BREAKING: Russia becomes first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, says Putin

Continue reading “BREAKING: Russia becomes first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, says Putin”

Covid-19: Madagascar hospitals reaches full capacity as Covid-19 cases surge

File photo: Coronavirus

Continue reading “Covid-19: Madagascar hospitals reaches full capacity as Covid-19 cases surge”

Lockdown, relax, repeat: how cities across the globe are going back to coronavirus restrictions

Maximilian de Courten, Victoria University; Bojana Klepac Pogrmilovic, Victoria University, and Rosemary V Calder, Victoria University

The World Health Organisation reported more than 230,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday — the world’s largest daily increase during the pandemic. The surge has forced governments in many places across the world to order new lockdowns.

This includes Melbourne, which is back in a six-week lockdown after a second wave of new cases exceeded the city’s first peak in late March.

But Melbourne’s not the only city to suffer a second wave of the pandemic. Cities including Beijing and Leicester had lifted COVID-19 restrictions, only to re-enforce them when new outbreaks occurred.

So how have other cities gone about their second lockdown, and have the measures been effective in tackling the COVID-19 resurgence? Let’s take a look at a few examples.


Lockdowns return

Though there’s no strict definition of a lockdown, it describes the controls imposed by governments to restrict the movement of people in their communities. It’s often achieved through a combination of police presence and applying public health regulations.

It can be implemented partially, progressively or fully. The latter is called “hard lockdown” when the freedom of entry to, and exit from, either an entire building or geographic area is prohibited or limited.

The Segrià region in Catalonia, Spain re-entered an indefinite partial lockdown on July 4 following a significant spike in cases and COVID-19 hospitalisations.

The Catalan government, in the north east of Spain, re-imposed lockdown for the Segrià county after recording 816 new COVID-19 cases on July 12.
Ramon Gabriel/EPA/AAP

The city of Leicester in the United Kingdom has gone into a second lockdown after it accounted for 10% of all positive COVID-19 cases in the country at the end of June. The city has been in lockdown for the past two weeks and despite this, the latest data show an increase in the numbers of cases.

A second wave in Beijing was tackled by increasing degrees of lockdowns. The strictest measures were limited to a few high-risk neighbourhoods, accompanied by a ring of looser lockdown measures around them.

Alongside this was extensive and widespread testing, with a peak capacity of 300,000 tests per day. This approach proved successful – the city reported zero new COVID-19 cases on July 7.

While there are increasing examples of a return to some lockdown measures, there are no examples demonstrating the success of a second lockdown — other than in Beijing — because it’s too early to tell.

Clear public health messaging is key

When entering a second lockdown, it’s useful to consider the lessons learnt from the first. Initial lockdowns in both Italy and India provide cautionary tales on what happens when public messaging and enforcement is flawed.

Italian media published information about internal movement restrictions a day before the Italian prime minister officially announced it and signed the decree. At the time, only northern Italy was heavily affected by COVID-19.

After the news spread, workers and students, many of whom carried the virus, rushed back home across the country, flooding the train stations. Even though the goal was to reduce the spread of the virus, the effects were the opposite. Soon after, it was discovered that new COVID-19 cases in southern Italy were families from students who came home from the north.

Similar panic among migrant workers occurred in India when the prime minister gave the public only a few hours notice before the start of the lockdown. This is just one reason why India’s lockdown has been labelled as “a spectacular failure”.

Lockdown, relax, lockdown, relax

After a lockdown, the majority of the population remains at risk of infection without a vaccine. So as restrictions ease, cases are likely to increase again, leading to a pattern of lockdowns, relaxation and renewed lockdowns

So why can’t governments just aim to eliminate the virus? An elimination strategy requires strict, intensive lockdowns and closing external and internal borders to eradicate local transmission and prevent the virus being imported.

Elimination strategies have worked in only a few countries and regions, such as New Zealand which imposed an early and strict lockdown.

The effectiveness of lockdowns can be diminished by increasing population fatigue in response to reimposed restrictions.

Lockdowns also have many serious repercussions, including a severe impact on mental health and the economy. French Prime Minister Jean Castex has ruled out another total lockdown arguing that its economic and human consequences are disastrous.

Locking down a given country can cost up to 3% of GDP per month, according to UBS Global Wealth Management.

Lockdowns can work if we use masks

It’s clear that lockdowns cannot be maintained indefinitely. That’s why the rapid development of a vaccine to achieve herd immunity, without extensive infection, is critical – along with the development of drugs to relieve the symptoms of COVID-19.

So how long should Melbourne’s lockdown last? The Grattan Institute has argued it should continue until there are no more active COVID-19 cases in the community to eliminate the virus – and after that, should remain in place for another two weeks.

We argue that the duration of the lockdown could be halved if paired with mandatory universal use of face masks. Wearing masks lowers the risk of spreading and contracting the disease.

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

Maximilian de Courten, Health Policy Lead and Professor in Global Public Health at the Mitchell Institute, Victoria University; Bojana Klepac Pogrmilovic, Research Fellow in Health Policy at the Mitchell Institute for Education and Health Policy, Victoria University, and Rosemary V Calder, Professor, Health Policy, Victoria University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Kanye West Declares School Year ‘Lost’, Classes Back In 2021

Kenya on Tuesday declared that its school year was considered lost because of the coronavirus pandemic, and primary and secondary pupils would return to class next January.

Continue reading “Kanye West Declares School Year ‘Lost’, Classes Back In 2021”

Oluwarotimi Akeredolu

BREAKING: Gov. Akeredolu tests positive for coronavirus

Oluwarotimi Akeredolu

The Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has tested positive for coronavirus. Governor Akeredolu had last week submitted himself for COVID-19 test after denying going for self-isolation.

The governor said he is already in self-isolation as required by the case management guidelines of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for someone who is asymptomatic.

“Earlier today, I got confirmation of a positive result for Covid-19. I am asymptomatic and not displaying any symptoms,” he said.

“I am currently self-isolating and supervised home management will be administered by the wonderful team at our Infectious Disease Hospital. I ask that we all stay safe and be well.”

Akeredolu joins a growing list of top public officers who have tested positive for the disease. They include Abba Kyari, the late chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari; Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna; Bala Mohammed, governor of Bauchi, and Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo.

FG approves reopening of schools, lifts ban on interstate travel

The federal government has lifted the ban on interstate travel and also approved the reopening of schools for graduating classes.

Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation, broke the news at the presidential task force briefing on Monday.

He said students in primary six, Junior Secondary School 3 and Senior Secondary School 3 will be allowed to return to school.

Mustapha, who is the chairman of the task force, said President Muhammadu Buhari gave the approval when his team met with him earlier in the day.

“I am pleased to inform you that Mr. President has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase Two of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020 through Midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020,” he said.

”Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect:

“Maintaining the current phase of the national response, for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the National Coordinator;

“Permission of movement across State borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July, 2020;

“Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by States, in particular, the use of face masks in public places;

“Safe re-opening of schools to allow students in graduating classes resume in-person in preparation for examinations.”

Undertakers carry a coffin during the funeral proceedings for a COVID-19 victim at a Mosque in Cape Town, on June 16, 2020. Most of South Africa's infections -- around two-thirds -- are found in the Western Cape province, a popular tourist destination. CREDIT: MARCO LONGARI/AFP

Coronavirus infections pick up speed across Africa

Undertakers carry a coffin during the funeral proceedings for a COVID-19 victim at a Mosque in Cape Town, on June 16, 2020. Most of South Africa's infections -- around two-thirds -- are found in the Western Cape province, a popular tourist destination.  CREDIT: MARCO LONGARI/AFP
Undertakers carry a coffin during the funeral proceedings for a COVID-19 victim at a Mosque in Cape Town, on June 16, 2020. Most of South Africa’s infections — around two-thirds — are found in the Western Cape province, a popular tourist destination. CREDIT: MARCO LONGARI/AFP

After months of slow burn, recorded coronavirus cases are beginning to rise sharply in Africa. 

On Sunday night, Africa passed the 300,000 case mark with an overall death toll of around 8,000, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. 

While these cases amount to just three per cent of the world’s total, experts have warned that the pandemic is now accelerating in many parts of Africa, where poor health services make the virus an acute threat. 

It took almost 100 days for Africa to record its first 100,000 coronavirus cases. It took another 18 days for Africa to reach 200,000 cases and a further 11 days to hit 300,000. 

 John N. Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned that the continent could be the next ‘epicentre’ of the pandemic as cases begin to overwhelm fragile health systems. 

Covid-19 has spread more slowly across Africa than many thought it would. This is mainly because most African governments took quick and robust steps to limit the spread of the virus early on, while officials in the UK and US dithered.

As early as January 2, Ivory Coast started screening passengers who had visited China recently. Many other countries followed suit soon after. 

When the pandemic began to take Spain and Italy by storm in March, Africa sealed itself off from international travel.  Some form of lockdown was implemented in almost every country on the continent when there were still relatively few cases. Many African governments doubled down on preventing these cases from spreading with contact tracing teams. 

But after months of slow-burn in different pockets, community transmission is well established in many countries and cash-strapped governments are being forced to ease lockdown measures. 

Experts at the World Health Organization say that Africa’s real caseload is probably far higher than the official tally. Many African countries have struggled to do more than a few hundred tests a day, as wealthier countries buy up kits and lab materials en masse. 

Earlier this month, the WHO warned that coronavirus was spreading out of cities and towns into rural areas, where healthcare services are limited. 

One medical worker in Eastern Congo told The Telegraph that they feared a ‘wave was about to hit’ the troubled region and that the official figures did not show what was happening on the ground. 

According to official statistics, South Africa is the continent’s coronavirus epicentre. Since Africa’s most industrialised economy relaxed its draconian lockdown several weeks ago, recorded cases have soared to about 100,000 — one third of Africa’s total case load. 

However, South Africa may be disproportionately represented in Africa’s Covid statistics due to it effective testing. South Africa has conducted more than 1.3m tests for a population of about 58m, this is ten times what Nigeria, with its giant population of more than 200m, has managed. 

Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO emergencies programme, said that the picture was mixed across the African continent. 

“We’ve seen increases of the disease in some countries in excess of 50 per cent in the last week, and we’ve seen other countries with very very stable numbers.”

But while numbers are on the rise in general – with substantial jumps in places like South Africa, Benin, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Burundi – the continent is yet to report a large rise in the number of deaths, he said. 

Dr Ryan added that there are caveats to these numbers – while hospitals do not appear to be overwhelmed, “testing is not as frequent in Africa so there could be under reporting of cases”. 

He warned that there is “no room for complacency on the African continent.”

“Will Africa be the next epicentre for this? I certainly hope not,” Dr Ryansaid. “The health systems in Africa is, in general, weaker than elsewhere in the world. 

“While they have the benefit of an age profile that’s much older, there are still many elderly people and many with underlying health issues.”

Daily death toll rises as Nigeri’s COVID-19 cases surpass 17,000

Ebola tore through the tattered health care systems of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea from 2014 and 2016, killing more than 11,000 people CREDIT: Getty

The daily fatality toll in Nigeria increased on Tuesday as 31 persons were confirmed to have died of COVID-19 complications.

A total of 455 COVID-19 deaths have now been recorded in the country.

According to the update by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for June 16, 2020, the 31 deaths included 25 fatalities which occurred in Lagos between Friday and Monday, but were announced on Tuesday.

In the data released at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, the agency also confirmed 490 new COVID-19 cases in 15 states and the federal capital territory (FCT).

While Lagos had 142 new cases and FCT recorded 60 cases, Bayelsa confirmed its highest daily toll with 54 cases, increasing the state’s figures from 32 to 86.

Bayelsa has now moved 11 spots upwards from being the fourth state with the least number of cases; it is now the 22nd state with the most COVID-19 cases in the country.

However, a record total of 274 persons were discharged on Tuesday, increasing the number of recoveries from 5,349 to 5,623.

A total of 17,148 cases have now been confirmed in 35 states and the FCT.

Lagos state government suspends opening of churche/Mosques indefinitely

Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has suspended the reopening of worship centers indefinitely.

The governor had earlier directed worship centres, which were shut over coronavirus pandemic, to reopen but under strict guidelines.

He had said while mosques would reopen on June 19, churches would resume activities on June 21.

But at a press briefing on Tuesday, the governor made a U-turn, saying worship centres should remain shut to check the spread of the virus.

The governor said this is as a result of the rising number of cases in the state.

With 7,317 cases, Lagos has the highest number of infections in Nigeria.

A City of Tshwane Health official looks on as she conducts a screening exercise on a taxi operator before testing for the COVID-19 at the Bloed Street Mall in Pretoria Central Business District, on June 11, 2020. CREDIT: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Covid-19 cases begin to soar as South Africa’s lockdown is relaxed

A City of Tshwane Health official looks on as she conducts a screening exercise on a taxi operator before testing for the COVID-19 at the Bloed Street Mall in Pretoria Central Business District, on June 11, 2020. CREDIT: Phill Magakoe/AFP
A City of Tshwane Health official looks on as she conducts a screening exercise on a taxi operator before testing for the COVID-19 at the Bloed Street Mall in Pretoria Central Business District, on June 11, 2020. CREDIT: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Coronavirus cases are beginning to soar in South Africa three weeks after the country eased one of the most draconian lockdowns on earth. 

Over the weekend, Africa’s most industrialised nation recorded more than 8,100 new cases of Covid-19 bringing its total up to 70,000. 

In late March, South Africa imposed sudden and sweeping lockdown measures to limit the spread of the virus bringing life to an almost complete stop. South Africans were only allowed to go out to buy food or visit the doctors, while the sale of alcohol and cigarettes was banned entirely. 

The two-month-long lockdown was effective at slowing the spread. However, the measures wrought havoc on the economy. 

South Africa’s GDP is expected to contract by some 7 per cent, and some predictions say that unemployment could rise to a staggering 50 per cent in 2020. 

South African National Defense Force soldiers patrol in the Alexandra township in Johannesburg in April. CREDIT: Jerome Delay/AP

These bleak indicators and lines for food handouts stretch for miles forced the government in Pretoria to ease most lockdown measures three weeks ago

 The South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis says that cases will continue to rise until they peak between early July and August and that a total of 35,000 to 50,000 South Africans could die from the virus. 

The latest figures mean that South Africa now accounts for 25 per cent of the African continent’s confirmed coronavirus cases.,%20cases%20begin%20to%20soar%C2%A0

However, these statistics must be treated with caution. South Africa has carried out over 1.1 million tests since the crisis began, fifty times more than Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad have done combined.  

The news of the surge in cases in South Africa follows warnings from the World Health Organisation a few days ago saying that Covid-19 was now spreading rapidly out of Africa’s urban areas into rural areas where health services are often limited or non-existent. 

Africa accounts for only about 3 per cent of the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases. However, the pandemic is now accelerating rapidly. It took three months for Africa to reach 100,000 confirmed cases, but it took less than three weeks to get to the 200,000 cases.

Covid-19 in Africa: fake news about coronavirus

To combat what the World Health Organization has called an “infodemic” around Covid-19, BBC News Africa has launched a searchable library of fact-checks debunking popular myths and misinformation about coronavirus in Africa.

A Kenyan politician made this false claim to explain why cognac was included in relief packages for some Nairobi residents.

Claim rating: FALSE

No evidence coronavirus lasts up to a month on surfaces

  • Spread

There is no evidence that coronavirus can survive on surfaces for up to one month if they are not cleaned properly.

Claim rating: NO EVIDENCE

This South Sudanese minister did NOT die from coronavirus

South Sudan's Minister of Cabinet Affairs Dr Martin Elia Lomuro
  • Hoaxes
  • Public authorities

South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs came out to deny he had died from coronavirus

Claim rating: FALSE

Inhaling steam does NOT cure coronavirus

Graphic showing a nose with steam going into it, with an X in the background
  • Cures
  • Myths

Inhaling very hot steam does not cure Covid-19 and could be harmful, according to health experts.

Claim rating: FALSE

Putting disinfectant into your body will NOT protect you from Covid-19 and can be dangerous

US President Donald Trump
  • Prevention

President Trump’s suggestion this might help treat Covid-19 is false and has been widely denounced by medical experts.

Claim rating: FALSE

Applying menthol gel to the nostrils or drinking hot water do NOT prevent coronavirus9 April 2020

  • Prevention

This is what Guinea’s President Alpha Condé recommended but it is not backed by any scientific evidence.

Claim rating: FALSE

Home-made hand sanitisers made with vodka do NOT prevent Covid-19

  • Prevention

Home-made hand sanitiser recipes using vodka do not contain enough alcohol to kill the virus.

Claim rating: FALSE

There’s NO evidence the BCG vaccine protects against coronavirus

Baby crying as it's given the BCG jab
  • Prevention
  • Myths

The World Health Organization

Blue facemasks are NOT contaminated

A male surgeon wearing a blue mask
  • Spread

Social posts urging Africans not to wear blue masks contain fabricated quotes from public figures and are false.

Workers disinfecting a street in downtown Cairo last week.Credit...Fadl AbuZaid/Picture Alliance, via Getty Images

Coronavirus rips into regions previously spared

Workers disinfecting a street in downtown Cairo last week.Credit…Fadl AbuZaid/Picture Alliance, via Getty Images

By Declan Walsh

For months, one enduring mystery of the coronavirus was why some of the world’s most populous countries, with rickety health systems and crowded slums, had managed to avoid the brunt of an outbreak that was burning through relatively affluent societies in Europe and the United States.

Now some of those countries are tumbling into the maw of the pandemic, and they are grappling with the likelihood that their troubles are only beginning.

Globally, known cases of the virus are growing faster than ever with more than 100,000 new ones a day. The surge is concentrated in densely populated, low- and middle-income countries across the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and South Asia.

Not only has it filled hospitals and cemeteries there, it has frustrated the hopes of leaders who thought they were doing everything right, or who believed they might somehow escape the pandemic’s worst ravages.

“We haven’t seen any evidence that certain populations will be spared,” said Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida. For those not yet affected, she said, “it’s a matter of when, not if.”

Grave diggers burying a coronavirus victim at the Vila Formosa cemetery in São Paulo last week.
Grave diggers burying a coronavirus victim at the Vila Formosa cemetery in São Paulo last week.

Several of the newly hit countries are led by strongmen and populists now facing a foe that cannot be neutralized with arrests or swaggering speeches. In Egypt, where the rate of new confirmed infections doubled last week, the pandemic has created friction between President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and doctors who have revolted over a lack of protective equipment and training.

In Brazil, the total death toll surpassed 32,000 on Thursday, with 1,349 deaths in a single day, dealing a further blow to the populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has continued to minimize the threat.

“We are sorry for all the dead, but that’s everyone’s destiny,” he said Tuesday.

In Bangladesh, natural disaster helped spread the disease. Cyclone Amphan, a deadly storm that tore through communities under lockdown there last month, helped drive cases up to 55,000.

This week Bangladeshi authorities reported the first death from Covid-19 in a refugee camp, a 71-year-old Rohingya man from Myanmar — an ominous sign for wider worries about the plight of vulnerable people huddled in hundreds of such camps in the world’s most fragile countries.

The upswing marks a new stage in the trajectory of the virus, away from Western countries that have settled into a grinding battle against an increasingly familiar adversary, toward corners of the globe where many hoped that hot weather, youthful populations or some unknown epidemiological factor might shield them from a scourge that has infected 6.5 million people and killed almost 400,000, over a quarter of them in the United States.

The Sadarghat ferry terminal in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last week. Cases surged in the country after a deadly cyclone tore through the country.
The Sadarghat ferry terminal in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last week. Cases surged in the country after a deadly cyclone tore through the country.Credit…Rehman Asad/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Some countries now being overrun by the virus seemed to be doing the right thing. In Peru, where President Martín Vizcarra ordered one of the first national lockdowns in South America, over 170,000 cases have been confirmed and 14,000 more deaths than average were recorded in May, suggesting there were many more virus fatalities than the official count of about 5,000.

South Africa, Africa’s economic powerhouse, banned sales of tobacco and alcohol as part of a strict lockdown in March, yet now has 35,000 confirmed infections, the highest on the continent. Even so, President Cyril Ramaphosa eased the restrictions last week, citing economic concerns.

The pandemic’s new direction is bad news for the strongmen and populist leaders in some of those countries who, in its early stage, reaped political points by vaunting low infection rates as evidence of the virtues of iron-fisted rule.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whose delivery of a planeload of medical aid to the United States in March was seen as a cocky snub, is grappling with the world’s third-largest outbreak, with 440,000 cases that have enraged the public and depressed his approval ratings to their lowest in two decades.

For Mr. el-Sisi of Egypt, the outbreak has posed a rare challenge to his preferred narrative of absolute control.

Although Egypt’s 30,000 cases are far fewer than those of several other Arab countries — Saudi Arabia has three times as many — it has by far the highest death toll in the region and its infection rate is soaring.

Last Sunday the government recorded 1,500 new cases, up from about 700 just six days earlier. The next day the minister for higher education and scientific research warned that Egypt’s true number of cases could be over 117,000.

Egypt has counted 30,000 coronavirus cases, but experts believe the actual number is much higher.
Egypt has counted 30,000 coronavirus cases, but experts believe the actual number is much higher.Credit…Mohamed Hossam/EPA, via Shutterstock

Some hospitals are overflowing and doctors are up in arms over shortages of protective equipment that, they say, has resulted in the deaths of at least 30 doctors. Outrage crystallized last week around the death of Dr. Walid Yehia, 32, who had been denied emergency treatment at the overwhelmed Monira general hospital where he worked.

Fellow doctors at the hospital went on strike for a week to protest his death. The main doctors union issued a statement accusing the government of “criminal misconduct” and warning that Egypt was veering toward “catastrophe” — strong words in a country where Mr. el-Sisi has jailed tens of thousands of opponents.

Last week, Mr. el-Sisi railed on Twitter against unspecified “enemies of the state” who attacked government efforts to combat the virus. Earlier, Egypt’s public prosecutor warned that anyone spreading “false news” about the coronavirus faced up to five years imprisonment.

Doctors at several hospitals said they had been threatened by Mr. el-Sisi’s feared security apparatus for daring to complain. The doctors interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal or arrest.

When doctors at the Mansheyat el Bakry hospital threatened to strike last month to protest the lack of training and protective equipment, they received a warning from a hospital senior manager: Anyone who failed to turn up for work the following day would be reported to the National Security Agency, which human rights groups have accused of torture and other abuses.

Reached by phone, the manager, Dr. Hanan el-Banna said the message was part of “normal disciplinary measures.” Then she denied that she had sent it.

A spokesman for Egypt’s Health Ministry did not respond to questions about the message, or other complaints from doctors.

Medical workers disinfecting surgical instruments at the 6th of October Central Hospital, in Giza, Egypt, which has been transformed into an isolation hospital for coronavirus patients.
Medical workers disinfecting surgical instruments at the 6th of October Central Hospital, in Giza, Egypt, which has been transformed into an isolation hospital for coronavirus patients.Credit…Menna Hossam/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

The power of the virus was brought home to Mr. el-Sisi in the early stages of the pandemic, when two senior generals died from Covid-19. Yet his government has frequently seemed determined to put a Panglossian spin on how well it is being handled.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Frequently Asked Questions and AdviceUpdated June 5, 2020
    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.
    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.
    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.
    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
    • How can I protect myself while flying?If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
    • How do I take my temperature?Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
    • Should I wear a mask?The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
    • What should I do if I feel sick?If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
    • How do I get tested?If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.

Last week the Health Ministry published a promotional video that showed coronavirus patients in a hospital praising their care and hailing Mr. el-Sisi. “I can’t believe this, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,” says one masked patient. “I can’t believe what he’s doing for our sake.”

A very different picture emerges on Facebook, where desperate patients or their relatives have posted videos pleading for help.

In one widely circulated recording, a weeping woman says that her ailing father was refused treatment at several hospitals. In another, a man with coronavirus symptoms remonstrates with hospital security guards who turn him away. “Take your complaint to the police,” they tell him.

Even if Egypt’s doctors were not muzzled by their government, Western-style social distancing would be nearly impossible in a chaotic, densely populated city of 20 million people like Cairo where many families survive on day jobs. Mosques, churches and airports remained closed, but the decision to relax a night curfew during the holy month of Ramadan — ostensibly to allow people to break their daily fast together — may have accelerated the spread of the virus, experts say.

Many low- and middle-income countries, now grappling with surging cases, are also struggling to balance public health against the realities of poverty-stricken societies, said Ashish Jha, professor of global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“At some point the lockdown becomes intolerable,” he said. “The human cost to day laborers, many of whom are already barely surviving, is enormous.”

The hopes of some countries that they could somehow avoid the pandemic are likely to be dashed, he added.

“In the early days, people were seeing patterns that were not really there,” he said. “They were saying that Africa would be spared. But this is a highly idiosyncratic virus, and over time the idiosyncrasy goes away. There is no natural immunity. We are all, humanity-wise, equally susceptible to the virus.”

Food donations in South Africa on Thurday. The country enacted strict lockdown measures to contain the virus, but now has the highest case load in Africa.
Food donations in South Africa on Thurday. The country enacted strict lockdown measures to contain the virus, but now has the highest case load in Africa.Credit…Kim Ludbrook/EPA, via Shutterstock

Experts say that Mr. el-Sisi’s obsession with showing that he is beating the pandemic may have encouraged some Egyptians to drop their guard — a phenomenon similar to that in the United States, where some Americans have taken comfort in President Trump’s breezy reassurances.

Unfortunately, such heedlessness can have dire consequences.

In March, Mohammed Nady, 30, an employee at the Sheraton hotel in central Cairo, posted a video to Facebook dismissing the virus as an American-engineered conspiracy to humiliate China.

A few weeks later, he posted a second video from the hospital announcing that he had contracted the coronavirus.

A third clip showed him in bed, struggling to breath. “I am dying,” he said. “I am dying.”

He died in April, three days before his father also died from the disease.

Reporting was contributed by Nada Rashwan in Cairo, Michael Cooper in New York, Manuela Andreoni in Rio de Janeiro, and Mitra Taj in Lima, Peru.

Declan Walsh is the Cairo bureau chief, covering Egypt and the Middle East. He joined The Times in 2011 as Pakistan bureau chief, and previously worked at The Guardian. @declanwalsh

Abia governor, Ikpeazu tests positive for COVID-19

Okezie Ikpeazu, governor of Abia state, has tested positive for COVID-19.

John Okiyi Kalu, commissioner of information in the state, announced the case in a statement on Monday.

He said the governor had gone into isolation before his result returned positive, and that he has directed the deputy governor to act on his behalf pending the time he resumes duty.

”Recall that on Saturday, 30th May, 2020, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu volunteered his sample for COVID-19 test and subsequently directed members of the state Executive Council (EXCO) and those of the inter ministerial committee on COVID-19 to submit themselves for the same test. On Tuesday, 2nd June, 2020. Tthe result of Governor Ikpeazu’s test returned negative,” he said.

”On Thursday, 4th June, 2020, the Governor submitted another sample at NCDC laboratory for confirmation and the result returned positive.

”As a result, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has gone into isolation, as required by relevant NCDC protocols, and he is being managed by a competent team of medical practitioners with a view to nursing him back to good health.

”Consequent on the above, the Governor has directed his Deputy, Rt Hon Ude Oko Chukwu, to act on his behalf pending his full resumption of duties.

”We wish to urge all Abians to take the fight against COVID-19 serious as the disease is real but not a death sentence. Our state has the resources to manage patients back to good health.”

Ikpeazu is the fourth governor to contract the coronavirus – after Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna, Seyi Makinde of Oyo, and Bala Mohammed of Bauchi.

In March, the governor said COVID-19 would not afflict Abia because the state is mentioned in the Bible.

“Abia is the only state that is mentioned in the Bible. We have a promise from God that none of these diseases will touch God’s people. And I hold on to God’s promise,” he said.

“We saw Ebola, it did not get to us. We saw monkey pox, it didn’t get to us. Even this one (coronavirus) will also pass us by.”

The commissioner of environment in the state had died, though it was not confirmed he died of COVID-19. But some members of the immediate family of the deceased commissioner tested positive for the disease.

Here’s some of what we’ve learned six months since coronavirus outbreak

We don’t really know when the novel coronavirus first began infecting people. But as we turn a page on our calendars into June, it is fair to say that coronavirus has been with us now for a full six months.

At first, it had no name or true identity. Early in January, news reports referred to strange and threatening symptoms that had sickened dozens of people in a large Chinese city with which many people in the world were probably not familiar. After half a year, that large metropolis, Wuhan, is well-known, as is the coronavirus and the illness it causes, Covid-19.

In that time, many reporters and editors on the health and science desk at The Bloomgist have shifted our journalistic focus as we have sought to tell the story of the coronavirus pandemic. While much remains unknown and mysterious after six months, there are some things we’re pretty sure of. These are some of those insights.

We’ll have to live with this for a long time.

Jens Mortensen

Rainy season is almost here, states are reopening and new coronavirus cases are declining or, at least, holding steady in many parts of Nigeria. At least 100 scientific teams around the world are racing to develop a vaccine.

That’s about it for the good news.

The virus has shown no sign of going away: We will be in this pandemic era for the long haul, likely a year or more. The masks, the social distancing, the fretful hand-washing, the aching withdrawal from friends and family — those steps are still the best hope of staying well, and will be for some time to come.

“This virus just may become another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, warned last month. Some scientists think that the longer we live with the virus, the milder its effects will become, but that remains to be seen.

Predictions that millions of doses of a vaccine may be available by the end of this year may be too rosy. No vaccine has ever been created that fast.

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The disease would be less frightening if there were a treatment that could cure it or, at least, prevent severe illness. But there is not. Remdesivir, the eagerly awaited antiviral drug? “Modest” benefit is the highest mark experts give it.

Which brings us back to masks and social distancing, which have come to feel quite antisocial. If only we could go back to life the way it used to be.

The bottom line: Wear a mask, keep your distance. When the time comes in the fall, get a flu shot, to protect yourself from one respiratory disease you can avoid and to help keep emergency rooms and urgent care from being overwhelmed. Hope for a treatment, a cure, a vaccine. Be patient. We have to pace ourselves. If there’s such a thing as a disease marathon, this is it.

By Knvul Sheikh

Credit…Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

The debate over whether people should wear face masks to control coronavirus transmission has been settled. Although public health authorities gave confusing and often contradictory advice in the early months of the pandemic, most experts now agree that if everyone wears a mask, individuals protect one another.

Researchers know that even simple masks can effectively stop droplets spewing from an infected wearer’s nose or mouth. In a study published in April in Nature, scientists showed that when people who are infected with influenza, rhinovirus or a mild cold-causing coronavirus wore a mask, it blocked nearly 100 percent of the viral droplets they exhaled, as well as some tiny aerosol particles.

Still, mask wearing remains uneven in many parts of Africa. But governments and businesses are beginning to require, or at least recommend, that masks be worn in many public settings.

Though the Nigeria government as well as African governments are recommending face masks, but The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) have outlined who should wear face masks. Though they don’t discourage face masks made out of clothing materials, but they advice people to wear MEDICAL face masks.

Donning a face covering is also likely to prevent you from touching your face, which is another way the coronavirus can be transmitted from contaminated surfaces to unsuspecting individuals. And when combined with hand washing and other protective measures, such as social distancing, masks help reduce the transmission of disease, Dr. Atmar said.

By Mike Ikenwa

Credit…Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

When it comes fighting disease outbreak, Nigeria has come out to be one of the countries with the best strategies in fighting and and containing it. Its strategies in kicking Ebola out of the country — almost immediately it arrived — has been a course of study and has been replicated by other countries including the US t fight the disease. But that strategies seem not to be working in the fight against the coronavirus.

Almost all the front-line troops — the contact tracers, the laboratory technicians, the epidemiologists, the staff in state and federeal hospitals — are paid by state and local health departments whose budgets have shriveled for years. These soldiers are led by 36 commanders, in the form of governors, and with that many in charge, it is amazing that any response moves forward.

The rest of the response is in the hands of over 150 million citizens who have been urged to report any suspected case of the virus and call the NCDC as soon as they suspect someone or feel any of the symptoms. This system has not real been working — at least as expected, as many people are afraid of the process and submitting themselves to what they refer to as inhumane treatment of patience by the officials who ‘abandon’ them at the isolation centers. In fact, there are confirmed cases where patience run away from hospitals after testing positive for the disease.

As war does to defeated nations, pandemics expose the weaknesses of Nigerian medical systems. Our patchwork and uncoordinated response has produced more than 200 deaths; surely we can do better.

By Reed Abelson

The federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars and promised to spend more than $2 trillion to address the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 2, Nigeria is requested $6.9bn from multilateral lenders to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Africa’s biggest economy, the finance minister said.

Nigeria, whose revenues have tumbled with the fall in oil prices, asked for $3.4bn from the International Monetary Fund, $2.5bn from the World Bank and $1bn from the African Development Bank, said Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning Zainab Ahmed.

The vast majority of this funds has been spent on purchasing ventilators, testing kits, paying health workers and some of the funds has also been budgeted to implementing the insurance of healthcare workers who are working at the front line to contain the disease.

Lagos State government, an epicenter of the outbreak in Nigeria said on May 21 it had so far spent of N40,000 to N50,000 for each of the 16,000 COVID-19 tests conducted by the state. It, therefore, said it had spent averagely about N800 million on testing alone.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, stated this while giving updates on state government’s efforts to curb and manage Coronavirus, ignoring the question on how much the state government is spending averagely to treat a COVID-19 patient.

Many experts say more funding is needed, but there is ample controversy over how the money already allocated is being spent and which entities are getting funds.

By Katie Thomas

The landscape for testing looks far better than it did in the early days of the outbreak, when Nigeria was faced with the challenges of getting testing kits and ventilators, which led to the reason the Federal government ’emberrassingly’ sent a tweet to Elun Musk, asking for ventilators.

Today, a data from NCDC shows that Nigeria has conducted only 71,336, a very poor number for a very busy and populated country as Nigeria.

The range of tests available is also expanding across African countries. Tests that once required a health care worker to insert a swab through the nose to the back of the throat can now be done with a swipe inside the nose, or by spitting into a cup.

But despite this progress, the Nigeria and the rest of Africa still has a long way to go. Public health experts say that anywhere from 900,000 tests to millions a day will be needed to screen hospital patients, nursing home residents and employees returning to work.

By Mike Ikenwa

The idea is simplicity itself: If enough of the population has antibodies to the novel coronavirus, the virus will hit too many dead ends to continue infecting people. That is herd immunity.

That is the great hope for a vaccine. But it may not happen, even if a vaccine becomes available, as experience with flu vaccines shows.

Malaria and Lassa fever have spread, even after enough people in a community have been vaccinated with more residence having access to over-the-counter malaria drugs, it still has not prevented the spread of both the diseases. That’s because the antibodies that protect people against viruses infecting mucosal surfaces like the lining of the nose tend to be short-lived.

Vaccines against respiratory diseases are, at best, modestly effective, agreed Dr. Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan,

Since the coronavirus usually starts by infecting the respiratory system, Dr. Monto suspects that a Covid-19 vaccine would have a similar effect to a flu vaccine — it will reduce the incidence of the disease and make it less severe on average, but it will not make Covid-19 go away.

He would like the virus to disappear, of course, but a vaccine that reduces the disease’s spread and severity is a lot better than nothing.

“As an older person, what I want is not to end up on a respirator,” Dr. Monto said.

By Roni Caryn Rabin

Credit…Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

Covid-19 is a viral respiratory illness. Many early descriptions of symptoms focused on patients being short of breath and eventually being placed on ventilators. But the virus does not confine its assault to the lungs, and doctors have identified a number of symptoms and syndromes associated with it.

In some patients, the virus propels the immune system into overdrive, causing the lungs to fill with fluid and damaging multiple organs, including the brain, heart, kidneys and liver.

The first symptoms of an infection are usually a cough and shortness of breath. But in April the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed.

Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on the fingers and toes, but few other serious symptoms.

Severe disease leads to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. The blood oxygen levels plummet, and patients may get supplemental oxygen or be placed on a machine, called a ventilator, to help them breathe.

But even without lung impairment, the disease can cause injury to the kidneys, heart or liver. Critically ill patients are prone to developing dangerous blood clots in the legs and the lungs. In rare cases, the disease triggers ischemic strokes that block the arteries supplying blood to the brain, or brain impairments, such as altered mental status or encephalopathy.

Death can result from heart failure, kidney failure, multiple organ failure, respiratory distress or shock.

By Apoorva Mandavilli

Credit…Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

The news, when it was reported, added a frightening twist to the threat from the coronavirus: A study in March in The New England Journal of Medicine found that under laboratory conditions, the virus can survive for up to three days on some surfaces, such as plastic and steel, and on cardboard for up to 24 hours.

Other studies reported finding the virus on air vents in hospital rooms and on computer mice, sickbed handrails and doorknobs.

Many people grew worried that by touching a surface that had been covered in droplets by an infected person, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes, they then would contract the virus.

You should still wear a mask, avoid touching your face in public and keep washing your hands. But none of these studies tested for live virus, only for traces of its genetic material. Other scientists commenting on these studies said virus on these surfaces might degrade more quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said since March that contaminated surfaces are “not thought to be the main way” the virus spreads.

The main driver of infection is thought to be directly inhaling droplets released when an infected person sneezes, coughs, sings or talks.

By James Gorman

Credit…Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

The hot and humid weather will not stop the pandemic. More sunlight and humidity may slow down its spread, but we probably won’t know by how much. Other factors, like reduced travel, increased personal distance, closed schools, canceled gatherings and mask-wearing, have effects that would outweigh the influence of the weather.

A few things are known about conditions that do or do not favor the virus. The ultraviolet rays in sunlight help destroy the virus on surfaces and some studies have shown a small effect from humidity. It seems to last longest on hard surfaces like plastic and metal. It won’t survive in pool or lake or seawater. Wind disperses it. Risk of transmission is lower outdoors than indoors.

A wooden bench under a bright sun at a breezy beach is a better bet than a metal and plastic recliner on the shady side of the pool. But if someone infected sits near you and coughs, or talks a lot or sings, it doesn’t really matter where you’re sitting and how nice a day it is.

“The virus doesn’t need favorable conditions,” said Peter Juni, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto. It has a world population with no immunity waiting to be infected. Bring on the sun; the novel coronavirus will survive.

Air conditioning may blow the virus right to your restaurant table.

Madagascar to test ‘injectable’ Covid cure

Andry Rajoelina, the island nation’s populist leader, launched ‘Covid-Organics’ last month. The remedy was developed by the Madagascar Institute of Applied Research and contains a cocktail of traditional herbs, including Artemisia, anti-malaria wormwood. 

‘Covid-Organics’ was tested on less than 20 patients before it started being shipped out to the population. Some school children who have refused to drink the tea have reportedly been disciplined or expelled.

Madagascar’s National Academy of Medicine was quick to point out that the remedy was untested and potentially dangerous. “It is a drug whose scientific evidence has not yet been established, and which risks damaging the health of the population, in particular, that of children,” it said in a statement last month.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also issued a warning in early May, saying that untested traditional products were dangerous and that the cure could give people a dangerous false sense of security. 

Mr Rajoelina has fought back, dubbing the widespread international criticism of his cure as Eurocentric. “If it was a European country that had actually discovered this remedy, would there be so much doubt?” he said on French TV earlier this month.

His government has launched a major international marketing push. It has now donated or sold crates of Covid-Organics to over 20 African and Caribbean nations, including Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania and Haiti. 

According to Mr Rajoelina, Madagascar is now finalising discussions with the WHO for “large-scale” clinical trials of the tea. 

The news follows an announcement from the Malagasy that it was sending soldiers and doctors to Toamasina, the country’s second-largest city, after a significant outbreak of virus there. 

Madagascar has a population of 26m people and has officially recorded 586 cases and two deaths of Covid-19. However, the real number of cases could be far higher. According to local media reports, the country has only conducted about 9,000 tests in two months. 

Anambra has only 8 active COVID-19 cases, says Obiano

The governor also said 69 persons were on home isolation while two others were at the state’s quarantine facility.

Obiano who disclosed this in a special broadcast to the state on Tuesday in Awka, said his administration was making efforts to enhance the testing capacity of the state for coronavirus.

He said he had signed the COVID-19 Bill, which made not wearing face mask a punishable offence with fine and community service.

“As it stands now, we have eight patients in our Protective Care Centers, we also have 69 individuals on home quarantine and two individuals in the quarantine facility.

“We are ramping up our testing capacity to ensure that we slow down the spread of this pandemic in our dear state.

“The COVID-19 Committees that we have set up in Wards and Local Government Areas across Anambra are helping us in driving the campaign to every nook and cranny of the state.

“I will like to assure you that we have made adequate arrangements to handle the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As you are probably aware, on Thursday last week, I signed the COVID-19 Bill into law. Under this law, it is an offence to be seen in public without a face mask.

“The offence attracts a fine of N10, 000 or some hours of community service, I will like to re-emphasise that my administration is determined to enforce this law,” he said.

Obiano urged traders and religious leaders not to relax in ensuring that their members continued to adhere to the COVID-19 safety protocols while noting that it had been observed that most of them had jettisoned the safety measures.

He urged healthcare institutions to set up holding centres to keep patients who exhibited symptoms of the virus to check the possibility of spreading it in Anambra.

“I want to warn that we may consider shutting down the markets if this trend is not halted with immediate effect, I have also received similar reports from churches and other religious groups in the state, most of whom have discarded wearing of face masks.

“Every hospital in Anambra must set up a mini holding ward where patients whose samples have been taken for COVID-19 test can be kept while the result of the test is awaited.

“This approach will minimise the chances of patients spreading the virus through multiple contacts.

“All members of the Nigerian Medical Association practicing in Anambra are expected to inform the Ministry of Health once they collect samples of suspected COVID-19 patients for testing.

“A situation where some members collect samples and send to testing centres on their own is no longer allowed,” he said.

Churches, Mosques limited to 20 worshippers, schools remain closed: guidelines of eased lockdowng

President Muhammadu Buhari had locked down Abuja, Lagos and Ogun for five weeks following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

On May 4, the federal government eased the lockdown and put some measures in place such as imposing a curfew from 8pm to 6am, use of face masks and social distancing, among others.

So far, Nigeria has recorded 10,162 cases of COVID-19. While 3,007 have recovered from the disease, 287 people have died.

Speaking at the daily press conference of the presidential task force on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu, national coordinator of the task force, said the curfew has further been relaxed to between 10pm and 4am.

Below are other guidelines reeled out by Aliyu:

  • There would be full opening for the financial sector with banks now allowed to operate with more working hours five days a week.
  • The mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of a work place or places of worship remain prohibited.
  • There would be controlled access to markets and locations of places of economic activities but local authorities will continue to provide guidance on opening times.
  • Restrictive opening of places of worship will be based on state governments protocols and strict guidelines on physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions and just to clarify this would apply to the regular church and mosque services only.
  • Mandatory supervised isolation of person of persons arriving the country will continue to be for 14 days until a new policy comes into play.
  • There would be no further evacuation of Nigerians until a new policy currently developed with the private sector comes into place.
  • Ban of gatherings of more than 20 people outside of a workplace;

Nigeria recorded more than 7,500 COVID-19 cases after lockdown was eased

When President Muhammadu Buhari announced that a nationwide curfew would replace lockdown in more states beyond Lagos, Ogun and the federal capital territory (FCT), there were concerns that the country would experience an upward surge in its COVID-19 case rate.

And so it came to be. With the eased lockdown came tightly-packed queues in banks, complete disregard for physical distancing in places of worship, markets, commercial vehicles, among others. And with the open flouting of guidelines issued on social distancing, ban on large gatherings, and compulsory use of face masks, while many may have expected an increase, not many people would have expected a rise beyond 150 percent.

However, in four weeks since the phased lockdown relaxation began on May 4, 2020, Nigeria recorded 7,604 cases.

The five-week lockdown, which took effect at midnight on March 29, was part of efforts to ensure efficient contact tracing and limit spread of the coronavirus, especially with what was considered a high rate of infections at the time.

Between February 27, 2020, when the index case was confirmed and May 3, 2020, out of 18,536 samples tested, a total of 2,558 cases were confirmed in 35 states and the federal capital territory (FCT) At the time, 87 deaths were recorded, while 400 patients had been discharged.

FROM 2,558 TO 10,162 IN FOUR WEEKS

On May 4, the total lockdown declared in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT was relaxed for an initial two weeks and the federal government announced the nationwide curfew. Kano was, however, placed on a total lockdown as a result of the unusual increase in COVID-19 cases.

By May 18 when the initial two-week relaxation ended, Nigeria moved from less than 3,000 cases to 6,175 confirmed cases, out of which 1,644 persons had recovered and 191 deaths occurred. This was an almost 250 percent increase from the previous figure before the lockdown was lifted.

The lockdown relaxation was extended by another two weeks till June 1 and the cases have increased significantly as well.

In that time, Kogi joined the list of affected states with two index COVID-19 cases announced by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on May 27, 2020.

As of May 31, samples tested have more than tripled the previous figure to over 60,000, just as the toll of confirmed cases have also increased to 10,162 cases.

On a positive note, the recovery rate has almost doubled as well, moving from 1,644 to 3,007 patients in the two-week period. In that time, 96 deaths have been recorded, increasing the number of fatalities from 191 to 287.

Lagos, which currently has the highest cases, also moved from 1,107 to 4,943 confirmed COVID-19 cases within the four-week eased lockdown period.

Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), had said while the agency’s sights are set on increased testing capacity, Nigerians should expect a corresponding increase in the positive cases as well.

A set of guidelines for the next phase is expected to be announced by the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19 during this week.

SOURCE: TheCable

Volunteers wearing face shields distribute food in Lagos, Nigeria, where improving the level of testing has been difficult. Photograph: Akintunde Akinleye/EPA

Africa lack enough COVID-19 test kits

Volunteers wearing face shields distribute food in Lagos, Nigeria, where improving the level of testing has been difficult. Photograph: Akintunde Akinleye/EPA
Volunteers wearing face shields distribute food in Lagos, Nigeria, where improving the level of testing has been difficult. Photograph: Akintunde Akinleye/EPA

Public health experts have warned about the risks of low supplies of coronavirus test kits as lockdowns in African countries begin to ease and urban populations become more mobile.

Different countries on the continent have adopted a range of testing strategies, but international competition for test kits and a lack of global coordination of resources have meant many African countries are testing with significantly limited reach.

More than half of African countries are experiencing community transmission as lockdown measures relax.

Kate Dooley, the director for West Africa at the Tony Blair Institute, said: “Most governments are currently rationing their use of test kits given limited supplies. We are aware of some cases where African governments who placed orders in early March are still yet to receive the supply, six to eight weeks later.”

Testing capacity, logistics and staffing challenges posed structural constraints to the ability of many countries to increase testing even when supplies became available, she said. Some countries, such as Nigeria, had been waiting months for deliveries of test kits.

There are 112,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Africa, and 3,000 people are confirmed to have died from the virus.

Total infections are lower than in most other continents, owing in part to the effectiveness of lockdown and control measures, adopted early by several countries when cases were in their low dozens.

According to the World Health Organization, 1.5m Covid-19 tests have been conducted in Africaover the last 6 weeks. South Africa and Ghana account for half of the tests, and just eight African countries have administered more than 3,000 tests per million people.

The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has set up a digital purchasing platform, being piloted this week, to let African governments bulk order test supplies and protective equipment. It is hoped the platform will improve the continent’s negotiating position when bidding for supplies.

The ACDC director, Dr John Nkengasong, said last month that “a collapse of global cooperation and a failure of international solidarity have shoved Africa out of the diagnostics market”.

“African countries have funds to pay for reagents but cannot buy them,” he added.

According to Dr Iruka Okeke, the editor of the African Journal of Laboratory Medicine, gains made by African countries in the early stages of the outbreak could be at risk from a lack of test supplies.

“Unless we can vastly ramp up testing we risk entering a stage where it spreads through communities where there isn’t the capability to test them,” she said.

The prevalence of virus response measures and detection systems in countries that have already experienced deadly viruses has been vital, according to Okeke.

“Responses to Ebola, HIV and Lassa fever have improved the level of molecular biology in Africa, which countries have leveraged well.

“The problem is countries were preparing for an epidemic not a pandemic, so now African countries are competing for the same consumable resources as the other countries.”

Parts of Ghana’s virus response have emerged as a model in the region. With a population of 29 million, the country has tested almost 200,000 people, one of the highest rates in Africa. The country has registered 6,800 infections with over 2,000 recoveries, while 32 people have died.

Ghana has just five laboratories that can test for Covid-19 but has innovated to improve test levels, running laboratories for 24 hours, using drones to deliver samples from rural areas, and testing multiple samples at the same time.

Improving the level of testing in Africa’s most populous country has been difficult. Nigeria has 7,800 confirmed infections, with a third recovered and 226 deaths.

But according to Dr Casmir Ifeanyi, the president of the Association of Medical and Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, a medical union, confirmed cases were “an underestimation of Covid-19 mobility.

“We have conducted fewer than 40,000 tests. For a country of 200 million where we have community transmission across the country, that is not the sample size to make any deduction about the spread of the virus.” Mass deaths in Kano have put pressure on authorities to increase testing.

There are now 25 laboratories that can test for Covid-19, up from five before the first confirmed case in February. But despite a capacity for 2,500 tests a day, Nigeria often administers less than half, hampered by personnel and logistical constraints, particularly in rural and insecure areas.

“We’re in a very severe situation especially now the government is talking about further easing the lockdown,” Ifeanyi said. “Without testing this will create problems.”

US is spreading ‘false information’ on Covid-19, Tanzania says

Tanzania summoned a US envoy in the country to clarify a recent warning about the risk of “exponential growth” of Covid-19 cases in the country.

A fortnight ago, the US embassy said that hospitals in the main city, Dar es Salaam, were “overwhelmed” and that the chance of contracting the virus was “extremely high”.

At a time when official coronavirus updates were scarce in the country, the US embassy’s advisory triggered huge interest from the public, reports the BBC’s Sammy Awami.

It also stirred some controversy, as it did not provide evidence for its claims.

In a meeting on Tuesday, the permanent secretary to the foreign affairs ministry, Wilbert Ibuge, told US diplomat Inmi Patterson, that the embassy’s advisory contained false information and risked causing panic among Tanzanians and visitors.

Mr Ibuge also reminded the American about the importance of issuing verified information, a statement from the ministry in Swahili said.

The country has 209 confirmed cases of the virus. EPA

Free coronavirus hotline launches in Mozambique

The country has 209 confirmed cases of the virus. EPA
The country has 209 confirmed cases of the virus. EPA

The government in Mozambique has launched a free coronavirus hotline to reduce the number of people physically visiting health centres.

Callers can dial the switchboard on 110 for information and counselling. They are also encouraged to report people who are flouting quarantine or self-isolation guidance.

Six doctors will work in shifts and the health ministry expects they will receive about 2,000 calls per day.

The project costs $100,000 (£82,000) and has been financed by international partners.

The switchboard is installed inside the Mavalane General Hospital on the outskirts of the capital, Maputo.

The government hopes to open similar services in two other cities: Beira in the centre, and Nampula in the north.

The Deputy Health Minister Lidia Cardoso on Monday said the initiative was part of the government’s response to the pandemic.

Lessons from Sierra Leone’s Ebola pandemic on the impact of school closures on girls

Getty Images

By Imran Rasul, International Growth Centre; Andrea Smurra, International Growth Centre, and Oriana Bandiera, London School of Economics and Political Science

Policymakers globally have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with tough measures. As a result of the risk and uncertainty caused by the virus, economic activity has contracted, hitting firms and workers whose activities rely on face-to-face contacts the hardest. Low-income countries with lower state capacities, including weaker health infrastructure and less data to inform policy, face an even more difficult balance between public health policy measures and their economic costs.

That balance has been discussed a great deal. But an equally important aspect to think through is the potentially longer lasting impact of policies being used to tackle the pandemic. While the immediate costs of the crisis are large and visible, long-run consequences are less visible but potentially larger.

In this article, we consider what we might learn based on our earlier research from the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. This was the “longest, largest, deadliest, and … most complex [Ebola outbreak] in history.”

We consider, in particular, the impact on young women of the closure of all primary and secondary schools through the 2014-2015 academic year. Using the findings from our own study we highlight the consequences of the closures and propose interventions to counter these adverse impacts.

Figure 1: Timeline of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone.

During the COVID-19 pandemic schools have been closed in over 180 countries, affecting close to 1.6 billion children, accounting for over 90% of enrolled learners.

School closures

Our data collection exercise in Sierra Leone was originally planned to evaluate an intervention to empower young women. The programme provided clubs in which young women could meet, offering them a package of vocational skills training, financial literacy, and information on health and reproductive issues.

Most importantly, the clubs offered women a safe space to meet. From June 2014 onwards, we opened 150 clubs in four districts of Sierra Leone. Participation rates were high, with over 70% of girls aged 12 to 24 attending, corresponding to some 4,500 girls and young women overall.

Fieldwork for our baseline was completed a week prior to the first cases of Ebola being reported in May 2014. In our follow up survey in early 2016, we were able to track 4,800 girls in 200 villages across four districts. We used this survey data to measure how the Ebola shock affected their lives, assessing the lasting impacts post-epidemic, when lockdown policies had ended and markets and schools had reopened.

We exploited the randomised rollout of the programme to understand whether the safe spaces established as part of the intervention prior to the epidemic mitigated any of these impacts.

Figure 3: Time to first pregnancy, Control group.
Women without Children at Month=0

Our analysis shows that over the course of the Ebola epidemic, out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates for girls aged 12-17 at the onset of the crisis increased by 7.2 percentage points. But this was entirely reversed for those who had access, prior to the epidemic, to the safe space of one of the clubs in the most highly disrupted treated villages.

The changes in pregnancy are closely associated with changes in school enrolment after the crisis. So they have important implications for the ability of these young girls to raise their skills in the long run. By not returning to school after the epidemic when schools reopened, the girls are unlikely to return to schooling ever again. School closures during the epidemic can thus have permanent impacts on the future lives of these girls, as they are forced to transition into work or home chores more quickly than they would have chosen to if there hadn’t been an epidemic.

In control villages, school enrolment rates fell by 16 percentage points over the crisis. That fall was halved in the most disrupted treated villages. This was largely a result of young girls not becoming pregnant during the crisis and thus being able to enrol again when schools reopened.

Using further data from our surveys, we are able to pinpoint some of the key changes in the lives of young women. We find that girls with prior access to clubs reported spending much less time with men, and were able to retain more of their social ties to others post-epidemic.

Temporary school closures and the lack of economic opportunities drove those who did not have access to the clubs to spend time with men. This resulted in increased early childbearing and permanently dropping out of education. This had long term implications for the girls.

What’s needed

Policy responses to COVID-19 need to adhere to social distancing. This means that alternative safe space provisions need to be thought through. For example, interventions could include supporting young women through virtual mentoring or phone-based group chats, or any form of feasible group activities that take time that might otherwise be spent with men.

These might help in making sure that a short-lived epidemic shock does not damage lives in the long run. Such activities could also help girls build and maintain their social networks, enabling them to be more resilient during the crisis.

Our evaluation also suggests that equipping young women with a minimal set of competencies in reproductive health – such as using contraceptives or practising safe sex – during the crisis might protect their welfare in the longer term.

The importance of addressing these challenges is clear: many countries through sub-Saharan Africa have relatively young populations – the majority of the population is aged below 25 – and school closures could leave many adolescent girls vulnerable.

Acting now and with thought for the dynamic effects of policies can positively affect lives now and in the future.

Imran Rasul, Professor of Economics, International Growth Centre; Andrea Smurra, Country Economist and Researcher,, International Growth Centre, and Oriana Bandiera, Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nigeria records over 3,000 COVID-19 cases in two weeks as cases exceeds 8,000

Nigeria’s COVID-19 toll exceeded 8,000 on Monday, with more than 3,000 cases recorded within two weeks.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 229 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the country’s total to 8,068 cases across 34 states and the federal capital territory (FCT).

The agency made the announcement via its Twitter handle at 11:34 pm on Monday.

The number of recoveries also increased from 2,263 to 2,311, while fatalities rose from 226 to 233.

Lagos confirmed the highest figure for Monday with 90 new cases.

The number of cases over the last few weeks have increased significantly. As of May 11, 2020, a total of 4,641 were confirmed positive out of 28,418 samples tested, but by May 18, the figure increased to 6,175 confirmed cases out of 36,899 samples tested.

As of May 24, a total of 7,839 COVID-19 cases were recorded out of 45,683 samples tested.

However, while less than 100 fatalities were recorded in the past two weeks, the number of recoveries increased significantly.

As of May 11, a total of 902 patients had been discharged, while 152 deaths had occurred, but by May 18, recoveries had increased to 1,644, with 191 deaths recorded.

The numbers are expected to rise as the NCDC increases testing capacity, but according to Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, nine out of ten patients will recover from COVID-19.

‘I shared my Covid-19 status to prevent stigma’

Zambia’s Information Minister Dora Siliya says she publicly shared her Covid-19 test results to fight stigma associated with the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus.

She told BBC’s Newsday programme that she was afraid the stigma would impede the fight against the virus like it did for HIV in Zambia.

Ms Siliya said she felt that if her test results had leaked it would undermine the fight against stigma.

I felt if I did not share my status in terms of the Covid, people will be treating this the same way they do with HIV.”

The minister said some Zambians still don’t believe Covid-19 is real.

She said behaviorial change has only been seen among the elite in the city, but those in rural areas still think coronavirus only affects those who travel abroad.

There are people who still think it is a disease for those other people.”

Over 2,000 Coronavirus patients recover in Nigeria

The number of COVID-19 recoveries in Nigeria exceeded 2,000 on Friday.

This is just as 245 new cases were confirmed in 21 states and the federal capital territory (FCT).

In an announcement on its Twitter handle at 11:35pm on Friday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) also confirmed 10 more deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 221 – the highest in the West African region.

However, 100 more COVID-19 patients were discharged and a total of 2,007 patients have now been discharged.

A total of 7,261 COVID-19 cases have now been confirmed in 34 states and the FCT.

The current figures show a marked upsurge in the number of new cases, as well as deaths and recoveries, between April and May 2020.

As of April 22, 2020, Nigeria had confirmed 873 COVID-19 cases in 25 states and the FCT, out of which 28 deaths and 197 recoveries were recorded.

However, according to Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of the NCDC, the agency is working on increasing its testing capacity, and as a result, the country will record more COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Kogi and Cross River are yet to record any positive case of COVID-19

What you should know about the Covid-related syndrome affecting children

For parents, one of the most reassuring aspects of the coronavirus has been that it largely spares children, only causing mild symptoms. But recent reports of a new life-threatening pediatric inflammatory syndrome are worrying many families. Children in Europe, Britain, and now the United States are being hospitalized for this mysterious illness, which can harm kids’ hearts and other organs, often requiring intensive care.

According to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, as of May 12, New York was investigating 102 cases of this syndrome and three deaths, and cases have been reported in 14 other states so far as well. Thankfully, this new syndrome is still quite rare and it is treatable, and most kids who develop it fully recover. Here’s what parents need to know and what they should do if they’re concerned about their children’s health.

No one knows for sure whether this new syndrome, which is now being called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or P.M.I.S., is linked to the coronavirus, but many doctors think so. “I do think that this is related to Covid,” said Dr. Eva Cheung, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist and critical care specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, which has treated more than 35 patients so far with the syndrome.

The vast majority of children who’ve fallen ill in New York have either tested positive for active Covid-19 infection or have had antibodies suggesting that they were exposed to the virus at some point. A few kids have tested negative for both active infection and antibodies, and it’s unclear what that means. It’s possible that these negative tests were inaccurate, Dr. Cheung said, because many coronavirus antibody tests are unreliable.

What’s interesting, though, is that most of the children who’ve gotten sick — even those whose tests indicated prior coronavirus exposure — did not report having a recent respiratory illness. This suggests that these children were either exposed to the coronavirus but didn’t get sick, or that they had very mild symptoms, said Dr. George Ofori-Amanfo, M.D., the division chief of pediatric critical care medicine at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Ofori-Amanfo suspects that children who develop this syndrome were exposed to the coronavirus, and that their bodies for some reason mounted an exaggerated — and ultimately dangerous — immune response, much like the “cytokine storms” that have caused some adults to fall quite ill in the later stages of infection.

They may “have an abnormal and aggressive immune response to Covid — and that immune response is so aggressive that it affects other organ function and affects their ability to maintain their blood pressure,” Dr. Ofori-Amanfo said. This may then cause their bodies to go into rapidly progressive shock, requiring medications and, in rare cases, the use of life support to take over the job of their heart and lungs.

Still, doctors stress that no one yet knows for sure what is going on. “We don’t even exactly know what this disease is,” said Dr. Rebecca Pellett Madan, M.D., an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine.

When it first arose, many doctors noticed that this new syndrome had features similar to Kawasaki disease, a rare condition that typically afflicts children under 5, causing their blood vessels to become inflamed. But although its symptoms are similar, and both are conditions marked by widespread inflammation, most doctors do not think this current syndrome is the same thing as Kawasaki. “They may share features,” Dr. Cheung said, but “I truly do think that this is its own syndrome.”

The pediatric inflammatory syndrome also looks a lot like toxic shock syndrome, which occurs when the body goes into shock because it has been exposed to toxins released during bacterial infections. But Dr. Ofori-Amanfo said that none of Mount Sinai’s patients had evidence of a bacterial infection in their body, so it was likely that the pediatric inflammatory syndrome, again, looked similar to toxic shock syndrome but was not actually the same thing.

The good news is the new pediatric inflammatory syndrome is easy to spot — its symptoms are serious enough that parents should be able to notice them. All patients developed a fever of 101 or higher that didn’t go away, said Dr. James Schneider, M.D., a pediatric critical care specialist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, which has treated more than 40 patients so far with the syndrome. Dr. Cheung agreed, adding that kids with temperatures of 99 or 100 probably aren’t at risk. “That is not what we’ve seen here. The patients that we’ve seen that have needed admission to the hospital have had pretty moderate to high fevers,” she said.

Most kids also develop serious abdominal pain that get progressively worse over time. It’s not a garden-variety kids’ stomach ache; it’s serious pain that is often accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea and is “severe enough for the parent to be worried,” said Dr. Ofori-Amanfo. For some kids, the pain has been so bad that parents and doctors assumed the child had appendicitis and needed surgery, said Dr. Nadine Choueiter, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx.

Many kids with the syndrome — but not all — develop rashes, too. The rashes are red and often appear on the hands, forearms and chest, Dr. Ofori-Amanfo said, although they can appear anywhere. They typically turn white when you press on them, and then turn red again when you stop. They also usually cover a large area — a child’s entire face, for instance, or a substantial part of their arms or legs. “It’s not like a tiny speck of a rash. It’s pretty diffuse,” Dr. Cheung said.

Kids with the syndrome sometimes also have red eyes, cracked lips, a sore tongue, swollen hands and feet and they might complain of muscle soreness and not want to walk. But these symptoms are not as common as the fever and abdominal pain, doctors said, and some of the symptoms may come and go. “Sometimes the skin and the eye findings kind of wax and wane to the point that one doctor will go in the room and say ‘I saw a rash,’ and then another doctor goes in the room three hours later and the rash is entirely different,” Dr. Choueiter said.

“All our patients have been previously healthy patients, with no underlying illnesses,” Dr. Ofori-Amanfo said. Some of the kids who developed the syndrome even had multiple siblings who remained perfectly healthy.

Doctors are also seeing the syndrome in both sexes, but “we are seeing it in slightly more boys than girls — like 60 percent boys, 40 percent girls,” Dr. Choueiter said. The age range is wide, too; the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore has seen the syndrome in kids from 5 months to 20-years-old. It has not been observed in adults.

The one thing that clearly puts children at risk is living in an area with a lot of Covid-19 cases. But again, because kids who get sick with the syndrome didn’t necessarily have any Covid-19 symptoms, it can be hard for parents to know if their children might be at risk.

If you child has a persistent fever above 101 — and especially if they develop other symptoms consistent with the syndrome, like a bad stomach ache — contact your pediatrician. “Ask to speak to them over the phone or do a telemedicine visit and have your pediatrician walk through the steps of what to look for,” Dr. Pellett Madan suggested. Dr. Cheung agreed, noting that in geographical areas where this syndrome has appeared, hospitals are making sure that local pediatricians know what to look for and what to do.

If your child has a fever but is in good spirits and is eating and drinking and not complaining about pain, you don’t need to rush them to the emergency room, but again, stay in touch with your doctor. On the other hand, if your child really seems unwell — isn’t eating or drinking, doesn’t want to move much and especially if they develop a rash or red eyes along with a high fever — it’s not a bad idea to go directly to the E.R., Dr. Pellett Madan said.

It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of children around the country have contracted the coronavirus, and the vast majority only have very mild symptoms. This serious syndrome is “still a very rare occurrence,” Dr. Schneider said. Your child is probably going to be fine.

Even the few kids who do go on to develop this inflammatory syndrome usually get better. “Some of them don’t even go to the intensive care unit. They’re with us for a few days, less than a week and they go home,” Dr. Choueiter said. They’re typically treated with what’s called “supportive care” to ease their symptoms: They might get fever reducers to lower their temperature, IV fluids to keep them hydrated, medications to increase blood pressure if it drops, and steroids or other drugs to quell the inflammation. Ultimately, “most of these children do fine,” Dr. Choueiter said.

NCDC DG explains why some COVID-19 patients dance in isolation centres

Director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu says some COVID-19 patients dance in isolation centres because the disease may not weaken some people’s body system as badly as others.

Speaking during a Channels TV programme on Thursday, Ihekweazu said their confinement is not only because of their sickness but to prevent them from spreading the virus.

He, however, added that most of the patients at isolation centres are complying with the guidelines at the centres.

He said: “I think people really need to understand why people are being put in these centres. Normally, you only go into a hospital when you’re ill, get a diagnosis, and then you are sometimes admitted if you’re very ill.

“But in this case, following the experience from other countries, we made a decision as a country to also put people in isolation centres not just because they are ill on their own but in order to stop them from transmitting this virus to others.”

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He recalled that some persons being quarantined when he visited China “could exercise and dance because it is not easy to be somewhere, in isolation for three to four weeks when you are not physically ill”.

“So, these are things we have to use to reassess our decisions. It is very difficult to make decisions based on one viral video. One Whatsapp video does not represent the experience of people across the country,” the NCDC DG added.

“It is very important that as leaders we are not pushed down a decision path because one video happened to go viral. Many people in these centres around the country are complying.”

Voodoo priests recommend voodoo to stop covid-19

“We don’t do black magic here,” says Zanzan Zinho as he lifts a giant calabash adorned with goat skulls. The shrine of the Vodun (voodoo) priest is in a courtyard in Ouidah, the spiritual home of the religion, in southern Benin. All around are fetishes: dried snakes, twins made of wood and a baby-girl doll into whose mouth the priest inserts a cigarette. “To help her breathe,” explains Mr Zinho. Before your correspondent has a chance to probe, he is given a dram of moonshine from the calabash, of the sort that makes one forget one’s questions.

Roughly 12% of Beninese are adherents of Vodun. Many more, Muslims and Christians alike, incorporate elements of the animist, polytheistic religion in their practice. Suppressed under French rule and then during the Marxist dictatorship of Mathieu Kérékou, Vodun revived after the shift to democracy in the 1990s. In 1996 it was recognised as an official religion. Today tourists from all over visit Ouidah in January for an annual festival. Patrice Talon, the tycoon turned president, has embraced Vodun to bolster his man-of-the-people credentials.

Voodoo can conjure up images of blood and gore. Sacrifices are a core part of ceremonies, providing a way of nourishing the myriad deities. But there is a prosaic aspect to the religion, too. For the Beninese of Ouidah, participating in a ceremony to tap into the Fa (“divination spirit”) is like a Catholic popping into Church to seek wisdom from a priest.

For $10 visitors are allowed to partake in Mr Zinho’s Fa ceremony. After payment the priest grasps a necklace of cowrie shells, manipulating them into patterns to work out which deity is most relevant to the moment. Surprisingly he also inserts twigs between your correspondent’s toes, chain-smokes and offers more moonshine (in lieu of blood sacrifices, apparently). After 15 minutes the priest has reached the relevant spirits. They, via the increasingly inebriated diviner, inform your correspondent that, to live longer, he should eat less papaya and call his father more often.

Despite all this, Ouidah has not been spared the effects of covid-19. Residents are told to stay indoors as much as possible. Gatherings are restricted. Tourism has dwindled. But diviners are busier than ever, as locals seek their help with the pandemic. “There is a greater awareness of human fragility,” says Geoffrey Aidjinou, a guide. He explains that the Vodun god of wind is especially popular at this time. “Only it can speak to the invisible enemy in the air.”

Governor Ben Ayade

Cross River lifts ban on religious gatherings

Governor Ben Ayade

Governor of Cross River, Ben Ayade has lifted the ban on religious gaherings in the state.

This was contained in a statement issued by the governor on Wednesday.

According to the statement, the governor acknowledged the efforts and cooperation of religious leaders in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ayade said he was “conscious of the spiritual economy”, and that his action was as a result of appeals by religious leaders in the state.

He, however, said worshippers must ensure that they comply with the directive on the use of face masks, and that such gatherings must not exceed the building capacity.

The governor also added that the state COVID-19 task force will be monitoring such gatherings to ensure compliance.

According to the situation report of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for May 18, 2020, Cross River has recorded the second lowest number of tests in Nigeria, with seven samples tested so far in the state.

The state is also yet to record any positive case of COVID-19.

Why more must be done to fight bogus COVID-19 cure claims

A bottle of Covid Organics, a herbal tea that authorities in Madagascar gave to students.
Photo by Rijasolo/AFP via Getty Images

Chimaraoke Izugbara, University of the Witwatersrand and Mary O. Obiyan, Obafemi Awolowo University

Fake and bogus cure claims are a longstanding, but neglected public health problem. Throughout recorded history, plagues have inspired anxiety and desperation. Time and again, this public nervousness has proved a fertile ground for false cures and claimants to thrive. In this sense, recent claims of COVID-19 cures and antidotes are no exception.

During the Spanish flu, cure claims generated a false sense of safety that drove hundreds to defy closures and isolation. In the US, scores of bogus remedies alleging to cure the flu were sold under upbeat labels that undermined preventive action. One ad boasted:

When Vick’s VapoRub is applied over the throat and chest, the medicated vapors loosen the phlegm, open the air passages and stimulate the mucus membrane to throw off the germs.

Fake and bogus cures caused the death of many as HIV swept around the world. In Nigeria, for instance, as early as the 1990s, Jeremiah Abalaka, a surgeon with fringe training in immunology, startled the world with his HIV cure claim. Many of the HIV patients who flocked to his private clinic reportedly died, including dozens of soldiers referred for treatment by the Nigerian government.

More recently, during both the Ebola and SARS epidemics, fake cure claims also circulated freely, with lethal consequences. For example, salt solution, snake venom, vitamin C, Nano Silver and some herbs were all touted as cures for Ebola. At least two people died in Nigeria and about 20 more were hospitalised after drinking excessive amounts of salt solution to prevent Ebola infection.

Sadly, history is repeating itself in the context of COVID-19. False claims range from US president Donald Trump’s touting of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure to Madagascar’s herbal “cure” promoted by President Andry Rajoelina.

In Ghana, a Pentecostal pastor launched and sold “Coronavirus Oil”, telling a packed church that it was effective against COVID-19. An American pastor also recently directed viewers to buy Optivida Silver Solution to prevent COVID-19. Its promoter had falsely claimed that the product was government-approved and has the ability to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on, including SARS and HIV.

With growing global anxiety, many people are easy targets for cure scams and hucksters. Victims of fake cure claims are often among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Fighting these cure claims is integral to containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorities across the world are working hard to ensure that correct information and messages on the pandemic reach everybody. But there is room to do more.

Why we must act now

Cure claims are dangerous. They delay treatment-seeking and promote reckless behaviour that may result in deaths. At least 300 Iranians have died from methanol poisoning after consuming alcohol to prevent COVID-19. Hours after Trump declared hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure for COVID-19, people overdosed on it in Africa and Asia. In Arizona, a man died after reportedly treating himself with a COVID-19 home therapy derived from the same anti-malarial drug that the US president touted as a wonder drug.

Health literacy – the ability of patients to read, comprehend and act on
medical instructions – remains weak in many contexts. Several millions of health-seekers around the world rely on informal or inexpert sources for their health information needs. Hard-to-reach and vulnerable groups and communities must be targeted through bespoke health promotion strategies.

Online and traditional media offer immense potential to intensify public health education. They must maintain vigilance on COVID-19 cure scams and claimants as they emerge in diverse forms and places. However, merely identifying bogus COVID-19 cure claims or alerting the public about them is no longer enough.

Targeted seizure and destruction of unproven cures can deliver important results. In 2015, a global crackdown by Interpol seized nearly 21 million fake and illegal drugs, including fake cancer “cures”.

Governments must also implement community health outreach programmes that communicate clearly and accurately. Such programmes should have fit-for-purpose feedback systems to enable lay persons in multiple contexts to raise concerns, ask questions and swiftly receive answers. One size will not fit all at this time. Part of the success recorded in Nigeria during the Ebola outbreak has been attributed to the use of different media, including government-sponsored TV and radio messages, town-criers, social media campaigns, and experts to communicate health information to its citizens.

Read more:
Three key drivers of good messaging in a time of crisis: expertise, empathy and timing

Countries and national health bodies must integrate traditional healers, faith leaders and community principals in their COVID-19 response strategies. Several studies have documented proven strategies for effectively engaging lay and faith healers to offer correct support and information on epidemics. This is the time to bring these strategies to scale.

Robust mechanisms for holding scam COVID-19 cure claimants and hucksters accountable are also urgently needed. Currently, few countries have such mechanisms. But a good precedent exists in Australia, where a “healing church” that touted a bleach-based solution as a COVID-19 cure has been fined more than $150,000. Politicians and other thought leaders must also realise that their utterances and actions during this pandemic will have far-reaching health, social and economic consequences.

Chimaraoke Izugbara, Director, Global Health, Youth and Development, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), USA & Visiting Professor, University of the Witwatersrand and Mary O. Obiyan, Senior Lecturer, Department of Demography and Social Statistics, Obafemi Awolowo University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

20 COVID-19 patients discharged in Bauchi

The Bauchi state government has discharged 20 more COVID-19 patients.

Bala Mohammed, governor of the state who broke the news, said the development has increased the number of recoveries from the disease to 89.

As of Sunday, three new cases were confirmed in the state, bringing the total number of cases to 215.

A total of three deaths have also been recorded.

“I am excited to announce the full recovery and discharge of another 20 formerly #COVID19 patients from our isolation centres. This brings the total number of discharged cases in the state to 89,” the governor said.

“As a state, we remain thankful to Allah for these successes and to our medical personnel for their steadfastness. I also thank the State TaskForce on COVID19 led by my deputy, and the security outfits and all stakeholders for their unrelenting efforts in these peculiar times.

“Importantly also, I commend all indigenes and residents of the state for their cooperation during this phase.”

Earlier, Rilwanu Mohammed, executive chairman of the state healthcare development agency, (BASPHCDA), said many people in the state still believe that COVID-19 “is  fiction’’.

He said this has compounded the challenges faced by health workers who are tracing and treating people with the disease.

He added that some believe it is “a way of getting money” for the government.

He gave an example of a positive case on May 15 who rejected the result and declined to follow the health workers that had gone to evacuate him to an isolation centre.

He said in such a situation, security agents are usually engaged to compel the patient to move to an isolation centre for treatment.

“One of the things giving us problems in the course of tracing, testing and treating COVID-19 patients, is denial,” he said.

“We have some people, who say there is nothing like coronavirus in this world; they insist it’s a lie and just a way of getting money.

“They reject all the necessary protocols put in place to contain the spread of the virus-like washing of hands with soap, water and hand sanitiser or making use of face masks as well as maintaining social and physical distancing.

“We had three confirmed cases on May 15. Out of this number, one of them here in Bauchi insisted, he was not positive and he would not come for admission.

“In Azare, we have another group who insisted that nobody is going to test them and their father is one of the three COVID-19 death cases recorded in the state.

“We have informed the chairman, state task force on COVID-19, Sen. Baba Tela, who is also the deputy governor of Bauchi state.

“We have also informed the police, and soon, they will all be tested and the one, who tested positive will also be evacuated to an isolation centre.

He asked media in the state to keep enlightening the people and make them more aware of COVID-19.

Mystery deaths in Nigeria provoke fear of unrecorded coronavirus surge

Nigeria has tested relatively few people compared to other countries in Africa.   CREDIT: AFP

Authorities in Nigeria’s northern Yobe state have reported hundreds of unusual deaths over the last few weeks, prompting fears that the coronavirus is spreading rapidly through Africa’s most populous nation. 

Yobe authorities said that 471 people have died in the last five weeks in the state. 

The Yobe State Commissioner for Health, Dr Muhammad Lawan Gana, said that most of those who died were elderly people or had underlying health issues. 

It is not clear whether or not the Yobe deaths are linked to coronavirus because the Nigerian government is struggling to carry out many tests. 

In the last few weeks, there have been a spate of hundreds of unexplained deaths across northern Nigeria. 

Kano state, which is nearby Yobe, has seen at least mysterious 600 deaths. Doctors in Kano say they are being overwhelmed by patients showing clear signs of coronavirus, like temperatures and respiration issues. 

Kano state has seen at least mysterious 600 deaths CREDIT: AFP

Gravediggers in Kano have reportedly said they are also seeing a surge in burials. 

Nigeria with a population of roughly 200 million has tested relatively few people compared to other countries in Africa. 

Ten weeks ago the country reported sub-Saharan Africa’s first coronavirus case. Since then it has recorded 4,971 cases of the virus and 164 deaths. 

South Africa which has a population three times less than Nigeria has carried out more than 350,000 tests on its population, roughly twelve times more than Nigeria has. 

Nigeria has vast oil reserves and elites in Lagos and Abuja live in swanky luxury. But public health and social services have suffered decades of neglect and underfunding. 

In 2018, Nigeria overtook India as the country in the world with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million people thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day.

Coronavirus latest: at a glance

Coronavirus daily briefing Composite: Getty/AP

Key developments in the global coronavirus outbreak today include:

At least 4.3m known to have been infected

Researchers say at least 4,308,055 cases have been confirmed worldwide, while at least 293,514 people have died. The figures collected by Johns Hopkins University are likely to be a great underestimate of the true scale of the epidemic.

Every African country now affected

Lesotho, the last country in Africa left unaffected by the pandemic, announced its first case. The virus was detected in one of 81 people tested after arriving last week from Saudi Arabia and neighbouring South Africa, Lesotho’s health ministry said.

The country went into lockdown on 29 March to protect itself from the potential spread of the virus from South Africa, which entirely surrounds the kingdom and has the highest number of confirmed cases on the continent.

98-year-old woman recovers from coronavirus in Lagos

A 98-year-old has recovered from coronavirus after receiving treatment at one of Lagos state’s isolation centres, authorities there say.

State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced on Wednesday that the woman was discharged along with 25 others who had previously tested positive to the virus.

Afghanistan reaches 5,000 confirmed cases

The number of confirmed cases in Afghanistan passed 5,000 as the country’s health ministry warned that easing lockdowns would bring a “catastrophe”.

Out of 619 suspected patients tested in the last 24 hours, 259 came back positive, pushing the total number of infections to 5,226. The death toll reached 132, after five more patients died overnight. The number of recoveries stood at 648.

Sweden seeks thousands more care workers

Sweden’s public health authority reported 147 more deaths, as the government announced plans to hire up to 10,000 more nursing assistants and care workers to address shortcomings in elderly care exposed by the pandemic.

About half of the 3,460 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Sweden have been among nursing home residents, and another quarter among those receiving care at home.

Mexico to reopen parts of economy

Some Mexican townships will be allowed to resume business and school activities if they have no recorded cases, the country’s economy secretary, Graciela Márquez, has said.

The move, which comes after 51 days of lockdown, is being undertaken despite the country reporting its highest number of daily deaths so far. Mexico has confirmed 1,992 new cases and 353 deaths, bringing the total death toll to 3,926 and the total number of cases to 38,324.

Europe’s hotels asked to enforce social distancing

Hotels and restaurants across Europe have been asked to enforce social-distancing between guests to allow Europeans to take their annual summer holiday.

Announcing a set of measures intended to rescue Europe’s crisis-hit tourism industry, the European Union executive called for a “gradual and careful easing of lockdown restrictions across the continent”, while issuing advice to hotels, resort managers, restaurant owners and travel companies.

Ford factories to resume production

The car manufacturer Ford announced plans to restart production, including at two factories in the UK.

Work will resume on 18 May at the company’s engine plants in Dagenham in Essex and Bridgend in South Wales. The move, along with the reopening of the Valencia engine plant in Spain, will mean that all of Ford’s European manufacturing facilities will be back in operation.

98-year-old woman recovers from coronavirus in Lagos

A 98-year-old has recovered from coronavirus after receiving treatment at one of Lagos state’s isolation centres, authorities there say.

State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced on Wednesday that the woman was discharged along with 25 others who had previously tested positive to the virus.

“Today, we discharged a 98-year-old woman, our oldest #COVID19 patient in Lagos,” Mr Sanwo-Olu tweeted.

Lagos is the epicentre of the virus in Nigeria with 2,041 cases of the 4,971 recorded in the country.

The state has recorded 33 deaths and discharged 528 patients.

Mauritius ‘declares victory in Covid-19 battle’

Mauritians shop for essentials on allocated days

Mauritius has declared victory in the battle against coronavirus, but says it has not yet won the war, the AFP news agency reports quoting the health minister.

Health Minister Kailesh Jagutpal is quoted as saying that there are zero active coronavirus cases in the country and no new cases had been reported in 17 days.

He said:Quote Message: We have won the battle thanks to the cooperation of the public, who understood that the government needed to take extreme measures, including complete confinement, and the closure of supermarkets and our borders.

We have won the battle thanks to the cooperation of the public, who understood that the government needed to take extreme measures, including complete confinement, and the closure of supermarkets and our borders.Quote Message: But we have not yet won the war. Let’s remain vigilant.”

But we have not yet won the war. Let’s remain vigilant.”

In total, the island nation has had 332 cases and 10 deaths. It was among the first in Africa to impose a total lockdown.

The government is however urging people to continue taking precautions even as it maintains some of the restrictive measures.

A few essential stores will be allowed to reopen from Friday but markets will stay shut, AFP reports.

Schools will also remain closed until August, beaches will remain off limits and weddings and funerals can only be attended by 10 people.

The country’s parliament is debating two pieces of legislation, the Covid-19 Bill and the Quarantine Bill, which are designed to help the country get back on track

‘We depend on God’: gravediggers on frontline of Kano’s Coronavirus outbreak

A technician measures the space between beds with a tape at a coronavirus isolation centre in Kano last month. Photograph: Aminu Abubakar/AFP via Getty Images

Musa Abubakar used to dig two or three graves a day at the main cemetery in the northern Nigerian city of Kano. Then overnight it became 40.

“I have never witnessed mass deaths like this,” the 75-year-old said, his white kaftan muddied from his work at the Abbatuwa cemetery, where he has dug graves for 60 years. “From the first day of Ramadan to date, over 300 people have been buried.”

A reported jump in Kano’s death toll by more than 600 in one week in April sent alarm bells ringing across Nigeria’s second largest city and beyond. Local government officials denied that a coronavirus outbreak was the cause and claimed the death toll reports had been exaggerated. But in Abbatuwa, the gravediggers were running out of space.

Abubakar’s colleagues began burying on top of graves to make more room. Four fellow diggers, all over 50, have died in the past three weeks. Abubakar suspects they were killed by Covid-19.

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“The government has promised to provide gloves and face masks to us but we are yet to receive it,” he said. “We just depend on God.”

After weeks of denials at the local level, last week a team of officials sent by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, said their initial investigations had established that the excess deaths were linked to Covid-19.

The situation in Kano has heightened fears that health authorities across Africa will struggle to detect and control Covid-19. Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Nigeria have doubled in the last 10 days to 4,150, with 148 deaths.

Low levels of testing across Africa’s most populous country have hamstrung health officials in states such as Kano. Just 22,000 tests have been administered among Nigeria’s population of more than 200 million.

This, combined with a lack of protective clothing for medical staff, has led to many health services in the state closing all but their emergency care facilities.

A truck full of herdsmen is stopped before arriving in Lagos last week from Zamfara and Kano states. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

Across Kano, thousands of grieving residents are grappling with the consequences of both the spread of the virus and the deadly fragility of the state’s health services.

Balabe Maikaba was a 54-year-old professor who taught mass communications at Kano’s Bayero University. His younger brother Tasi’u Maikaba said he took pride in his academic career and had a playful personality.

When Balabe collapsed at home on 26 April, Tasi’u rushed to take him to one of the nearest hospitals but their choices were limited. “Most of the hospitals, especially the public hospitals, are afraid of accepting patients for fear of coronavirus,” he said.

By the time Balabe was admitted to a private hospital, his blood pressure had soared and his condition was rapidly worsening.

“His condition further deteriorated to the extent that he was struggling to breath. He was gasping for breath,” Tasi’u said. Doctors gave him oxygen but it was too late. “For a long time, his death will torment me in my mind,” he said, weeping.

Balabe had a cough before he died but had not been tested for Covid-19. Like many of the deaths in Kano in recent weeks, it is unclear whether the virus was the direct cause.

But even indirectly, the stark effects of the outbreak on the health system have been devastating.

People wear face masks in compliance with a state directive to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Lagos. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

Lami Mohammad, 36, had battled lung disease a decade ago. He made modest wages from fixing electronics in Kano. “He was just thankful to be alive, all the time, always thankful,” his brother Abdullahi said.Advertisement

Two other families in his community in Fagge had buried loved ones days before Lami died. “We were just watching, fearing the situation but praying.” When he began coughing violently, none of the hospitals would admit him.

Lami died while a doctor was travelling to his home “The pain is too much,” Abdullahi said. “I can’t say whether it is the virus or not but it is God’s will. I have to accept it.”

Usman Bishir, a doctor at the Bayero University teaching hospital, said the lack of testing and protective equipment in Kano had forced health services to close.

“We didn’t even have a testing centre when this began, we had to go to Abuja – about five hours from here – to test samples. It was taking three to four days to get results,” he said. “Medical professionals were vulnerable.”

Kano now has three testing laboratories and is a significant focus for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. The state is under a two-week lockdown.

“Kano is now doing 200 to 400 tests a day,” Bishir said. Testing capacity is growing but far too slowly. “It would be better if they do at least 5,000.”

Medical staff in Kano have ramped up telephone consultations and remote treatment. Some healthcare centres with adequate equipment have reopened. A scarcity of personal protective equipment is slowly being addressed.

Yet already the laboratories in Kano are overstretched. More than half of Nigeria’s states cannot test samples, leading to a backlog of cases.

Tracing has been a challenge amid weak coordination between different agencies and levels of government. “This pandemic has exposed the challenges we faced in Kano,” Bishir said. “It will force us to change and invest in our services.”

55 Coronavirus patients recover in Madagascar after treatment with ‘herbal drug’

At least 55 COVID-19 patients in Madagascar have recovered after being treated with the country’s herbal remedy for the disease.

The number of COVID-19 patients said to have been “cured” with the drug — which is bottled as herbal tea — rose after three recoveries were announced on Saturday.

According to L’Express de Madagascar, the patients were among those that were administered the drug known as COVID-Organics since it was launched in April.

It did not state if there was any supplementary treatment, but reported that “treatment of (COVID-19) patients has been based” on the drug since it was introduced.

“The same day that the CVO herbal tea was launched, two coronavirus patients who consumed it came out cured,” L’Express de Madagascar reported.

“Until yesterday, fifty-five people have been declared cured since the adoption of CVO herbal tea treatment twenty days ago.”

It added that to aid the fight against COVID-19, the drug is being distributed freely in parts of the country.


Launched on April 20, the COVID-Organics was developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA). Its main ingredient is said to be sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), a plant of Asian origin from where the antimalarial drug, artemisinin, came.

Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina said at the launch that the effectiveness of the drug has been proved.

“All trials and tests have been conducted and its effectiveness in reducing the elimination of symptoms has been proven for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 in Madagascar,” Rajoelina had said.

COVID-Organics is now being distributed to some African countries, and Nigeria hinted it might ask for the drug as well.

But the herbal remedy has remained a subject of controversy Madagascar’s national medical academy had cast doubt on its efficacy while the World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to warn against the use of any unapproved drug.

Of the 193 COVID-19 cases so far recorded in Madagascar, 101 have recovered while none has died.

Prepare to live with virus for a year – Ramaphosa

South Africans are on the first phase of easing of restrictions. Photo AFP

South Africans have been told to prepare living with the threat of coronavirus for a year or even more.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said people will still be expected to social distance, wear masks and wash their hands for a while.

He used his weekly newsletter on Monday to warn that “it will not be life as we knew it before” even as restrictions are being eased.

He said:

We will introduce new measures to make contact tracing more effective. We will need to implement mass sanitisation of workplaces, public transport and other spaces.”

We will introduce new measures to make contact tracing more effective. We will need to implement mass sanitisation of workplaces, public transport and other spaces.”

He warned that the number of infections is expected to increase. South Africa has passed the 10,000 mark of new infections.

Coronavirus: “190,000 could die in Africa in one year”

Treating and isolation are key, says WHO’s Africa boss

As many as 190,000 people across Africa could die in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic if crucial containment measures fail, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns.

The new research also predicts a prolonged outbreak over a few years.

“It likely will smoulder in transmission hot spots,” says WHO Africa head Matshidiso Moeti.

This patchier and slower pattern of transmission sets Africa apart from other regions, WHO experts say.

Other factors taken into account are the region’s younger populations who have “benefitted from the control of communicable diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis”, as well as lower mortality rates.

The WHO’s warning comes as Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, plus others including South Africa and Ivory Coast, have begun relaxing some of their lockdown measures.

What does the study say?

The study finds that between 29 million and 44 million people in the WHO African region could get infected in the first year of the pandemic. Between 83,000 and 190,000 could die in the same period, it warns.

The estimates are based on prediction modelling, and focus on 47 countries in the WHO African region with a combined population of one billion – Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti are not included.

Across the whole of the African continent more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths have been recorded by Africa’s Centre for Disease Control. By comparison, 140,000 have died in Western Europe, where the virus took hold several weeks earlier.

Cases have been recorded in every African nation except Lesotho.

South Africa has the highest number of confirmed cases – more than 8,200 and 160 deaths – while Algeria has the most deaths – 483.

“Covd-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region,” Dr Moeti says in a WHO statement.

“We need to test, trace, isolate and treat.”

‘There’s a massive outbreak of COVID-19 in Bauchi town’

Ibrahim Baba, a former member of the house of representatives from Bauchi, has written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over the “massive outbreak of coronavirus” in Azare, a town in the state.

In the letter dated May 8, 2020, Baba said Azare has recorded over 100 COVID-19 deaths in the last one week.

He said this has resulted in panic and confusion among residents, appealing to the president to direct the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to visit the town.

Baba said the proximity of Azare to Kano and Jigawa could be responsible for the rise in COVID-19 cases there.

Both states have high cases of COVID-19, with Kano recording the second highest number of infections in the country.

“Your Excellency, Sir, I write to draw your kind attention to the massive outbreak of coronavirus in Azare town and environs in Bauchi State, which has already resulted in over 100 in the last one week, and this has thrown the entire area into great mourning, panic and confusion,” he wrote.

“The centrality and proximity of Azare to Bauchi, Kano and some major cities of Jigawa states make the town’s large population susceptible to the virus due to the already existing large cases of the disease in those areas.

“And because media coverage is always largely skewed toward states capital and other more prominent cities, the ongoing horrific situation in Azare has not gotten the attention it deserves, and that’s why I want to use this privilege to appeal to you for urgent action to arrest the unpalatable situations.

“Consequently therefore, I wish to appeal to your Excellency to direct the National Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) and the presidential Task force on COVID-19 to urgently reach out to Azare town with all the necessary facilities and palliatives to assist the communities there.”

He also appealed to the president to allow a facility the Central Bank of Nigeria built at a Federal Medical Centre in the town to be used for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

“And to help in this expected effort, may I draw your attention to the fact that at the Opthamology unit and laboratory have already been built and equipped by the Central Bank of Nigeria at the Azare Federal Medical Centre Since 2013 but have not been commissioned and put to use up till now,” he said.

“This facility can be repurposed to a COVID-19 test and treatment center provided the right equipment are added, including ventilators.
“As a matter of life death, I have the utmost trust in your sense of patriotism and commitment to the well-being of Nigerians that you will assist the beleaguered people of Azare town and environs to overcome this harrowing situation. And while I look forward to your kind response, please, accept the assurance of my high esteem and loyalty.”

Dahiru Saleh, the judge who annulled the June 12, 1993 election, died in Azare earlier in the week.

If not for prayers, Nigeria would have crumbled – SGF Boss Mutapha

Boss Mutapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), says prayers have played “active role” in Nigeria’s response to COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing the house of representatives on Tuesday, Mustapha, who heads the presidential task force on COVID-19, said Nigeria “would have crumbled” if not for prayers.

The SGF was at the green chamber alongside other members of the PTF to brief the lawmakers on efforts being made to respond to the health crisis.

He said while the country has continued to improve in management of the pandemic, “prayers have successfully helped Nigeria to be where we are now.”

“Prayer has played an active role in sustaining us as a people and as a country. I believe that the place of prayer is significance and I mentioned that when I said we will consult with traditional and religious leaders,” he said.

“I believe that prayer helps and even during this very holy month of Ramadan, people are praying; praying to God for His mercies, his grace to sustain and protect the people of this country and world over.

“Given the directions and given the projections and modelling, we ought to have crumbled by now. But I can assure you that the place of prayer has played an active role and active part in sustaining us as a people and as a country.”

So far, Nigeria has recorded 2,802 cases of COVID-19, out of which 417 have recovered and 93 have died.

Coronavirus: Ganduje relaxes lockdown imposed by Buhari in Kano

Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the governor of Kano state, has announced the relaxation of lockdown order imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari, on April 27, imposed a total lockdown on the state to allow health officials to monitor the situation in the state.

Ganduje told journalists on Saturday that there would be free movement in the state on Mondays and Thursdays between 10am and 4pm.

In a briefing that held at the government house, he said all the major markets in the state would remain closed, except Ya’nkaba and Ya’nlemo markets where vegetables and fruits are sold.

Ganduje further stated that all supermarkets in the state are allowed to operate within the six-hour timeframe, adding that customers must follow the COVID-19 protocols before they enter the places.

“We have provided face masks, to be distributed to the people. I directed chairmen of the local government to also provide the face masks for their people. Afterwards, we will make it compulsory for everybody to wear it,” he said.

He also expressed hope that with the increase in testing centres, the state would stamp out the pandemic.

He also announced that Aliko Dangote had donated mobile testing centres with capacity of testing 400 samples in a day and 1000 sample in a week.

“The more we are getting the test, the more people who contracted the virus would be exposed and the more we stamp out the disease in our state.

“What we just want is for the public to adhere strictly to the protocols of the COVID-19 and abide by the lockdown order in order to break the chain of the transmission,”

The governor also assured the public that the more they abide by the lockdown order, the more the state government would relax the directive.

Ganduje had earlier appealed to the federal government to relax the lockdown saying it is important to ease the hardship in the state, especially in the holy month of Ramadan.

Widow cooking stones for children in Kenya fuels anger

Peninah Bahati Kitsao says the help she has received is “a miracle”

Kenyans have rallied to the aid of a widow filmed cooking stones for her eight children to make them believe she was preparing food for them.

Peninah Bahati Kitsao, who lives in Mombasa, hoped they would fall asleep while they waited for their meal.

She used to wash laundry locally but such work is hard to come by now as people have restricted their interactions because of coronavirus.

A shocked neighbour, Prisca Momanyi, alerted the media to her plight.

After being interviewed by Kenya’s NTV, the widow has received money via mobile phone and through a bank account that was opened for her by Ms Momanyi, as the mother of eight does not know how to read and write.

Ms Kitsao, who lives in a two-bedroomed house without running water or electricity, has described the generosity as a “miracle”.

“I didn’t believe that Kenyans can be so loving after I received phone calls from all over the country asking how they might be of help,” she told Tuko news website.

Cooking pots belonging to Peninah Bahati Kitsao in Mombasa, Kenya
Image captionPeninah Bahati Kitsao put the stones in these cooking pots

She had told NTV that her hungry children had not been deceived for long by her delaying stone-cooking tactics.

“They started telling me that they knew I was lying to them, but I could do nothing because I had nothing.”

Her neighbour had come around to see if the family was OK after hearing the children crying, NTV reports.

As part of measures to cushion the most vulnerable from the coronavirus crisis, the government has launched a feeding programme.

But it had yet to reach Ms Kitsao, who was widowed last year when her husband was killed by a gang.

Her neighbour has also thanked the county authorities and the Kenya Red Cross, who have also come to help Ms Kitsao.

Many more households in that neighbourhood of the coastal city are now going to benefit from the relief food scheme too, the authorities say.

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Like many low-income Kenyans, Ms Kitsao has been struggling to earn money for the last month since the government put in place measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on travel in and out of major cities, reports the BBC’s Basillioh Mutahi from the capital, Nairobi.

Many companies have reduced their operations or have suspended them altogether, meaning that workers who depend on short contracts or menial jobs have no alternative means to earn their livelihoods.

Those who run small businesses have also been affected by the nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Ms Kitsao’s story of desperation has coincided with the revelation that the health ministry has spent huge sums of money, donated by the World Bank to respond to the pandemic, on tea, snacks and mobile phone airtime for its staff.

Details about how many people were provided for are unclear, nonetheless there has been outrage on social media that the government is spending such amounts at a time many Kenyans continue to suffer, our reporter says.

The East African nation has recorded 395 cases of Covid-19 and 17 deaths.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus pass 3m worldwide

More than 3 million people around the world are now confirmed to have been infected with coronavirus since it first emerged in Wuhan, China, at the end of last year, according to a tally kept by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The worldwide death toll from the Covid-19 disease caused by the new virus recently passed 200,000.

The worst-affected country is by far the US, which, with 972,969 cases alone, counts for almost a third of the global total, followed by Spain with 229,422, Italy with 199,414, and France with 162,220.

However, with testing regimes differing widely around the world and questions raised about the efficacy of the tests themselves, the true number of cases is impossible to gauge. The Johns Hopkins tracker is based on official reports.

BREAKING: Lagos discharges 48 Coronavirus patients

Lagos state has on Thursday evening announced the discharge of 49 coronavirus patience

The ministry of health made the announcement on its Twitter handle on Wednesday.

The patients, 28 females and 21 males, were discharged from the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba and the isolation centre at Onikan.

A total of 187 patients have now recovered in Lagos which has the highest number of confirmed cases in the country.

Borno records 3 deaths, 11 new coronavirus cases

Three more COVID-19 fatalities and 11 new cases have been recorded in Borno state.

Salihu Kwaya-Bura, the state commissioner for health, and secretary of the response team for the prevention and control of COVID-19, confirmed this at a press briefing on Tuesday.

He said the figures were for Monday and Tuesday, adding that the state is following up on 233 persons, while the number of surveillance teams will be increased, with more isolation and testing centres set up.

The commissioner said the machine at the Umaru Shehu Memorial hospital has the capacity to carry out 500 tests in one day, but plans are on to utilise the microbiology department of the University of Maiduguri for an additional test centre to increase the capacity to 1,000 tests per day.

In his response to the question on whether the three recent deaths were contacts of the index case from Pulka or the case from Biu, the commissioner said they were from different sources.

Borno recorded its first fatality on April 19, 2020, while another death was confirmed on April 22, 2020.

On why no recovery has been reported so far, Kwaya-Bura said no discharge should be expected before the end of the initial 14 days, adding that some of the patients are responding to treatment and series of tests would be conducted before they are confirmed negative.

He called on residents in the state to practise personal hygiene such as regular washing of hands with soap under running water, social and physical distancing and wearing of masks, to control the spread of the virus.

We may request for a plane load of herbs from Madagascar to treat Coronavirus – SGF

Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), says Nigeria may ask Madagascar to send a plane load of “herbal solutions” to treat COVID-19.

Madagascar President Andry Rajolina had a week ago launched a herbal medicine believed to cure the novel coronavirus.

Branded COVID-organics, the medicine which contains artemisa, a plant used in treating malaria, was developed by the the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research.

At a briefing on Tuesday, Mustapha who is the chairman of the presidential task force on COVID-19, spoke on the response of Madagascar to COVID-19.

“I want to assure you that whatever is happening in the world, we are mindful of it and we are keeping tab,” he said.

“I was reading of the experiences in Madagascar– of why everybody is drinking some solutions that have been prepared. This morning I was sharing with my wife, and I told her that probably I would request that Mr President to allow us import a plane load for a trial.

“Because, we are all navigating an unchartered cause. Nobody has ever been on this road. So, every attempt to find solution that would bring succour to our people, be rest assure that this task force is very responsible and we would do everything to ensure that we get what will benefit our people, what will help them in the processes that we find ourselves today.”

Although, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has continually warned that there is no cure yet for the virus, some vaccines have been used in clinical trials.

Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo who recovered from COVID-19 had said he used a mixture of local solutions to boost his system.

Breaking: Germany donates additional €5.5m to Nigeria to fight coronavirus

Germany has announced another financial intervention to assist Nigeria in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Announcing in a statement via Twitter on Tuesday, the country said it is providing €5.5 million this time to support vulnerable people in Nigeria’s North-Eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

The statement read, “Germany provides an additional €5.5 million (c. 2.2bn Naira) to the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria to continue life-saving aid in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.


“Ongoing activities include drilling of wells, construction of sanitation facilities, rehabilitation of buildings or construction of shelters for internally displaced persons and other victims of insecurity in the North East.

“This brings Germany’s contribution to the NHF to a tota of €29 million since it became operational in May 2017, making Germany a major donor to the NHF over the past three years.”

The country also pledged €12 million to West Africa Health Organisation and Economic Community of West Africa States for the purchase of vital medical supplies and laboratory equipment, training measures, amongst other response to the pandemic in the region.

It added that it was providing the Nigeria Police Force with €20,000 worth personal protective equipment including hand disinfectant, protective clothing, surface disinfectant, face masks, clinical thermometers and gloves, adding that the materials would be handed over in Abuja shortly.

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According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, 41 confirmed cases of COVID-19 has been recorded in Borno, one in Adamawa while Yobe has no reported case yet.

Coronavirus patient gives birth at LUTH

A COVID-19 patient has been delivered of a baby at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).

The hospital broke the news in a tweet on Monday afternoon, saying the mother and child are well and alive.

“A team of LUTH Drs, anaesthetists & nurses delivered a woman with Covid19 of a baby girl this afternoon 40yr old mother & 3.3kg baby are doing fine. Our gratitude go to these gallant men & women & all warriors making d nation proud in d face of this scourge,” the tweet read.

Details coming…

Two Coronavirus patients run away after testing positive

A man and woman in Borno State are currently on the run after they had tested positive for COVID-19, officials claim.

The Borno commissioner of health, Salisu Kwayabura, disclosed this information to journalists at the daily briefing of the Committee on COVID-19.

He said, “two patients, Abbas Kaka Hassan, a 24-year-old male and Hauwa Mohammed, 42-year-old female, are on the run after testing positive to COVID-19 at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital in the metropolis.”

He said the male is from Layin tanki suburbs in Gwange II ward, while the woman lives in the Shuwari ward.

The male patient could earlier not be reached by the state COVID-19 response team even after his blood sample was collected. He later reportedly switched off his phone.

“When samples of patients with contacts to index cases are collected, they are normally advised to go on self-isolation,” the health commissioner said.

“They give their contacts so they can be reached when the results are out. This is the standard medical procedure. You can’t detain someone with suspected contact. We do not have the lawful powers to do that.

“Other patients were also allowed to leave but they came into isolation centres and we have 19 of them in two isolation centres. However, the young man in question chose to go into hiding”.

Mr Kwayabura called on anyone who tests positive for the disease not to regard it as a death sentence as the majority of those who test positive have recovered from it.

A male IDP, who had tested positive after participating in the funeral prayer for the first index case, also escaped while being taken to the isolation centre.

He reportedly went back to the IDP camp where officials later picked him up after his neighbours raised alarm.

The NCDC had, last night, announced that Borno’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 had shot up to 30 cases after 18 more persons tested positive.

Mr Kwayabura explained that “16 of Borno’s COVID-19 cases emanated from community transmission, while 14 others were connected with the index ‘and another case.’”

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