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Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state
Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state

Immediate past Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson shared his some of his experiences before, during and after the last governorship election in the state. He spoke to Stanley Nkwazema. Excerpts:

How did you react, when you heard the news that the Supreme Court had delivered judgement in favour of PDP?

For me, I took it as God’s way of vindicating me as a person, vindicating the position we took as a party and God’s way of preventing a major disaster that was waiting to happen in Bayelsa, because of the inadequacies of the APC candidates that were being foisted on the state and the contradictions within the APC system.

 

31′

SERIAKE DICKSON :I Took the Supreme Court Judgement as God’s Way of Vindicating Me, the Position we took as a Party

editorMarch 15, 2020 4:15 Am

Immediate past Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson shared his some of his experiences before, during and after the last governorship election in the state. He spoke to Stanley Nkwazema. Excerpts:

How did you react, when you heard the news that the Supreme Court had delivered judgement in favour of PDP?

For me, I took it as God’s way of vindicating me as a person, vindicating the position we took as a party and God’s way of preventing a major disaster that was waiting to happen in Bayelsa, because of the inadequacies of the APC candidates that were being foisted on the state and the contradictions within the APC system.

The state leader of the party had his own agenda for bringing up that contraption. It was not for the interest of Bayelsa as claimed. It was purely for his political comfort, advancement and to satisfy vested interests. Our reaction was to spontaneously give credit and glory to God. We all erupted into our usual way of praising God with songs and dances.

Everyone came crying and prostrating on the floor to God. It was spontaneous jubilation across the state, the whole country and beyond.

At this point, I want to once again appreciate the Justices of the Supreme Court and generally the Nigerian Judiciary for the boldness and courage in spite of all the harassment and intimidation, subtle and open to undermine completely the wishes of the Bayelsa people.

Do not forget that this was a process started from the Federal High Court, where the trial Judge after listening to all arguments came to this same conclusion; that the APC candidate was not truthful about his records and his past.

That he concealed very pertinent facts and issues about his past. This case wasn’t really a case of forgery, which most people wrongly claim it was. It was a case of an aspirant not telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

That is what the Electoral Act requires now; that any candidate filing for any elective post must not just speak the truth but the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you change your names, there is a column there: have you changed your name in the past? What did you fill there? That means the whole truth was not said or told? It wasn’t a case of a criminal trial or forgery.

It went up to the Court of Appeal, their Lordships at the Court of Appeal decided otherwise, and the party and our candidate went to the Supreme Court as required by the constitution of our country and the Supreme Court gave their final judgement. I commend the Judiciary for their courage and for standing up to play their constitutionally assigned roles for which they were attacked.

Some of their homes like Justice Mary Odili’s home, both in Port Harcourt and Abuja were attacked by the APC elements, instigated by their leadership. My own home and the home of Senator Diri, the new governor, the High Court, a private Library and so many homes were also attacked in Yenagoa.

That has been the brand of the APC. Don’t forget that in all of this, people must not lose sight of the fact that there was never an election, where the people of Bayelsa voted for the APC.

31′

SERIAKE DICKSON :I Took the Supreme Court Judgement as God’s Way of Vindicating Me, the Position we took as a Party

editorMarch 15, 2020 4:15 Am

Immediate past Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson shared his some of his experiences before, during and after the last governorship election in the state. He spoke to Stanley Nkwazema. Excerpts:

How did you react, when you heard the news that the Supreme Court had delivered judgement in favour of PDP?

For me, I took it as God’s way of vindicating me as a person, vindicating the position we took as a party and God’s way of preventing a major disaster that was waiting to happen in Bayelsa, because of the inadequacies of the APC candidates that were being foisted on the state and the contradictions within the APC system.

The state leader of the party had his own agenda for bringing up that contraption. It was not for the interest of Bayelsa as claimed. It was purely for his political comfort, advancement and to satisfy vested interests. Our reaction was to spontaneously give credit and glory to God. We all erupted into our usual way of praising God with songs and dances.

Everyone came crying and prostrating on the floor to God. It was spontaneous jubilation across the state, the whole country and beyond. At this point, I want to once again appreciate the Justices of the Supreme Court and generally the Nigerian Judiciary for the boldness and courage in spite of all the harassment and intimidation, subtle and open to undermine completely the wishes of the Bayelsa people.

Do not forget that this was a process started from the Federal High Court, where the trial Judge after listening to all arguments came to this same conclusion; that the APC candidate was not truthful about his records and his past. That he concealed very pertinent facts and issues about his past. This case wasn’t really a case of forgery, which most people wrongly claim it was. It was a case of an aspirant not telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

That is what the Electoral Act requires now; that any candidate filing for any elective post must not just speak the truth but the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you change your names, there is a column there: have you changed your name in the past? What did you fill there? That means the whole truth was not said or told? It wasn’t a case of a criminal trial or forgery.

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It went up to the Court of Appeal, their Lordships at the Court of Appeal decided otherwise, and the party and our candidate went to the Supreme Court as required by the constitution of our country and the Supreme Court gave their final judgement. I commend the Judiciary for their courage and for standing up to play their constitutionally assigned roles for which they were attacked.

Some of their homes like Justice Mary Odili’s home, both in Port Harcourt and Abuja were attacked by the APC elements, instigated by their leadership. My own home and the home of Senator Diri, the new governor, the High Court, a private Library and so many homes were also attacked in Yenagoa. That has been the brand of the APC. Don’t forget that in all of this, people must not lose sight of the fact that there was never an election, where the people of Bayelsa voted for the APC.

It is a lie that has been constantly told since November 16, 2019. They don’t address that fact. They are talking about three hundred and something thousand votes allocated by INEC working in conjunction with the Nigerian Army and the Police that shut down the state and came with pre-written figures to announce as results. That was what happened. There was never an election that APC won.

There is no issue in the first place of the court judgement repudiating the wishes of the people. To the contrary the position of the Supreme Court validates the real thinking and the mandate of the people of Bayelsa, who were for the PDP and our candidate, but whose votes and voices were shut down by the APC and the entire federal set up working as a team to destroy our democracy.

It is a welcome development and we thank God Almighty, the candidate himself and all of us in Bayelsa. Everyone who believes in God knows that this was a victory that God gave to us.

Many believed that your political career would have gone into oblivion if David Lyon had remained governor, following your activities in AD, Ijaw National Congress, IYC, Attorney General of the State, a two-term member of the House of Representatives, and two-term Governor of Bayelsa State, which nobody in the state has ever done before. How do you feel about that?’

Well, everyone’s life and destiny are in the hands of God. If there is one thing that this Supreme Court judgement on Bayelsa should teach everyone including myself is that God is in control of the affairs of men and He is the one who gives power to whom and at what time and how.

As a man of faith, I never lost my faith in God till the very end. Even with the shenanigans in Bayelsa and the sustained propaganda against us, we never lost faith in God.

We kept praying as we were doing every morning, every month and every year, giving God the glory for everything He does for His own purpose. God tried our faith, my faith particularly to the very last before vindicating us. This victory is therefore an act of God but having said that, no man’s destiny is the hands of fellow men. I have come a very long way in politics. I am not an appointment politician; I am not an establishment politician.

The fact that my candidate and my party were rigged and shut out by the federal system, even my party leaders, who should have stood for the party, if not for the candidate and for me. I have appointed more people than every other Bayelsa governor put together. I have supported and served people from morning to midnight every day for eight years, working for the good of our people.

31′

SERIAKE DICKSON :I Took the Supreme Court Judgement as God’s Way of Vindicating Me, the Position we took as a Party

editorMarch 15, 2020 4:15 Am

Immediate past Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson shared his some of his experiences before, during and after the last governorship election in the state. He spoke to Stanley Nkwazema. Excerpts:

How did you react, when you heard the news that the Supreme Court had delivered judgement in favour of PDP?

For me, I took it as God’s way of vindicating me as a person, vindicating the position we took as a party and God’s way of preventing a major disaster that was waiting to happen in Bayelsa, because of the inadequacies of the APC candidates that were being foisted on the state and the contradictions within the APC system.

The state leader of the party had his own agenda for bringing up that contraption. It was not for the interest of Bayelsa as claimed. It was purely for his political comfort, advancement and to satisfy vested interests. Our reaction was to spontaneously give credit and glory to God. We all erupted into our usual way of praising God with songs and dances.

Everyone came crying and prostrating on the floor to God. It was spontaneous jubilation across the state, the whole country and beyond. At this point, I want to once again appreciate the Justices of the Supreme Court and generally the Nigerian Judiciary for the boldness and courage in spite of all the harassment and intimidation, subtle and open to undermine completely the wishes of the Bayelsa people.

Do not forget that this was a process started from the Federal High Court, where the trial Judge after listening to all arguments came to this same conclusion; that the APC candidate was not truthful about his records and his past. That he concealed very pertinent facts and issues about his past. This case wasn’t really a case of forgery, which most people wrongly claim it was. It was a case of an aspirant not telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

That is what the Electoral Act requires now; that any candidate filing for any elective post must not just speak the truth but the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you change your names, there is a column there: have you changed your name in the past? What did you fill there? That means the whole truth was not said or told? It wasn’t a case of a criminal trial or forgery.

More in Home

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s Inspiring Mileage

It went up to the Court of Appeal, their Lordships at the Court of Appeal decided otherwise, and the party and our candidate went to the Supreme Court as required by the constitution of our country and the Supreme Court gave their final judgement. I commend the Judiciary for their courage and for standing up to play their constitutionally assigned roles for which they were attacked.

Some of their homes like Justice Mary Odili’s home, both in Port Harcourt and Abuja were attacked by the APC elements, instigated by their leadership. My own home and the home of Senator Diri, the new governor, the High Court, a private Library and so many homes were also attacked in Yenagoa. That has been the brand of the APC. Don’t forget that in all of this, people must not lose sight of the fact that there was never an election, where the people of Bayelsa voted for the APC.

It is a lie that has been constantly told since November 16, 2019. They don’t address that fact. They are talking about three hundred and something thousand votes allocated by INEC working in conjunction with the Nigerian Army and the Police that shut down the state and came with pre-written figures to announce as results. That was what happened. There was never an election that APC won.

There is no issue in the first place of the court judgement repudiating the wishes of the people. To the contrary the position of the Supreme Court validates the real thinking and the mandate of the people of Bayelsa, who were for the PDP and our candidate, but whose votes and voices were shut down by the APC and the entire federal set up working as a team to destroy our democracy.

It is a welcome development and we thank God Almighty, the candidate himself and all of us in Bayelsa. Everyone who believes in God knows that this was a victory that God gave to us.

Many believed that your political career would have gone into oblivion if David Lyon had remained governor, following your activities in AD, Ijaw National Congress, IYC, Attorney General of the State, a two-term member of the House of Representatives, and two-term Governor of Bayelsa State, which nobody in the state has ever done before. How do you feel about that?’

Well, everyone’s life and destiny are in the hands of God. If there is one thing that this Supreme Court judgement on Bayelsa should teach everyone including myself is that God is in control of the affairs of men and He is the one who gives power to whom and at what time and how. As a man of faith, I never lost my faith in God till the very end. Even with the shenanigans in Bayelsa and the sustained propaganda against us, we never lost faith in God.

We kept praying as we were doing every morning, every month and every year, giving God the glory for everything He does for His own purpose. God tried our faith, my faith particularly to the very last before vindicating us. This victory is therefore an act of God but having said that, no man’s destiny is the hands of fellow men. I have come a very long way in politics. I am not an appointment politician; I am not an establishment politician.

The fact that my candidate and my party were rigged and shut out by the federal system, even my party leaders, who should have stood for the party, if not for the candidate and for me. I have appointed more people than every other Bayelsa governor put together. I have supported and served people from morning to midnight every day for eight years, working for the good of our people.

The fact that some people saw that the federal government was determined to take the state by force and therefore realigned instead of standing by me and our party and our candidate and by the government was disheartening. I am used to people decamping during elections, when they see that federal might is available to help them take power. That might give a wrong notion that if APC took over, my political career would have been over.

That is not a correct assessment, because up to now, irrespective of what happened I have the greatest followership in that state, the greatest penetration, the greatest organisational capacity in that state and I have touched more lives, whether the people themselves admit it today or not, they know – the politicians, office holders, former appointees – they know the roles I have played and the people themselves in the various communities know what I have done. I have my work that is speaking for me in all critical areas – in education, in healthcare, in infrastructure, in agricultural opportunities, in law and order, in governance reforms itself.

I have employed more people into the public service in that state, I have given more scholarships, thousands of their daughters and sons are in our public schools, clothed by me, fed by my government three times a day up till now. My impact is so massive not just in Bayelsa State; I have appointed over 200 Ijaw people into the government of Bayelsa State from across all the Ijaw speaking states.

My government recognised and created more traditional stools than any other administration, Statewide traditional reforms all of them recognised, running into thousands in every community. So these are impacts, which would have been very difficult, even impossible for anybody to wipe out. Yes, the euphoria was there, the threats and blackmail were there and that was why I never bothered, I have done my job to the best of my ability, there is no decision I took as Governor that I cannot defend.

If there was anything people complained about, it wasn’t that Governor Dickson stole our money and this is where he kept it, this is what he has done with it. Nobody says I did not work. It was that everybody says I made it difficult for people to have free money, to steal money and that I committed the resources of the state to the development of the state and that is the right thing to do.

At the same time, they know that all my allowances were spent supporting them for different personal problems from morning to night and my office and homes were like market places. I have access to all classes of people. So, even if a David Lyon had taken over, yes the euphoria was there, we know the dynamics of politics, the euphoria and intoxication would have cleared, reality would have set in and the huge sense of disappointment would have been felt in the state and even among the APC chieftains. He wouldn’t have been able to meet the expectations of all those people that want to have a share of Bayelsa allocation.

The commitments they had made and the expectation that they all had from the national to the state and to various people and families, who had built personal interest into his candidacy. He was not supported to work for Bayelsa; he was supported to undermine and reverse the developments, peace and stability that were done and if possible launch personal attacks at me. Those who brought him believe in personal vendetta of politics unlike me who has never fought people beyond elections.

That is not correct. I was planning to go back to the trenches, re-organise my machine and this is not just in terms of party control.

Non-politicians focused on hijacking party structures, but those of us that understood the art of mobilising human beings, organising human beings into political formations for political contests, and warfare, which is not violence, knew what to do. We knew we have the people.

 blackmail me through propaganda in the Bayelsa election, because of my national profile, now became a national election. All of this would have helped me to launch a big comeback in a different way. As long as I remain in politics, we have a capacity to reorganise and launch together with friends and allies, a formidable political movement.

Did you actually prepare a handover note for the APC as you were leaving office?

Of course! I set up a transition committee. Most of what they were doing in terms of the state handover were state events funded by the government of Bayelsa under me. I ran a decent and honourable government and I wanted to set a standard for succeeding governments, because I am the first governor completing eight years, who had to manage a very difficult transition, the way the federal government and its agencies intervened and tried to mess up the situation and with the behaviour of some party leaders, who decided to sell out.

31′

SERIAKE DICKSON :I Took the Supreme Court Judgement as God’s Way of Vindicating Me, the Position we took as a Party

editorMarch 15, 2020 4:15 Am

Immediate past Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson shared his some of his experiences before, during and after the last governorship election in the state. He spoke to Stanley Nkwazema. Excerpts:

How did you react, when you heard the news that the Supreme Court had delivered judgement in favour of PDP?

For me, I took it as God’s way of vindicating me as a person, vindicating the position we took as a party and God’s way of preventing a major disaster that was waiting to happen in Bayelsa, because of the inadequacies of the APC candidates that were being foisted on the state and the contradictions within the APC system.

The state leader of the party had his own agenda for bringing up that contraption. It was not for the interest of Bayelsa as claimed. It was purely for his political comfort, advancement and to satisfy vested interests. Our reaction was to spontaneously give credit and glory to God. We all erupted into our usual way of praising God with songs and dances.

Everyone came crying and prostrating on the floor to God. It was spontaneous jubilation across the state, the whole country and beyond. At this point, I want to once again appreciate the Justices of the Supreme Court and generally the Nigerian Judiciary for the boldness and courage in spite of all the harassment and intimidation, subtle and open to undermine completely the wishes of the Bayelsa people.

Do not forget that this was a process started from the Federal High Court, where the trial Judge after listening to all arguments came to this same conclusion; that the APC candidate was not truthful about his records and his past. That he concealed very pertinent facts and issues about his past. This case wasn’t really a case of forgery, which most people wrongly claim it was. It was a case of an aspirant not telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

That is what the Electoral Act requires now; that any candidate filing for any elective post must not just speak the truth but the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you change your names, there is a column there: have you changed your name in the past? What did you fill there? That means the whole truth was not said or told? It wasn’t a case of a criminal trial or forgery.

More in Home

Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates

Hadiza Usman: Setting the Records Straight

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s Deposal Divides Kano Elites

APC Chief Lauds FG, LASG over Coronavirus Treatment

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s Inspiring Mileage

It went up to the Court of Appeal, their Lordships at the Court of Appeal decided otherwise, and the party and our candidate went to the Supreme Court as required by the constitution of our country and the Supreme Court gave their final judgement. I commend the Judiciary for their courage and for standing up to play their constitutionally assigned roles for which they were attacked.

Some of their homes like Justice Mary Odili’s home, both in Port Harcourt and Abuja were attacked by the APC elements, instigated by their leadership. My own home and the home of Senator Diri, the new governor, the High Court, a private Library and so many homes were also attacked in Yenagoa. That has been the brand of the APC. Don’t forget that in all of this, people must not lose sight of the fact that there was never an election, where the people of Bayelsa voted for the APC.

It is a lie that has been constantly told since November 16, 2019. They don’t address that fact. They are talking about three hundred and something thousand votes allocated by INEC working in conjunction with the Nigerian Army and the Police that shut down the state and came with pre-written figures to announce as results. That was what happened. There was never an election that APC won.

There is no issue in the first place of the court judgement repudiating the wishes of the people. To the contrary the position of the Supreme Court validates the real thinking and the mandate of the people of Bayelsa, who were for the PDP and our candidate, but whose votes and voices were shut down by the APC and the entire federal set up working as a team to destroy our democracy.

It is a welcome development and we thank God Almighty, the candidate himself and all of us in Bayelsa. Everyone who believes in God knows that this was a victory that God gave to us.

Many believed that your political career would have gone into oblivion if David Lyon had remained governor, following your activities in AD, Ijaw National Congress, IYC, Attorney General of the State, a two-term member of the House of Representatives, and two-term Governor of Bayelsa State, which nobody in the state has ever done before. How do you feel about that?’

Well, everyone’s life and destiny are in the hands of God. If there is one thing that this Supreme Court judgement on Bayelsa should teach everyone including myself is that God is in control of the affairs of men and He is the one who gives power to whom and at what time and how. As a man of faith, I never lost my faith in God till the very end. Even with the shenanigans in Bayelsa and the sustained propaganda against us, we never lost faith in God.

We kept praying as we were doing every morning, every month and every year, giving God the glory for everything He does for His own purpose. God tried our faith, my faith particularly to the very last before vindicating us. This victory is therefore an act of God but having said that, no man’s destiny is the hands of fellow men. I have come a very long way in politics. I am not an appointment politician; I am not an establishment politician.

The fact that my candidate and my party were rigged and shut out by the federal system, even my party leaders, who should have stood for the party, if not for the candidate and for me. I have appointed more people than every other Bayelsa governor put together. I have supported and served people from morning to midnight every day for eight years, working for the good of our people.

The fact that some people saw that the federal government was determined to take the state by force and therefore realigned instead of standing by me and our party and our candidate and by the government was disheartening. I am used to people decamping during elections, when they see that federal might is available to help them take power. That might give a wrong notion that if APC took over, my political career would have been over.

That is not a correct assessment, because up to now, irrespective of what happened I have the greatest followership in that state, the greatest penetration, the greatest organisational capacity in that state and I have touched more lives, whether the people themselves admit it today or not, they know – the politicians, office holders, former appointees – they know the roles I have played and the people themselves in the various communities know what I have done. I have my work that is speaking for me in all critical areas – in education, in healthcare, in infrastructure, in agricultural opportunities, in law and order, in governance reforms itself.

I have employed more people into the public service in that state, I have given more scholarships, thousands of their daughters and sons are in our public schools, clothed by me, fed by my government three times a day up till now. My impact is so massive not just in Bayelsa State; I have appointed over 200 Ijaw people into the government of Bayelsa State from across all the Ijaw speaking states.

My government recognised and created more traditional stools than any other administration, Statewide traditional reforms all of them recognised, running into thousands in every community. So these are impacts, which would have been very difficult, even impossible for anybody to wipe out. Yes, the euphoria was there, the threats and blackmail were there and that was why I never bothered, I have done my job to the best of my ability, there is no decision I took as Governor that I cannot defend.

If there was anything people complained about, it wasn’t that Governor Dickson stole our money and this is where he kept it, this is what he has done with it. Nobody says I did not work. It was that everybody says I made it difficult for people to have free money, to steal money and that I committed the resources of the state to the development of the state and that is the right thing to do.

At the same time, they know that all my allowances were spent supporting them for different personal problems from morning to night and my office and homes were like market places. I have access to all classes of people. So, even if a David Lyon had taken over, yes the euphoria was there, we know the dynamics of politics, the euphoria and intoxication would have cleared, reality would have set in and the huge sense of disappointment would have been felt in the state and even among the APC chieftains. He wouldn’t have been able to meet the expectations of all those people that want to have a share of Bayelsa allocation.

The commitments they had made and the expectation that they all had from the national to the state and to various people and families, who had built personal interest into his candidacy. He was not supported to work for Bayelsa; he was supported to undermine and reverse the developments, peace and stability that were done and if possible launch personal attacks at me. Those who brought him believe in personal vendetta of politics unlike me who has never fought people beyond elections.

That is not correct. I was planning to go back to the trenches, re-organise my machine and this is not just in terms of party control. Non-politicians focused on hijacking party structures, but those of us that understood the art of mobilising human beings, organising human beings into political formations for political contests, and warfare, which is not violence, knew what to do. We knew we have the people.

It doesn’t take me long to set up a political machine. In a month, I will have a viable political machine that can take on anybody building on my massive network and image and most importantly, the work I have done in Bayelsa and the lives I have touched across the nation. Apart from my work in Bayelsa, no one underestimates my network and the friends and allies and colleagues and the leaders I have access to; whose confidence I enjoy.

That is why I understand the concerted national effort to demonise and blackmail me through propaganda in the Bayelsa election, because of my national profile, now became a national election. All of this would have helped me to launch a big comeback in a different way. As long as I remain in politics, we have a capacity to reorganise and launch together with friends and allies, a formidable political movement.

Did you actually prepare a handover note for the APC as you were leaving office?

Of course! I set up a transition committee. Most of what they were doing in terms of the state handover were state events funded by the government of Bayelsa under me. I ran a decent and honourable government and I wanted to set a standard for succeeding governments, because I am the first governor completing eight years, who had to manage a very difficult transition, the way the federal government and its agencies intervened and tried to mess up the situation and with the behaviour of some party leaders, who decided to sell out.

I was determined to make a success of it. I set up a transition committee, which was well funded by my government and they were in regular contact with the APC. As a matter of fact, the committee on Wednesday had handed over transition documents to the APC transition committee, before the judgement came on Thursday.

Yes, there was nothing I did as governor that I was scared or afraid of. It was just peddling of unfounded rumours, because no one has worked harder or done more. A number of the things I did were revolutionary. I was a pioneer in so many ways so I can understand when they became antagonistic or cynical.

What’s the story of the Bayelsa airport?

The story of the airport has been well told and documented. The great work that we did is known to our people, both in conception and execution. Those who are demonising me; those who don’t believe in the need for that airport will come to their senses and face the reality of it very soon. That is the price you pay when armchair critics and envious opponents don’t understand what governance is all about.

What it means when a leader is ahead of his people, those are the kind of situations you face. They are not seeing what you are seeing as a leader and yet, it is your duty to envisage what may happen in the near future and that is the duty of leadership, whether it is the airport or building of universities. That airport is world class, everyone knows and the federal authorities know. I don’t want to say more about it. I leave it for the new governor to take it up from there.

What I know is that that airport is set for business. It will go down in history. They didn’t want that history, because they were jealous. A number of people, who had the opportunity to work on the airport tried but couldn’t bring it to fruition. But I did, so, I can understand human elements of envy and jealousy in all sectors, because what I have done in education, health sector, infrastructure and other areas not only surpass people’s expectations, but I set a very high mark.

I can understand when political competitors and small-minded detractors try to belittle the contributions that I have made. What is comforting being that the people know and posterity will tell. The airport will be put to use, there is no doubt about that. They are complaining of the perimeter fencing to be completed even though they know that there are several federal airports that don’t have perimeter fences. We completed over 60 per cent of the fencing and the authorities acknowledged that and the radar, surveillance and fire-fighting facilities are some of the best you can find around. I believe those are matters that the new government will handle.

What’s your take on Nigeria and Democracy?

Well, we are a developing democracy but it is very disheartening, when you see state apparatus being so brazenly used against poor, innocent people. It is disheartening when you see military, security agencies and INEC abdicating their duties and responsibilities and their oaths to the services of the country and colluding with criminals, to maim and kill, destroy and aid political robbery, political terrorism.

It is sad to see electoral officials compromise their impartiality in the name of taking instructions from above and committing acts that are treasonable. That has become the order of the day. That is what they call Nigerian Democracy. You saw what happened in Nembe, where over 20 people were killed. Law enforcement units in Nigeria were not interested in who killed who or arrest and prosecute the culprits?

Were you ever at any time forced to retaliate as the Chief Security officer of the state?

Oh, I could have done that. Everybody knows I could have done that. In fact, the lies the APC leaders have been telling the federal government since 2015, Governor Dickson will do this, he will do that as a basis for getting federal support to go and terrorise our people, but all of them know in their minds that I am a politician of peace, ideas and a non-violent person. As a matter of fact, the reason you did not see bloodshed when the federal government came and announced pre-written figures, using the Army, Police and INEC, was not because of weakness.

It was because of deliberate restraint on my part. People were crying and wanted to do a few things but I have never subscribed to that. The APC leaders know, the whole of Bayelsa State knows that Governor Dickson is one politician, who protects everybody, one politician who does not victimise anybody and one politician, who uses state apparatus at my disposal to do the work that I am meant to do: public safety and order, and not partisan politics.

That was what happened when election results came, even when the Court of Appeal gave them the judgement, you did not see demonstrations or violence on the part of my party and the followers in the state. Not because there were no people to demonstrate, we had more support than them, the good, the bad and the ugly, but everyone knows my politics, that I don’t allow violence. The first duty of any political leader is to enthrone peace and order.

It is unfortunate that from 2015, the federal government actually undermined Bayelsa’s security at every election time and even during normal times. So, they compromised Bayelsa’s security in a way that criminals were made to go free and have the effrontery to commit crimes while law-abiding people were made to lose confidence. That is why in Nembe about 20 people were killed and nothing happened, and figures were written and brought, announced and accepted.

How was it managing finances of the state and settling debts running into billions incurred by past administrations?

I think the main problem elites of Bayelsa had with my government was prudence and commitment to accelerated development and my not compromising on the development of the state, blocking the loopholes that supported wastages and the corrupt system that was then entrenched and engrained in the politics of the state; even in the civil service. The only people building big houses and hotels, buying big cars, having big investments, were civil servants, particularly the Treasury staff, accountants and political leaders colluding with them.

I had to stop all of that from day one, because I had a big developmental agenda. The state couldn’t afford any wastage. We had to channel all the available funds to face issues of development. My understanding is simple, money that comes into a state, a state like Bayelsa, a virgin territory, carved out of the least developed, the most challenged areas of the old Rivers state must be utilised for the benefit of the people. The leadership and all our people must be prepared to make sacrifices.

The sacrifice is that any money the state has should be used for development. It is the development that will engender individual comfort and advancements. Not the other way round where monies come and treated as pocket money for the leaders and their wives and their allies beyond legitimate entitlements and then issues of developments are allowed to suffer. That is why roads, hospitals, bridges, schools were not built. That was why there was no single boarding school in Bayelsa before I became governor and I am leaving behind almost 15 boarding schools. And not just boarding schools, boarding schools with students filled with scholars, who are fed three times a day by the government.

And with policies backed up by law to sustain it. That was why they were not building hospitals and we have hospitals and diagnostic centres that are world-class, a medical university. We have a Health Insurance Scheme, which is one of the best in the country and all backed up by law. It is because of this shift in emphasis, yes it is good to enable people to make money from in government and government appointments.

But it must be through legitimate means. If you don’t control it, if you don’t fight and you let it loose or you treat public money as money that is PR money and you allow people to go with that notion of entitlement mentality as was the case before I came, the state will not see or know development.

And I have done all of these at a time the earnings of the state were far less than my predecessors in office. In Bayelsa, during my governorship, the complaint was that I am too tight-fisted; I’m araldite, because the expectation is that government money should be left loose for the governor, his team, the civil servants and all those in authority and political leaders and their family. I redefined it, created more appointments to enable people have legitimate income.

I had over 3,000 different classes of appointment, whose services I did not strictly need to run a government. I was in control of the agenda of the government. I had to because of the weak state of the economy and what they are used to. I had to spread those appointments. At some point, we were spending over N750 million to N800 million monthly to pay them, because in Bayelsa, government is the only business. The more you appoint, the more they complain.

If you appoint somebody today, he wants a car, if you don’t give him a car, he becomes disgruntled, you give him a car, he wants more money, he wants to award contracts and make money. If you don’t make that possible, then he complains. He builds one house; he wants 10 houses. That insatiable greed that drives them makes them feel they are entitled to all the public money. That has been the issue behind political instability where people during elections move to an incoming government.

I addressed that, but I also brought the reforms within the government; and the systems and the laws to correct the problems in the civil service, where people were collecting salaries without working, where people were collecting salaries they were not entitled or qualified for. It is irresponsible for a governor to allow that to continue. And no one had really had the heart to do all of that. And I did that. But in that process, I opened up the service, employed almost 5,000 people from 2012 till date in all sectors of Bayelsa Public Service.

So, I have employed more people. So if you are talking of the man who created more wealth, who made it possible for the people to survive more, it is me! I never made it possible and it wasn’t my plan to allow few people even those around me to become millionaires and billionaires at the expense of the rest of the state, most importantly at the expense of the development of the state. Now, if there is any sin, any wrong like I always say, I have no apologies for that.

That had to be done. I have created more avenues for enterprise. I instituted the first Micro-Finance bank in the state, I created it and it is there in every Local Government of the state to enable people borrow and do business, encouraged people to do business but they are not used to it. I think that some of these policies are of the form where if civil servants don’t go to work they have no business in public service and should be told to get out. I never hesitated to doing that. If you are a government appointee, you will do your job, but you can never be allowed to turn your own office to a source of making millions and billions because the state does not have funds for that.

And even if the state has money, there are other needs. These are some of the things that enabled us to manage and put a lot of things on ground during the very challenging period, which saw also the worst economic recession. Yet, we had more life changing big ticket programmes than any government before me, because of prudence, transparency and the careful management of the resources of the state.

Don’t forget, I enthroned the regime of transparency by which every month we announce what came into the state. I thought I did all of that to empower the people with the knowledge as to the circumstances we were managing, and also to enthrone a regime of responsibility. I understand lack of industries in the state, unlike other states, everybody looks up to Government House for survival. Everybody comes there. Most people in some states don’t know where their Government Houses are and how much comes to their states on a monthly basis.

In Bayelsa, everybody from the high to the lowest, they are thinking of making billions. And if you have enabled them to make thousands, you have not done anything; they want millions. If they get millions, you have not done anything; they want billions. If they get billions, you have not done anything. They want to get more and expect to get all the money that gets into the state into their pockets. If you don’t make that happen, then you are not a good governor.

To the average Bayelsan psyche, a good governor is a governor, who comes and opens up the state treasury for everybody in the state to go and collect something. They forget the fact that even those they said were spending money on the people and money was flowing, it was only within a tiny circle and I never allowed that circle. Or even any circle to have access to the treasury. Rather, I supported people to have legitimate incomes far more than any other governor and I am very happy about it. I am leaving a government not only of physical development but also a government that paid off all existing liabilities.

My predecessor had a bond that totalled over N120 billion. We cleared it within this period. When people talk of a trillion naira or so in eight years, my predecessor stayed for five years and got close a trillion naira and if I ask you what you can point on ground, I don’t know how many people beyond propaganda can say much. Our own expenditure also includes the N120 billion that we paid off, a salary wage bill that is high and all the challenges that we met, and in addition, we have put a lot on ground in education, infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture, in all fields and in making state investments.

I am happy that I am leaving a state with the right indices. Firstly, on education and health care which is one of the best. Maternal mortality index is the least in the sub-region in the South-south. At least, people come to Bayelsa for referrals, diagnosis and treatment. We have best public schools. Tertiary schools equipped and supported, which I believe the new government will continue. In the area of prudent management of resources, by the DMO reports and other public statistics that is available, Bayelsa is the least indebted state in the South-south even with all the investments that speak to the record I am leaving behind.

Why so much focus on education?

I must tell you that education is a key area of investment for any leader, who wants to make a difference; any leader who understands what true development is. Lasting development does not consist of roads and buildings. That is brick and mortar. No matter how costly, no matter how beautiful, it deteriorates with time. The major areas, where I believe you can see if a leader has the right mind-set and vision for his people are investments in education, healthcare, investments in economic opportunities, investments in law and order. And the right values for governance like not oppressing anybody with the state apparatus, which I never did for one day.

Setting a tone of tolerance and enthroning the right democratic atmosphere, which I did throughout. All opposition from within my state, my party, I took it in good faith and allowed everybody to express their views. I had my own right to my vision and my agenda, consulting, agreeing and disagreeing and moving on.

But no one will say Dickson drove us out of Bayelsa, Governor Dickson revoked our land, destroyed our building, because of political disagreements, sent thugs to attack us because of disagreements or Governor Dickson killed that person, because of political differences.

You can’t hear that. For me, these are the areas you use to assess. Anybody can build a road even a mad man can build a road, because it doesn’t take much vision to build a road. Some resurface roads to gain popularity. Their fixation is in roads. Yes, roads are important. I have done so many roads in a very difficult riverine terrain, where the whole state is below sea level, built the longest set of bridges than any governor has attempted to build.

I have done them and the records are there but I don’t point at those as my landmark achievements. As important as they are, because it will affect mobility; it will enable people move around and contribute to the development of the state. Now, people are finding it easier to commute and move amongst themselves.

But the lasting changes that I have brought in the state, which will be felt in years to come is the investment in education, investments in healthcare – the investment in governance structure itself, the temperance, the moderation, accommodation and the politics of dialogue and persuasion.

The idea that a leader is not in government to maim and kill and chase people, who disagree with him out of the state; the idea that you can disagree with your leader and still feel safe in your own state – no one governor has tried as much as I have done. These are the lasting contributions that I have made. I am open and I understand the feeling, because of the prevailing lack of private sector in the state, where unlike other states people don’t know the way to the Government House.

In Bayelsa, everybody must go to Government House. All problems must be solved by the governor – all personal problems of over 2.5 million people must be solved by the governor. That is not the situation that you have in most states. Most governors don’t feel what we feel in Bayelsa. They don’t understand, they can’t relate to it and so people will ask for more. That is legitimate also but with time, with more empowerment particularly with education and with business opportunities, with enlightenment most of those will be taken care of.

After eight years in office, what are the challenges and fulfilment?

Let me start with fulfilment. Every day of my life, I will be grateful to God. My faith has been so strengthened by what I have done and seen, what God has done for me and for my people, and even making me to have the opportunity to be in a position to do what I have done, I remain eternally grateful to God and the people of Bayelsa, and to my friends and allies, who have been with me in this journey, including some who for some reasons may not be here with me now.

I acknowledge and thank them. It has been a wonderful opportunity. Do I feel fulfilled? Yes, very fulfilled, very happy that I had this opportunity and was able to make the difference. The full extent and degree of my work will come to the fore in years to come. Not now but because of the noise of political contest and competition and the human emotions of envy, jealousy and greed.

When you see products of schools that I built, the lives my medical facilities have saved and will continue to save, when you see people enjoying the benefits of the roads and bridges I built and what they will benefit from the economic opportunities that we provided. In the years to come, when you look at this, every day I feel happy and fulfilled. I was almost moved to tears when I moved to my village and appointees followed me, friends with their families trooping in up and till now, thanking me for affecting their lives in one way or the other.

They still do so and I remember I had well over 3,000 from across the Ijaw’s in Niger Delta, not just Bayelsa. Even in Abuja, people come to thank me for the impact I have made in their lives. No one governor can solve all problems of everybody of a state in four years or eight years – problems of a state or a nation, are not solved by one government or one individual. The problems will continue to be there. Have we made a difference? Did we try our best? Yes, and if I may say, a very big difference.

Are there effects of Public Service on your Family?

As a matter of fact, I don’t know how to thank my family for the sacrifices and the understanding they showed by the way I carried on with my duty to serve them, because I am a man of passion and service. What makes a difference is passion combined with compassion and vision. The way I did it left me with very little time for family and even personal things. All my personal things were abandoned, my farms folded up. I used to have so much time as a family man.

I love my children; I love my family but I never had as much time. I used to take them for swimming every Saturday. We did not have that luxury. I used to tell them stories and educate them myself. I read with them. But all of these, I did not have much time for. I sincerely thank them.

I was almost moved to tears, the day I left office and went home and they released two videos and sent to me via social media. They said, Daddy, thank God you are going to have more time for yourself and more time for us. I thank them for their understanding.

They have really made a lot of sacrifice. It is not just in my own case. It is the case of everybody in public service, especially those who understand why they are in public service and who apply the totality of themselves to the service of their people.

Public service is so time-consuming. If you really know what to do and you are passionate about it, it will leave you no time. It is a very jealous mistress.

It is obvious that your people are not done with you yet, so, in what capacity are you considering more services to your people and humanity?

First of all, with my faith and my belief about life, which is about service to God and humanity, at my age and with the exposure that I have had, not many people of my age even from where I come from can have this broad and wide-ranging comprehensive exposure and experience in public service in different forms. If you count from when I joined the Nigeria Police as a humble policeman at the age of 18, till date, you can see how in one form or the other, I have been in service.

Not to talk of active political service since 1997, which has left me with the belief that if there is an opportunity to continue to serve, it will be selfish for me with my experience and age to back down or decline. If it pleases God to continue to give us sound health and life, it will be selfish at this point with the challenges in all parts of Nigeria, the area where I come from for me to say no to public service. I will allow God to determine my next move. Whatever God determines will be good enough for me. He alone creates the opportunities, enables and gives mercy. Power flows from God.

What do you say to the new governor, Diri?

We have a new governor, His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri, knows what to do. He has my support. My duty is to give him all the support, pray for him and where my advice and counsel are needed. He knows he has my support; he has my prayers and my advice is readily available for him. I have done eight years, the first governor to do so in very trying circumstances.

Unfortunately, Bayelsa is a state, where no leader supports a governor. Leaders, their wives, their friends, all blackmail, slander and tear down the government and the state and their party instead of contributing and supporting to build the State. Governor Diri will find me behaving differently, because for once, he will have a former governor, who will have his back and will be there to advise him and pray for him.

I know the shoes he is wearing. I will not join the ranks of leaders, who instead of supporting and encouraging build coalitions to destabilise their parties, destabilise their states, blackmail and bring down governors. I won’t do that. I have no more point to prove, having broken a jinx of no second term and by the grace of God midwifing a transition that produced a governor and the deputy from my team.

Most of those to be involved in the administration of Bayelsa now and some years to come will be from my team, as I have nurtured a lot of people especially, young men and women to hold positions of authority.

My duty is to guide, advise and pray for all those in authority in the state. I have been governor for eight years, leaving behind indelible footprints that will stand the test of time. God has ruled in our favour, in favour of Bayelsa. We wish Governor Diri and his team well, as his success will be my joy.

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Founded on January 22, 1995, THISDAY is published by THISDAY NEWSPAPERS LTD., 35 Creek Road Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria with offices in 36 states of Nigeria , the Federal Capital Territory and around the world. It is Nigeria’s most authoritative news media available on all platforms for the political, business, professional and diplomatic elite and broader middle classes while serving as the meeting point of new ideas, culture and technology for the aspirationals and millennials. The newspaper is a public trust dedicated to the pursuit of truth and reason covering a range of issues from breaking news to politics, business, the markets, the arts, sports and community to the crossroads of people and society.

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Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates

editorMarch 15, 2020 6:50 Am

SUNDAY MARCH 15TH, 2020

Coronavirus: Ghana Imposes Travel Restrictions 

By Adedayo Akinwale

Ghanaian government has imposed travel restrictions on all travellers coming into the country following six confirmed cases of Coronavirus recorded by the country.

Ghanaian government disclosed this in a statement issued on Sinday by Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, who announced that “all travel to Ghana is strongly discouraged until further notice.”

According to him, “Any traveler, except for Ghanaian citizens and persons with Ghana residence permits, who, within the last I4 days. has been to a country that has recorded at least 200 cases of Covid-l9. Will not be admitted into the Ghanaian juridiction. Airlines are instructed not to allow such persons to embark. Border posts are instructed not to allow such persons into the jurisdiction.”

Nkrumah said that there would be a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for persons who are otherwise allowed to enter the Ghanaian juridiction.

He added that guidelines for self-quarantine would be available at the various Ghanaian ports of entry, stressing that enforcement protocols are being deployed in collaboration with state security and health authorities.

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Nkrumah added, “Persons determined to be unable to satisfactorily self-quarantine will be quarantined by the State. Any admissible traveler, who exhibits symptoms of Covid-l9 will be quarantined and tested upon reaching Ghana.”

Enugu Quarantines COVID-19 Suspect

Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu

The Enugu State Government on Sunday confirmed that it has quarantined a female septuagenarian suspected to be down with the dreaded Covid-19 at its isolation centre within Enugu, the capital city.

The woman was said to have returned from the United Kingdom recently and showed signs of having contacted the dreaded virus.

The Isolation Centre, which is domiciled at Colliery Hospital, Enugu had received patients with diseases like Lassa Fever among others in recent times.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr Ifeanyi Agujiobi, who confirmed the development to reporters, said the ministry had sent the suspect’s specimen for test, urging residents in the state not to panic as the state awaits the outcome of the test.

He disclosed that the state had alerted the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control of the situation, adding that the patient was being closely monitored.

THISDAY checks revealed that the samples were taken to Irrua Specialist Hospital, Edo State for test.

The permanent secretary further disclosed that once the test result returns positive, the process of contact tracing would commence to ensure that all the people who had contacts with the patient were traced and taken to the isolation centre.

Newborn Baby Tests Positive for Coronavirus in UK

A newborn baby and thep mother have tested positive for the coronavirus in London.

The pair have been separated, and doctors are working to find out if the baby contracted Covid-19 in the womb or after being born.

According to The Sun, the expectant mother was rushed to hospital a few days before giving birth because she was showing signs of pneumonia.

She was said to have given birth to the child at North Middlesex Hospital, near Tottenham, before her test result came through.

The baby, whose sex is unknown, was tested within minutes of being delivered and was also found to have the disease.

It is reported that the child has stayed at Norths Mids, while the mother has been transferred to a specialist infections hospital.

A source told The Sun: “Staff in contact with both patients have been advised to self-isolate.

“Health officials are urgently trying to find out the circumstances behind their infections.”

A spokesman for North Middlesex University Hospital said: “Two patients at North Middlesex University Hospital have tested positive for coronavirus.

“One has been transferred to a specialist centre and one is being treated in an isolation room.

“The safety of our patients and staff is our top priority, so in following guidance from Public Health England, we are regularly deep cleaning the areas where the patients are cared for and staff who were in close contact with these patients were advised to self-isolate.” (Evening Standard)

Coronavirus: Trump Calls on God, Declares Day of Prayer, Adds UK to Travel Ban

President test negative

Demola Ojo with agency reports

The President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump has declared today, March 15, a National Day of Prayer across the United States. This he did, not long after he officially declared a state of emergency over the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has also added the United Kingdom and Ireland to a 30-day travel ban that includes 26 other European countries of the Schengen free movement zone, which came into effect Saturday.

Also late yesterday the White House said President Donald Trump tested negative for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Many Americans had expressed worry about his status after it was confirmed that some people he came in contact with in the Brazilian President’s delegation tested positive to the virus.

In a memo, Trump’s doctor said he received confirmation that the president’s COVID-19 test was negative, adding that Trump was “symptom free.”

After declaring a national emergency on Coronavirus on Friday, Trump took to Twitter to announce his “great honor” in declaring that a National Day of Prayer would be taking place two days later. An annual National Day of Prayer normally takes place on the first Thursday of May, which falls on May 7 this year, although Trump has previously given other days the designation during emergencies.

“It is my great honor to declare Sunday, March 15th as a National Day of Prayer. We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these,” Trump tweeted. “No matter where you may be, I encourage you to turn towards prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL!”

A few hours before the president suggested Americans turn to God for protection against the pathogen, Trump appeared at a press conference to announce that he would be freeing up federal resources to combat the virus.

“To unleash the full power of the federal government … I am officially declaring a national emergency- two very big words,” said Trump. “The action I am taking will open up access to up to $50 billion of… very important, a large amount of money for states and territories or localities in our shared fight against this disease.”

Hours later, the UK and Ireland were added to America’s European travel ban over the pandemic. The new restrictions will begin at midnight on Monday (5am Tuesday Nigerian time). American citizens and permanent residents will still be allowed to return home to the US but they will be “funnelled” through selected airports, said Vice President Mike Pence, who is running the administration’s response to COVID-19.

Pence also announced that free coronavirus testing would be provided for every American. Speaking at the same news conference, President Trump said he had been tested himself and expected to get the results in the next 48 hours. The US has confirmed 51 deaths linked to the pandemic and 2,488 infections.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the travel ban was extended because of the growing outbreak in the UK. The UK yesterday saw the number of confirmed cases reach 1,140, with 21 deaths – up from 11 on Friday.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has ordered the closure of all non-essential public locations from midnight (Sunday morning) in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The measure applies to restaurants, cafes, cinemas and discos, as well as non-essential businesses. Philippe also called on French people to reduce their travel, especially between towns.

France reported a sharp rise in cases Saturday, from 3,661 to 4,499. It recorded 12 more deaths, bringing the toll to 79.

Meanwhile, Spain is also poised to declare a 15-day national lockdown tomorrow (Monday) to battle the virus, following similar measures by Italy last week.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Europe was now the “epicentre” of the pandemic. Its head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilisation and social distancing to save lives.

Back in Nigeria, the government has intensified its surveillance against COVID-19 at the nation’s airports. Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Akin Abayomi, said the move came as it was inevitable that there would be more cases in Africa.

Abayomi revealed on Friday that the state government has eliminated the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak through the Italian index case. Concerted efforts of government and its partners assisted in breaking the cycle of transmission, the health expert said.

He said Lagos was intensifying its surveillance to ensure that the health facility does not get overwhelmed, in case there are new cases, and added that the state government had sent more health personnel to the airport to assist the Federal medical team to boost their surveillance.

According to Abayomi, all the 179 people who had contact with the index case had been identified, while the only person confirmed to have contracted the virus from the index case has now tested negative.

Covid-19 May Reduce Nigeria’s Oil Revenue, Says UN Report

Earning likely to drop from $38.9 billion to $14bn

Obinna Chima

The raging Coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19, may cause Nigeria’s total revenue from crude oil export in 2020 to drop to between $14 billion and $19 billion, compared to $38.9 billion previously predicted, a United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) report has stated.

The ECA, in a report titled, “Economic Impact of the COVID-19 on Africa,” and obtained yesterday by THISDAY, noted that Nigeria’s gross oil revenue stood at N1.564 trillion as at the end of fourth quarter 2019.

The prediction was, however, predicated on crude oil price falling to $35 per barrel as well as Nigeria’s export of about 1.9 million barrels per day, a 50 per cent drop.

The report also estimated that Nigeria and other oil-exporting nations in Africa could record revenue losses of up to $65 billion due to a likely drop in demand for the commodity.

On the average, the report estimated that between 2016 and 2018, yearly export revenues from fuels for Africa were $166 billion, with the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) average yearly price for the period at $ 57.6.

It assumed an identical volume of fuels to be exported in 2020 was an average of same volume between 2016 and 2018, with average 2020 price at $35.

The report listed top oil exporters to be mostly affected to include Nigeria, whose share of total oil exports on the continent is 91.7 per cent. Others are Algeria (95.7%), Angola (97.4%), and Libya (88.4%). It identified others also to be affected as South Africa, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Gabon, and Ghana.

The report said, “COVID-19 could lead to Africa’s export revenues from fuels falling to around $101 billion in 2020.”

It predicted the trend of crude oil prices per barrel as follows: $61.6 (January), $53.4 (February), $35 (March), and $30 (April), saying it would continue through December due in part to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) policy differences.

The report also said further drops in demand occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic could compound price drops amid cancellation of flights, lower use of cars due to lockdowns, and quarantine measures, etc.

It, however, showed that of 118,000 known Covid-19 cases, less than 50 were in Africa.

Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia reported first cases on March 13, with only 15 countries in Africa numbering among 117 countries globally affected.

It predicted that the global pandemic was expected to weaken economic growth in the region, from 3.2 per cent, to 1.8 per cent, disclosing that the continent is increasingly interconnected with the rest of the world.

The UN report pointed out that Africa was directly connected through trade links with China and Europe, and indirectly, through trade links between China, Europe and the rest of the world, through remittances and tourism.

The disease is also expected to lead to decline in foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, capital flight, and domestic financial market tightening, the report said.

Furthermore, it anticipated that in Africa, there would be disruption of global supply chains; drop in value creation; demand side shocks – oil, tourism, remittances; slowdown in investment, hence job losses; and inflationary pressures due to supply side shortages.

The report added, “There could be unanticipated increases in health spending of up to $10.6 billion and revenue losses could lead to unsustainable debt.

“The decline in commodity prices could lead to fiscal pressures for Africa’s largest economies, making it impossible to respond to COVID-19 crisis.”

The report disclosed that in past crises, Africa’s tourism experienced losses of up to $7.2 billion.

According to the report, “All African countries are net importers of medical and pharmaceutical products. COVID19 affected countries are Africa’s main exporters.

“Medical and pharmaceutical products imported from the EU27 (51.5% of Africa’s total imports) but also India (19.3%) and to a lesser extent Switzerland (7.7%), China (5.2%), the US (4.3%) and the UK (3.3%).

“From Africa, South Africa is the largest source of imports (2.2% of Africa’s total imports). African exports of medicinal and pharmaceutical products, although quite limited, are essentially directed to Africa (56.5% of Africa’s total exports), the EU-27 (16.5%) and to some extent Saudi Arabia (3.3%), the US (3%) and Yemen (2.6%).”

Coronavirus: 179 Italian Contacts Declared Free of Virus

•Anglican Church bans use of same cup for communion wine, handshakes, hugs

•Trump declares emergency

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Martins Ifijeh in Lagos

The Lagos State Government yesterday stated that the 179 Nigerians who had contact with the Italian, Nigeria’s Coronavirus index case, and subsequently quarantined, have been declared free of the virus and released to integrate with the public.

On the same day, The Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, banned the use of one chalice for the sharing of wine during Holy Communion in all its churches, as one of the steps to stop the spread of Coronavirus.

Of the 179 Nigerians, who had contact with the index case, 40 of them were quarantined in Ogun State while the remaining persons were monitored in Lagos State.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos yesterday, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi said the 179 contacts were put on mandatory 14 days quarantine, and only one person, who tested positive to the virus, was sent to the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba, along with the index case.

He said today marked the 15th day since the index case was confirmed positive to the virus. It also marked the 15th day those who had contact with him were placed on quarantine.

Abayomi said: “The index case is recovering very fast. He is still with us because the virus has not totally left his system. Once he stops secreting the virus, and his test returns negative, we will know he is safe enough to be integrated back into the society. If he is negative, we will conduct another test within 48 hours after and if he is still negative, we will set him free.

“We are close to discharging the index case, we want to be sure he poses no danger to the society anymore.”

On the Nigerian who was initially tested positive to Coronavirus for being in contact with the index case, Abayomi said he had now tested negative twice and might have been released by now.

“His tests initially showed that he was positive to Coronavirus twice and now, he has tested negative to the virus twice on two consecutive tests carried out. The remaining contact in Ogun and Lagos State remain symptom-free and they have exceeded 14 days surveillance, which means that we have been able to interrupt the transmission between the index case and others. The threat of the index case to Nigeria has been eliminated.

“Those isolated in Ogun State have been discharged; in Lagos, we will not follow up the contacts again because none of them had developed symptoms. We are discharging all,” he said.

In Ogun State, the state’s government confirmed the discharge of the 40 persons that had contact with the index case.

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, disclosed this at a press briefing in Abeokuta.

Coker said since the first case was confirmed, the state had immediately activated a multi-sectoral emergency operation centre to access daily interventions and analyse situations.

She also said government had strengthened its activities across the state, adding that risk communication activities were also extended to wards, local governments, schools and communities as well as worship centres.

She said: “We can safely say that Covid-19 has been contained in Ogun State.”

Italian Covid-19 Patient May be Discharged Next Week

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has also confirmed that Nigeria’s Covid-19 index case is no more showing symptom of the disease and was undergoing tests preparatory to a possible discharge next week from isolation.

The minister, who gave reporters update on the Covid-19 virus, yesterday said that the federal government released about N930 million to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and N71 million to the Department of Port Health to support activities against the Covid-19 virus outbreak in the country.

As concerns mount over the intrusion of the deadly virus into the sporting world, the minister said that henceforth all sportsmen and women, including spectators at sporting events would be thoroughly screened by health officials for possible Coronavirus infection.

Speaking on the condition of the Italian index case, Ehanire said that he is “clinically stable and is much improved,” adding that a steady progress by the Italian would guide the medical team to recommend his discharge from quarantine early next week.

He also said that the second confirmed case, a contact of the index case, was testing negative for the virus, meaning he has been cleared of the virus and would be allowed to go home.

The minister said that following the declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and increasing spread of Covid-19 in countries, the ministry has begun a review of case definition.

He insisted that Nigeria has not yet placed a travel ban on any country, passport or flights, adding that health authorities merely issued a travel advisory to Nigerians, which they have been adhering to.

The minister, who disclosed that economic consideration was among reasons they decided not impose travel ban, said that the federal government has established a committee that would assess the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the country’s economy.

While giving update on the measures to check Coronavirus infection, Ehanire said that between January 7 and March 12 a total of 42 people who met case definition were screened for COVID-19 in six states of Edo, Lagos, Ogun, Yobe, Rivers, Kano and FCT.

He added that out of the 42 people that were tested, 40 returned negative and two were confirmed positive; the index case and a contact of the index case, but with no deaths recorded.

Ehanire further gave update on the case of a group of four children and their teacher who flew into Lagos from the United States recently, saying that they were promptly isolated and tested with their result turning negative.

Speaking on how the children were spotted, Ehanire said: “Prior to their arrival, Nigeria CDC was informed by US-CDC, that this group had been in the same space with a confirmed case. We therefore sent these travelers into isolation on their arrival. Tests were done, which came back negative for all of them. They will stay in self-isolation for 14 days.”

Ehanire assured that tthe Federal Ministry of Health would comtinue to monitor closely the global situation and work with WHO’s advice.

Aside from efforts against Coronavirus, Ehanire said the ministry had responded to the resurgence of yellow fever transmission by activating Nigeria’s Point of Entry Policy on Prevention and Control of Cross Border Transmission of Yellow Fever.

He said that new measures have been put in place in line with WHO’s recommendation, adding that for all international travellers, nine months and older, arriving in areas with evidence of persistent or periodic transmission of yellow fever, must show evidence of having been vaccinated.

He said that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the ministry had reviewed the policy to allow passengers without Yellow Fever Cards or proof of vaccinations board their flights to Nigeria, with the understanding that they would be given Yellow Fever vaccination on arrival at the nation’s Points of Entry.

According to the minister, the effective date of the revised policy implementation was March 11, 2020.

“Consequently, the federal ministry of health has requested the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to communicate this to airlines for compliance,” he said.

Anglican Church Bans Use of One Cup for Sharing Communion Wine

Meanwhile, the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, has stopped the use of one chalice for the sharing of wine during Holy Communion as one of the steps to stop the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus.

The church has also suspended handshakes and hugs which are hitherto used for the “exchange of peace” during the services.

The church’s General Secretary, Gershinen Dajur, disclosed this in a letter addressed to all Archbishops and Bishops of the church yesterday on behalf of the church’s Primate, Most-Revd Nicholas Okoh.

The letter read: “His Grace, the Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh has directed that certain steps be taken as guides against contacting and communicating the virus among our people.

“Let the church be encouraged to trust God who is well able to help us in our times of trouble (Psalms46:1). This is the time to trust and obey God than to be anxious and panic (Phil 4:6-7).

“Since this virus is communicable, the church is to prayerfully put on hold the sharing of one chalice to all during Holy Communion. Other smaller communion cups should be used for individual communication.

“Also, handshakes and hugs during the exchange of peace should be substituted with non-contagious gestures such as hand waving, mutual bowing, or making the sign of the cross, etc.”

Trump Declares Emergency

President Donald Trump of the United States has declared a national emergency to help handle the growing outbreak of Coronavirus in his country.

The declaration – “two very big words”, according to Mr Trump – allows the federal government to tap up to $50bn (£40bn) in emergency relief funds.

The move loosens regulations on the provision of healthcare and could speed up testing – the slow pace of which has been criticised widely.

There are 1,701 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., and 40 deaths.

Several U.S. states have taken measures to stem the infections rate, including banning large gatherings, sporting events and closing schools.

The virus originated in China last December, but Europe is now the “epicentre” of the global pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said yesterday, as several European countries reported steep rises in infections and deaths.

Italy has recorded its highest daily toll yet – 250 over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 1,266, with 17,660 infections overall.

FRIDAY MARCH 13, 2020

179 Persons Quarantined over Contact with Coronavirus Index Case Freed

By Martins Ifijeh

The Lagos State Government has stated that the 179 persons who had contact with the Italian index case and subsequently placed on quarantine have been declared free of the virus and then released to integrate with the public.

Of the 179 people who had contact with the index case, 40 of them were quarantined in Ogun State while the remaining persons were monitored in Lagos State.

Announcing this at a press briefing in Lagos Friday, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi said the 179 contacts were put on mandatory 14 days quarantine, and that only one person tested positive for the virus, who is still presently at the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba, along with the index case.

Today marks the 15th day since the index case was confirmed positive to the virus. it also marked the 15th day those who had contact with him were placed on quarantine.

Abayomi said: “The index case is recovering very fast. He is still with us because the virus has not totally left his system. Once he stops secreting the virus, and his test returns negative, we will know he is safe enough to be integrated back into the society. If he is negative, we will conduct another test within 48 hours after and if he is still negative, we will set him free.

“We are close to discharging the index case, we want to be sure he poses no danger to the society anymore.”

On the Nigerian who initially tested positive for Coronavirus for being in contact with the index case, Abayomi said he had now tested negative twice and might have been released by now.

“His tests initially showed that he was positive to Coronavirus twice and now, he has tested negative to the virus twice on two consecutive tests carried out. The remaining contact in Ogun and Lagos State remain symptom-free and they have exceeded 14 days surveillance which means that we have been able to interrupt the transmission between the index case and others. The threat of the index case to Nigeria has been eliminated.

“Those isolated in Ogun State have been discharged, in Lagos, we will not follow up the contacts again because none of them has developed symptoms. We are discharging all,” he said.

Abayomi said the state will improve on its efforts to ensure the outbreak is contained.

(Updated) Brazilian President Tests Negative for Coronavirus

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested negative Friday for coronavirus, according to his son, Eduardo, in a report on Fox News, contradicting earlier reports that Bolsonaro had tested positive.

One of the major newspapers in Rio de Janeiro, Journal O Dia, had earlier reported that President Bolsonaro tested positive but a second test had been carried out and the result was being awaited.

Also major newspapers in the UK and US, including MailOnline, New York Post, The Sun, Independent and The DailyBeast.

However, speaking to host Sandra Smith on America’s Newsroom, on Friday, Eduardo said: “The information I have is the news that just came up telling he is negative for coronavirus. I heard it was positive in the first exam. This is something I don’t know. Everything is good now.”

He said his father was “okay”, adding: “The test is negative! The first one I don’t know how to tell you.”

United States President Donald Trump had dined with Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago where the two leaders shook hands on Saturday night.

The press secretary of the Brazilian leader, Fabio Wajngarten, who was also at the Mar-a-Lago dinner and took photograph with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, had earlier tested positive for coronavirus, prompting a test to be carried out on President Bolsonaro.

A second test has however been carried out on the Brazilian leader and the results are expected to be known on Friday.

Mailonline reported on Friday that several members of the US first family were at the Winter White House Saturday night where there was a birthday party for Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., in addition to the working dinner for the Brazilian delegation, which included the Brazilian leader’s press secretary, Wajngarten, who had also tested positive for coronavirus.

At the birthday party for Guilfoyle were Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and his wife Lara Trump, Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, and Tiffany Trump. Also at the party were National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, new acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, Trump’s Personal Attorney Rudy Giuliani, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz.

Trump had Thursday brushed aside concerns about the encounter with the Brazilian delegation, and resisted suggestions that members of the first family exposed to the Brazilian delegation – a member of which had tested positive for the highly contagious virus – should self-quarantine.

US Senator Lindsey Graham who was at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night and Senator Rick Scott who met with the Brazilian delegation have self-quarantined as a precautionary measure.

English Football League Suspended 

The English Football League is to suspend all fixtures until 4 April, Sky News understands.

It comes as Premier League chiefs meet to discuss the top division’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, as Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea star Callum Hudson-Odoi were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Three Leicester City players are also being tested for COVID-19, while Everton announced on Thursday that the squad was in self-isolation after a player reported symptoms consistent with the virus.

Meanwhile, European football’s governing body UEFA has announced that all Champions League and Europa League matches scheduled for next week have been postponed.

More follows…

Second Patient Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus Now Negative, Says FG

By Martins Ifijeh

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has announced that the second patient who tested positive to Coronavirus last week has returned negative as the virus is no longer in his system.

Ehanire, who spoke during a press briefing in Abuja Friday, said the viral load in his body was now insignificant, and that he will soon be discharged.

The patient was the project manager of Lafarge Africa in Abeokuta who had contact with the Italian index case on February 26.

He said: “The Italian is responding to treatment and the virus is going down by the day in his system, but it is yet to clear out totally.”

Ehanire also called on Nigerians to get vaccinated for yellow fever at designated centres.

Details later …..

Ghana, Gabon Confirm First Cases of Coronavirus

Gabon and Ghana confirmed their first cases of coronavirus on Thursday, becoming the ninth and tenth countries in sub-Saharan Africa to register positive cases.

The region has so far been less badly hit by coronavirus than Europe or China. Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Togo, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Democratic Republic of Congo have also registered cases.

In a statement, Gabon’s government said its case was a 27-year-old Gabonese man who had returned from France on March 8.

Ghana’s health ministry said its two cases were people who had returned recently from Norway and Turkey.

“These are imported cases of COVID-19. Both patients are currently being kept in isolation and are stable,” the ministry said in a statement.

More than 127,000 people have been infected globally and over 4,700 have died since the virus first emerged in China late last year, according to a Reuters tally.

Sub-Saharan Africa did not confirm its first coronavirus infection until Feb. 28 in Nigeria, but experts warn that rising cases could test already fragile health systems. (The New York Times)

Canadian Prime Minister’s Wife Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will isolate himself for 14 days after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for coronavirus.

Grégoire Trudeau has mild symptoms and is feeling well, and will remain in isolation for 14 days, the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement late Thursday.

She came down with mild flu-like symptoms Wednesday following a speaking engagement in the UK. Health officials are reaching out to those who’ve been in contact with her, the office said.

“The Prime Minister is in good health with no symptoms. As a precautionary measure and following the advice of doctors, he will be in isolation for a planned period of 14 days,” the office said.

It added that on the advice of his doctors, he’ll not be tested since he has no symptoms. He’ll continue with his duties, and plans to address Canadians on Friday.

“For the same reason, doctors say there is no risk to those who have been in contact with him recently,” his office said.

Grégoire Trudeau thanked those who’ve reached out to her and said she’s doing well.

“Although I’m experiencing uncomfortable symptoms of the virus, I will be back on my feet soon,” she said. “Being in quarantine at home is nothing compared to other Canadian families who might be going through this and for those facing more serious health concerns.”

Canada has 147 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including one death. The virus has caused dozens of government officials around the world — from administrators to heads of state — to take precautionary measures after finding out they’ve been in contact with infected people. (CNN)

THURSDAY  MARCH 12, 2020

Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta has Tested Positive for Coronavirus

The Gunners have closed their training ground and club staff who had recent contact with Arteta will now self-isolate.

The Premier League will hold “an emergency club meeting” on Friday to discuss future fixtures.

“This is really disappointing but I took the test after feeling poorly,” said Spaniard Arteta, 37. “I will be at work as soon as I’m allowed.”

Arsenal expects a “significant number of people” will self-isolate, including first-team staff and coaches.

“The health of our people and the wider public is our priority and that is where our focus is,” said club managing director Vinai Venkatesham.

“We are in active dialogue with all the relevant people to manage this situation appropriately, and we look forward to getting back to training and playing as soon as medical advice allows.”

Arsenal are due to play at Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday (15:00 GMT).

Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy is self-isolating as a precaution after a member of his family was admitted to hospital displaying symptoms of coronavirus.

Three Leicester City first-team players have also self-isolated after showing symptoms of coronavirus.

Brazilian President’s Press Secretary Tests Positive to Coronavirus Days after Meeting Trump

Fabio Wajngarten, the Press Secretary to Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, has tested positive to Coronavirus, just days after meeting the United States President, Donald Trump, in Florida.

Sources told CNN that Wajngarten hd  been placed under isolation and treatment, while the president’s health was being monitored closely.

Bolsonaro’s aide had posted an image of himself standing with Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend.

He was accompanying Bolsonaro on a trip to the US, during which the two leaders dined together. Earlier in the day, the pair had spoken to reporters about the Coronavirus outbreak.

“I’m not concerned at all,” Trump told the press. He had been asked about his attendance at the CPAC conference, where another person also tested positive for coronavirus.

Trump said he was aware of the aide’s diagnosis during remarks in the Oval Office on Thursday.

“We did nothing very unusual, we sat next to each other for a period of time,” he added, referring to Bolsonaro.

Trump on Wednesday announced sweeping travel bans for people coming into the United States from mainland Europe, as his administration attempts to tackle the ongoing pandemic.

Quarantined Family of Four, Teacher Test Negative to Coronavirus

Martins Ifijeh

The Lagos State Government has stated that the recently quarantined family of four children and their teacher at the Infectious Disease Centre have tested negative to Coronavirus.

Sharing this on his Twitter page Thursday, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said the five cases came into Nigeria from the United States where they were presumed to have had contact with a suspected case of Coronavirus.

Abayomi was silent on the 6th person quarantined at the isolation centre, whose result was also being expected.

In a related development, the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said the country was already feeling the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak as barrel of dollar has slumped from N58 per barrel to N30 per barrel.

Ihekweazu who spoke to the media during his visit to the NCDC Centre in Yaba Thursday, said China, which is the epicenter of the outbreak, was heavily depended on by many countries, including Nigeria, for goods and services, but that the country’s productivity has reduced significantly because of the disease and its impact.

He said: “One significant thing about this disease is that it does not respect status. It affects both the rich and the poor. We have heard of the Minister of Health in the United Kingdom coming down with the virus. Today we heard of a Hollywood super star. So it cuts across everyone.

“It is not yet time for us to be happy because we have had only two cases. The threats are still there. A lot of countries are experiencing large outbreaks, and this also makes us vulnerable. But we will continue to do our best to ensure the outbreak is contained.

“If you check the pattern of travel by Nigerians you will understand we travel more to Europe than Iran, South Korea, Japan and other countries where the outbreak spread earlier. With Europe experiencing large outbreaks of Coronavirus, we still have cause to be alert. We are not out of the woods yet,” he added.

The DG, who explained why China, South Korea, Iran, Japan and Italy had been put on watch list said passengers coming into Nigeria from these countries were given extra vetting during point of entry, adding that these passengers were also asked to self-quarantine themselves for 14 days before integrating into the country.

He also called on Nigerians to postpone none essential travels, and that it was every one’s duty to ensure basic hygiene behaviours were being followed.

NYSC Takes Proactive Steps against Coronavirus, Lassa Fever in Niger 

By Laleye Dipo

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Niger State has taken proactive steps to protect corps members against coronavirus and Lassa fever diseases.

The state Coordinator of the NYSC, Mrs

Funmilayo Ajayi, who disclosed this in Minna on Thursday, said among the steps taken are the acquisition of infrared thermometers for the testing of corps members and hand sanitisers.

Ajayi added that the NYSC secretariat will also print and distribute sensitization leaflets on Lassa fever and coronavirus diseases to the corps members.

Speaking at the swearing-in of the batch A stream 1 orientation programme for the corps members at the NYSC permanent orientation camp in Paiko, Ajayi said 1,774 corps members, made up of 907 females and 867 males, have so far been registered for the programme.

She said since the camp opened, the corps members have displayed a high degree of discipline and good moral behaviour.

The Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, in an address, urged the corps members posted to the state to be involved in the Skills Acquisition Entrepreneurship’s Development Programme because “there will be no automatic employment for them after the service year”.

Bello, who was represented by the Commissioner for Education, Hajiya Hannatu Jibrin Salihu, told the corps members that: “It is better to take advantage of the skills and learn a vocation so that you can have something to fall back on after the programme.

“Make yourselves conversant with as many entrepreneurial skills as possible, because there maybe no automatic jobs for you after the service year.”

The Secretary to the State Government and Chairman of NYSC Board, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, in an address, assured the corps members that the state government will continue to do all within its power to improve the facilities in the camp towards ensuring that the corps members have conducive and safe environment.

India Suspends Tourist Visas over Coronavirus

The Indian government has announced the suspension of all tourist visas into the country as part of measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

The move comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) Thursday declared the outbreak a pandemic, with countries worldwide already scrambling to contain the spread of the disease.

A statement released by the India Ministry of Health on Twitter Thursday said: “All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, United Nations-international organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till April 15, 2020.

“Visas of all foreigners already in India remain valid and they may contact the nearest FRRO/FRO through e-FRRO module for extension/conversion of their visa or grant of any consular service, if they choose to do so. A notification to this effect is being issued by the Bureau of Immigration (BOI).”

The statement also said all incoming travellers will be quarantined for 14 days before being integrated into the country.

Coronavirus cases have doubled to 73 in India.

Coronavirus: Republic of Ireland to Close School, Colleges

Schools, colleges and other public facilities in the Republic of Ireland are to close in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar said the measures would take effect from 18:00 on Thursday to 29 March.

The first death linked to coronavirus has been recorded in the Republic of Ireland.

The elderly woman died in a Dublin hospital on Wednesday.

Mr Varadkar said schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close from Friday.

He said indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled.

He added that where it is possible to work remotely people should do so.

Mr Varadkar said the public and businesses needed to take a sensible approach, adding that the Irish cabinet would meet later and that Northern Ireland and GB would be briefed. (BBC)

Trump Restricts Travel from Europe to Fight Spread of Coronavirus in US

President Trump on Wednesday said the U.S. would restrict travel from Europe for the next 30 days and use executive orders to offer financial relief to individuals and small businesses in his most extensive steps to date to address the crisis of the coronavirus.

Trump said the extraordinary restrictions would not apply to Great Britain, which formally left the European Union at the end of January.

Trump, in just his second Oval Office address since taking office, sought to assure a worried nation about the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 1,000 Americans and killed more than 30 thus far.

The president used the sober 11 minute address to detail the new travel restrictions and targeted economic relief for small businesses and individuals impacted by the virus, while calling on Congress for further action on payroll tax relief and benefits for hourly workers.

“We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus,” Trump said, reading from prepared remarks.“We made a lifesaving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe.”

“I will never hesitate to take any steps to protect the lives, health and safety of the American people. I will always put the wellbeing of America first,” Trump said.

The virus has presented a unique challenge for Trump, who has proven immune to scandals and statements that would likely have doomed other presidencies.

Trump struck a measured tone after facing days of criticism from Democrats and former government officials that he was not taking the outbreak seriously enough. He urged the public to wash their hands and stay home if they were feeling ill and projected confidence that the U.S. was well prepared for the situation.

But the president has in the past delivered serious and thoughtful scripted remarks after national tragedies and critical moments, only to revert back to partisan swipes and Twitter attacks.

Trump urged Americans to “put partisanship aside” and come together as “one family,” a plea that may be difficult to accept from a president who last week labeled the governor of Washington a “snake.”

And the White House was forced to walk back his initial remarks about the extent of travel restrictions on Europe, underscoring the dysfunction that has engulfed the administration for much of Trump’s presidency.

Trump touted his decision last month to curb travel to the United States from China, South Korea and Iran, and he argued Europe increased its own exposure to the virus by failing to do the same.

“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots,” he said. “As a result, a number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travel from Europe.”

Trump said that the new travel restrictions will be put in place Friday at midnight and that there would be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screening.

A proclamation later issued by the White House says that the restriction does not apply to U.S. citizens and their immediate family members. The ban applies to foreign nationals who have been physically present in the European Union during the 14 days before their attempted entry into the U.S.

The president indicated in his address that the restrictions would apply to trade and cargo coming from Europe, in addition to people but the White House later clarified that the proclamation by definition only applies to people and that goods would be allowed into the country while people transporting goods would not.

The president did not explain why the restrictions would not apply to the U.K., which currently has over 400 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. This is more than other European countries subject to the ban, but far lower than the numbers reported by Italy, France, Spain and Germany.

Trump has come under criticism for his handling of the coronavirus thus far, particularly from Democrats for contradicting top health officials and repeatedly downplaying the severity of the outbreak. He argued as recently as two weeks ago that the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. would soon be “close to zero.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier Wednesday declared the coronavirus a pandemic and the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged over 1,400 points, closing in a bear market.

The number of American citizens confirmed to have the coronavirus, referred to as COVID-19, topped 1,000 overnight Tuesday, and there have been over 30 deaths in the U.S. as a result of infections of the disease.

Trump on Wednesday maintained that the risk to average Americans remains “very, very low,” even as public health officials have increasingly warned of the spread of the virus and told the public to expect changes in their daily lives.

But he also cast the battle against the virus as being above politics, and said all Americans needed to work on the issue together.

“Each of us has a role to play in defeating this virus,” he said.

He called on the country to “put politics aside” in order to chart a path forward together on the response to the virus.

Doing so may be difficult given the high tensions in Washington.

Trump was impeached by the House in December and his trial concluded in February.

During the coronavirus outbreak, he has at times criticized members of the other party. He described Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as a snake just last week during a trip to the CDC over Inslee’s criticism of his administration’s response.

Trump in his address avoided alarmist language, telling viewers that the situation did not amount to a “financial crisis.”

“This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world,” he said.

Still, the president laid out multiple executive actions aimed at boosting a sagging economy and calm nervous investors. Trump said he would direct the Small Business Administration to provide capital to firms affected by the coronavirus and instruct the Treasury Department to defer tax payments for three months without interest or penalties for specific individuals and businesses adversely impacted by the virus.

Trump called on Congress to pass legislation to extend relief to workers worried about missing a paycheck if they are feeling ill or put into quarantine. The request is likely to be well received among Democrats who have pushed for paid sick leave for hourly workers.

The president also urged Congress to consider a payroll tax cut. Trump on Tuesday pitched Congress on a payroll tax holiday through the end of the year, but the proposal has been received coolly in Capitol Hill.

If the president’s goal was to calm uneasy investors, he initially appeared to be unsuccessful. U.S. stock futures dipped immediately following the remarks amid concerns about impact additional travel restrictions could have on global trade.

The Democrat-controlled House is prepared to vote Thursday on its own emergency legislation on Thursday that includes provisions to expand unemployment insurance, extend paid sick leave and make sure children from low-income families don’t miss meals as a result of school closures.

Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) just before 8 p.m. to discuss the House legislation and the president’s planned remarks, according to a spokesman for Pelosi. The two also spoke with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.J.), who pressed them on the lack of availability of testing kits in the U.S., according to a spokesman.

Trump was scheduled to fly to Nevada on Thursday to attend a fundraiser and speak at Saturday’s Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas, but the White House said the trip had been canceled out of an “abundance of caution.”  (The Hill)

NBA Suspends Season after Player Tests Positive for Coronavirus

The NBA abruptly suspended its season on Wednesday after a Utah Jazz player was found to have tested positive to Coronavirus moments before a game began in Oklahoma City.

The league announced that the suspension would begin on Thursday, and the final game of Wednesday’s slate, between the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans, was canceled soon after the announcement.

It was a surreal day for the N.B.A. — starting with the news that one team, the Golden State Warriors, was barring fans from home games and ending with the season in peril for the entire league.

They added: “The club is taking steps to prepare all necessary procedures.”

Juventus Player, Daniele Rugani, Tests Positive to Coronavirus

Juventus’s centre back, Daniele Rugani has tested positive to Coronavirus, the club’s management has announced Thursday.

The Serie A side said it was “activating all the isolation procedures required by law”, including for those who have come into contact with Rugani.

The club added that Rugani, 25, was currently asymptomatic.

All sports in Italy has been suspended until April 3, with the country in lockdown because of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Rugani has made only seven appearances for Juventus this season and was an unused substitute in his side’s last match – a 2-0 win over Inter Milan held behind closed doors on Sunday.

Inter, whose Europa League game against Getafe that was set for Thursday has been postponed, said that “all competitive activities are suspended until further notice” following Rugani’s positive test.

They added: “The club is taking steps to prepare all necessary procedures.”

Rugani has won four Serie A titles with Juve and played for Italy seven times, last featuring for the national team in 2018.

On Sunday he posted a photograph from the dressing room as he celebrated Juve’s win over Inter with his team-mates

WEDNESDAY  MARCH 11, 2020

Italy’s Coronavirus Death Toll Rises to 827

The death toll from Coronavirus outbreak has risen by 31 per cent in 24 hours in Italy as governments across Europe have cancelled events, shut schools and imposed travel bans on residents.

Italy’s civil protection service said the number of deaths rose to 827 on Wednesday, which represents a 31 per cent surge.

Also, the total number of cases in the EU member state that has been by far the hardest hit by the virus rose to 12,462 from 10,149.

The country, which on Monday banned its 62 million people from all travel unless certified as justified on professional or health grounds, faced calls to impose even tighter restrictions in the country’s most Coronavirus-affected areas.

Italy’s Civil Protection Chief, Angelo Borrelli, said requests from senior politicians, including the opposition League leader Matteo Salvini, to “close everything” bar supermarkets and pharmacies in the orthern Lombardy and Veneto regions “must be examined, considered and assessed”.

US Coronavirus Death Toll Rises to 31

The Coronavirus outbreak intensified overnight in the United States as the numbers of death have surged to 31, with over 1000 persons said to be infected by the virus.

Testifying before Congress on Wednesday, the Head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Anthony Fauci, who is a key member of the White House taskforce formed to tackle the US response the outbreak, said: “The bottom line is it’s going to get worse.”

Fauci urged a more aggressive approach to limit the spread of the virus

“Even in areas of the country where there are no or few cases, we’ve got to change our behavior. We have to essentially assume that we are going to get hit. And that’s why we talk about making mitigation and containment in a much more vigorous way.”

Fauci said it was impossible to make projections on how far the virus would spread in the US as too much depended on what steps were taken to mitigate it, but he added: “If we are complacent and don’t do really aggressive containment and mitigation, the number could go way up and be involved in many, many millions.”

NBC reported that the official doctor serving both Congress and the Supreme Court, Brian Monahan, had told Senate staff on Tuesday that he expected between 70 million and 150 million people in the US to contract coronavirus.

The Trump administration said it planned to urge US states and localities to take stronger steps to fight the coronavirus, with new information from the federal public health agency the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“You’re going to hear from CDC today and the White House that we’re going to be making recommendations to those local communities about aggressive steps that we think they should be taking,” the health secretary, Alex Azar, told Fox News.

Azar added that federal leaders were working with local officials in the hardest-hit states so far, including Washington state, California, New York, Massachusetts and Florida, as they grappled with the virus, saying “strong mitigation steps” could help buy valuable time to control the virus.

Lagos Quarantines Six Persons over Suspected Case of Coronavirus

*Finds two missing persons in contact with index case

By Martins Ifijeh and Ayodeji Ake

The Lagos State government has quarantined six persons in its Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba over suspected case of Coronavirus disease, officially known as COVID-19.

It has also found the two missing Nigerians who sat close to the Italian index case during his flight from Istanbul to Lagos on February 27.

Stating these during a press briefing in Lagos Wednesday, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Abayomi Ajayi said the six cases comprise of a family of four children and their teacher who came into Nigeria from the United States, and were believed to have been in close proximity with someone suspected to be infected with the disease prior to their trip, and a traveller from the United Kingdom who showed certain symptoms associated with the disease.

He said: “We have kept the family in our centre now for two days. Their first test came out negative. We will repeat it within the next 48 hours. The one from the UK will be tested this evening.

“The three persons who were in isolation earlier this week have been released because they tested negative to the virus.”

Abayomi said the two names released Monday to the media by the Lagos State were persons who had contact with the index case, but that they have now been identified, adding that necessary protocol has been instituted to ascertain their status.

“The media really did well. It was very quick to have them identified. I was surprised at the speed at which they reached us.”

He also stated that the Italian index case was recovering fast even though he was still secreting the virus.

He said: “The other confirmed case is in a stable condition. He had little symptoms which have now been taken care of. We will repeat his test tomorrow to be sure he is no longer secreting the virus.”

Abayomi also cautioned Nigerians against buying face masks, noting that the commodity should be left for sick persons and healthcare workers.

“What Nigerians need to do is wash their hands under running water. We have now moved to address issues of shortage of hand sanitisers in Lagos State. The Ministry of Health has started producing its own sanitisers. In a matter of days, we will release it into the market.

“We embarked on this because it is not good for people to start profiteering from hand sanitisers because of coronavirus. This product is very easy to make. It is a simple combination of alcohol, gel, glycerine, water and other materials in the correct proportion. It is not rocket science. Everyone can actually make it.”

He said in situations where sanitisers are not available, Nigerians can actually use alcohol.

WHO Declares Coronavirus a Pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) just declared the novel coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic.

The novel coronavirus outbreak is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Wednesday.

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do,” he added.

The specific criteria for a pandemic are not universally defined, but there are three general criteria: a virus that can cause illness or death; sustained person-to-person transmission of that virus; and evidence of spread throughout the world. (CNN)

Coronavirus Kills 168 People in a Single Day in Italy

Coronavirus has killed 168 more people in Italy in the past 24 hours, the highest toll in a single day since the start of the outbreak in the country.

The whole of Italy – a country of some 60 million people – was placed under quarantine yesterday, as the government stepped up efforts to tackle the dreaded outbreak that has killed 631 people and affected more than 10,000.

Globally, more than 4,000 people have died from Coronavirus and over 113,000 cases have been confirmed, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). About 64,000 people have recovered around the world.

The Italian Prime Minister GiuseppeConte, who has now placed the entire country on lockdown, said measures introduced just two days ago in much of the North were no longer sufficient after a jump in deaths tied to the highly infectious disease, and said the entire nation had to make sacrifices to stop its spread.

“The right decision today is to stay at home. Our future and the future of Italy is in our hands. These hands have to be more responsible today than ever before,” Conte said.

Turkey Records First Case of Coronavirus

The Turkish government has announced its first case of Coronavirus (CVID 19) early Wednesday.

The Health Minister, Turkey, Fahrettin Koca, who made the announcement, said a male citizen tested positive for the coronavirus, and that precautionary measures were being put in place to contain the spread.

He said: “The infected individual contracted the virus after returning from Europe. He has been completely isolated.

“The patient’s general condition is good. All of his family members and those who came into contact with him are under surveillance,” he added.

He said an early diagnosis of the patient was made, adding that if there is a virus infection in the country, it will be very limited. “One or more cases of the coronavirus should not be considered an epidemic,” he noted.

He said: “The coronavirus is not stronger than the measures we will take. A quarantined patient cannot threaten society. Please do not go abroad unless it is compulsory. We must follow the ministry’s guidelines for safeguarding against the coronavirus,” he said.

Turkey last month closed its border with Iran, which has been hard-hit by the virus, and cancelled all flights to the country.

EU Pledges $28bn to Tackle Coronavirus

The European Commission has set up a European Union fund worth 25 billion euros ($28bn) to tackle the economic crisis caused by the Coronavirus outbreak, the Head, Executive Branch, EU, Ursula Von Der Leyen, has said.

Speaking after an emergency video conference of EU leaders, he said the investment fund should be financed with 7.5 billion euros of EU money and help vulnerable sectors of the economy.

“This instrument will reach 25 billion euros quickly. To realise this I will propose to council and parliament this week to release 7.5 billion euros of investment liquidity,” Von Der Leyen told a news conference in Brussels.

Algeria Suspends Political, Sports Gatherings over Coronavirus

The Algerian government has cancelled political and sports gatherings because of the threat posed by coronavirus,

Announcing this Tuesday evening, the Health Minister, Algeria, Abderrahmane Benbouzid, said the government was taking the measure in order to slow the spread of the disease, with 20 confirmed cases already in the country.

He said: “All sports, cultural, political and economic gatherings are cancelled. We do not take any risk,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from leading figures in the political opposition, known as the Hirak, over the move.

However, one student demonstrator, Riad Mekrez, 25, said: “I disagree with it. Hirak must go on even if I acknowledge that we need to protect people from corona.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad said the country faced an unprecedented “multi-dimensional crisis” and urged people to make fewer demands of the government and reduce their street presence.

Arsenal Players Quarantined, as EPL Postpones Match over Coronarovirus

Arsenal has quarantined its players over possible cases of Coronavirus infection, thereby forcing the club’s game against Manchester City to be postponed indefinitely.

Arsenal said players and four staff had been isolated at their homes after coming into contact with the owner of Greek club Olympiakos, who has tested positive for COVID-19.

“We are strictly following the government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact,” an Arsenal statement said.

“As a result, the players are unavailable for tonight’s (Wednesday’s) match against Manchester City and the Premier League has decided the game should be postponed.”

The first postponement in the Premier League, which has a worldwide following of billions of TV viewers, follows widespread disruption to football and other sports across the globe.

Arsenal were knocked out of the Europa League by Olympiakos in late February. Vangelis Marinakis, owner of the Greek club and England’s Nottingham Forest, announced on Tuesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

But Arsenal said the players and staff, who met Marinakis after the game at the Emirates Stadium, will return to work on Friday ahead of Saturday’s trip to Brighton.

“The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing COVID-19 at extremely low,” it added.

The Premier League called the move a “precautionary measure” and said there were no plans to postpone any other games.

Football’s Serie A and all other sports have been put on hold in Italy, while the top two divisions in Spain and France will be played in empty stadiums for at least the next two weeks.

UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League have also been both forced to arrange matches behind closed doors as the epidemic spreads.

Olympiakos host Wolverhampton Wanderers in Athens this week in the Europa League, in one of the last-16 games that will be played in front of an empty stadium.

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo has joined a number of managers, including Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, in voicing disquiet at being asked to play without fans.

“If we have to go we will. But we don’t agree — we’re not happy to go,” he told Sky Sports.

“Behind closed doors doesn’t make sense,” he added. “We’re pretending to live a normal life when things aren’t normal.”

Wednesday’s postponement could also frustrate Premier League leaders Liverpool, as a Manchester City defeat would have taken them to the brink of their first top-flight title in 30 years.

UK Health Minister Tests Positive to Coronavirus

The United Kingdom Health Minister and Conservative MP, Nadine Dorries, says she has been diagnosed with Coronavirus.

Dorries, the first MP to test positive, said she had taken all the advised precautions after finding out, and had been self-isolating at home.

This comes as a sixth person died from the virus in the UK, which has a total of 382 cases.

The latest person to die was a man in his early 80s who had underlying health conditions.

Meanwhile, NHS England said it was scaling up its capacity for testing people for the infection, with the number of cases set to rise.

That will mean 10,000 tests a day can be done – currently 1,500 are being carried out.

Confirmation of any positive test results will also be accelerated with most people getting a result back within 24 hours

TUESDAY MARCH 09, 2020 

Coronavirus: Turkish Airlines Suspends Flight Operations to Nigeria, Others

 Many Airlines operate ‘ghost flights’ to protect slots

Chinedu Eze with agency reports

As precautionary measure to check the spread of Coronavirus, Turkish Airlines has announced the cancellation of all its flights to its destinations in Nigeria: Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.

The airline has also cut back its operations to other international destinations.

The airline, which brought in the index case, the Italian to Nigeria in a statement, said the cancellation of flights to its three destinations in Nigeria was due to the Coronavirus situation all over the world.

The statement said the cancellations would start for flights originally scheduled to arrive Lagos on March 17, 23 and 29th, and flights for Abuja scheduled for March 13, 16th, 20th, 25th, 27th and April 1, 2020.

Flights to Port Harcourt would not operate on March 11th, 13th 18th, 25th and 25th.

The statement however did not say when the airline would resume flights again into the country, although it is projected that virus devastation would begin to diminish by end of April.

However, reports indicate that many international carriers are operating a number of ghost flights when they fly back to their operational hub without passengers due to fear of the virus

It was reported that certain airlines are wasting vast quantities of fuel by flying empty aircraft to various destinations in order to maintain rights to their slots.

These flights, nicknamed ‘ghost flights’ are being carried out due to rules around airport slots – something that is especially important at busy airports where a slot at an ideal time of day may be hard to come by.

The Times reported that these ghost flights have been taking place because of European rules, which state that operators can lose their airport slots if they aren’t being used.

The rule is that airlines operating out of the continent need to run 80 per cent of their slot allocations.

According to the policy, if this isn’t done then the airline can risk losing its slots to a competitor.

There were no airlines or airports specified in the reports of ‘ghost flights’.

There are indications that demand for flights has fallen drastically around the world due to government restrictions on travel.

Additionally, demand is low due to personal precautions and worries about the outbreak.

MONDAY MARCH 09, 2020 

Nigeria Confirms Second Case of Coronavirus 

Says infected Nigerian in US visited Lagos February

Martins Ifijeh

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has confirmed a second case of Coronavirus (officially known as COVID-19) in Nigeria.

He also said the Nigerian who tested positive to the disease in Washington DC was in Nigeria February, but that it was unlikely he got infected in the country.

In a statement made available to THISDAY Monday, Ehanire said the patient who tested positive Sunday to the virus, was an Ogun State contact of the index case, and that he had no significant symptom.

He said: “This brings the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria to two. The newly confirmed case in Nigeria is not a new importation, but a contact of the index case, who has since been in isolation and is under clinical follow up. The new case presently does not have any clinical symptoms, but he is comfortable and in care at Infectious Disease Hospital, Lagos.

“We have diligently and conscientiously pursued contact tracing and monitoring of people who met with the index Italian patient.”

The minister had last week said 40 persons in Ogun and 20 in Lagos who had contact with the index Italian patient were under isolation.

He said those monitored had remained free of any symptoms but in line with the ministry’s practice, it decided to test these persons for possible presence of Coronavirus, adding that one unfortunately tested positive yesterday.

“Since beginning of the outbreak in China and subsequent spread to other countries, one of the important response strategies at the containment stage, has been to identify all contacts, ensure their strict isolation and to follow up daily with checks for any symptoms of the disease.

“Following recent experience from other countries and evidence from newly published studies on non-symptomatic infections, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control NCDC, advised that samples should be taken from all contacts of the Index case for testing. It is in this process that this new case was detected.

“Recent studies in China have shown that increased surveillance, self-isolation and in particular, contact tracing do reduce risk of spread, because further opportunities for transmission of the virus by the infected patient in the community are limited.”

He emphasized that all other contacts of the index case in Ogun and Lagos will remain in isolation and testing will be carried out on those not yet tested, including some in other states.

Ehanire said: “On the case reported in the US of Nigerian origin, we are in touch with colleagues at the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and here in Abuja. The case visited Lagos in February 2020. However, given the timelines between the time he was in Nigeria briefly and when he became ill, the likelihood that he was infected in Lagos is very low.

“We are assuring Nigerians of our commitment to do all needed to control spread of this outbreak. Since the first case was confirmed in Nigeria on February 27, 2020, the National Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) in Abuja, continues to work closely with Lagos and Ogun State EOCs to coordinate response activities.”

He advised against spreading misinformation to cause fear and panic.

SUNDAY MARCH 08, 2020 

Coronavirus: Northern Italy Quarantines 16m People

Italy has placed up to 16 million people under quarantine as it battles to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Anyone living in Lombardy and 14 other central and northern provinces will need special permission to travel. Milan and Venice are both affected.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also announced the closure of schools, gyms, museums, nightclubs and other venues across the whole country.

The measures, the most radical taken outside China, will last until 3 April.

Italy has seen the largest number of coronavirus cases in Europe and reported a steep rise in infections on Saturday.

The strict new quarantine measures affect a quarter of the Italian population and centre on the northern part of the country that powers its economy.

The death toll in Italy has passed 230, with officials reporting more than 36 deaths in 24 hours. The number of confirmed cases jumped by more than 1,200 to 5,883 on Saturday.

“We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big,” Mr Conte said early on Sunday.

Under the new measures, people are not supposed to be able to enter or leave the whole northern region of Lombardy, home to 10 million people, except for emergency access. Milan is the main city in the region.

The same restrictions apply to 14 provinces: Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, Treviso and Venice.

“There will be no movement in or out of these areas, or within them, unless for proven, work-related reasons emergencies or health reasons,” Mr Conte told reporters.

“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency. We have to limit the spread of the virus and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed.”

However transport in and out of the regions affected continues. At least seven flights from other European cities arrived at Milan’s Malpensa airport on Sunday morning according to flight tracking websites. (BBC)

Nigerian Tests Positive to Coronavirus in US

Martins Ifijeh

A Nigerian has tested positive to Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, in the United States, the Mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser, has said.

Announcing this at a press briefing Sunday, she said the Nigerian who passed through the US capital city underwent the test in Maryland, and that the state has commenced contact tracing on those he met in Washington DC.

Bowser had earlier announced that a man in his 50s had tested positive for Coronavirus, marking the first presumptively confirmed case in the capital.

She said: “The man started exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 in late February and was hospitalised Thursday.”

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said he was not concerned “at all” about the outbreak getting closer to the White House after the first Washington case and an attendee of a recent political conference where he spokn also tested positive for the virus.

19 people have died in the US from the virus, while number of infections in the country has surged to 400.

Italy Announces Lockdown as Coronavirus Death Toll Rises to 233, Confirmed Cases Now 5,883

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree early Sunday that will put millions of people across northern Italy under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus.

The sweeping move puts the entire Lombardy region, as well as 14 other provinces, under travel restrictions, and is one of the toughest responses implemented outside of mainland China to get the Covid-19 epidemic under control.

CNN is verifying exactly when the lockdown will go into effect.

The announcement came after Italy saw a dramatic spike of 1,247 confirmed novel coronavirus cases on Saturday, the Civil Protection Department said in a statement.

The country has now recorded 5,883 cases and 233 deaths, the most fatalities outside mainland China and the biggest outbreak in Europe.

Announcing the new measures, Conte said: “There will be an obligation to avoid any movement of people who are either entering or leaving” the affected areas. “Even within the areas moving around will occur only for essential work or health reasons,” he said, according to Reuters.

While the lockdown only applies to northern Italy, other measures will be applied to the entire country. These include the suspension of schools, university classes, theaters and cinemas, as well as bars, nightclubs, and sports events. Religious ceremonies, including funerals, will also be suspended.

Other countries in Europe are also struggling to contain outbreaks as cases continue to rise.

On Saturday, France’s general director of health, Jerome Salomon, confirmed 16 dead and 949 infected nationwide, and Germany now has 795 cases. The United Kingdom confirmed a second death from the novel coronavirus on Saturday, while 206 people have tested positive, British health officials said in a statement.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on “all countries to continue efforts that have been effective in limiting the number of cases and slowing the spread of the virus.”

In a statement, the WHO said: “Allowing uncontrolled spread should not be a choice of any government, as it will harm not only the citizens of that country but affect other countries as well.”

Meanwhile in China, search and rescue efforts continued on Sunday for survivors from the collapse of a hotel that was being used as a coronavirus quarantine center.

The hotel, in the southeastern city of Quanzhou, in Fujian province, came down Saturday night with 80 people inside. Four people died, one person remains in critical condition and four others are seriously injured, according to China’s Ministry of Emergency Management.

“We are using life detection instruments to monitor signs of life and professional breaking-in tools to make forcible entries. We are trying our utmost to save trapped people,” said Guo Yutuan, squadron leader of the Quanzhou armed police detachment’s mobile unit.

The building’s owner is in police custody, according to state news agency Xinhua and an investigation is underway.

The total number of worldwide cases stands at more than 105,000, with 3,599 deaths. China’s National Health Commission reported 27 new deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, and 99 new infections.

As Italy and Iran suffer from the most deaths outside of China, South Korea continues to battle the worst outbreak.

On Sunday, South Korea announced 367 new infections, bringing the country’s total to 7,134, according to the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 50 deaths.

Among the new cases, 294 are from Daegu city and 32 are from North Gyeongsang Province, the most heavily infected areas in the country.

In the United States, 444 cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local governments, and 19 people have died.

This includes presumptive positive cases that tested positive in a public health lab and are pending confirmation from the CDC, and confirmed cases have received positive results from the CDC.

A volunteer from Blue Sky Rescue uses fumigation equipment to disinfect a residential compound in Beijing on Thursday, March 5.

On Saturday, the American Conservative Union announced that one of the attendees at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, tested positive for coronavirus.

President Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence were attending the event, though the ACU said the attendee did not come into contact with either of the men.

When asked by reporters if he was worried about being exposed to coronavirus after he attended CPAC, Trump said, “I’m not concerned at all.”

Trump, who was speaking alongside Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ahead of their dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, also noted that the administration would not cancel any political rallies as the virus spreads.

“We’ll have tremendous rallies. We’re doing very well. We’ve done a fantastic job, with respect to that subject, on the virus,” Trump said.

Meanwhile, 14 out of 16 coronavirus deaths in the US state of Washington are associated with a nursing home in Kirkland, according to a Seattle & King County Public Health press release. The Life Care Center is at the center the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

Some Life Care Center patients have gone from no symptoms to acute symptoms within an hour, according to Tim Killian, spokesperson for Life Care Center of Kirkland.

“We’ve had patients die relatively quickly under those circumstances,” he said, adding that the virus was “volatile, unpredictable.”

There were 180 staff members employed at Life Care Center as of February 19 and 70 employees now have symptoms of novel coronavirus. The Center of Disease Control has provided “extra nurses, practitioners and doctors,” to the nursing home. (CNN)

Oxford University Student Tests Positive to Coronavirus

A student at the University of Oxford has tested positive to Coronavirus after returning home from an unspecified country, a statement on the University’s website reveals.

The affected student reportedly did not attend any university or college events before self-isolating and Public Health England has told the University that the risk to other students and staff is very low.

Meanwhile, more than 16 million people were placed under forced quarantine in Northern Italy early Sunday as the government approved drastic measures in an attempt to halt the spread of the deadly Coronavirus that is sweeping the globe.

Aid agencies are moving to prevent a novel Coronavirus outbreak in conflict-plagued Northwestern Syria, where damaged health infrastructure and massive displacement make containment a nearly impossible task.

Syria has not yet confirmed any Coronavirus cases but its “fragile health systems may not have the capacity to detect and respond to an epidemic, Hedinn Halldorsson, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, told AFP.

SATURDAY MARCH 07, 2020 

China Hotel Where Coronavirus Patients are Quarantined Collapses

Approximately 70 people were trapped in a collapsed hotel in the city of Quanzhou, in southeastern Fujian province, the city government said on its website.

The collapsed hotel is used for coronavirus quarantine, according to the official People’s Daily. Twenty-three people were rescued, the city government said. (Aljazeera)

Coronavirus Spreads in French Parliament

A second member of France’s National Assembly has been taken to hospital after contracting coronavirus and five other lawmakers are being tested for the illness, the lower house’s presidency said in a statement.

The Assembly did not name the two legislators who have caught the disease but local media in the eastern region of Alsace have reported that the first of the two MPs is Jean-Luc Reitzer, who represents one of the departments most affected by the outbreak and is currently under intensive care.

The second one is a woman, according to the statement by the parliament. (Aljazeera)

Pope to Deliver Sunday Prayer by Livestream

Pope Francis has cancelled his main public appearances to avoid crowds gathering to see him and will stream them on the internet from inside the Vatican because of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.

The Vatican said the pope would not address crowds from a window overlooking St Peter’s Square and would not hold his general audience there either on Wednesday

They will be held without general public participation from inside the Vatican.

The 83-year-old pope cancelled a Lent retreat for the first time in his papacy, but the Vatican has said he is suffering only from a cold that is “without symptoms related to other pathologies”. (Aljazeera)

Iran Death Toll Rises to 145

Over the past 24 hours, Iran has registered 21 more deaths due to the coronavirus, bringing the total to 145.

A health ministry official also said the people testing positive for the virus had risen to 5,823. (Aljazeera)

Coronavirus: Over 100,000 Now Infected in 91 Countries, Italian Suffers Depression

•93 Turkish Airline passengers wanted

•Three new suspected cases in Lagos test negative

•FG releases N984m to combat virus

Ndubuisi Francis and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Segun James and Chinedu Eze in Lagos

Coronavirus has infected more than 100,000 people across 91 countries globally, according to statistics released friday by French news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

The death toll reached 3,406, while the total number of infections, according to AFP, hit 100,002, after a surge in cases worldwide since Thursday, notably in virus hotspot Iran.

The Johns Hopkins University’s CSSE also updated its global death toll to 3,460 people and the total number of cases to 101,733.

Also yesterday, while providing update on the state of the virus attack, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said only 55 of the 148 passengers on board Turkish Airlines with the Nigerian index case, an Italian, had come forward for testing.

The figures showing over 100,000 infected globally by Coronavirus were compiled from data collected by AFP offices from the competent national authorities and information from the World Health Organisation.

The over 100,000 figure is a grim milestone that now appears inevitable with self-sustaining clusters continuing to expand in South Korea, Japan, parts of Europe, Iran and the United States.

Health experts have suggested that newly emergent clusters in Europe and the Middle East could accelerate the global spread of the disease. India has so far identified 31 cases, at least 17 of which have been linked to travelers from Italy, leading to fears that the world’s second most populous country could see its own outbreak in the coming days. Cases linked to Iran have also emerged elsewhere in the world.

In neighboring South Korea, infections have surged dramatically, with more than 6,500 confirmed cases after the government tested tens of thousands of people as part of a mass screening drive aimed at better mapping and controlling the virus’ spread.

By Thursday afternoon, there were at least 228 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, with 70 in Washington state alone, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local governments.

South Korea has the highest number of cases outside China, with over 6,500 infections and 42 deaths, prompting the country to extend school breaks by three weeks.

Japan imposed quarantine on arrivals from South Korea and China, angering Seoul which summoned the Japanese ambassador to protest the “irrational” move.

Italy, which has the biggest outbreak in Europe, has ordered schools and universities shut until March 15, and on Thursday reported a sharp rise in deaths, bringing the total to 148, with the contagion in Europe’s worst-hit country showing no sign of slowing.

The government, which has imposed draconian measures to try to contain the outbreak, said it would double the money pledged to help the economy cope with the impact of the epidemic.

The accumulative number of cases in the country totalled 3,858, up from 3,089 on Wednesday.

The increase in both the number of deaths and the number of infections was by far the largest since the outbreak began in northern regions two weeks ago.

As the strain on hospitals increased, the northern Lombardy region, Italy’s industrial and financial heartland that has reported by far the highest number of patients and deaths, told inhabitants not to go to hospitals with anything other than urgent problems.

The epidemic is focused on a handful of hotspots in the north of Italy. However, cases have now been confirmed in each of the country’s 20 regions, with 44 in central Lazio around Rome, and 45 in southern Campania, around Naples.

In Malaysia, the Health Ministry has confirmed five new cases of Covid-19, bringing the tally of infections to 55.

Ehanire Pleads with Turkish Airlines Passengers to Come Forward

Also yesterday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said that it plans to commit N1.674 billion in the next 28 days on activities aimed at containing Coronavirus in the country.

The Deputy Director, Special Duties at NCDC, Dr. Priscilla Ibekwe, who spoke at the weekly ministerial briefing organised by the Ministry of Health in Abuja, said from the assessment the centre made, it would need N1.674 billion to carry out its surveillance, testing and isolation activities in the next one month.

“We have met with donor partners on how to access funds to tackle Covid-19 virus. For the first 28 days we have a budget of about N1.674 billion to tackle Covid-19 and so we have spoken to our international partners and local partners and we are going to continue that conversation,” she said.

At the briefing, the Director General of the Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Dr. Obi Adigwe disclosed that the agency has successfully developed a hand sanitizer to address the looming scarcity of the liquid used as part of the prevention for Coronavirus.

He said that the agency responded to the outcry of concerned Nigerians and the subsequent directive by the minister of health to assist in checking the anticipated shortages in local supply of drugs and materials needed to manage the outbreak of Covid-19 disease.

Adigwe, who said that the new product was undergoing process of certification by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), added that NIPRD was engaging further research to help actualise government’s vision on drug security.

At the forum, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire spoke on the claim by former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu that he had developed a medicine that can cure the Covid-19 virus.

He said that he was aware that Prof. Iwu had sent his research to the United States for further analysis, adding that the federal government would not hesitate to cue into any credible effort to contain the disease outbreak.

While providing update on the state of the virus attack, Ehanire said that there was no new confirmed case of Covid-19 in the country.

He said that so far, health officials engaged in contact tracing of all those that have had contact with index patient- the Italian consultant have 61 persons in Ogun and Lagos states.

Ehanire said that 21 suspected people who met the case definition were tested, and put under observation but that they reported negative.

The minister also gave update on the progress being made to trace co-passengers of the Italian Covid-19 patient, saying that 55 of the passengers of Turkish airline that brought the Italian had been traced and were being followed up by health officials.

The minister said that between the 7th of January and 5th of March 2020, a total of 21 suspected cases had been identified across four states in Nigeria.

“The states are Lagos, Ogun, FCT and Kano. There is still only one confirmed case of COVID- 9 in Nigeria, which is the index case and no death.

“Therefore as of today, 6th of March 2020, I repeat that there is no confirmed case of COVID-9 in Nigeria,” he said.

The minister also spoke on the state of health of the index case, saying “he is clinically stable, with mild symptoms and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.”

Ehanire said that health officials were following up with 61 contacts of the index case, 21 in Lagos State and 40 in Ogun State.

He said the contacts of the index case are currently under supervised self-isolation and the states have provided them with temperature monitoring tools.

Of the 148 passengers on the manifest of the index case flight, the minister said 55 are actively being followed up, adding that the NCDC and Port Health Services are in touch with them to monitor their temperatures and possible appearance of COVID- 9 symptoms.

The minister further appealed to other passenger of the Turkish Airlines Flight to Lagos on February 24 to contact relevant officials.

He said: “I urge any passenger of the Turkish Airlines Flight to Lagos on February 24 listening to me to contact us on 080097000-10.”

Suspected Patients Test Negative in Lagos

The three suspected patients quarantined in Lagos have tested negative to the deadly disease.

This leaves only the Italian patient as the only confirmed case in the country so far, the Lagos Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi said yesterday.

Abayomi had on Thursday said three people had been quarantined at the state’s isolation centre in Yaba on suspicion of Coronavirus.

The commissioner tweeted yesterday evening that the three suspects had tested negative to the deadly disease and they had since been discharged and allowed to go.

He however maintained on Thursday that the index case, an Italian was responding to treatment at the isolation centre, as his clinical situation was stable.

He stated that the Italian was in high spirit, but that he required psycho-social support as he was getting depressed for being in isolation, adding that the patient was in touch with his family and friends in Italy.

Abayomi, however, said the level of viral load in his body had gone down and if that continued, in the next few days, he might be discharged if he tested negative to the disease.

He said government would not just release him immediately he tested negative to the disease, but would still keep him and run a second test in few days to ascertain he was completely free of the disease before letting him go back to his country.

FG Releases N984m to Combat Virus

The federal government disclosed yesterday that it had released a total of N984 million to relevant agencies to help combat Coronavirus.

The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning said in a statement that the federal government released N620 million yesterday, having released N364 million earlier, bringing the total so far released to fight the global scourge, to N984 million.

The statement issued by Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, Special Adviser on Media and Communications to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said: “The approval by President Muhammadu Buhari for the release of funds to tackle COVID-19 was an emergency and the process of releasing the fund was also an emergency as it was an unexpected expenditure. However, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning had released the first tranche of N364 million sometime ago and the process of releasing the second tranche has been concluded with the release of N620 million this morning (yesterday), bringing total release to N984 million.”

Vatican Records First Case

The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni reported yesterday that the first case of coronavirus infection had been reported in the Vatican City.

He noted that the patient was discovered on Thursday and that emergency services are sanitising the area.

The Vatican is not the first holy site to be affected by the coronavirus this week.

Saudi authorities previously suspended pilgrimages to Mecca due to health concerns, while Israel shut down travel to and from Bethlehem.

Togo Confirms First Case

Togo yesterday confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus after a 42-year-old woman tested positive following her return from a trip to Benin, Germany, France and Turkey.

The presidency in the West African nation of eight million people said the patient, who lives in the capital Lome with her family, was “currently isolated in a treatment centre for infectious diseases” after testing positive on Thursday.

“From February 22 to March 2, 2020 she visited Benin, Germany, France and Turkey before returning to Togo via the land border with Benin,” the presidency said in a statement.

It said all people who had contact with the patient in the country “have been identified and put in quarantine.”

In sub-Saharan Africa, Senegal has registered four cases, all foreign nationals.

Foreign Airlines Record 20% Decline in Passenger Traffic, Says NANTA

President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents, (NANTA), Bankole Bernard has said that Nigeria’s aviation sector has seen about 20 per cent decline in passenger traffic as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Just as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) projected that globally the airline industry would lose between $63 billion and $113 billion to the Coronavirus epidemic.

Bernard said in Lagos yesterday that since the spread of the Coronavirus from China, the travel industry has been affected, especially because Nigeria is an import driven country but Nigerians however are now diverting to other countries such as Turkey to import their goods.

Speaking during a press conference to announce NANTA elective Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Lagos, the NANTA president said the level of resilience and tenacity of Nigerians is second to none, as Nigerians now go to Turkey to bring in their goods instead of China.

FRIDAY MARCH 06, 2020 

Coronavirus: 3 Quarantined Patients Tested Negative, Lagos Commissione

By Segun James

As Coronavirus continues to spread in countries around the world, three suspected patients quarantined in Lagos have tested negative to the deadly disease.

This leaves only the Italian patient as the only confirmed case in Nigeria so far, the Lagos Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said Friday evening.

Abayomi had on Thursday said three people had been quarantined at the state’s isolation centre in Yaba on suspicion of contracting Coronavirus.

But tests carried out on the suspects have proved negative even as he revealed that one of the suspects quarantined was a Nigerian who travelled to France eight days ago and arrived the country four days later.

He said that the man developed headache and respiratory symptom which led to him being quarantined.

Two other travellers from England and China were also quarantined for coronavirus after they developed same symptoms but samples were collected for tests to ascertain if they had been affected by Coronavirus.

However, the commissioner tweeted on Friday evening that the three suspects had tested negative to the deadly disease and had since been discharged.

In the tweet, Abayomi wrote: “Breaking! #COVID19Lagos All the three #COVID19 suspected cases; travellers from France, England and China whose samples were collected yesterday for analysis have tested negative and they have been discharged.”

He however maintained on Thursday that the index case, an Italian, was responding to treatment at the isolation centre, as his clinical situation was stable.

He stated that the Italian was in high spirit, but that he required psycho-social support as he was getting depressed for being in isolation alone, adding that the patient was in touch with his family and friends in Italy.

Abayomi, however, said the level of viral load in his body had gone down and that if that continued, in the next few days, he might be discharged if he tested negative to the disease.

He said government would not just release him immediately he tested negative to the disease, but would still keep him and run a second test in few days to ascertain he was completely free from the disease before letting him go back to his country.

On the people who alighted from the Turkish Airline on arrival in Lagos, he said government had been able to trace 13 of the remaining 15 contacts, leaving only two that had not been reached, saying that if at the end of today, they could not be reached, he would release their names to the media.

COVID-19 Hits January Passenger Demand

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced global passenger traffic data for January 2020, showing that demand (measured in total revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) climbed 2.4 per cent compared to January 2019. This was down from 4.6 per cent year-over-year growth for the prior month and is the lowest monthly increase since April 2010, at the time of the volcanic ash cloud crisis in Europe that led to massive airspace closures and flight cancellations. January capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) increased by 1.7 per cent load factor climbed 0.6 percentage point to 80.3 per cent.

“January was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the traffic impacts we are seeing owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, given that major travel restrictions in China did not begin until 23 January. Nevertheless, it was still enough to cause our slowest traffic growth in nearly a decade,” said IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.

In January international passenger demand rose 2.5 per cent compared to January 2019, down from 3.7 per cent growth the previous month. With the exception of Latin America, all regions recorded increases, led by airlines in Africa and the Middle East that saw minimal impact from the COVID-19 outbreak in January. Capacity climbed 0.9 per cent, and load factor rose 1.2 percentage points to 81.1 per cent.

African airlines’ traffic climbed 5.3 per cent in January, up slightly from 5.1 per cent growth in December. Capacity rose 5.7 per cent, however, and load factor slipped 0.3 percentage point to 70.5 per cent.

Middle Eastern airlines posted a 5.4 per cent traffic increase in January, the fourth consecutive month of solid demand growth, reflecting strong performance from larger Europe-Middle East and Middle East-Asia routes, which were not significantly impacted by route cancellations related to COVID-19 at that time. Capacity increased just 0.5 per cent, with load factor jumping 3.6 percentage points to 78.3 per cent.

THURSDAY MARCH 05, 2020 

South Africa Records First Case of Coronavirus

The South African government has confirmed the first case of Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, in the country.

Announcing this Thursday, the Minister of Health, South Africa, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has ran a test on the patient, and it turned out positive to the virus.

He said: “The patient is a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife. They were part of a group of 10 people and they arrived back in South Africa on March 1, 2020.

“Meanwhile, two South Africans who tested positive to the disease aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess have now tested negative and will shortly be making their way back to South Africa,” the minister said.

The pair who initially tested positive for Coronavirus had been hospitalised in Japan after being taken ashore from the cruise ship where they worked.

The Diamond Princess was first quarantined in January when a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for Coronavirus.

South Africa, which last week said it would evacuate its nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, adding that those plans are at an ‘advanced stage’, said, “A total of 184 South Africans have indicated their desire to be repatriated.”

They are said to be mostly “students, teachers and other professionals.”

Coronavirus: NCAA Orders Airlines to Issue Health Forms to Passengers, Crew Members

By Chinedu Eze and Martins Ifijeh

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has ordered all airlines operating international and regional flights into Nigeria to issue Health Declaration Forms to their passengers including crew members before arriving Nigerian airports.

The agency said this warning was coming on the heels of failure of some airlines operating international and regional flights into Nigeria to provide Health Declaration Forms (Passengers self-reporting forms).

NCAA said a letter to this effect has been issued to all airlines and other stakeholders.

In view of the above, airlines are to remind passengers to provide factual address and phone numbers to enhance contact tracing in case there is need to do so.

“The Health Declaration forms (Passenger self-reporting forms) will be collected and evaluated by the personnel of Port Health Services on the arrival of the passengers and crewmembers alike.

“Airlines are to collect the Health Declaration forms (Passenger self-reporting forms) from the Port Health Services at the various international airports of the country,” NCAA said in a statement signed by its spokesman, Sam Adurogboye.

The authority insisted that failure to comply with the directive by any airline would attract severe sanctions.

With Two New Coronavirus Cases, Senegal Now Has Total of Four

Iwu’s ‘isolated compound’ for the virus cure undergoing test in US, says FG

Omololu Ogunmade, Ndubuisi Francis, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja, Chinedu Eze, Martins Ifijeh and Nume Ekeghe in Lagos

Senegal wednesday confirmed two new cases of coronavirus bringing the country’s tally to four. A statement by the country’s Ministry of Health said the two cases had been confirmed by the Institut Pasteur de Dakar.

This development is coming as an ‘isolated compound’ considered to be capable of curing COVID-19, which was reportedly discovered by a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu, is currently being subjected to scientific test in the United States.

Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who confirmed the testing of the drug wednesday while answering questions from State House reporters at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, explained that Iwu did not say he had discovered the cure for Coronavirus but only said he had “an isolated compound” on the disease, which drew American interest.

Besides, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said Angola has reversed the travel ban placed on Nigerians as a result of Coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The Lagos State government has also said the Italian patient who tested positive to Coronavirus was fast recovering from the disease

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has, however, cautioned against the spread of the virus in Africa.

One of the new patients in Senegal is connected with the second confirmed case.

The 68-year-old French national is the wife of the patient diagnosed on Tuesday, while the other patient is a 33-year-old English national who arrived in Dakar on February 24 from London.

On Monday, Senegal announced the first case of coronavirus in the country, becoming the second in sub-Saharan Africa after one was confirmed in Nigeria last week.

The country’s Minister of Health, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr told journalists that the index patient was a French man who lives in Senegal and came back from a skiing holiday in France on February 26 on an Air Senegal flight,

However, the man has since been quarantined at Dakar’s Fann Hospital. North African countries -Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt have also confirmed cases of the virus.

Meanwhile, Onu said following Iwu’s claim, experts from the United States came to Nigeria and took the product made from Nigerian herbs away.

Onu said when Iwu expressed concern that the product might be hijacked from him by the United States if found capable of curing Coronavirus, he drew the attention of the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, to it and also invited the President of the Academy of Science to ensure that the credit is not taken away from Iwu.

He said consequently, America entered into an agreement with him, noting, however, that if the US did not find Iwu’s isolated discovery promising, it would not have cared to enter into any agreement with him.

The minister also said the ministry was working on what he described as voting solutions which would make it possible for all Nigerian elections, ranging from local government, state assemblies, governorship, National Assembly and presidential elections to be conducted in one day.

According to him, this “voting solution” won’t be done on paper and hence, would give no room for ballot snatching and would be powered by solar energy to avoid any disruption by power failure.

Onu added that the ministry was conducting a research aimed at finding solution to breast cancer, which he described as the major cancer disease affecting women, as well as another research seeking cure for prostate cancer and epilepsy using natural herbs in the country.

He also said the ministry was carrying out another study meant to evolve a food supplement with the capacity to help the patient of sickle cell to effectively manage his ailment and avert sinking into crisis.

Onu also said a project called third eye navigator was being researched upon with the intention of helping the physically challenged to move.

Ehanire explained that the index case of Coronavirus was not discovered at the airport last week when an infected Italian visited the country because the ailment could not be easily discovered until its symptoms manifested.

He said if the victim had come the following day when the symptom first manifested, it would have been easily detected at the airport.

On why the identity of the Italian, whom he said is currently stable, has not been disclosed, he said it is unethical to do so.

Angola Reverses Travel Ban Placed on Nigerians

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said Angola has reversed the travel ban placed on Nigerians as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.

A senior officer from the Crisis Communication Department of the ministry, Mr. Kimiebi Ebienfa, in a statement yesterday, said: “Grateful be informed that the Government of Angola has reversed the travel ban earlier placed on Nigerian nationals over the case of Coronavirus in Nigeria.”

Italian Patient Fast Recovering from Coronavirus

The Lagos State government also Wednesday gave an update on the condition of the index case, saying the Italian patient is fast recovering from the disease.

The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said apart from him, there was no suspected case currently isolated at the centre.

He said: “We test the Italian patient every day to ascertain whether the virus is still in him or not. This gives us the indication whether he is still contagious or not.

“Sometimes, there is a little bit of rebound in the virus’ pattern before it finally goes away. The tests that we are performing are extremely sensitive. So far, he is doing well and recovering.”

Abayomi identified one of the difficulties the state is having in tracking down persons who travelled via Turkish Airlines with the index case into Nigeria was the inaccurate contact details in their forms.

“Some of the travellers didn’t provide accurate figures, so we are unable to get them.

“Of the 159 passengers that boarded the aircraft with the index patient, 84 resides in Lagos and only 49 have been contacted, while the remaining 35 are still unreachable. 65 people have left Lagos either to other states or other countries. We have contacted the World Health Organisation (WHO) and state epidemiologists to reach out to them because they are no longer in our jurisdiction.

“The young man that was on Ethiopian airline tested negative to the virus. So that means we no longer have a suspected case in our centre,” he added.

He said the state’s priority was to stop the virus from spreading within the country, adding that the major focus was at the airport.

IMF Cautions against Spread of Coronavirus in Africa

IMF, however, has cautioned against the spread of the Coronavirus in Africa.

The Managing Director, IMF, Mrs. Kristalina Georgieva, said yesterday during a joint media briefing with the World Bank, held in Washington DC that

as part of the IMF and World Bank’s contribution towards tackling this disease, the Fund has made available $10 billion to low income countries at zero per cent.

Georgieva said: “We have done a quick assessment of countries of highest risk, because of combinations of four factors, week health systems, exposure to price shocks because of commodity export orientation, vulnerability due to spill over impacts from other countries and limited fiscal space.

“It is unfortunately clear from this analysis that Sub-Saharan Africa presents a particularly area of focus. We do have up to $10 billion available for low income countries to tap in with zero interest rates and obviously we would prioritise countries especially in Africa that have already been faced with difficulties.

“And we have a trust fund that allows the low-income countries to pay their obligations to the IMF so they can use this fiscal pace to fund priority investments.”

World Bank Pledges $12bn in Emergency Aid

The World Bank Group has also confirmed that it is making available an initial package of up to $12 billion in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts of the global outbreak.

This financing is designed to help member countries take effective action to respond to and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by the COVID-19.

Through this new fast-track package, the World Bank Group will help developing countries strengthen health system, including better access to health services to safeguard people from the epidemic, strengthen disease surveillance, bolster public health interventions, and work with the private sector to reduce the impact on economies.

The financial package, with financing drawn from across International Development Association (IDA), International Bank for Reconstruction (IBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), will be globally coordinated to support country-based responses.

The COVID-19 support package will make available initial crisis resources of up to $12 billion in financing — $8 billion of which is new — on a fast track basis. This comprises up to $2.7 billion new financing from IBRD; $1.3 billion from IDA, complemented by reprioritisation of $2 billion of the Bank’s existing portfolio; and $6 billion from IFC , including $2 billion from existing trade facilities.

It will also include policy advice and technical assistance drawing on global expertise and country-level knowledge.

“We are working to provide a fast, flexible response based on developing country needs in dealing with the spread of COVID-19. This includes emergency financing, policy advice and technical assistance, building on the World Bank Group’s existing instruments and expertise to help countries respond to the crisis,” said World Bank Group President, David Malpass.

Airlines Face Revenue Drop on Reduced Passenger Traffic

The Coronavirus epidemic has weakened demand for air ticket in the world and travel experts have projected that the impact of the disease will hurt airlines’ profitability.

As at February 20, 2020 the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had projected that airlines had lost over $29 billion, but passenger traffic has continued to drop since then and airlines have cut back their operations to some destinations.

Confirming this development, the Director of Consumer Protection, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr. Adamu Abdullahi, said there was a significant drop in passenger traffic on international routes, adding that there is no statistics to know the exact figures yet, till the end of the month.

“So many international meeting that usually attract high passenger traffic have been cancelled, so airlines just fly about with empty seats. Of course this will have adverse financial effect on the airlines,” he said.

Also the Managing Director of Air France/KLM, Mr. Benjamin Smith, said losses being incurred by airlines due to the Coronavirus would force the carrier to go into merger because of competition, especially airlines that are already weak.

But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised against suspension of flights, saying that it is a wrong strategy to end the spread of the virus.

Senegal Confirms 2 New Cases of Coronavirus

Senegal on Wednesday announced two new cases of coronavirus bringing the number of cases confirmed in the West African country to four.

The country’s Health Ministry in a statement said the two cases had been confirmed by the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, according to Africanews.com.

Accirding to the statement, one of the new patients is connected with the second confirmed case. The 68-year-old French national is the wife of the patient diagnosed on Tuesday, while the other patient is a 33-year-old English national who arrived in Dakar on February 24 from London.

Senegal on Minday had announced the first case of coronavirus in the country, becoming the second in sub-Saharan Africa after one was confirmed in Nigeria last week.

The index patient was a French man who lives in Senegal and came back from a skiing holiday in France on Feb. 26 on an Air Senegal flight, Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr told reporters.

“The patient is a French national, married and father of two children, who has been living in Senegal with his family for two years. He stayed in France, in Nîmes, and at the a ski station in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, between 19 and 25 February 2020,” the Minister said at the time.

The man has since been quarantined at Dakar’s Fann Hospital. North African countries Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt have also confirmed cases of the virus.

The World Health Organization, WHO, Africa region has so far boosted testing capacity of 33 out of 47 nations and have hinted that the remaining countries will be receiving necessary equipments and training soon.

WEDNESDAY MARCH 04, 2020 

Lawan: Coronavirus Isolation Centres Not Ready in Abuja

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday evening expressed concern that the two isolation centres meant for the treatment of Coronavirus patients in the Federal Capital Territory were yet to be ready.

Lawan, also frowned at the non release by the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, of N620 million earlier approved by the federal government for the emergency response to Coronavirus (COVID -19) outbreak.

The Senate President, who spoke after inspecting facilities at the two isolation centres at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada, stated that the isolation centres were far from being ready going by what he saw.

He stressed that “from our inspection here, the temporary isolation centre is really not in good shape, it doesn’t look ready to receive any patient, and I believe that this is something that we need to fix between now and tomorrow.

“We are in an emergency, even if we don’t have people who are affected, we shouldn’t just rest on our oars. We have to do everything and anything possible to fix that temporary isolation centre to be prepared to receive anyone who falls sick in this respect”.

Lawan further lamented that Nigeria, despite being a country with the largest economy in Africa, is yet to have a completed Isolation Centre in any of the geo-political zones that would provide emergency response to disease outbreak in the country.

He charged those saddled with leadership responsibilities in the country to live up to expectations through timely discharge of their mandates and duties.

His words: “There’s no way that Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, with a population of two hundred million, and yet the Federal Capital and six surrounding states of the North Central, you don’t have one room that you can call an isolation centre, where anyone who unfortunately falls into this crisis will be taken to. This is not acceptable.

“I also believe that we should have a replication of the permanent site, we should be able to complete this and then have five others across the remaining geo-political zones of the country.

“The contractor said by the end of this month this should be ready, we pray it should be faster, but by the end of tomorrow, that temporary site must be ready.

“There’s no generator, no electricity, nothing. There were two or three air conditioners brought this morning, maybe because yesterday we said we were coming here. This is not acceptable”.

He assured Nigerians that the relevant committees of the Senate will carry out a follow-up on Thursday to ensure that work on the isolation centres begins and is completed.

“The Senate Committee on Health will come back tomorrow (Thursday), we want to see that temporary isolation centre fixed. We need to be committed, we need to be very serious, and this is the essence of our oversight, but because it is very important, we decided that the leadership of the Senate should lead this oversight,” Lawan said.

Lawan also asked the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to immediately release the sum of N620m to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), an amount budgeted for emergency response to the Coronavirus (COVID – 19) outbreak.

“I am sad, we are indeed actually sad, that of the N620 million that was supposed to be released to this place for fixing of everything here to NCDC, not a kobo has been released. “We are going to get across to the Minister of Finance and all the other authorities that have anything to do with this to release this money latest between today and tomorrow. So, we are going to ensure that the money is released, we are not going to put pressure. This is what they are supposed to do, and they must do it.

“As leaders given responsibilities, we have to do what is right. This is unfortunate. So, the Ministry of Finance should release the N620 million between today and tomorrow,” Lawal said.

Italian Patient Recovering from Coronavirus, Says Lagos Govt

Martins Ifijeh and Ayodeji Ake

The Lagos State government has said the Italian patient who tested positive to Coronavirus last week was recovering from the disease.

Stating this at a press briefing in Alausa Wednesday, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi said apart from him, there was no suspected case currently isolated at the centre.

He said: “We test the Italian patient every day to ascertain whether the virus is still in him or not. This gives us the indication whether he is still contagious or not.

“Sometimes, there is a little bit of rebound in the virus’ pattern before it finally goes away. The test that we are performing are extremely sensitive. So far he is doing well and recovering,” he said.

Abayomi said one of the difficulties the state was having in tracking down persons who travelled via Turkish Airlines with the index case into Nigeria was the inaccurate contact details in their forms.

“Some of the travellers didn’t provide accurate figures, so we are unable to get them.

“Of the 159 passenger that boarded the aircraft with the index patient, 84 resides in Lagos and only 49 have been contacted, while the remaining 35 are still unreachable. 65 people have left Lagos either to other states or other countries. We have contacted the World Health Organisation (WHO) and state epidemiologists to reach out to them because they are no longer in our jurisdiction.

“The young man that was on Ethiopian airline tested negative to the virus. So that means we no longer have a suspected case in our centre,” he added.

He said the state’s priority was to stop the virus from spreading within the country, adding that the major focus was at the airport.

“We have deployed 60 staff to the airport, although it is a huge amount of manpower. We have embarked on campaigns in schools through the Ministry of Education. We are working with the three levels of healthcare systems.

“We are looking particularly at people for fever and body pain. If it’s not malaria or cold, then we can test for coronavirus,” he added.

Coronavirus: 8,300 Masks Stolen from Hospital in France

Health officials in France Wednesday raised the alarm that about 8,300 masks and 1,200 bottles of sanitising health gel have been stolen from Paris hospitals.

Another 2,000 surgical masks have disappeared from a hospital in Marseilles.

The French government says it will take legal measures to rein in the soaring prices being demanded for bottles of hand gel.

Adding that anyone wanting to buy masks from a pharmacy will have to get a medical prescription.

Lufthansa Grounds 150 Planes over Coronavirus Outbreak

The German airline Lufthansa has grounded 150 aircraft due to the fast-spreading Coronavirus outbreak.

The airline told the Guardian UK that 125 of the grounded planes were continental and 25 were intercontinental.

Lufthansa has 752 aircraft according to its website.

Earlier, Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, pledged to look into reports that airlines were flying half empty planes around the world just to retain lucrative slots under international allocation rules after a drop in demand for air travel.

UK’s Coronavirus Cases Rise to 85

The number of Coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom has jumped by 34 in a day, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 85.

The Department for Health said the figures included 32 new patients in England.

The department added in a statement: “29 patients were diagnosed who had recently travelled from recognised countries or from recognised clusters which were under investigation.

“Three additional patients contracted the virus in the UK and it is not yet clear whether they contracted it directly or indirectly from an individual who had recently returned from abroad. This is being investigated and contact tracing has begun.

“The total number of confirmed cases in England is now 80. Following previously reported confirmed cases in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, the total number of UK cases is 85.”

Buhari Commends Dangote Foundation for N200m Donation to Fight Coronavirus

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday in Abuja commended Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) for donating N200 million to assist in combating the influx of Covid-19 into the country.

The president recalled that the organisation had in the past donated N1 billion to fight Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Africa, challenging other well-to-do individuals and groups to emulate the foundation.

In a statement, the president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying, “Hand in hand, standing shoulder to shoulder, we can confront our challenges as a country. This is a path for us all to follow as a people.”

The statement said the president reiterated his earlier charge to Nigerians to take the necessary hygiene precautions, rather than panic about the disease as a result of the discovery of the index case in the country last week.

It added that the president said governments at various levels had the responsibility of ensuring that the country and her people remain safe from the virus, which he said is spreading rapidly in many parts of the world.

Hundreds Wait for Hospital Bed in South Korea as Coronavirus Surges

Hundreds of persons infected by the Coronavirus disease are awaiting bed spaces in Daegu, South Korea; the city at the center of the worst outbreak outside China.

The new cases bring South Korea’s total to 5,621, with at least 32 deaths, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said Wednesday.

Most cases were in and around Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city, where the flu-like virus has spread rapidly through members of a fringe Christian group.

Health officials expect the number of new cases to be high for the near future as they complete the testing of more than 200,000 members of the sect, as well as thousands of other suspected cases from smaller clusters.

“We need special measures in times of emergency,” South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a cabinet meeting, referring to extra medical resources for hotspots and economic measures including a $9.8 billion stimulus.

“In order to overcome COVID-19 as quickly as possible and minimize the impact on the economy, it is necessary to proactively inject all available resources.”

COVID-19 is the illness caused by the new coronavirus which emerged from China late last year to spread around the world.

Hospitals in South Korea’s hardest hit areas were scrambling to accommodate the surge in new patients.

WHO Warns of Global Shortage of Medical Supply to Fight Coronavirus

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of a global shortage and price hiking for protective equipment to fight the fast-spreading Coronavirus.

Speaking Wednesday, it asked companies and governments to increase production by 40 per cent as the death toll from the respiratory illness surges.

Crowds wearing protective masks, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, are seen at the Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan, March 3, 2020.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Tuesday in an emergency move to try to prevent a global recession and the World Bank announced $12 billion to help countries fight the coronavirus, which has taken a heavy toll on air travel, tourism and other industries, threatening global economic growth prospects.

The virus continued to spread in South Korea, Japan, Europe, Iran and the United States, and several countries reported their first confirmed cases, taking the total to some 80 nations hit with the flu-like illness that can lead to pneumonia.

Coronavirus: World Bank Pledges $12bn in Emergency Aid

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

As the Coronavirus epidemic otherwise known as COVID-19 hits over 60 countries, the World Bank Group is making available an initial package of up to $12 billion in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts of the global outbreak.

This financing is designed to help member countries take effective action to respond to and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by the COVID-19.

Through this new fast track package, the World Bank Group will help developing countries strengthen health systems, including better access to health services to safeguard people from the epidemic, strengthen disease surveillance, bolster public health interventions, and work with the private sector to reduce the impact on economies. The financial package, with financing drawn from across International Development Association (IDA), International Bank for Reconstruction (IBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), will be globally coordinated to support country-based responses.

The COVID-19 support package will make available initial crisis resources of up to $12 billion in financing — $8 billion of which is new — on a fast track basis. This comprises up to $2.7 billion new financing from IBRD; $1.3 billion from IDA, complemented by reprioritization of $2 billion of the Bank’s existing portfolio; and $6 billion from IFC , including $2 billion from existing trade facilities. It will also include policy advice and technical assistance drawing on global expertise and country-level knowledge.

“We are working to provide a fast, flexible response based on developing country needs in dealing with the spread of COVID-19. This includes emergency financing, policy advice, and technical assistance, building on the World Bank Group’s existing instruments and expertise to help countries respond to the crisis,” said World Bank Group President, David Malpass.

The financial package will provide grants and low-interest loans from IDA for low income countries and loans from IBRD for middle income countries, using all of the Bank’s operational instruments with processing accelerated on a fast track basis. International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, will provide its clients with the necessary support to continue operating and to sustain jobs.

The World Bank support will cover a range of interventions to strengthen health services and primary health care, bolster disease monitoring and reporting, train front line health workers, encourage community engagement to maintain public trust, and improve access to treatment for the poorest patients.

The Bank will also provide policy and technical advice to ensure countries can access global expertise.

IFC will work with commercial bank clients to expand trade finance and working capital lines. IFC will also directly support its corporate clients — with a focus on strategic sectors including medical equipment and pharmaceuticals — to sustain supply chains and limit downside risks. These solutions will leverage the lessons learned from similar events in the past with a goal to minimize the negative economic and social impacts of COVID-19 globally.

Countries face different levels of risk and vulnerability to COVID-19, and will require different levels of support. The Bank Group support will prioritize the poorest countries and those at high risk with low capacity. As the spread of COVID-19 and its impact continues to evolve, the World Bank Group will adapt its approach and resources as needed.

The World Bank Group is actively engaged with international institutions and country authorities to help coordinate the global response.

World Bank Group Announces $12bn Immediate Support for COVID-19 Country ResponseNdubuisi Francis in Abuja As the Coronavirus epidemic otherwise known as COVID-19 hits over 60 countries, the World Bank Group is making available an initial package of up to $12 billion in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts of the global outbreak.

This financing is designed to help member countries take effective action to respond to and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by the COVID-19.Through this new fast track package, the World Bank Group will help developing countries strengthen health systems, including better access to health services to safeguard people from the epidemic, strengthen disease surveillance, bolster public health interventions, and work with the private sector to reduce the impact on economies. The financial package, with financing drawn from across International Development Association (IDA), International Bank for Reconstruction (IBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), will be globally coordinated to support country-based responses.The COVID-19 support package will make available initial crisis resources of up to $12 billion in financing — $8 billion of which is new — on a fast track basis. This comprises up to $2.7 billion new financing from IBRD; $1.3 billion from IDA, complemented by reprioritization of $2 billion of the Bank’s existing portfolio; and $6 billion from IFC , including $2 billion from existing trade facilities. It will also include policy advice and technical assistance drawing on global expertise and country-level knowledge.“We are working to provide a fast, flexible response based on developing country needs in dealing with the spread of COVID-19. This includes emergency financing, policy advice, and technical assistance, building on the World Bank Group’s existing instruments and expertise to help countries respond to the crisis,” said World Bank Group President, David Malpass. The financial package will provide grants and low-interest loans from IDA for low income countries and loans from IBRD for middle income countries, using all of the Bank’s operational instruments with processing accelerated on a fast track basis. International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, will provide its clients with the necessary support to continue operating and to sustain jobs.

The World Bank support will cover a range of interventions to strengthen health services and primary health care, bolster disease monitoring and reporting, train front line health workers, encourage community engagement to maintain public trust, and improve access to treatment for the poorest patients. The Bank will also provide policy and technical advice to ensure countries can access global expertise.IFC will work with commercial bank clients to expand trade finance and working capital lines. IFC will also directly support its corporate clients — with a focus on strategic sectors including medical equipment and pharmaceuticals — to sustain supply chains and limit downside risks. These solutions will leverage the lessons learned from similar events in the past with a goal to minimize the negative economic and social impacts of COVID-19 globally.Countries face different levels of risk and vulnerability to COVID-19, and will require different levels of support. The Bank Group support will prioritize the poorest countries and those at high risk with low capacity. As the spread of COVID-19 and its impact continues to evolve, the World Bank Group will adapt its approach and resources as needed.The World Bank Group is actively engaged with international institutions and country authorities to help coordinate the global response.

TUESDAY MARCH 03, 2020 

Fear of Coronavirus Forces House to Suspend Plenary for Two Weeks

Udora Orizu in Abuja

In a bid to protect lawmakers from contacting coronavirus, the House of Representatives has resolved to adjourn for two weeks while they seek measures to tackle the deadly virus.

The House reached this resolution after unanimously adopting a motion of urgent national importance moved by Hon. Idem Unyime at the plenary on Tuesday.

Contributing in support of the motion, Ndudi Elumelu called for the adjournment of plenary for two weeks, while the lawmakers work with relevant agencies to tackle the deadly virus.

He also suggested that all lawmakers should be tested.

“It’s a very serious matter. The driver carrying the Italian man has gone missing, he could be hiding anywhere,” he said

On his part Hon. Nasir Ali Ahmed lamented that it was worrisome that Nigeria as the most populated country in Africa, has only three isolation centres.

He cited the case of Iran’s vice president who contacted coronavirus and two of its cabinet members that died recently after contacting the disease, saying alot needs to be done to tackle it.

Also Hon. Dagomie Abiante said Nigeria was not ready for the virus, adding that there’s need for all hands to be on deck.

He said, “We are now faced with our worst fears. When the motion to bring back our brothers from Wuhan, China was brought up, why did we bring it down? Finally our fears have caught have up with us. There’s urgent need for all hands to be on deck. We don’t have enough information about this virus. We need to sit up, we do not have a single thermometer and we are not ready for what is coming to us.

The lawmakers voted in favour of Hon. Elumelu’s prayer, agreeing that the house should adjourn for two weeks.

More details later

Coronavirus: Nigeria Places Italy, Iran, S’Korea, Japan on Watch List

•Tracing 156 co-passengers of infected Italian

•Cautions schools against forcing students to wear face masks

•Fayemi orders screening of passengers at motor parks

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Martins Ifijeh in Lagos, Francis Sardauna in Katsina and Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

The federal government has placed five countries with community transmission of COVID-19, comprising Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and China on its watch list.

The federal Ministry of Health is also tracing 156 passengers that boarded the Turkish Airline flight with the Italian that tested positive to Coronavirus on arrival in Nigeria. It is believed that some of the passengers may have left the country after stopping over for days.

Besides, the federal government has cautioned schools against forcing students to wear face masks, adding that the virus is treatable.

Also, following the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Lagos, the Katsina State Government has inaugurated an emergency operation centre to tackle any outbreak of the disease in the state.

The Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has also directed medical experts to start screening passengers coming into the state from border states to prevent the spread of the virus to the state.

However, as the federal government stepped up efforts to curb the spread of the virus into the country, the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said yesterday that the government had decided to place four more countries on the watch list.

He told Channels TV that the four nations were added to China, which has been on the list since January.

He explained that the federal government has now added four more countries to enable authorities to heighten surveillance for travellers from these countries.

He said: “Anyone travelling from these nations who fall ill within 14 days is advised to reach us to enable us to take their samples and then do tests to check whether or not they are positive to the virus.

“We have been preparing for this for the past six weeks. So far, we have done 15 tests and only one came up positive. This shows our system is actually working. We are testing people that meet our case definition.

“As you have seen in Lagos, we have had only one positive case and we have been able to mount a response in partnership with Ogun and Lagos States.

“This virus is circulating around the world and over 50 countries have been affected. We will do our very best to ensure it doesn’t further enter Nigeria and even if a few more cases happen, we can walk together to defeat it. Nigerians are also very cooperative. They have shown that truly, we can come together to address these incidents.”

According to him, one of the best investments the federal government has made is setting up NCDC, which has grown to become the pride of Africa.

He said the centre has a team of 250 persons who work 24/7 in the laboratories, surveillance, risk communication, among others; NCDC, he added, had built a team of scientific experts.

“We are building a long term investment in science, thinking and in knowledge base as this will help us respond to incidence like this.

“We have 23 emergency operation centres in the country as of today. This is an investment we have made over the past few years. We have five new molecular laboratories, which are actually not easy to set up. The buildings are actually the easiest part. The more difficult ones are the laboratory and scientific expertise, the reagents, and the likes,” he added.

He called on state governments to invest in health security, adding that the federal government cannot tackle issues around disease outbreaks alone.

FG Tracing 156 Co-Passengers of Italian Patient

The federal government also said the 156 passengers that boarded the flight with the Italian that tested positive to Covid-19 on arrival in Nigeria are being traced as some of them may have left the country after stopping over for days.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, told journalists in Abuja that apart from some of the phone numbers that were not connecting, there was the likelihood that some of the passengers might have left the country.

He said the ministry, which was leading the efforts to arrest the further spread of the virus had so far done well.

The minister added that the team of health officials had been able to identify and quarantine 19 persons in Lagos who had met the index definition.

Besides, a total of 39 persons have been identified in Ogun State under the ongoing contact tracing operation.

“The only ones we know for sure is the number of people that were in the aircraft with the Italian who imported COVID-19 into the country, 156 persons. Those ones are still being traced and contacted. We are having a huge challenge contacting these passengers; whereas some of them didn’t leave phone numbers, others left numbers that were not connecting. Some were arriving in the country for the first time and probably haven’t registered their SIM cards, some also left the country after a day or two, but there are ways we can track them through the passenger manifest,” the minister said.

Ehanire explained that the owner of the aircraft has been notified as well as the embassies of the travel agencies involved in the flight operation.

However, Ehanire said the four Chinese, who were tested for Coronavirus, all came out negative.

“Contact tracing is a specialised activity that is carried out by experts and technologists who know what information to look out for. And so far, we have been able to trace 19 persons in Lagos and 39 in Ogun who had contacts with the Italian COVID-19 victim,” he added.

Regarding the incidence and scope of fatality of the virus disease, he said China was leading with over 95 per cent cases while it had so far claimed 2,977 lives from 59 countries.

The minister said there were speculations that about 80 per cent of infected persons do not have severe symptoms, adding that the severity of the infection is based on the level of one’s immune system.

According to Ehanire, the Covid-19 aliment is largely treatable if there are early signs of infection.

Also the minister used the opportunity to counsel Nigerians against panic measures but to always adhere to health advice on hygiene practices.

He advised against the idea of schools forcing students to wear face masks to classes.

He said even where such a measure might be necessary for those students who reported sick, the authorities of the school may have to think of subsidising the face mask.

Katsina Inaugurates Emergency Operation Centre

Meanwhile, the Katsina State Government has inaugurated an emergency operation centre to tackle any outbreak of COVID-19 in the state.

The state Commissioner of Health, Dr. Yakubu Danja, who briefed journalists yesterday on the preparedness of the state government, said the government had also reactivated its Emergency Response Committee and purchased personal protective equipment.

He reiterated that members of the committee would monitor, supervise and coordinate the state government’s response to the disease in rural and urban areas.

He explained that the state government has commenced the training of health workers, including disease surveillance and notification officers and clinicians on COVID-19.

Fayemi Orders Screening of Passengers at Motor Parks

In Ekiti State, Governor Fayemi had directed medical experts to start screening passengers coming into the state from border states to prevent the spread of the virus.

The governor also set up a 40-man task force to work for the prevention of the spread of the epidemic in the state.

The taskforce, chaired by Fayemi, has members drawn from medical bodies, religious and traditional institutions, civil society organisations, among others.

The government has also set up an isolation centre at the state specialist hospital for quarantining those suspected of being infected.

Fayemi, at a press conference on the virus infection in Ado Ekiti, yesterday, said he had co-opted the leadership of the drivers’ unions to join the task force in a bid to tackle the spread of COVID-19, especially in the area of proper screening of disembarking passengers at motor parks and report those manifesting the symptoms to the appropriate quarters.

The Bishops of Anglican Communion, Ekiti State, Bishop Christopher Omotunde; Catholic Bishop of Ekiti, Bishop Felix Ajakaye; and the Chief Imam of Ekiti, Alhaji Jamiu Kewulere, are also members of the task force.

The governor, who allayed the people’s fears, stated that 24 emergency centres had been provided across the state with enough internet facilities containing the already specified hotlines that can be contacted for emergency situations.

“As a responsible government, Ekiti will beat the virus and minimise its spread. Protective materials will be provided for all health facilities in the state within the next 24 hours,” he said, adding: “Well trained health officers will be available in all our facilities that can handle all information while passengers coming to the state will be screened at the motor parks and entry points.”

MONDAY MARCH 02, 2020

Senegal Gets First Case of Coronavirus

Senegal has become the fourth African country to be affected by Coronavirus after a French national tested positive to the virus Monday.

Confirming this, Senegal’s Health Minister, Diouf Sarr said the French man who lives in Senegal visited France in mid-February where he contracted the virus before returning to Senegal, adding that he has been quarantined in the capital Dakar.

“The results of the tests carried out by the Pasteur Institute in Dakar came back positive.

“So far the patient’s condition has not raised any major concerns.

“The patient, a father of two who has been in Senegal for two years, stayed in the Southern French city of Nimes as well as an unspecified ski resort last month,” Sarr said.

He said the man then returned to Senegal on February 26 where he went to a medical centre and registered a fever of 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) as well as a sore throat and headache.

Sarr said the centre contacted the country’s coronavirus alert unit and the patient was quarantined, the minister said.

“The surveillance and response system for COVID-19 has been bolstered and all measures are being taken to contain the disease,” Sarr said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned Sunday that the outbreak could reach all countries. So far, it has affected 72 countries.

Top Iranian Official Dies of Coronavirus

A top member of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Expediency Council, Mohammad Mir-Muhammad, has died of Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, according to Associated Press report.

The Expediency Council advices the supreme leader of Iran.

Mir-Muhammad, who showed symptoms and was diagnosed of the virus days ago, reportedly died in North Tehran Hospital. He was 71.

The country is currently facing a hard time as she happens to have recorded the highest death toll in the world after China.

It has recorded 1,500 confirmed cases, and the virus has killed 66 people as at Monday, March 2.

Other top officials of Iran have contracted the virus, including Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, and the Head, Iranian Government Task Force on Coronavirus, Iraj Harirchi.

Coronavirus Quick Updates (06:06pm, March 2, 2020)

1 new case in the United States, first in New Hampshire

1st case in Saudi Arabia: the person had come from Iran through Bahrain

4 new cases in Qatar

1 new case in India: an Italian national in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, a major tourist destination.

1st case in Tunisia: a 40-years-old Tunisian man who traveled from Italy. A week ago, Transport Minister Rene Trabelsi said they were considering whether to suspend some Italy flights, but nothing came of it.

3 new cases in Lebanon

1 new case in Austria. Distribution of the 16 cases so far:

9 in Vienna

2 in Tyrol

2 in Lower Austria

2 in Salzburg

1 in Styria

4 new cases in the UK

Description: https://www.worldometers.info/img/alert.png 1st case in Jordan: a Jordanian coming from Italy.

36 new cases in Spain. Total now exceeds 100.

2 new cases and 4 new discharges in Singapore.

8 new cases in the Netherlands, almost all have traveled from northern Italy or are family contacts of a previous patient. Cases include a 45-year-old woman in Helmond who returned from Lombardy, Italy.

1 new case in Russia (first in Moscow): a Russian citizen returning from Italy

Description: https://www.worldometers.info/img/alert.png First 2 cases in Portugal, both in Porto:

– a 60 years-old man with “an epidemiological link to the North of Italy”, where he was on vacation. His first symptoms appeared on Feb. 29, and he is now hospitalized in stable condition at the Santo António Hospital in Porto.

– a 33-years-old man with “an epidemiological link to Spain” whose symptoms appeared on Feb. 26 and is now at the Hospital de São João, in Porto.

6 new cases in Belgium: all had returned from northern Italy

UK: “It is likely that we will see in due course wide spread transmission in the UK. What we don’t know is exactly how wide spread that will be” Professor Paul Cosford from Public Health England told BBC

1 new case in Taiwan

18 new cases in Japan

Description: https://www.worldometers.info/img/alert.png 523 new cases and 12 new deaths in Iran, Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said in an announcement on state TV.

2 new cases in Iraq detected in Baghdad’s Rassafa district: they had recently visited Iran

3 new cases in Italy:

– Alessandro Mattinzoli, Councilor for Economic Development in Lombardy, has tested positive to the virus. All members of the council will undergo testing. – a police officer in Rome who had been in contact with a friend from Lombardy.

– the first case in Sardinia, currently hospitalized in Cagliari.

Lombardy region urges people over 65 years of age to stay home and not go out for 2-3 weeks

6 new cases in Belgium: all had traveled to Italy.

27 new cases in Germany

2 new cases in Spain (Barcelona): a 40-year-old woman and a 37-year-old man who came in contact with a German infected person. Both are in mild condition.

Description: https://www.worldometers.info/img/alert.png 1st case in Andorra: a 20-year-old man who had been to Milan, Italy and was admitted to the Nuestra Señora de Meritxell Hospital on Saturday. Symptoms are light, according to the Andorran government. He will remain in the hospital until 2 negative tests are obtained within 24-48 hours.

2 new cases in India: 1 in New Delhi (first case there) with travel history from Italy and 1 in Telangana with travel history from Dubai

1 new case in Croatia: believed to be connected to another case in Rijeka

10 new cases in Kuwait: all associated with travel to Iran and all in stable condition and recovering.

1 new death in Iran: a 71-year-old senior Iranian official, Seyyed Mohammad Mirmohammadi , who was a member of the sixth and seventh Iranian parliaments and was appointed in 2017 by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei as a member of the Expediency Discernment Council.

1 new case in Australia (first in Tasmania): a man who had recently returning from Iran.

1 new case in Thailand: a 22-year-old Thai woman who works with another Thai patient, a Thai driver for foreign tourists.

1 in Rhode Island, a teenager contact of the previous case. An additional contact is being tested. “All three people went on the same trip to Italy. This is precisely why we are being so aggressive in identifying contacts, ensuring monitoring, and testing people who are symptomatic.”

3 in California (Santa Clara County), including a couple who has recently traveled to Egypt.

1 in Oregon: a contact of the first case in Oregon, recovering at home.

2 new cases (first) in Florida

1 in Washington State: a man in his 40s hospitalized in critical condition in Kirkland.

4 cases and 1 death in Washington State: a man in his 70s, in Kirkland, King County, with underlying health conditions

1 case (first) in New York

599 new cases and 5 deaths in South Korea

202 new cases, 42 new deaths (all in Hubei) and 2,837 new discharges occurred in China on March 1, as reported by the National Health Commission (NHC) of China.

*This summary is culled from www.worldmeters.info

Coronavirus: Fayemi Orders Screening of Passengers at Motor Parks

Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has directed medical experts to start the screening of passengers coming into Ekiti from border states to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the state.

The governor has also set up a 40-man task force to work on the prevention of the spread of coronavirus in the state.

The task force chaired by Fayemi, has other stakeholders drawn from medical, religious and traditional institutions and civil society organisations, among others.

The governor said an isolation centre where victims can be quarantined has been provided at the state specialist hospital that can easily handle any emerging case of the infection in the state.

Fayemi gave the revelation at a press conference on coronavirus infection held in Ado Ekiti, on Monday.

The governor said he had coopted the leadership of the drivers’ unions to the task force in a bid to tackle the spread of Corvid-19, especially in the area of proper screening of disembarking passengers at motor parks and report those manifesting the symptoms to the appropriate quarters.

The Bishop of the Anglican Communion, Ekiti State, Bishop Christopher Omotunde; Catholic Bishop of Ekiti, Bishop Felix Ajakaye; and the Chief Imam of Ekiti, Alhaji Jamiu Kewulere, are also members of the task force.

The governor, who allayed the people’s fears, stated that the activation of all the health facilities in the state to be able to manage the spread of Covid-19 is in top gear.

He added that 24 emergency centres have been provided across the state with enough internet facilities containing the already specified hotlines that can be contacted for emergency situations.

“As a responsible government, Ekiti will beat the virus and minimise its spread. Protective materials will be provided for all health facilities in the state within the next 24 hours.

“Well trained health officers will be available in all our facilities that can handle all information, while passengers coming to the state will be screened at the motor parks and entry points.

“The disease has spread to 69 countries, including USA, Brazil, France, Italy and Nigeria, among others and the rate of human-to-human spread is very high.

“As a responsible government, we have to do enough sensitisation so our people can be conscious of the symptoms which included cold, malaria, coughing and sneezing, respiratory symptoms, shortness of breath and other respiratory problem.

“If you see anyone with any of these signs, try and report to any of our facilities or call those lines that will be provided by the Ministry of Health,” he said.

The governor revealed that the state has done the vulnerability map, saying people will be checked at the entry points to the state, which he said helped in curtailing the Lassa virus despite the state’s proximity to Ondo State, the epicentre of the scourge.

Fayemi warned against the rumour making the rounds, especially on the social media that black people cannot contract coronavirus.

“Please, please and please, except experts tell us, don’t believe in all those things. The National Centre for Disease Control is our source of information,” he warned.

The governor stated that the government will provide dispensers for all public institutions to sterilise the people and prevent the spread of the scourge.

He also advised anyone manifesting any of the symptoms to stay indoor and call the medical experts to be able to transport him to the point of treatment.

Coronavirus: UN Releases $15m to Vulnerable Countries

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the United Nations has released 15 million dollars emergency funds to help vulnerable countries fight coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Director-General, WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, disclosed this on the agency’s twitter handle, @WHO, Monday.

Ghebreyesus said that the potential spread of COVID-19 to countries with weaker health system was one of the agency’s biggest concerns.

He said: “WHO thanks UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock for releasing 15 million US dollars from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help fund global efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus.

“We thank the agency for releasing the fund to help weak countries battle the spread of the virus,’’ he said.

WHO is calling for 675 million dollars to fund the fight against coronavirus.

The UN announced on Sunday that WHO and UNICEF will use the funds to undertake essential activities such as monitoring the spread of the virus, investigating cases and operating national laboratories.

In a statement released by Lowcock, he said that it was not too late to contain COVID-19.

“We do not yet see evidence that the virus is spreading freely. As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing it.’’

However, “swift and robust action must be taken to detect cases early”, he added, to “isolate and care for patients, and trace contacts. We must act now to stop this virus from putting more lives at risk”.

The emergency grant will support countries with fragile health systems to boost their detection and response efforts and, says Mr Lowcock, it “has the potential to save the lives of millions of vulnerable people”.

UNICEF will use its share of the funds to support the agency’s global efforts to inform children, pregnant women and families about how to protect themselves, agency chief Henrietta Fore said.

Death Toll from Coronavirus Hits 3,000, as More Countries are Affected

Martins Ifijeh

Not less than 3,000 people have so far died from the Coronavirus outbreak that has now spread to 61 countries, with Indonesia becoming the latest country to be affected after two cases were confirmed Monday.

This is even as the United States has recorded its second death in Washington State from the virus, prompting authorities to call on Americans to imbibe basic hygiene more.

Of the 3, 000 deaths, 136 of them are outside of mainland China, where the outbreak began. Over 88,400 people around the world have been infected, necessitating experts to call on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare it a global pandemic.

Apart from Indonesia which recorded two cases for the first time Monday, South Korea has reported an additional 476 infections today, raising the national total to 4,212 cases, with 26 deaths already recorded.

Iran has reported 11 more deaths from the virus, bringing its death toll to 54 – the highest outside China.

Coronavirus: It’s Wicked to Hoard Sanitisers, Face Masks, Says Sanwo-Olu

Martins Ifijeh

The Chief Incident Commander for the counter measures against Coronavirus outbreak in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said no pharmacy or business ventures must hoard face masks and hand Sanitisers, describing it as wickedness.

Sanwo-Olu, who spoke on Sunday during his visit to the State-owned bio-security and containment facility at Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Yaba, where the Italian index case is being managed, was accompanied by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, and Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso.

The governor said both the state and federal government healthcare officials had been working round the clock with infectious disease control professionals from the international agencies to ensure the counter measures being deployed to contain the virus achieved the desired results.

He said: “Let me express a confession that I am very delighted with the level of preparedness and our response to stop coronavirus from spreading in our country. The kind of structures we have put in place and the strategies being deployed have raised my confidence that the nation, at the end of the day, will win this battle and will put it behind. I keep on expressing to the Commissioner for Health that we must stop at nothing to achieve the very best result.”

Reacting to the report of scarcity of sanitary materials at pharmacy shops across the state, the governor condemned the action, saying it was wicked for people to take the advantage of emergency situation to hoard and jerk the prices of face mask and hand sanitizer.

He said: “This should not be the means for anyone to enrich themselves. It is unfortunate people are hoarding these important sanitary materials. We need to speak to ourselves. People are just abusing a rare opportunity, because the outbreak is not an event everybody wishes for. I think it is unacceptable for people to sell above the prices they used to sell before the outbreak. These people should search their conscience and ask themselves what kind of people are we. We should be our brother’s keeper.”

Sanwo-Olu also frowned at misinformation trailing the COVID-19 case being managed at the IDH, saying the public deserved to get accurate information about the management of the patient in isolation. He urged the media practitioners to approach the appropriate quarters for updates and developments on the case being managed.

Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, likened the state’s response towards containing the outbreak of COVID-19 to “a war”, saying Lagos had deployed three levels of counter measure to stop the spread of the virus, which include medical, security and research.

He disclosed that Lagos and Ogun governments were constantly exchanging information, following the outbreak, adding that the movement of the index case had necessitated more cooperation between the two States.

Coronavirus: 12 More Cases Confirmed in England

Twelve more patients in England have tested positive for Coronavirus, taking the total number of UK cases to 35.

Three patients were confirmed as close contacts of a man from Surrey, who was the first to be infected within the UK.

One person from Essex had “no relevant travel” and it was unclear how they had got the virus, while the remaining eight had visited affected areas.

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK was still in the containment phase of the outbreak.

He said the government contingency plans, which will be published this week, included banning big events.

SUNDAY MARCH 01, 2020 

Coronavirus: Plateau Quarantines 43 People

Seriki Adinoyi in Jos

The Plateau State government has said that it has now quarantined 43 suspected cases of the dreaded coronavirus in the state.

Addressing a press conference in Jos on Sunday, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Nimkong Lar Ndam, said the 43 persons are now being quarantined in Wase Local Government council of the state, adding that 25 of them are natives, while 18 are foreigners.

He stated that four Chinese nationals are involved as against three being reported by the media.

The commissioner said that the Chinese nationals travelled all the way from Ethiopia to Abuja and finally to Wase in Plateau State, where they engaged in mining.,

According to him, “They first came on the 26th of February. They flew from China to Addis Ababa and then Abuja and from Abuja they went to Wase. While in Addis Ababa, they were screened for coronavirus and then they were also screened at Abuja for the same coronavirus.

“But what happened was that the people that came on the 26th February went to a village called Bakin Kaya, one of their mining sites in Wase and met their two Chinese colleagues there. The people they met were not comfortable and decided that they should be isolated and put in another apartment within the camp.”

He added that all of them have to be isolated until March 10, 2020 before their status is confirmed on that day by the medical team. He also said that the Chinese have their travelling documents checked and found to be valid and genuine, stating that the initial three Chinese who were earlier quarantined should continue their isolation.

Ndam pointed out that the security agents there have been briefed not to allow them to go out to mix with the people, adding that there is no coronavirus at the moment but only suspicion, fear and anxiety, hence the isolation.

The Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Dan Manjang, who was with Ndam during the conference, said that there is no known case of coronavirus in the state.

“There is no known case of coronavirus in Plateau State. You know, we have a mining site in Wase. There are Chinese nationals that are mining that site. Three of them came in from China via Ethiopia Airways via Abuja.

“Commissioner for Health in a swift reaction, sent a health team to go and isolate and investigate them. The investigation is supposed to take 14 days. We will now know after 14 days whether they did contract the virus or not,” Manjang said.

He explained that being quarantined or isolated does not automatically mean that one has contracted the virus.

“We are being proactive as a government to make sure the situation is put under control.

“And as I talk to you, the Jos University Teaching Hospital and Plateau Specialist Hospital have isolated wards, rooms that are going to be kept for the purpose and these are what we used in those days during the Ebola outbreak. This is so should the issue of that nature arise which we don’t pray for, we will be on top of the situation,” he said.

Manjang advised Plateau citizens to observe basic hygiene standards to avoid the virus and other diseases.

He said: “Hand washing, avoidance of crowded places. Those are the basic things. Make sure you clean your vegetables before you eat them. It is a contagious disease. It is something that is viral. It is something that is carried by the air. If you maintain minimum hygiene, it will minimize or prevent it completely.”

Coronavirus: NCAA Activates Contingency Plans

Martins Ifijeh

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said it has activated all airport-specific Public Health Emergency Contingency Plans (PHECPs) as part of efforts to reduce the spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria.

In a statement made available to THISDAY Sunday, the Director General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu said travellers returning from countries experiencing community transmission of the COVID-19 must present themselves to Port Health Services on arrival at the Point of Entry.

“There will be minimum disruption to facilitation of travel due to the thorough screening at entry post. We appeal to travellers who develop signs and symptoms of the disease after returning from a trip abroad to seek immediate medical attention at the nearest health facility.

“We are working in assistance with airlines to track passengers who may have come in contact with suspect or ill persons as well as other measures the National Surveillance Systems requires.”

Nuhu advised airlines and other airport users to heed the guidance of Port Health Services on the use of screening forms, assessment of suspect or ill travellers and any other measures they may adopt.

According to him, the NCAA has ensured that all measures adopted at Nigerian airports are in accordance to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and WHO International Health Regulations (IHR 2005).

“In line with the guidelines of ICAO and Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA), we have been working with the Federal Ministry of Health, and other stakeholders in the aviation industry to ensure all travellers coming into the country are adequately screened while causing minimum disruption to facilitation of travel.”

The NCAA boss advised the travelling public to remain calm and alert, take necessary precaution in protecting themselves while traveling, including alerting crew members and airport facilitation staff to travellers that may look ill or showing signs and symptoms of the disease.

“Airlines, Airport operators, Security agencies and other aviation industry stakeholders are advised to take appropriate precaution to protect their staff.”

Coronavirus: Benue Sets up Emergency Response Committee

Martins Ifijeh

The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has set up an Emergency Response Committee to tackle the spread of Coronavirus.

The 17-man committee is headed by the Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr. Sunday Ongbabor, with Dr Samuel Ngise as Secretary.

In a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Terver Akase, Sunday and made available to THISDAY , the committee has the Commissioner for Information, Culture, and Tourism, Rt. Hon. Ngunan Addingi; Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Dondo Ahire and the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr. Timothy Ijir as members.

He said: “Other members of the taskforce are Mr. Apir Ityu, Dr. Terna Kur, Mr. Agwaza Iorkpiligh, Mr. Matthew Uyina, Mr. Moses Leva, Dr. Edward Amali, Mr. Claude Bitaronga.

Also not left out are Dr. Peteru Inunduh, Professor Terrumun Swende, Dr. Alli Cornelius, Dr. Patrick Echekwube and Mr. Micheal Adejo.

The governor charged members of the panel to proactively monitor, supervise and coordinate the state government’s response to the dreaded disease.

NCAA Harmonises COVID -19 Preventive Measures at Airports

Chinedu Eze

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has announced that it would harmonise all preventive measures deployed by port health and other members of the medical teams at the airports in the country.

The regulatory authority noted that following the first recorded confirmed case of COVID-19 on 27th February 2020, of an Italian traveling from Milan who came in through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on Monday, February 24 2020, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Lagos State Ministry of Health, and Ogun State Ministry of Health have swiftly responded to ensure there is no further spread of the disease.

In a statement signed by the Director General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, the agency said that in line with the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) has been working with the Federal Ministry of Health, and other stakeholders in the aviation industry to ensure all travellers coming into the country are adequately screened while causing minimum disruption to facilitation of travel.

“NCAA will continue to ensure that airlines assist with the tracking of passengers who may have come in contact with suspect or ill persons as well as other measures the National Surveillance Systems requires,” Nuhu said.

The statement disclosed that all contingency plans for public health events in aviation have been activated including airport-specific Public Health Emergency Contingency Plans (PHECPs), adding that NCAA has ensured that all measures adopted at Nigerian airports are in accordance to ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and WHO International Health Regulations (IHR 2005).

“Airlines and other airport users are advised to heed the guidance of Port Health Services (a division of the Federal Ministry of Health and Competent Public Health Authority at Point of Entry) on the use of screening forms, assessment of suspect or ill travellers and any other measures they may adopt. Airlines, airport operators, security agencies and other aviation industry stakeholders are advised to take appropriate precaution to protect their staff.

“We advise the travelling public to remain calm but alert and take necessary precaution in protecting themselves while traveling, including alerting crew members and airport facilitation staff to travellers that may look ill or showing signs and symptoms of the disease.

“Travellers returning from countries experiencing community transmission of the COVID-19 should present themselves to Port Health Services on arrival at the Point of Entry – International Airport. Travellers who develop signs and symptoms of the disease after returning from a trip abroad are to seek immediate medical attention at the nearest Health facility or call the NCDC on 0800-970000-10,” the statement also said.

The agency said it is committed to the safety of travellers and Nigeria’s national health security and would continue to do all that is necessary to ensure both.

SATURDAY February 29, 2020 

US Records First Death from Coronavirus, Places Travel Ban on High Risk Countries

By Martins Ifijeh

The United States has recorded it’s first death from Coronavirus.

This is even as President Donald Trump’s administration has placed a travel restriction on Iran, Italy and South Korea in response to the death from the virus in Washington State.

Speaking Saturday, US Vice President Mike Pence said the existing travel ban on Iran would extend to foreign nationals who had been in that country in the past 14 days.

“We are also increasing warning to Americans not to travel to parts of Italy and South Korea affected by the virus,” he said.

Right before White House’ news conference, health officials in Washington State confirmed that a person diagnosed with coronavirus in the state’s King County had died.

President Trump described her as a “wonderful woman” and a “medically high risk patient” in her late 50s, at a news conference at the White House.

More coronavirus infections were additionally reported from South Korea to France to Qatar on Saturday after health officials in Washington State, Oregon and California on Friday reported another worrying development.

The four new cases Friday bring the total number of covid-19 cases detected through the U.S. public health system to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Washington state announced late Friday that a high school student in Snohomish County, just North of Seattle, tested positive for the deadly virus and was in home isolation in a suspected community transmission case.

State health officials also said a woman in her 50s in King County tested positive after traveling to Daegu, South Korea, the site of a major Coronavirus outbreak. She, too, is in home isolation.

Iranian Parliamentarian Dies of Coronavirus

Martins Ifijeh

A Member of Parliament in Iran, Mohammad Ali Ramazani Dastak, has died of Coronavirus disease.

Iranian State TV reports Saturday that the MP who tested positive to the virus few days ago was recently elected as the representative for Astana Ashrafieh.

“He died on Saturday morning after being taken to hospital for treatment,” the station reports.

Meanwhile, deaths in Iran from coronavirus have hit 43, the highest number outside China, and the total number of infected people has risen to 593, an Iranian health official said on Saturday.

As several countries in the Middle East reported cases of the coronavirus stemming from Iran, the country is at the epicentre of the outbreak in the region.

“Unfortunately nine people died of the virus in the last 24 hours, increasing the death toll to 43 … the total number of infected people is 593,” Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV, calling on people to stay at home.

Coronavirus: 3 Chinese Quarantined in Plateau

Martins Ifijeh

Three Chinese Nationals have been placed on self-quarantine in Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State.

Confirming this to THISDAY Saturday, the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the Chinese Nationals do not have symptoms of Coronavirus, but that as it is the policy of the the Nigerian government, they have been asked to go into self-isolation for 14 days.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the incubation period for the virus is nine to 14 days, between which symptoms are expected to develop if the suspect is indeed infected by the virus.

Details later ……

Coronavirus: Lafarge Activates Medical Protocol at Ewekoro Plant

By Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta

Authorities of Larfarge Africa Plc, a cement company, have explained that the company is playing a pivotal role with the federal Ministry of Health, and the Lagos and Ogun State Government in fighting against the Coronavirus which infected the Italian consultant to one of its clients at the Ewekoro plant in Ogun State.

A statement issued on Saturday by the Director, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development of the company, Mrs. Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, said, “The Lagos State Government has reported a first case of n-COVID19 (Coronavirus) in Nigeria. The individual concerned works for a vendor that provides services to Lafarge Africa Plc in Ogun State.

“As a business, we have immediately identified the persons who had direct contact with the concerned individual. We have equally initiated isolation, quarantine and disinfection protocol.

“We thank the exemplary leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health, Ogun and Lagos State Governments for swiftly providing response and testing facilities and we are working in full co-operation with all local authorities.

“Lafarge Africa is also working in close partnership with International SOS, our medical service provider, a leading global health company.

“Health and Safety remains a core value at Lafarge Africa and we intend to leverage this strength at this critical time.”

Reacting too, the Ogun State Government declared that it had quarantined 28 persons with whom the 44-year-old Italian who came to Ewekoro had contacts with.

The state governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, at a news conference in Abeokuta said the affected victim was a consultant to a third-party supplier to the Lafarge Cement Company in Ewekoro.

He also said the company was on lockeddown while its two guest houses had been turned to isolation centres by the state government’s health team.

“Twenty-eight persons who had been in touch with this man had been quarantined, while the company in question has locked down.

“Besides, its two guest houses have been turned to isolation centres while we are also investigating other people that these quarantined 28 people had had contacts with,” the governor clarified.

He said there was no cause for alarm as both his administration and that of his Lagos State counterpart, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, were on top of the situation.

He described the Coronavirus as an imported disease and that the Minister of Heath had assured the National Executive Council in Abuja that the ministry had been conducting exit checks for all visitors to the country at the airports.

He noted that the coronavirus was no respecter of persons, having infected the deputy health minister of Iran, advising everyone to obey all the rules of hygiene.

He thanked the federal ministry of health for lending a helping hand in handling the Ewekoro situation.

Reports of Second Coronavirus Case in Nigeria False, Says NCDC Boss

By Martins Ifijeh

Following social media reports that the driver who took the Italian index case from Lagos to Abeokuta has tested positive to Coronavirus and that he has refused to be quarantined, the federal government has said the reports are false, as no other person has so far been tested for the virus.

Speaking with THISDAY on Saturday, the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said there was presently no other suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus in the country apart from the 44-year-old index case, adding that only its three laboratories have the capacity to test anyone in the country.

“The test cannot be done outside of our laboratories. No one can claim there is a second case because we are the only ones with the facilities and reagents to test for it. We haven’t done that.

“Since the outbreak started in Wuhan city in China, we have so far conducted test for 12 persons. 11 came out negative, and the only one that has come out positive is the Italian index case who is responding to treatment. The public should disregard rumours of an escaped second patient.

“If we diagnose any case, we will definitely let Nigerians know whether it comes out negative or not because we want to be very transparent about the whole thing. It takes four hours to get the results out, and another two hours to announce the results, so within six hours Nigerians can actually know of any case,” he said.

He also described as false reports that the index case attempted to escape from isolation, noting that the expatriate has been cooperating with the authorities.

“He was the one who contacted the authorities through his doctor in Abeokuta. He knows we are doing the best to ensure he is given quality treatment. He came from a developed country, so definitely, there may be one or two minor issues he may not be used to here, but he definitely did not attempt to escape. The report is untrue,” he added.

FRIDAY February 28, 2020

Ogun Quarantines 28 Persons Who Had Contact with Coronavirus Patient

Shuts firm visited in Ewekoro

By Martins Ifijeh

The Ogun State government has said 28 persons who were in contact with the Coronavirus index case have been identified and quarantined.

Those put on surveillance are mostly staff of Lafarge Africa Plc, a cement factory where the index case, an Italian, had gone to after leaving Lagos February 26.

The Commissioner for Health, Ogun State, Tomi Coker, Friday said the entire Lafarge facility in Ewekoro has been quarantined.

She said the state government, with support from the federal government and Lagos State government, has started line listing every possible contact with the Italian patient.

She said: “We are going to reach every individual that has had contact with him, which means we are going to phone them, get in touch with them, quarantine them and monitor their temperature for two weeks.

“Also, I am urging everyone to maintain healthy hygiene. Every single one of us has to have good respiratory hygiene which means if we have a cough or we have a cold, we have to cover our mouths with tissues or handkerchiefs and dispose of them responsibly.

“Don’t leave them on surfaces because the virus could still be in those things, use them and dispose of them immediately, don’t put them back in your pockets,” she said.

Coronavirus: Nigerians Panic as Lagos Scouts for Persons in Contact with Italian

By Martins Ifijeh

Following the confirmation of a case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Lagos State Friday, Nigerians have expressed fears over the nature of spread of the disease, especially since the index case had contacts with some people in Lagos and Ogun State.

This is even as the virus has so far killed 2,873 persons, infected 83,654, and affected 47 countries, including Algeria and Egypt in Africa.

A Lagos resident and dentist, Tijani Kolawole, said although Lagos was one of the most technologically advanced state in the country, its population may play a role in the wild spread of the virus.

“My only concern is that the index case may have had contact with people, who may in turn spread it to others. Have you noticed how we clump ourselves into buses, Nigerians normally do not respect personal space, and it is a fast way to spread diseases like this. And compared with the heat, it will be easy to transmit this virus from human to human.”

An Uber driver, Joel Ugo, said with the level of spread of the virus, he may start wearing gloves and masks while plying his trade, noting that he was still presently shaken by the case in the country.

He said: “I can only hope it stops with the man that has been quarantined.”

A former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, called on Nigerians to be united as that was the only way to fight the outbreak.

In a message on his Twitter account, @realFFK, said: “Let us put our differences aside and stand as one to fight this evil plague called coronavirus that has afflicted our shores.

“The federal government must be proactive and we must do our part and pray. May God defend our people and protect our shores,” he said.

Another Twitter user, Victor Babatunde (@vhic_tore) called on Nigerians to stop making funny tweets about the outbreak, saying it was an important issue.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State government said it had commenced tracing of persons who have been in contact with the index confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state.

In a press briefing Friday, the Governor, Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the airline with which he flew into Nigeria February 25 had been contacted to provide details of travellers who sat close to the index case, so that they can be tracked and placed under surveillance for possible infection.

He said: “We have also contacted the company in Ogun State where he went to work on February 26. We have put the staff of the company who were in contact with him under surveillance.

“We will ensure everyone who have had contact with him is contacted and monitored.”

He called on Lagos residents to go about their normal business, noting that until it reaches the point of human-to-human spread, the state will not escalate the process it currently has in place.

Sanwo-Olu said the isolation centre in Yaba has the capacity to take in a minimum of 80 confirmed or suspected cases, adding that plans were being put in place to expand the facility to accommodate more people.

The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi said air travel was one of the commonest ways the virus could come into the country, adding that it has, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health beefed up surveillance at airports.

He also said: “For sea borders, it takes a minimum of three weeks for ships to enter Lagos from China. This means before it gets here, the occupants of the vessel must have manifested the symptoms.

“Land borders have longed been closed by the federal government, which means we need to intensify efforts at the borders.”

He said there was no point closing public institutions, as the thread has not reached that point. “We do not want to cause panic,” he added.

Sharing his thoughts in an interview on TVC Friday, the Deputy Governor, Lagos State Dr. Femi Hamzat, gave insight on how the index case, an Italian expatriate came into Nigeria.

He said: “The Italian came in from Milan on February 25. He had a consultant job in Ewekoro in Abeokuta where he spent all his February 26. He eventually fell ill, and the doctors who attended to him were smart enough to call us.

“We went there with an ambulance and then brought him to our isolation centre in Yaba.  He was brought in yesterday morning, and within hours he was diagnosed. Testing tools normally take eight hours on the average, but ours worked faster than we expected; within four hours, he was diagnosed and confirmed to be infected.

He said at the moment the index case is the only person at the Yaba centre which can house almost 100 people, adding that he was hopeful other beds will not be occupied.

Coronavirus: Ogun Confirms Italian Visited Ewekoro

By Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta and Segun James in Lagos

The Ogun State Government on Friday confirmed that the Italian infected by the Coronavirus visited Ewekoro, an industrial town in the state.

Addressing a press conference at the Oke-Mosan Governor’s Office in Abeokuta, the state’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, said the Italian who was infected with the Coronavirus disease came to Ewekoro from Lagos and had a short stay before returning to Lagos for medical attention.

He however dismissed speculations that many people had contracted the deadly virus in the state, insisting that Italian visit was brief.

THISDAY investigations revealed that the Italian is a consultant to a company in the locality.

The Health Commissioner said, “The state government has quarantined the location visited by the Italian in Ewekoro and so, Ogun residents should not panic.”

She, however, listed the symptoms of the Coronavirus disease to include illnesses such as the common cold, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

She advised anyone with the symptoms to go to the general hospital, as against visiting a private hospital or a herbal home, to enable the government track any patient identified with the disease.

Coker also advised members of the public “to keep at least five meters away from anyone found with cold or fever.”

She said the Ogun State Government already has an Infectious Centre at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, for anyone diagnosed with the Coronavirus disease, but noted that the infected Italian is currently being treated at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Yaba, Lagos.

She urged members of the public in the state to call 0818897893 or 08188978393 to report any health emergency.

Meanwhile, one of Nigeria’s leading pharmacists, Prof (Mrs) Peace Chinedu-Babalola, has warned that precautionary method was most desired in keeping the widespread coronavirus away from Nigeria, noting that it could cost the federal government at least $2 billion (about N700 billion) to evolve any new medicine.

She gave the advice in Abeokuta while speaking with THISDAY, on the heels of her return from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she was presented with the Kwame Nkruma Award for Scientific Excellence, at an African Union (AU) summit which held in the country.

Chinedu-Babalola, who is the Vice-Chancellor of Chrisland University, Owode-Abeokuta, said finding cure for the coronavirus, which is the latest epidemic that has wiped off thousands of souls, especially in China, is capital intensive.

While commending the federal government for promising to release N36 million to aid research into killer diseases, she, however observed that in the face of lean resources, the government and the citizenry must take utmost precautions to prevent the disease from spreading to the country.

“This is because an equipment needed to embark on research into diseases such as Ebola Virus, Lassa fever and coronavirus could cost as much as N36 million,” she said.

The don, who is the first female professor of Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan, also said, “When it comes to epidemics, Nigerians know how to take precautions. There is awareness in the country and people are taking their personal precautions.

“In terms of government input, government is doing its best. At the various airports, the government has set up various processes to detect the virus. Government is checking those who are coming into the country at the various ports of entries.”

But she said a lot still needed to be done in terms of drug discovery.

“In terms of drugs discovery, that is another cup of tea. For you to discover drugs and vaccines is not bread and butter. Many times, researches have been going on for years. To produce one medicine, it can take us 10 to 15 years. Although, we now have processes that can reduce drug discovery time.

“For us to discover these things, we need to empower research centres. Nigeria needs to inject money to ensure that scientists are working round the clock, testing different viruses so that if one comes up, we can easily detect it, to start with.

“But we should go beyond detection; as a pharmaceutical scientist, when you study the genetics of a disease, when you study the properties of a particular disease or disease agent, we should use it and target medicines, and molecules that can also kill it or cure it.

“We should go beyond diagnoses, we should also empower centres to be able to discover, design and develop drugs. These things take time.

“It will cost about 2 billion dollars to develop one medicine, so Nigeria needs to think seriously about this.”

Italian Infected by Conronavirus Lodged in Lagos Hotel on Arrival, Visited Ogun

More details have emerged about the movement of the Italian infected by the coronavirus in Nigeria as Lagos State Governor Mr. Babajide Sanwo-olu confirmed on Friday that the man, whose identify he refused to disclose, spent a night in a hotel in Lagos before heading for a company in Ogun state where he worked with some people before the Coronavirus symptom manifested

Sanwo-Olu, has warned Lagosians not to panic following the confirmation of Coronavirus in Nigeria.

The governor who is the Chief Incident Commander on the COVID-19 virus in the state disclosed that even though the Italian on a business visit to Nigeria had been confirmed to have the virus, he was in stable condition at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (LDC), Yaba, where he has been quarantined.

He assured that there was no cause for alarm yet on the incident adding the government would do everything in its powers to contain it.

“He will remain in strict isolation,” says the governor, adding that the movements of the Italian from the moment he left his Turkish Airline flight to Nigeria is being traced to know all the people he came in contact with.

He assured that others who were in contact with him in Ogun state had been placed under watch.

“We are trying to identify anybody who has come in contact with him to break any spread,” Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said.

“We are working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he arrived in Nigeria. Please, be reminded that most people who become infected may experience only a mild illness and recover easily, but it can be more severe in others, particularly the elderly and persons with other underlying chronic illnesses. All Lagosians should take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families.”

He urged Lagosians to call the Lagos State Emergency hotlines 08023169485 or 08033565529 or 08052817243 which are available day and night if the suspect any symptom of the very contagious disease.

Coronavirus: FG Deploys Rapid Response Teams Across States

By Kuni Tyessi

The federal government says it has deployed rapid response teams across the country to ensure that Coronavirus doesn’t spread across the country.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, stated this during a press briefing in Abuja on Friday following the confirmation of the first case of the virus in Lagos.

Asked how prepared the government was in ensuring the virus doesn’t escalate, the minister assured Nigerians of the preparedness of the government to tackle the viral disease, adding that there is no reason to panic.

“The Federal Ministry of Health, through Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of any outbreak in Nigeria,” the minister said.

“The multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has immediately activated its national Emergency Operations Centre and will work closely with Lagos State Health authorities to respond to this case and implement firm control measures.

“I wish to assure all Nigerians that we have been beefing up our preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China, and we will use all the resources made available by the government to respond to this case.”

Earlier speaking, Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of NCDC, stated that Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has deployed its rapid response teams in Lagos state and other parts of the country to manage the situation adequately.

As it stands, Nigeria becomes the third country to confirm the disease in Africa and the 52nd in the world.

The patient, an Italian citizen, was said to have entered Nigeria on February 25 from Milan, Italy on a business visit.

Over 80,000 cases of coronavirus have been recorded globally, out of which more than 33,000 people have recovered.

Ihekweazu said health facilities must remain on high alert and he assured Nigerians of their safety against COVID-19.

“The NDCD has escalated the multi-sectoral coronavirus preparedness group to an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), at level II to lead response activities,” he said.

“The NCDC will continue to keep Nigerians informed. It is important for them to be focused on facts and not fear.

“Nigerians should protect themselves by staying calm, drink lots of water.” he added.

Lagos Begins Contact Tracing for Coronavirus 

By Martins Ifijeh

The Lagos State government has commenced tracing of persons who have been in contact with the index confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state.

In a press briefing Friday, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the airline with which he flew into Nigeria February 25 had been contacted to provide details of travellers who sat close to the index case, so that they can be tracked and placed under surveillance for possible infection.

He said: “We have also contacted the company in Ogun State where he went to work on February 26. We have put the staff of the company who were in contact with him under surveillance.

“We will ensure everyone who have had contact with him is contacted and monitored.”

He called on Lagos residents to go about their normal business, noting that until it reaches the point of human-to-human spread, the state will not escalate the process it currently has in place.

Sanwo-Olu said the isolation centre in Yaba has the capacity to take in a minimum of 80 confirmed or suspected cases, adding that plans were being put in place to expand the facility to accommodate more people.

The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi said air travel was one of the commonest ways the virus could come into the country, adding that it has, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health beefed up surveillance at airports.

He also said: “For sea borders, it takes a minimum of three weeks for ships to enter Lagos from China. This means before it gets here, the occupants of the vessel must have manifested the symptoms.

“Land borders have longed been closed by the federal government, which means we need to intensify efforts at the borders.”

He said there was no point closing public institutions, as the thread has not reached that point. “We do not want to cause panic,” he added.

Italy’s Coronavirus Spread Up 50% in 24 Hours, Reports 650 Cases, 17 Deaths

Martins Ifijeh

Italy’s number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases spiked by more than 50 per cent in just 24 hours and now stands at 650 cases and 17 deaths, the Italian Ministry of Health says.

More than 400 of the cases are in the hard-hit Lombardy region, where some towns are under a lockdown.

The Commissioner for Coronavirus Emergency, Ministry of Health, Italy, Angelo Borrelli, said yesterday that nearly 250 of the people who were infected are currently in the hospital, including 56 patients who are in intensive care.

“Another 284 people who have been infected are in home isolation to try to stop the coronavirus from spreading further.

Table Showing All Cases, Deaths from Coronavirus (As of 9:53am, February 28, 2020)

Coronavirus: No Country Will Be Spared, WHO Warns

Considering the rapid global spread of Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, the Director General, World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedhros Ghebreyesus, has warned all countries to prepare for the outbreak of the deadly virus.

Speaking during its Thursday briefing, the WHO DG said with new infections reported around the world now surpassing those in mainland China,  even rich countries should prepare for the outbreak.

“No country should assume it won’t get cases, that would be a fatal mistake, quite literally,” Tedros said, pointing to Italy, where 17 people have died in Europe’s worst outbreak.

Nigeria has become the third African nation to be affected by the outbreak, with the Italian index case said to be under isolation since Thursday night.

Clinical Trial of Coronavirus Vaccine Begins April, Says US Agency

By Martins Ifijeh

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) has said a United States biotech firm, Moderna, has developed an experimental vaccine against Coronavirus (COVID-19), which will be ready for first clinical trial in April.

In a statement by the Director, NIAID, Anthony Fauci, yesterday, the agency said the vaccine had been shipped to researchers just six weeks after it started working on the immunisation.

Fauci said the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine called mRNA-1273, would be used in a planned phase 1 study in the US, which typically involves testing a vaccine on a small number of healthy humans.

He said the clinical trial could start by the end of April, and that this represents the first step in potentially making a vaccine available for use.

The Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the development, said that two doses of the vaccine would be tested on volunteers to see if it produces an immune response that protects against the virus.

Fauci told CNN that 45 people would participate in the trial.

“Even if the clinical trial is successful, further testing and regulatory approvals would be needed before the vaccine could be deployed widely,” he said.

Health officials and pharmaceutical companies around the world are working at a breakneck pace to identify treatments or a vaccine to help fight the coronavirus, which has infected more than 80,000 people around the world, and killed over 2800 persons.

Fauci previously told CNNthat researchers could expedite the approval process for a vaccine following a successful Phase 1 trial in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus.

But even when proceeding at an “emergency speed,” a vaccine would not be available for use for at least a year or 18 months, according to him.

Moderna is not the only drug company hoping to find an immunization for the virus.

Pharma giants, Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline are working on vaccines, as are government scientists including some at NIAID.

While the experimental vaccine developed by Moderna remains unproven, the speed at which it was created represents a breakthrough. According to Moderna, the vaccine was developed within 42 days of the company obtaining genetic information on Coronavirus.

By comparison, it took researchers about 20 months to start human tests of the vaccine for SARS, an older Coronavirus, according to a journal paper written by Fauci.

First Case of Coronavirus Confirmed in Nigeria

The Federal Ministry of Health has confirmed a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case in Lagos State, Nigeria.

A statement issued by the Minister of Health,  Dr Osagie Ehanire, in the early hours of Friday said the case, which was confirmed on  February 27, was the first case to be reported in Nigeria since the beginning of the outbreak in China in January 2020.

The statement said, “the case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos, Nigeria on the 25th of February 2020. He was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.”

Noting that the government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Health has been strengthening measures to ensure an outbreak in Nigeria is controlled and contained quickly,  it said “the multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has immediately activated its national Emergency Operations Centre and will work closely with Lagos State Health authorities to respond to this case and implement firm control measures.”

The minister however reassured all Nigerians that government had been beefing up preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China, and  will use all the resources made available by the government to respond to the confirmed case.

Ehanire said Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic,  adding that the Federal Ministry of Health, through Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of any outbreak in Nigeria.

He further said, “We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he entered Nigeria. Please be reminded that most people who become infected may experience only mild illness and recover easily, but it can be more severe in others, particularly the elderly and persons with other underlying chronic illness.”

With the confirmed case in Lagos, Nigeria becomes the third African country to record a case of the deadly virus. Egypt and Algeria had earlier reported cases of the virus in their countries.

The new coronavirus has spread to all the continents of the world except the Antarctica, with 82,000 cases in 48 countries. Italy, with the largest outbreak outside Asia, has 650 cases as of Thursday night – up from 400 a day earlier – with 17 deaths.  China however remains the worst hit with 78,000 cases and 2,747 deaths. 32,531 of those infected by the virus have recovered so far.

The minister urged all  Nigerians to take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families, following the precautions below:

1.    Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

2.    Maintain at least 1 & half metres (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

3. Persons with persistent cough or sneezing should stay home or keep a social distance, but not mix in crowd.

4. Make sure you and people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or into your sleeve at the bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

5. Stay home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Please call NCDC toll free number which is available day and night, for guidance- 0800-970000-10. Do not engage in self-medication

6. Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 through official channels on TV and Radio, including the Lagos State Ministry of Health, NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health.

THURSDAY February 27, 2020

Iran’s VP Infected by Coronavirus, Saudi Arabia Halts Travel to Mecca, Medina

Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, has tested positive to the coronavirus, according to a report on Aljazera.

Iranian officials had on Tuesday confirmed that Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi had tested positive to the virus and was under quarantine.

The report said Ebtekar was the English-language spokeswoman for the 1979 hostage-takers who seized the US embassy in Tehran and sparked the 444-day diplomatic crisis.

The country’s health ministry  said the new coronavirus had killed 26 people while there are 245 confirmed cases.

As part of steps taken to halt the spread of the virus,  the report said Iran had cancelled Friday prayers in the capital, Tehran, and around the country.

Iran has also banned Chinese citizens from entering the country.

With more than 220 confirmed cases of the virus in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has halted travel to its holiest sites months ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The new coronavirus has spread to all the continents of the world except the Antarctica, with 82,000 cases in 48 countries. China however remains the worst hit with 78,000 cases and 2,747 deaths. 32,531 of those infected by the virus have recovered so far.

11 Persons Tested Negative to Coronavirus in Nigeria, Says NCDC

By Martins Ifijeh

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has stated that 11 persons have so far tested negative to Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria.

The Director General, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who confirmed this to journalists in Abuja Thursday, said the tests were conducted by the NCDC National Reference Laboratory and Virology Laboratory at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), and that Nigeria was free from the virus.

He said:  “Four laboratories in Nigeria have the capacity to test for the coronavirus. These laboratories are within the NCDC laboratory network and are open 24/7. If a new case is confirmed, it will be reported accordingly.

“We are in close communication with the Lagos State Ministry of Health and other states, and will inform the public once there is a confirmed case in the country.”

Ihekweazu, who said the centre will continue to monitor the outbreak globally, urge Nigerians to disregard rumours over spread of the virus.

He said when a high-risk traveller with symptoms arrives in the country, the person would be taken from the airport to an isolation centre and samples would be collected immediately for testing.

“If confirmed, appropriate management will commence, but if negative, the person would still be monitored for 14 days and retested.

“When a high-risk traveller that is not symptomatic comes into the country, the person is advised to stay at home for 14 days and report immediately if he/she develops symptoms. We also ensure we collect contact details of the person while an official is attached to the person to monitor him/her daily for 14 days.

“If the person develops symptoms within 14 days of arrival in the country, samples would be collected for confirmation. If confirmed, the person goes into our isolation centre where he would be managed appropriately,” he said.

Ihekweazu described a high-risk traveller as someone who has had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case or was travelling from China, particularly Wuhan.

While calling on Nigerians not to panic, he said that the Chinese authorities have intensified measures to prevent the exportation of COVID-19 such as screening travellers leaving China.

“In Nigeria, the NCDC conducts daily epidemic intelligence gathering to monitor the spread of the outbreak,” he said

He said that the Government of Nigeria through NCDC is working very hard to be better prepared in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

He disclosed that NCDC in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) reviewed strategies to work together in the 36 states of the federation and the FCT to ensure that Nigerians are well informed.

Furthermore, Ihekweazu said that NCDC had revised the national case definition in line with changes in the epidemiology of the outbreak.

“With the ongoing local transmission in countries outside China, the focus had been expanded to include travellers from other countries.”

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