Olympic Athletes Infected As Covid Travel Woe Hits Europe

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

Two athletes became the first to test positive for the coronavirus in the Tokyo Olympic Village, officials said Sunday, as new border rules in Europe caused last-minute travel frustration.

Less than a week before the Olympics is due to begin, the cases will heighten concerns over the event.

Organisers have described the Games as the world’s “most restrictive sports event”, but it faces opposition in Japan over fears it will bring new infections to a country already battling a surge.

A daily tally of new cases revealed two athletes tested positive in the Village and one elsewhere. They come a day after an unidentified person, who was not a competitor, became the first case in the village.

Britain is also facing a backlash over its decision to exclude France from its new looser entry policies — vaccinated returning UK residents will still have to quarantine for 10 days, unlike in other “amber” countries.

“I’m a doctor so I understand the health issues very well, but this doesn’t make any sense,” said Maud Lemoine, a London-based doctor who is visiting France.

And France’s government drew ire after announcing that unvaccinated visitors from Britain and several other European countries must show a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of departure rather than 48 or 72 hours, as was the case previously.

The interior ministry said almost 114,000 demonstrators gathered across France on Saturday to protest against the government’s handling of the pandemic and continued restrictions on everyday life.

“It’s not that we think the Earth is flat, but we don’t know the long-term effects of these vaccines cobbled together in a hurry,” care assistant Rita, 39, said at a march in the city of Montpellier.

Elsewhere in Europe, Greek officials imposed curfews on the party island of Mykonos and Spanish authorities did likewise in Barcelona and other cities in the northeastern Catalonia region.

EU jabs overtake US

European governments are facing an uphill battle, with the EU’s disease prevention agency warning that infections could rise fivefold across the bloc by August 1.

But the continent also had something to celebrate, with the proportion of people vaccinated topping the US figure for the first time.

Around 55.5 percent have now had a first dose following a sluggish start, compared with 55.4 across the Atlantic.

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said the achievement validated the EU’s strategy of “remaining open and exporting half of our production to 100+ countries”, vaunting the bloc’s “solidarity” compared with other vaccine makers.

And in Britain, where most of the adult population has now had two jabs, the government is preparing to ease most restrictions.

Quarantine for vaccinated Britons returning from “amber” list countries is due to end on Monday but at the last minute the government decided to retain the status quo for France because of the “persistent presence” of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.

While the rule applies only to England for now, devolved governments in Scotland and Wales indicated they were likely to follow suit.

The new looser regime in England, with mask requirements among the rules to be dropped, comes as the UK recorded more than 50,000 cases in a day on Friday and the government said that rate could double in the coming weeks.

However, officials said the high vaccination rate should prevent a spike in deaths and serious illness.

Hajj joy

Among those testing positive was Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who announced on Saturday he had contracted the disease and was isolating.

“I’m grateful that I’ve had two jabs of the vaccine. And so far, my symptoms are very mild,” Javid said via Twitter.

With cases surging, critics say the reopening is a reckless gamble.

“This is a threat not just to England but to the whole world — particularly low- and middle-income countries who have very limited access to vaccines,” a group of international scientists said in a joint statement on Friday.

One poorer country experiencing an infection surge is Senegal, whose national bus operator announced Saturday it would suspend intercity transport.

The announcement comes after the country of 16 million logged a record — 1,366 — of new coronavirus cases on Saturday, almost double the daily record of 733 set on Wednesday.

A new single-day record was also set in Thailand, which had more than 11,300 new infections Sunday, bringing the kingdom’s cumulative cases to more than 400,000. Saturday also saw the single-day death toll reach 141 — a new high.

Three more provinces will be placed under severe restrictions — including a night-time curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than five — that already cover Bangkok and the southern provinces.

Saudi Arabia is allowing crowds to gather for the second downsized hajj since the start of the pandemic.

The kingdom is allowing only 60,000 fully vaccinated residents to take part — a fraction of the pre-pandemic number — as it seeks to repeat last year’s success that saw no virus outbreak during the five-day ritual.

Among the chosen ones this year was Ameen, a 58-year-old Indian oil contractor who was picked for the ritual along with his wife and three adult children.

“We are overjoyed,” said Ameen. “So many of our friends and relatives were rejected.”

UK PM To Self-Isolate When Not Working, After Minister’s Infection

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives to attend the NATO summit at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2021. The allies meet to agree on a statement stressing common ground on securing their withdrawal from Afghanistan, joint responses to cyber-attacks, and relations with a rising China. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / POOL / AFP

 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will undertake “only essential government business” in the week ahead after the state health service designated him a close contact of a person infected with Covid, Downing Street said Sunday.

Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak were both designated but are taking part in a government pilot scheme that enables them to continue working, a spokesperson said.

The development came just as Johnson’s government prepares to ditch most pandemic restrictions in England on Monday. The pilot mandates daily testing for participants and outside of work, they must self-isolate.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Saturday he had tested positive for Covid-19 and was now self-isolating for 10 days.

“The prime minister and chancellor have been contacted by NHS (National Health Service) Test and Trace as contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid,” the Downing Street spokesperson said.

“They will be participating in the daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street.

“They will be conducting only essential government business during this period.”

Javid had a “lengthy” meeting with Johnson on Friday, according to the Sunday Times. The prime minister nearly died of Covid last year.

Javid also appeared alongside ministers in parliament last week, and one government source told The Telegraph newspaper: “I don’t see how half the cabinet doesn’t end up in isolation by the end of the week.”

Javid has only been in the job since late June, when former health secretary Matt Hancock resigned following revelations he had broken coronavirus restrictions during an affair with a close aide.

Jonathan Ashworth, the main opposition Labour party’s health spokesman, accused the government of double standards after millions of schoolchildren and workers were forced to stay home under Covid tracing rules.

The pilot’s exemption amounts to “an exclusive rule for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak”, he told Sky News, and the public will see “one rule for them and something else for the rest of us”.

‘Pingdemic’

Javid stressed he has received both doses of a Covid vaccine and his symptoms were “very mild”. He said any member of the public feeling symptoms should get a test too.

“If everyone plays their part, you’re not only protecting yourself and your loved ones, but you’re also safeguarding the NHS and helping to preserve our way of life,” the minister said.

However, with coronavirus cases again surging, many scientists say the government is endangering the NHS with its plan on Monday to scrap most legal pandemic requirements in England.

For the first time since January, Britain’s daily Covid caseload now exceeds 50,000, and Javid has warned the figure could double from that in the coming weeks.

But the government insists that with two-thirds of the adult population now fully vaccinated, the risk can be managed, and Monday has been dubbed “freedom day” by many UK media.

Munira Wilson, health spokeswoman for the opposition Liberal Democrats, said Javid’s test result “shows no one is safe from this deadly virus”.

Urging the government “to rethink its reckless plans for Monday”, she said: “By easing all restrictions with cases surging, they are experimenting with people’s lives.”

The surge in infections sweeping Britain led to more than 530,000 people being instructed to self-isolate by a government-run app in the week to July 7, according to latest data.

Some companies such as carmaker Nissan have been losing staff en masse after they were pinged by the app — in a brewing crisis described by UK newspapers as a “pingdemic”.

Staff shortages caused by the isolation rules disrupted the London Underground network on Saturday, with one line suspended entirely.

AFP

25 Dead In India After Drinking Toxic Liquor

Indian flag

 

At least 25 people have died after drinking toxic alcohol in northern India, police said Sunday.

Police have arrested 10 men for selling the liquor in sprawling Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

“So far 25 persons have died and a few others are admitted in the hospital and are undergoing treatment. Ten persons have been arrested,” Ajab Singh, a police spokesperson, told AFP.

Local media reported that the liquor was purchased on Thursday from a shop run by two brothers.

Liquor stores in the state had been shuttered under a coronavirus lockdown imposed to combat a devastating wave. About 160,000 people have died countrywide since April 1.

But as case numbers started to slow, Uttar Pradesh allowed liquor sales to resume in some districts on May 11 with restricted hours.

While it is unclear how the liquor in the Uttar Pradesh case was produced, hundreds of people die every year in India from cheap alcohol made in backstreet distilleries, affordable for even the poorest.

Of the estimated five billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in the country, around 40 percent is illegally produced, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India.

The liquor is often spiked with methanol — a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze — to increase its potency. If ingested, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.

Last year, 98 people died in the northern state of Punjab after drinking bootleg booze.

And in 2019, some 150 people died in northeastern Assam state, most of them tea plantation workers.

 

France To Impose Quarantine On Arrivals From Four Countries

Medical workers tend to a patient at the intensive care unit for patients infected with the Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) at the AP-HP Ambroise Pare hospital in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris on March 8, 2021. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP).

 

France will impose a 10-day quarantine on arrivals from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and South Africa over concerns about variants of the coronavirus, the prime minister’s office announced Saturday.

Although flights from Argentina, Chile, and South Africa will not be suspended, all arrivals from those countries will have to submit to the quarantine or face fines.

Flights from Brazil were suspended until at least next Friday because of concern about the P1 variant of the coronavirus, which is more contagious than the original strain and can also re-infect those who have had the original virus.

READ ALSO: Young And Infected: COVIDd-19’s New Patients As India Battles Huge Surge

Justifying the decision not to ban flights from the other three countries, Paris said that those variants had not reached the levels observed in Brazil.

The new quarantine measures will be gradually introduced over the coming days until they are fully enforced by next Saturday.

The new measures will also restrict arrivals from the named countries, mainly to French and their families as well as other EU nationals and others who are French residents.

Arrivals from French Guyane and the Antilles will also be subjected to tests before and after their flights, said the statement.

France has recently tightened restrictions in its fight against the third wave of the coronavirus, imposing an overnight curfew, closing non-essential shops, and restricting travel inside the country.

AFP

Young And Infected: COVID-19’s New Patients As India Battles Huge Surge

A health worker collects a nasal swab sample from a man to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Amritsar on April 18, 2021. Narinder NANU / AFP
A health worker collects a nasal swab sample from a man to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Amritsar on April 18, 2021. Narinder NANU / AFP

 

Ajay Singh Yadav only managed a final video call with Raj Karan before his close friend became the latest of an alarming number of young Indians, including children, falling victim to the new coronavirus wave sweeping the country.

Some doctors say the reason that under-45s are now vulnerable is that they go to work and eat out more, but there is no definitive proof.

They could also be more prone to a new “double mutant” variant found in 60 percent of samples in Maharashtra, the hardest-hit state.

Karan, 38, was campaigning in village elections when he fell ill. Yadav rushed him to a hospital, but he too tested positive and was put into isolation.

“I am devastated… I could only see him via a video call,” Yadav, 39, told AFP in the northern city of Lucknow.

The nation of 1.3 billion people has been hit by a new wave that has caused one million positive tests in a week, and authorities are rattled.

At the start of the year, India thought it had beaten the pandemic and had kicked off a mass vaccination drive.

Face masks and social distancing were cast aside and huge crowds flocked to religious festivals and election rallies.

But in hospitals, doctors started warning of a rise in cases, including a new phenomenon — younger patients — for a disease usually viewed as riskier for older adults.

Children in hospital

In a country where around 65 percent of the population is under 35, there is growing concern about the impact on the young.

New Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has said 65 percent of new patients are below 45.

India’s medical research agency does not have a demographic breakdown of cases, but doctors in major cities confirmed that more young patients are coming to hospitals.

“We are also seeing children under the ages of 12 and 15 being admitted with symptoms in the second wave. Last year there were practically no children,” said Khusrav Bajan, a consultant at Mumbai’s P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and a member of Maharashtra’s Covid-19 taskforce.

In Gujarat state, pulmonologist Amit Dave said young people were experiencing “increased severity” from coronavirus for their lungs, hearts and kidneys.

One Gujarat hospital has set up the state’s first paediatric coronavirus ward.

States across India have reported a similar increase of young patients.

In the southern IT hub of Bangalore, under-40s made up 58 percent of infections in early April, up from 46 percent last year, data aggregator Covid19india.org said.

Variants and vaccines

“I haven’t seen such a rise in cases in the last one year as I’ve seen in the last one week,” Delhi-based book publicist Tanu Dogra, 28, who was bedridden for a week after testing positive in March told AFP.

“Everybody on my timeline, on my WhatsApp, is frantically messaging each other because they’ve all tested positive.”

In Brazil — which like the rest of the world had more severe cases and deaths among the elderly during the first wave — doctors are also seeing a higher prevalence of younger patients.

Experts say more data is needed to back up the anecdotal evidence in India, with genome sequencing of samples playing a key role.

“Sequencing will tell you about the mutant that’s emerging,” added virologist Shahid Jameel.

“But it doesn’t take away from everything else that you should be doing — that is to wear a mask and avoid crowded places.”

Authorities have imposed weekend lockdowns and night curfews to stem the virus spread.

But medical professionals say India’s sluggish vaccination drive — currently limited to over-45s — should also opened up to everyone.

Their call was echoed by young Indians in Delhi, who told AFP they felt more exposed as they had to go to work, many as breadwinners for their families.

“Right now young people need (vaccines) more… I see every day that people in their early 30s are getting hospitalised,” 25-year-old pharmacist, Muzammil Ahmed, told AFP.

With hospitals overwhelmed, specialists like Venkat Ramesh, an infectious disease consultant at the Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad, said the crisis is already “severe” with worse to come.

“When I speak to my colleagues in major metropolitan cities across India, they have numerous calls from patients trying to find a bed,” Ramesh told AFP.

“I’m quite afraid for the next one month. Given the rapidity of the rise in cases, it is certainly worrying.”

AFP

COVID Death Toll Passes Three Million As India Cases Surge

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 21, 2020 Worker move a coffin with the body of a COVID-19 victim out of a refrigerated container before its cremation at the El Angel crematorium, in Lima. – The new coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 600,000 lives worldwide, an AFP tally showed July 18. (Photo by Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP)

 

 

The global COVID-19 death toll passed three million on Saturday as the pandemic speeds up despite vaccination campaigns, leading countries like India to impose new lockdowns to fight spiralling infection numbers.

It is the latest grim milestone since the novel coronavirus first surfaced in central China in December 2019 and went on to infect more than 139 million people, leaving billions more under crippling lockdowns and ravaging the global economy.

An average of more than 12,000 deaths were recorded globally every day in the past week, shooting the overall toll past three million on Saturday, according to an AFP tally.

For comparison, three million people is more than the population of Jamaica or Armenia — and three times the death toll of the Iran-Iraq war, which raged from 1980-1988.

And the pandemic is showing no sign of slowing down: the 829,596 new infections reported worldwide on Friday is the highest number yet, according to AFP’s tally.

The daily average of 731,000 cases registered over the last week is also close to being a record.

India’s capital New Delhi went into a weekend lockdown Saturday as the world’s second-most populous nation recorded 234,000 new cases and 1,341 deaths.

– South Asian ‘wake-up call’ –
India now has three times the daily cases of the United States, the world’s worst-hit nation, and families are clamouring for drugs and hospital beds.

Some doctors say they are alarmed at how many young people are now getting seriously ill — like Raj Karan, who got sick while campaigning for elections in the northern city of Luckno.

The 38-year-old died soon after.

“I am devastated… I could only see him via a video call,” his friend Ajay Singh Yadav, told AFP.

Hopes that South Asian countries might have seen the worst of the pandemic have been dashed, with India recording over two million new cases this month alone and Bangladesh and Pakistan imposing new shutdowns.

Udaya Regmi of the International Red Cross said the “truly frightening” South Asian surge was a “wake-up call to the world”.

Richer countries that have waged mass inoculation efforts have seen their virus numbers plummet.

Britain, which has given 60 percent of the population at least one vaccination dose, now records around 30 deaths a day — down from 1,200 in late January.

Olympic fears

Thailand recorded its fourth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases on Saturday, its spiralling infections linked to a nightlife district of the capital Bangkok earlier this month.

Alcohol sales will be banned in Bangkok restaurants from Sunday, while entertainment venues will be shuttered nationwide for two weeks.

In Japan, rising virus cases have stoked speculation that the Olympic Games — postponed last year due to the pandemic — could be cancelled.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, said his government was listening to experts and doing its “utmost” to prepare for the Tokyo games in July.

The virus continues to hit events around the world.

On Saturday, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II bid farewell to her husband, Prince Philip, coronavirus restrictions meant only 30 people could attend his funeral.

Family members — all masked — sat socially distanced in the church, with bottles of hand sanitiser placed among the floral tributes inside.

In Brazil, the country with the third-highest death toll in the world, night shifts have been added to several cemeteries as diggers work around the clock to bury the dead.

“We try not to get upset in our work, but it is sad, it is a lot of people,” said one gravedigger in Vila Formosa, the largest cemetery in Latin America.

More than 365,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Brazil.

Despite the high infection rates there however, the government of Brazil’s most populous state Sao Paulo announced it would allow businesses and places of worship to reopen from Sunday.

‘Cautious optimism’ in Europe

France, which banned flights from Brazil last week, on Saturday announced compulsory quarantine for anyone arriving from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and South Africa, because of concerns about their coronavirus variants.

Earlier Saturday, Spain extended the mandatory quarantine of passengers arriving from 12 countries in South America and Africa, including Brazil and South Africa.

A day after Italy announced a partial easing of coronavirus restrictions for schools and restaurants from April 26, entertainment industry workers marched in Rome Saturday calling for more state support — and a calendar for the reopening of the country’s arts venues.

In more good news for Britons after the partial reopening of society this week, Germany on Friday removed the United Kingdom from the list of risk zones for coronavirus infections, meaning that travellers will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival.

Israel announced it was scrapping the obligation to wear masks outside from Sunday.

Libya launched its vaccination drive on Saturday, prioritising the elderly and health care workers.

80,000 COVID Deaths: Germany To Mourn At Memorial

Georg Bätzing, Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK), stands in front of the altar during an ecumenical service for Germany's victims of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic at Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on April 18, 2021. Germany holds a national memorial service on April 18 for its 80,000 victims of the coronavirus pandemic, sharing the pain of grieving families and those who died alone because of Covid curbs. Gordon Welters / POOL / AFP
Georg Bätzing, Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), stands in front of the altar during an ecumenical service for Germany’s victims of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic at Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on April 18, 2021. Gordon Welters / POOL / AFP

 

Germany will hold a national memorial service on Sunday for its nearly 80,000 victims of the coronavirus pandemic, sharing the pain of grieving families and those who died alone because of Covid curbs.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will join an ecumenical service in the morning at Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a memorial against war and destruction.

They will later attend a ceremony at the capital’s Konzerthaus, where the president will make a speech.

With pandemic curbs still in force restricting the number of people who can attend, the ceremonies will be broadcast live on public television.

“As president I believe it is very important for us to stop to say goodbye in dignity to those who died during the pandemic — including those who did not fall victim to the virus but who also died in loneliness,” said Steinmeier as he announced the national service.

Besides suffering the pain of losing a loved one, restrictions in place to curb infections mean that relatives are often unable to even hold their family members’ hands as they lay dying.

Others have been left grieving on their own, as funerals or memorials are curtailed by pandemic curbs.

In a dialogue with the president earlier this year, relatives of coronavirus victims voiced their loneliness.

Michaela Mengel broke down in tears as she recalled her daughter’s last minutes as she died from the coronavirus in hospital.

“Last time I saw her alive was on Christmas Eve when I had to leave the hospital. She had oxygen piped into her nose, she looked at me with her big eyes,” Mengel told the president.

“Since she could not talk I told her, bye my dear, I love you, mama will be back.”

Steinmeier stressed that it was important to look beyond the daily victim counts.

“Behind every number, there’s a human fate,” he said.

Regional leaders urged citizens to join in the remembrance including by lighting candles by their windows from Friday to Sunday.

“We want to be aware of what we lost, but we also want to find hope and strength together,” the premiers of Germany’s 16 states said in a statement.

‘Only makes it worse’

Sunday’s ceremony comes as health authorities warn that many more will succumb to the virus, as Germany struggles to put down a vicious third wave gripping the country.

Europe’s biggest economy had come out of the first wave relatively unscathed but has struggled to take decisive action to end the current one fuelled mainly by the more contagious British variant.

Another 19,185 new infections were recorded in the last 24 hours, according to the disease control agency RKI, with the numbers of deaths also rising by 67 to 79,914.

Merkel’s government is seeking greater powers to impose tougher measures such as night-time curfews, in a bid to circumvent Germany’s powerful regional authorities, some of whom have resisted implementing tough restrictions.

But the amendment which would impose so-called “emergency brakes” still has to be approved by parliament, where opposition parties like the pro-business FDP have vowed to vote against it.

Even junior coalition partner SPD is still seeking modifications, including for people to be allowed to go on walks during curfew hours.

Merkel urged swift and decisive action.

“The virus doesn’t forgive half-hearted measures, they only make it all worse,” she told the Bundestag lower house on Friday at the start of a debate on the amended law.

“The virus doesn’t let you negotiate with it — it only understands one language, the language of resolve.”

AFP

Prince Harry Joins $1.7bn US Counseling Startup

 

Britain’s Prince Harry on Tuesday added to a growing portfolio of post-royal jobs, becoming “chief impact officer” at a San Francisco startup that provides mobile-based coaching, counseling, and mentorship.

Amid a highly public spat with Buckingham Palace, Harry and his American wife Meghan Markle, a mixed-race former television actress, now live in California after stepping away from royal duties.

An explosive interview they gave to Oprah Winfrey this month — in which they claimed an unnamed royal had asked how dark their baby’s skin would be — plunged the monarchy into its biggest crisis since the death of Harry’s mother, princess Diana, in 1997.

In his new role with BetterUp, the Duke of Sussex will champion the importance of maximizing human potential worldwide, according to chief executive Alexi Robichaux.

“I firmly believe that focusing on and prioritizing our mental fitness unlocks potential and opportunity that we never knew we had inside of us,” Prince Harry said in a BetterUp blog post.

“As the Royal Marine Commandos say, ‘It’s a state of mind.’ We all have it in us.”

READ ALSO: President Biden Calls For Assault Weapon Ban After Colorado Shooting

BetterUp’s platform combines behavioral science, artificial intelligence, and human coaching to optimize personal growth and professional development, according to the company, which last month announced it had raised $125 million in funding at a valuation of $1.73 billion.

In his new job, the prince — who said he had used the BetterUp platform himself — will not manage employees or have direct reports, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Founded in 2013, BetterUp has grown to more than 270 employees and a network of some 2,000 coaches.

A list of its clients included NASA, Chevron, Mars, Genentech, Snap, and Warner Media.

Since leaving their roles as working royals, Harry and Meghan have already signed lucrative digital media deals to capitalize on their celebrity — one to produce content for Netflix, and another to present podcasts for Spotify.

They have spoken of their desire “to do something of meaning, to do something that matters,” in California, where they have launched a wide-ranging non-profit organization named Archewell.

The couple have worked with a charity to hand out meals to chronically ill people in Los Angeles, and Markle — whose mother is Black — spoke out last year after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American killed in police custody.

Demand for coaching focused on employee well-being and development has grown “significantly” in the past year, according to BetterUp.

“Self-optimization is not about fixing something that’s broken,” Prince Harry said.

“It’s about becoming the best version of ourselves, with whatever life throws at us — someone who is ready for the next challenge and can meet setbacks with courage, confidence, and self-awareness.”

COVID-19: FG To Provide 10-Bed ICU In Every State, Says Health Minister

A file photo of the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, at a press conference in Abuja. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

The Federal Government plans to provide 10-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in every state of the Federation, as part of strategies to provide critical response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who gave an assurance that the focus on COVID-19 prevention and treatment would not wipe out the maintenance of normal routine vaccination.

He made the disclosure on Thursday in continuation of the series of presidential briefings coordinated by the Communications Team at the State House in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

This edition of the meeting focused on the health sector and plans for the smooth roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines received recently by the government.

Dr Ehanire speaks during a presidential briefing at the State House in Abuja on March 4, 2021.

 

‘Track And Trace’

According to Ehanire, the Federal Ministry of Health intends to develop as a matter of urgency the nation’s emergency medical service to respond to persons with medical distress.

He stressed the need to continue with the public health measures, insisting that there was no specific treatment for COVID-19 but trials to improve therapeutics.

READ ALSO: Nigeria To Begin COVID-19 Vaccination On Friday

On her part, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mojisola Adeyeye, announced that the agency would soon commence a ‘track and trace’ exercise.

She explained that this was to mitigate and potentially halt the infiltration of falsified and sub-standard COVID-19 vaccines already detected in the global supply chain.

Adeyeye noted that an indigenous software was also being employed to check the authenticity of received products.

She revealed that NAFDAC was collaborating with the Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ensure safe monitoring of medicines in the market.

 

Buhari, Osinbajo, Others To Take Vaccine

The Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who was also present at the briefing, noted that Thursday made it exactly a year and five days since COVID-19 was identified in the country.

He stated that Nigeria has since maintained a robust response to the pandemic and called for the sustenance of critical investment to the health sector to consolidate on the gains achieved in the last one year.

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

 

For the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, an improved percentage of 50 per cent of Nigerians have indicated willingness to be vaccinated while 25 per cent remained hesitant.

He reiterated that vaccines would not be deployed to any state that has not fulfilled its preparedness criteria.

The NPHCDA boss hinted that the President, Muhammadu Buhari, and the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, would get their vaccine shots on Saturday.

While he said the actual time for the inoculation of the two leaders would be communicated soon, he hinted that members of the Federal Executive Council would be vaccinated on Monday.

Nigeria Expected To Receive COVID-19 Vaccines By March – Health Minister

 

The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire has said that Nigeria is expecting to receive its first batch of the COVID-19 vaccines by the beginning of March.

Mr Ehanire said this on Wednesday while addressing journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja.

The Federal Government had said last week that Nigeria would receive four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine very soon.

But speaking of when they will be delivered, the health minister said; “that is not in our hands. It is the hand of the person who is bringing it to us”.

He also noted that about 70% of the population is expected to be inoculated within two years.

Read Also: Ghana Receives World’s First Doses Of Free Covax Vaccines

“We have been told to open an account with Afreximbank under the African Union; we have done that already successfully because we are going to pay for that part of the vaccine. The COVAX vaccine is free, at no cost to us, it is made from donations.

“We want to immunise about 60 to 70% of our population. If COVAX immunises 20, then we have about 40 to 50 to immunise within the next two years. So, we have to pay for that minus any donations that we get like the MTN donation, for example, all those ones reduce the quantities that we have to purchase or any other that in future are given to us free of charge.

“Now, the COVAX will start delivering to African countries before the end of February; that’s what they told us.

“But they didn’t tell us which country is first or which is second, which is third. So, COVAX begins to deliver before the end of February. And we hope that before the end of this month, it would be our turn or latest by beginning of next month.”

The minister’s comments come on the same day that Ghana became the first country to receive vaccines from Covax, a global scheme to procure and distribute Covid inoculations for free for poorer countries.

The 600,000 doses delivered to Ghana were the Oxford/AstraZeneca formula, made under license by the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India.

As of December 2020, the minister had said that Nigerians should expect to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of January 2021.

The Governor of Ekiti State and the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi, had also said the country is expected to procure a total of 140 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine within the next two years.

WHO Mission Member Says ‘Don’t Rely’ On US Virus Intelligence Health

Peter Daszak and other members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, leave the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province on February 3, 2021. Hector RETAMAL / AFP
Peter Daszak and other members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, leave the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province on February 3, 2021. Hector RETAMAL / AFP

 

A member of the WHO mission to China exploring the origins of the coronavirus pandemic took a swipe Wednesday at US intelligence on the issue, after the State Department cast doubt on the transparency of their probe.

President Joe Biden “has to look tough on China”, expert Peter Daszak said in a tweet as the mission ended, adding: “Please don’t rely too much on US intel: increasingly disengaged under Trump & frankly wrong on many aspects.”

AFP

State House Clinic To Get COVID-19 Testing Laboratory – PTF

 

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, has said that a COVID-19 testing laboratory will soon be established at the State House Clinic.

Mustapha said this on Tuesday in Abuja during the commissioning of State House Clinic Special Care Centre (COVID-19 Isolation Centre).

According to the SGF, the Buhari administration is using the challenges posed by the pandemic as an opportunity to change Nigeria’s health infrastructure.

He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving resources for new health infrastructure, noting that through the PTF the 2021 budget made provision for the establishment of at least one oxygen production plant in all the States of the Federation, as well as a 10-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facility.

‘‘From just two molecular laboratories for the testing of COVID-19 in Nigeria, we now have over 100 molecular laboratories, public and private, across the 36 States of the Federation

‘‘I want to commend the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, the Permanent Secretary, Mr Tijjani Umar and the State House management under whose leadership this beautiful edifice is being commissioned.

‘‘I am confident that when the Minister of Health visits, whatever he decides, I can give you my word that we will put a laboratory for testing or a PCR facility in State House Clinic. This is supposed to be our priority.

‘‘I will also speak to the Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, who has the primary responsibility of resourcing, setting up and accrediting laboratories because we need it here,” he said.

On the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines to be procured for Nigeria, Mustapha said the Federal Government will continue to encourage Nigerians to get vaccinated, when the time comes, because ‘‘the vaccines are safe, effective and for our benefit.’’

According to him, ‘‘We will appeal and explain to our people that if you do not take the vaccine, the danger of falling terribly sick and eventually dying is there.

‘‘We will be blunt to them that if you don’t take the COVID-19 vaccine, you may not be able to go anywhere in the world, very soon. Even when you want to go and perform your spiritual obligation, that will be subjected to your COVID-19 status.’’

The PTF Chairman also dismissed conspiracy theories concerning the vaccines, saying ‘‘I don’t believe anyone will spend billions of dollars in manufacturing vaccines in order to kill us in Africa.’’

In his remarks, Prof. Gambari, who described the Permanent Secretary, State House as ‘‘indefatigable,’’ noted that the idea for the special centre was conceived and completed within 10 weeks.

‘‘This is the State House Clinic and in many ways it should be the Centre of Excellence and people should be able to get the best from this facility,’’ he said.

Prof. Gambari appealed to Nigerians to comply with COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions, including the wearing of face masks, washing of hands, social distancing, avoidance of large congregations and non-essential travels.

‘‘It may interest you to know that since my appointment into this position in May 2020, I have not been to Ilorin, Kwara State, my hometown.

‘‘Unfortunately, the non-pharmaceutical intervention is not being taken seriously there. The people in Ilorin and upwards think COVID-19 is a rich-man and powerful-people disease.

‘‘But as Mr President often says, COVID-19 is a respecter of nobody. Rich and poor, powerful or weak, all of us must respond to this very effectively.

‘‘For me who sees the President many times in a day, I have to take responsibility and if that involves giving up going to the town of my birth, so be it.’’

The Chief of Staff also urged Nigerians to embrace the COVID-19 vaccine, adding that Nigerians must do whatever it takes to protect themselves.

‘‘The Latin says mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body. To keep your body healthy, you have to have a healthy mind and a healthy mind is what is necessary to keep you and your family safe,’’ he said.

In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary thanked the SGF and the Chief of Staff for the support towards upgrading the standard of the clinic.

‘‘The first responsibility of the State House Clinic is to give medical service to our number one principal, the President and Commander-in-Chief and his family, the Vice President and his family and this we have been striving to do,’’ he said.

He added that since the outbreak of the second wave of the pandemic, the State House has ensured regular testing of all staff including, media, protocol, security and other civil servants.

Making a case for testing centre in the State House Clinic, Umar said: ‘‘I understand how our staff has been running from pillar to post, going to Gwagwalada and Asokoro trying to get tested. If we do it here, it will be more convenient, confidential and a lot easier for all of us.’’