Omicron: FG Asks Saudi Arabia To Lift Travel Restrictions On Nigeria

File photo of passengers at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja following the resumption of international flights on September 7, 2020. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/ Channels Television


The Federal Government has asked Saudi Arabia to lift the travel restrictions it imposed on Nigerian travellers following the outbreak of the omicron variant of the COVID-19 in South Africa that was later discovered among some travellers said to have visited Nigeria.

Ambassador Zubairu Dada, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, made the appeal on Saturday when he met with the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Faisal bin Ebraheem Al-Ghamdi.

Dada in a statement by his spokesman Ibrahim Aliyu urged the Saudi Authorities to review the travel restrictions its placed on Nigerians over the Omicron outbreak as already done by many countries who have earlier banned Nigeria but have since reversed their stands having studied the achievements of Nigeria so far in the fight against the Omicron variant and the Coronavirus pandemic in general.

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While commending the cordial relationship that existed for years and continues to exist between the two countries, the Minister expressed optimism for a timely response to Nigeria’s request from Saudi Arabia.

This is as he pledged to continue to give every necessary support and cooperation to the ambassador in the discharge of his responsibility.

In his remarks, Ambassador Al-Ghamdi expressed satisfaction with the effort the government is making to contain the spread of Omicron and promised to convey Nigeria’s message to the relevant authorities back home in Saudi Arabia

According to the diplomat, Saudi Arabia also has similar agencies that are responsible for monitoring and recommendations on the issues of the corona.

He equally lauded the Minister for his commitment to improved bilateral relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia imposed a temporary ban on flights from Nigeria in December amid the Omicron variant of COVID in Nigeria.

COVID-19 Rules Put Fans Off Attending AFCON Matches

Nigeria supporters cheer during the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2021 football match against Egypt at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 11, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP


Cameroon may be a football-mad country but most matches at the Africa Cup of Nations so far have been played out in front of largely empty stadiums, with fans preferring to gather elsewhere to enjoy the action.

In Bafoussam in the West region, banners welcome visitors and Cameroonian flags adorn the streets where vendors sell vuvuzelas for fans to deafen passers-by — there is no doubt that the third-largest city in the country is proud to host AFCON games.

Every night, hundreds of fans mass with a beer in their hands in front of screens in bars to watch and talk about the matches.

Yet outside town, in the modern 20,000-capacity stadium built for the competition, the stands were almost completely empty for the first two matches played there on Monday, despite Liverpool star Sadio Mane and his Senegal side being among the teams in action.

“If the stadiums are empty it is because of Covid,” says 26-year-old Cyrille Anicet as he sits with friends at a table near the city’s bus station.

“I went to the stadium on Monday. But like thousands of people I stayed outside because I didn’t have a vaccination card,” he tells AFP.

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF) imposed strict conditions to get into stadiums during the Cup of Nations, with anyone wishing to attend games needing to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of a negative PCR or antigenic test.

Yet the vast majority of Cameroonians appear to ignore mask-wearing recommendations and there is much resistance to the idea of being vaccinated — only six percent of the population aged over 18 has officially been inoculated.

CAF also imposed restrictions on crowd numbers, with stadiums only allowed to be filled to 60 percent of capacity, rising to 80 percent for matches involving the hosts.

They may as well not have bothered.

Apart from the opening game last Sunday between Cameroon and Burkina Faso at Yaounde’s Olembe Stadium and the meeting of Nigeria and Egypt in northern city Garoua, crowds have been extremely sparse.

The attendance at the 50,000-seat Japoma Stadium in economic capital Douala for title-holders Algeria’s 0-0 draw with Sierra Leone looked to be barely in four figures.

Even Cameroon’s second game, a 4-1 hammering of Ethiopia on Thursday, was played out before a largely empty stadium.

“I don’t understand why a negative test is not enough to get into the stadium,” complains Cyrille in Bafoussam, as he insists he will watch upcoming matches on television with his friends.

– Expensive tickets –

Yet the Covid protocol does not explain everything.

“The problem is not just the issue of vaccination, it is also the price of tickets which cost more than a day’s work for me,” complains Arsene Noubit, a 50-year-old haulier, over the sound of horns and loud music coming out of nearby shops.

The cheapest tickets cost 3,000 CFA francs ($5.22) in a country where almost 40 percent of people live below the poverty line and a third of the population survives on barely $2 a day, according to the World Bank.

The images of empty stadiums are not going down well in Cameroon. At the start of this week the country’s communications minister, Rene Emmanuel Sadi, called for “everyone to mobilise to fill the stadiums for the rest of the competition in every venue.”

Bafoussam’s mayor, Roger Tafam, provided free shuttle buses to ferry spectators 20 kilometres from the centre of the city to the stadium for Friday’s games, as Senegal played Guinea before Malawi took on Zimbabwe.

“The transport costs 500 CFA francs ($0.87) each way, so providing free transport should help,” he insists.

“Many of the elite are also buying tickets to give to people who wish to come to the stadium. I personally bought tickets to give to my staff,” he adds.

The governor of the West region, Augustine Awa Fonka, also called for people to be given the day off work to attend Friday’s matches.

And yet that will change nothing for Roland Ndi, a 36-year-old mechanic.

“As long as we are obliged to be vaccinated the stadiums will be empty,” he claims.

Google Buys London Office Complex For $1bn

Google on Friday, January 14, agreed to buy a central London building complex for $1 billion but stressed it remained committed to new hybrid working patterns in the wake of Covid.


Google on Friday agreed to buy a central London building complex for $1 billion, but stressed it remained committed to new hybrid working patterns in the wake of COVID-19.

The tech titan will purchase the Central St Giles office site, where it is a tenant, for the equivalent of 872 million euros.

Google said it would give the site a multi-million-pound overhaul for flexible working patterns, including outdoor work spaces.

“This investment represents Google’s continued confidence in the office as a place for in-person collaboration and connection,” the group said in a statement.

The company expects about one-fifth of its workforce to continue working remotely as a result of pandemic-induced changes to work.

“We have been privileged to operate in the UK for nearly 20 years, and our purchase of the Central St Giles development reflects our continued commitment to the country’s growth and success,” said Ruth Porat, the chief financial officer of Google parent group Alphabet.

“Our focus remains on creating flexible workspaces that foster innovation, creativity, and inclusivity.”

The purchase is part of Google’s broader expansion in central London, where it is also building a large development.

Google will eventually have a capacity for 10,000 staff in the UK, up from 6,400.

The British government meanwhile welcomed Google’s latest expansion as the UK looks to retain heavyweight companies in the wake of Brexit.

“This investment in jobs from Google is a big vote of confidence in the UK as a world-leading tech hub,” said finance minister Rishi Sunak.

“It is also proof that this country continues to be one of the most attractive places in the world for leading firms to grow their business.”

It comes after Google last year announced plans to buy a New York City office building for $2.1 billion.

Messi ‘Takes Longer Than Expected’ To Recover From Covid-19

This file photo taken on December 7, 2021, shows Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on December 7, 2021. Lionel Messi has tested positive for Covid-19 and has entered self-isolation, his club Paris Saint-Germain announced on January 2, 2022. FRANCK FIFE / AFP


Lionel Messi said on Thursday he needs more time to recover before playing again after contracting Covid-19 earlier this month.

Paris Saint-Germain star Messi, 34, tested positive while on holiday in his hometown of Rosario before flying back to the French capital on January 5.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has missed two PSG matches while in self-isolation.

“As you know I had Covid and I wanted to thank you all for the messages I received,” Messi posted on Instagram.

“It has taken me longer than I thought to be OK but I’m almost recovered and I’m looking forward to getting back on the field.

“I’m training to get back to being at 100%, great challenges are coming this year and I hope we can see each other again,” he added.

Since testing negative last week he has trained alone at PSG’s headquarters.

According to ESPN Argentina, the former Barcelona attacker will miss this weekend’s home Ligue 1 game against Brest.

Messi’s club teammates including Angel Di Maria, Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Julian Draxler have also tested positive for coronavirus since the Christmas break.

The Parisians host Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on February 15.


COVID-19: UK’s Johnson Cancels Trip After Lockdown Apology

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on as he welcomes Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq for talks in 10 Downing Street in London on December 16, 2021. Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on as he welcomes Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq for talks in 10 Downing Street in London on December 16, 2021. Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled a trip to northern England Thursday after a relative came down with Covid, officials said, a day after he apologised over a lockdown-breaking party.

“The prime minister will no longer be visiting Lancashire today due to a family member testing positive for coronavirus,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“He will follow the guidance for vaccinated close contacts, including daily testing and limiting contact with others.”

In Britain, fully vaccinated people no longer have to self-isolate after coming into contact with an infected person. But they are advised to “limit close contact with other people outside your household”.

Johnson lives in a Downing Street flat with his wife Carrie and their two small children.

READ ALSO: France To Ease UK Travel Restrictions On Friday

For his critics, Johnson’s scrupulous adherence to the rules now will contrast with his attendance at a party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, when Britain was under a strict lockdown.

After days of stonewalling the scandal, on Wednesday he issued “heartfelt apologies”, conceding that millions had observed the lockdown even at the cost of missing final farewells to dying relatives.

But opposition parties and even some Conservatives are demanding Johnson resign.

Chinese Woman Stuck In Blind Date’s House After Lockdown

A picture of the Chinese flag.
A picture of the Chinese flag.


Imagine being on a first date you couldn’t end? That’s what happened to a woman in China whose video blogs about going into a citywide lockdown during a blind date have gone viral.

Over 100 virus cases have been reported in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou since last week, as China battles to contain multiple local outbreaks of the Delta and Omicron variants.

Parts of the city were abruptly placed under lockdown last Wednesday when a woman surnamed Wang was having dinner at her blind date’s house.

“Just after I arrived in Zhengzhou, there was an outbreak, and his community was put under lockdown and I could not leave,” Wang told Shanghai-based outlet The Paper on Tuesday, adding that she went there for a week-long trip to meet potential suitors.

“I’m getting old now, my family introduced me to ten matches… The fifth date wanted to show off his cooking skills and invited me over to his house for dinner.”

Since then, Wang has posted short videos documenting her daily life in lockdown, which show her date cooking meals for her, doing household chores, and working at his laptop while she sleeps in, according to clips published by local media.

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So far it seems romance has yet to blossom during their prolonged date, according to Wang who says she’s looking for a more talkative partner.

“Besides the fact that he’s as mute as a wooden mannequin, everything else (about him) is pretty good,” Wang told The Paper. “Despite his food being mediocre, he’s still willing to cook, which I think is great.”

Wang did not disclose her age or the identity of the man in the videos.

Related hashtags have racked up over six million views on the Twitter-like social media site Weibo by Wednesday.

However, Wang said the recent surge in online attention prompted her to remove the videos.

“Friends have been calling him and I think this has definitely affected his life, so I have taken them down for now,” she said in a video posted Tuesday that was widely republished in Chinese local media.

“Thanks, everyone for your attention… I hope the outbreak ends soon and that my single sisters also find a relationship soon.”


Six Bayern Players Return To Training After COVID-19 Outbreak

File photo: Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal with teammates during the German first division Bundesliga football match between FC Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart in Munich, southern Germany, on March 20, 2021. (Photo by ANDREAS GEBERT / POOL / AFP)


Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Wednesday welcomed back six of their players who had previously been sidelined by Covid-19.

Bayern captain Manuel Neuer, as well as Leroy Sane, Dayot Upamecano, Alphonso Davies, Omar Richards and Tanguy Nianzou all trained Wednesday.

The group were among the nine players who missed last Friday’s 2-1 home defeat by Borussia Moenchengladbach after testing positive for the virus.

Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso, who also trained Wednesday, had already left quarantine.

Of the nine who missed Friday’s defeat, only defender Lucas Hernandez remains in isolation.

As a precaution, Sane, Upamecano, Davies and Nianzou all worked separately after a group warm-up at Bayern’s training ground.

Bayern remain six points clear at the top of the table before Saturday’s match at Cologne.

Indonesia Launches COVID-19 Booster Campaign To Stem Omicron Spread

File photo: Health officials take samples of saliva and nasal fluid from a resident (L) to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tangerang on April 2, 2020. FAJRIN RAHARJO / AFP.


Indonesia opened its coronavirus booster campaign to the public Wednesday as the country records rising infections driven by the Omicron variant.

The free shots will be given to the elderly and at-risk residents as a priority, but will be available to everyone who received their second dose six months prior, President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday after announcing the decision.

The boosters will be administered as half doses — which a local study confirmed was sufficient protection against the virus — due to supply shortages, said health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country with more than 270 million people, has struggled to procure enough vaccines for its residents since the onset of the pandemic.

Elderly Indonesians lined up at vaccinations centres in Jakarta Wednesday for their boosters in hope of better protection against the highly contagious Omicron variant.

“I must get this shot because I have a lot of activities,” said 84-year-old Hardini in Jakarta after receiving her third shot.

“I am still playing tennis, running. If I don’t have immunity then I could infect people or I could become sick.”

Indonesia is administering half doses for all of its approved vaccines, of which there is no precedent elsewhere in the world, Covid-19 taskforce spokesperson Siti Nadia Tarmizi told AFP.

Indonesia uses Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac for Covid-19 inoculations.

Some countries, including the United States, are injecting half a dose of Moderna as a booster.

The decision to use half doses was based on a study conducted by the University of Indonesia and the Padjadjaran University in collaboration with the Health Ministry, Tarmizi said.

The country has been severely impacted by the pandemic since July last year, with hospitals running out of beds and oxygen to treat infected patients.

It had reported more than 4.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases, and more than 144,000 deaths as of Wednesday.

Around 40 percent of the Indonesian population is double-jabbed.

The low vaccination rate is leaving the country vulnerable to new outbreaks, especially of the more transmissible Omicron variant that is driving record case numbers in Europe.

Half Of Europe On Track To Catch Omicron, Says WHO

A photo collage of a medical staff using a self-testing kit for COVID-19 and the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.


More than half of people in Europe will likely catch Omicron by March, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, as the World Bank warned the contagious variant could hamper global economic recovery.

Millions in China were locked down again, exactly two years after Beijing reported the first death from what was later confirmed to be coronavirus.

The highly transmissible Omicron strain has swept across countries, forcing governments to impose fresh measures and some rolling out vaccine booster shots.

READ ALSO: ‘Deltacron’ Likely Result Of Lab Error, Experts Say

But the WHO on Tuesday warned that repeating booster doses of the original Covid jabs was not a viable strategy against emerging variants.

The UN body called for new vaccines that better protect against transmission.

“A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable,” a WHO vaccine advisory group said.

With almost eight million recorded infections over the past seven days, Europe is currently reporting the largest number of deaths and cases worldwide, according to an AFP tally.

Europe is at the epicentre of alarming new outbreaks and the WHO said Tuesday Omicron could infect half of all people in the region at current rates.

European ‘tidal wave’

The WHO’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge described a “new west-to-east tidal wave sweeping across” the region.

“The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that more than 50 percent of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks,” he added.

The WHO’s European region covers 53 countries and territories including several in Central Asia, and Kluge said 50 of them had Omicron cases.

Kluge however stressed “approved vaccines do continue to provide good protection against severe disease and death — including for Omicron”.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that the spread of Omicron was pushing Covid towards being an endemic disease that humanity could live with, even if it remained a pandemic for now.

‘Permanent scar on development’

The World Bank, meanwhile, predicted global economic growth will decelerate in 2022 as Omicron risks exacerbating labour shortages and supply chain snarls.

In its latest Global Economic Prospects report, it cut its forecast for world economic growth this year to 4.1 percent after the 5.5 percent rebound last year.

World Bank President David Malpass said the pandemic could leave a “permanent scar on development” as poverty, nutrition and health indicators move in the wrong direction.

The warnings came exactly two years after the announcement of the first person dying of a virus only later identified as Covid — a 61-year-old man in Wuhan, China, where the illness was first detected.

Since January 11, 2020, known fatalities in the pandemic have soared to nearly 5.5 million.

China largely tamed its initial outbreak using lockdowns, border closures and mass testing, but flare-ups in some major cities are testing that zero-Covid strategy just weeks before the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The city of Anyang in Henan province on Monday night told its five million residents not to leave their homes or drive cars on the roads, China’s official Xinhua news agency said.

The cities of Yuzhou and Xi’an have also entered strict lockdowns.

Hong Kong, which already has some of the toughest coronavirus border restrictions in the world, on Tuesday shut kindergartens and primary schools until early February to fight an Omicron outbreak.

And Japan extended until the end of next month a strict Covid border policy that bars almost all new foreign foreign arrivals.

Unequal vaccine access

The World Economic Forum warned that the widening gap in unequal access to vaccines could create a poisonous legacy of resentment,making it harder to reach agreements on global issues such as climate change.

“A greater prevalence of Covid-19 in low-vaccination countries than in high-vaccination ones will weigh on worker availability and productivity, disrupt supply chains and weaken consumption,” WEF said.

The polarising nature of the Covid came into sharp focus last week when Australia cancelled the visa of the world’s top men’s tennis player over Covid shot requirements.

The unjabbed, vaccine-sceptic Novak Djokovic won a legal challenge against the government Monday, but Australia’s immigration minister reserves the right to cancel his visa again as the Serbian aims to defend his Australian Open title.

In France, unions say three out of four teachers plan to strike on Thursday against the government’s shifting rules on Covid testing for students, forcing half the country’s primary schools to close.

And Bolivia’s vice president David Choquehuanca, who touts indigenous treatments for Covid-19, has contracted the virus for a third time, the government announced.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he had caught it for a second time.



‘Deltacron’ Likely Result Of Lab Error, Experts Say

A healthcare worker prepares to administer a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a drive-thru site in Tropical Park on December 16, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP


Experts said Monday that an alleged hybrid coronavirus mutation dubbed “Deltacron” reportedly discovered in a Cyprus lab is most likely the result of a lab contamination, and not a new worrying variant.

Cypriot media reported the discovery Saturday, describing it as having “the genetic background of the Delta variant along with some of the mutations of Omicron”.

While it is possible for coronaviruses to genetically combine, it is rare, and scientists analysing the discovery of so-called “Deltacron” say it is unlikely.

“The Cypriot ‘Deltacron’ sequences reported by several large media outlets look to be quite clearly contamination,” Tom Peacock, a virologist with the infectious diseases department at Imperial College London, tweeted over the weekend.

Jeffrey Barrett, the head of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at Britain’s Wellcome Sanger Institute, said the alleged mutations are located on a part of the genome that is vulnerable to error in certain sequencing procedures.

“This is almost certainly not a biological recombinant of the Delta and Omicron lineages,” he said Monday.

Scientists are eager to battle a deluge of disinformation about Covid-19, much of it circulating online.

Last week, unverified reports emerged of a “flurona” or “flurone” virus circulating — a combination of the flu and the coronavirus — which the World Health Organization (WHO) dismissed Monday.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Millions More Locked Down As China Battles Omicron Spread

“Let’s not use words like Deltacron, flurona or flurone. Please,” tweeted Maria van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the WHO.

“These words imply combination of viruses/variants and this is not happening,” she said.

While people can suffer from influenza and coronavirus at the same time, the two viruses cannot combine.

In contrast to new variants of Covid-19 such as Omicron, which greatly impact the course of the pandemic, cases of simultaneous infection of the flu and coronavirus are nothing new.

Since the start of the pandemic, the coronavirus has given rise to dozens of variants, four of which have been designated “of concern” by the WHO: Alpha, Beta, Delta and Omicron.

NCDC Reports Eight More Deaths, 420 New COVID-19 Cases

A file photo of a health worker wearing a PPE on duty.


The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said eight more people have died of complications related to COVID-19.

The agency disclosed this in a Facebook post on Tuesday while giving an update on the management of the disease in the country.

It added that 420 more infections were confirmed on Monday from 12 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

READ ALSO: Former Nigerian Leader Ernest Shonekan Dies At 85

Lagos topped the states reporting more cases with 103 infections and was followed by Kwara and Akwa Ibom which logged 90 and 49 additional cases respectively.

Others include FCT – 39, Kano – 33, Rivers – 31, Cross River – 17, Ogun – 17, Kaduna – 15, Edo – 11, Niger – nine, Oyo – five, and Abia – one.

Since Nigeria reported its first case of the disease in February 2020, the nation has confirmed a total of 248,732 infections.

Of these cases, 219,479 people who initially tested positive have been discharged and the nation’s death toll from the disease has risen to 3,085.

While the NCDC said it has collected and tested a total of 3,933,209 samples, the country has 26,168 COVID-19 cases that are still active.

See the breakdown of cases according to states below:

States AffectedNo. of Cases (Lab Confirmed)No. of Cases (on admission)No. DischargedNo. of Deaths
Akwa Ibom4,615774,49444
Cross River744271725

Poland Records 100,000 COVID-Related Deaths

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe.


More than 100,000 people have died in Poland from Covid since the start of the pandemic, the government said Tuesday, as the mortality rate in the country is among the highest in the world.

“It’s another sad day but particularly so today because we have crossed the threshold of 100,000 deaths,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told news channel TVN24.

Niedzielski said the most recent daily data showed 493 people had died, which would bring the total toll to 100,254 deaths, and pointed out there were 18,000 people currently in hospital.

According to a tally compiled by AFP with the latest available data, Poland has reported 14.31 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days — the sixth-highest level in the world after Trinidad and Tobago, Moldova, Georgia, Hungary and San Marino.

The level in neighbouring Germany is 4.31 in 26th place.

Only around 63 percent of Polish adults are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 — one of the lowest levels in the EU.

The government has encouraged Poles to get vaccinated but has been criticised by the opposition for not taking stronger action by for example introducing requirements for vaccine certificates.

The highest total of Covid-related deaths in the EU so far is in Italy at over 139,000, followed by France, Germany, and Poland.