations of the world. Aviation and global transportation came to a standstill. Freedom was curtailed with ‘stay at home orders’ to minimize community spread.

The outcome of the situation could not be better demonstrated than the scene in Italian cities. For weeks the streets were deserted, devoid of life and busting they were accustomed to. Having wiped off many families and generations, people began to throw into the streets cash and expensive materials. Work flows and food supply chains became abruptly truncated. Despite release of strategic food banks hunger loomed large even in rich suburbs. In dense municipalities hoodlums engage state securities in rampage, looting, stealing and killing in the name of survival. Foods and survival kits are being rationed in several countries as hunger looms in the corner for those who escaped the Virus. Hope was on a tenterhook. Wild goats and dangerous animals flooded several counties in Wales and the bewildered creatures were shown watching families locked up in various houses due to lockdown. Ecuador witnessed dead bodies of the victims of the virus lying on streets without burial attention. Finally, the US Surgeon General told a shocked audience that infection and subsequent death from Coronavirus is worse than 9/11 attack and Pearl Harbour at the peak of World War II.

In wartime, people die from attack; Fear hangs in the air; Lockdown becomes compulsory; foods are rationed; Lives and livelihood are disconnected; Devastation hits hard and what takes years to build are forcefully taken down; Ceasefire becomes unpredictable; Peace wings away leaving crisis behind; Freedom is curtailed and work abandoned. Life becomes “nasty, brutish and short” and uncertainty rules the air.

The boundariless pandemic is war on a universal scale with no respect for race, color, social status or nation. Nuclear arsenal, biological weapon, economic supremacy, intellectual property, mega prosperity (name it) pales to nothing against the contagion of Coronavirus. It is the worst war fighting invisible enemy.

Places, Cases and Faces

The first Coronavirus index in Nigeria, an Italian was on a call of duty when he arrived at Lafarge. Two weeks before then, the stakeholders were honking the nation for shutting the airports and borders to commence the protocols for fighting the spread from importation. Now it is known with the benefit of hindsight that the Committee delayed the shut down because several important personalities were abroad for business, government or personal reasons and their interests were protected with that position. By the time the shutdown was activated the infection has been generously transmitted to families, friends, cronies and acquaintances by the new arrivals. Those who responded for quarantine and isolation began to get government attention and mild and serious cases became admitted into special hospitals. However, the second categories of returnees ignored instruction and ended up in regular hospitals when the virus became critical. The latter set accounted for the major deaths recorded so far across the country. Thereafter, community infection has accounted for daily increase in the number of the sick.

Italy, Spain, UK, France and USA were not as lucky. These nations are paying for inaction, indiscipline, arrogance and negligence to keep the rampaging virus at bay. First, the epicenter has migrated from China to Europe and America. Second, there has been a harvest of death and Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York State in the US captured its gory picture in his daily media briefing. Third, the disease has remained an equal opportunity predator with the high and mighty coming under its hammer, the highest ranked being the Prime Minister of UK, Mr. Boris Johnson. The world breathed a sigh of relief on his recovery. Fourth, global economy has changed tragically from what we used to know with stock market free fall, record high unemployment, heavy deficit in budget numbers, economic depression of the highest magnitude, tendency towards zero productivity, trade and currency exchange losses, virtual collapse of the SMEs amongst others.

Paris, Tokyo, New York, London and Rome have lost their allure of beauty with deserted streets and frightened populace. The newly commissioned Disney Studio has taken the back seat. Nevertheless, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and probably Japan have managed to keep reasonable numbers of the virus carriers. Germany is also reputed to account for a low death turnout due to aggressive testing and early treatment. Over the last 10 weeks, average death of infected people has moved from 2% to above 6% with a prospect for a more frightening figure on a global scale.

Trust human nature for survival, “skin for skin, all that a man has will he give for his life”. Stimulus packages not witnessed in war time are being announced by country leaders. Money bags have created a common purse as additional resources to restore hope. Mankind is racing against time for COVID-19 Vaccine as huge resources have been deployed across the globe. While the drug front-liners have announced approval for between three and nine months, some trial and error cocktail of drugs are been dispensed to save lives. Challenge for the production of adequate ventilators have been taken up even by automobile manufacturers. The traditional contributions are not left out with herb recipes from the mundane to the bizarre.

Who will save the world from desolation, decimation and demotion to its humble beginnings? Except there is an intervention of the Invisible Hand as in the past pestilences, civilization will be reversed and we will see the early man again.

Predicting the Beginning of the End

Imminence of Coronavirus is an exchange of baton from present civilization to a journey in the past as the world used to know the history. We should begin to take seriously the metamorphosis of dinosaur from being the biggest creature to its extinction. We should peep into the future and “see” what the new world will look like on the other side provided humanity is not wiped out.

  • We will see power concentrated into a few hands to direct the affairs of the world. Remember, in war time, leaders are empowered to decide and act without recourse to any other arm of government. Such situation will end broad participation in governance and nations will be accustomed to a one-man rule.

  • For sure, sophisticated machines invented to ease movement and transportation currently grounded will no longer be needed. Every person will be limited to the neighborhood and movement by foot will be adequate for human purpose.

  • Man is a gregarious animal will become an old saying because being gregarious is a game of death. As related in Yoruba, “Karin kapo, yiye ni ye ni yoo di ka rin ka po, pipa ni pa ni”. Social gathering is a veritable source of virus, as such, everyone will keep to self and families will stay home.

  • The immediate environment will be the only source of succor, supplies, food and comfort. Every item within the vicinity will count for survival and it will be everyone for self and God for all of us. Man will hopefully cling to these until either they are exhausted and succumb to the inevitable or the end eventually comes.

  • Mankind will begin to live by a true nuclear family concept as there will be no room to accommodate beyond this family pack. As the family grows in size, questions will be raised on raising a new family. However, there will be high tendency that siblings will begin to raise new families.

  • There will be a dramatic change in diet and you can count on generous green. This may even prolong lives as lifestyle and age sicknesses will no longer intimidate the gerontocrats. Remember that global fashion headquarters now exist in dreams, as such our dress sense will borrow a leaf from Mr. and Mrs. Adam in the Garden of Eden.

  • Education and interaction will move to virtual online. GTB made history in Nigeria holding its 2020 AGM by proxy. Others in the private sector are exploring this method. Again, since we cannot enjoy any resource in the new world paradigm ad infinitum, current information highway may become a past event and communication limited to word of mouth amongst the family.

  • As economic activities grind to a halt, trade by barter will reclaim its place of glory. Since money and banking sophistry will relocate to the archives, man will devise other means of exchange for the complementary survival resources localized with other families.

  • New measures of wealth will be created on family, national and international levels. This will become imperative even if only for score-keeping and record purposes. Economic jargons about GDP, GNP, Reserves, per capital analyses, Fortune 500, etc. will be substituted for other methods based on the new realities. The Forbes billionaires will detest this!

Epilogue

Wuhan, the first epicenter of Coronavirus has sprung from its ashes. The 11-million city has resumed business, leisure and movements after eleven weeks lockdown; Its streets shriek of rubber on the road; Its airports roar with aircraft take-off and landing; Its factories hummed with working machines; Its city center resumes human and vehicular traffic. All thanks to the ingenious Chinese IT experts who devised an app to allow only virus-free beings out on the streets. While new cases have remained muted, fatalities appear to be receding to the past. Other Chinese cities and communities continue to enjoy quality life and liberty, two indices desired most by the western world.

Boris Johnson recovered from the killer attack-“I owed my life to NHS”-and currently recuperates from his country home. Just like the British PM, 80% of infected patients recover with a little fuss, 15% are treated with cocktail of drugs while the rest battle through ventilators. From all indications, major countries with high infection and death rates are close to their peaks and hope of flattening the curves are surging.

At least three key scientific companies are in the fore-front of COVID-19 Vaccines with a timeline of between three and six months. For once, the entire world in general and the super powers in particular have rediscovered their collabo mojo to defeat a common enemy. Resources such as ventilators, PPE, and drugs (“India directed its pharmaceutical companies to release Chloroquine for export to needy countries such as US”) are shared around the world and China is sending ambassadors to help in the epic battle.

Denmark and Austria have joined the winning countries as they relaxed the lockdown rules to return to normalcy. America is gung-ho to reopen for business and decision on this is being considered at the highest level. New York shakes off the tag of the new coronavirus epicenter as employment forms are being distributed to the record jobless to return to work.

For Nigeria, the hen has come home to roost. Officials confessed they never knew our health care system is in such an abysmal hole. The public was not amused by this “discovery” since a serving minister once quipped that migration of medical personnel abroad was “normal” while a doctor serves 100,000 patients compared with a doctor to patient ratio of 1 to 600 prescribed by WHO. For as long as any could remember, our hospitals have remained death centers, even the morgues serving the needs of ritualists. Coronavirus might yet be a blessing in disguise if only governments at Federal, States and Local levels role up their sleeves to devote attention to this critical responsibility.

Oh yes, the world has vowed to move on in spite of the dreaded virus with its routine prevention and cure protocol –

  • Wash hands regularly and vigorously with foaming soap and clean water;

  • Employ alcohol based hand-sanitizer as stop gap when you are out and about;

  • Avoid crowd and keep a social distance of at least six feet from others;

  • Avoid touching the nose, eye or mouth with hands;

  • Wear protective devices to prevent contacting by accident;

  • Stay home and keep safe;

  • When you notice coronavirus symptoms, contact the authorities.

Maybe, just maybe it is not time to embark on the backward journey to the early man of the Stone Age. Those outside our lunar world are watching as mankind drops its last blood to preserve its digital age civilization.

*Ajibola Olayinka writes from Legos      

Tinubu’s CSO Died of COVID-19, APC Leader, Wife Test Negative

By Adedayo Akinwale 
 
A post mortem conducted on Alhaji Lateef Raheem, Chief Security Officer to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, All Progressives Congress national leader, has shown that he died of COVID-19, according to a statement by his media office.
Alhaji Raheem who died last week.was initially believed to have died of complications from diabetes and hypertension.

A statement issued on Monday by Tinubu’s spokesman, Tunde Rahman, said following the death of Raheem, NCDC medics took the wise precaution of taking samples from his body for testing to actually determine the cause of death.

It said the test results came out on Monday and the samples tested positive for Covid-19. 

The statement said as a precautionary measure soon after the death of Raheem, Tinubu; his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, and all their aides took COVID-19 tests Saturday.

It said the results of the tests were returned Monday morning and the test results for both Tinubu and his wife were negative. 

It however said the result of one aide was positive, while the rest of the staff were negative.

“The one staff member has been isolated in accordance with NCDC guidelines. Further contact tracing and COVID-19 tests are being conducted by the NCDC with regard to the relatives and possible contacts of that staff member.

“Asiwaju has stressed that openness and transparency must be observed if we are to defeat this disease. There is no house immune to its entry. Contracting the virus should not bring social or moral stigma any more than contracting malaria or a common cold,” the statement added.

Statement on the Outcome of COVID-19 Tests

Covid-19 is a real and present threat. Those of us who discount it or claim it is a fabrication do a grave and dangerous disservice to the public well-being. Likewise, those who stigmatise people who may have been stricken by the virus also do a disservice by casting blame on the innocent and discouraging people from taking the COVID test. We cannot defeat this health menace through ignorance or by shaming one another. We can only beat it through transparency, knowledge and compassion.  This, we have learned first-hand.

Following the death of our well-respected and beloved Chief Security Officer, Alhaji Lateef Raheem, NCDC medics took the wise precaution of taking samples from his body for testing to actually determine the cause of death. Today, the test results are back. The samples tested positive for Covid-19. 

As a precautionary measure taken soon after the death of Alhaji Raheem, His Excellency Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, and all their aides took COVID-19 tests Saturday, April 25. The results of the tests were returned this morning.

Test results for both Asiwaju and Senator TInubu were negative.

The results of one aide were positive. The rest of the staff was negative. The one staff member has been isolated in accordance with NCDC guidelines. Further contact tracing and COVID-19 tests are being conducted by the NCDC with regard to the relatives and possible contacts of that staff member.

Asiwaju has stressed that openness and transparency must be observed if we are to defeat this disease. There is no house immune to its entry. Contracting the virus should not bring social or moral stigma any more than contracting malaria or a common cold.

We cannot overcome this challenge by acting like it does not exist or by trying to conceal that someone may have it due to social shame. The culture of denial is counterproductive and will do great harm in our current situation.

Asiwaju asks that you not be afraid to be tested if you have any symptoms or if you believe you may have come in contact with someone who has been infected.  We must do all we can to contain the spread of the virus and to well treat those of us who have been hit by it.

As you go about your day, we know you must find daily sustenance.  Yet, please continue to do all you can to maintain social distance and to take all other public health measures to protect yourself and others. In this way, we all may contribute to halt the spread of this dangerous virus.

Tinubu Media Office,

Tunde Rahman.

April 27, 2020.

St. Nicholas Hospital Isolates Staff Exposed to COVID-19

By Martins Ifijeh

One of Lagos’ leading private health facilities, St. Nicholas Hospital, has isolated some of its staff exposed to COVID-19.

In a chat with THISDAY Monday, the Clinical Director, St. Nicholas Hospital, Dr. Ebun Bamgboye, said this was part of precautions taken in other to halt the spread of the virus within the hospital, the state and the country at large.

He said: “The exposure we had occurred when an outpatient came to the hospital complaining of fever and other symptoms. He was examined by one of our doctors, who upon taking his history, realised he had just came into the country from the United Kingdom.

“This made the doctor more cautious. He then wore his complete personal protective equipment, examined the patient, and then we immediately called the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Lagos State Government for further re-examination. The patient was tested and subsequently taken to the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba for COVID-19 treatment.

“As part of protocols, we did contact tracing and isolated those in contact with him. Tests were further done which showed a few of our staff tested positive for the virus.”

He said the hospital had since undergone decontamination with some of its staff exposed to the virus isolated in the facility to control spread of the disease should they eventually test positive to it.

Bamgboye said the hospital had followed all precautionary measures instituted by the NCDC and the Lagos State Government in halting spread of the disease.

Covid-19: Sokoto Records Eight New Cases

By Onuminya Innocent

Sokoto State has recorded eight new cases of Covid-19, thereby bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 10.

Speaking with journalists at the Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnic in Sokoto on Monday, the Commissioner for Health, Dr.Ali Inname, said the eight new cases were traced to an index case, a medical doctor.

According to him, 32 contacts were traced to the index case, adding that out of the 32, 28 were tested with eight testing positive, while 20 tested negative.

The commissioner stated that one of the confirmed cases was a policeman attached to the Government House, adding that efforts are on to trace those who had direct contact with him for possible quarantine and test.

“As you all know, the index case was a medical doctor. We traced his colleagues and other health workers who had direct contact with him, but the joy is that all the health workers tested were negative,” Inname said.

He said the result of the health workers showed that they were well kitted while attending to patients.

He called on medical doctors in the state not to conclude that all sicknesses which had same symptoms with Covid-19 are confirmed cases.

Inname stressed that there is a need for every resident in the state to strictly adhere to precautionary measures put in place by the World Health Organization (WHO) and medical experts in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

He advised the people to adhere to the compulsory use of masks, regular washing of hands with running water and liquid soap and observe social distancing.

The commissioner also stated that the state government has appealed to the retired health workers to resume work to cushion the effects of shortage of manpower.

He stated that since the index case had admitted that he has no travelling history, investigation is ongoing to unravel the source of infection.

Covid-19: Kano Records Two more Deaths

By Ibrahim Shuaibu

The Kano State Ministry of Health has confirmed the death of two more Covid-19 patients in the state, bringing the total deaths to three.

This was announced by the ministry on its verified twitter handle on Monday.

According to the ministry, the state currently has 77 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while no discharge has been made.

“As at 12:15pm, 27th, April, 2020, Kano State has recorded an additional 2 deaths of COVID-19,” the ministry said.

Kano Medical Workers Decry Lack of Protective Equipment

•Attend to patients from afar •Say N3m insurance package inadequate

By Chucks Okocha and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

Following the harvest of deaths, in controversial circumstances, in Kano State and the subsequent confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, some doctors have not been reporting for work for fear of the unknown while others attend to patients from afar, citing lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), THISDAY has learnt.

The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, had said the federal government was investigating the reported strange deaths in the state.

At least 11 persons died at the weekend in Kano within 24 hours.

Among the dead is the regional manager of a first-generation bank, who was said to have been awaiting his COVID-19 test result.

The coordinator of the Kano Technical Response Team for COVID-19, Dr. Tijjani Hussaini, confirmed the deaths.

However, he said the deaths could not be linked to COVID-19 until after the completion of investigations.

Investigation in most of the hospitals visited by THISDAY revealed that the few doctors available were attending to patients from a far distance.

The doctors also described as inadequate the indemnity money of N3 million for a doctor who lost his life in the course of duty.

It was gathered that the absenteeism of some doctors at Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital, Sir Muhammadu Sanusi Hospital and Muhammad Abdullahi Wase and other government hospitals outside the metropolitan was due to lack of preventive/protective support from the government.

A source at the Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital told THISDAY that “some doctors now in most Kano hospitals do not attend to patients closely, but from far and they often assign intern students and nurses to do the work for them, especially in the night.”

The sources said the healthcare workers, mostly doctors, were afraid to risk their lives amid the plague and this has disrupted medical services at hospitals.

However, a source close to an international health organisation working in Kano told THISDAY that a meeting had been held on the matter and that a letter of complaint would soon be forwarded to the government to address the issue.

“This government is very much serious about this fight and we are optimistic that they will quickly provide the required working tools for the benefit of the doctors and other health workers,” the source added.

A public health consultant confided in THISDAY that the N3 million life insurance for a doctor was too small.

He said: “Most of my colleagues are very much scared; they abandoned their families’ for this fight but our welfare are still not catered for. We want the government to review our package including hazard allowances.”

The source added that the state government has mobilised most of the doctors who specialised in different fields to the centre for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, while most of those selected to be part of the exercise decided to stay back for fear of their safety.

It was also learnt that doctors attending to patients involved in an accident and other emergency cases at Accident and Emergency Unit of all the hospitals visited were scared to treat patients with symptom of high temperature.

According to an investigation, most of the doctors were posted to isolation centres at Kwanar Dawaki, Muhammadu Buhari Specialist Hospital and other designated isolation centres in the state.

The state Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, had said on Saturday that Alhaji Aliko Dangote had promised to donate 5,000 Personal Protective Equipments (PPE), ventilators and monitors to the state.

The PPE is part of the doctor’s demand for them to carry out their duties and avoid contracting the virus.
Ganduje, at the media briefing, commended the frontline health workers for their courage and determination towards fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

PDP Condemns Distribution of ‘Unhealthy, Expired Rice’ to Nigerians

By Yinka Kolawole

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday accused the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government of allegedly donating contaminated and poisonous rice to Nigerians as COVID-19 palliatives.

PDP in a statement issued by its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Prince Diran Odeyemi, accused the federal government of distributing ‘rotten rice’ seized by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) many years ago instead of using the money donated to Nigerians to buy food items as palliatives for them.

The party spokesperson also accused the APC-led government of foul play in the circumstances deployed by the government to rate and determine who is poor in Nigeria.

Odeyemi further stated that “it is also lack of initiative and poor judgement if the best method and option deployed by the government is to give financial succour only to Nigerians with less than N5,000 in their bank account or citizen who are not able to top their mobile phone with more than N100 whereas they know where the poor Nigerians lives when they want their votes.”

The PDP made reference to a widely circulated video clips where NCS had declared millions of seized bags of rice as unfit for human consumption going by the chemicals purportedly used by the smugglers in preserving them before bringing them to Nigeria, and as such, there was no basis for the federal government through the same agency to consider releasing such to Nigerians as palliatives.

“It is irreconcilable if in the name of saving the lives of Nigerians against the coronavirus pandemic, the same government is giving Nigerians poisonous rice as palliative; we wonder how a government that claims to value the lives of its people will openly toy with the idea of feeding them with expired food,” he stated.

Odeyemi, however, commended the vigilance of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and his team, and praised his resolution to reject the 1,800 bags of ‘the poisonous rice’ donated to the state government through the NCS, advising other state governments to emulate Makinde by returning their consignment rather than play politics with the lives of the citizens.

The PDP deputy national publicity secretary stressed that the Osun State case is still fresh in the memory where adulterated and expired bags of rice were distributed to the people in the name of palliative which has landed many people in the state in the hospital.

According to him, “This is to say the least, a wicked and an ungodly act considering what would have be the consequence should the Oyo State Government have gone ahead with the distribution of the 1,800 bags of rice without checking it. This act is condemnable.”

Kano Loses Four Professors, Others in 48 Hours

Falana asks Ehanire to publish full report on investigation

Davidson Iriekpen in Lagos and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

No fewer than 30 prominent people, including four professors have lost their lives within the last 48 hours in Kano State.

Three out of the four Professors are serving members of the academic community of the Bayero University, Kano (BUK).

The list includes, Professor Balarabe Maikaba of Faculty of Communication; Prof Sabo Kurawa, Sociology Department, and Prof. Umar Dikko of Physiology department.

A renowned Professor of Economics, Prof. Ibrahim Ayagi, was also among the list of high-profile academics that died within the last 48 hours in Kano.

This is coming as a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has asked the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, to publish the full report of the investigation into the recent deaths in the state.

Prominent among the people that died on Sunday (Yesterday) were Professor Maikaba; Hajia Mairo Ado, Assistant Corp Commander (ACC Admin) FRSC; Alhaji Tasiu Sharifai, Sarkin Kasuwa of Kofar Wambai; Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Tarauni Local Government Area, Alhaji Muhammad Idris, and Alhaji Usman Aliyu Shanono , a businessman, residing at Gwale Local Government Area.

Late Maikaba was the Former Head of Mass Communication Department, Bayero University Kano, and also Professor of Mass Communications.

In a letter addressed to the minister yesterday on behalf of the ‘Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 Action Programme and Beyond,’ of which he is interim chairman, Falana said the state seems overwhelmed and asked the federal government to take control of the situation.

“In addition, we are compelled to request for a certified true copy of the report of the joint investigation conducted by the Federal and Kano State Ministries of Health into the strange deaths and mass burials taking place in Kano State.”

“The report should include the nature and cause of the deaths, the number of casualties and patients currently undergoing treatment in hospitals as well as an outline of the measures being put in place by the federal government to stop the strange deaths involving mass burials.”

Among those who died on Saturday include: Professor Ayagi; Dr. Musa Umar Gwarzo; Alhaji Dahiru Rabiu (former Grand Khadi); Musa Tijjani (Editor of Triumph Newspaper); Alhaji Aminu Yahaya, former Commissioner of Education; Adamu Isyaku Dal (former SUBEB Executive Secretary); Alhaji Salisu Lado; Hajiya Shamsiyya Mustapha; Hajiya Nene Umma; Alhaji Garba Sarki Fagge; Dr. Nasiru Maikano Bichi; Secretary, Student Affairs, North West University; Professor Aliyu Umar Dikko of Physiology Department, BUK and mother of popular Hausa musician, Ado Gwanja, among others.

At the time of filing this report, a cemetery worker at Abattoir Cemetery in Fagge local government told THISDAY that they buried 14 people yesterday (Sunday) and some corpses were still being laid to rest.

The Director, Centre for Infectious Diseases, Bayero University Kano (BUK), Dr. Isa Abubakar said the disease resulting to the surge in deaths was not related to COVID-19.

According to him, none of the deceased was confirmed to have exhibited the symptoms of the pandemic.

Fear Grips Maiduguri Residents as Two Patients Flee

By Michael Olugbode

Fear has gripped residents of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital as two patients, Abbas Hassan, a 24 year-old male and Hauwa Mohammed, 42-year-old female, have ran away after testing positive for COVID-19 at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH).

The male patient is said to be residing at Layin Tanki in Gwange II while the woman lives in Shuwari ward, both in Maiduguri.

Borno State Commissioner for Health and Secretary to the state’s high-powered response team for the prevention and control of COVID-19, Dr. Salisu Kwaya-Bura alerted the public at the team’s daily media briefing held yesterday.

The commissioner said the male patient (Abbas) was in initial telephone contact with the response team after his sample was collected, but eventually switched off his phone when he learnt he tested positive.

He also said a phone number through, which the patient’s mother was in touch with the team was also been switched off.

“When samples of patients with contacts to index cases are collected, they are normally advised to go on self-isolation. They give their contacts so that they can be reached when results are out. This is the standard medical procedure. You cannot detain someone with suspected contact.

“We do not have the lawful powers to do that. Other patients were also allowed to leave but they came into isolation centres and we have 19 of them in two isolation centres. However, the young man in question chose to go into hiding”.

He noted that a diligent surveillance and investigation team is working very hard to track the patient.

Ondo Rejects FG’s Expired Rice

The Ondo State Government has rejected expired bags of rice from the 1,800 bags sent to the state by the Federal Government.

The federal government sent about 1,800 bags of rice and vegetable oil to the state as part of measures to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown in the country.

The state Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, has ordered the return of some bags of rice sent to the state by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management as they were found to have expired.

Speaking on the development, the Secretary of the state palliative committee, Mr. Alex Kalejaiye, confirmed that some of the bags of rice had expired and were no longer fit for consumption.

According to him, the bad rice will be separated from the good ones and the good ones will be taken to the laboratory to ascertain if they were fit for human consumption.

He said, “We discovered that some of the bags have expired and not good for consumption at all, so we are separating them from the ones that are still manageable for consumption. After this, we will still take the ones that appear good to the laboratory to test if they are fit for consumption.”

It was gathered that when it was discovered that some of the rice had expired, the governor reportedly ordered that they should be rejected.

Akeredolu, who officially received the palliative items at the Government House ground, Alagbaka from the state coordinating unit of the Youths Empowerment and Social Support Operations, last week, was said to have expressed displeasure over the development.

Kalejaiye said, “They brought many bags of rice , we just carried out random check on them to discover the ones that are not good. What we are trying to do is to separate those ones that appeared bad from those ones that appeared good then we will carry out laboratory test on them to ascertain whether they are safe for consumption before giving them out to our people.

“Some are expired , it is even written on the bags but some are not expired but it seemed they were not properly stored, and those ones are not properly stored would not be good to be given to our people without carrying out the laboratory test .

“We will separate the extremely bad ones from the rest and we will carry out the laboratory test on those ones that appear good, to ascertain how safe they are for consumption. But the extremely bad ones, we don’t even need to do test on them , we will return them.

“We will meet tomorrow (today) to decide when to return them , you know we can’t do it without the consent of Mr. Governor.”

Manchester Business School Donates Medical Equipment to NCDC

By Emma Okonji

Alliance Manchester Business School Alumni Association (AMBSAA) Nigerian Chapter, has donated medical equipment worth over N2 million to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in Yaba, Lagos.

President, Alliance Manchester Business School, UK (Nigeria Chapter), Mr. Ishmael Nwokocha, who led the group to make the donation recently, said the main motive of the donation was to lend the group’s support to the fight against COVID – 19.

He said the medical and hygienic products, were donated to the NCDC to assist the centre in providing adequate protection to the health workers who are on the frontline in their efforts to combat and contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus that has killed several people globally, including Nigeria.

The category of materials donated included face masks, anti-bacteria hand wash, ethyl rubbing spirit, hand gloves hypo bleach, towels, cotton wool, methylated spirit, industrial mob bucket  and clinical dustbin.

Nwokocha said the motivation to support the government at this trying moment, should not be compared with the amount spent in purchasing the items.

According to him, “In as much as donation to the needy and less privileged is commendable and acceptable, we think it depends on what is donated and the target user. Our donation is made to the government agency coordinating and controlling the fight against this virus because they are made up of medical and hygienic materials meant for use in the isolation centers and are not consumables. We considered that it will be meaningless to give these items to individuals.

“The donation is in line with the objectives of the association which include: to be a network platform with opportunities for the education of members; to boost the image of our mother institution in Nigeria and render support to the institution; to support business ideas and social investments that we in no small measure, have contribute to national development.”

NPA: None of Our Staff Contracted COVID-19

By Eromosele Abiodun

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has refuted reports that a senior member of staff at the agency has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

In a statement by its General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Jatto Adams, the NPA described the report as baseless and unfounded.

According to the NPA, “The fact is that a member of staff of one of the terminals at the ports, who has not been at the office since Friday April 17, 2020 had visited his father-in-law and family during the weekend of Friday, April 17, 2020 and Sunday April 19, 2020.

“On arrival, he discovered that the medical practitioner father-in- law, his own wife and children had taken ill.

“On Monday, April 20, they were all diagnosed with Coronavirus as a result of which he decided to isolate himself and get tested. He wrote to the office to inform them about the situation and his decision to self-isolate.

“On Thursday, April 23,2020, he again wrote to inform the company that he had tested positive to coronavirus and that the entire family was now receiving treatment at one of the isolation centres in Lagos.”

The company, NPA added, immediately on the same day, Thursday, April 23,2020, wrote to inform and seek advice from the Coordinator of Health Ports Services in line with guidelines laid down by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for the report of COVID-19 incidents.

The NPA added that the company, in line with advice from Port Health Services, has disinfected the premises adding that all personnel who interacted with the staff have been identified and asked to self-isolate.

“The authority wishes to appeal to the media to verify information before going to press in order to avoid raising unnecessary tension. There are laid down procedures for the management of suspicions of COVID-19 incidents at the ports and the Authority will, in collaboration with all other government agencies, follow these processes through whenever the occasions arise. The NPA thanks all stakeholders and Nigerians for their support, “it stated.

SUNDAY 26TH,2020

Worried by Rising COVID-19 Cases, BUA Founder, Rabiu, Gives N3.3bn Grants to Kano, Lagos

Worried by the rising cases of COVID-19, particularly in Kano and Lagos, despite efforts to curb the spread of the virus, the Founder of the BUA Group, Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu, has announced a N3..3billion grant to the two states and the presidential task force.

The donation is in addition to BUA’s earlier contributions to the private sector-led CACOVID coalition and donations to other states.

Announcing this in statement  on Sunday, Alhaji Rabiu said Kano, which had seen a spike in the number of cases lately, including hundreds of unexplained deaths, would get N2billion, while Lagos which had the highest number of confirmed cases in Nigeria would get N1 billion.

He said the sum of N300million  would go to the Presidential Taskforce.

Rabiu said the N3.3 billion grant which he was committing through the BUA Foundation would be managed by a working group made up of the presidential taskforce, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other stakeholders in equipping two existing permanent facilities in Kano and Lagos States, which he described as the two epicentres of the virus in Nigeria.

The statement read:

“I view with deep concern, the increased rate of spread of the coronavirus especially in Kano and Lagos despite concerted collective efforts to curb the spread and effect of the virus in Nigeria. I also wish to commend the leadership shown by the taskforce as well as the NCDC in this fight. However, we all know more needs to be done.

“Based on what is going on especially in Kano at the moment, we have decided in the immediate, to commit a 3.3 billion naira grant to a working group made of the presidential taskforce, NCDC and other stakeholders in equipping two existing permanent facilities in Kano and Lagos States –whilst collaborating with the teaching hospitals in those states.

“To this end, I am immediately committing and making available –through the BUA Foundation, two grants of the two billion naira for the Kano-based intervention and one billion naira for Lagos State being the two epicentres of this virus in Nigeria. A sum of N300million will also be made available immediately in cash to the presidential taskforce to assist with logistical and operational activities of the taskforce. This grants in addition to BUA’s earlier contributions to the private sector led  CACOVID coalition and donations to other states.

“The working group will be expected to use resources at its disposal to ensure this facilities – to be determined by the working group –are fully equipped in the shortest possible time. I believe this will effectively help to expand the scope of interventions, ongoing research as well as support already stretched medical facilities dedicated to this fight.”

Lockdown: PWDs Cry for Assistance from Katsina, Philanthropists
By Francis Sardauna
The People with Disabilities (PWDs) in Katsina State have bemoaned the lockdown imposed on citizens by the state government, lamenting that hunger would kill them if nothing is done to cushion their hardship.
They said despite the 14-day lockdown imposed by Governor Aminu Bello Masari, they were not provided with palliatives by the state government to assuage what they termed the untold hardship bedevilling them.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in the state which resulted in 21 confirmed cases, the state government has shut down seven local government areas as part of precautionary measures to combat the spread of the infectious disease.
The affected local governments included Safana, Daura, Katsina, Dutsin-Ma, Batagarawa, Jibia and Mani.
Speaking on the plight of the PWDs in an exclusive interview with THISDAY on Saturday, the Katsina State Chairman, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, Lawal Mammande, said most of his members could not afford one square meal per day due to the stay-at-home order.
He said: “Most of our members rely solemnly on daily begging, petty trading and menial jobs to feed their families but today it has been impossible due to the restriction of movement by the state government.”
Mammande reiterated that 99 per cent of physically challenged people in the state were not government workers, hence the need for the state government and philanthropists to render humanitarian assistance to them in order to alleviate their predicaments during this holy month of Ramadan.
According to him, “Some of us beg along the streets, markets and other places for survival and all these places had been shut down by government without providing support for us even at this fasting period.
“Since the commencement of this lockdown, we have not received any palliative or financial support from government, NGOs or philanthropists in the state. Even today (Saturday), hundreds of my members came to my house soliciting for assistance but I don’t have anything to give them.”
When contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to the State Government on Physically Challenged Persons, Mr. Ya’u Rufa’i Zaka, admitted that disabled persons in the state were in adversity condition that needed urgent attention by government at all levels.
He, however, said he had since written a memo to Governor Masari soliciting for foodstuffs and other palliatives to be distributed to the physically challenged people in the state.
Kaduna Records Fresh Case of Covid-19

By John Shiklam

A fresh case of Covid-19 has been recorded in Kaduna, raising the number of active cases in the state to four.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Amina Baloni, disclosed this in a statement on Saturday in Kaduna.
She said the new patient had contact with the three patients who tested positive earlier in the week.
The commissioner said: ‘’Contact tracing is ongoing to identify persons the new case had  interacted with so that they can be monitored and tested if they meet the case definition.’’
She said medical professionals were attending to the four active cases in the state who are receiving treatment at the Infectious Diseases Centre (IDC).
Baloni said: “Medical professionals in the Ministry of Health have already successfully managed the first six Covid-19 cases in the state to full recovery and discharge.
‘’The index case, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, was discharged on April, 22, 2020, after two consecutive negative test results. Five cases were earlier discharged in the one week, starting from 14 April 2020.’
The commissioner said testing capacity in the state is improving, adding that Kaduna State has ‘’one lab that has been accredited by NCDC to conduct Covid-19 tests”.
She said the two labs located in Kaduna and  Zaria were undergoing NCDC verification and are expected to secure test accreditation shortly.
She disclosed that as at Friday, 24 April, 2020, the state had tested 133 persons, out of which 10 tested positive.
The statement reiterated the need for people to always wash their hands and imbibe the culture of personal hygiene, social distancing and the avoidance of large gatherings so as to stop the spread of Covid-19.

COVID-19: EII Cautions FG, States against Extension of Lockdown

By Seriki Adinoyi 

To avoid further damage to the current bad economy of Nigeria, Equity International Initiative (EII), a non-governmental organization, has cautioned the federal and various state governments to be weary of further lockdown as it may lead to a total collapse of the nation’s economy.

Addressing a world press conference in Jos, Plateau State on Saturday, the Country Director of EII, Mr. Chris Iyama, also feared that complete closure of religious worship centres from where citizens draw faith and hope for survival, does not portend well for a religious nation like Nigeria.

Iyama also raised concern over the way and manner the donations towards tackling the coronavirus has so far been spent.

“We are concerned that government has not been very transparent about the money; we don’t know the amount that has been donated, we don’t know the amount that has been disbursed, we don’t know the measure used in the disbursement, and we don’t know the modalities used in determining the poorest of the poor.

“We saw that in China, and some other countries, within a few days of the outbreak they had quickly built hospitals and other health facilities to address the pandemic. These monies have been donated by the European Union (EU), World Health Organisation (WHO), many other international bodies, spirited Nigerians and banks. I call on the government to be more transparent and accountable with it; so that the fund will not be looted by selfish people,” Iyama said.

He suggested that inter-state borders could be closed, while business could continue within each state to avoid total collapse of the economy.

Speaking from the legal perspective, the Plateau State Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Yakubu Bawa, said this is a time to actually know who a good and visionary leader is, adding that a good leader will know how to navigate through the current situation and come out of it strong.

According to him, “Lockdown should not be the only option left for government. We must consider the dire economic consequence of the action. Most of our people rely on daily income, and when government relaxes lockdown for two or three days for people to quickly re-stock, the question is where do they get the money to re-stock?”

He said that some people may not die of coronavirus, but may end up dying as a result of untold hunger and misery that the lockdown has brought upon them, adding that government must devise a strategy to open the economy and continue to fight the outbreak.

Against the backdrop of some urgent legal matters like bails and decongestion of prisons, Bawa said the lawyers should be considered as persons on essential services and should be given special consideration.

“Mobile courts have been set up, and the accused have the right to lawyers. If they are not given the chance to hire a lawyer to defend them, then their fundamental human right of fair hearing has been denied them. And this cannot be acceptable anywhere. As it stands, the courts cannot open because workers from level one to twelve have been asked to stay at home, and the judges would not be the ones to go and open the court rooms.

“During this lockdown, some security agents have trampled upon the rights of many Nigerians; many have been beaten and even killed by some lawless security agents. I even learnt that about 19 persons have been killed in the aftermath of this lockdown. All these have to be addressed urgently, yet the lawyers have been limited by the lockdown,” Bawa said.

On his part, a front line civil society advocate on the Plateau, Mr. Steve Aluko, said he has observed that criminality is on the increase, adding that government must be timely in ensuring that the economy is opened up timely.

He said: “We cannot afford to lock down Nigeria economy in perpetuity, or else we be exposed to a more serious challenge than the coronavirus. The small scale industries and small businesses must not be allowed to collapse.

“Government should channel energy towards what they can do to ensure that we have more recovery than death; and part of it is to open up the economy timely and speedily. If people do not have access to food, water, good education and other vital needs, we may just be toying with another serious challenge that may go beyond COVID-19.

“Government must open up its economy while we continue to observe measure to contain the spread of the virus. Before now, the level of poverty in Nigeria has been among the worst in the world.”

He also called for accountability and transparency on the part of government in managing the distribution of the palliatives to ensure that no further room is given for widespread suspicion as currently been witnessed.

Covid-19: Refugee Commission Donates Food Items to 2,280 IDPs in Cross River, Akwa Ibom
By Kasim Sumaina
Against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant hardship on vulnerable people in Nigeria, the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) has donated food items to 2,280 displaced person’s in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
The Federal Commissioner, Basheer Mohammed, who is also the co-chair of the Humanitarian Intervention working group under the PTF on Covid-19, revealed that the items presented by the Commission to persons of concern include 394 bags of beans and 340 bags of garri.
Mohammed, in a statement on Saturday by the Commission, noted that the flag off  took place at the Etun Local Government Area of Cross River State and Oron Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State targeting 2,280 individuals in total.
He stressed that earlier in March, water sanitation and hygiene items and face masks were also distributed to IDPs and refugees in Calabar, Bakassi and Oban in Cross River State to strengthen their personal hygiene and mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus.
“In April food items, hand washing Soup, hand sanitizers and face masks where also distributed to 100 refugees and members of host commcunity in Esit Eket. Eket local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State.”
The Federal Commissioner was represented by the NCFRMI Zonal Coordinator South-South, Innocent Efoghe, the statement added.

COVID-19: Some States Yet to Submit Samples for Testing, Says NCDC

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Head, Chikwe Ihekweazu, disclosed Friday that some states were yet to submit samples for test to know if they had COVID-19 cases.

While speaking during a television programme, Ihekweazu said the NCDC expects a number of tests to be conducted for each state.

As at Friday, 26 out of the 36 states, in addition to the federal capital territory (FCT), have confirmed cases of the disease.

Ihekweazu said while the NCDC was improving on its testing capacity for COVID-19, it is worrisome that samples had not been sent by some states yet.

“It is a bit like pretending like the problem does not exist because you are not looking for it,” he said.

“In every state, we expect a certain number of people to fit the case definition of an acute respiratory infection without an underlying cause.

“If you take away contacts with travellers and with confirmed cases, the third part of our case definition which says anyone with an acute respiratory infection for which there is no underlying cause should have a sample collected to know whether they have this disease or not.

“So, we expect every state to submit a certain number of samples for testing every day. We have seen that some states have not submitted a single sample.”

Health Workers Get Premium Life Insurance Cover

Health workers risking their lives in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic have received premium life insurance cover to the tune of N112, 500,000.

The Chairman Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, announced the receipt of the massive insurance boost for the frontline health workers during its media briefing in Abuja Friday.

He said the insurance cover was fully paid for by the Nigerian Insurance industry in line with the principle of No Premium, No Cover.

While thanking the insurance industry for the payment, Mustapha, called on other sectors of the economy to rise up to support the efforts to fight COVID-19.

He also appealed to the frontline health workers to double their efforts, while reiterating government’s assurance and determination to protect them.
COVID-19: VSF Distributes Palliatives to 30,000 Indigent Homes in Lagos
By Chiemelie Ezeobi
To cushion the effect of the lockdown as a result of  the COVID-19  Pandemic, the Victims Support Fund (VSF) distributed palliatives to 30,000 indigent homes in Lagos.
The group handed over thousands of relief items to 10 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for distribution to the urban poor.
Among the selected NGOs were Mama Money Foundation, Kokun Foundation, Lagos Food Bank, Rethink City Initiative and Impact Your World Leadership Initiatives, who were screened from a pool of about 90 and chosen based on their track record and credibility.
The relief items packed in 5,100 50kgs sacks each contained 10kg rice, beans, garri, with vegetable oil and salts, which were handed over to the NGOs with a mandate to ensure the target population received the items in the next few days.
The handover of the relief items to the selected NGOs at a warehouse at Sanya Bus Stop, along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, was done by VSF COVID-19 Taskforce Chairperson, Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, and her team.
She said they were instructed to send palliatives to Lagos following reports of unrest and hunger from those whose livelihoods had been affected as a result of the stay-home order.
Akerele-Ogunsiji said the organisation was also donating personal protective equipment (PPE), N95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, alcohol-based hands sanitisers, soap and liquid disinfectant to medical facilities in the state.
She said: “Our work is basically in the North-east. This is our first time in Lagos and it is because the state is the epicenter of COVID-19 in Nigeria and we are here to support efforts if the Lagos State Government to effectively implement the lockdown order.
“We need to provide palliatives to poor families within the metropolis and rural communities to ensure people do not die.
“Beyond that, we do not want to see the brazen crime levels that have rented the air within the city in the past few weeks.
“So, VSF also targeted other frontline COVID-19 states and deployed resources to assist government and citizens there cope with the lockdown.
“We started with Abuja last week, where we donated to 4,910 households with each at least six family members, then moved to Borno where we gave out 6,137 households, with each households having seven members.
“We went to Yobe and donated to 3,828 households. From Yobe, we moved on to Adamawa and from there to Taraba, then to Ogun State and now Lagos.
“We at VSF have been increasingly worried about how we can provide a support for the state government to efficiently implement the lockdown order because we are concerned about the community transmission of coronavirus.
“If people are hungry, they will not stay at home, they will go out and it will be hard to flatten the curve. We are donating 5100 pieces each of 10kg rice, beans, garri, vegetable oil and salt and we are targeting 30,000 to 40,000 households across Lagos metropolis through 10 of our partner NGOs to reach the poor and vulnerable.
“Apart from the food items, we are donating personal protective equipment, N95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, alcohol-based hands sanitisers, soap, liquid disinfectant and investing a lot in advocacy campaigns around risk communication to ensure people do not take it for granted that coronavirus is real.”
On monitoring the delivery by the NGOs, Akerele-Ogunsiji said a monitoring and accountability process had been put in place which the NGOs must adhere to.
She said: “Because we do not have offices in Lagos and Ogun, we partnered NGOs with a track record of excellence in handling this kinds of projects.
“They have credibility and also experience with project reporting. Aside taking the responsibility, they are going to write projects and give public narrative of their experience in collaborating with the VSF.
“We went through a very rigorous exercise and selected from about 90 NGOs then trimmed to the 10 we are using. We also ensured we have good ethnic balance because Lagos is a multi-ethnic society and we do not want any ethnic group to feel marginalised.
“We also have an NGO to cater to persons with physical disabilities. These selected NGOs already work with these communities and they have database.
“We are aware that no single organisation can feed Lagos but if we judiciciuosly allocate the resources available and are sincere about the distribution, it will go a long way.”
Earlier, the VSF also handed over relief items to the Lagos State Government which were received by Commissioner for Agriculture Gbolahan Lawal.
In his remarks, the commissioner said the state government worked out its distribution from information received from databases, adding that 25,000 people were reached.
“We got 25,000 households through the LASRA database. From our data, 191,000 Lagosians are between the ages of 60 and above and we filtered the data and arrived at 25,000 people who responded to our text messages and they all got our food packages.
“We have also reached out to about 5,000 people living with disabilities in our seven clusters of visual impairment, physical disabilities, albinism, dwarfism, and other clusters across the state.
“We have also reached out to riverine communities starting from Irewe in Ojo, Ogun in Epe and 116 riverine communities with more than 5,000 households. We have selected groups, artisans, trade unions and others in the informal sectors and those who depend on daily wages through their leaders.
“Apart from the emergency food response, we also have the emergency food market, 27 across the state for those with the capacity to buy food at competitive prices and we have started community kitchen where 100,000 youths are fed daily across the state.
“We are glad that the VSF has responded to our call for support. Ordinarily they were meant to see after the IDPs in the northeast, we appreciate the chairman, the coordinator and the team for the gesture.”
Chaired by former Defence Minister and business magnet,  General Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd.,  VSF prides itself as the first private sector-led humanitarian initiative in Nigeria with focus on the North-east region that has been ravaged by Boko Haram Terrorism.

SATURDAY 25TH, 2020

COVID-19: Governors Want Lockdown Relaxed, Endorse Partial Restriction

•Cases hit 1095
•NCDC: Nigeria still in danger zone, some states yet to submit samples for testing
•Frontline workers get premium life insurance cover
•Lagos discharges 10, 7 health workers test positive in Borno
•Fintiri imposes 14-day lockdown as Adamawa records first case
•Lagos, Abuja hoteliers reject bookings for returnees
•UK to evacuate stranded 900 citizens
•First patients injected in British vaccine trial

Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Olawale Ajimotokan and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

As the second 14-day total lockdown imposed on Lagos, Ogun and Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari to curb the spread of the Coronavirus ends midnight Monday, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has asked that it be scaled down to partial mode with relaxed restriction.

In a letter dated April 24, 2020, and addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation/Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, the NGF requested for, subject to the president’s approval, internal free movement in all the states, but with restrictions on large gatherings.

The other things the governors want incorporated into President Buhari’s impending pronouncement on the lockdown are: “Inter-state lockdown, excluding movement of essential supplies- food, beverages, medical and pharmaceutical, petroleum supplies and agricultural products; internal free movement but with restrictions on large gatherings and assemblies; overnight curfews; lockdown of flights; and compulsory use of face masks/coverings in the public.”

The NGF’s letter, signed by its Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, said its position was a follow up to a teleconference meeting with the Vice President on 22nd April 2020.

The NGF added: “Recall at the meeting it was agreed that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) articulates the issues that it would want to be included in the next Presidential Pronouncement on COVID-19 so as to have a Uniform and coordinated Policy on COVID-19 at both the national and sub-national levels.”

On the same day, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country surpassed 1000, with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announcing that the number of people confirmed to be positive now stands at 1095, with 208 discharged and 32 deaths.

This latest data was tweeted by the NCDC at 11.30 PM, last night, stating: “114 new cases of #COVID19 have been reported; 80 in Lagos, 21 in Gombe, five in FCT, two in Zamfara, two in Edo, one in Ogun, one in Oyo, one in Kaduna and one in Sokoto.”

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) yesterday warned that the country cannot afford to relax measures being pursued to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director General of the centre, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who spoke in Abuja at the media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, said the country ought to remain focused on implementing key response actions to arrest the spread and damage of the dreaded virus.

Ihekweazu said: “I recognise how difficult things are at the moment, many families I know have not been able to bury their dead, some have rescheduled their marriages, rescheduled their baptisms and have rescheduled everything they are doing. So, it is like life is suspended because we have suspended many things that we hold dear.

“Everyone on this side of the table recognises the great sacrifices being made by Nigerians but we only have to encourage each other to continue till we get to the position where we think we can relax. To get to that point we must continue doing what we are doing now,” he said.

Ihekweazu said that among those who are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 infection at the moment are the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, adding that this segment of Nigerians deserves to be assisted and protected.

On how the centre has been dealing with the management of the virus spread in Kano, the NCDC boss said that test results for Kano, which was suspended due to exposure of some laboratory staff and subsequent decontamination of the facility, would be out by yesterday’s evening.

While speaking at the briefing, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said that the federal government was worried that a good number of health workers may be knocked down by COVID-19, thus incapacitating the health sector, if they do not take adequate measures to protect themselves.

“I urge you to protect yourselves as prescribed and use the PPE judiciously. Do not attempt to treat COVID-19 patients without using adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), or if your institution is not accredited to do so. This is important because we need to keep health workers safe at this time and cannot afford the numbers testing positive to COVID-19.

Remain vigilant in the line of duty and maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19,” he said.

NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who led a team of labour leaders to interface with members of the COVID-19 taskforce yesterday, said that the number of health workers infected by the virus was a source of concern to the labour congress.

He said that NLC and its affiliates had set up a Labour and Civil Society Situation room to monitor developments and to intervene to assist workers where necessary.

On whether the contributory pensions could be used as palliatives, Wabba objected to such a move, saying that the contributed pension fund was solely savings by workers that they hoped to rely on at retirement.

NLC’s intervention came on the heels of outcry by some pensioners who have waited in vain for PENCON to release fund to Pension Fund Administrators to take care of elderly Nigerians.
These retirees had sought ways to get the taskforce to intervene and compel PENCON, which they alleged was using the current lockdown as an excuse not act on their case.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has expressed concern over the number of health workers already infected by COVID-19 in the country.

In a statement issued yesterday by NMA president, Dr. Francis Faduliye, the body frowned at what it described as recalcitrant attitude of some VIPs in the society who are refusing to report to and be admitted at Isolation and Treatment centres, adding that such behaviour was responsible for the level of infection suffered by health workers.

Some States Yet to Submit Samples for Testing

The NCDC head also disclosed yesterday that some states are yet to submit samples for test to know if they have COVID-19 cases.

While speaking during a television programme, Ihekweazu said the NCDC expects a number of tests to be conducted for each state.

As at yesterday, 26 out of the 36 states, in addition to the federal capital territory (FCT), have confirmed cases of the disease.

Ihekweazu said while the NCDC is improving on its testing capacity for COVID-19, it is worrisome that samples have not been sent by some states yet.

“It is a bit like pretending like the problem does not exist because you are not looking for it,” he said.

“In every state, we expect a certain number of people to fit the case definition of an acute respiratory infection without an underlying cause.

“If you take away contacts with travellers and with confirmed cases, the third part of our case definition which says anyone with an acute respiratory infection for which there is no underlying cause should have a sample collected to know whether they have this disease or not.

“So, we expect every state to submit a certain number of samples for testing every day. We have seen that some states have not submitted a single sample.”

Health Workers Get Premium Life Insurance Cover

The frontline workers risking their lives in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic have received premium life insurance cover to the tune of N112, 500,000.

The Chairman Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha announced the receipt of the massive insurance boost for the frontline health workers during its media briefing in Abuja yesterday.

He said the insurance cover was fully paid for by the Nigerian Insurance industry in line with the principle of No Premium, No Cover.

While thanking the insurance industry for the payment, Mustapha, called on other sectors of the economy to rise up to support the efforts to fight COVID-19.

He also appealed to the frontline health workers to double their efforts, while reiterating government’s assurance and determination to protect them.

Also at the briefing, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama revealed the challenge and delay faced by the federal government to secure hotel accommodation for Nigerians to be evacuated from COVID-19 high burden nations. He described the challenge a major hiccup to the effort to evacuate the Nigerians abroad, who have indicated interest to return home.

Onyeama lamented that hotel owners in Lagos and Abuja had been rejecting bookings from potential returnees from the UK, out of fear that their hotel reputation would take a hit if they turn positive during the 14- day period of isolation.

“We have Nigerians who want to come back from all over the world .The number in the UK alone is about 2,000. We just don’t have the isolation centres and hospital beds, hotels to accommodate them all. We have been looking for hotels in Abuja and Lagos. I spoke this afternoon (Friday) with the Governor of Lagos State and his real challenge even as the governor of a state is to find hotels that are willing to take these visitors for 14 days.

A lot of hotels clearly feel that it would damage their branding and have some effect on their business if some of them test positive for coronavirus. And that is a big problem for us right now,” Onyeama said.

He stressed further that another alternative was for the people to come back and be isolated in their homes, but the PTF members were worried that large number would be difficult to quarantine and monitor at their homes for two weeks.

“This is the real dilemma that we are facing. And you can imagine when they start coming back and the numbers of positives start spiking, government will be now blamed by the public for bringing so many people back. These are all the issues we are grapping but hopefully we will find a solution to that,” he reasoned.

He also refuted the 72 figures reported as the number of Nigerians that tested positive to the virus in China. The minister gave the official figure tabulated by the Nigerian consulate in Guangzhou to be nine, saying that a number of Nigerians in China were asymptomatic.

Amid the COVID-19 lockdown, the FCT Minister, Mallam Mohammed Musa Bello, has approved the extension of business hours for markets in the territory, from 8a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

This directive, which was issued yesterday, takes effect from the next market day Saturday April 25, 2020 against the earlier approved time of 10a.m. to 2p.m.
The minister also directed the decongestion of the existing markets through the establishment of Neighbourhood Selling Points in the various districts within the city centre by Abuja Markets Management Limited (AMML).

Lagos Discharges 10

Ten COVID-19 patients have been discharged from the Lagos State Isolation center.

The state’s governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu who announced this via Twitter yesterday, said the 10 discharged patients were three females and seven males, including three foreigners – two Indians and one Filipino.

But in Borno State, seven health workers have tested positive for Coronavirus as confirmed yesterday by Dr. Salihu Kwaya-Bura, Secretary, Borno Response Team on Convid-19’s.
Kwaya-Bura, who is also the state’s Commissioner for Health said the state had now recorded 15 cases including two deaths. The commissioner, who thanked Borno residents for complying with the lockdown order issued by the state government, said they were currently working on modifying the lockdown order following the declaration of Ramadan.

Fintiri Imposes 14-day Lockdown as Adamawa Records First Case

In Adamawa State, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri yesterday imposed a 14 day lockdown just after the state confirmed its first case of Coronavirus.

Fintiri said the lockdown order would take off midnight yesterday.

He said: “Painful as the decision is, it is the aftermath of the First COVID-19 index case recorded in the State through a returnee from Kano. The Adamawa State Government is therefore left with no option than to go for lockdown in the overall interest of saving lives and to contain the spread.

‘’Government has successfully commenced contacts tracing and testing which will be followed by isolation and treatment of positive cases.’’

The Adamawa Governor also disclosed that movement and gatherings in whatever form are prohibited throughout the period, except for those on verifiable essential duties such as security, media, health and water services, as well as while financial institutions like banks, that will operate skeletal services.

“Others in this category include pharmaceuticals, and those selling food items only, as government will not allow the irresponsibility of a few to lead to the death of many. The Executive lockdown order would be backed by a mobile court to try and prosecute offenders.”

UK to Evacuate Stranded 900 Citizens

The United Kingdom (UK) government has said that 900 more British travellers stranded in Nigeria are set to return home on three flights chartered by the UK government.

The Senior Press and Public Affairs Officer, Mr. Christopher Ogunmodede, in a statement issued yesterday said that once completed, these additional flights would bring the total number of people flown back to the UK from Nigeria on government charter flights to around 2,000, following flights arranged last week from Lagos and Abuja to London.

Ogunmodede noted that the additional charter flights had been arranged for British travellers, and their dependents, whose primary residence is the UK, adding that priority was given to the most vulnerable travellers, for example people with health conditions.

The British Minister of State for Africa, James Duddridge, was quoted to have said that, “our next phase of UK government charter flights will mean another 900 British travellers are able to return home from Nigeria. We appreciate this has been a difficult time and will continue to work closely with the Nigeria authorities to support those wishing to return to the UK.”

In a related development, the first human trial in Europe of a coronavirus vaccine has begun in Oxford, United Kingdom.

Two volunteers were injected, the first of more than 800 people recruited for the study.
Half will receive the Covid-19 vaccine, and half a control vaccine which protects against meningitis but not coronavirus.

The design of the trial means volunteers will not know which vaccine they are getting, though doctors will.

Elisa Granato, one of the two who received the jab, told the BBC: “I’m a scientist, so I wanted to try to support the scientific process wherever I can.”

The vaccine was developed in under three months by a team at Oxford University. Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, led the pre-clinical research.

Gilbert said: “Personally I have a high degree of confidence in this vaccine. Of course, we have to test it and get data from humans. We have to demonstrate it actually works and stops people getting infected with coronavirus before using the vaccine in the wider p

Oyetola: We’ll Come Out of COVID-19 Stronger

By Yinka Kolawole 

Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State yesterday felicitated with Muslim faithful in the state and around the world on the commencement of the 1441 AH (2020) Ramadan fasting, saying the observance of fasting amidst the battle against Coronavirus is not a mere coincidence.

He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world challenged humanity and its faith in Allah, urging the Muslim Ummah to hold fast to their faith in their creator in both times of  prosperity and hardship in order to validate the sincerity of our faith.

Oyetola was however quick to add that, considering the huge blessings that come with the holy month, Nigerians and indeed the world would come out of the COVID-19 war stronger and better.

In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Ismail Omipidan, yesterday Oyetola, who drew inspiration from Q29: 2, where Allah says “Do people think they will be left alone after saying ‘we believe’ without being put to test,” urged the Muslim faithful to seek maximum benefits of Ramadan by engaging in more acts of worship that would draw them closer to Allah. This, he said, was the true essence of the holy month.

“Allah allows challenges to make us better and stronger Muslims. Once we overcome this challenge of COVID-19 successfully, we will never remain the same, as we will be better prepared for further challenges. We will have stronger belief in Allah and be more hopeful of success.

“Ramadan is a period for spiritual rejuvenation. We must, therefore, take advantage of this month to renew our commitment to the service of God and humanity by upholding the teachings and virtues of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

“We must engage in additional acts of worship that will draw us closer to God. I pray Allah accepts all our acts of worship in this glorious month and reward us all abundantly.

“Certainly, with measures taken so far and with our acts of worship in this holy month, we will  come out of COVID-19 war stronger and better,” he added.

The governor, who noted that Ramadan was a month of reflection, forgiveness, and generosity, encouraged the more privileged and well-meaning members of the society to remember and extend hands of support to the less privileged.

He added that the current situation in the country made it more imperative for people to reach out and show love to the vulnerable and the poor.

Oyetola further noted that the lockdown directive imposed to check the spread of Coronavirus was still in force and warned against violation of the order, stressing that violators would not be spared by the State government.

“To this end, some regular activities during Ramadan such as congregational prayers including Taraweeh, Tafseer, public lectures, and other religious gatherings are suspended during this period.

“This is necessary to flatten the curve and prevent community transmission of the Coronavirus. We, therefore, urge Muslim leaders and followers and other residents of our State to continue to adhere strictly to the sit-at-home order, maintain social  distancing and observe other precautionary measures to halt further spread of the virus,” Oyetola added.

The governor also appealed to Nigerians and the Muslim faithful in particular to intensify prayers during this holy month of Ramadan for God’s intervention in the fight against Covid-19.

Betara Distributes Palliatives in Biu, Bayo, Kwaya-Kusar, Shani 

By Michael Olugbode

People of Biu, Bayo, Kwaya-kusar and Shani local government areas of Borno State have received N80 million worth of rice to enable them alleviate their suffering during the lockdown ordered by the state government to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The palliative, six truckloads of rice (3,600 x 50 kilograms), were donated to the people of the four local governments by their representative in the House of Representatives, Hon. Muktar Betara.

The rice was the first major palliative to be distributed in Borno State, which was totally lockdown on Wednesday night.

Speaking during the beginning of the distribution in Biu yesterday, Betara said: “There is no better time to come to the aid of the less privileged than now, that is why governments, corporate bodies and privileged individuals are already working round the clock to bring succour to our teeming population whose livelihood have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the global lockdown of cities making live difficult for the people.”

The lawmaker, who lamented that the stay at home order has no doubt started taking a toll on the general public, said: “The economies of virtually all the countries of the world have been grossly affected, therefore, there is the need to extend hands of fellowship to those who are worse hit by this measure with some palliatives that will reduce the pains they are going through in this trying times.”

Betara said: “In my usual manner of responding to the needs of my constituent, the good people of Biu, Bayo, Kwaya kusar and Shani Federal Constituency, I acted swiftly to the plight of his people with six truckloads of rice (3,600 bags) which was shared without discrimination.”

He said there was a sharing committee that adopted a transparent method to ensure that the large population was adequately covered. “Numerous associations in the constituency were captured and have collected their shares as stipulated, and individuals who are not members of these associations were also not left out of the sharing arrangements.”

He promised to continue to find ways of bringing succour to the people of his constituency, especially during the lockdown period of COVID-19.

Nigeria Records 114 New COVID-19 Cases, Total Now 1095

Nigeria’s COVID-19 cases surpassed 1000 on Friday night as the country recorded 114 new cases, bringing the total to 1095.
According to the data released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control at 11.30pm on Friday, the total number of discharged patients rose to 208 while the number of deaths rose to 32.
More details later.

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2020

Lagos Discharges 10 More COVID-19 Patients

By Martins Ifijeh

The Lagos State Government has discharged 10 more COVID-19 patients, bringing to 117 the total number of successfully treated persons in the state.

Announcing this Friday, the Incident Commander on COVID-19 in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the patients include three females and seven males.

He said: “They include three foreign nationals; two Indians and one Filipino. The patients; three from our Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, and seven from the Onikan Isolation Centre.

“With this, the number of patients successfully managed and discharged in Lagos is now 117.”

FG in Talks with Sanitiser Producers, Insists Use of Masks Non-negotiable

James Emejo in Abuja

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo, Friday said that the federal government was currently meeting with stakeholders in the production circle to harness the benefits of the production of ethanol for making sanitisers to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Speaking during the weekly engagement with the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) Committee on Sustainable Production/Delivery of Essential Commodities During COVID-19, he said the collaboration will  guarantee the availability of raw materials for quick and mass production of sanitisers which has become a daily necessity in the fight against the pandemic.
The minister also noted that his ministry had arranged to hold a teleconference with almost all producers of sanitisers in the country to find a way of ensuring that they don’t find it difficult in getting ethanol which is used to make the byproducts- available and cheap for all Nigerians to access.
He further stressed the need to observe market protocol which stipulates the wearing of masks and having hand sanitiser among other precautionary measures on approved market days before being allowed access into market premises for transactions.
Adebayo said:”I need to stress that, while there is an undeniable need for markets to be open on some days for people to restock on household supplies, it is most important for the set protocol during the process to be complied with to the letter. The use of face masks and hand sanitisers on market days are non-negotiable to limit the spread of the virus until the scourge blows over.”
The minister, for the upteemth time, also seized the opportunity to call on security operatives to allow farmers access their farms for necessary farm activities particularly fertilizing and harvest in order to ensure food sufficiency during COVID-19 and beyond.
He said that the farmers must however,  wear their masks as well as observe other preventive measures before they are let through.
He said:”This synergy between our law enforcement agencies, our essential goods manufacturers and the producers and the ministry has allowed us to be able to meet critical demands at this time.
“I wish to also add that, while on duty, our law enforcement agencies must do well to allow farmers access their farms for necessary farm activities like fertilizing and harvest in order to ensure food sufficiency during COVID-19 and beyond. The farmers must, however, wear their face masks as well as observe other preventive measures before they are let through.”

Review Lockdown to Save Economy, ANAP Urges FG

A think tank under the aegis of ANAP Foundation has called for a review of the lockdown imposed on the FCT,  Lagos and Ogun States and the reopening of business activities in the country.

The foundation in a statement jointly signed by its Chairman and Nigerian entrepreneur, Mr. Atedo Peterside, and the Vice Chairman, Mr. Abubukar Mohammed,  entitled: “COVID-19: Time to Change Strategy towards Intelligent Lockdown and Voluntary Compliance,”  said the current lockdown and forcible compliance was not yielding the needed result.

It said having reviewed the nationwide situation report with regard to the ongoing lockdowns and social distancing initiatives being implemented all over the country, it  resolved to call on the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and other stakeholders to also evaluate the effectiveness of the lockdown in a bid to manage the pandemic as well as the unintended consequences, which they continue to generate.

According to the foundation, since the commencement of the lockdown in Lagos and Ogun States as well  as FCT,  the number of people being infected has climbed steadily and the spread to various parts of the country has continued apace.

The foundation added that 28 persons have been confirmed as having died on account of COVID-19 whereas 25 Nigerians appeared to have been killed by security agents in their bid to enforce lockdown measures.

The foundation said: “A situation where Nigerians are being killed daily by law enforcement agencies at almost the same pace as the Coronavirus kills them is totally unacceptable.

“It is time to review the strategy, as it is clear that compulsory lockdowns (as implemented by our own security agencies) are not working. Food has become a lot more expensive in various urban centres, as transportation costs have soared due to rising security obstacles, arbitrary closure of inter-state borders and other supply chain disruptions.

“Restricted market days and curfews often result in needless overcrowding thereby negating adherence to social distancing. There has also been a rise in protests and mob action. The longer the compulsory lockdowns continue, the higher the risk of a breakdown of law and order despite the best efforts of government and other well-meaning Nigerians in distributing food and money to those in need.

“We believe there is a need to change direction from a compulsory lockdown to an intelligent lockdown (as practiced by a few countries), which largely thrives on voluntary actions by an informed populace.”

It explained that the  expected benefit of the lockdown was to buy some time so that public enlightenment and awareness campaigns could educate the populace whilst also helping to popularise self-quarantine.

However, it explained that for an intelligent lockdown to be effectively implemented, most economic activities should be allowed to resume cautiously.

The foundation  called for an end to the  lockdown while public enlightenment and awareness of the importance of behavioural changes like social distancing, quarantine and other safety habits be intensified.

NCDC, WHO Redeploy 17 Personnel to Kano

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)  have redeployed 17 persons to Kano State to support the fight against coronavirus in the state.

The National Coordinator, PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said during the Taskforce’s briefing Thursday in Abuja that additional lab equipment were sent to Kano on Thursday for the fumigation and disinfection of the Kano molecular laboratory, which will  continue “for the next few days.”

Aliyu said: “The PTF has directed and, in line with the directive, the NCDC has already redeployed at least 17 persons, including seven from the WHO, to Kano to deal with the current issues that have arisen.

“In addition, the Director-General, NCDC, has worked with the state emergency operating centre to reorganise the way it functions and a joint team, together with that from the state government, is currently investigating the concerns with regard to this.”

The Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu,  noted that Kano State at the moment has an excellent treatment centres with over 300-bed capacity.

He said he was confident that Kano would emerge from the crisis of the strange deaths, improving from the initial hiccups like Lagos to witness a much smoother response.

40 Health Workers Tested Positive for Virus, Says FG

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said  40 health workers have tested positive for coronavirus.

Giving updates during the presidential task force on COVID-19 briefing Thursday, the minister urged frontline workers to always protect themselves when treating patients.

“I urge you all to take the necessary precautions. Please do not try to treat patients without adequate PPE.

“This advice is necessary due to the number of health workers who have tested positive; they are over 40 now and some others have had to be quarantined in the last two weeks due to exposure and are therefore not able to contribute to the health sector efforts.

“I urge you all to remain vigilant in the line of duty,” he added.

Speaking on the country’s testing capacity, the minister said the high number of new cases could be attributed to improved testing.

“The high number of new cases is a manifestation of improved testing but also of ongoing community transmission.

“The NCDC laboratories have the capacity to test 1,500 samples per day in 13 laboratories per day.

“We are testing an average of 600 samples per day because that is all the samples collected and sent for testing,” he said.

According  to him,  the under-utilisation of the testing laboratories can be due to surveillance, sample collection and mode of transportation,  which could be improved through investments in logistics.

FG Studying Governors’ Call for Lockdown on Interstate Movement

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha,  said the federal government was yet to take a position on the decision by all the 36 state governors for an interstate lockdown.

Speaking on Thursday, Mustapha said the PTF would meet and take a holistic look at all proposals before making its recommendation to President Muhammadu Buhari.

“This will not be taken in isolation. I am assuring you we are working in synergy with the state governors and some national entities. By the time we are through with this phase, going into the third phase, it will be a more collaborative effort and that will have taken into consideration the inputs and interests of many segments of our society,” Mustapha said.

Mustapha also spoke on the warning by the  Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) that a further extension of the lockdown imposed on the FCT as well as Lagos and Ogun States could lead to a breakdown of law and order.

He said although he received a letter from NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, the labour leader as a representative  of the working class should be aware that lockdown is a global issue.

The SGF also said  Nigeria had received from the China-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce a cheque of N48,120,000 for the COVID-19  Support Fund.

He said the money, which was presented yesterday by the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Zhou Pingjian, was a gesture that underscored the deep relationship between Nigeria and China.

He also said China had also informed the PTF that the third phase of the medical supplies from the government of China was ready for airlift.

He expressed  concern about the pandemic in Kano State,  saying the PTF had instructed the NCDC to proceed to Kano and, in conjunction with the state government, mobilise for immediate contacts tracing to contain the spread of the disease.

Mustapha said: “The situation in Kano is still being assessed and monitored closely. Based on preliminary findings, the PTF has directed the NCDC to send an enhanced support team, mobilise resources for contact tracing and immediately ensure that necessary steps are taken in conjunction with the state government to contain the spread of the pandemic in Kano and stop the city from becoming the next epicentre.”

He also expressed concerns about the refusal of private healthcare facilities to comply with the directive for accreditation by the Federal Ministry of Health before commencing treatment of cases related to COVID-19, noting that this posed serious danger, not just to the health and life of the personnel working in such facilities, but to those of their loved ones as well as the general public.

FG Accuses China of Racism

The federal government has accused China of racism and discriminatory practices against Nigerians and black people in the country following the outbreak of COVID- 19 in some parts of the country.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, at the  media briefing of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Thursday in Abuja, likened the recent treatment meted out to Nigerians in Guangzhou as crossing the red line.

“We have been engaging with China at various levels; at the level of our consulate in Guangzhou where the cases of racism and discrimination have been ongoing and also at the federal level in Beijing, through our embassy. We have made it clear to the Chinese government in no uncertain terms that under no circumstance will we accept racial discrimination against Nigerians or Africans or Blacks in China. That is a red line for us,” Onyeama stated.

He said although the Chinese had  denied the allegation, complaint by maltreated Nigerians and video proofs  supported the claims of discrimination and racism.

He said the federal government had  directed the Nigerian consulate in Guangzhou to detail all instances of discrimination, losses and damages suffered by any Nigerian.

He added that such violations will be  pursued with the Chinese government if it requires compensation or damages.

He said: “We are extremely disappointed because we have excellent relations with the government and people of China that such a thing can happen at this stage.  And you know when there were calls for travels to be banned to China, when they had the outbreak in Wuhan and so forth, we went along with the World Health Organisation (WHO) advice not to place a travel ban on China and showed rare solidarity because we also had our own experience of epidemic with Ebola etc, but really we are deeply, deeply wounded by what has happened to Nigerians and other Africans in China.

“Of course their government has given us explanations and so forth, but really it is something we never accepted and we will pursue to its final conclusion and we will not make any compromises in doing so.

“There have been some comments in public domain, as if our policy, that we are somehow held hostage by the fact that we have receive a lot of economic cooperation from China in the past. But I can assure you where this is concerned, we are going to pursue to the very end irrespective of whatever economic cooperation that we have with China because in the world of today, we absolutely can’t tolerate and accept any form of racism or discrimination against black Africans and as the largest Black country in the world,  it behoves on us to be in the front line in defending the dignity of blacks and Africans everywhere in the world.”

108 More COVID-19 Cases Push Tally to 981

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Thursday confirmed 108 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of the incidence since the index case occurred in Lagos on February 27 to 981; with 197 patients discharged and 31 deaths.

The NCDC, in a tweet, gave the breakdown of the 108 reported cases as 78 in Lagos; 14 in FCT; five in Ogun; four in Gombe; three Borno; two in Akwa Ibom as well as one each in Kwara and Plateau.

With the latest tally, Lagos State remains the epicentre of the pandemic with a total of 582 cases followed by the FCT with 133.

Other are: Kano-73; Ogun-29; Katsina-21; Osun-20; Oyo-17; Edo-17; Borno-12; Kwara-11; Akwa Ibom-11; Kaduna-9; Gombe-9; Bauchi-8;Delta-6; Ekiti-4; Ondo-3; Rivers-3; Jigawa-2; Enugu-2; Niger-2; Abia-2; Benue-1; Anambra-1; Sokoto-1; Adamawa-1 and Plateau-1.

THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 2020

Nigeria Has Only 450 Ventilators, 300 Anaesthetists Despite Rising Cases of COVID-19

By Martins Ifijeh

With the spread of COVID-19 to 26 states and the fear that the number of cases may increase in the coming weeks, there are indications that the country is yet to ramp up preparations for intensive care for patients who may end up with serious symptoms of the virus.

As at Thursday, the country only has 450 ventilators, while doctors trained in the management of intensive care patients, known as anaesthetists, are only about 300 in the country.

Between April 9 and April 23, the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria has moved beyond 300 per cent from 278 to 873, and from 16 states to 27 all within 14 days; a trend that suggests within the coming weeks the country may be battling with thousands of COVID-19 cases across the country.

The National Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu, who spoke at a virtual media press briefing held by the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organisation Thursday, said before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria, the country had only 350 ventilators and that so far, about 100 had been added.

He however lamented that the major concern was that the country did not have enough trained health personnel for intensive care.

He said: “Ventilators alone do not run intensive care units. Our major limitation is training of healthcare workers particularly because of the unavailability of anaesthetists. It is impossible to train healthcare workers in this specialised field within a very short period of time. That is my concern.”

On his part, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) raised the alarm that the country has only 300 critical care doctors; an amount grossly insufficient should the country’s COVID-19 cases surge.

Speaking during the Morning Show on Arise TV, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, recently, the President, NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile said these set of doctors were trained to care for patients needing intensive care but that they were in short supply in the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said five percentages of persons positive for COVID-19 will require serious and specialised care at intensive care units.

Faduyile said: “Those trained to operate critical care units are majorly the critical care anaesthesiologists. Unfortunately, we have only 300 of them in the country. Should there be a surge in COVID-19, it will mean we are in a short supply. Generally, we do not have enough doctors in Nigeria.

“Should Nigeria get say 10,000 cases of COVID-19, WHO projection would mean at least 500 persons may require intensive care including the use of ventilators and the expertise of anaesthesists; both the country has in short supply.”

COVID-19: FG Closed Kano Lab Because Staff Tested Positive, Says Taskforce Coordinator

*Reveals Nigeria has only 450 ventilators

By Martins Ifijeh

The National Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said contrary to reports that the Kano COVID-19 testing laboratory was closed due to the lack of reagents, it was closed because some of its staff tested positive for COVID-19.

He also mentioned that prior to the outbreak of the disease in Nigeria, the country had only 350 ventilators, and that about 100 had been added as the country prepares for a possible surge of the virus.

Aliyu who spoke during a virtual press briefing by the World Economic Forum/World Health Organisation, and monitored by THISDAY Thursday, said the laboratory was closed to allow for decontamination as they were unsure if the staff contracted it during analysis of samples or from outside the facility.

He said: “The Kano testing laboratory was closed down because one or two persons in the lab acquired COVID-19. It wasn’t very clear whether they acquired it in the facility or it was brought in. This has raised concerns, so we have taken measures to disinfect the place.

“However, samples can still be collected as we have put measures in place to ensure samples are taken. That Kano laboratory serves Katsina and Kaduna, so three states are actually affected by this.”

He added that the laboratory will not be closed for too long as they intend to decontaminate the facility for three or four days.

He also said the PTF on COVID-19 was monitoring the Kano’s situation closely, adding that the federal government presently did not know the true number of deaths from Kano until investigation was concluded.

He said: “There are several scenarios that could be happening; one is that there could be increase in numbers of death due to COVID-19, the other possibility is that it may not be COVID. You are aware a lot of hospitals in Kano have closed so people with medical concerns are having difficulty accessing care, so the deaths may not be related to the virus. We are awaiting the investigation from the team to ascertain the true picture.

On his part, the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said Lagos had more testing capacity than Kano because the first cases were in Lagos, and that the state used the period to build capacity.

He said: “We will be transferring some of our knowledge from states to states. We are running against time because people are pushing to live normal life. At the same time, we are confronted with the escalation phase of the figures. So how to balance this will be a very difficult decision to be made in the coming week. We wished we had the laboratories and ventilators we need, but we simply don’t, and supply chain of these things are fragmented at the moment, so we will have to make do with what is available,” he added.

ECOWAS Leaders Appoint Buhari Champion of COVID-19 Response

 

By Omololu Ogunmade

West African leaders under the aegis of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Governments Thursday appointed President Muhammadu Buhari as Champion of the COVID-19 response.

The appointment, according to Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, took place at the Extraordinary ECOWAS Summit on COVID-19 held through teleconferencing and chaired by President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou.

Adesina said during the meeting, Buhari admonished fellow ECOWAS leaders to look beyond the threat posed by COVID-19 pandemic and explore other opportunities presented by the outbreak to ameliorate the living standard of people in member states.

“In every challenging situation such as the current one, there are also opportunities. Our region must therefore seek to find those opportunities provided by this gloomy global outlook for its benefit by embarking on the implementation of such critical policies, which before now, will be difficult to accept,” he reportedly said.

The statement added that Buhari appealed to his colleagues to intensify collaboration with one another with a view to saving the region from “this deadly pandemic through sharing our experiences and best practices.”

It further said Buhari outlined some measures taken by his government so far in response to the pandemic to include:

“The reduction of interest rates on all applicable Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) interventions from 9 to 5 percent and introduction of a one- year moratorium on CBN intervention facilities;

“The inauguration of Presidential Task Force to coordinate national efforts to combat the spread of the virus and ensure efficiency and effectiveness in line with the Nigerian Action Plan on Health Security;

“The provision of relief materials including medical and food supplies as well as conditional cash transfers of N20,000 each for poor and vulnerable households and the establishment of more isolation centers and testing facilities to contain the spread of the virus.”

Adesina also said Buhari further remarked that unprecedented economic uncertainties, such as severe fiscal and foreign exchange constraints, amid a slow global economic growth currently confronting several nations had made it imperative for “our sub-region to refocus on accelerating the implementation of our popular vision of ‘ECOWAS of the people’ by adopting dynamic regional policies aimed at providing relief to our citizens.”

He also quoted the president as saying, “despite declining revenues, government continues to spend massively on the containment of the virus, medical care for those infected and minimising impact of the crisis on the poor and vulnerable,” adding: “This situation puts severe pressure on our finances by increasing our expenditures amid dwindling revenues. This invariably has led to a restructuring and reduction of our budget.”

According to the statement, Buhari used opportunity of the forum to rally other leaders to embrace agriculture, technology, innovation, and also create jobs and reduce poverty to enable West African economies emerge stronger.

“It is imperative that while addressing short term challenges, we should also explore opportunities to promote strong and dynamic agricultural policies that will guarantee food security for our people, creating jobs and reducing poverty in the region. We must innovate and use technology to boost the digital economy and do things differently, but better,” he was further quoted to have said.

It also said Buhari affirmed Nigeria’s solidarity with other member states as they battle COVID-19, saying he was saddened by the loss of several lives to the malignant disease.

“At a time of global uncertainty such as this, caused by the devastating impact of the COVID-19, let me convey Nigeria’s solidarity with all the Member States as we collectively battle to defeat the pandemic. I am greatly saddened by loss of numerous lives and extend my heartfelt condolences to families of those who have lost loved ones throughout the region. I also wish infected victims speedy and full recovery,” he said.

Adesina said Buhari reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to the well-being and safety of the people of the sub-region and also restated his support for any initiative from the summit aimed at containing the spread of the disease.

Lockdown: Givefood Coalition to Provide 1m Meals to Vulnerable Nigerians 
By Tolulope Ibukunoluwa

 

Givefood.ng, a coalition of partners committed to tackling the feeding challenge triggered by the lockdown declared by the federal and state governments to curb the spread of COVID-19, has announced an initiative to provide one million meals to Nigerians every week.

This plan was disclosed in a statement issued by the coalition while announcing its launch.

According to Kola Masha, founder of the coalition and Chief Executive Officer of Babban Gona, the partners will provide a technology-enabled logistics solution to help those who want to direct their resources to the most vulnerable, while ensuring the availability of food packs at easily accessible points for those that need them.

“We have been inspired by the collective willingness we have seen amongst Nigerians to help their fellow citizens at a critical time. When we have millions of vulnerable people that need help, we cannot rely on the contributions or interventions of others, we must all come together to support them.

“This is the vision for givefood.ng; for ordinary Nigerians to have access to a platform that can safely and securely deliver assistance to those that need it. We believe that with the partners we have been able to bring together, the civic spirit we have seen and the support we have received from Nigeria’s private sector, we can quickly achieve a system that provides one million meals for Nigerians each week. Anyone who wants to give food can do so by simply visiting givefood.ng today,” the statement quoted Masha as saying.

It also disclosed that givefood.ng has over 100 food collection points, which are run through partnership with supermarket chains.

The coalition disclosed that each food pack may vary from location to location due to availability. It, however, said the packs will all be valued at N2,000 and will contain: 2kg swallow, 1 kg pasta, 500g sugar, seven to nine packets of 70g instant noodles, four packets of 70g tomato paste and soap.

The coalition explained that the process for individuals or organisations willing to donate is in four stages. It urged interested partners to contact info@givefood.ng, while media enquiries should be sent to givefood@africapractice.com

Ekiti to Inject Money into Agriculture to Prevent Food Scarcity Post Covid-19
Victor Ogunje
The Ekiti State Government has promised to inject more money into the agriculture sector to prevent scarcity of food in the state after the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was part of the decisions taken at the Ekiti Executive Council  virtual meeting held Thursday in Ado Ekiti.
The state Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who chaired the meeting, allayed the fears that there may be post disease famine in the state, saying several steps have been taken so far towards boosting agriculture in the state.
“We  promise to do more to support the farmers with inputs and necessary access to agricultural loans, as well as attract further big private sector players into the agricultural sector of the state,” he said.
The council approved the transmission of the draft bill seeking to amend the name of the College of Agriculture and Technology Isan-Ekiti, to Ekiti State College of Agriculture and Technology Isan-Ekiti via the Ekiti State College of Agriculture and Technology Isan-Ekiti Law (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to the  state House of Assembly for passage.
“The essence of the bill being to clarify the status of the school in the state,” he said.
The council commended the efforts of Governor Fayemi, his wife,  Bisi and members of the state COVID-19 Taskforce, for their efforts to combat the Covid-19 scourge, and the seamless running of the food bank, tasked with the distribution of palliatives to the vulnerable and needy in the state.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic in Ekiti State, the management of Ekiti State University has donated some materials to the state government.
The materials, which included hand sanitizers, masks and liquid soap were produced by the university at a cost of over N3 million, using local materials.
Presenting the materials, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Edward Olanipekun, said the gesture was to complement the efforts of the state government in combating the pandemic.
He commended the proactive measures put in place by Fayemi, which reduced the incidence of the pandemic to the barest minimum in the state.
Olanipekun also expressed satisfaction with the performance of the committee put in place by the state government so far.
Covid-19: Osun Mandates Use of Masks by Citizens in Public
Yinka Kolawole
As a measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Osun State, the state government has announced the mandatory use of masks in public places effective from Friday, April 24.
Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, who made this known in a statement released by his Chief Press Secretary, Ismail Omipidan, on Thursday in Osogbo, disclosed that the decision was part of the resolutions reached by the South-west governors at their virtual meeting last week.
Oyetola noted that the South-west states are the first to make wearing of masks mandatory, and that the regulation would remain in place till the states are rid of the pandemic.
The governor, who warned residents against complacency, urged them to cover their nose and mouth with the mask whenever they step out of their homes.
Oyetola reiterated that the sit-at-home order is still in place and that other precautionary measures of social distancing and regular washing of hands must be observed.
The South-west governors had, at its virtual meeting held on Thursday, April 16, 2020, resolved that every citizen in their states must wear face masks as a measure to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
US Assistance to Fight Covid-19 in Nigeria Reaches $21.4m
Adedayo Akinwale
The United States government has disclosed that the new funding for Nigeria for the prevention and mitigation of the coronavirus pandemic has reached the sum of $21.4 million.
The US government, in a statement issued on Thursday by its Mission in Abuja, said that the funding would support critical activities to control the spread of the disease, such as rapid public-health information campaigns, water and sanitation and preventing and controlling infections in healthcare facilities.
It added that as part of this comprehensive response from the American people, the US Department of State and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have committed nearly $508 million in emergency health, humanitarian and economic assistance, aside the funding it already provided to multilateral and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) helping communities around the world in dealing with the pandemic.
“The United States government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of State, announced on April 17 that new funding for Nigeria for prevention and mitigation of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has reached $21.4 million.
“Approximately four fifths of the assistance – nearly $18 million – will go towards humanitarian assistance and includes risk communication, water and sanitation activities, infection prevention and coordination, and humanitarian assistance for refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and their host communities.
“The U.S. government is leading the world’s humanitarian and health response to the COVID-19 pandemic even while we battle the virus at home,” U.S. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard said of the assistance.
“Our assistance is rolling out gradually as we reconfigure priorities in response to the evolving situation,” she said.
The US government noted that two examples of USAID assistance included support for Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in sending a million SMS messages a day to Nigerians and going door-to-door in the North-east to prevent outbreaks in the country’s most vulnerable areas along with a host of other activities in urgent development.
This assistance, it said, was in addition to more than $8.1 billion in total assistance for Nigeria over the past 20 years, including more than $5.2 billion in US health assistance alone.

Amid COVID-19, Subscribers Sustain Strong Apetite at April FGN Bond Auction

  • Overall subscription put at 459%

By Ndubuisi Francis 

As has been the trend this year, investors again demonstrated a strong appetite for the FGN bond at the April auction which was conducted on Wednesday, despite the huge impact of COVID-19 on socio-economic activities.

Since January, the FGN Bond auction had been  consistently oversubscribed by investors.

The Debt Management Office  (DMO) offered N60 billion bonds across three  tenors to investors at the April auction, including  N20 billion each for the five-year, 15-year and 30-year tenors. 

The total subscriptions received through competitive bids for the three instruments was N275.67 billion, indicating an overall subscription level of 459 per cent.

The DMO reported that demand was very strong for all the instruments offered at the auction, adding that a breakdown of the subscriptions shows that the sum of N49.70 billion or 248.50 per cent  per cent  was received for the five-year bond; N107.47 billion or 537.35 per cent  for the 15-year bond and N118.50 billion or 592.25 per cent for the 30-year bond.  

Successful bids were allotted at the rate of 9 per cent  for the five-year, 12 per cent  for the 15-year and 12.50 per cent for the 30-year bond, all of which are lower than the rates at the March 2020 FGN Bond Auction.

The total amount allotted for competitive bids was N156.06 billion across the three tenors, while the sum of N20 billion was allotted through non-competitive bids for the five-year and 15-year tenors, which brought the total amount allotted from competitive and non-competitive bids to N176.06 billion.

Remote Working and Cybersecurity: How to Stay Cyber Safe Amid Global Lockdown

By Ifeyinwa Afe  
As the Covid-19 Pandemic continues its rapid global increase, and Nigeria’s Federal and State governments impose a partial lockdown in addition to social-distancing and other measures to contain its spread, most businesses have sent their employees home to work. This massive, unprecedented shift to  remote working brings with it a whole new set of cybersecurity challenges.

When workers are sent outside the normal perimeter, IT resources can be inconvenienced as many organizations move to enable remote strategies. Managing device spread, and patching and securing hundreds of thousands of endpoints, becomes a much bigger challenge.

As consumers, we want high-tech companies and government agencies to protect us from cyberthreats, and these companies certainly bear some responsibility given each has had a hand in the widespread adoption of connected technology.
Connected people pose a potential cyberthreat to themselves and those around them
In a March 2020 report entitled ‘COVID-19’s Impact on Cybersecurity’, the Lagos office of global consulting firm, Deloitte, revealed that cybercriminals around the world are already capitalizing on the pandemic. It disclosed that it had observed a spike in phishing attacks, Malspams and ransomware attacks as attackers are using COVID-19 as bait to impersonate brands thereby misleading employees and customers. Deloitte noted that this will likely result in more infected personal computers and phones, and that not only are businesses being targeted, end users who download COVID-19 related applications are also being tricked into downloading ransomware disguised as legitimate applications.

The firm further noted that there would be increased security risk from remote working/learning, potential delays in cyber-attack detection and response. The report concluded that COVID-19 will change our lives forever with new work styles, new cybersecurity issues, new proposed policies and  personal hygiene and  that post COVID-19, organizations will need to rethink their cyber risk management measures.

Nigerian enterprises are no stranger to the phenomenon of cybercrimes, with the most popular forms being fraudulent electronic mails, identity theft, hacking, cyber harassment, spamming and Automated Teller Machine spoofing. But the biggest cash cow is still fraud emails. The Nigeria Electronic Fraud Forum (NeFF) revealed that bank customers lost a total of N3.6 billion to cyber-fraud in two years (2017 and 2018). Data released by the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) also showed attempted fraud in 2018 alone was valued at about N9 billion.

Taking insiders into account 
There are no easy solutions for combatting rising threats. Most of us see the advantages of working from home and overlook the need to protect ourselves against related threats — both at home and work.

In our personal lives, we do dangerous things. We click on hyperlinks in emails from unknown people, opening the door to malware that could take control of our devices. We use simple passwords or fail to update them regularly, making it easier for hacking software to find its way into our systems. We even leave laptops open for all to see as we log into personal and financial accounts, allowing thieves to steal our money and identities with relative ease.

We assume the IT department has everything under control and do not always exercise as much caution as we should, putting our employers and customers in jeopardy. As such, most security professionals say insiders — employees, partners and contractors — are the single largest cyberthreat to most organizations. In fact, according to a recent Gurucul survey, more than 70 percent of companies are vulnerable to insider threats, and user error is driving most of that problem.

With 873 reported cases of the virus in Nigeria so far and thousands being traced, there is no doubt users will continue to try to seek more information as the number grows. Users are urged to seek out trusted sources as people share false cures, hoaxes and conspiracy theories online, the World Health Organization (WHO)  has increased its efforts to tackle myths and rumors to curb the circulating misinformation.

Companies can help by recognizing employees are people and unlikely to change on their own. They can seek to build cybersecurity cultures, combining strong policies and procedures with ongoing education and training for staying digitally safe in the office, at home and while online remotely.

Embracing cultures that put cybersecurity first
About 80 percent of organizations are already doing this on some level, this is according to an ISACA Cybersecurity Culture survey of about 4,800 international business and technology professionals. However, 95 percent of organizations say there is still a gap between their current and desired cybercultures. Until these endeavors become more successful, business leaders must make every equipment purchase decision a security decision.

Companies—both large and small—have numerous options when buying endpoint devices to help employees avoid making potentially catastrophic blunders. For instance, some PCs are now built with hardware-enforced security features and layers of protection, above and below the operating system, to proactively prevent threats and quickly recover in the event of a breach.

With cyberthreats becoming more prevalent, no organization should disregard the added safety these types of features present. Everyone — from business leaders to individual consumers — must come together to combat this threat or risk being overtaken by it.

*Ifeyinwa Afe is Managing Director, Nigeria/District Manager, Central Africa, HP Inc.

COVID-19: ‘Children Could Face Increased Risk of Child Labour, Sexual Exploitation’

Adedayo Akinwale

Save the Children International Nigeria has warned that the Coronavirus pandemic will force many poor households to turn to desperate measures to survive, while children could face increased risk of child labour, sexual exploitation and child marriage.

The Acting Country Director of the organisation, Mercy Gichuhi, in a statement issued on Thursday expressed concerned that the COVID-19 could turn into a serious child rights crisis in Nigeria, as hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable children could be exposed to a dangerous mix of extreme poverty, malnutrition and hunger as a result of the virus.

Save the Children therefore urged the government at all levels to scale up social protection measures such as; provision of cash and food assistance for the most vulnerable children and families, to urgently mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Gichuhi stated: “The socio-economic impact of the pandemic will push many poor households to turn to desperate measures just to survive. Children could face increased risk of child labour or sexual exploitation or of child marriage, as families struggle to feed their families.”

“As the numbers of COVID-19 cases rise in Nigeria to 782, and the virus is spreading to different States, we are working hard to mitigate the negative impact this will have on the most vulnerable children, especially in fragile communities. Children are seriously affected when parents and caregivers are infected by the virus and taken away for care. We are working closely with the government to support efforts to contain the virus and keep children safe and protected amid the pandemic.”

The organisation said it would work with all stakeholders towards better accessible social protection services to reach the most vulnerable people – including through the scaling up and reform of existing social protection and livelihood programmes.

It equally called on the government to provide appropriate care and protection for children, including children who are orphaned or left without proper care because their caregivers are in hospital because of the virus.

Gichuhi said that through existing social safety net programs,  government should also provide immediate income and livelihood support to vulnerable families to reduce the risk of people taking desperate measures that would put children, particularly girls, at risk.

“We must act now and rapidly scale up support for children whose families’ income is insecure and live in fragile communities. There is a need for increased protection for children, especially girls, displaced children, and other vulnerable groups. Our collective efforts and sustainable actions in responding to the pandemic should ensure that no child is left behind, vulnerable or unprotected,” Gichuhi noted.

COVID-19: Senator Urges FG to Assist  Kano with Additional Testing Facilities, Funds

 

Following a spike in the number of Coronavirus cases in Kano State, the senator representing Kano North, Sen. Barau Jibrin, has called on the federal government to assist the state with funds, equipment and additional testing facilities.

The lawmaker in a statement issued on Thursday, said the federal government should not wait until the virus spreads beyond the capability of the state before intervening.

According to statistics available, Kano is presently the third highest state with Covid-19 cases in the country after Lagos and Abuja.

Jibrin stated: “The Covid-19 pandemic is such that no state government can effectively deal with it alone without the assistance of federal government no matter how rich and developed such sub-national could be. President Muhammadu Buhari should please help to urgently assist Kano State at this point in time”

The lawmaker cited the federal government’s involvement and assistance to Lagos state by throwing its weight and resources behind the state because of its strategic location and importance to the country.

Jibrin noted that if not because of the current lockdown, he would have raised a motion to the effect on the floor of the upper chamber of the National Assembly, adding that with the alarming rate of the spread of Covid-19 in the state, there was need for the federal government to help Kano state.

He commended Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state for his administration’s proactive steps taken to combat the pandemic as attested to by the Director-General of the Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

COVID-19 Pandemic and the Nation State

ByAyodele Aderinwale and Heinrich Bergstresser

The undeniably global nature of the COVID-19 crisis will once again substantially confirm that crises are the real driving force for change.  During and after the crisis humankind is often confronted with the urgent need to ponder on the direction in which the pendulum of reorientation is swinging, will swing or should swing. Crisis in the recent past, the number of which has steadily increased over the last three decades, have often led to prolonged transition phases.

Glasnost and Perestroika and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union led to a massive surge in globalisation and, indirectly, to numerous armed conflicts and the importance of Non-state-actors in this regard. The wave of migration towards Europe and the growing misery of internally displaced persons in almost all regions of the world pose challenges to the people, societies and states affected which, it seemed, had been forgotten since the end of the Second World War.  The bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers Bank precipitated a financial crisis which triggered a tremendous redistribution of global wealth in favour of international financial capital. In addition, 9/11 served as the prelude to an unprecedented surge in the scale and duration of Islamic insurgencies and terror attacks.

And now the COVID-19 crisis, triggered by an (almost) invisible enemy that seems to eclipse everything in terms of threat potential, rationality and imagination. The virus, which was first reported in Wuhan China, circumnavigated the globe within a few weeks and established itself rapidly and daresay virulently in other regions of the globe. The COVID-19 virus performs its dangerous work at breakneck speed and exponentially at the same time, confronting a global village of states whose complexity and close economic ties offer an ideal conduit pipe for global spread and impact. Simultaneously and painfully revealing the soft under belly of current global configuration and the vulnerability of modern societies which had practically imposed  individualism and self-responsibility as the dominant paradigm in terms of social relations. The reality of current developments is more of an unprecedented experiment in a “politically defined world laboratory” which for quite a long time will determine power structures for the better or the worse.

In several regions of the world the radical neo-liberal discourse of recent decades has created a growing distance between the elites, including the political class and large sections of their citizens. This, in turn, has triggered a massive and obviously mistaken deregulation and commercialisation of critical social sectors areas such as health, security, education and infrastructure, which resembles a redistribution machine in favour of a numerically small group of rich and super-rich people – the so- called Super Hubs – who, for example, meet at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. In Africa in particular the divide is highly pronounced such that the WaBenzis have mutated into WaJetis[2]! For the rest of the populace, it is a constant preoccupation with what to eat, where to live, what to wear, how to stay dry and alive and seldom if ever is there a serious concern with the word political and without the adjective political the noun society has nothing to qualify. 

At the same time, the justified fears in the upper middle class of being relegated have increased, not to mention the fears of the lower middle class of slipping into precariousness. Purchased with the promise of unlimited freedom and unbridled pleasure, the protagonists have so far been quite successful in fading out the growing objective contradictions. The COVID-19 virus, however, which is free of any ideology, turns out to be a brutal spoilsport, bringing all the blatant contradictions to light and raising the essential questions about the legitimacy and power of the Nation State (particularly as conferred on it by the Westphalian treaty). Over quite a long period this Nation State, conquering and exploiting more than half of the world, took shape of today’s western liberal state. With the surplus, to a large extent generated by external exploitation it developed the capacity to provide for basic needs such as security, health etc to the vast majority of the citizens, and in addition the steering capacity of modern political systems. The dysfunctionality of the so-called limited or what we call the hybrid state is now so obvious and so stark. For once the Western power elites and their global acolytes are shown that the whole essence of the state and governance seem to have been traded off on the altars of attainment of a lean and mean state.

The initially negligent handling of the virus both in Wuhan and shortly afterwards in Europe with the original epicentre Ischgl in Austria, a super amusement park for ski and party enthusiasts, and northern Italy with its Chinese dominated textile industries, revealed the structural weaknesses of the modern liberal Nation State. In the early stages of the pandemic, systemic differences played no role. The Chinese Communist Party tried, albeit with little success, to hush up the issue of COVID-19 and the danger of the rapidly spreading epidemic. Nonetheless the Chinese Communist Party actually demonstrated its firm control over the State by effectively locking up Wuhan. The result is the relatively fewer number of deaths in China, even if controversial as per Western propaganda, the fact is that the within China spread was curtailed contrary to what is currently happening in America.

For their part, the state institutions in Europe responsible for epidemics and pandemics ignored very early warnings from epidemiologists (e.g. from Iceland), so that many hundreds of ski tourists from Ischgl were able to spread the virus unhindered in Europe and the business in Ischgl, driven by greed, entertainment and ignorance, continued with the approval of state authorities, although disaster was already looming (see the Ischgl Protocol, Spiegel of 28 March 2020). In northern Italy however, tens of thousands of Chinese formal and informal contract workers and locals quite often working under appalling conditions and traditional Italian family structures were a fertile ground for the virus. In Africa, a region notorious for its demonstrable lack of strategic thinking and or planning by those in control, powered by infrastructural deficit, managerial deficit and incompetence and buoyed by copycatism, the nightmare scenario as predicted by the World Bank looks more possible than impossible. Of course, the saving grace could also be nature as to the inherent characteristics of COVID-19 that are not fully known as at today.

The emergency brake in Wuhan as well as in Europe and with considerable delay in the hit hard USA meanwhile shows the Janus-faced nature and character of the neo-liberal Nation State, which is more or less legitimized according to the respective political system. In cases of doubt, uncertainties and crises the Nation State tries to enforce its monopoly on the use of force to combat the pandemic without regard to losses and utilising threat and applications of coercive measures, in the belief or better, in the hope of somehow getting the pandemic under control. The Chinese government however, is facing a crisis of credibility, and the liberal Western democracies are operating within the narrow framework of rule of law and more general frame of the respective constitution. Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 Pandemic however, with its imponderables and uncertainties associated with the pandemic it is a tightrope walk. Against this backdrop this crisis once again reveals the fact that the modern liberal democratic legitimised Nation State cannot guarantee its existence which relies on premise / requirement the Nation State itself cannot guarantee. The rifts within the EU amplifies this since they were torn open with unprecedented breadth, in a peace and social project that was unparalleled in a globalising world, but which now threatens the supporting pillars and thus the project as a whole is at stake.

Common interests, solidity and solidarity were yesterday; isolation, exclusion, blame, envy, populism, fascist, hatred, racist movements and the tendency to suspend rights that have been fought for and securitised increasingly dominate the scene today.

The Nation State is thus supposed to make it possible to resolve a global crisis, the effects of which cannot yet be really assessed and estimated, carried by an (almost) invisible enemy. Authoritarianism, garnished with carrot and stick, is ready to maintain the currently existing power structure. This task was taken over by the state as the leading crisis manager, which also willingly assumes this task, provides hundreds of billions of euros and dollars and pretends to do so solely in the interest of the community and the common good.

As important as the Nation State’s superstructure is for the functioning of society, the economy and the state, the survival of a free political and social system depends on the capability of the great majority of people of self-control and its implementation at everyday life. The COVID-19 pandemic clearly highlights this difficult dialectical relationship. People are still following the guidelines and not yet questioning the structural changes behind the pandemic, which are creating a political-economic milestone where the pendulum could swing positively in the direction of a new transnational social contract in favour of a new adjustment: More “stateness”, in which provision to satisfy basic needs in the areas of health, security, education, participation, responsibility and infrastructure are given their rightful place.

In addition, new paradigm of social relationship within neighbourhoods and the communities, between the youth and the elders, is the decisive recipe in resolving such a crisis. No doubt: future pandemics will inevitably occur, and existing challenges such as climate change and a new world order committed to peace and distributive justice have to be addressed.

But the unexpected impact of the pandemic can also turn the other way round, into repression, resistance, envy, hate, uprising and new uncertainties within a fragmented world society which would mean the future would not bode well. While the first set of battles in this war will be to beat the corona virus and its threat to social relations the consequent economic spinoffs are mammoth. Meanwhile the global economy is hugely dependent on a China whose economy is projected to contract by as much as 6.5%. The impending global economic crises will hit the poor countries most, in short it will hit Africa the hardest. It is suggested that half of the population in Africa may lose their jobs!! The increase in social inequalities globally would be mind boggling and current prognosis suggests that it would be worse than 2008 and thus triggering another round of nationalism, parochialism, violence and resource-based wars. Would the rich countries act jointly and severally with a view to protecting our global commons? Or will they play the Ostrich game? Or worse still take a Trumpian weltanschauung? Is this good the opportunity to press the reset button?   How can we boost the recovery with sustainability and gender focus? Can we have a better and stronger post Covid-19 society?

The leadership in Africa in particular may well seize the opportunity to reconfigure security architecture as a fundamental imperative. As an outflow from that it could develop a sustainable resource mobilization framework to plug into internal and external resources for social sectors such as health and education among others.  The international community with its ostensibly well intentioned need to go into debt forgiveness would hopefully not make it a blanket one size fits all case but would go on a country by country basis and making it conditional based on supervised investment in the social sectors.

Perhaps the scariest of all possibilities is that we may wrestle Covid 19 to the ground for now and what if it chooses to make another global tour de force? How come in spite of experiences with bird flu, Ebola etc nothing in our repertoire prepared us sufficiently for a true pandemic? Is it not time to rethink the Nation State and its entire security architecture?

The approach of thinking globally and acting locally, born quite some time ago, has not lost its appeal as a valid recipe. It won’t resolve all challenges but it would support the better understanding of a world structure where unity, diversity and interdependency are two sides of a coin.

Only then human kind would be in a position to develop a more just, sustainable and decent environment and life. Anything else would lead to a breakdown of any comprehensible order and dehumanised societies.

*Ayodele Aderinwale lives in Lagos, Nigeria and Heinrich Bergstresser lives in Cologne, Germany

Bobi Wine Sounds Alarm on Covid-19 with New Song
 

Yinka Olatunbosun

Ugandan pop star and opposition leader Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu has lent his hand of support to the government in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic with his latest recording of a one minute fifty-four seconds informational music video titled, “Corona Virus Alert”. In it, Wine educated the public on the dangers of the new coronavirus and the precautionary measures they should take to fight its spread. Wine, who released a song in March 2020 urged his listeners to wash their hands to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

The song was a product of a conversation with his friend and long-time collaborator Nubian Li, who is featured on the track.

“The bad news is that everyone is a potential victim. But the good news is that everyone is a potential solution,” Wine declares in the song’s intro.

“Sensitise the masses to sanitise. Keep a social distance and quarantine,” the 38-year-old adds.

A controversial music figure and potent government critic, Wine’s attempts to perform and hold rallies have been rebutted by authorities. He has complained of harassment and beatings by security forces when they block his public appearances. Authorities accuse him of trying to lure young people into rioting and have charged him with multiple criminal offenses, including treason, which he denies.

Bobi Wine made his first appearance in Nigeria at the 2019 Felabration as one of the guests during the Fela Debates held at NECA building, Alausa Ikeja.

4-Day Lockdown-inspired Art Challenge

Yinka Olatunbosun reports on how a female visual artist in Nigeria, Clara Aden is keeping up with the 14-day Art Challenge, inspired to stoke the fire of creativity.

 

Covid-19 pandemic spells different taste for different professionals. While those in the medical profession are battling to save lives including theirs, artists are making wise use of the lockdown and social distancing to curate a body of works inspired by this rare global disaster. Following the announcement of a lockdown in three cities in Nigeria: Lagos, Ogun and Abuja by the President Muhammadu Buhari, a Lagos-based female artist, Omolara Adenugba otherwise known by her studio name, Clara Aden commenced a 14-day Art diary to document the effect of the outbreak of Covid-19. This masterful illustrator embarked on a daily series which involved a drawing per day. Ultimately, she hopes to finish 14 artworks in the 14 days of lockdown.

Using the social media platforms as her open gallery, she posts pictures of her finished work every day alongside a note to communicate the experience that is captured in each piece. While being mindful of the limited access to art materials as a result of the lockdown in Lagos, Clara Aden created small pieces that appeared larger than life online. Titled, “Staying at Home” series, Aden is optimistic that her passion for this project will energize other artists and motivate them to create works within the comfort of their homes. The mother of four paused during her intense work to call this reporter; sharing the joy of doing something essentially for humanity.

Her opening work titled, “Lockdown No be Lockup” is rendered in pidgin-English. Achieved with pencil charcoal on canvas, the piece is essentially a self-portraiture with overlapping images of an imaginary mind breeding a variety of thoughts.

“Staying at Home for the next 14 days is a hard bone to crack especially for artists who are always on the move. One needs to be focused and be positive as this time shall soon pass. Lockdown is not lock up. It all depends on how you effectively use the time,” she wrote as she posted the first work.

The next day, which is Day 2, she posted a new piece titled, “A Hungry woman is an angry woman.” During the telephone conversation, Aden told THISDAY that the work was drawn from the news material on the television where a woman was lamenting over the token offered by the Lagos State government as food relief. The work itself is a minimalist interpretation of the scenario of anguish that many poor households in Lagos are plunged into as a result of the restriction of movement and closure of non-essential businesses.

The work revealed two hands: one of the giver and the other belongs to the receiver. The back of the hand of the giver bears the image of a shouting man, perhaps to illustrate the way government officials make public declaration of palliative measures which are only measured out to the people in few cups of beans, as depicted in the work.

Next, Aden created another piece inspired by an encounter with a young man who kept complaining of boredom. Titled, “I am bored”, it documents the general disposition of a magnitude of people across the globe. Performing artists have repeatedly complained of boredom and many had shared videos and pictures of themselves engaging in household chores, indoor games and other bewildering activities. According to Aden, boredom often gives way to depression which in turn can lead to mental instability.

Aden peered into the non-discriminatory impact of Covid-19 on the patients to validate the reality that the disease has no respect for status, class, age, gender or nationality with her work on Day 4. From world leaders to the common man on the street, the Covid-19 disruption is phenomenal.

“The Covid-19 pandemic marks an unprecedented time in history that will require humanity to overcome. The Coronavirus has taken millions of lives and had spread to almost every country in the world. Many have donated to support the government in providing immediate and long-term relief and recovery to vulnerable communities,” she said. The work shows a side view of an x-rayed head along with the image of Covid-19 and what seemed like blood plasma.

For Day 6, the concern of Aden’s daughter about returning to school fuelled the untitled piece. She explained to her daughter that the school closure and indeed the lockdown was to reduce the rate of spread of the virus. She added that it is imperative for all to stay safe as a way of showing appreciation for the sacrifice made by health workers at the forefront of this battle.

On the seventh day of the Stay at Home series, Aden paraded an image that is emblematic to the Covid-19 crisis with the piece titled, “Stay Safe.” Unlike other pieces executed mostly with charcoal pencil, this was done with hand drawn letterings on canvas to project the idea of mask wearing. In many cities of the world, wearing masks has become a common sight as well as a universal means of protection. Aden revealed how this idea had morphed into a part of her body of works.

“Recently, I have been exploring the technique of hand drawn letterings as a form of expression. It is a very tough and agonizing  technique,” she said. Aden is also known for experimenting with mixed media to make authentic statements along with her characteristic illustrations.

On the importance of this subject matter of survival, she wrote in an accompanying post to the piece.

“My mask protects you and your mask protects me,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

Aden looks forward to exhibiting these works when Nigeria and indeed the entire world is Covid-19 free and life returns to normal.

COVID-19: Oodua Progressive Union Donates to South West States

The Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) has donated millions of naira to South West States – Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti, Kwara and Kogi states – to combat ongoing Corona Virus pandemic. The fund was directly deposited into each state’s COVID-19 Committees’ accounts. The donation is seen by many as a challenge to other diaspora groups.

The financial intervention followed OPU members’ resolution at the end of Ekiti World Congress in January. It was resolved that there should be regular support from Yoruba sons and daughters in foreign countries whenever the need arises.

According to the Global Convener of the Union, The Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, the donation is to be given to those that are directly affected by the pandemic – for their drugs, treatment and food. The donation was from the contribution of individual members all over the world.

OPU is a non-governmental, non religious organization established to foster unity among the Yoruba race and provide a formidable platform for all Yoruba sons and daughters in the diaspora for the purpose of working for the common interest of the people.

‘’It is very important that all of us, as an international group, help the less privileged and remember millions of our people that are staying at home at this moment because of Corona Virus, and most especially those that are sick due to the virus’’, Gani Adams added.

  The Chairman of OPU’s Covid-19 Fund Raising Committee, Comrade Larry Aderoju, stated that helping the victims at this critical time is important as history would not forget those that have deemed it fit to help in whatever little way they could.

He added that the financial intervention had become urgent having taken into consideration the gradual spread, and the increase in the numbers of people that have contacted the disease in Nigeria and the South West States in particular.

While explaining further on the future intervention of OPU when the need arises, the organisation’s Worldwide Publicity Secretary, Comrade Zacheaus Somorin, stated that, having spread across the world in terms of quality membership, it is expected that Yoruba sons and daughters in diaspora would always rise to the occasion.

Governors Agree on Two-week Lockdown on Interstate Movements

•With 91 new cases, COVID-19 incidences rise to 873
•FG bans interstate movements of COVID-19 patients for treatment
•Awaits results of probe of Kano deaths
•Attributes rising cases to aggressive testing
•Task force to recommend review of lockdown to Buhari
•14-day isolation of Chinese doctors ends today
•El-Rufai tests negative for virus

Chuks Okocha, Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, John Shiklam in Kaduna, Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano and Martins Ifijeh in Lagos

With the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the last few days, the governors of the 36 states of the federation rose yesterday from a virtual meeting with a unanimous decision to ban interstate movements of people for 14 days.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases, which hit a new high on Tuesday with 117 reported cases, stood at 873 yesterday with the discovery of 91 fresh incidences.

The federal government has also prohibited the movement of all persons diagnosed with COVID-19 to another state for treatment, saying they should be cared for in the state where the diagnosis was made, except there is a medical indication to the contrary.

It also said it was awaiting the results of the investigation being carried out by the Federal Ministry of Health, the Kano State chief epidemiologist, officials of Kano Public Health Department and those of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on the deaths being recorded in Kano State to know what further steps to take to curb the situation.

The federal government, however, denied the insinuation that the unexplainable deaths being recorded in the state is connected to the fake vaccine currently in circulation in the state and warned the public against buying or using a locally brewed mixture being offered as COVID-19 vaccine.
The governors, in a communique after their virtual conferencing yesterday, said a restriction on interstate movements for two weeks was imperative to mitigate the spread of the virus from state to state.

Also, with over 25 states now affected by the spread of the virus and increasing evidence of community transmission, the governors called for the decentralisation of the COVID-19 response team to check community infection.

They pledged to work with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to protect health workers.
In the communique which was signed by the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the governors said: “Members expressed serious concern over the rising spread of the virus among health workers and resolved to work with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ensure that health workers are adequately provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and are constantly trained on the use of protective gear.

“Governors unanimously agreed to the implementation of an interstate lockdown in the country over the next two weeks to mitigate the spread of the virus from state to state. Only essential services will be permitted.”
The governors said in order to strengthen coordinated implementation of public health recommendations across states, they would set up COVID-19 Committees at the regional level, headed by their state Commissioners of Health to interface with the State Task Force Committees on COVID-19 already established in each state.

The forum also said it received briefing from the governors of Lagos, Bauchi, Oyo and Ogun States who shared their experiences and lessons from the fight against COVID-19.
The communique said the governors held a minute’s silence in honour of all Nigerians killed by the virus, especially health workers who were in the frontline of the battle against the epidemic.
The governors also conveyed their condolences to President Muhammadu Buhari and the people of Borno State on the passing away of the Chief of Staff to the president, Mallam Abba Kyari.

FG Bans Interstate Movements of COVID-19 Patients

Also yesterday, the federal government announced a ban on the movement of COVID-19 patients to other states for treatment.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, told reporters in Abuja during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 that the ban was to avoid the high risk of exposure of other persons during patients’ movements.
He also said Patent and Proprietary Medicine Vendors (PPMVs) and pharmacists have been prohibited from treating persons diagnosed of or suspected to be COVID-19 patients.

He said that any PPMVs that attempts to treat persons diagnosed of COVID-19 or suspected of contracting the virus.
He warned that a violation of the directive would result in the cancellation of the operating licences of the offenders.
Ehanire said: “All persons diagnosed with COVID-19 be henceforth treated in the state where the diagnosis was made, rather than be referred to their states of origin except there is a medical indication to the contrary.

“This is to avoid the high risk of exposure of other persons in the course of transfer.
“Private hospitals desiring to manage COVID-19 patients should apply to their state Ministries of Health for permits, meet IPC standards and be accredited by a FMoH-certified state team after compliance with protocols, before being granted.”
The minister noted that Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) have been deployed in Abia, Gombe and Sokoto States by the NCDC to support their COVID-19 response teams.
On the Chinese medical personnel whose 14-day isolation ends today, Ehanire said they would be subjected to tests to know their status before exiting from their isolation centres.

…..Awaits Results of Probe of Kano Deaths

Ehanire also said the federal government was awaiting the results of investigation into the incidents that led to the series of deaths recently recorded in Kano State.
According to him, the federal government has stepped in to assist the state health officials to unravel the cause of the deaths.
He said the Federal Ministry of Health, the state chief epidemiologist, officials of Kano Public Health Department and those of the NCDC were investigating the deaths.

On allegation of possible suspension of testing in Kano State due to shortage of test kits, the minister said testing was temporarily halted in order decontaminate the laboratory after some staff of the laboratory were infected while carrying out their duties.
He allayed fears over the pandemic, saying despite the rising cases confirmed so far, the virus has a cure rate of over 90 per cent.
He added that if those with the typical symptoms report early for testing and treatment or quarantine, their chances of full recovery are high.

On his part, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the deaths in Kano State were not connected to the fake vaccine currently in circulation in the state.

FG Warns against Use of Local Brew Offered as Vaccine

However, the NCDC warned members of the public against buying or using a locally brewed mixture being offered as COVID-19 vaccine.
The agency gave the warning yesterday via its verified Twitter handle @NCDCgov.
The agency, in a tweet, said: “A liquid mixture is being sold with claims that it is”#COVID19 vaccine. This is false!
“There is currently no vaccine or drug approved for #COVID-19 prevention by health authorities.”

COVID-19 Cases Hit 873 with 91 Fresh Discoveries

The NCDC, in its update on the pandemic yesterday, said Nigeria had recorded 91 new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 873, the total number of confirmed cases in 25 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The agency, in a breakdown, said 74 new cases were recorded in Lagos, five in Katsina, four in Ogun, two each in Edo and Delta, and one each in Kwara, Oyo, FCT and Adamawa State.

It said: “As at 11:25 pm on April 22, there are 873 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. 197 have been discharged with 28 deaths.
A breakdown of the total number of cases shows that Lagos now has 504 cases, FCT 119, Kano 73, Ogun 24, Katsina 21, Osun 20, Oyo and Edo 17 each, Kwara 10, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom and Borno nine each, Bauchi eight, Delta six, Gombe five, Ekiti four, Ondo and Rivers three each, Jigawa, Enugu, Niger and Abia two each, while Benue, Anambra, Sokoto and Adamawa recorded one each.

FG Attributes Rise in Cases to Aggressive Testing

Reacting to the upsurge in number of confirmed cases, Chairman of PTF on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, ascribed the rise in number of positive cases to the expansion in the testing capacity.
He said given the dynamic nature of the response plan, the strategy for testing had been modified while house-to-house testing had been intensified in some communities in Lagos and FCT.

Task Force to Recommend Review of Lockdown to Buhari

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), added that the PTF will today study the report of the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu,
and the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Nigeria on nine states and use it as the basis of the recommendation to Buhari on extension or review of the four-week lockdown imposed on FCT, Lagos and Ogun States to prevent the spread of the virus.

Nigerian Evacuees to Bear Cost of Repatriation, Says FG

Also speaking at the briefing, Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Godfrey Onyeama, said the federal government would not be responsible for the flight and isolation cost of Nigerians to be evacuated from some foreign countries with high cases of COVID-19.
Onyeama said Nigerians forced to return home as a result of the pandemic would solely cater for their wellbeing because the federal government lacked the financial resources to do so.

“The financial aspect of this is one that we are very mindful of. We had some students who were trapped in Khartoum, Sudan and we had to bend backward to find the resources to try to pay for their return and two weeks of isolation because they are young students. But unfortunately for all the others, we just don’t have the financial resources because you can see the huge amount of money we have to pay for the various aspect of the challenges. It’s unfortunate that the government is not in a position to pay for everybody to come home and for their stay in isolation centres for two weeks,” Onyeama said.

El-Rufai Tests Negative for Pandemic

Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, yesterday said he had tested negative for the virus, adding that he felt relieved for recovering from the COVID-19.
He said with his sound health and prayers from the people, he would continue to spearhead efforts at curtailing the spread of the disease.
The governor, in a live broadcast after he was discharged from the isolation centre, said he had amended the Quarantine Regulations, which now require everyone in the state to wear a face mask when going out.

El-Rufai on 28 March 28, had announced that he tested positive for the virus and had proceeded into isolation.
“I am delighted to report today, that after nearly four weeks of observing a strict medical regime, I have now received the all-clear after two consecutive negative test results,” he said.
He commended the medical personnel of the state Ministry of Health and the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital who managed his case for their dedicated and professional care.

Kano Records 320 Suspected Cases

The Kano State Government has confirmed that it recorded over 320 suspected cases of COVID-19 in which 73 were confirmed positive.
The state Coordinator of COVID-19 Task Force, Dr. Tijjani Hussaini, at a media briefing yesterday, said that two out of the 73 confirmed cases were health workers.

“We were able to monitor 53 cases of passengers of interest that came from epicentre from some states and outside the country,” he added.
He stated that 63 out the 73 cases were admitted and the remaining evacuated to the isolation centre.
However, the state government has relaxed the lockdown from 6am today to midnight in order to allow people to prepare for the forthcoming Ramadan fast.

Olalekan: To Minismise Surface Infection of COVID-19, Stop Touching Door Handles, Rail

Charles Olalekan is the Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of the Institute of Human Virology of Nigeria. In this interview with Martins Ifijeh, he said beyond person-to-person transmission of COVID-19, surface infection from door handles, rails, tables, among others could lead to transmission. He also spoke on the activities of the institute in ensuring a healthy Nigeria

The spread of COVID-19 is taking a toll on Nigeria, how do we address this?
First thing is that Nigerians should not panic as there is a high recovery rate from the disease. Infancy up to the age of 59 years or so have a high potential to survive it as long as they do not have underlying issues like diabetes, heart problem, HIV, and the likes. Those with such underlying problems should isolate themselves from people around them. They should also keep hydrating; take lots of water and fruits. The disease depresses the respiratory system, and the only way it does that is by going to the lungs, and ventilators are in short supply. Recently, US said it had only 67, 000 ventilators, and out of which, 70 per cent were already in use due to the high flu season.

Sometimes, not having some infrastructures may come back to help you. We don’t congregate our old people in Nigeria, and they are mostly not in the urban area. They are generally in the rural areas. Even social distancing is already practiced there because their houses are evenly dispersed. The chances that our old people will be adversely affected is not as high as in Italy and US where old people leave in old people’s and nursing homes, with a lot of them already having preexisting conditions. Some have weak hearts, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic ailments, and this poses a lot of risks if they get infected with COVID-19.
In Washington, an individual who was infected, in turn infected a nursing home and then the nursing home had 49 deaths, but we don’t have that here.

We need to listen to our public health experts. We need to wash our hands regularly, practice social distancing and other hygiene protocols. New York is presently dealing with surface infection; touching door handles, tables or rails are enough to transmit the virus. Beyond social distancing and hand washing, Nigerians need to be careful with surfaces, including door handles and rails.

CBN said it will put a trillion naira on the table to tackle the pandemic and has encouraged private sectors to access the fund. Will IHVN take advantage of this?
We will take advantage of every opportunity we have. Our challenges are that these announcements are made without guidelines. What parts of the industry are they dedicated into? Some said laboratories, some said to build infrastructure. I work in an environment where things are very specific. If you are going for a tuberculosis grant for instance, the area of intervention is defined, so I can write to that, but when someone says I am putting N100 billion down, the person need to specify. We are talking to our bankers because we know the federal government doesn’t give money directly. Our bankers will help us scan the environment and advise us.

For a nonprofit organisation like IHVN, what are your major challenges?
First is the operating environment. A lot of people in this clime do not understand the role of nonprofit organisations. We cannot blame them because there seems to be a mushroom of some nonprofit organisations. So they see you sometimes as someone begging for money to take care of yourself. They don’t see the larger impact.

Funding is another challenge. We have to struggle for funds and grants. We don’t have specified line of funding like it applies in the US. We practically compete for funds, and they come with specific mandates. So even if you see an intervention you need to get into, as long as your funding doesn’t allow you to do that you can’t do it. For instance, on this COVID-19, we would have loved to do something, but we can’t. We are scrambling to even print basic material for our staff.

What is IHVN success rate?
In terms of getting funding, if you have 10 per cent of the funding you want, it is a high success rate. So what we do is keep applying. If your application is sound you will get a second chance of defending your budget. We have had 25 to 30 per cent success rate. The good thing is that we have had consistent funding. We have been getting direct funding from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States since 2009.

The funding goes zigzag. When we started our intervention was in 27 states in Nigeria, then they said we needed to streamline for efficiency. So we came down to about 10 states then in 2015 we narrowed to four states. Guess what, one of the states has more funds than even when we were in 10 states. So it is not a function of how spread they are, it is a function of what they want you to achieve with the fund.
For instance, we are in Rivers State now and the state is considered a high risk area for HIV. Our budget from CDC on Rivers alone is more than 50 per cent of the other three states, including Katsina, FCT and Nasarawa.
The isolation centre in Yaba, which was also used during Ebola in 2014, is one of the facilities we were using for TB management. But we had to redistribute the patients to other centres when Ebola came.

What prompted the building of your new research edifice?
A lot of the laboratories in the country require uninterrupted 24 hour power supply. So our idea is to replicate all our laboratories in one place. We have laboratories in Jos, Zaria, Asokoro, Gwagwalada, and so on. While these labs will be maintained, we needed to replicate all in one building, which is the edifice you are talking about. This will bring brilliant minds in Africa to come here for research.
For instance, on COVID-19, nobody is travelling out of Nigeria, so how do we develop vaccines? How do we know if chloroquine is effective or not? Nobody is testing it. If we set the edifice up, put heads together with smart Nigerian scientists, we will come up with solutions because they will not have to worry about power or other things. The platform will bring our bright scientists together.

How has the board of directors of IHVN supported your work?
They have been very supportive. Some of them are from the banking sector. For our edifice, a lot of the funds came from their influence. When the board was first set up, I was the only person with a business back ground, my boss then would say it appeared I get bored anytime there were discussions because they talk often about science. I agreed with him that we needed to expand it to bring in some business minds; cutting across advertising, communication, banking and finance, and so on. Today, we have a very robust and supportive board.

COVID-19 Collateral Death at LUTH: Fatima Senam Amouzou (15/12/1985 – 11/04/2020)

By Dr. Goke Akinrogunde

Before COVID-19 arrived Nigeria, Fatima Amouzou was full of life and hopeful that she would breakthrough her ongoing illness. She had been sick two years before her 34th birthday on December 15, 2019, which was celebrated while on admission in the hospital. Few days to 2019 Christmas Day, she got better and was discharged home.

She looked forward to celebrating this year’s Easter in a better health. She almost made it to Easter but for COVID-19 pandemonium at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, where she died April 11, 2020, a day to Easter Sunday under circumstances plotted few weeks before her death.

The death is a representative of many similar collateral deaths related to Covid-19 pandemonium. These are the non-reported deaths, and many are they, who were directly linked to Covid-19 even when they were not infected by coronavirus.
Early Life: Determined Against All Odds

The 34 years old fought to live, determined to pull through her illness. She had all the supports – financial aids cum love from relatives and friends her to stall death. And she was winning the battle but for the arrival of COVID-19 in Nigeria plus the fear and panic it brought on arrival.

Born 15 December 1985 in the city of Lagos into a humble background of Nigerian and Ghanaian parents. She stopped schooling just into junior secondary school because means are limited and the family needed the little support from her tender hands contribution.

Barely thirteen years old, she was taken to Abuja by a lady who promised she would take care of her and place her in school whilst she helps with the care of the house. After five years, the promise of placing the poor girl in school came out a ruse; for five years, no school but all work in the house. She returned to Lagos, helping with her mum’s little business before she went back to Abuja few years later.

Back to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), she returned determined to develop herself educationally and eke a worthwhile living. She stuck naturally with children, took up serial appointments as caregiver at Day Care Centers and Nursery Schools.

While working as caregiver, and later as school catering officer, she invested her earnings in her education and self-development in catering classes. She attended adult classes, sat and passed GCE/SSCE and further enrolled at the National Open University. Beyond this, she was also playing the parental role for her younger siblings, assisting with their education, including the youngest of them, a male, schooling in a private university in Ghana.

She was doing well and happy with herself and the humble family progression until sickness stuck late 2017.

Uneven Medical History
At first, it felt like ordinary torso discomfort. Later she started noticing progressive difficulty to pass feces freely, menstrual symptoms, later reduced urine flow and persisting pain at the lower abdomen.

There began the journey from hospitals to hospitals in Abuja, private and public, including FCT District Hospital, Asokoro and National Hospital, Abuja and endless diagnostic journey. The findings of the medical imaging (MRI, ultrasound scan), blood tests and biopsies from the womb were not however conclusive as to what was the primary issue. Whereas the imaging reports were pointing at a mass in the pelvic region, the womb biopsy histology reports were not confirmatory, repeatedly limiting the conclusions to just chronic inflammation with no tumor cells yield – a medical puzzle. With these inconclusive findings in Abuja, she was advised to seek advanced diagnostic procedures abroad.

With limited fund, the only feasible “abroad” for her was her other home country – Ghana. July 2019. Through a recommendation from a relative and support from her younger brother, she sought treatment at a Presbyterian Hospital, Ghana, where similar investigations were run and same inconclusiveness was arrived per diagnosis. Nevertheless the Ghanaian medical team went ahead to carry out a surgery on her which could not do much about the primary condition (the pelvic mass was inoperable) and had to close her; no succour, back to square one.

Back to Nigeria from Ghana, she got encouraged by a friend to seek case review and treatment at a medical facility in Lekki axis of Lagos; attending was a Manchester-based Gynecologist who shuttles Nigeria every other months. After assessment, she was billed N4M for the surgery and related interventions. Another bus stop. The family was drained financially; all her savings are gone and the other source of support from her brother has gone to zero; the young man’s workplace folded up.

The situation was hopeless until she got a referral to the modest health intervention foundation where I act as the medical advisor, with invaluable support and resource backbone from a friend. The foundation is built on the philosophy of passion and getting the best for the indigents, whose health is left hanging because of lack of finance.

Her case was reviewed serially by the foundation’s spectrum of Associate Specialists – gynecologists, urologist, nephrologist, general and vascular surgeons, radiologists and oncologists. All reviews were pointing at an unlikely gynecological mass. Subsequent ultrasound guided, and later CT-guided, biopsies soon resolved the riddle; according to the biopsy’s immunohistochemistry reports, Fatima had an Immuno-chemotherapy susceptible Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (mass) at the lower pelvic, lying behind the womb and upper vagina. Using the words of an oncologist colleague, “that’s a game-changer.”

Game Changer
A game changer, it was. After the immunohistochemistry report was reviewed, she was referred to Lagos University Teaching Hospital. She commenced treatment at LUTH’s Hematology Department by mid-January 2020 under closed hospitalization for 4weeks, where she had her first two courses of immunochemotherapy.

Changes became apparent, she felt light and better, clinical and physical indices were essentially promising. No more indications for routine dialysis, the nephrostomy tube in-situ (for urine bypass off the bladder) from the left kidney fell off but there was no need for a replacement because she had began draining adequate urine through the bladder. She was doing well, we were confident she would pull through and her managing team in LUTH were encouraged she would conquer the illness, which explained why she had her 3rd immunochemotherapy course as a day case (out-patient basis) by 2nd week of March 2020, and it went uneventful. It was close to her next due immunochemotherapy course ending of March that unexpected issues arose.

Wack COVID-19 Policy
One fundamental thing was the advent of COVID-19 in Nigeria; by latter half in March the reality of coronavirus infections likely to go high in the country has become a certainty and all major hospitals in the country had reviewed their policies for day-to-day patients’ care management including hospital admission policy.

The immediate response in LUTH, like some other hospitals in the country, among others, were immediate closure of routine clinics, reduced and discouraged hospitals admissions and to reduce the available hospital on-ground staff. Health workers – doctors, nurses etc – were divided into two with departmental rosters drawn as weekly shift, this inferably halved the effective staff strength on ground at any point in time during the Covid-19 pandemic.

That was the situation on ground at LUTH during Fatima’s case. The bar for hospitalization is raised quite high and this soon became a subject of contention in Fatima’s case when she began to have issues after her last (4th) immunochemotherapy on 30th of March 2020.

Even when the issues that arouse would have otherwise been a ready basis for admission in order to effectively titrate white blood cells colony stimulating medication against the initial very low white blood count indices recorded with daily laboratory reports and thus optimize her clinical status; this was not to be. Unfortunately based on the prevailing hospital policy, the approach taken was deferment of admission all through the period of ten days after the immunochemotherapy. It was so bad that even a neutrophil count of 10% of lowest normal count was not taken as loud enough alarm to warrant hospitalization. She was asked to go back home. In her words, in the chat I had with her Wednesday, 8 April 2019: “they kept passing me to this person that person” they said “LUTH is not safe for admission”. And this was three days before her demise.

Avoidable Death
By the time she presented two days later on account of worsening chest and abdominal pain, breathlessness and next to nil urination (3 days running) at the Day Care Center at LUTH on Friday, 10 April 2020, the situation had gone far worse. From direct engagement with relatives that day; it became obvious that response to intervene was poor, not withstanding that she was armed with relevant blood cells and chemistry (including creatinine > 600umool /L) reports, done enroute LUTH, to make decisions easier; it took hours before the decision to admit was executed. And no definitive intervention (dialysis etc) on the renal shutdown until she died in the morning of the following day, Saturday 11 April 2020.

Protect Health Workers
As a vocal voice in the quest for a better Nigerian Health System, presently at its lowest ebb ever, I know the situation on ground at LUTH and other similar centers is far from optimum. I know there are inadequate PPEs for all doctors and other health workers to protect themselves. I know based on my personal interaction that the confidence to intervene to save lives is at the lowest margin now because health workers feel inadequate and unsafe, arising from lack of PPEs and effective training on them; no after-events assurance i.e. life insurance and are at best they are on hazard allowance of N5,000 per month. It pained me as some of those colleagues confessed that their hands are tight; they wish to help but can’t help. So sad.

Sad, I have to run this commentary on the mass media especially as a cadre in the healthcare business. But I hold this to memory of the deceased; to state her own case, her disappointment in a failed system; for all to appreciate her fight in the struggles to stay alive but for the parlous state of Nigerian health system. And also to note the panicky uncoordinated policy of the health system (beyond LUTH) on what should be the place our hospitals in the daily care of the millions that are presently sick or would get sick during this pandemic but who are not infected by coronavirus.

Rethinking COVID-19 Policy
Should we abandoned the hospital for Covid-19 Pandemic wholesomely by closing all routine clinics, strict ill-defined high threshold for admission policy which are leading to far more deaths than Covid-19 related deaths? I think not.

Instead, in order to avert this self-endangered deaths of regular hospital patients and others, hospitals must be prepared to treat all patients as potential COVID-19 cases. Personal Protective Equipments for all health workers and other frontline workers must be available, emergency localized equivalents must be considered.The governments (at all levels) must make the coronavirus test centers more liberalised, all Level 2 (general hospitals) and Level 3 (Teaching hospitals etc) must have capacity to test on demand all cases and sort out Covid-19 cases into isolation wards. And if necessary, later transfer to Special Isolation Centers.

These are my proposed starters, in honor and memory of the Fatima Amouzous of this world, victims of our failing health and sociopolitical system.

Adieu Fatima.

Nestle Nigeria Donates N700 Million towards COVID-19 Response

Martins Ifijeh

As a company committed to improving livelihoods in its communities, Nestle Nigeria has contributed over N700 million to support the COVID-19 response efforts in Nigeria.

This donation includes nutritious food and beverage products worth N450 million to reach more than 600,000 vulnerable people, most impacted by the crisis.

The company has also donated N250 million in cash towards the procurement of medical supplies and personal protection equipment for the COVID-19 response.

Nestle is supporting the COVID-19 response efforts led by the Presidential Task force, working alongside other private sector partners in the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

“We are joining forces with government to do everything we can to help those in need through both financial means and product donations in these unprecedented times where our communities need our support more than ever,” said Mr. Mauricio Alarcon, MD/CEO Nestle Nigeria.

“We are donating nutritious food and beverages to reach more than 600,000 vulnerable families who are the most impacted by the crisis. We are also making a financial donation towards the procurement of medical supplies including personal protection equipment to enhance the health and safety of the medical teams and volunteers on the frontlines of the fight against the corona virus.”

Mr. Alarcon reiterated that Nestle Nigeria will, in line with its purpose of enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future, continue to play its essential role of ensuring the uninterrupted availability of food and beverage products which are critical for the sustenance and well-being of millions of Nigerian families who rely on the company to help feed their families every

COVID-19: Firm to Assist Organisations with Tech Solutions

To support the efforts of the federal and state governments in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Arit of Africa, an indigenous information and communication technology solution provider, is offering its custom-made technology solutions to businesses and organisations in Nigeria at no cost.

The company said the gesture was part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) to ensure many businesses continue to stay in operation and interact with local and international clients and partners during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer of Arit of Africa Limited, Mr. Olusola Ogunsola explained in a statement that the company fully understood there may be an economic recession of post-COVID-19 which may lead to layoffs and budget cuts.

According to Ogunsola, “Companies and organisations will definitely have to look to technology to mitigate the negative impact of the recession. We are working with organisations to either optimise already deployed technology solutions or deploy new cost-effective and efficient solutions that will ensure the organisations save cost and achieve much more with less.

“We are a global and local company hence we have extensive understanding and knowledge of the global and local markets. We are best placed to provide tailor-made solutions to sustain the operations of companies post-COVID-19.

“Post COVID-19, there will be little tolerance for losses and inefficiencies. Companies need to embrace technology solutions that are cost-saving and efficient.”

Ogunsola, said technology solutions have rescued a lot of businesses during the COVID-19 lockdown.
He added that workers, “can work remotely from home; accessing vital company information using very secured VPNs. Meetings can be scheduled with communication solutions like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Zoom and others.”

While commending the Federal and State governments for the steps taken in containing the spread of the virus and the various testing centres commissioned by the government to increase the rate and geographical spread of the testing, Ogunsola said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses and organisations cannot be over emphasised.
To curb the spread of the coronavirus, the federal government like other nations has enforced lockdown in some states in the country while also shutting the borders to prevent the mass movement of people in and out of the country.

WEDNESDAY 22TH, 2O2O

Amid COVID-19 Outbreak, Botswana Sacks Top Health Officials
By Ayodeji Ake
The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has on Wednesday, relieved the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, Solomon Sekwakya,  and his Deputy, Morrison Sinvula, of their official duties with immediate effect without reason for their removal.
According to reports by Reuters, the dismissal came amidst a state of emergency and lockdown in Botswana to stem the spread of the coronavirus, with 20 cases reported in the country and one death.
Sekwakwa describes himself as an economist on his LinkedIn. He was transferred to the health ministry from the ministry of finance just in November 2019
Adamawa Records First COVID-19 Case
By Daji Sani
Adamawa recorded  first case of Coronavirus in the state after relaxing restrictions because there was no case of Coronavirus.
The index case is a returnee from Kano  and  he  was  said to have been picked up Thursday by  COVID 19 Committee  to the Isolation centre in the state for treatment.
The index case  who confirmed his status to THISDAY on Thursday in a telephone chat is a journalist with Daily Trust.
The index case said that he was confirmed positive by COVID-19 committee Thursday.
 He said he had been on self isolation since he returned from Kano last week because he started noticing some  symptoms of the virus.
The infected person  said he  had submitted himself and his blood sample was taken for test.  “But this morning, l was called by the committee that l am positive. “
However at the time of sending this report, calls made to COVID-19 committee in the state to speak on the issue were unaswered.
El-Rufai Tests Negative for COVID-19
By Martins Ifijeh
The Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, has received a clean bill of health after his COVID-19 status returned negative.
Announcing this Wednesday, El-Rufai said he had now tested negative twice to the virus after a four week medical regime.
He said: “I am delighted to report today, that after nearly four weeks of observing a strict medical regime, I have now received the all-clear after two consecutive negative test results.
“I thank Almighty Allah for His grace and mercy. I also acknowledge with gratitude the massive outpouring of sympathy, prayers and public support that followed the disclosure of the infection.”
Covid-19: Fayemi Frees 30 Prison Inmates
By Victor Ogunje
In a desperate bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Ekiti State, the state Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has ordered the release of 30 prisoners in the Ado Ekiti Correctional Centre.
The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Olawale Fapohunda, made this disclosure in Ado-Ekiti on Wednesday.
Fapohunda said: “The Ekiti State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy met on Wednesday, 15 April 2020 to consider applications for clemency from 45 prisoners in the Ado-Ekiti Correctional Centre.
“Council considered these applications on merit and recommended 30 inmates who fell within the category of inmates stated in the public notice published by the Ministry of Justice on Monday, 13 April 2020. Council considered four categories of prisoners.
“They include persons held in pre-trial detention, particularly those for minor or low-risk offences, women with children on pretrial detention or convicted for non-serious offences with less than 18 months to serve their sentences, at-risk inmates such as elderly prisoners or those with underlying life-threatening health issues and  inmates convicted for minor, low risk offences particularly those who have 18 months or less remaining of their sentence to serve.”
Fapohunda said that Governor Fayemi has also directed that the released individuals should immediately be listed as vulnerable persons.
 
He explained that the release of the prisoners was in recognition of the danger inherent in the spread of Covid-19 within the correctional facility, saying the exercise will be a continuous one until the population is reduced to manageable numbers.
“All the released individuals went through a rigorous process of screening. Council in particular obtained a detailed briefing from officials of the Correctional Centre on the conduct of each of the beneficiaries,” he said.
Commenting on the fate of the large population of pretrial detainees in Ado-Ekiti Correctional Centre whose trials have been affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, Fapohunda said that he is presently in consultation with the leadership of the three branches on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the state on the possibility of the use of technology in facilitating criminal trials.
 
The Attorney-General said that the Ministry of Justice would publish a draft practice direction for remote hearing of criminal matters in the state’s Judiciary for the consideration of the Judiciary and lawyers in the state.
Kaduna Records Three Fresh Cases of COVID-19, Discharges One Patient 

By John Shiklam in Kaduna

Kaduna state has recorded three new cases of  COVID-19 in the state.
The commissioner for health, Dr. Amina Baloni, disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday in Kaduna.
She also disclosed that one of the patients from the earlier six cases recorded had been discharged, bringing the total of those discharged to five.
With the three new cases, the  state have four cases of the disease.
The commissioner said among the three fresh cases,  is  a 23 year old male who came into the state from Istanbul via Dubai sometime in March.
Baloni  said the second patient is  51 year old male who was tested in Samaru, Sabon-Gari local government area, after coming in from Kano.
According to the commissioner, the third patient, a 42  year old male, from Anguwan Geza, Kaduna, had earlier travelled to Kano.
‘’These new cases reflect the danger that interstate travels pose to efforts to contain Covid-19.
Such travels spread the virus from place to place, complicate contact tracing and risk implanting the virus in communities,” she said.
The commissioner said the  lockdown which mandates “people to stay at home is based on the logic that during a pandemic, the less contact there is with others, the safer everyone is.’’
The statement warned residents  to avoid interstate travels and to promptly report to the authorities any person who has recently travelled from an affected state and develops symptoms of cough, fever or sore throat.
Baloni said ‘’such reports can be made to the COVID -19 Call Centre in Kaduna State, on the following numbers: 08051217710, 09058008251, 08118588175, 08118588176 and 09032102632.’’
She reiterated  ‘’the importance of hand-washing, personal hygiene, social distancing and the avoidance of large gatherings in helping protect us all from Covid-19. It is important to stay home, stay safe and save lives. ‘’
Olam Loses Staff to COVID-19, Closes OK Foods Facility in Lagos
By Sunday Ehigiator
Leading food and agri-business company, Olam International, has announced the death of one of its staff (name undisclosed), at its OK Foods subsidiary in Lagos state, after testing positive for COVID-19.
In  a statement signed by the spokesperson of the firm, Makul Mathur, the 49-year-old male staff died on April 20, at an undisclosed hospital where he had been admitted a day before, after testing positive for the virus.
The statement said the deceased was a manager at OK Foods, a subsidiary of Olam which had currently been closed as a precautionary measure.
“The 49 years old male, was a manager at our OK Foods business in Lagos, Nigeria, and passed-on on April 20, in a hospital where he had been admitted on evening of April 19, receiving medical care after experiencing symptoms and testing positive for the virus on the morning of April 20.
“We have informed all co-workers and people who may have come into recent contact with him to provide support and to each adhere to the strict self-isolation guidelines recommended by the government, NCDC and WHO.
“As a precaution, three workers from our OK Foods facility who are experiencing mild symptoms are currently isolating at the state health facility.
“Safeguarding our employees and ensuring their safety is our number one priority.
“Last Thursday, on April 16, as a precautionary measure, we suspended all operations and announced the closure of our Okay Foods facility in Lagos State for sanitization and fumigation in line with regulatory requirements.
“We are continuing to implement proactive measures at all our faculties, including enhanced health and safety, additional personal hygiene measures, personal protection equipment, and new working protocols such as staggered shift patterns.”
Nigeria continues to battle COVID-19 pandemic, as the number of confirmed cases continue to grow. According to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the COVID-19 cases rose to 782 on Tuesday.
TUESDAY 21TH, 2020

Covid-19: Sokoto to Trace, Quarantine Contacts with Index Case
By Onuminya Innocent
In order to curtail the spread of coronavirus in Sokoto State, the state government has said that it will trace and quarantine those who had had direct contact with the index case for the past two weeks.
Briefing journalists at the Press Centre in Sokoto on Tuesday, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Ali Inname, who is also the Chairman, Task Force on Covid19, said all necessary measures had been put in place by the state government to avoid the spread of the deadly disease.
“Immediately the patient was confirmed positive, we have evacuated him to Amanawa Infectious Centre for isolation and treatment, and we are making efforts to trace those that had direct contact with him for the past two weeks starting with his immediate families and subsequently other contacts,” he said.
The commissioner also disclosed that they are still investigating to establish the source of the infection.
Inname further added that as part of the measures, the government would put machinery in motion to go for active test search especially those with severe respiratory infections.
According to him, the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) Orientation Camp at Wamakko would be used as quarantine centre.
He appealed to the general public to observe precautionary measures especially social distancing which he said is the most effective one.

COVID-19: Nigeria Has Only 300 Critical Care Doctors, NMA Raises the Alarm

*Says FG’s refusal to pay university workers may hamper research on vaccine, cure

By Martins Ifijeh

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has raised the alarm that the country has only 300 critical care doctors, a number grossly insufficient should Nigeria’s COVID-19 cases surge beyond expectation.

The association also said the various researches on vaccines and cure by university scholars in the country may be hampered by federal government’s refusal to pay three months salaries it owes university workers.

Speaking during the Morning Show on Arise TV, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers Tuesday, the President, NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, said these set of doctors were trained to care for patients needing intensive care but that they were in short supply in the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said five percent of persons positive for COVID-19 will require serious and specialised care at intensive care units.

Faduyile said: “Those trained to operate critical care units are majorly the critical care anaesthesiologists. Unfortunately, we have only 300 of them in the country. Should there be a surge in COVID-19, it will mean we are in a short supply. Generally, we do not have enough doctors in Nigeria.

“But beyond the numbers, how many of our doctors are encouraged to take up the treatment of COVID-19? This is around the 7th week since COVID-19 started in Nigeria, yet there is no health insurance or incentives for doctors and other health workers on the front line. Up to date, no government paper or a categorical statement encouraging our members. Some Nigerians fighting the disease will need highly skilled personnel, yet these workforces are not encouraged.”

He said in the last three months, Lassa fever had killed over 135 medical and health workers, adding that government has yet to take steps to motivate health workers facing the COVID-19 pandemic?

He also mentioned that university scholars who are to provide scientific solutions, including vaccines and cure were being owed three months’ salary by the federal government, adding that this may hamper critical scientific researches against the pandemic in the country.

He said: “Our professors, lecturers have not been paid. Government must be able to allow those who will think and give us scientific directions to do so. I urge government to rethink its issues with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for now.”

On claims that the federal government was in talks with an insurance firm to provide life insurance to health workers fighting the pandemic, the NMA president said no health worker has been given any form of insurance.

“Some insurance companies have offered to give insurance to health workers, but what we hear is N1 million or N2 million life insurance for highly specialised nurses, doctors or consultants. You should know that this is gross under-issuance. Let government come out to tell us what it has done, so we know who they have insured.”

On hazard allowance, he said no health workers had received such, adding that even though the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) promised to pay N30, 000 and N20, 000 daily to the doctors and nurses on the front line, none of such personnel had been paid.

“As we speak, we have a state chairman that has been infected, we have a president of one of our associations that has been infected, and we have several health workers that have been infected as at today. These people did not get COVID-19 while they were in their homes. They got it during treatment of Nigerians.”

On the use of face masks, he said it was a good development, but that this must be practiced along with social distancing.

“The best face mask is the N95 which gives 95 per cent protection, and medical mask gives 50 per cent protection, while fabric mask is around 15-20 percent depending on the material it is made of.  The first two should be left for health workers attending to patients. Members of the public should use the fabric mask.”

He also warned that the authorities must intensify mass testing in order to pull positive persons out of circulation, as failure to do so would mean the pandemic will be too severe for the country to handle.

“We were not doing mass screening before. As at last week, we screened about 5000 persons. We need to intensify mass screening to know the real incidence. If we miss putting those in circulation into isolation centres, there will be unfettered transmission within the community, and lockdown will continue.

On the treatment of COVID-19 patients by private hospitals, he said the management of the disease requires specialized skills including training for nurses, cleaners, doctors and other frontline line workers.

“So far, the federal government has said none of the private facilities has been accredited which means they have not met the requirement. It is best private hospitals are not involved because of the skill required. This is a highly contagious disease. In the UK, Boris Johnson did not go to any private facility. He went to NHS, which is the UK’s public health institution. If we make our public health institutions good enough, even the highly placed people will go there,” he added.

MONDAY 20TH, 2020

St. Nicholas Hospital Suspends Operations after Exposure to COVID-19
Martins Ifijeh
St. Nicholas Hospital has suspended operations in its Lagos Island branch for 14 days after it was  exposed to persons positive for COVID-19.
In a statement made available to THISDAY Monday, the Clinical Director, St. Nicholas Hospital, Ebun Bamgboye said this was necessary because of the safety of its staff and patients.
He said: “This decision was as a result of COVID-19. We have contacted the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and as at April 18, our facility had been decontaminated by the Lagos State Government.
“The safety of our staff and patients is of paramount importance to us. As such, we are complying with the directive of the Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA) to suspend our services for two weeks.”
He said in order to keep in touch with patients, the hospital had introduced telemedicine services where patients could consult their doctors  via video and audio channels by calling.
He however stated that the hospital’s Victoria Island branch was open for operations.

Concerns Mount as COVID-19 Cases Rise Sharply by 86 to 627

•170 discharged, 21 dead
•Private sector coalition to distribute N23bn food to 10m Nigerians
•To unveil strategies to defeat pandemic today
•No country can fight COVID-19 alone, says NCDC
•Lagos to ramp up testing to 1,000 daily
•NMA mobilises 42 doctors as volunteers

By Goddy Egene, Martins Ifijeh in Lagos, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

There were mounting concerns yesterday that COVID-19 pandemic might be going through the roof as confirmed cases rose sharply by 86, bringing the tally to 627.

The rise was the highest in a single day since its breakout in the country on February 27, with Lagos State having 70 of the new cases.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), which has said no country or state could fight the virus alone and called for cooperation in ridding the country of the virus, announced last night that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) recorded seven new cases, Akwa Ibom three, Katsina three, Borno one, Bauchi one, and Jigawa one.
It said 170 cases had been discharged while 21 deaths had been recorded in the country.

There was, however, good news: the Private Sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) said yesterday that it was set to distribute N23 billion worth of food items to 10 million Nigeria in 1.6 million households.

The distribution of the food items, billed to begin next week, is to cushion the effects of the hardship foisted on the people by the restrictions imposed on many parts of the country by the federal and state governments to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coalition will also today unveil strategies to help free Nigeria from the pandemic just as the Lagos State Government has set up sampling stations in 20 local government areas of the state to facilitate community testing.

However, amid speculation that the virus might have spread to Borno State, the state government yesterday said it was still waiting for the result of the first suspected case in the state, who happened to be a dead nurse.

Lagos State also recorded another death with the demise of an 83-year-old woman, just as it has clarified that it has no policy against the release of corpses of persons who tested positive for COVID-19 for burial.

Announcing the planned distribution of the N23 billion food items during the coalition’s inspection of its yet-to-be-completed 200-bed space isolation facility yesterday at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Yaba, the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said the palliative would be shared in all the 774 local government areas in the country.

He said: “This coalition is not only involved in medical intervention, we are involved in food distributions to Nigerians. We are buying N23 billion worth of food items to be distributed during this lockdown, as food is very important in sustaining the stay-at-home order.

“Nigeria has about 200 million people. So we will be distributing the food items to five per cent of the country’s population, and that amounts to 10 million Nigerians.

You know on the average, each household has six persons, which means we will be reaching 1.6 million households in the country will food items. We hope to roll this out within the next 10 days.”

He listed the food items to be distributed to each of the 1.6 million households to include 10kg of rice, two cartons of noodles, one carton of spaghetti, five kg of sugar and one kg of salt.

“This will be in phases, but this is the first we will do as part of palliatives to Nigerians,” he stated.

He added that so far, the coalition has raised N25 billion, noting that efforts are still being put in place to get more funds.

The Chief Executive Officer, Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, said the coalition, comprising about 50 organisations would be represented in all states of the federation to provide support to the government in the fight against COVID-19.

He said the yet-to-be-completed 200-bed space isolation centre in IDH, Yaba was being replicated in some other states, adding that the idea is to ensure Nigerians who tested positive for COVID-19 adequately get the needed care.

He said: “When we are done with the isolation centres, we will hand them over to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, which will, in turn, hand them over to the various state governments where they are being built.

“On the palliatives, you can see many Nigerians are already restive because of a lack of food. So, our plan is to take the items to each state, then to all local governments and most importantly, all wards in Nigeria. We will take it to the bottom of the pyramid so that poor Nigerians will not miss out on the palliatives.”
On how these food items will be distributed to the grassroots in the country, he said the Dangote Group had been involved in the distribution chain for a long time, adding that its structure would be used in achieving the goal.

Coalition to Unveil Strategies to Defeat Pandemic

The coalition will today unveil plans to help free the country from the pandemic.

The Chief Executive Officer of Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), Mrs. Zouera Youssoufou, said yesterday in Lagos that the coalition decided to involve more corporate bodies and individuals who are willing to ensure the pandemic is stamped out.

Youssoufou said the coalition, in the past weeks, had been working on strategies to support the government’s efforts in many areas, adding that it has been working with the NCDC on building isolation centres and testing activities.

She added that CACOVID-19 has equally been working with the presidential task force to ensure an optimum result.

According to her, various committees have been set up for better synergy and operations in order to ensure that better results are achieved. Youssoufou said PWC had offered the coalition project management expertise while KPMG would assist with audit services to ensure transparent execution of the project and judicious use of funds.

She said apart from helping to build isolation centres across the country, the coalition would assist in the training of medical personnel for speedy responses in the area of testing and other actions.

No Country Can Fight COVID-19 Alone, Says NCDC

The NCDC has said that no country or state can fight the virus alone, adding that its unique nature requires all stakeholders to work in unity.

NCDC’s Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, at a meeting with the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, yesterday in Port Harcourt, stated that information sharing on new developments about the disease was key to surviving the pandemic.

“The unique nature of this virus is that it is a global pandemic. None of us can do this on our own. No country can do this on its own.

“We share information across the states to make sure that everyone is informed as they can possibly be. We share information on new developments, strategies, what works and what doesn’t work.

“Whether it is in detection, prevention, and treatment, our role as NCDC is to make sure that our technical colleagues are able to respond at all levels and are supported in any way with the expertise they need,” he added.

He lauded Wike for being firm and committed to checking the spread of the virus in the state, describing Rivers as one of the most important gateways into Nigeria and one of the most vital economies in the country.

Borno Awaits Test Result of Dead Nurse

The Chairman of Borno Taskforce on COVID-19, Alhaji Umar Kadafur, has said the state government is waiting for the result of the first suspected COVID-19 case in the state.

Kadafur, who is also the state’s deputy governor, told journalists yesterday in Maiduguri that speculation over the death of a nurse working with MSF in Pulka, Gwoza Local remained a mere speculation pending the outcome of the test.

“His sample has been taken, and we are waiting for the result from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

“People, particularly the media, should be patient and stop preempting the result.
“We have a patient who has passed away, there is a need to be patient as we await the result,” Kadafur said.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Salihu Kwaya-Bura, said the task force had put in place surveillance teams in all the 21 LGAs, monitoring communities for persons with possible symptoms; to take samples for investigation.

Lagos Sets up Sampling Stations in 20 LGs, Records another Death

As part of efforts to increase COVID-19 testing capacity in Lagos, the state government has set up sampling stations in the 20 local government areas where citizens that fit the case definition of COVID-19 can visit to drop samples for testing.

The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, told reporters yesterday that the strategy was geared towards bringing COVID-19 testing opportunity closer to the people.

He said: “The idea is also aimed at taking work strain off health workers that visit several local governments for case search and sample collection.

“The new arrangement would provide an opportunity for people at the local government with symptoms of COVID-19 to present early for testing.

“We have decentralised the locations where you can have yourself submitted for sampling. So, what we’ve done is to move sampling stations to the local government. And if you feel that you have any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, you can present yourself to these decentralised sampling stations.”

While stressing that the facilities were not testing stations, but sample collecting stations, he said those who meet the criteria would have their samples taken.

“We are not just testing anybody, there is a criteria for testing; you either must have COVID-19 symptoms to meet the case definition or be in close contact with somebody that has been confirmed with COVID-19. Your samples would be taken and it would then be sent to one of our accredited testing facilities and those facilities will then perform the tests,” the commissioner explained.

While answering a question on the use of face masks for COVID-19 prevention, Abayomi stated that wearing of face masks did not protect against Infection but rather protect people around an infected person.

According to him, the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has given instruction that tailors and seamstresses should be commissioned to commence mass production of locally made face masks from a standard design that has been given to them.

Abayomi also said the state had recorded another death with the passage of an 83-year-old woman who died from complications arising from COVID-19.

This brings the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in the state to 14.

The commissioner, in a tweet yesterday, said: “23 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Lagos. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lagos is now 309.

“Four COVID-19 patients were discharged as on the 18th of April bringing the total discharged cases to 94.

“Lagos recorded one death, bringing the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in Lagos to 14. The deceased is a female, aged 83 with underlying health issues.

No Policy against Release of Victims’ Corpses for Burial

Abayomi has also clarified that the state has no policy against the release of corpses of persons who tested positive for COVID-19 for burial.

He said this at a press briefing organised in Lagos yesterday, according to The Cable.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had stated that the corpses of victims of CCOVID-19 could not be claimed for burial.

But in a response to a question on why the body of the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari, was moved from Lagos to Abuja for burial, Abayomi said there was no policy against the action.

Kyari died of COVID-19 complications at First Cardiology Consultants Hospital in Lagos on Friday and was buried at Gudu Cemetery in Abuja on Saturday.

Speaking on the development, the commissioner said there was no policy against releasing such corpses for burial, save for a protocol, which has to be followed before the corpse is released to the family.

“There is no policy against the release of the deceased with COVID-19 in terms of release for burial. If you demise from any condition, there’s a protocol to manage every scenario.

“The protocol for managing death from COVID-19 is that the body is decontaminated. The body is then placed in a special body bag; we put them in two body bags and then place them within a coffin and the coffin is sealed.

“The family is then given the opportunity to come and collect the body and take for burial. The only restriction around burial is that you follow the current state law on congregations and that no more than 25 people in total, including the religious members of the ceremony and the gravediggers, [attend the burial],” he added.

Bauchi, Oyo Discharge Three More Patients

Bauchi and Oyo States have discharged three more COVID-19 patients.

One out the remaining two patients in Bauchi Isolation Centre was discharged yesterday after testing negative for the virus.

Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, in a tweet, thanked health workers and the state task force on COVID-19 for their unrelenting efforts in tackling the spread of the infection.

Oyo State Governor and Chairman of the State’s COVID-19 Task Force, Mr. Seyi Makinde, also announced the discharge of another two confirmed patients.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted the governor as saying that the development has brought the number of active cases in the state to six and discharged cases to nine.

NMA Mobilises 42 Doctors as Volunteers

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has said that 42 doctors with specialisation in infectious disease management had enlisted as volunteers to help in fighting the pandemic.

It also cautioned that any hospital involved in unauthorised treatment of COVID-19 patients may face sanctions from hospital registration board which might include having its facilities shut down for decontamination.

President of the NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, in a telephone interview at the weekend, told THISDAY that the association had responded to the appeal by the federal government to mobilise doctors and other medical professionals to serve as volunteers in view of the escalation of the COVID-19 infection.

Faduyile said: “We have sent a list of 42 volunteer doctors to the minister of health and we are also working on getting the anesthesia to join them.

“This first batch is mainly doctors from the headquarters and we believe that it is an ongoing thing. We have formed a committee of doctors, pharmacists, and nurses and we are also mobilising volunteers among them.”

While restating the position of the association deploring the treatment of COVID-19 cases by private hospitals, Faduyile said such acts, if proved, could lead to sanctions.

Pharmacists Donate 10,000 Gloves, Sanitizers to Ondo

By James Sowole

The Ondo State Chapter of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has donated 10,000 gloves and 5,000 hand sanitisers to the state government in support of its fight against the spread of COVID-19.

The items were presented to the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro, in his office in Akure, the state capital.

The State Chairman of the PSN, Dr. Abiodun Ayeku, said the PSN had previously distributed a large quantity of hand sanitisers and gloves that cost millions of Naira to the general public and the frontline health workers at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo,

He said: “We came together and said we have to give support to the state government as this pandemic is ravaging the whole world. We got 10 cartons of hand gloves which contained 10,000 pieces and we came together as professionals and produced sanitisers and we are donating 5,000 bottles to help out the state health team.”

The chairman urged health workers to continue to take precautionary measures by treating every patient as a suspected COVID-19 case.

He also expressed the commitment of the association to the provision of accurate information on COVID-19 to the public in order to stop the spread of the disease.

Adegbenro, who received the donation on behalf of the state government, said the government would not relent in its efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the state, which has been receiving many donations to fight the disease.

 “Some individuals in the state and corporate bodies have donated money and equipment to the state and when the pandemic is over those who have immensely contributed to stopping the spread of the disease would have their names written in the good book of history in the state.”

Akwa Ibom to Begin House- to-house Testing of Residents

The Akwa Ibom State Government will embark on a house-to- house testing of residents to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Udoh, who stated this in a statement, disclosed that the COVID-19 team is embarking on aggressive testing.

Udoh urged residents of the state to cooperate and offer themselves for testing even if they were yet to display symptoms of COVID -19.

According to him, the outcome of mass and aggressive testing would be “a prelude to considering whether the domestic economy would be reopened after the one week lockdown extension.

“The whole idea is to make sure everybody is safe, considering that safety is paramount to the state government.

“Residents are enjoined to continue to observe stipulated personal and respiratory hygiene guidelines and practice social distancing,” the information commissioner said.

However, it was gathered that the state government may have taken the decision to embark on what it calls ‘aggressive testing ‘because of the fear that there may be more infected persons in the state than the three it is officially aware of.

Expert Urges FG to Verify His Claim for COVID-19 Cure

A renowned expert in alternative medicine and energy health, Prof. Joseph Akpa, has called on the Minister of Health, Prof. Osagie Ehanire, to verify his claim of having a cure for COVID-19 through energy health curative means.

Akpa, who is the Provost of Foundation for Energy Health College of Science and Technology, Mgbowo, Enugu, intimated the minister in a letter sent to him and made available to newsmen in Enugu yesterday.

He said he had asked the minister and his crack team to visit the institute to verify his claims of finding solution to the virus tormenting the world.

Akpa, who is also Provost of Luminar International College of Alternative Medicine, said he had sent an invitation to Enugu State Government to visit and see how he developed the method of treatment of the dreaded disease and various health problems.

 “I will challenge any health institute or agency to bring any known case of coronavirus to me and see how it will disappear within few days.

“If the government approaches me to cure any known case, I will voluntarily do so without any condition attached to it,’’ he assured.

Be Ruthless With COVID-19, Ekiti Monarchs, Senator Tell Buhari

The Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers has commiserated with the President Muhammadu Buhari and the entire people of Nigeria on the demise of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari.

Kyari died of COVID-19 in Lagos where he was being treated on Friday and was buried in Abuja the subsequent day.

In a statement by the Chairman of the Council, the Alawe of Ilawe – Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi, yesterday, the council described Kyari as a quintessential and seasoned administrator, who impacted so much on Nigeria and that his memory will linger for a very long time.

The monarchs said the death should further reawaken the nation on the need to brace up and confront the menace of COVID-19 headlong and with every resource at its disposal.

“The entire traditional rulers in Ekiti State believe that though late Abba Kyari is dead, his good legacies which have been attested to by many people including Mr President remain immeasurable” , the statement added.

The monarchs commiserated with members of the immediate family of the late Chief of Staff and prayed to God to grant them the fortitude to bear this great loss.

Also, the former Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Gbenga Aluko, has described the late Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari as a foremost patriot and Nigerian with impressive records that would be difficult to match and forget.

Aluko said Kyari’s abrupt death was shocking, sad and devastating, taking cognisance of his immense contributions to the implementation of President Buhari’s development agenda.

In his condolence message to President Buhari, on Saturday, on the death of the presidential aide, Aluko said the noble roles and the modest lifestyle lived by Kyari would remain evergreen in the hearts of Nigerians and particularly to his myriad of admirers, who relished his conduct and way of life.

Foursquare Church Donates Food Items to Lagos Govt

By Sunday Okobi and Ugo Aliogo

The Foursquare Gospel Church Nigeria has donated foodstuffs to the Lagos State Government to assist in providing palliatives to cushion the effect of the 14-day COVID-19 lockdown in the state.

The donation, which included 500 bags of rice divide in 5 kg bags and 200 cartons of noodles, was presented on behalf of the church by the General Overseer of the church, Rev. Sam Aboyeji, yesterday at the state collection point. Speaking during the handing over of the food items in Lagos, Aboyeji said the initiative represented the church’s efforts in promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the society mostly in this trying time.

He also hinted that as a partner of the government, the church has been praying and would continue to pray for an end to the pandemic, “which has impacted Nigeria and other countries negatively.”

According to Aboyeji, “It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had on March 29 in a nationwide broadcast announced in the first instance the lockdown of Lagos and Ogun States and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 which has seen most of the infected cases occurring in Lagos State.

 “Today, we brought 500 bags of rice already divided into 5kg; 200 cartoons of Indomie noodles for the young children.

What informed our decision to embark on this is that at a time like this, we cannot leave everything to the government alone. Therefore we need to partner the government. As a church, we believe in prayer, but faith without work is dead, therefore, we decided to support the government at this critical time of the lockdown with relief materials while we continue praying.

“The effort of the federal government in tackling the COVID-19 is quite commendable compared with what is happening in other countries.”

While receiving the items on behalf of the state government, the Special Adviser to the state governor, on Agriculture, Mrs. Abisola Olusanya, applauded the church for the kind gesture and vowed that the state government would make judicious use of the items, stating that the items were coming at a critical time of the lockdown in the state.

She added that the donation was timely considering the alarming cases of coronavirus in the state, noting however that the government would distribute the foodstuffs to the poor, elderly, youths and the physically challenged in the state to support them in this critical time.

Edo Govt Clears 105 Suspected Cases, 282 Contacts

Adibe Emenyonu

The Edo State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Patrick Okundia, has announced that the state government has been making steady progress in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and the treatment of eight active cases at different isolations centres across the state.

Okundia disclosed that the state government has discharged six persons who have tested negative twice to COVID-19 and exited another 387 persons that comprised of 105 persons of interest (POIs) and 282 line-listed contacts, who tested negative and completed the compulsory 14-day follow up.

He noted that the multipronged strategy of the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, in handling the pandemic was yielding positive results, adding that the government is scaling up screening facilities across the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state, which include the commencement of community mobile-based screening for COVID-19 in Oredo LGA.

According to him, “Edo State has recorded 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but we have discharged six patients who tested negative twice for the virus. The remaining eight cases are still on active treatment and are responding well to treatment. Four of the cases are receiving treatment and follow up at home while one is presently at Stella Obasanjo Hospital Isolation Centre (SOHIC) Benin, two are at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) Benin City and one at Irrua Specialist Hospital (ISTH). So far, the state has had 100 percent recovery from the cases admitted and managed at our isolation facilities.

 “As we celebrate the successes recorded in the management of COVID-19 in the state, it is pertinent to note that compliance with the government’s stay-at-home and social distancing directives, as well as other precautionary measures, are non-negotiable in the fight against the spread of the virus.

“Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water, use alcohol-based sanitisers, and try to get screened at any of our centres across the state. If you must go out, wear facemasks and avoid large gathering of persons.”

WHO Staff Tests Positive for COVID-19 in Bauchi

A World Health Organisation (WHO) staff in Bauchi State has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing to two the total number of confirmed cases in the state.

The Executive Chairman, Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Rilwan Mohammed told journalists yesterday that the WHO staff had contact with a confirmed case in Kano State.

Mohammed said: “We have an additional case in the state, the result was sent to me around 4 pm today.

“He is a staff of WHO in Bauchi but we don’t want to mention his name because it is against the ethics of the medical profession. He went to Kano and had contact with a professor in Kano that is positive.

COVID-19 Cases Hit 12 in Katsina 

By Francis Sardauna

The Katsina State Governor, Mr. Aminu Bello Masari, yesterday declared a total lockdown of Katsina, the state capital, following the outbreak of two new cases of the COVID-19 in Katsina Local Government Area (KLGA).

The stay-at-home order, which would commence tomorrow by 7am, would have zero movement with limited services provided by selected pharmacies and grain stores in the council area.

The state had recorded nine cases in Daura, one in Dutsin-Ma, and with the two additional cases in KLGA.

Masari, who disclosed this while addressing journalists at Government House, said that commercial banks and medical personnel were exempted from the lockdown.

He enjoined other states’ governors and security personnel to ensure stricter enforcement the ban on interstates movement and the lockdown of Nigeria/Niger border in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

The governor explained that the state government would continue to use the available resources and donations from individuals and corporate organisations to support the fight against the dreaded disease.

He said: “As of Saturday, we have 12 confirmed cases. One has already died. So, we have 11 living. We now have two new cases in Katsina, one in Dutsin-Ma and the rest are from Daura Local Government Area.

 “In line with what we have being doing since the outbreak of this disease by way of locking down any city, town or local government that have confirmed case, we have discussed and agreed that by 7 o’clock on Tuesday morning, there will be total lockdown of the Katsina Local Government Area.

 “We have already locked down Daura and Dutsin-Ma Local Governments. States have closedown their borders but we are wondering how a lots of people are coming from other states of the country crossing all these states to the border of Katsina.

 “We urged other states to enforce this lockdown. We would continue to do whatever it takes within the resources available to the state government and the donations of well-meaning indigenes of Katsina and other Nigerians to support the fight against COVID-19 in the state.”

Kwara Begins Aggressive Contact Tracing of Five New Cases

By Hammed Shittu

Kwara State Government at the weekend said the rapid response team of the state COVID-19 technical committee has commenced aggressive contact tracing of the recent five new cases of the pandemic that were tested positive in the state in order to curb the community transmission of the virus in the state.

The state government also directed security agents to arrest violators of the stay-at-home and movement restrictions order imposed in the state to curtail the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the state.

Already, the state index cases of the COVID-19 have increased to nine following the new five cases discovered over the weekend.

The new five cases in the state, according to THISDAY checks, included four nurses and one doctor of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital that allegedly treated the United Kingdom returnee, who died in the hospital two weeks ago in Ilorin.

The state Deputy Governor and state COVID-19 Technical Committee Coordinator, Mr. Kayode Alabi, stated this in Ilorin yesterday while speaking with journalists on the activities of the committee in the state.

According to him, “Two days ago, our state recorded five new cases of COVID-19. That means the state now has a total of nine confirmed cases.

 “Of these, two have recovered and have since been discharged. All the five new cases were contacts from our previous cases. They had been in self-isolation from where their samples were taken.

 “As we speak, our hardworking rapid response team has since started aggressive contact tracing of persons who have had contacts with them. This is to prevent community transmission of the disease and put us in firm control of the situation.”

Alabi added: “The truth is that we are in a dire situation. Drastic measures, as we have taken, are required to urgently contain the spread of this virus before it kills everyone or brings down human civilisation as it is threatening to do.

 “Our best shot is to stay at home, maintain physical distancing, constantly wash our hands, and practice good coughing or sneezing etiquette among other safety protocols.”

We’ve Started Return Journey to Recovery, Adeboye Predicts

The General Overseer (GO), Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, yesterday predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic would soon come to an end.

The cleric made the prediction in a Sunday service telecast on Dove Television Station

 “I believe I have good news for us; I believe that the return journey to normalcy has started.

“I sincerely hope that we will remember to give all glory to God. We thank government; we thank God for efforts so far made. I believe they have done creditably well; it was a situation they had never seen before. But I would suggest that in the future, they should include in their committees men of God.

“I am not talking of small men like myself; I am talking of chief imams and archbishops so that they can help them with the spiritual aspect of this warfare. I sincerely do hope that we would not admit that it is not our wisdom, not our ability, not our planning that had given us whatever victory that we have already got.”

He added, “We need to return all the glory to God because as the elders would say, rain can send you to the same hut more than once. We need to really give all the glory to God because we don’t want the victory that we have won so far to be reversed. If you ask any doctor, he would tell you that the most difficult kind of cancer to handle is the one that relapses. We don’t want a relapse of this scourge.”

Obaseki, Umahi Declare Curfew in Edo, Ebonyi

Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and his counterpart in Ebonyi State Governor, Chief David Umahi, have declared curfew in their states as part of the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The Ebonyi State governor on Saturday night, imposed a curfew between 7p.m and 7a.m daily in the state.

Umahi, who made the declaration in a broadcast, said the curfew would commence yesterday.

He said, “I hereby direct a total lockdown of the entire state from 7a.m to 7p.m and anybody found outside within this period must be arrested and prosecuted. Only those offering essential services such as security agents, health workers, media workers, who must have pass, are exempted.

“We have agreed to have seven blockages in each border location. Each entry point of Ebonyi State will have seven blockages. The first one at the boundary between us and another state will be manned by the army and army alone.”

Obaseki, has also announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew effective from today, April 20, 2020, prohibiting the movement of people throughout the state from 7p.m to 6a.m, as part of measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

Obaseki, who disclosed this in a broadcast, noted that the order will be reviewed after 10 days, when increased screening and testing of citizens in the state must have been achieved.

The curfew, according to the governor, is part of additional measures to ensure that people stay at home and prevent further spread of the infectious disease.

“We realise we need to do more social distancing at this time. Therefore, we are taking additional measures to ensure that people stay at home. Consequently, with effect from tomorrow 20th April an order prohibiting movement of people in Edo State from 7p.m to 6a.m.  This order will be reviewed after 10 days when we have increased our screening and testing of our citizens. The security agencies, by this directive, are mandated to enforce total compliance by ensuring that movement is restricted at night across the State,” he said.

Obaseki, noting that the testing centre at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) is ready to commence operation, said Edo State will in the next few days begin testing for 1000 residents daily.

Women in Energy Network Supports Fight against COVID-19

The Women in Energy Network (WIEN), a non-profit organisation, has promised its readiness to donate test kits and lab equipment as well as boost the testing capabilities of government, aimed at combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

The President of the group and Managing Director Zigma Oil and Gas and Women in Energy Network, Mrs. Funmi Ogbue, in a statement, commended the Nigerian National Petroleum .

Corporation (NNPC) and the entire oil and gas Industry for throwing their weight behind the federal government to combat the pandemic.

She said the intervention by the sector in addition to regular social investments through various Community Social Responsibility (CSR) projects the NNPC partners, local and international, have continued to implement, were in support of the national effort against the pandemic.

Ogbue said its members through their individual companies are making donations in consignments of medical consumables, logistics facilities as well as providing free food items.

She added that Zigma Oil and Gas has been working on supplying medical equipment and doing advocacy for ‘clean hands’, adding.

“In these difficult times, my sincere hope is that our WIEN community and the country at large, is safe and healthy and remains so, as we move through COVID-19, low oil prices, and other present difficulties.”

WIEN and its members, she said, are doing a lot collectively and individually to join hands with NNPC and the Nigerian government to deal with COVID-19 adding that it.is working to adapt to the current environment and to find ways to serve and benefit members now and in the ‘new normal’ as it emerges.

” We would encourage all women and women-group to do same. This is not the time to lag behind as all hands need to be on deck to deal with this as a country.”
The President said, it was working on hosting webinars and providing educational opportunities for its members and the general public.

“Through the hosting of virtual events, WIEN hopes to continue providing members and the general public with networking, educational, and leadership opportunities at this time when most of us are at home. As majority of the world’s
children are currently out of school because of COVID-19. Our intervention also provides for continuing with the education of children and the youth as the impact of the current situation is expected to be widespread and devastating, particularly for women
and girls.”

Sanofi Partners GSK on Vaccine against COVID-19

By Raheem Akingbolu

French biopharmaceutical giant, Sanofi and British rival GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK), have gone into partnership to develop a vaccine against the COVID-19, which, if successful, will be commercialised in the second half of next year, the French firm said in a release.

“This collaboration brings together two of the world’s largest vaccines companies. By combining our scientific expertise, technologies and capabilities, we believe that we can help accelerate the global effort to develop a vaccine to protect as many people as possible from covid-19,” GSK chief executive officer (CEO), Emma Walmsley, said in the release.

According to the statement, Sanofi would contribute its S-protein covid-19 antigen, which has produced an exact genetic match to proteins found on the surface of the virus, and the DNA sequence encoding, is the basis of Sanofi’s licensed recombinant influenza product in the US.

On the other hand, GSK would provide its proven pandemic adjuvant technology, which is an immunological agent added to a vaccine to boost its immune response to produce more antibodies and long-lasting immunity.
The two firms have set up a joint task force, co-chaired by Sanofi’s global head of vaccines David Loew and GSK’s president of vaccines business Roger Connor.

“As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone. That is why Sanofi is continuing to complement its expertise and resources with our peers, such as GSK, with the goal to create and supply sufficient quantities of vaccines that will help stop this virus,” said Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson.

The two parners have however indicated that the first phase of clinical trials will start in the second half of this year.

SUNDAY 19TH, 2020

COVID19: Lagos Establishes Sample Collection Centres in 20 LGAs
By Martins Ifijeh
As part of efforts to increase COVID19 testing capacity in Lagos, the state government has set up sampling stations in the 20 local government areas where citizens that fit the case definition of COVID19 can visit to drop samples for testing.
The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi who stated this Sunday at a press briefing to give situation report on COVID19 in Lagos, noted that the strategy was geared towards bringing COVID19 testing opportunity closer to the people.
He said: “The idea is also aimed at taking work strain off health workers that visit several local government for case search and sample collection.
“The new arrangement would provide opportunity for people at the local government with symptoms of COVID19 to present themselves early for testing.
“We have decentralised the locations where you can have yourself submitted for sampling. So what we’ve done is to move sampling stations to the local government. And if you feel that you have any of the symptoms associated with COVID19, you can present yourself to this decentralized sampling stations “
While stressing that the facilities were not testing stations, but sample collecting stations, he said those who meet the criteria will have their samples taken.
“We are not just testing anybody, there is a criteria for testing; you either must have COVID19 symptoms to meet the case definition or be in close contact with somebody that have been confirmed with COVID19. Your samples would be taken and it would then be sent to one of our accredited testing facilities and those facilities will then perform the tests”, the commissioner explained.
He added that the strategy would help the COVID19 response team get a better idea of what is going in the community and also make the diagnosis of COVID19 early at the local government level.
While answering a question on the use of facemask for COVID19 prevention, Abayomi disclosed that wearing of face masks does not protect against COVID19 Infection but rather protect people around an infected person from the an increase amount of aerosol generated from coughing or sneezing.
“There is some theoretical evidence that the wearing of masks may indeed reduce the amount of droplets in the environment from the person that is infected with COVID19 and that is the reason why we are beginning to define the strategy of face masks for the general community”, he said.
Abayomi disclosed that the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has given instructions that tailors and seamstresses should be commissioned to commence mass production of locally made face masks from a standard design that have been given to them.
He stated that the wearing of the home made mask is just to reduce the amount of droplets that may be produce and aerosolized by the process of coughing and sneezing.
“Tailors and seamstresses are empowered to produce and provide standard home made face mask that the public can gain access to and wear without pulling on the limited stocks of professional face masks that health professional require such that in a couple of weeks, we will be able to mass produce locally made face masks not medical mask”.
He noted that the State is not encouraging the public to go and purchase medical mask because it would deprive the medical community of the medical mask that they require for their professional activity.
The Commissioner urged residents to report early symptoms of COVID19 infection to dedicated COVID19 toll free helplines – 08000CORONA.
He added that early presentation of COVID19 symptoms by patients will help provide best opportunity for patients to survive the infection as it will give room for timely and adequate intervention and care.
“It is important members of the public are aware that the sooner we get to know about you and the sooner we can admit you. If you have mild to moderate symptoms under the supervision of our expert we may be able to prevent you from moving from moderate to severe and prevent you from moving from severe to critical case”
“We implore the communities not to feel the urge to stay at home when you have symptoms of COVID19 because you are more likely to survive the COVID19 infection under our supervision”, Abayomi said.
The Commissioner stated further that the two fatalities recorded in the Lagos was as a result of late presentation to the State facilities as they were already at a very late stage of their complications and eventually died enroute to the hospital.

WHO: No Evidence People that Survived COVID-19 Can’t be Reinfected

•Oyo to enforce compulsory use of facemasks
•49 new cases recorded, total now 542, while 166 have been discharged
•Global death toll hits 160, 755; over 2.3 million people infected

Tobi Soniyi and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo

There is currently no evidence to support the belief that people who have recovered from coronavirus (COVID-19) are immune to the virus and may not catch it again, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. The United Kingdom’s Daily Mirror quoted senior WHO epidemiologists as warning that despite the hopes governments across the world have piled on antibody tests, there is no proof those who have been infected cannot be infected again.

Nigeria recorded 49 new cases as at 10.40pm yesterday. The breakdown is as follows: Lagos 23, FCT 12, Kano 10, Ogun 2, Oyo and Ekiti 1 respectively; bringing the total of confirmed cases in Nigeria so far to 542, while 166 people have recovered from the disease and 19 succumb to the virus. As at yesterday, Nigeria has 357 active cases.

Meanwhile, Nigeria continued to record recoveries from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on Saturday, with Lagos, Edo, and Osun states discharging patients.
In Oyo State, the governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, said the state government had resolved to produce one million facemasks for use in the state as a way of curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Makinde said the state had also decided to enforce the compulsory use of facemasks in public.

Johns Hopkins University stated at the weekend that COVID-19 had infected more than 2.25 million people worldwide and killed at least 158, 000.

Daily Mirror reported that the British government had bought 3.5 million serology test kits, which measure levels of antibodies in blood plasma, even though they were not definitive of growing levels of herd immunity.

“Many tests being developed are pin prick blood tests similar to widely used instant HIV tests and measure for raised levels of the antibodies the body uses to fight the virus,” the Mail reported.

But speaking at a press conference in Geneva, an American infectious disease epidemiologist, who works for WHO, Dr Maria van Kerkhove, said, “There are a lot of countries that are suggesting using rapid diagnostic serological tests to be able to capture what they think will be a measure of immunity.
“Right now, we have no evidence that the use of a serological test can show that an individual has immunity or is protected from reinfection.”

Kerkhove added, “These antibody tests will be able to measure that level of seroprevalence – that level of antibodies. But that does not mean that somebody with antibodies means that they are immune.”
She said it was “a good thing” that so many tests were being developed, but cautioned, “We need to ensure that they are validated so that we know what they say they attempt to measure they are actually measuring.”
Kerkhove’s colleague, Dr Michael Ryan, said the antibody tests also raised ethical questions.

“There are serious ethical issues around the use of such an approach and we need to address it very carefully, we also need to look at the length of protection that antibodies might give,” Ryan said.
“You might have someone who believes they are seropositive (have been infected) and protected in a situation where they may be exposed and, in fact, they are susceptible to the disease.”

Other experts agreed with them. Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology, University of Reading, Dr Simon Clarke, said, “I agree with Dr Maria van Kerkhove from the WHO. The overconfident assertion by some that having antibodies to the coronavirus causing COVID-19 gives immunity, has been made without any evidence and by some people who should know better. It is reasonable to assume that, as someone recovers from the infection, the immunity they generate will persist for some time, maybe weeks, months or years, but nobody actually knows. We simply don’t yet know what would make someone immune to COVID-19 or whether long-term immunity is even possible.”

Visiting Professor in Medical Virology, Imperial College London,
Professor Richard Tedder, said, “When someone has been infected with the COVID-19 virus, there is an immunological response to the virus, which includes the production of antibody. It is correct to say that we are not certain that the presence of this recovery antibody will necessarily protect the person against re-infection. There are a number of reasons for this uncertainty.

“Firstly, it has proved very difficult to produce an antibody test which is both sensitive enough to detect antibody in all recovered patients and of sufficient accuracy not to generate false-positive results. Globally there has been an immense amount of work in developing a range of antibody tests some of which are excellent and some of which are not. In addition, the level of the antibody in the recovered person varies quite widely with a number of studies showing that mild infections are associated with a lower antibody response in recovery.

“Secondly, there are reports of re-infection, but whether these instances are re-infections as such or the persistence of shedding of the virus at low level in the recovery period remains to be defined.”

American television outlet, CNN, also reported a similar finding. It said, “In South Korea, health officials are trying to solve a mystery: why 163 people who recovered from coronavirus have retested positive, according to the Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).”

According to CNN, the same has been recorded in China, where some coronavirus patients tested positive after seeming to recover, although there are no official figures. While experts are still studying the reason for this, a Chinese top respiratory expert, Zhong Nanshan, had during a press conference last week said a recovered person could test positive because fragments of the disease remained in their body.

The Mail also reported that UK government pounced on an early offer of potential tests kits produced in China with the New York Times reporting officials agreed to pay apparoximately $20 million to secure the home testing kits. The paper reported, “However, when the antibody tests were put through their paces they were found not to be sufficiently accurate and as a result could not be used. Officials are now scrambling to try to get the money back.

“Downing Street did not deny the claims but the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said he was not aware of the specific $20 million figure.
“The spokesman said: ‘Where tests are shown not to have any prospect of working, then we will seek to recover as much of the costs as we can.'”

More Recoveries in Lagos, Edo, Osun

Meanwhile, Osun State Government said on Saturday it had discharged one COVID-19 patient after two negative tests for the virus, in line with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocol. The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, disclosed this.

“This afternoon, another COVID-19 patient was released from our Isolation centre, having fully recovered and tested negative twice for the virus, in compliance with the NCDC protocol,” Isamotu said.
He appealed to citizens and residents of the state to continue to comply with measures put in place by the government to curb the spread of the virus.

“Let me on behalf of Mr. Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, appeal to our people to continue to comply with the sit-at-home order and observe basic personal hygiene habits. Collectively, we shall eradicate coronavirus in our dear state. Kudos to my colleagues in the health sector for their service to the state,” the commissioner said.

Lagos State Government also discharged four more COVID-19 patients, bringing to 94 the total number of successfully treated persons in the state. Announcing this Saturday, the Incident Commander on COVID-19 in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said three of those discharged were male while one was female.

Sanwo-Olu said, “The patients: two from the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, and two others from Onikan Isolation Centre, have fully recovered and tested negative twice consecutively to COVID-19.”

Edo State Government on Saturday announced the discharge of the sixth coronavirus patient in the state, after the patient tested negative twice for the virus and was cleared for discharge at one of the state’s isolation centres.

In a statement, Governor Godwin Obaseki, said, “Good people of Edo State, I have good news again today. One more coronavirus patient has tested negative twice for the virus and cleared to return home.
“Please, stay safe and stay at home, as we intensify efforts to check the spread of COVID-19 in our dear state.”

The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Patrick Okundia, in a chat with journalists, urged residents with the symptoms of coronavirus to seize the opportunity of the on-going massive screening across the state to ascertain their status, stressing that prompt detection and treatment increases the chances of survival.

Okundia called on Edo sons and daughters to support the state government’s efforts to halt the spread of the virus by coming out for screening, testing and treatment, as well as complying with guidelines to contain the infectious disease. He explained that the state had recorded a total of 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with six fully recovered and discharged, and contact tracing on-going for about 330 persons who had different levels of contact with those who tested positive to the virus. He said the number of suspected cases had increased to 123.

Assuring that COVID-19 was not a death sentence, Okundia stated, “The government encourages everyone with symptoms of the disease to come out for screening, testing and treatment as prompt detection and treatment increases the chances of survival. COVID-19 is not a death sentence and not a lifelong disease. Once treated and discharged, you are free to live a normal life.

“All citizens of Edo State are hereby encouraged to abide strictly with government directives on social distancing, use of facemask in the public, regular hand washing with soap and running water or using alcohol-based sanitisers, cough etiquette and compliance with the stay-at-home order.”

He added, “COVID-19 is real with immense impact on the health and wellbeing on the general populace and we all have a collective responsibility to contribute our quota in ending this scourge.
“I want to use this medium to commend the health workers of Edo State and our partners for a job well done so far. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, please call these toll-free lines that have been activated by Edo State Government for assistance: 08001235111 and 08002200110.”

Oyo to Enforce Compulsory Use of Facemasks

Oyo State Government said it had decided to produce one million facemasks. Governor Seyi Makinde, who disclosed this to newsmen at Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, said some countries had found the use of masks helpful in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

A statement by the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted the governor as saying, “As I stated in an earlier interview, one of the measures we considered to prevent, contain and control the spread of COVID-19 in Oyo State is the compulsory use of facemasks in the public. We reached a decision to implement this measure. What we are saying is, if you must leave your house and come to any public place, you must wear facemask.

“We know that we are in a very tough economic environment right now. So, what Oyo State Government wants to do is to produce an initial one million facemasks to kick-start masks in public place policy in Oyo State.
“What we have also done is to link up with the artisans: 100 of the tailors will be commissioned by Monday, 20th of April, to make 10,000 facemasks each.

Makinde said the on-going massive “Drive-Through/Walk-Through Testing” at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba, Ibadan, was already yielding results, with four new cases confirmed from the tests.
He announced a shift for the resumption of work at the State Secretariat from April 20 to April 27, citing expert evaluation of the virus situation.

The governor said to ensure food security post-COVID-19, the government had embarked on an enlightenment campaign for farmers. He said the state had also gone into partnership with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Institute of Agriculture Research and Training (IAR&T) to achieve a seamless planting season.

On the distribution of palliatives, Makinde said the state’s data for the exercise was ready, explaining that it has been able to identify the poorest of the poor, who will be the beneficiaries.

SATURDAY 18TH, 2020

Nigeria Mourns as Covid-19 Claims Biggest Victim, Abba Kyari

•New strategy, community infections, responsible for rising cases, says FG
•With record 51 new cases yesterday, total confirmed now 493
•Private sector relief fund hits N25.9bn
•Edo, Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu, Ogun discharge 20 patients
•Masari locks down Dutsinma
•Soyinka, others ask Africa to reduce dependence
•FG ready to evacuate Nigerians from China
•China raises Wuhan death figure by 50%, denies cover-up

Our Correspondents

The ravaging COVID-19 pandemic claimed its biggest victim in Nigeria late yesterday, with the death of Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari. He died of complications from the virus at a Lagos hospital.

Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, confirmed the sad news in a tweet: “Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, passes on. May God rest his soul. Amen. Funeral arrangements to be announced soon.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu also confirmed the death in a terse chat posted on his Twitter handle.

He said: “Presidency regrets to announce the passage of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari. The deceased had tested positive to the ravaging COVID-19, and had been receiving treatment. But he died on Friday, April 17, 2020. May God accept his soul. Funeral arrangements will be announced shortly.”

It was made public that Kyari tested positive for COVID-19 late last month, following an official trip to Germany nine days before. It was also reported that Kyari had underlying medical conditions. He later rejected these claims, and announced his movement from Abuja to Lagos for further treatment.

While in office, Kyari was an influential figure within the Buhari administration.

During the administration’s first term, he worked mainly behind the scenes to implement the president’s agenda. He also did same during the President’s second term until his death yesterday.

As an avalanche of tributes poured in on social media, especially Twitter, the Minister of state, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo took to his Twitter page to recount his last moments with the deceased.

He wrote: “When I chatted with him exactly on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, he assured me his health was fine and that he would faithfully take the treatments. But God always knows best. Sincere condolences to the Kyari family and the Government of Nigeria. Adieu Mallam Abba Kyari.”

Also speaking, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy also expressed sadness at the death.

He wrote: “May the Almighty Allah forgive and be Merciful to Malam Abba Kyari (Chief of Staff to the President). May He (SWT) bless us with a good end.”

Meanwhile, the federal government yesterday attributed the sudden rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country to the implementation of a new case-finding strategy, as well as the result of rising community transmission.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who disclosed this in Abuja at the media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, said health officials had commenced house-to-house and cluster testing, using the revised criteria for sample collection.

On the same day, figures from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that a record 51 new cases were recorded yesterday, with total number of confirmed cases now 493, from the 442 recoded on Thursday. 159 had been discharged with 17 deaths recorded as at yesterday.

Ehanire explained that more people with COVID-19 were being detected and transferred to treatment centres, adding that there will still be need for more social mobilisation for community testing at grassroots level and Isolation of positive cases.

“We shall ensure the right message is disseminated to control ongoing transmission. In this regard, I must again emphasise that citizens are obliged to disclose complete and accurate information to health workers, especially about their travel history or contact with persons who have or had COVID-19. This is important for two main reasons: full disclosure allows health workers to promptly, investigate, diagnose and treat correctly, to improve chances of patient survival and recovery.

“The right information also keeps the health workers safe. Withholding the truth puts both the user and caregiver at risk, but also other patients on site,” he said.

Speaking during the media briefing yesterday, the Director General of the NCDC, Dr.

Chikwe Ihekweazu said that the centre has approved a new testing strategy which will be uploaded on its website so that all interested stakeholders can have access to it.

“Today we are pleased to announce a national strategy to scale up the Coronavirus disease testing in Nigeria and we are putting it up on our website. People can tell us their thinking about state governments and other private sector stakeholders. The strategy shows the direction NCDC is headed and how they can come in. This leverages on validated technologies available for testing at the moment,” he said.

The NCDC DG said that one of the key aspects of the strategy was not only to leverage on existing infrastructure for testing, but also to rapidly include other facilities that are used for other infectious diseases.

Giving more insight into the strategy, Ihekweazu said that the first thing was to expand the existing laboratory network and secondly to convert facilities used for testing HIV infection for use in testing COVID-19 cases.

He said the centre was able to secure supply of reagents on Thursday to test-run the converted machines at the national reference laboratory in Abuja.

He said that another option was to utilise an equipment known as Gene Expert machine to also scale up the testing for COVID-19 in the country. On this, Ihekweazu said that there are 400 Gene Expert, out of which 41 were now ready for use for COVID-19 testing.

He further said that there are plans to decentralise COVID-19 testing to all the 36 states and to rapidly improve the turnaround time for getting test results.

While responding to a question about the country’s apparent late commencement of mass testing for COVID-19, Ihekweazu said: “You know COVID-19 is unlike anything we have ever seen, and it requires very critical and fast thinking. I know that we might have been slow to get things scaled up, but anyone that had followed discussions around this disease outbreak will know that it is not only Nigeria that has struggled with initiating mass testing in their settings.”

Private Sector Relief Fund Hits N25.9bn

Donations into the private sector relief fund, championed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to raise funds to combat COVID-19 have risen to N25.894 billion as at yesterday, up from the N21.589 billion reported previously.

This was disclosed in a statement yesterday on behalf of the coalition by the Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor.

Also, the statement showed that the list of contributors has increased from the 50 reported previously, to a total of 107 individuals and organisations.

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.

CACOVID recently 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 Ready to Evacuate Nigerians from China

Following the new revelations as regards the maltreatment of Nigerians in Guangzhou, China, the federal government has declared its readiness to immediately begin the process of evacuating the affected Nigerians from the Asian country.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, made this known while addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, where he revealed that he had summoned the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, for the second time since the reports surfaced in the media to register Nigeria’s displeasure over the development.

He stressed that contrary to what the Nigerian government had believed that the situation was now under control, it became apparent that there were still very distressing incidences.

The minister stated categorically that emerging facts revealed that it was an institutional attack on the rights and dignity of Nigerians and Africans there.

Onyeama said even though there was an effort to contain an outbreak of the virus, including some Africans who came into the country and tested positive, but insisted that there was absolutely no reason whatsoever to completely trespass on the rights and dignity of Nigerians and Africans in the city.

Onyeama further said the Nigerian Ambassador to China, Baba Ahmed Jidda, as well as other African ambassadors in China, met with the Chinese Foreign Ministry and expressed their concern and made a number of demands of the Chinese Government, including the insistence on the respect of the rights and dignity of Africans and Nigerians in Guangdong.

FG Proposes Palliatives for Coronavirus Victims

The federal government has suggested that coronavirus victims also deserve palliatives and should be enlisted on the conditional cash transfer register administered by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

The Chairman of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, made this proposal yesterday while the task force was briefing the press. The conditional cash transfer seeks to provide financial palliatives for the vulnerable of the society across all states of the federation.

Masari Locks Down Dutsinma

Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State on Thursday night announced the lockdown of another Local government area in the state (Dutsinma).

He said the lockdown which becomes effective from yesterday is meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the council and in the state.

The Governor, who made the announcement at the review meeting on COVID-19 at Government House, Katsina, revealed that a report from the NCDC confirmed one COVID-19 case in Dutsinma, necessitating the lockdown.

Another decision taken at the meeting was to shut down major weekly markets in the state, also from yesterday.

The governor also announced the suspension of weekly Friday congregational prayers with effect from next week until further notice and the suspension of annual Ramadan public Tafsir and Tarawiy as well as the suspension of activities at the cinema, event centres and Television viewing centres throughout the state.

Katsina currently has seven cases of COVID-19 and one death had been recorded.

Edo, Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu, Ogun Discharge 20 Patients

Edo State has discharged five coronavirus patients undergoing treatment in its isolation centre.

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, announced this on his Twitter handle on yesterday.

He tweeted, “I am pleased to announce that 5 of the confirmed cases in #Edo State have now tested negative twice for #COVID-19. They have thus been discharged.

“This bolsters our resolve to defeat this common enemy, as we roll out more measures to check the spread of #COVID-19.”

Also in Lagos, five more patients undergoing treatment at its isolation centres have been discharged.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, made this known in a tweet yesterday.

He said that the five newly-discharged patients bring the total number of patients that have recovered in the state to 90.

Abayomi tweeted, “19 new confirmed cases of #COVID-19 Infection recorded in Lagos on the 16th of April. This brings the total number of confirmed Lagos #COVID-19 cases to 254.

“Five fully recovered #COVID-19 patients were discharged. Total discharged #COVID-19 patients are now 90.”

Three patients have recovered COVID-19 in Kaduna state. The commissioner of health, Dr. Amina Baloni disclosed this in a statement yesterday.

Ogun state governor, Dapo Abiodun, yesterday evening, also announced that the state had discharged six more COVID-19 patients leaving it with only three confirmed cases.

In Enugu State, the second COVID-19 patient, who is one of the two cases in the state that were in isolation, receiving treatment, has tested negative for the disease and consequently been discharged by the State Ministry of Health.

6,649 tested for COVID-19 in Nigeria – NCDC

The NCDC says of the 6,649 people tested for the Coronavirus nationwide, there were more males than females.

Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, in Abuja yesterday.

Iheakweazu said NCDC data revealed that of the 6,649 suspected cases tested for the disease, 71 per cent were males, while females made up just 21 per cent of the total number.

He said of the sources of cases, 210 had travel history, 129 were contacts of confirmed cases, 11 infected by unknown sources, while 92 still had incomplete epidemiological information.

According to the NCDC DG, the agency continues to respond to the pandemic across the country and had prioritised the distribution of Viral Transport Medium, to all the states and FCT, for sample collection.

He also said that the deployment of COVID-19 starter packs to all tertiary institutions and the federal medical centres was in progress.

Iheakweazu further said the NCDC had fully set up an expanded laboratory network for COVID-19 across the six geopolitical zones, with 13 laboratories activated.

He, however, said that the deployment of Rapid Response Team to support response in all states with confirmed case(s) stood at 22.

Soyinka, Others Ask Africa to Reduce Dependence

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and other leaders of thought across the African continent have said the current coronavirus pandemic has underscored the need for African countries to change their mindset of depending on help from outside to survive.

They stated this in a letter jointly signed by them.

Apart from Soyinka, the long list of signers to the letter address to African leaders had Makhily Gassama (essayist); Cheikh Kane (writer); Odile Tobner (Librairie des Peuples Noirs, Cameroon) ; Iva Cabral (daughter of Amilcar Cabral, University of Mindelo); and Olivette Otele (Bristol University)

A portion of the letter read, “The challenge for Africa is no less than the restoration of its intellectual freedom and a capacity to create – without which no sovereignty is conceivable. It is to break with the outsourcing of our sovereign prerogatives, to reconnect with local configurations, to break with sterile imitation, to adapt science, technology and research to our context, to elaborate institutions on the basis of our specificities and our resources, to adopt an inclusive governance framework and endogenous development, to create value in Africa in order to reduce our systemic dependence.

“More crucially, it is essential to remember that Africa has sufficient material and human resources to build a shared prosperity on an egalitarian basis and in respect of the dignity of each and everyone. The dearth of political will and the extractive practices of external actors can no longer be used as excuse for inaction. We no longer have a choice: we need a radical change in direction. Now is the time!”

The writers urged African leaders to seize the opportunity of the coronavirus crisis to “break with a model of development based on the vicious cycle of indebtedness.”

China Raises Coronavirus Death Figure By 50%, Denies Cover-up

China has raised the official Coronavirus death toll of its city Wuhan by 50%, giving more credence to US President Trump’s claim that the country lied to the world about its death figures.

Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged late last year, admitted people died at home and cases were missed as hospitals struggled to cope in the early days of the outbreak.

In the new revised figures, the Wuhan city government increased the death toll by 1,290 – about 50 percent – bringing the total in Wuhan to 3,869 and the number of deaths across China to 4,632.

Chinese State controlled Xinhua News Agency quoted an unidentified official in Wuhan’s epidemic and prevention and control headquarters as saying mistaken reporting occurred during the outbreak.

China has also denied editing its official death toll for political purposes.

In an editorial, the Global Times, a tabloid owned by the Communist Party, rejected the accusations and said the revisions were made “based on facts” and that China had not been affected by “Western noise.”

“The strict review and correction of the death toll means there is no room for deliberate concealment,” the paper said. “Speculation that China falsified the death toll from the coronavirus is far from the truth. China is not a country where one can fabricate data in complete disregard of the law.”

FrieslandCampina WAMCO Donates N500m

FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria PLC, makers of Peak and Three Crowns brands of milk, has donated N500 million as a contribution towards Nigeria’s COVID-19 intervention fund organised by the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

The donation, which is coming as part of FrieslandCampina WAMCO’s corporate social responsibility follows the company’s recent donation of N100 million worth of Peak and Three

Crowns milk products to support over 100,000 families in low-end communities and vulnerable groups who were at risk of compromising their nutritional needs. This donation is inline with its purpose of providing better nutrition.

Explaining the corporate gesture in Lagos, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria PLC, Mr. Moyo Ajekigbe, said “The novel Coronavirus pandemic is a global disaster that has cost the world thousands of lives and threatens its economic well-being.

“At FrieslandCampina WAMCO, we believe that everyone must come together to make a difference. If we all join hands with government and credible associations to provide substantial palliatives, critical medical supplies, and with the cooperation of every Nigerian through the adherence of precautionary measures, we will defeat the COVID-19.

Hence our donation of products and funds,” Ajekigbe said.

The Managing Director, FrieslandCampina WAMCO, Mr. Ben Langat further said, “As a company, we have made several donations to support meaningful initiatives in the fight

against the COVID-19 pandemic; this indeed represents the confidence and care we have for Nigeria. As we encourage Nigerians to unite to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and reach for their peak again, FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria will continue to take responsible actions that ensure we make nourishing dairy nutrition accessible for Nigerians.”

 Presco Donates 2,000 Cans of Vegetable Oil to Edo State

As part of its contributions to the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, producer of Fats and Oils, Presco Plc, has donated 2,000 (5litre) jerry cans in 500 cartons of vegetable oil (olien) to the Edo State Government.

According to the company, the gesture was designed to alleviate the sufferings of the most vulnerable in society.

The Relations Manager of Presco Plc, Tony Uwajeh, who presented the items to the state government also conveyed through a letter, management’s applaud of the state government’s efforts at combating the pandemic.

He explained that the Management of the company “believes we will weather the storm and come out of this stronger and safe.”

Receiving the items, the Secretary to Edo State Government, Osarodion Ogie, conveyed the appreciation of the Governor, Godwin Obaseki for the gesture.

He explained that the current pandemic was indeed a challenging time for all, adding that the state government was adequately prepared to face it.

Commending Management of Presco Plc, he pledged that the items would be put to judicious use and to the benefit of the most vulnerable in Edo State.

COVID-19: Ayade’s Kinetic Intervention

By Charles Ajunwa

As I tuned my television to AIT channel around 10:45a.m.on Wednesday, Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, was making interventions via Skype on the COVID-19 pandemic rampaging the entire world. What really attracted my attention during the programme was the governor’s attire – He wore a face mask and T-Shirt made of African fabrics printed in different colours. Governor Ayade looked smart and cool. The fabrics and other materials used in making the face mask and T-Shirt according to him, were sourced locally and produced at the garment factory established in Calabar by his administration. The T-Shirt according to Ayade cost less than N7,000 while the face mask produced in large quantities was at no cost.

Ayade who spoke with so much passion, said the face masks were made compulsory for all the people residing in the state. Due to the global shortage for medical mask the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said improvised masks could be used as long as they were properly washed regularly. They can also be made out of cloth or other materials. The face masks according to him, had the capacity to reduce the viral load of the deadly disease thereby making it impotent. The effectiveness of face masks according to him, has been attested to globally. He cited examples of United States of America where millions of people have been protected from Coronavirus through the use of face masks.

The governor who advocated the use of face masks and lockout in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, explained that when people were locked down, chances were that their immune systems were weakened as they don’t have access to Vitamin D which they need to boost their immune systems.

Ayade who maintained that the measures put in place in the state to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus were working effectively, lamented that no assistance from the federal government had reached Cross River since the outbreak of COVID-19 to cushion the effects of the lockdown. He promised to provide 8,000 jobs for unemployed youths in the state by next Tuesday. The youths according to him, would be deployed to sanitation, agriculture and other critical sectors.

Although he acknowledged President Muhammadu Buhari as “a friend and a nice man”, Ayade said Cross River State had not been treated well by federal government in the disbursement of funds and other palliatives to states since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Cross River State according to him, deserved special attention given its population size and geographical location, lamenting that the loss of her oil wells and Bakassi Penninsula were enough reasons the state should be factored into the palliatives being dispensed by the federal government.

According to Ayade, Cross River apart from sharing borders with states within Nigeria, shares international border with Camerroon from where migrants enter into the state which he noted was at a huge cost to the state as they were struggling with scarce resources.

Governor Ayade who is an intellectual powerhouse, since coming on board in 2015 has deployed his intellect in doing things differently which has received accolades locally and internationally.

COVID-19: Abiodun Cares for the Citizens

By Tunde Otegbeye

Many have been clamouring for a return to business as usual. But with no hope in sight for an end to the spread of the Coronavirus, the federal government had no option than to extend the COVID-19 lockdown for another 14 days, beginning from midnight Monday, April 13, 2020, in Lagos and Ogun states, as well as in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, where the pandemic is believed to be more pronounced.

Generally, residents of these areas have not been favourably disposed to the extension in the face of economic hardship that results from it.

However, in Ogun State, the story is different. The level of compliance has been highly commendable, as the informal sector, particularly road transport workers, market women and men, artisans and others have been complying with the lockdown. And this development has, in no small measure, reinforced the belief in the collective efforts, and not that of the government alone, in the fight against the dreaded novel virus. The level of awareness and sensitisation of the people on social distancing is high. People now avoid close interactions, like a plague. Popular locations in Abeokuta, the state capital, with high density influx of traders, like Kuto, Panseke, Omida, Lanfenwa, Ita-Oshin, Obantoko, Itoku, and others in Ijebu-Ode, Ijebu-Igbo, Ifo, Sagamu, Ilaro and Sango-Otta are like ghost locations. There has been no violent acts or face-off with security operatives, comprising armed policemen, operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), members of the Vigilante Group, officials of the Traffic Compliance and Enforcement (TRACE) and other local security operatives, who are manning every entry and exit route within the state.

Thus, the leaders of these security outfits praise their officers and men for maintaining high discipline, which they say show, to a great extent, the level of leadership the administration in the state has put in place to avoid any breakdown of law and order in the course of enforcement of the restrictions.

The state government has also come to the rescue of residents, to lessen the attendant effects of the lockdown, by allowing them to prepare and stock their homes with food items and other edibles through a day-on, and a day-off system.

At the beginning of the lockdown, the state government embarked on awareness creation on the dangers of the virus, using radio and television jingles, posters and handbills that sensitised them on measures like social distancing, personal hygiene of washing hands with soaps, use of face masks, the launch of the ‘Mobile App’ christened, Ogun COVID-19 Assessment”, pegging the number of people at any gathering to not more than 20 persons, closure of both public and private schools, among others.

Similarly, the government, in its kindness, provided hand sanitisers that were produced jointly by the Ministry of Health and Hospital Health Management for mass distribution across the state. Besides, before the presidency ordered the closure of all international borders, Ogun State took up the gauntlet and directed the closure of all land borders, especially the porous international routes with the Republic of Benin.

The government showed it was on top of the situation with the provision of 1,000 bed facilities in three different locations, Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu; Iberekodo, Abeokuta; and Ikenne, the largest of its kind in the country.

The citizens and residents of the state are pleasantly surprised at the great extent to which Governor Dapo Abiodun has gone to put every machinery in motion to combat the spread of the disease.

In demonstration of his avowed commitment to the wellbeing of all, Abiodun considered the full implications of the total lockdown and came up with the provision of relief materials and economic stimulus to prevent starvation. While making good his promise and, in a bid to cushion the attendant effects of the initial two-week lockdown, the state government gave out various staple food and essential hygiene items, all neatly bagged for distribution to no fewer than three million citizens across the 236 wards in the state. The intended targets are the poor and vulnerable people, who are getting the stimulus, being distributed in phases and the Governor is personally taking charge to prevent the process from being hijacked or the items being diverted.

The involvement of religious leaders, market women and men, community leaders, regardless of political affinities, apolitical leaders and top civil servants from the various local governments is seen as a welcome development. Apart from checking the diversion of the relief materials, it will ensure fair, equitable and inclusive distribution to all and sundry.

It is pertinent to mention here that while other politicians seize the occasion to sell their future ambitions in the distribution of the relief materials to their loyalists and supporters across the state, the reverse is the case with Abiodun who averred that the materials are meant to cater for all and sundry, regardless of political affinities. And the directive has still remained in force to ensure that the poor and vulnerable people benefit from the largesse.

He appreciated the sacrifices the citizens have made so far. On the 14-day extension, Abiodun charged Ogun citizens and residents to consider the measure a necessary sacrifice to tackle the disease headlong.

The governor, who is conscious of the fact that the people’s health should be paramount for good governance, has reduced the stress of having to travel far to, either Lagos or Ede in Osun State or Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory before coronavirus patients could receive treatments.

The state government has procured a molecular laboratory, located at OOUTH, Sagamu to ensure that tests of suspected cases could be done within the state.

It is expected that when the facility becomes fully operational, it would reduce tests turnaround time that is currently taking between three and five days and also, help in fast-tracking the handling of positive cases. More importantly, it could be seen that no other state has done enough than Ogun in curtailing and containing the spread of the disease.

This singular act has earned the government the trust and confidence of the people in providing good leadership and qualitative governance to impact positively on their welfare. To a great extent, this shows the level of leadership the administration in the state has infused to avoid any breakdown of law and order.

Governor Abiodun needs to be appreciated and commended for his statesmanship approach in handling and preventing the virus from escalating after the index case recorded in the state.

––Otegbeye writes from Ilaro, Ogun State.

(Updated) Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to the President, is Dead

Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Malam Abba Kyari, who tested positive for coronavirus, is dead.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr Femi Adesina, in the early hours of Saturday said Kyari died on Friday.

The terse statement issued at about 12.48AM on Saturday read:

“The Presidency regrets to announce the passage of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari.

“The deceased had tested positive to the ravaging COVID-19, and had been receiving treatment. But he died on Friday, April 17, 2020.

“May God accept his soul.

“Funeral arrangements will be announced shortly.”

Kyari, who tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after his trip to Germany, went into self-isolation in Abuja where he began treatment for the virus.

He was flown to Lagos from Abuja in an air ambulance on March 30 for further treatment.

In a statement he issued on Sunday March 29 where he said he had followed all the protocols government had announced to self-isolate and quarantine., Kyari announced his movement to Lagos for further tests and observation, on the advice of his doctors as a precautionary measure.

In that statement, he said he had made his own care arrangements to avoid further burdening the public health system, “which faces so many pressures.’

The late Chief of Staff was undergoing treatment at an undisclosed location until his death.

COVID-19: Random Musing over Lockdown

By Joseph Ushigiale

The two weeks lockdown ordered by the federal government as a result of the novel COVID -19 pandemic ravaging the world today including Nigeria, leading to a forced lockdown in designated states like. Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) ended last Sunday. After a careful appraisal of the effectiveness of the lockdown, it was extended by another two weeks by President Muhammadu Buhari who noted that given the stark realities unraveling on the ground, an extension was inevitable and imperative if the virus is to be contained.

The president, relying on statistics from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), noted in a recent nationwide broadcast to justify the need for an additional 14-day extension that “we had 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 12 States on 30th March 2020. We had two fatalities then. This morning, Nigeria had 323 confirmed cases in twenty States. Unfortunately, we now have ten fatalities. Lagos State remains the center and accounts for 54% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria. When combined with the FCT, the two locations represent over 71% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria.”

He pointed out that “Most of our efforts will continue to focus on these two locations. The majority of the confirmed cases in Lagos and the FCT are individuals with recent international travel history or those that came into contact with returnees from international trips.”

Furthermore, the president noted that “By closing our airports and land borders and putting strict conditions for seaport activities, we have reduced the impact of external factors on our country. However, the increase in the number of States with positive cases is alarming. The National Centre for Disease Control has informed me that, a large proportion of new infections are now occurring in our communities, through person-to-person contacts. So we must pay attention to the danger of close contact between person to person.”

The lockdown that went into force since March 30, has thrown up a lot of questions challenging the government’s decision to opt for a total lockdown of some states without taking into cognizance the socio-economic peculiarities of the people including exposing a new dimension of official tardiness.

Locked in this argument on one side are those who believe that the government would have devised a more robust, pragmatic and proactive approach by adapting to the cultural traits as well as the socioeconomic realities of an average Nigerian. This group believes that since the government and the private sector can only provide few jobs for the people, the majority of these Nigerians survive on the streets on a daily basis.

Therefore, stopping them from plying their trades and locking them down over a period of time without the provision of meaning palliatives would provoke negative results.

Yet, others believe that the federal government must adopt the current standard global practice of locking down an entire state or country to stem the spread of the virus as was recently observed in Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, currently in the United States of America and previously in China.

The reality today, however, suggests that each country needs to study its peculiar nature and evolve appropriate policies that would be embraced by the people so that in the long run, the objectives could be achieved. There are several reasons why Nigeria should not adopt a one solution cures all approach to follow the standard global practice.

First, according to the president, the infections have moved from Nigerians who traveled abroad at about the period of the outbreak to the communities. Why would a responsible government allow this to happen with all the evident forewarnings from abroad? It is quite evident that the administration went to sleep and exposed the silent majority to what we are about to start experiencing shortly- explosion of infections in communities.

With daily information on what was happening in China, Italy, Spain, Germany and the USA, the federal government ought to have been prepared ahead by ordering the closure of the country’s borders and all entry points into the country. Since that was not done, it was expected that all incoming travelers from abroad ought to be screened and quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.

Again that was not done because according to reliable sources, one of the president’s daughters was abroad. The federal government swung into action only after she was safely back into the country, by which time, a lot of damage had been done and hundreds of infected persons coming from abroad had slipped into the country and vanished into thin air with the virus.

Today, some of these people, have become the primary sources of the spread that is currently permeating the communities across the country. It is such tardiness that has provoked an investigation in the United States of America to unravel whether intelligence failed to provide intel resources highlighting any threat to U.S interests either internally or from abroad; also why the U.S government failed to act to protect U.S interest. While people are being called to account in the U.S., in Nigeria, government officials are carrying on as if the lives of vulnerable Nigerians do not matter.

Second, our officials are often quick to align with standard global practices only when they suit their purposes. From experience, standard global practices do not exist in a vacuum. They are products of deliberate consistent policies that lead to the building of a very strong institutional structure upon which policies are driven. Do we have such institutional structures in Nigeria? NO.

What really is institutional structures? To answer the question, again let us go back to the developed economies like the U.S to illustrate this point. As soon as the pandemic broke in that country, President Donald Trump announced a stimulus package including palliatives for Americans, their businesses, etc, to cushion the hardship that would kick in from the lockdown. That could only be possible because of the availability of dependable demographic data showing clearly the percentage of people who need help, narrowing down to states and precincts. In that way, there is no ambiguity, every transaction is transparently executed with no room for officials to cut corners.

Back home, the federal government announced a N10 billion grant for Lagos state and another humongous amount for Special Intervention Programme (SIP). Unlike in developed countries, it is tales of woes from one community to another. Palliatives and the money have suddenly disappeared into thin air, stolen and embezzled by greedy public officials. The reason is simple: without a strong institutional structure that shows you who is vulnerable, where they reside and all the demographics distribution in the country, there would be no equity, transparency or good corporate governance in the delivery of democracy dividends.

The result as of today is that because the so-called federal government palliatives have been hijacked and have failed to impact on those that they were targeted at and the pangs of hunger ravaging as a result of the lockdown, there is a break down of law and order. In Surulere last night, the police had hectic time fighting off the surge of self-styled 1,000,000 Boys, a group of miscreants that are constituting nuisance and have been a major security threat because of its members’ exploits in arm robbery, carjacking, and sundry misdemeanors.

The government has so far responded with force, ordering more armed policemen, soldiers, and other security forces on the streets to confront these hunger-induced street kids. Since when have bullets, guns and brute force replaced food and the basic necessities of life? Where is the government’s human face in this hour when the majority of the people are in dire need of government intervention? Has the government left them with any other choice than to resort to self-help to keep body and soul together? I do not think so.

As we are at it, my attention was drawn to Buhari’s directive to a committee he set up and headed by the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo to chart a new course for the country post coronavirus. Well, I think the effect of this pandemic is far-reaching than the mandate Buhari has given Osibanjo. In my mind’s eye, I can visualize a new world order that would transform the world in so many ways. I strongly believe that an experiment is ongoing while the entire world is on lockdown. I also believe that there is an unseen eye monitoring our behavioral patterns the outcome of which would be used to create a new world order.

Now, you may disagree with me but our president has inadvertently started this silent revolution. During the week, a picture was published showing the president conducting a meeting with his executive council members via teleconference or Satelite if you like.

In the near future, through new technology, countries would have no choice than to embrace lean governments, reduce wasteful expenditure in office and residential accommodation, abolish needless junketing abroad.

The shocking truth is that soon we are going to find out that all the so-called investment in infrastructure would be money gone down the drain because new ways of doing things would overtake us simply because we failed to visualize and anticipate the future. For instance, how do we cope with driverless cars on the roads we are currently building or operate the future’s unmanned trains on our present single gauge rail system?

Imagine what the country would save from a lean government where government businesses can be conducted from any part of the country or the comfort of your home through secured protocols driven by fast internet data. The yearly budget for the running of the seat of power would be saved, the presidential fleet would be obsolete and of no use. The president can be remotely treated through telemedicine in the comfort of his home without moving an inch and the billions budgeted for the Aso Rock clinic which has no panadol would be saved.

Also, imagine what can be saved if the National Assembly has to adopt disruptive technology to conduct its affairs without physically convening. There would be no billions budgeted for the renovation of the national assembly complex, no constituency projects, no budget for residential quarters, exotic cars, etc. It would be a new dawn that would herald part-time legislation.

In the private sector like banks, there would be inevitable financial inclusion and banks would shift from the current model to a new one driven by technology. No tellers, no banking hall, staff would be reduced to the barest minimum and essential staff only.

The manufacturing sector would be upgraded to adopt robots that would replace man. An online business would perhaps be disrupted by the introduction of drones that would take orders and deliver at a customer’s doorstep. That is how every part of the economy would be impacted at the end of the pandemic.

Therefore, the federal government should get serious and begin its post-pandemic strategy by interrogating how the inevitable arrival of disruptive technology which would be driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning impacts us as a country.

How do we position to join the global community in this journey, what needs to be done and how? What is the time frame and at what cost? Of course, there is no time to waste because the time is obviously now.

FRIDAY 17TH 2020

Nigeria Records 51 New Cases of COVID-19, Total Now 493 
By Martins Ifijeh
Nigeria has recorded 51 new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 493 the total number of confirmed cases of the virus in the country.
This represents the highest number of cases in a single day since the outbreak started February 27 in Nigeria.
Announcing this Friday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Lagos recorded 32 new cases, Kano six, Kwara five, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Oyo and Katsina two each, while Ogun and Ekiti recorded one each.
It said: “As at 10:10 pm on April 17, there are 493 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. 159 persons have been discharged while 17 persons have unfortunately lost their lives.
Breakdown of the figures show that Lagos has 283 cases, FCT 69, Kano 27, Osun 20, Edo and Oyo 15 each, Ogun 10, Kwara and Katsina nine each, Bauchi, Kaduna and Akwa Ibom six each, Delta four, Ondo and Ekiti three each, Enugu, Rivers and Niger have two each, while Benue and Anambra have one each.

Kano Streets Deserted as Residents Comply with Lockdown Order

By Ibrahim Shuaibu

For the first time in Kano, Muslim faithful were barred from observing Friday prayers, following a decision between Islamic Scholars and the State Government, as part of measures to curb the spread of  COVID-19 in the state.

Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje had on Thursday ordered a total lockdown of the State, after a former diplomat tested positive.

Alll streets in the metropolis were deserted by both commuters and pedestrians.

Security checkpoints were erected in all the streets and manned by paramilitary personnel including police, NSCDC, FRSC, State Fire Service, Kano Road Traffic Agency (KAROTA), Vigilante and Hizbah.

Heavy security was seen around major mosques to ensure compliance as Friday prayers had been suspended in the state.

Major markets and motor parks were also closed.

When THISDAY correspondent in Kano visited the mosque at the Emir’s palace, Kofar Wambai, Asaru Sunnah, Kantin kwari, and Kofar Mata, all were deserted, in compliance.

At Kano Central Mosque located next to the Emir’s palace, the building for the first time ever was empty in compliance with the lockdown order.

The Kano central mosque on a normal day, especially Friday is a beehive of activities where people not only worship but also engage in trade. 

Some youths have howeve taken over some roads and streets to display their football skills.

It was observed that the low compliance with the social distancing directive was among the major challenges in the state.

Three Members of Kano COVID-19 Taskforce  Test Positive

By Ibrahim Shuaibu

Kano State government has confirmed that three members of the State Taskforce on COVID-19 tested positive for Coronairus.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa, in a statement by Hadiza Namadi, the ministry’s information officer, however said the number of Covid-19 confirmed cases in the state as at 11:15 am on Friday remained 21, with one death.

The statement reads “with deep sense of sadness and on behalf of the state government, hereby announces that the Co-chairman and some members of Kano State Taskforce on Covid 19 were tested and three of the results came out positive of the Corona lvirus disease”.

“Government advises the general public to keep social distancing, avoid overcrowding and stay at home to keep safe as it continue to take measures to contain the spread of the disease in the state.

The three officials who are part of the team fighting the spread of the virus in the state are said to be in isolation at the special isolation centre at Muhammad Buhari Specialists Hospital Giginyu quarters in the ancient city.

However, the  Deputy Governor Dr.Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna has tested negative for COVID-19.

A press statement by Hassan Musa, the Press Secretary to the deputy governor on Friday revealed that “Following the result turning out negative, Dr.Gawuna who is also the Chairman of the State Task Force Committee on COVID-19 give praise to Almighty Allah because through him all things are possible, saying this is a proof of that.

“We will continue to pray Allah’s protection against COVID-19 everywhere in the world and for the quick recovery of all those infected,” he said.

Gawuna also commended Kano State people for complying with the lockdown order while emphasising that the administration of Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is taking all measures to halt the spread of the disease in the State.

He urged the public to maintain social distancing, washing and sanitizing of hands regularly and to comply with all other advice given by medical experts.

The deputy governor added that it was important for all to cooperate with all agencies working to curb the spread of the dreaded disease and to eradicate it. 

He said there should be no circulation of rumours, false and misleading information, adding that only official statements from appropriate agencies should be relied upon.

 

Chinese Community in Lagos Pledges to Support Fight against COVID-19
By Segun James

As part of efforts to stem the ravaging Coronavirus in the state, the Chinese community in Lagos Friday donated medical equipment and the sum of N38 million to the state government.

The Consulate General of People Republic of China in Lagos who stated this while presenting the materials to the Lagos state government assured that they will support Nigeria in flattening the curve of coronavirus pandemic and eradicate the contagious disease from the country.

Speaking on behalf of the Consulate General, the Chairlady of Chinese Women in Nigeria, Ms. Zhou Jun, said they were determined to ensure that the country comes out of the present challenges posed by the ravaging effects of the pandemic stronger.

The materials which were donated by the Consulate General of the Peoples Republic of China in Lagos, The Overseas Chinese Association in Nigeria and AfricaMed Group said that the was part of their country’s resolve to be part of Nigeria’s effort to beat the pandemic.

While presenting a cheque of N35,380,000 to Lagos State government and items such as ventilators, face mask, coverall clothings, gloves, Thermometers and hand sanitizers worth N175 million to the government, the Consulate in a Letter addressed to Lagos State Governor Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on behalf of the community stated that ‘’with the Coronavirus spreading around the world and nations such as Nigeria were battling with this new pandemic and its attendant health, social and economic catastrophic effects, it has become mandatory that we work collectively to overcome this upheaval.

‘’With this in mind, the Chinese Consulate General in Lagos setup an initiative to Chinese-funded enterprises in Nigeria, Chinese communities and Chinese compatriots in Nigeria to come together to show support to the good people of Lagos State.

‘’Viruses have no borders and are a common challenge faced by all mankind. China and Africa are a community of shared destiny, and helping African countries fight the pandemic is the proper meaning of China-Africa friendly cooperation.

‘’We are therefore committed to ensure we join His Excellency and his team to fight and completely eradicate the COVID- 19 virus from Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. Nigeria is our second hometown.’’

The letter further stated that, ‘’The Chinese consulate general in Lagos has kick started this by donating with other Chinese-funded enterprises, overseas Chinese associations and overseas Chinese have responded accordingly with both anti epidemic materials and China and Nigeria have always been friendly countries. It is the responsibility of our Chinese compatriots to give back to the local society that has been a great host.”

The consulate said they remain committed to long term partnership that would engender continuous growth of the state.

Receiving the items on behalf of the state government,  the Lagos state Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde said the state government appreciated the efforts of the Chinese to flatten the curve of coronavirus pandemic and defeat the deadly disease .

“On behalf of the Lagos State Government, we thank our Chinese associates for coming together and donated the equipment to us to fight COVID- 19. 

COVID 19 is real, it is something that we are, fighting together,  it is global and government alone can’t do it alone and we are very happy that we have partners and other donors who have come together to support government. Together we, shall fight, COVID -19 and we will defeat it,” he said.

COVID-19 Palliatives: Group Faults Ndume’s Allegations

By Adedayo Akinwale

The Save the Poor Coalition (SPC) has faulted the allegations made by Senator Ali Ndume on the distribution of Coronavirus palliatives, insisting that distribution of cash transfer register in states was neither a fabrication nor a fraud.

Ndume had on Tuesday alleged that most of those benefitting from the palliatives did not deserve them, just as he called for the disbandment of the presidential committee responsible for the distribution.

The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Farouk, and the office of the National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP) had been under attack for the alleged lopsidedness in the distribution of the Coronavirus lockdown palliatives.

However, the National Coordinator and National Secretary of the group, Emeka Enechi and Adamu Maikasuwa respectively in a statement issued on Thursday said lhat the group was reliably informed that the minister had commissioned professionals to update the National Social Register she met on ground, but because of the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis she cannot throw the current register away.

The group stated: “Whereas, we are in league with the plethora of criticisms emanating from various quarters, especially that of distinguished and eminent members of the National Assembly, as per the National Social Register of Poor and Vulnerable Households and by extension the COVID 19 palliatives; however, after observing the comments and steps taken so far by the Minister, we take solace in the truism that she has noted all the salient points raised.

“We of the SPC disagreed with Senator Ndume that the distribution of cash transfer register in states was a fabrication and was full of fraud and that the ministry lacks the capacity and structure to carry out the assignment.

“The distribution of cash transfer register is neither a fabrication nor a fraud; albeit as stated earlier Hajia Farouk did not mince words in talking of challenges in addressing and making comprehensive the National Social Register.”

The group stressed that for the avoidance of doubt, the authors of the National Social Register never said they covered the 774 local government areas of the country; rather they listed what they covered as 421 local government areas, 4,347 wards, 43, 258 communities, 2.25 million poor of poorest households and 9.54 million extreme poor.

COVID-19: PDP BoT Chair Warns Party Members in Nasarawa against Court Cases

By John Shiklam in Kaduna

The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Board of Trustees (BoT),  Senator Walid Jibrin, has warned members of the party in Nasarawa state against instituting court cases and suspending party members.

He said it was regrettable that while Nigerians were being mobilised  towards combating the spread of COVID-19, some PDP members in Nasarawa, instead of joining in the fight against the spread of the disease, were fighting one another and filing legal suits in court.
In a statement on Friday in Kaduna, Jibril condemned the party members and called on them to join hands  with government in fighting the pandemic. 

He said  the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP had since halted party congresses following the outbreak of COVID-19, noting that there is no basis  for party members in the state to be bickering among themselves.

According to him, “The PDP National Working Committee halted  all party congresses and meetings due to the outbreak of Coronavirus in Nigeria in line with the directives of the government and  health authorities, I see no any reason why some of our party leaders in Nasarawa state should embark on  court cases and suspension of some party members.

“Mosques and churches are closed for worship due to the problem of Covid-19. There is total lockdown in many states, therefore, there is no any need for our party members in Nasarawa state to  be dragging people to court  and  terminations of party memberships.”
“We must respect  our NWC resolve to cooperate with the authorities to stop the spread of Covid-19,” he added.

He assured that as one of  the highest political leaders in Nasarawa state and Chairman of the PDP  BoT, the issues in contention would be properly handled with all seriousness  in consultation with the NWC.

“I am advising that all cases in courts and suspensions be withdrawn immediately to pave way for amicable settlement.

“I assure all members of free, fair and transparent congresses  in the state,  there shall never be inpunity, ” he said.

COVID-19: Katsina Records Four new Cases
By Francis Sardauna
The Katsina State Government on Friday confirmed four new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total number of cases in the state to nine.
The Chairman of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Committee and Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Mannir Yakubu, who disclosed this while briefing journalists, said the four new cases were recorded in Daura and Dutsin-Ma Local Government Areas of the state.
He said: “We have received four additional positive cases in the state on 16th of April, 2020, making a total of nine. Out of the four new cases, three were from Daura, a community transmission from one of the contacts to the deceased doctor. The other person is from Dutsin-Ma.”
Yakubu, however, said the committee has received a whooping sum of N207.6 million donations from organizations and individuals to tackle the spread of the global novel coronavirus pandemic in the state.
He explained that the state COVID-19 Emergency Respond Committee was pursuing financial pledges amounting to the tune of N33,500,000 from individuals and corporate organizations.
He noted that the training of 66 medical personnel of the 10 proposed isolation centres and training of 102 DSNOs from the 34 local governments gulped the sum of N3,775,850.00
According to him, “Funding of activities of sensitization and enlightenment committee, N4,535,000.00; procurement of hygienic materials distributed at Juma’at mosques and churches in the state, N5,464,000.00; and fumigation of mosques and churches, N19,01,960.00.
“Procurement of medical equipment for the isolation centre at GARSH, Lot 1,2 and 3 is N106,663,561.00. The total committed and approved expenditure of the committee is N172,712,347.00.”
I Stand by My Position on COVID-19 Palliatives Committee,  Ndume Replies Presidency
By Deji Elumoye and Chuks Okocha
Few hours after the Presidency reacted to his call for the dissolution of COVID 19 Palliatives Measures Committee headed by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadia Farouq, former Senate  Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, on Friday said he stands  by his position on the programme.
The Presidency had earlier on Friday in  a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media,  Garba Shehu, accused Ndume of politicising a national emergency and challenged him to name the alleged kleptocrats in Buhari’s government.
In a swift reaction to the Presidency’s statement, Ndume, who is the Chairman of the Senate committee on Army, emphasised that he stands by his observations and recommendations as far as palliatives distribution arising from COVID 19 was concerned.
Ndume who spoke on telephone however said he was not ready to join issues with anybody having made his observations known on the issue before now.
His words: “I’m not ready to join issues with anybody on palliatives distribution, having made my observations known based on information I got  from the grassroots as a grassroots person
“I’ve made my position known on the programme and I stand by it”, the Borno South Senator said.
 Ndume had on Thursday  in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, picked  holes in the way and manner distribution of  palliatives to indigent Nigerians  at this critical time of  Coronavirus  lockdown , was being handled by the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry .
The Senator who kicked against the modus operandi being adopted by the Ministry in a chat with journalists , said the emergency national assignment should be taken away from the ministry and given to a fresh committee that will use governors of the 36 States as links of distribution across the federation.
His words : “My concern is the manner and the way the COVID-19 palliative measures provided  by the president is being handled or executed.  We have received numerous complaints and it is actually very unfortunate.
“In fact, left to me, I am strongly calling for the humanitarian committee headed by the minister of Humanitarian Affairs to be dissolved with immediate effect and the president should as a matter of urgency,  form a taskforce that would deal with issue of palliatives, headed by the military, police, civil defence, voluntary organisations and the NYSC among others.
“It should be formed as taskforce committee headed by governor of each state, and those materials or cash be allocated and distributed house to house, instead of fake or dubious way they have been handling the matter by just going to Television House or Government House to demonstrate.
“If you see a minister or big person in anywhere going personally to do something, then know that there is something wrong. If not, what has the minister got to do with going from state to state to distribute palliative. They should be in the ministry monitoring the activities.
“While the pitiable situation of the poor is visible to everyone,  few individuals are rushing to squander the money meant for the poor.
“We have reliable information that the names they generated are fake and that they conived  with some of the banks to defraud the poor. It is better to stop the exercise because it is full of lies and if the president don’t do something to stop it now, we will end up investigating and later on going back and forward to the court”.

We’re Not Forced to Contribute Money to Combat COVID-19, Says Insurance Operators

Insurance operators have debunked recent allegation that they were compelled to contribute N10 million each towards the ongoing fight against Coronavirus pandemic.

The insurers, under the umbrella of the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA), said the report by an online medium that their regulator, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), compelled them to make the donation was embarrassing insisting that their decision to contribute towards the fight against spread of Coronavirus was purely voluntary and not under compulsion as reported by the medium.

The 57 insurance firms in the country, under the auspices of their umbrella body, the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA), had recently announced donation of N1000,000 free life insurance cover to each of the health workers participating in the ongoing fight against the Coronavirus in any part of the country.

According to the insurers, the life insurance cover will cost N5 billion.
They also donated personal protection equipment to the health workers as well as testing kits.

Shortly after this, an online medium report alleged that the insurers were each compelled by the regulator, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) to pay N10 million each for the project.

But in a swift reaction to this, the NIA Chairman, Mr. Tope Smart, in a statement to this effect, condemned the allegation describing it as falsehood.

Smart who is also the Managing Director of NEM Insurance Plc, explained that the association, decided to align with the private sector to support the efforts and initiatives of the Presidential Task Force, state governments, Ministry of Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to contain the spread of COVID19-19 by contributing to a fund to provide N1 million life insurance cover and procure testing kits and protective materials for the use of medical personnel saddled with the responsibility to the tune of about N100 million.

He said: “What happened is that we called a press briefing where we announced that we are providing N1 million free life insurance cover for each health personnel and allied professionals in the country who are attending to victims of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and also procure testing kits, protective materials worth over N100 million.

“But the Acting Commissioner for Insurance, Mr. Sunday Thomas later called us that the Commission would want to join us to boost our plan, by also making contribution to the fund that we have set aside in order to increase the benefits provided under the planned scheme.

“We welcomed the development and at that point, we allowed the Commission to take the lead. We were happy that it then became an industry based project where other stakeholders in the industry can join the NIA”.

He noted that on their part, they had earlier agreed to intervene in two folds.
“We had arrangements to procure testing kits and protective materials for the use of medical personnel saddled with this responsibility. The materials were to be delivered to the NCDC.

“Also in line with our profession as risk managers, we agreed as an association to arrange a special life insurance cover for all health personnel and allied professionals who are attending to victims of COVID-19. We decided to provide Death and Permanent disability benefits to the frontline staff who are exposed to a lot of risks”, he added.

COVID-19: 2020 Hajj May Still Go Ahead, Says NAHCON

By Olawale Ajimotokan

The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, has given hints that the 2020 Hajj may still take place in Saudi Arabia in spite of the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

A statement issued Friday by the commission’s spokesperson, Fatima Sanda Usara, said Hassan’s optimism was hinged on the recent indicators which emanated from Ministry of Health, Saudi Arabia.

The latest indicator has projected that the Kingdom will hopefully witness a decline of the COVID-19 infection in the country from April 21, 2020 and a possible eradication of the ailment by May 2020.

Hassan said that it was for this reason that NAHCON has not stopped the preparations towards 2020 Hajj.

The Chairman noted that NAHCON management has been assessing every development as a result of the pandemic. He encouraged intending pilgrims not to feel reluctant in making the deposits for the Hajj fare.

He added that a situation may also arise where the number of the pilgrims may be reduced as a strategy of managing the COVID-19 pandemic. In the event of this, he said slots will be offered to intending pilgrims on first come first served formula

Saudi Arabia has allotted 80,000 slots to Nigeria as its pilgrims’ quota for the 2020 Hajj.

The NAHCON boss explained further that despite the optimism, the commission was also making plans for alternative plans in the event the Hajj was not holding.

He said all arrangements entered with Saudi Arabian service providers were legally backed, adding the commission is not expecting any monetary losses on its side.

Although a five per cent commitment has been made from the commission’s purse prior to Saudi Arabia’s directive to keep Hajj preparations on hold, however, this does not affect intending pilgrims nor their funds. He assured that pilgrims who made deposits will be fully repaid if Hajj 2020 was cancelled if such depositors requested for a refund.

He also suggested they may lodge the deposits with the Commission until next year’s Hajj.

COVID-19: Nasarawa Receives N76m Donations from Individuals, Organisations

* Extends curfew by 10 days

By Igbawase Ukumba

The Nasarawa State Government has said it received about N76 million donations from individuals and corporate organisations to support the state in curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chairman of the Task Force on COVID -19 and Deputy Governor of the state, Emmanuel Akabe, disclosed this at a press briefing Thursday in Lafia.

The deputy governor however noted that the state has not spent a dime from the N76 million received so far.

This comes as the state Governor Abdullahi Sule has extended the curfew imposed on the state by another 10 days.

Governor Sule, while speaking with journalists on Thursday, maintained that the cessation of human and vehicular movement and total lockdown of Karu Local Government Area of the state shall continue with the exception of Wednesdays and Saturdays between the hours of 10:00am to 2:00pm to enable residents purchase essential commodities in their neighbourhoods.

According to Sule, “The restrictions of movement in all urban areas of the state between the hours of 8:00pm and 6:00am daily shall continue, as well as social gatherings including weddings and naming ceremonies shall remain suspended and worship centres such as mosques and churches are also to remain closed.

“Entry into Nasarawa State remains restricted to between 6:00am to 6:00pm and all persons coming into or passing through the state shall be screened at various checkpoints/mobile clinics.”

He said that civil servants in the state from Grade Levels 01 to 12 are to continue to work from their homes except those involved in rendering essential services.

“Any child seen on the street begging should be arrested by the security agents and handed over to the welfare departments of the state government and the respective local government areas,” the governor stated.

He also said that all events centres, cinemas and viewing centres, sports arena, clubs and beer parlours would also remain closed, even as he urged the residents of the state to adhere strictly to the social distancing directive of the federal government for their safety and others.

Sule therefore assured residents of the state of more palliatives as the state would be among the first that will receive food items from the private sector for distribution.

FG Warns Private Hospitals against Treating COVID-19 Patients without Approval

  • Says recalcitrant facilities risk shutdown
  • Warns pandemic may spread to 36 states
  • Shortlists two airlines for evacuation of Nigerians abroad
  • Cases rise to 442 with 152 discharged, 13 deaths
  • Ken Saro-Wiwa’s son, Menegian, dies of pandemic in UK
  • Virus can kill over 300,000 in Nigeria, others, says UN
  • WHO projects Africa’s cases to hit 10m, to spend $300m

Gboyega Akinsanmi, Martins Ifijeh, Nume Ekeghe, Peter Uzoho, Ayodeji Ake in Lagos Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

The federal government thursday warned that it would henceforth close any private hospitals and other health facilities that treat COVID-19 patients without authorisation.

THISDAY had reported yesterday mounting concerns about the danger to public health, the growing number of private health care providers managing infected persons without accreditation.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, responded to these concerns yesterday in Abuja during the media briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, saying the federal government would come down heavily on any unauthorised facility offering treatment to infected patients.

He added that the focus now is to carry out more community testing and social mobilisation at the grassroots to ensure physical distancing.

It has also shortlisted two airlines for the evacuation of Nigerians stranded in foreign countries with high cases of COVID-19.
Incidences in the country, however, rose to 442 yesterday with 152 patients discharged and 13 dead.

The government also assured the nation that part of its efforts at combating the virus included budgetary provision for research into finding a vaccine.

However, it warned that without strict adherence to the guidelines it had rolled out to contain the virus, the pandemic would spread to the 36 states of the federation.

Also yesterday, a total of 11 patients were discharged in Lagos, Ogun and Bauchi states after being treated and tested negative for the virus.

Ehanire appealed to Nigerians not to cast aspersion or deride people infected with the pandemic, noting that such behaviour was capable of derailing efforts of the government to curb the spread of the virus.

He said the government would push out more messages and advisories on the use of masks or improvised face coverings like handkerchiefs or scarves over the mouth and nose, to reduce the risk of transmission.

“I shall use this opportunity to again strongly advise health professionals against private or secret management of people who have COVID-19 outside of accredited health facilities. We cannot afford avoidable morbidity and mortality,” he said, warning: “Private facilities must obtain accreditation to treat this highly infectious disease. Practitioners engaging in unauthorised treatment of COVID-19 run the risk of being shut down for decontamination.”

The minister described the latest COVID-19 fatality that occurred in Lagos, which claimed the life of a medical doctor, as unfortunate.

He said to avoid such an incident in the future, the federal government has been appealing to health workers to adhere to all instructions and regulations and to always utilise personal protective equipment (PPE) while maintaining a high index of suspicion for COVID-19.

According to him, the target this week is to increase the 3,000 national testing capacity.
In a bid to achieve the target, two more laboratories are scheduled to be opened in Borno and Sokoto states.

On concerns about stigmatisation, Ehanire said COVID-19 outbreak had provoked social stigma and discrimination against anyone thought to have been in contact with the virus as well as people of certain backgrounds.

He regretted that those with the disease, their caregivers, family, friends, and communities, were often labelled, stereotyped, discriminated against and treated poorly because of a disease.

The minister said stigma could prompt social isolation of persons or groups and drive people to hide the illness, thus preventing them from seeking health care immediately.

“This could cause a situation where the virus is more likely to spread and increase the difficulty of controlling the COVID-19 outbreak. We must not stigmatise persons who have recovered from COVID-19,” he said.

Pandemic May Spread to 36 States, Says FG

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, warned that the pandemic might spread to the 36 states of the federation and urged Nigerians to prepare for the transmission of the virus to more states.

Ihekweazu, who appeared on Sunrise Daily, a live programme on Channels Television, yesterday, noted that though there were bound to be more cases, the goal was to build a more efficient public health infrastructure.

“We are responding to something, at the moment, across 22 states. But it will grow to almost every state in Nigeria. There is no reason it won’t. It is a respiratory virus.

“So, what we are trying to achieve right now, in the short term, is not to stop transmission because we know that will be very difficult to do. No country in the world has achieved that,” he said.

Ihekweazu, at the task force’s press conference, also said NCDC has so far tested 7,000 persons since the epidemic erupted.
He added that the centre would be issuing weekly totals every Friday to keep Nigerians updated on the progress made to test all suspected cases of COVID-19 infection and their contacts.

Also speaking during the media briefing in Abuja, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said the committee was concerned about reports of people being smuggled in trucks out of Lagos.
Aliyu said inter-state travels were leading to community spread of the disease.
He appealed to Nigerians to limit their movements if the disease must be curtailed.

Govt Moves to Curb COVID-19 Spread via Land borders

The Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, urged Nigerians living in 17 border states to be alert and report illegal land crossing by foreigners to the officers and men of the Nigeria Immigrations Service (NIS) so as to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 through the borders.

He listed the states as Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Niger, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Cross River, and Akwa Ibom.

According to him, it’s in their collective interest to prevent the spread of the virus through the land borders by taking maximum advantage of the gains already made.

Aregbesola’s counterpart in the Ministry of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, faulted allegations that the federal government was not doing enough to enlighten the people on the virus.

He said the result of the independent poll conducted by the West Africa-based NOI Poll on the level of awareness of Nigerians about the virus did not substantiate the allegation.

He said the poll result sent to the federal government by the communications department of the office of the UK Prime Minister showed that 94 per cent of Nigerians were aware of COVID-19, while six per cent said it was not real.

FG Shortlists Two Airlines to Evacuate Nigerians Abroad

At the press conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Godfrey Onyeama, said the federal government had shortlisted two airlines for the evacuation of Nigerians stranded in foreign countries with high cases of the virus.
He did not, however, disclose the identity of the airlines.

It’s believed that about 1,000 Nigerians have approached the federal government through the country’s foreign missions to evacuate them as the contagion continues to spread globally.

Onyeama said the ministry was already collating names of those to be evacuated and was also in touch with Nigerian embassies abroad.
He added that both National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Ministry of Health would be part of the engagement.

“We are in touch with our various embassies around the world and we are already collating names. We have also selected the two airlines that will be responsible for the evacuation. The numbers of those to be brought are high and the places where we can isolate them are not enough for the travellers, so we will have to do it in a staggered fashion and together with NEMA and the Ministry of Health. We will have to go with an agreement to be bringing them according to the number of beds and so forth that are available. We are almost ready to go,” Onyeama said.

Budgetary Vote for Vaccine Research

Also speaking at the press briefing, the Chairman of the PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, stated that the federal government had a budget for research into a possible discovery of a vaccine for the virus.
Mustapha said the federal government was carrying out the research through a partnership with the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research.

He explained that all countries, including those from the West, are also joining the effort to seek a cure for the virus.
He said: “Every country is mixing whatever they can mix. Here in Africa and in Nigeria in particular, we would use a little bit of the Nigerian sense, like the Minister of Aviation said here that in his part of the country where he comes from, people are saying they can eat some fruits, they can swallow some things. But that is not scientifically proven. We would do the needful in terms of proper medical research to see if Nigeria can have a leeway or headway in getting to a creation or invention of a vaccine or a combination of drugs that can be curative in dealing with coronavirus.

“But as of now, there is no cure that is proven scientifically; there is no vaccine in the market that can be administered. All we are doing is to put in place a non-pharmaceutical initiative and the medical cure that can be given to those that have been infected.”

He also urged the police to be polite and to stop harassing people as well as denying access to people covered by the government’s exemption from the restriction of movements.

He noted that since civility is reciprocal, the police would command respect if they are civil in their approach.
“But the security agents are not expected to be overzealous in dealing with our people. I understand that having been locked down for two weeks, there is anxiety and apprehension, but this is the time to exhibit patience and endure excesses,” Mustapha said.

35 New Cases as Lagos, Ogun, Bauchi Discharge 11 Patients

There were 35 new cases reported yesterday by NCDC from four states – Lagos 19, FCT nine, Kano five, and Oyo two.
However, 11 more COVID-19 patients have been discharged in Lagos, Ogun, and Bauchi states.
Five patients were discharged in Lagos, while three were discharged in Bauchi.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and his Bauchi State counterpart, Senator Bala Mohammed, announced the discharge of the patients via their Twitter handles yesterday.

In Lagos, three females and two males were discharged after testing negative twice for the virus.
Lagos has recorded 251 cases of COVID-19. Of that figure, 90 persons have now been discharged, 154 are active and seven patients have died.

Ogun State Government yesterday said three patients were discharged from its isolation centre after they had tested negative and completed the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, at a press briefing in Abeokuta, said: “I have good news. In the last 24 hours, three individuals have been given a clean bill of health in the state and discharged from one of our isolation centres to join their families and resume their normal life, thus bringing the total number of discharged individuals to six.”
She added: “We have only three active cases and they are being treated by our doctors and other healthcare workers in one of our isolation and treatment centres.

“In addition, so far, we have identified 210 persons who had contacts with the positive cases, out of which 110 underwent the required 14 days quarantine period.
Only two of this number tested positive, the remaining 108 tested negative on completion of the quarantine period.
“One hundred others are, however, still observing the quarantine period and are being observed and monitored by our specialist doctors and other healthcare workers.”

Pandemic Can Kill over 300,000 in Nigeria, Others, Says UN

In a comprehensive cost-effect analysis of COVID-19, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) yesterday raised the alarm that the pandemic could claim between 300,000 and 3.3 million lives in Nigeria and other African countries if adequate protection measures were not taken.
UNECA, one of the regional commissions the UN created to promote the development of its member statesk, also warned that the impact of COVID-19 could, on aggregate, lead to a 2.6 per cent contraction of African economies in addition to the cost of human lives.
The commission gave the warning in a 48-page report THISDAY obtained from its Corporate Communications Office yesterday, recommending that Africa, as a whole, would need $100 billion as a health and social safety net response and another $100 billion as an emergency economic stimulus.

The report, which is titled; “COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies” would be unveiled in Addis Ababa today by UNECA’s Executive Secretary, Dr. Vera Songwe and Director, Regional Integration and Trade Division, Dr. Stephen N. Karingi.
According to the report, anywhere between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives as a direct result of COVID-19, depending on the intervention measures taken to stop the spread.

It justified its forecast on the ground that Africa “is particularly susceptible because 56 per cent of the urban population is concentrated in overcrowded and poorly serviced slum dwellings (excluding North Africa) and only 34 per cent of the households have access to basic handwashing facilities.”
It said 71 per cent of Africa’s workforce “is informally employed, and most of those cannot work from home. Close to 40 per cent of children under five years of age in Africa are undernourished.”
Of all the continents, the report observed that Africa “has the highest prevalence of certain underlying conditions, like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.”

WHO Projects Rise in Africa’s COVID-19 Cases to 10m

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases in Africa could shoot up from thousands now to 10 million within three to six months according to a provisional modeling, a regional World Health Organisation (WHO) official said yesterday.
But Head of Emergency Operations for WHO Africa, Michel Yao, said that was a tentative projection which could change and noted worst-case predictions for the Ebola outbreak had not come true because people changed behaviour in time.
“This is still to be fine-tuned,” he told a media teleconference.
“It’s difficult to make a long-term estimation because the context changes too much and also public health measures when they are fully implemented, they can actually have an impact.”
Africa has seen more than 17,000 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease and about 900 deaths so far – relatively little compared to some other regions.
But there are fears that it could balloon and overwhelm shaky health services.
“We are concerned that the virus continues to spread geographically, within countries,” said Director for WHO’s Africa Region, which comprises 46 sub-Saharan nations and Algeria, Matshidiso Moeti.
“The numbers continue to increase every day.”

WHO Plans to Spend $300m in Africa

WHO has also said it planned to spend $300 million to help curtail the spread of the pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It unfolded the plan during an online media briefing with experts from WHO, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the World Economic Forum on COVID-19 in Africa.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Moeti, said: “The situation currently in Africa is that we have now reported over 17,000 cases and we know that around 900 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19.
“With regard to the budget for the COVID-19 support by WHO, it is about $300 in Africa and we have 47 countries and each of the African offices has developed a plan of how they are going to work with the government locally and then we have the regional offices working on this and overall we would be needing $300 million for the next four to six months to support what countries are doing.”

Dangote-led Flood Committee Donates N1.5bn

The Presidential Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Committee set up in 2012 by the federal government and led by the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has announced a donation of N1.5 billion to curtail the virus spread.
Announcing the donation on Wednesday after an emergency meeting, Dangote said it had become imperative for all well-meaning Nigerians to help the federal government in fighting the virus.
He said: “The reality of the pandemic has set in now in Nigeria and all hands must be on deck to save our country from its attendant crisis. So far, so good, we need to sustain the momentum and ensure that we curtail the spread.”
The mandate of the committee was to provide support for flood victims, and by extension, similar related disaster relief situation in the country.

Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Son Dies of COVID-19 in UK

Meanwhile, Menegian, one of the children of the late environmental and Ogoni activist, Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa, has died of COVID-19 at a London hospital.
Menegian was 50 at the time of his death.

Sister to the deceased, Noo, made the announcement in a Facebook post yesterday
She wrote: “We said goodbye to my brother, Gian, on Monday.

“He had COVID-19 combined with underlying health conditions.

“Gian was the smartest and most talented out of all of us: a champion sprinter at school, a poet, an artist, budding engineer, a self-taught guitarist, and pianist. But mental health issues limited his life from age 16 onwards.”

THURSDAY 16TH 2020

Nigeria Records 35 New Cases of COVID-19

Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded 35 new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 442 the total number of confirmed cases in the country.

Announcing this Thursday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Lagos recorded 19 new cases, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) nine, Kano five and Oyo two.

It said: “As at 10:20 pm on April 16, there are 442 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. 152 have been discharged with 13 deaths.”

Breakdown of the figures show that Lagos has 251 cases, FCT 67, Kano 21, Osun 20, Edo 15, Oyo 13, Ogun nine, Katsina seven, Ogun, Kaduna and Akwa Ibom six each, Kwara and Delta four each, Ondo three, Enugu, Ekiti, Rivers and Niger two each, while Benue and Anambra have one each

COVID-19: Osinbajo Chairs Economic Sustainability Committee Meeting

The Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC) has held its third meeting, chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

The Committee which was established by President Muhammadu Buhari, continued on the responsibility bestowed on them to come up with a plan to turn the current challenges from COVID-19 pandemic to real opportunities for Nigerians by setting the economy on a solid footing.

According to the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, the ESC is working on various ways and means to support each sector of the economy, providing for each sector clear interventions that will be designed for the primary purpose of creating jobs and ensuring that businesses stay afloat during these difficult times.

“The committee are also working in the next couple of days to finalize our report and submit to his Excellency the President.”, she said.

The assessment of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which was adopted by the International Monetary Fund, indicated that Nigeria will go into recession.

Ahmed added that “if we take all these measures that we are planning now, we will be able to by 2021 go back into positive growth, that is why this is very important.”

Recall that, the President already announced a stimulus package of N500 billion.

The ESC will however suggest to the president how the fund would be used and the subsequent interventions which will be rolled out when the multilateral institutions contribute to the existing funds.

Earlier, the Spokesman to the Vice President, Mr. Laolu Akande, on his official tweeter handle: “The 3rd meeting of the Economic Sustainability Committee just ended moments ago, VP Osinbajo presiding. The ESC, established by President Buhari plans turning current challenges from COVID-19 pandemic to real opportunities for Nigerians by setting our economy on a solid footing.”

Members of the committee present include: Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq; and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, amongst others.

Lagos Discharges Five More COVID-19 Patients

The Lagos State Government has discharged five more COVID-19 patients, bringing to 90 the total number of successfully treated persons in the state.

Announcing this Thursday, the Incident Commander on COVID-19 in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said three of the discharged patients were females while two were males.

He said: “This brings to 90, the number of patients successfully managed and discharged from our isolation facilities.”

Covid-19: Abiodun’s Wife Extends Relief Items to Children

By Kayode Fasua

Wife of the Ogun State governor, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun, has observed that children, as a component part of the family, are also not insulated from the attendant socio-economic limitations brought about by the lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

She made the observation on Wednesday in Abeokuta, while reaching out to children in the distribution of palliatives to cushion the effects of the lockdown.

Mrs. Abiodun, according to a statement by her media aide, Mrs. Kemi Oyeleye, has so far distributed relief items such as noodles, biscuits, juice, exercise books, lunch boxes, and school bags, among others, to children across the 20 local government areas of the state.

During her team’s visit to the residence of Master Segun Olutokun, an 11-year-old boy in Oke Ilewo, Abeokuta, Mrs. Abiodun, represented by the wife of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mrs. Omolola Osota, presented the gifts to the beneficiary, who expressed surprise at the gesture.

The team was also at the residences of Miss Modupe Kayode, 10, Itunsoko, Ilisan, Ikenne Local Government Area; and Master IleriOluwa Sosanya, 11, Agaro, Isara, Remo North Local Government Area, to present the same items on behalf of Mrs. Abiodun.

“In all the places visited, the children as well as their parents, expressed surprise at the presence of the team of the First Lady at their residences, and were full of appreciation to her and prayed for the success of the present administration.

“The 20 local government areas of the state were also not left out, as chairpersons of the various local government areas were given quantities of the packaged items for distribution to children in their areas,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Abiodun equally distributed relief items to widow groups registered with the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.

Receiving the items on behalf of the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development for the groups, the Director, Women Empowerment Services, Mrs. Bolanle Fadairo, lauded the efforts of Mrs. Abiodun at ameliorating the hardship faced by women, particularly widows in the state, while praying that God would continue to use her to impact more lives in the state.

Representatives of the groups, which included Pillar of Life Widows Foundation and NASFAT Widows Foundation, Abeokuta Branch, unanimously appreciated Mrs. Abiodun for always caring for their needs and particularly remembering them at this period of the lockdown.

Covid-19: Private Hospitals in Osun not Allowed to Admit, Treat Patients, Says Commissioner

By Yinka Kolawole

The Osun State Government has restated its warning that private hospitals in the state are not allowed to admit and treat suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients.

The state Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs Funke Egbemode, who gave the warning via a public announcement on Thursday, stated that non-adherence to the directive would attract prosecution by the state government.

Egbemode disclosed that the state government has accredited health facilities with required personnel to treat suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients in the state.

“The state government of Osun has reiterated that private hospitals across the state are NOT ALLOWED to treat COVID-19 patients, whether suspected or confirmed.

“The state has recognised, accredited and adequate government facilities with the required personnel to take care of patients, whether suspected or confirmed, at its isolation and care centres. Testing and treatment are free in all government facilities,” she said.

The commissioner noted that any attempt to treat COVID-19 patients in private facilities would only open the state to community infections and negate all the sacrifices people of the state had made so far.

COVID-19: UN Office in Nigeria Takes Delivery of Vital Health Supplies

By Michael Olugbode

The United Nations office in Nigeria has taken delivery of vital health supplies for the ongoing fight against coronavirus pandemic in the country.

In a statement on Thursday by the UN Nigeria office, it said: “The United Nations today [Thursday] received delivery of vital health supplies to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria on a flight funded by APM Terminals.

“The supplies, made up of 10,000 test kits, 15 oxygen concentrators and various personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccines, IEHK/PEP kits, and other vital health supplies, will support the Nigerian Government’s COVID-19 Response Plan and UNICEF’s work with children and families in Nigeria.”

According to the statement, “The supplies will also support the Government of Nigeria, through the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), to prevent and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in affected states across the country. The supplies are co-financed by the European Union (EU) and IHS Nigeria, the Nigerian subsidiary of IHS Towers.

“Additional COVID-19 response supplies are expected in a UN joint flight to be delivered to Nigeria in the coming days.

“The personal protection equipment (PPEs) will protect medical personnel and ancillary staff who are the first responders in the frontline, providing care and treatment to people affected by the virus. The test kits will enable healthcare workers to test those who suspect they may have the virus to verify their health status, so they can get treatment and protect their families and communities.”

The statement quoted Edward Kallon, the UN’s Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, to have said: “We know that to limit the spread of the virus, it is important to test as many people as possible, especially those with recent travel history and those who came into contact with travellers. These test kits will support Nigeria’s drive to control the transmission of COVID-19 infections and support the government’s ongoing strong efforts to protect the country from an escalating pandemic.”

The statement recalled that since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria in late February, the UN has been supporting the Government of Nigeria to respond to the pandemic through risk communications and community engagement, infection prevention and control, epidemiology/surveillance and management of coronavirus cases.

It said: “Working with government and other partners, the UN is developing and disseminating messages, infographics, and audio-visual material informing the public about the risks of COVID-19 across the country, and how to protect oneself.

“Working closely together with the government and other partners, including the private sector is the surest way of preventing and containing the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful for the support of the EU and IHS in getting these vital supplies to strengthen the UN’s efforts in helping the Government of Nigeria to address the COVID-19 challenge.”

UNECA: COVID-19 can Kill over 300,000 in Nigeria, Other African Countries

* Foresees 2.6% economic contraction in 2020

* Recommends $200bn for economic stimulus, social safety response

By Gboyega Akinsanmi

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has warned that the pandemic could claim between 300,000 and 3.3 million lives in Nigeria and other African countries if adequate protection measures are not taken.

UNECA, one of the regional commissions the UN created to promote the development of its member states, also warned that the impact of COVID-19 could, on aggregate, lead to a 2.6 per cent contraction of African economies in addition to the cost of human lives.

The commission gave the warning in a 48-page report THISDAY obtained from its Corporate Communications Office Thursday, recommending that Africa, as a whole, would need $100 billion as a health and social safety net response and another $100 billion as an emergency economic stimulus.

The report, which is titled ‘COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies,’ will be unveiled in Addis Ababa Friday by UNECA’s Executive Secretary, Dr. Vera Songwe, and Director, Regional Integration and Trade Division, Dr. Stephen N. Karingi.

According to the report, anywhere between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives as a direct result of COVID-19, depending on the intervention measures taken to stop the spread.

It justified its forecast on the ground that Africa “is particularly susceptible because 56 per cent of the urban population is concentrated in overcrowded and poorly serviced slum dwellings (excluding North Africa) and only 34 per cent of the households have access to basic hand washing facilities”.

It also said 71 per cent of Africa’s workforce “is informally employed, and most of those cannot work from home. Close to 40 per cent of children under five years of age in Africa are undernourished”.

Of all the continents, the report observed that Africa “has the highest prevalence of certain underlying conditions, like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

“With lower ratios of hospital beds and health professionals to its population than other regions, high dependency on imports for its medicinal and pharmaceutical products, weak legal identity systems for direct benefit transfers, and weak economies that are unable to sustain health and lockdown costs, the continent is vulnerable”.

The report also explained the outcome of this ugly trend on Africa’s shared prosperity, forecasting that the impact on African economies could be the slowing of growth to 1.8 per cent in the best-case scenario or a contraction of 2.6 per cent in the worst case.

Aside, the report warned that the pandemic “has the potential to push 27 million people into extreme poverty. Even if the spread of COVID-19 is suppressed in Africa, its economic damage will be unavoidable”.

“The price of oil, which accounts for 40 per cent of Africa’s exports, has halved, and major African exports such as textiles and fresh-cut flowers have crashed,” UNECA said in its report.

The UN body observed: “Tourism, which accounts for up to 38 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of some African countries, has effectively halted, as has the airline industry that supports it. Collapsed businesses may never recover.

“Without rapid response, governments risk losing control and facing unrest. To protect and build towards our shared prosperity, at least $100 billion is needed to immediately resource a health and social safety net response.

“Another $100 billion is critical for economic emergency stimulus, including a debt standstill, the financing of a special purpose vehicle for commercial debt obligations, and provision of extra liquidity for the private sector.”

The report emphasised the interconnectivity of African economies, which it argued, should be effectively deployed to curtail the spread of COVID-19 and its associated consequences.

The report noted that African economies “are interconnected: our response must bring us together as one. The development finance institutions must at this time play an unprecedented counter-cyclical role to protect the private sector and save jobs”.

“We must keep trade flowing, particularly in essential medical supplies and staple foods, by fighting the urge to impose export bans. Intellectual property on medical supplies, novel testing kits and vaccines must be shared to help the continent’s private sector take its part in our response.

“The level of assistance that is required is unprecedented. Innovative financing facilities are needed, including a complete temporary debt standstill, enhanced access to emergency funding facilities, and the provision of liquidity lines to the private sector in Africa.

“We must build back better by ensuring that there is an abiding climate consciousness in the rebuilding and by leveraging the digital economy.

“We must be firm and clear on good governance to safeguard African health systems, ensure proper use of emergency funds, hold African businesses from collapse and reduce worker lay-offs,” the report recommended.

FG to Shut down Unaccredited Hospitals Treating COVID-19 

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

Federal government has warned that it would henceforth take steps to close any hospital that goes into treatment of Covid-19 patient without proper accreditation.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who gave the warning during the media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 on Thursday, said the focus now is to carry out more community testing and social mobilisation at the grassroots to ensure physical distancing.

He said that government will push out more messages and advisories on the use of masks or improvised face coverings like handkerchiefs or scarves for the mouth and nose, to reduce risk of transmission.

“I shall use this opportunity to again strongly advise health professionals against private or secret management of people who have COVID-19 outside of accredited health facilities. We cannot afford avoidable morbidity and mortality.

“Private facilities must obtain accreditation to treat this highly infectious disease. Practitioners engaging in unauthorised treatment of COVID-19, run the risk of being shut down for decontamination,” he said.

The minister described the latest Covid-19 fatality that occured in Lagos which claimed the life of a medical professional, as very unfortunate.

He said that this was why government had been consistent in cautioning health workers to adhere to all instructions and regulations and to always utilise personal protective equipment (PPE); while maintaining a high index of suspicion for COVID-19.

“I want to express my condolences to the family. This highlights the risk to health workers in this COVID-19 response. Patients with mild symptoms are still very highly infectious, and mild symptoms in one person could be deadly infection in another. “That is why we recommend the suspension of close contact between grandchildren and grandparents, at this time. Our valuable health workers are urged to adhere to all government instructions and regulations; always utilise personal protective equipment (PPE); maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19; and protect yourselves, your loved ones and your colleagues,” he said.

Ehanire gave an update on the rate of spread of the Coronavirus as at noon on Thursday as 407 confirmed cases with 99 persons discharged from treatment centres after testing negative twice.

“As of today, 16th of April, 2020, a total of 407 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19, 99 patients have been discharged and 12 deaths have been recorded in Nigeria, all with comorbidities. The 34 new cases confirmed are distributed as follows: 18 in Lagos, 12 in Kano, 2 in Katsina, and 1 each in Delta and Niger States,” he said.

The minister said the national testing capacity had been increased to 3,000 per day in 13 molecular laboratories nationwide activated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

He further said that the target this week was to significantly increase the national testing capacity further, adding that two more laboratories are scheduled to come on stream in Borno and Sokoto states.

Ehanire again stated that the revised case definition for testing includes all patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, contacts of people confirmed to have COVID-19, with fever and respiratory tract symptoms and persons with fever and respiratory tract symptoms of unknown cause.

On concerns about stigmatization, the minister said that COVID-19 outbreak had provoked social stigma and discrimination against anyone thought to have been in contact with the virus as well as people of certain backgrounds.

He regretted that those with the disease, their caregivers, family, friends and communities, were often labelled, stereotyped, discriminated against, and treated poorly because of a disease.

The minister said that stigma could prompt social isolation of persons or groups and drive people to hide the illness, thus preventing them from seeking health care immediately.

“This could cause a situation where the virus is more likely to spread and increase the difficulty of controlling the COVID-19 outbreak. We must not stigmatise persons who have recovered from COVID-19,” he said.

The Director General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu in his briefing cautioned Nigerians to stop acts of stigmatization against persons that test positive to Covid-19.

He appealed to Nigerians not to cast aspersion or deride people infected with Covid-19 as such behaviour was capable of derailing efforts of the government to drastically curtail the disease.

“If indeed Nigerians are desirous of getting over the present situation and allowing businesses to return to normalcy, then everyone will have play their role in encouraging and supporting persons with proven symptoms to go and get tested,” he said.

Regarding the rate of testing for the virus, Ihekweazu said that NCDC had so far tested 7,000 persons in the country since the outbreak.

He said that the centre will be issuing weekly totals every Friday evening to keep Nigerians updated on the progress made to test all suspected cases of Covid-19 infection and their contacts.

NCDC boss also said that the centre was making efforts to improve on the speed and testing capacity in the next few days, adding that two more laboratories in Borno and Sokoto will be activated to bring the total number of the facilities to 15 across the country.

Speaking on the new policy on use of face mask, Ihekweazu said that going forward government will ensure that people wear face masks for protection while at public places like the market where practice of social distancing may not be practicable.

Liquidity, Safety of Staff Top Nigeria Businesses COVID-19 Concerns

By Ndubuisi Francis

Businesses in Nigeria have identified liquidity and the safety of their staff among the most pressing business needs they are concerned about as they grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 These are some of the findings from a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoppers (PwC) Nigeria.

The survey findings were revealed during a recent webinar hosted by the firm, on the economic implications and policy responses to COVID-19.  The survey had about 3,000 respondents ranging from managers to CEOs and business owners. 

Asked what their top business concerns were, 22.5 per cent cited liquidity–the availability of immediate cash to pay bills especially following disruption to business activities that has been experienced.

 This was followed by Safety of staff at 15.4 pwr cent, which is an impressive indication that Nigerian businesses have a people focus and were not only concerned about their profitability. 

The third significant business concern identified was infrastructure for remote working (14.6 per cent) further buttressing the need for access to electricity and internet connectivity.

Providing the results of the findings, Taiwo Oyedele, Fiscal Policy Partner and West Africa Tax leader at PwC noted that most businesses (78.4 per cent) do not plan to lay off staff as a result of the crisis.

 This presents a very positive picture. However, decisions on staff retention are often top management decisions and it could mean that a good percentage of respondents may not be privy to such plans by their organisations. 

The other 21.6 per cent admit that they will lay off various percentages of staff as a consequence of the pandemic.  Of this group however, 55.3 per cent do not think government intervention will influence their decision on laying off staff with the rest indicating they would retain their employees if government’s intervention were able to take care of varying percentages of their staff wage bill.

 As part of its societal impact, PwC has indicated that it would provide free business continuity support services to small businesses employing between 5 to 50 employees who undertake to retain all their staff during this period.

It would appear that the much needed investments to stimulate growth and move the needle on poverty will be greatly impacted as a result of the COVID-19 crisis as 56.7 per cent of respondents indicated that they will delay investment decisions while 19.4 per cent stated that they would invest less.

Majority of the survey respondents think that governments interventions have either been grossly inadequate (23.8 per cent) or inadequate (43.9 per cent) with 17.5 per cent expressing indifference to what government has done up to the date of the survey. 

Only 14.4 per cent agreed that government’s intervention has met their expectations. 

This provides a clear message to government both at the federal and state levels pointing either to the need to do more, or to better communicate what is being done already to help shape public perception. 

Among the top two areas that respondents believe government’s intervention should be focused include tax relief (30 per cent), provision of loans at zero or low interest rate (29.3 per cent), and cash transfer to the poor (16.9 per cent).

Overall, the businesses surveyed agree that the private sector has a role to play in supporting government’s fight against Covid-19 with 85.5 per cent suggesting that they are best suited to provide support in the area of provision of items, equipment and facilities compared to only 10.7 per cent  who will consider donating cash to government.

Dirty Naira Notes and Covid-19

By Debola Osibogun

As the COVID -19 pandemic continues to spread across the globe with devastating effects on the global economy, the world must now than ever before unite to fight the unseen enemy. The COVID-19 virus has more than any other disease in recent history affected humanity with millions of people losing jobs and billions confined to their homes. The Virus has isolated man and indeed created cities without people. In Nigeria, the government needs to treat the pandemic very seriously and ensure it leaves no stone unturned in finding a lasting solution.

A lot of attention has been placed on social distancing and good hygiene as immediate solutions to curbing the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. Though these solutions seem to be preventing a drastic spike in the infection curve, embarking on social distancing and maintaining good personal hygiene as strategies cannot totally eradicate the Virus. Recent studies show the COVID-19 Virus can survive 48 hours on surfaces which implies that even if you keep a social distance and maintain good personal hygiene by merely coming in contact with a surface touched by an infected person you are likely to be exposed to the virus. This write-up pays special attention on how to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus while transacting with a focus on how the virus can be spread through the exchange of banknotes. A recent study by (F.Vriesekoop et al 2010 ‘Dirty Money: an investigation into the hygiene status of some of the worlds currencies as obtained from food outlets”) shows that a lot of banknotes worldwide are filthy and ridden with bacteria.

The study which looks at banknotes from countries like United States of America, Burkina Faso and United Kingdom and Nigeria suggests a correlation between the number of bacteria present on a banknote and the economic prosperity of the country. It confirmed that the bacteria found present on the Nigerian Naira was much more than that present on the United States dollar. The study also emphasised that bacteria was more prevalent on lower denomination notes because they are more widely used. In addition, a connection was made between the volume of bacteria present on banknotes and the material used to make the currency. i.e. banknotes made of polymer had less presence of bacteria than cotton made banknotes.

If the COVID-19 virus which spreads via droplets of an infected individual can survive upward of 72 hours outside the human body then it risks being spread through banknotes while transacting business. Considering that Nigeria is a predominantly cash based economy this is something that needs to be taken very seriously by the government. The Chinese in suspecting the spread of COVID-19 by banknotes have began sterilising banknotes from COVID-19 prone areas with ultraviolet heat treatment. Given the volume of cash transactions in Nigeria one can only conclude that the country runs a greater risk of the virus spreading via banknotes if the infection rate in the country is not curbed. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should pay attention to the banknotes in the days ahead if we are to win the battle against the COVID-19 virus.

As at the 10th of April 2020 the number of cases reported by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) states that the country has recorded 310 cases majority of them in Lagos state. If this situation escalates further the CBN might want to refresh banknotes and do a more aggressive promotion of its cashless policy. The current situation presents a perfect opportunity for the CBN to get a further buy in from the populace into its cashless policy thereby increasing financial inclusion. Payment modes that limit direct contact with physical cash (online banking and mobile banking) should be promoted more aggressively during this period.

Consumer Awareness and Financial Enlightenment Initiative (CAFEi), a non for profit organization focused on Research, Enlightenment, Advocacy for Consumer Protection with primary objectives to aid consumers in making safe, accurate and informed decisions on goods and services in all facets, including the Banking and Finance industry on previous occasions had called upon the CBN to commence the mopping up of dirty banknotes in circulation because of the impact it has on inflation, trade and the image of the country.

The advent of COVID-19 is yet another reason that CAFEi is calling on the CBN to revisit the matter again. This call is even more critical as it is a call to save humanity. CBN the call to action is now.

*Otunba Debola Osibogun is President, Consumer Awareness and Financial Enlightenment Initiative (CAFEi)

COVID-19: Call to Make a Difference

By Idris Aregbe

Coronavirus came like a bolt from the blues. No one saw it coming, and even where scientists predicted an ominous pandemic, governments that have always been at the forefront of nipping such potential disasters in the bud, were numbed by exertions and postulations of superiority on political and economic terrains.

There is no doubt that economies are hibernating, interest rates have fallen to lowest possible levels, millions of jobs are projected to be lost, people are dying in rates only comparable to wartime situations, families and friends are being separated, the best hospitals and health care facilities in the world are crumbling under the weight of overflowing casualties. All over the world the figures are increasing and here in Nigeria we listen to updates twice daily with frayed nerves.

A partial lockdown in our dear Lagos came into force a week before a total lockdown was announced by President Buhari to begin Monday March 30.  With 19 states of the Federation affected by the virus, different States have adopted different measures at curtailing economic activities. Some are on partial lockdown, some have imposed curfews, while some are even opening up their economies.

The reality of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja has gradually played out in more ways than imagined or thought of, as more and more Nigerians find it excruciating staying locked in their homes with no food to eat and other essential needs, even with their dire necessity at this time and the traditional epileptic power supply which otherwise could have kept people more comfortable and also abreast with crucial information in the Covid-19 fight.

In the face of the lockdown, there have been agitations where people have expressed their annoyance with the government for ordering a lockdown without appropriate cushions to mitigate its effects. The worst part of the lockdown perhaps is the reported cases of daylight looting by miscreants and robbery by night marauders, incidents which have rocked parts of Lagos and Ogun States, turning residents into vigilante groups at night to ward off robbers, leaving others with one eye open while asleep.

These acts of thievery are totally unacceptable and must not be condoned, even with the fact that palliatives and other measures announced to cushion the stricture of the lockdown by the Federal Government are hardly felt by the larger society, over 70% of whom work in the informal sector and have to fend daily for their survival. The situation also underscores the urgent need to put quite a few things right in our country, and in alignment with acceptable global standards; for example, our health care facilities. It is time to seriously ponder automating processes of governance in the country. If the country had a comprehensive data base, at a time of emergency such as now, it would have made for easier, methodical and successful planning and implementation of whatever palliatives to dish out before locking down the country or more specifically the states locked down. As it were however, with an extension of the lockdown for another two weeks until April 27, and with the waning hope of most Nigerians on the Federal Government to provide any reasonable relief, it does not cut a comfortable picture.

The motive behind the Lagos State government’s palliatives was of good intention and way ahead, it must be said. The administration of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has been at the forefront of the fight and the model that other governments have emulated in the Covid-19 fight. Indeed the effort of the Lagos State governor and his team in trying to ameliorate the bite of the lockdown must be commended, perhaps with little reservation in having the agents of distribution make the initiative work by good and selfless distribution.

At this point it is imperative to note that this fight goes beyond the government. The food distributors themselves and everyone involved in midwifing palliatives to the people must be honest and selfless in their approach and do the right thing, the right way. The effort of Nigerians at showing care and love is praiseworthy, even though the intention of some is just to get attention. In any case, It is not just a fight that demands support from only the Otedolas’ Dangotes’, Alakijas’ the Adenugas’ or Elumelus’ but also from the Yahayas’, Demolas’, the Uches’, Yetundes’etc. It demands all hands to be on deck. Every community has varying levels of wealthy people; while some have truly been showing care and love, more others need to be compassionate to the poor lot around them, as well as those who may not be considered poor but are in dire straits at this moment due to the pandemic.

Throughout history, every lifetime comes with its peculiar crisis or challenge, often requiring the efforts and contributions of every citizen to overcome. Covid-19 happens to be the crisis we face today, which requires the patriotic zeal of every Nigerian in the effort to put it behind us and move on with our normal lives. It may be likened to watching a horror movie, patiently waiting for ‘the end. Everyone is in a certain degree of fear and no one knows when it will end. That ending requires everyone to step up and contribute their quota and help in taking this war headlong.

While over 70% of Nigerians live from hand-to-mouth on less than $1 daily, many workers in the semi-private and SME’s sectors are yet to be paid their wages for March, as some employers are taking cover under the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, these people cannot stock up on food or other essentials, which all project deep concerns about the financial implications of the lockdown.

It is important to note that every country has different structures and capacities, and are also being hit by the virus in different ways, with some highly hit and some not as bad. Many nations of the world have risen from the desolation of adversity to attain remarkable heights of greatness. This pandemic being a time of solitude and introspection for many, without doubt offers a world of lessons to individual citizens as well as leaders and governments, but it might well be said that, only the wise ones however, will be able to pull out some lessons from this unprecedented disaster.

It is a time different people are taking solace from different things to stay happy. While some find happiness with their phones, some cannot even turn on their phones. While some cannot afford data, some others are dealing with network and other related issues. While some don’t mind staying indoors, others love it out in the daylight. Much as some would prefer physical engagement with people, others find the isolation a time for reflections and re-arranging their priorities. It’s just a case of different folks, different strokes.

There are businesses that are making great profit at this time as well as those which are grounded. I have been in touch with a number of people in the last three weeks and I know friends who can afford to eat more than three square meals daily and others who are having difficulty having one per day. I have spoken with some friends to whom N500 only means a lot to at this time and to others to whom N50,000 is nothing to. I have seen families left in anguish with nothing to fall back on, worsened by the fact that they cannot step out. I see 24 hours running like 72 hours daily.

Apparently, a lot of people are increasingly getting despondent. It is therefore a time that well meaning individuals, corporate and responsible citizens should show some level of responsibility, in complementing government’s efforts at defeating this enemy, not just for the government, but for us all.

Our campaign at staying home and staying safe implies a directive for people with homes. However, how about those without homes? These people are also our brothers and sisters who need our support and help, and there couldn’t be a more opportune time for that than now.

As a nation, we must rise up and help ourselves. It is not the fight of the government alone. The government has set the ball rolling so, we must stand firm, continuing to follow all given directives to ensure a successful curbing of the virus; we should reach out in genuine love to one another. This goes beyond just donating money to the government, but also looking and touching areas that the lives of ordinary Nigerians could be impacted the most. You might just be doing it for your own good.

As Mrs Ibukun Awosika, who has also stepped out on this issue rightly coins it, “every one of us holds a piece of what is required to build the right world where we can all survive.” That piece in your hand might just be the needed bit to make the difference in lives of the needy at this challenging time.

I dearly hope that we’ll learn some lessons in the aftermath of this pandemic and become even more united than ever. I also use this opportunity to implore security operatives drafted to enforce the lockdown not to get trigger-happy or assault innocent Nigerians who are going through a lot right now, but to remain friendly while carrying out their lawful assignment.

We’re all in this together, Together we’ll end this pandemic, Together we’ll be stronger, Together we can reset our minds on the paths of genuine patriotism, and Together in love against Covid-19, victory is sure.

As a responsible citizen with burden for the future of Nigeria, I am willing and ready to play my part. So, likewise, rise up and play your part to make a difference.

*Aregbe, Convener of Culturati, writes from Lagos.

FG Inaugurates Post COVID-19 Committee to Chart Sustainable Path for Economic Devt 

By James Emejo

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo, Thursday disclosed that a post COVID-19 Industry, Trade and Investment Sustainability Committee had been set up to review the ministry’s “goals and propose strategic adjustments after applying lessons learnt and recommendations from the COVID-19 outbreak”.

He said the move was in line with the recent direction by President Muhammadu Buhari in a national broadcast.

The minister said in order to ensure that the economy adapts to new reality, his ministry will henceforth collaborate with the Ministries of Communication and Digital Economy; Science and Technology; Transportation and Aviation, Interior, Health, Works and Housing, Labour and Employment as well as Education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a Nigerian economy functioning with COVID-19.

He noted that the committee, as directed by Buhari will be supported by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and the Economic Sustainability Committee in executing its mandate.

Adebayo spoke at his weekly update on the performance of the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) of the Committee on Sustainable Production and Delivery of Essential Commodities During COVID-19 in Abuja.

He said the federal government was currently working assiduously to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 lockdown through sustainable production, transportation and distribution of essential products including food, medical, pharmaceutical and agro-allied products so as to continue unhindered throughout the period of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

He further noted that despite initial challenges faced as a result of inter-state border closure by some state governors, the ministry is constantly engaging relevant stakeholders to ensure free-flow of essential cargo within the country and at the ports of arrival.

In a statement by Deputy Director, Press, FMITI, Mr. Ibrahim Haruna, he further commended the efforts of EOC members in their prompt response in resolving incidents that will hinder the free flow of essential commodities adding that they have not only done well in representing the ministry but had also been proactive in projecting it as well as representing the ministry at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID- 19 .

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Mariam Katagum, said the committee had received a total number of 55 requests for intervention across the country, noting that 54 had been resolved at the level of the committee.

She added that 68 per cent of these interventions were logistics related, while about 20 per cent are market intelligence issues “where we have been able to pair supply and demand to keep production afloat.

Other requests had to do with direct manufacturing operations and some requests were retail related”.

 

Ogun Purchases Special Laboratory to Fight Coronavirus

By Kayode Fasua

The Ogun State Government has announced that it has purchased a molecular laboratory, as part of efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the country.

A molecular laboratory is where tests are conducted to check for certain genes, proteins, or other molecules in a sample of tissue, blood, or other body fluids, and it is central to the detection and treatment of coronavirus, medical experts have affirmed.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), there are five such laboratories in the country with capacity to test for COVID 19, and they are located in Lagos (2), Ede in Osun State, Edo, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Ogun State will be the first state to set up its independent laboratory for the diagnosis of coronavirus.

In a statement Thursday, the state Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, said the molecular laboratory would be unveiled during the period of the current lockdown, at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Sagamu, where finishing touches were being put into making it operational.The governor had, while declaring open two isolation centres in the state, promised to establish a biomedical laboratory so that tests of suspected cases in the state could be done without going to Lagos, Ede or Abuja.

“When unveiled, it will minimise the test turnaround time, which currently, is between three and five days and fast-track the treatment of positive cases.

“It will also reduce the period of apprehension and anxiety for those suspected of infection and their relations,” the governor said.

Meanwhile, the state government has also said it is contemplating “a review of the relaxation window for people of the state, during the 14-day lockdown recently ordered by the federal government”.

On Tuesday, in his first official response to the national broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Abiodun enjoined residents of Ogun State to endure the 14-day extension of the lockdown.
To strike a delicate balance of need for public safety and welfare of the citizenry, the current window of relaxation of the lockdown in the state from 7.00am to 2.00pm, will follow the same pattern of last week.
“That is, it will still be available for this Wednesday (15th April) and Friday (17th April, 2020).

“However, the government is reviewing the current window to enable citizens and residents restock on food items and conduct essential businesses during the period of the extended lockdown announced by the president,” Abiodun disclosed.

Covid-19: CSOs Urge FG to Provide Bailout Funds for States
By Francis Sardauna
The Concerned Civil Society Organisations in Katsina State have called on the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, provide bailout funds for state governments to fight the coronavirus pandemic currently ravaging the country.
The state Chairman of the organizations, Mr. Bishir Dauda Katsina, who disclosed this on Thursday while briefing journalists, said the bailout funds should be given with conditions that would ensure transparency, accountability and justice.
He said: “It is unjust to give Lagos State N10 billion while denying other states of the federation.”
The chairman of the organisations explained that people’s livelihoods are being threatened as a result of the lockdown and numerous families are facing starvation, thereby sinking into abject poverty.
According to him, “The so-called palliative measure of federal government is nothing to write home about. It is discriminatory, inadequate and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs that handles the coordination and distribution of relief materials is insensitive to the loud cry of Nigerians. It is neither transparent nor accountable.
“Daura town has been under lockdown for days and yet, they have not got any succour from all the three tiers of government. This is unfortunate, we are bewildered with this indifference of government towards the suffering of the citizens.”
He, therefore, admonished the Katsina State government to provide adequate relief materials for the people of Daura and other residents of the state with immediate effect in order to cushion their hardship.

Kano Records First Coronavirus Death, Confirmed Cases Rise to 21

By Ibrahim Shuaibu

Kano state government has confirmed that one person has died of coronavirus in the state.

The State Government disclosed this in the early hours of Thursday.

The ministry of health also said on its twitter handle Thursday that it had 21 cases, with one death.

The identity of the person that died was not made public, but the state ministry of health confirmed that “As at 11:55 pm of Wednesday, 1 death of coronavirus has been recorded in Kano state”.

Earlier on Wednesday, additional five cases of coronavirus were recorded, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the state to nine before the new cases were recorded.

Kano government had on Tuesday, ordered a complete lockdown of Kano State from Thursday. The lockdown will last for seven days.

During the lockdown, there will be no movement in the State and the security agencies have been ordered to arrest anyone who violates the order.

A former diplomat who was said to have visited Lagos and Abuja was confirmed as the index case in Kano.

The former diplomat attended a wedding ceremony and a Juma’at prayer last week in Kano state.

Sule Lamido, Aides Test Negative for Coronavirus

By Ibrahim Shuaibu

Former Governor of Jigawa state, Alhaji Sule Lamido,  and  his two aides have tested negative for Coronavirus.

The former governor and his aides attended a funeral recently at Koki area of Kano city which was also attended by the Kano index case.

In a post on his facebook account on Thursday morning, Sule Lamido wrote: “MY COVID-19 LABORATORY RESULT.

“Dr Imam Wada Bello called at 5:35pm 15/4/2020 and informed me that they are through with our sample tests and our results, that is myself, driver and Orderly thankfully are ALL NEGATIVE and that he will send me the details later tonight.”

Lamido also said: “We have spoken now 11:46pm 15/4/2020 that the results will be sent in the morning.

“I still do not know how to react to the professionalism of Dr Bello and his team or to the hundreds msg’s of prayers and goodwill on my Facebook wall or to over a thousand text msg’s of prayers on my MTN number from across all religious, tribal, regional, political, racial or any divide! Only Allah the most merciful most benevolent can make this happen!

“For now or any time I do not have the language, in art or mastery to convey to each and every one the depth of my feelings or emotions or gratitude.

“May Allah’s mercies and blessings protect you from any trial of whatever affliction, known or unknown!”

 

Recall that official of the National Centre for Disease Control recently advised Lamido to go into self-isolation as he awaits his COVID-19 test result.

The former Jigawa state governor was one of the dignitaries who attended a funeral at Koki on Thursday where Kano index case,  a 75-year old retired civil servant and former ambassador, was said to have mixed freely with the crowd of sympathisers.

Concerns Mount over Treatment of COVID-19 Patients by Private Hospitals

  • Doctor treating patient dies of pandemic
  • Increase contact tracing, flatten the curve, Buhari charges task force
  • FG attains 3,000 daily testing capacity, labs increase to 13
  • Expands criteria for testing, approval for treatment facility
  • Issues guidelines on use of face masks
  • Cases rise to 407 with 128 discharged, 12 deaths
  • WHO says Trump’s suspension of US aid regrettable

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

Treatment of patients suspected of contracting COVID-19 by private hospitals and other undesignated health facilities has sparked concerns about the danger to public health with many people fearing that it might undermine prevailing efforts to contain the spread of the rampaging virus.

President Muhammadu Buhari had signed COVID-19 Regulations No 2 on Monday, extending the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States, which started on March 30, by another 14 days.

In signing the regulations the president said it was necessary to ramp up the gains of the first 14 days of lockdown, which had achieved its objective of increasing the tracking, testing and treatment of cases and their contacts, admonishing Nigerians to abide by the protocols outlined by the lead agency for the containment of the virus, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The NCDC had established protocols, including that a person with symptoms of COVID-19 should approach it or state health authorities for testing and case management, admonishing citizens not to self-medicate or patronise private health care facilities but rather report to designated isolation centres built for the management of the disease.

Only on Monday, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, warned private health providers against the danger of managing COVID-19 patients in their facilities because of what he called “risk of self-infection and cross-infection.”

But THISDAY gathered that the practice of people, particularly very important personalities (VIPs) diagnosed with COVID-19 avoiding designated isolation centres and preferring undesignated private hospitals is on the increase, particularly in Lagos.

“They are endangering the lives of many other Nigerians,” a source told THISDAY last night, warning: “This may jeopardise the efforts of the government to contain the spread of the virus.”

THISDAY learnt that as a result of the pressure from COVID-19 patients who wanted private care, many private clinics and health care centres in Lagos are shutting down to avoid risks to their staff and patients.

Yesterday, the imminent danger of this unwholesome practise to health workers become real when a medical doctor, Dr. Emeka Chugbo, who had contracted the virus from a COVID-19 patient he was managing in his facility, died of the virus at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Lagos, which is also not a designated centre for the management of the virus.

The patient Chugbo was treating had died on April 3.
Confirming Chugbo’s death to THISDAY wednesday, the Chief Medical Director, LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, said the doctor was not a staff of the hospital but was rushed to the facility after he showed severe signs of the disease.

“He was brought in late so there was no much we could do. He was a staff in LUTH years back before he went to join the private sector. We learnt he had COVID-19 patients in his facility that he was treating. He may have been exposed to the virus from there.

“His death has shown what health workers are exposed to in the cause of treating COVID-19 patients. Our hearts are with his family in this trying time. It is a sad development for us.”

Investigation showed that Chugbo did his residency training at the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department in LUTH. He was at the time the Vice President of the Association of Resident Doctors in the hospital. He was also said to have worked at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) as a consultant.

Under extant regulations, only designated public facilities can handle COVID-19 cases.

Ehanire, at a press conference in Abuja, last month, said private hospitals should not treat COVID-19 cases because it was highly contagious and risky to their medical personnel and other patients.

He had urged private hospitals to refer any suspected case to the designated centres for diagnosis and treatment.

According to him, besides being highly contagious, private hospitals lack the facilities and laboratory to handle the treatment and could easily infect their staff and patients.

“Private hospital, yes, we know that private hospitals offer 50 to 60 per cent consultation to Nigerians, which is a very powerful factor and very powerful partners in the healthcare system. We know that a good number of patients first of all report to the private centres.

“Most of the private centres don’t have the facilities to treat a highly infectious disease like that and they will definitely not have a laboratory for it. But in that case, we urge private hospitals if they have suspected cases, to refer them for diagnosis. If you can hold him in isolation while getting your result, fine otherwise you can refer them right away to the centres for isolation of suspected cases; get the test done and let the patient be treated in a designated centres,” he had stated.

However, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr.

Boss Mustapha, said the federal government was considering bringing in some private hospitals to join in combating the virus.

But he added that such private hospitals would be required to seek certification from the Committee of Infectious Disease Experts to be assembled by the Federal Ministry of Health for standardisation and to ensure the safety of frontline staff and other patients.

THISDAY, however, learnt that despite the federal government’s warning, some private hospitals and other undesignated facilities have been treating COVID-19 patients and exposing their staff members and other patients to the danger of contracting the virus.

Cases Rise to 407

Meanwhile confirmed cases of the pandemic rose to 407 with the discovery of 34 new ones in the country yesterday. However, 128 cases have been discharged and twelve deaths have been recorded.
The 34 new cases, according to the NCDC are reported from five states, including Lagos 18, Kano 12, Katsina 2, Niger 1, and Delta 1.

It said a multi-sectoral national emergency operations centre (EOC), activated at Level 3 had continued to coordinate the national response activities

Lagos, Osun, Kaduna, FCT Discharge 32 More Patients

Lagos, Osun and Kaduna States as well as the FCT yesterday discharged 32 more patients.
The Lagos State Government discharged 16 more patients from its isolation centres, bringing to 85 the total number of persons successfully treated for the disease in the state.

The Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the discharged patients comprised 14 males and two females.
He said: “Among the 16 persons are three foreigners, including a Briton, Chinese and a Polish citizen.
“The patients; 14 from the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, and two from the Onikan Isolation Centre, have fully recovered and tested negative twice consecutively to COVID-19.”

FCT discharged nine additional patients from its isolation and treatment centres.
Seven patients were discharged from the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, (UATH), Gwagwalada, while two were discharged from the National Hospital, Abuja.

The latest figure of discharged patients has brought the number of COVID-19 cases now discharged in FCT to 20.
The remaining ones are clinically stable and responding well to treatment, the FCT authorities said.
The Osun State Government also announced the discharge of six more COVID-19 patients after testing negative twice for the virus following their treatment at the Isolation Centre in Ejigbo.

The Governor, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola, said via his official Twitter handle, @GboyegaOyetola yesterday that the six patients discharged were among the remaining seven Ivorian returnees.

The patients, who are among the 127 returnees have been discharged to join their families.
A total of 17 out of the 127 returnees had tested positive for the virus while 10 out of them were discharged on Saturday after testing negative twice for the virus.

The release of another six patients yesterday brought to 17, the number of patients that have been managed and discharged in Osun State.

In Kaduna State, one of the six people infected by the virus has been discharged.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Amina Baloni, said in a statement yesterday that the patient had recovered following treatment at the isolation centre in Kaduna.

She said the patient’s recovery ‘’ has been confirmed by two consecutive negative results, the second of which came yesterday, Tuesday, 14 April 2020.’’

FG Attains Testing Capacity of 3,000 Daily

Nigeria now has the capacity to carry out 3,000 COVID-19 tests daily, from 1,500.
This followed the increase in the number of testing laboratories in the country, which now stands at 13.
NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, at a press briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 yesterday in Abuja, said: “We now have the capacity of testing 3,000 per day. That capacity is not being fully utilised. That is why I focused on Lagos State and the FCT and the efforts they are putting to get more people tested and more samples in.

“The bottleneck now is not the testing, but collecting the samples from the right people and getting it into the lab.

“Ending of today, we are going to publish a testing and diagnostic strategy for the country so that everybody is aware of where we are and where we are going – short and long term. That is, how we are going to introduce the TB facilities (GeneXpert Machines), HIV testing, and how we are going to end up with one lab per state.”

FG Expands Testing Criteria for Pandemic

Also speaking at the briefing, Ehanire explained that the ministry has expanded the testing criteria to include cases with fever and respiratory tract symptoms.

According to him, “To ensure maximum utilisation of our increased testing capacity, the case definition and testing criteria have been expanded to include not only contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases with fever and respiratory tract symptoms but also all persons with fever and respiratory tract symptoms of unknown cause.
“The advent of community transmission marks the evolution of our initial strictly containment strategy. Risk communication to the public and coordination with the state level COVID-19 response preparedness groups are going to be scaled up.

“There is also an increased drive to detect cases more rapidly, especially in hotspot communities. All persons fitting the case definition are advised to first wear a mask of any type, isolate themselves from friends and family as they call the national emergency number 112, or the NCDC toll-free number 0800 9700 0010, or report to the nearest health facility for referral.”

He added that his ministry’s accreditation committee has produced guidelines to ensure that standards are maintained at all COVID-19 isolation and treatment centres.

He said: “There are three levels of isolation: Isolation 1 is for suspected cases of COVID-19 while awaiting results, this is also used to designate the mandatory quarantine facilities for those returning from abroad with negative results, or those unable to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

“Isolation 2 is for confirmed COVID-19 cases with mild or moderate symptoms, which need little to no clinical management.

“Isolation 3 is for confirmed COVID-19 cases with severe or critical symptoms, which need enhanced clinical management or intensive care.

“In Abuja, for example, the designated Isolation 3 facilities are University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH) and National Hospital, while Isolation 2 centres are located in 4 other places.”

FG Issues Guidelines on Use of Face Masks

The federal government has also issued a health advisory on the use of face masks for the containment of the COVID-19.

Ihekweazu unveiled the guidelines for the use of face masks by members of the public.
He said government recommended face mask to be used in conjunction with other safety measures such as regular hand washing, sanitisers and social distancing.

He said the federal government was making the use of face masks optional for Nigerians, adding that they can use home-made brands or even improvised ones such as clean, dry handkerchief.

He explained that a health condition for use of face mask is that it must be washed after use every day, dried and ironed before reuse.

He said that one should avoid touching the inner part of the mask while putting it on.

Ehanire also gave reasons for the government’s decision not to make the wearing of a face mask or foreign made brands compulsory, saying that it does not want Nigerians to be exploited while scrambling for branded face masks that are not enough.

He said presently some of the countries producing the face masks had shut down their companies due to the impact of the virus.

Also speaking in Abuja after a teleconference with Buhari, Mustapha said the president had enjoined the task force to ramp up contact tracing and flatten the virus curve as soon as possible.

Shippers’ Council May Waive Demurrage on Cargoes

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council is considering the granting of a waiver on the demurrage to be paid by shipping companies on cargoes that are imported into the country.
The Chairman President Task Force on COVID-19, Mustapha, said yesterday in Abuja that the discussion between the Shippers’ Council and shipping companies also centred on the consideration of the prospects of a partial reduction in the demurrage expected to be paid on the cargo, adding that a decision would soon be reached on that.
He noted that the president in his first declaration allowed that the Lagos Seaport should remain open but be guided by the quarantine processes and protocols that were put in place.
Mustapha also responded to the issue of banks shutting down and not allowing for port operators to carry out the processes of payment of duties, excise and tariffs of port costs.
He said he had a discussion with the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, on Tuesday on how to uphold the protocols signed regarding how the banks around the ports would operate during the lockdown without shutting down the economy.
“But I really understand that the Central Bank Governor went further to allow banks to open between the hours of 9 a.m. and- 2 p.m. in Apapa, where most of the transactions in the seaports are located. I believe that we will go back to discuss with him,” he added.

WHO Replies Trump, Says It’s Focused on Saving Lives

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday fired back at Trump, saying it was focused on saving lives and stopping the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

Reacting to Trump’s freezing of funding to the agency, WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, said it had done no wrong but only following the creed for which the organisation was established in 1945.

According to him, the organisation was established by nations to protect the highest attainable standard of health as one of the fundamental rights of every human being, without distinction of race, religion, and political belief, economic or social condition

Ghebreyesus said: “That creed remains our vision today.
“There is no time to waste and WHO’s singular focus is on working to serve all people to save lives and stop the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Trump had on Tuesday said he was freezing the funding of WHO, pending a review into the UN health agency’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” adding: “everybody knows what’s going on there.”

But Ghebreyesus, during a virtual briefing in Geneva, said the US had been a longstanding and generous friend to WHO and hoped the relationship would continue to be so.

“We regret the decision of the President of the United States to order a halt in funding to the World Health Organisation,” he added.

A WHO special envoy also urged critics to focus first on defeating the virus.

“There are one or two countries that seem to be quite concerned about actions that were taken early on in the pandemic … we say to everybody, we plead with everybody, look forward.

“Focus on the epic struggle right now and leave the recriminations until later,” Special Envoy David Nabarro told an online conference.

“If in the process, you decide you want to declare that you’re going to withdraw funding or make other comments about the WHO, remember this is not just the WHO, this is the whole public health community that is involved right now.

“Every single person in the world is a public health worker now, everybody is taking responsibility, everybody is sacrificing, everybody is involved,” he added.

Buhari Congratulates Johnson on Successful Recovery

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari wednesday congratulated the British Prime Minister, Mr. Boris Johnson, on his successful discharge from hospital where he was treated for COVID-19.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, said the president sent a congratulatory letter dated April 14, 2020 to Johnson.

Adesina said Buhari received with great relief the news of Jonhson’s discharge from the hospital, and expressed delight on his recovery on behalf of his family, the government and people of Nigeria.

“We all join you in appreciating the wonderful staff at both the hospital and the NHS who worked round the clock to look after you and those afflicted by Covid-19,” Buhari was quoted as saying.

The statement added that the president also wished the prime minister “full recovery and good health in the coming days.”

Enugu Discharges one COVID-19 Patient

Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu

Enugu State Government has discharged one of the two COVID-19 patients at the Isolation Centre in Enugu.

The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ik Obi announced this development in a statement he personally signed and made available to journalists last night.

He recalled that the NCDC had announced two cases of COVID 19 in Enugu that have been in isolation and receiving care.

According to him, one of them has tested negative for the virus and has been discharged.

The other person, he said is stable and responding very well to treatment.

“We encourage all persons to continue to stay home, maintain hand and respiratory hygiene, wear a facemask in line with the NCDC’s advisory and maintain physical distancing”, he said.

WEDNESDAY 15TH 2020

Breaking: Nigeria Records 34 New Cases of COVID-19, Total Now 407

By Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria has recorded 34 new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 407 the total number of confirmed cases in the country.

Announcing this Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Lagos recorded 18 new cases, Kano 12, Katsina two, while Delta and Niger recorded one each.

It said: “As at 11:20 pm on April 15, there are 407 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. 128 persons have been discharged with 12 deaths.”

Breakdown of the figures show that Lagos has 232 new cases, Federal Capital Territory 58, Osun 20, Kano 16, Edo 15, Oyo 11, Ogun nine, Katsina seven, Bauchi, Kaduna and Akwa Ibom six each, Kwara and Delta four each, Ondo three, Enugu, Ekiti, Rivers and Nigeria two each, while Benue and Anambra have one each.

Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates (I)