North Macedonia Minister Resigns After Deadly COVID-19 Clinic Fire

Police and firefighters inspect the scene at a Covid-19 clinic after a fire broke out, in Tetovo, North Macedonia on September 8, 2021. Photo by Arbnora MEMETI / AFP.

 

North Macedonia’s health minister on Friday offered his resignation after an explosion and a fire ripped through a hospital treating coronavirus patients killing 14 people

“The tragedy in Tetovo affected me very much… as a doctor and minister I presented, for ethical reasons, my resignation to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev,” Venko Filipce told reporters in Skopje.

Deputy Health Minister Ilir Hasani and two hospital directors have already resigned over the blaze.

It was not yet known if the premier would accept the latest resignation.


Twelve patients and two visitors died in the blaze which broke out late on Wednesday at a temporary building joined to the main hospital in Tetovo, west of the capital Skopje.

READ ALSO: Four COVID-19 Patients Killed As Fire Engulfs Hospital In Romania

The youngest victim was aged 29, the oldest 79.

North Macedonia has reported a rise in coronavirus infections recently, with the daily death toll reaching around 30.

It has recorded more than 6,100 fatalities in total since the start of the pandemic.

Covid-19 hospitals in other countries have been hit by explosions followed by fires.

In Iraq, dozens of people were killed in fires that occurred after oxygen cylinders exploded in April and July.

AFP

Pope To Spend Few More Days In Hospital After Operation

This handout photo taken on May 5, 2021, and released by the Vatican press office, the Vatican Media, shows Pope Francis during his live streamed weekly audience at The Vatican.
Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP

 

Pope Francis will spend a few more days in hospital following his colon surgery, the Vatican said Monday, adding that the football-mad pontiff was cheered by Argentina and Italy’s weekend victories.

Francis will “remain hospitalised for a few more days in order to optimise the medical and rehabilitation therapy,” spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

The 84-year old underwent planned surgery for inflammation of the colon on July 4. The following day, the Vatican said he was expected to stay at least seven days at Rome’s Gemelli University Hospital.

It was not clear if Francis, who loves football but goes to bed early, stayed up to watch the European championship final between Italy and England, which his adopted homeland won on penalties.

But he likely heard the celebratory fireworks and raucous beeps from cars and scooters across Rome.

The Argentine pope has spent much of his recovery period pacing the hospital’s corridors. His mood is likely to have been lifted Saturday by Argentina’s win over hosts Brazil in the Copa America final.

Francis was “sharing the joy for the victory of the Argentine and Italian national teams with the people close to him”, Bruni said.

And in doing so he had “dwelt on the meaning of sport and its values, and on the sporting ability to accept any result, even defeat”, he said.

“Only in this way, in the face of life’s difficulties, is it possible to always put yourself out there, fighting without giving up, with hope and trust,” Francis was quoted as saying.

– Sunday Angelus from hospital –

On Sunday, the pope greeted well wishers from his balcony on the hospital’s 10th floor, where he delivered the Angelus prayer, thanking them for their support “from the bottom of my heart”.

He had earlier visited children in the nearby cancer ward, some of whom then went with him to the balcony and stood by him, Bruni said.

He was photographed Sunday looking cheerful in a wheelchair as he greeted staff and a fellow patient.

Francis is in the same suite used by Pope John Paul II — who also lead the Angelus prayer from there — and has celebrated mass in the apartment’s private chapel with those looking after him.

The pontiff temporarily ran a fever last week after his operation for “severe diverticular stenosis with signs of sclerosing diverticulitis”.

But a chest and abdomen scan and other tests revealed no particular abnormalities.

Diverticula are small bulges or pockets that develop in the lining of the intestine. Diverticulitis occurs when they become inflamed or infected.

Sclerosis is normally defined as a hardening of tissue.

 

Kaduna Revenue Service Seals Hotels, Hospital Over N22m Tax Liabilities

Officials of the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service seal three hotels and a hospital.

 

The Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service has sealed three hotels and a hospital over N22.2 million tax liabilities.

According to the service, the affected facilities which are located in the state capital were owing the Kaduna government between N12million, N2.8 million; N347,000 and N7million tax respectively.

Legal Adviser of the Kaduna Internal Revenue service, Aisha Mohammed, who is also the leader of the enforcement team, says the service had obtained court orders to seal the hotels and hospital for defaulting despite several notifications, adding that the businesses will remain sealed until they settle their outstanding debts.

 

A file photo of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
A file photo of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.

 

She explained that the action is in line with the provisions of Section 104 (3) and (4) of the Personal Income Tax (Amendment) Act, 2011 and Section 37 (3) and (4) of Kaduna State Tax Codification and Consolidation Law, 2020, as amended.

According to her, the tax liabilities are based on assessment from 2012 to 2018, and the Service has served them notice several times but they refused to oblige.

The Legal Adviser, however, admonished other business operators in the state to settle their outstanding tax liabilities or be ready to face the same treatment.

Four COVID-19 Patients Killed As Fire Engulfs Hospital In Romania

 

At least four people died Friday after a fire broke out in Romania’s main hospital treating Covid-19 patients, officials told AFP.

Three patients were found dead at the Matei Bals hospital in Bucarest and a fourth died despite attempts at resuscitation, state secretary of the Ministry of Interior Raed Arafat told reporters.

The fire reportedly broke out on the ground floor around 5:00am (0300 GMT), said Orlando Schiopu, head of the inspectorate for emergency situations.

Four wards were affected and 102 people had been evacuated and transferred to other hospitals, he added.

Romania is still reeling from a similar tragedy in November when ten people suffering from Covid-19 died in a fire in an intensive care unit of a hospital in the northeastern town of Piatra Neamt.

Five others injured in the fire later died of their injuries.

The prosecutor general has opened an enquiry into the tragedy, while the health ministry has suggested the fire could have been caused by an electrical short circuit.

The incident sparked wider safety warnings in a country marked by crumbling infrastructure and a culture of makeshift repairs.

The country of 19 million is one of the poorest in the European Union and is trying to manage the Covid-19 pandemic with a dilapidated and understaffed health system.

AFP

Hope And Despair In Locked Down European Hospitality Sector

Karin Hildebrand, a doctor in an intensive care unit (ICU) in Stockholm’s Sodersjukhuset hospital walks in a corridor before treating patients with COVID-19 on June 11, 2020, during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

 

As coronavirus lockdowns are extended across Europe, protests have flared in its hard-hit hospitality sector, along with warnings that many businesses are on the verge of extinction.

Four voices from around the continent detail the impact of the crisis on struggling firms.

– ‘Never give up’ –

In Vienna, a recent protest dubbed “five minutes to twelve” was organised to highlight how close many such businesses are to collapse.

One who took part was Christina Hummel, 44, and the third generation of her family to run the Cafe Hummel in Vienna’s Josefstadt district.

Many in the sector feel “fobbed off from week to week” by changes to government policy and are finding it impossible to plan, she says.

As to whether she would consider opening in defiance of the law, Hummel says that’s out of the question.

“First and foremost I’m a mother of a six-year-old son and I’m responsible for 30 families in my business — I wouldn’t do anything which would get me into trouble or mean I would have to pay a fine,” she says.

“I’m no Covid denier or conspiracy theorist, we know it’s a drastic situation at the moment in the hospitals.”

READ ALSO: UK To Impose Hotel Quarantine For Returning Britons

She rejects the label of “rage restaurateurs” that parts of the press have given protesting cafe and restaurant owners, describing herself instead as someone who is “passionate about hospitality”.

In the long term, Hummel is optimistic, however.

“Viennese cafe culture has already been through crises. This Viennese way of life will never be defeated; as the saying goes: ‘A real Viennese never gives up’.”

– ‘I will never bow’ –

A more militant attitude is found in the Czech Republic with former rightwing politician Jiri Janacek, who now manages the Maly Janek brewery and restaurant in Jince, a small town about 40 kilometres (25 miles) southwest of Prague.

He has organised protests against restrictions together with other pub owners and re-opened Maly Janek on December 9.

It has remained open ever since in defiance of lockdown, despite visits from the police and a fine from the public health authorities.

“I will never bow to government restrictions,” vows Janacek, promising not to “stop until the government stops harming this country”.

Janacek says he “ran out of patience with the government when it changed the rules three times within a single week”.

He dismisses the danger of infections spreading through businesses such as his.

“There is no sophisticated research, no study that would fully prove this,” he insists.

– ‘Already too late’ –

In Geneva, Laurent Terlinchamp, president of the Swiss city’s hospitality industry association, sketches out the dire situation the industry finds itself in.

“We wait for help which never comes, promises which are never kept, and the little help which does arrive is trivial,” he says of the official response.

Terlinchamp describes his members as being in a state of “despair”, adding: “For 30 percent of them, which in Geneva is the equivalent of 600 businesses, it’s already too late.”

He says his members need more concrete information from the authorities to protect their livelihoods.

“The important thing for me is to know when we can open again under viable conditions” and in the meantime to receive help that means “I won’t lose my life… my passion”.

– ‘Help and tolerance’ –

Later this week in Sofia, restaurant and bar owners are planning a “march towards freedom” after the government failed to set a reopening date for them.

One of the organisers is Martin Mihaylov, 41, who has managed some of the Bulgarian capital’s most popular music clubs for more than two decades and currently runs three bars.

“I cannot think of a time when the authorities have given a deadline and then gone on to meet it,” he says. “We can no longer put up with this treatment.

“It is not pleasant for us to resort to breaking the law but at some point we might have to do it because we don’t see any support from the state.”

Government help “has been greatly delayed”, he added.

Mihaylov praised “the help and tolerance” of his creditors, “including our landlords”.

“We continue to amass debt and know very well that whenever we reopen, the recovery will be very slow.”

California Ends Wide Lockdown As COVID-19 Hospital Strain Eases

File: (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

 

California lifted blanket “stay-at-home” orders across the US state Monday, paving the way for activities including outdoor dining to return even in worst-hit regions as the pandemic’s strain on hospitals begins to ease.

The western state has suffered one of the nation’s worst winter Covid spikes, with hospital intensive care units overwhelmed, ambulances backed up for hours at a time, and cases more than doubling since December to over three million.

The “stay-at-home” measures were ordered for some 20 million people in southern and central California since December 3, but public health director Tomas Aragon said the state was now “turning a critical corner.”

“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” the state’s health secretary Mark Ghaly wrote in a statement.

“Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared.”

The decision to end the sweeping regional measures — which included blanket bans on gatherings and “non-essential” activities, and closed outdoor dining and personal care businesses such as hair salons — is based on forecasts for intensive care unit capacities improving across all California regions.

Latest ICU capacity in southern California is currently at zero percent, but with daily new cases falling sharply, projections show more than 15 percent will be available within four weeks.

But previous restrictions based on individual county conditions will return, meaning bans will remain on dozens of activities including bars, indoor dining and live sport crowds in most counties.

Individual counties can choose to impose stricter rules than the state requires, meaning severely affected regions including Los Angeles may even opt to retain current restrictions.

Los Angeles officials did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

California has recorded more than 3.06 million Covid-19 cases, including almost 36,000 deaths.

The state has delivered just under 1.8 million vaccine doses so far, having converted sites including Disneyland and the Dodger baseball stadium in Los Angeles into mass inoculation centers.

Jordan Opens First COVID-19 Field Hospital

People wait at the main entrance of the Prince Hashem bin Hussein field hospital, Jordan’s first Covid-19 field hospital, in the city of Zarqa, 25 Km (15 miles) east of the capital Amman on December 8, 2020. (Photo by Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)

 

Jordan has opened the first of three field hospitals for Covid-19 patients, northeast of the capital, as a sharp rise in cases has overburdened health facilities.

The hospital admitted its first patients on Monday, said the interim director-general of medical services in the kingdom Brigadier General Nidal Khasawneh, cited by official media.

The 300-bed hospital was erected in two weeks in the northern Zarqa province, around 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the capital Amman, at a cost of around $12 million.

Two other field hospitals for Covid-19 patients are due to open soon in the central and southern regions of the kingdom, government spokesman Ali al-Ayed has said.

The three hospitals together will have more than 1,000 beds, including 180 for intensive care.

Facing a sharp increase in cases, Jordan’s private hospitals were mobilised last month to take on patients from overburdened public medical centres.

Jordan has recorded more than 244,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, including 3,116 deaths, according to official figures published on Monday.

Over 1,600 people with Covid-19 are currently in hospital in Jordan, 403 of whom are in intensive care.

“The curve of infections is stable but we are still at the heart of the battle,” said Health Minister Nazir Obeidat.

In an effort to curb the spread of the virus, authorities imposed a nationwide night-time curfew from 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) to 6:00 am, with a 24 hour curfew in place on Fridays.

Education institutions remain shuttered and classes are being held online, while gatherings for weddings and funerals have been banned. Leisure areas, swimming pools and cinemas have also been closed.

Health ministry official Wael al-Hayajne expressed hope Sunday the kingdom would receive the first vaccines against Covid-19 in early 2021.

AFP

Madrid Inaugurates Huge New ‘Pandemic’ Hospital

General view taken of the Enfermera Isabel Zendal new hospital on its inauguration day in Madrid, on December 01, 2020. Madrid inaugurated a huge, controversial new hospital built in just three months and capable of treating more than 1,000 patients during a health emergency. 
OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 

Madrid on Tuesday inaugurated a huge, controversial new hospital built in just three months and capable of treating more than 1,000 patients during a health emergency.

The Isabel Zendal complex, which covers 80,000 square metres (860,000 square feet) cost nearly 100 million euros ($120 million).

Its purpose is to ease pressure on hospitals in the Madrid region, which has suffered one of the most deadly outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

Isabel Diaz Ayuso, the conservative leader of Madrid’s regional government who kicked off the project, attended the opening of the vast complex near Barajas airport on the city’s eastern flanks.

Wires could be seen dangling from the ceiling of the still-empty hospital, with the first patients expected to arrive next week.

So far, the region has recruited 116 medical staff to work there, but has not said whether it intends to contract more.

The hospital “is adapted to suit any situation we might go through” said Diaz Ayuso, indicating its intensive care unit would be “the most advanced in Madrid”.

Set to open in stages, Isabel Zendal will be mainly used to reduce pressure on other hospitals so they can gradually recover non-Covid-19 activity, from waiting lists to surgeries and medical care consultations, the region said last week.

But the hospital’s construction has sparked opposition, with dozens of healthcare professionals demonstrating outside the new building to criticise a project they say is “useless” at a cost that came in twice the initial budget.

“They’re inaugurating a hospital which we see as unnecessary. There are unused beds in other hospitals,” said Olga Álvarez, a lab technician at the city’s Gregorio Maranon hospital and member of the MATS health workers union.

The money used to build Isabel Zendal could have been funnelled into resources that were “really necessary like contact tracers, personnel or material,” she added.

“A public hospital can’t be bad news for anyone, except for those with a political agenda,” remarked Diaz Ayuso, pointedly referring to the absence from the opening of Salvador Illa, health minister in Spain’s leftwing government.

The Madrid region’s hospitals were overwhelmed during the first wave, prompting the military to set up a vast field hospital in an exhibition centre to cope with soaring patient numbers.

Spain has been badly hit by the pandemic, so far counting more than 1.6 million cases and losing over 45,000 lives.

Of those figures, one in four deaths occurred in the Madrid region as well as just over a fifth of all infections.

US Authorities Warn Of ‘Imminent’ Cyber Threat To Hospitals

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 1, 2020 a health professional works at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward where patients infected with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are being treated, at the Santa Casa hospital in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. – Massive amounts of government emergency funds to fight the pandemic say are being stolen in the world’s second-hardest-hit country, experts saym as the rush to respond to COVID-19 is sideswiped by an older, endemic disease: corruption. Brazil has a long history of graft scandals. But even by Brazilian standards, the scope of the accusations is outrageous. Even football superstar Neymar got dragged in. His name and personal data were used to register for the 600-real monthly stimulus payments the federal government is paying poor Brazilians hit hard by lockdown measures. (Photo by Douglas MAGNO / AFP)

 

US security authorities warned Wednesday of an “imminent cybercrime threat” to hospitals and healthcare providers, urging them to increase their protection.

An advisory released by the FBI and two other government agencies said they had “credible information” that hackers were targeting the healthcare sector using malware, “often leading to ransomware attacks, data theft, and the disruption of healthcare services.”

The threat comes as US hospitals grapple with rising numbers of coronavirus cases, during a pandemic which has so far killed more than 226,000 people in the country.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software used by cybercriminals to encrypt users’ files until a ransom is paid.

Healthcare institutions have been frequent victims of ransomware for several years in the US and globally.

Last month, a suspected ransomware attack disrupted patient care at a large chain of hospitals and clinics operating in the United States and Britain.

In 2017, the UK’s national healthcare system was one of the victims in a wave of global ransomware attacks, prompting some of its hospitals to divert ambulances and scrap operations.

The federal agencies urged US healthcare providers to take “timely and reasonable precautions” to protect their networks.

They encouraged healthcare providers to patch their operating systems, software and firmware as soon as possible, and to conduct antivirus and anti-malware scans regularly.

The agencies also recommended changing passwords regularly and using multi-factor authentication.

 

Navalny Says Merkel Visited Him In Berlin Hospital

Alexei Navalny
This handout picture posted on September 23, 2020 on the Instagram account of @navalny shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny sitting on a bench in Berlin. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who the West believes was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent, has been discharged from hospital after a month, his doctors in Berlin said on September 23, 2020.
Handout / Instagram account @navalny / AFP

 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Monday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited him at a Berlin hospital where he was treated after being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

“I am very grateful to Chancellor Merkel for visiting me at the hospital,” the anti-corruption campaigner wrote on Twitter following reports of the meeting in German media.

The 44-year-old Kremlin critic was discharged from Charite hospital in Berlin last week after receiving treatment over several weeks for exposure to Novichok.

He fell ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August in what his allies say was a state-sanctioned attack — labs in France, Germany and Sweden confirmed he had been poisoned.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that Merkel had visited Navalny in what it described as a “secret” meeting at Charite hospital that underscored the Chancellor’s personal commitment to Navalny’s case.

Navalny confirmed the meeting but argued the label “secret” was not accurate, saying: “Rather, a private meeting and conversation with the family.”

The Kremlin has denied allegations of involvement in the poisoning and accused Western leaders of launching a disinformation campaign over the opposition leader’s illness.

Russia insists medical tests carried out by doctors in Omsk found no poison in Navalny’s body. It says it lacks grounds for a criminal investigation, despite international calls for a transparent probe.

Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh has said the Kremlin critic plans to return to Russia but will remain in Germany until he has recovered.

AFP

Aisha Buhari Returns From UAE Medical Trip, Advocates Improved Healthcare Services

This picture, released on August 22, 2020, shows the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, arriving the country from Dubai.
This picture, released on August 22, 2020, shows the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, arriving the country from Dubai.

 

Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari, on Saturday announced her return from medical treatment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while calling for healthcare providers to improve the capacity of the country’s health sector and reduce foreign medical trips.

In a statement signed by her and obtained by Channels Television, the First Lady said healthcare providers should take advantage of the Federal Government’s N100bn credit support for the health sector in order to ramp up capacity.

Channels Television had earlier reported Mrs. Buhari’s exit from the country on August 8, although her office did not confirm the news at the time.

Officials of the Nigerian Airforce pose with First Lady, Aisha Buhari, in this photo released on August 22, 2020.
Officials of the Nigerian Airforce pose with First Lady, Aisha Buhari, in this photo released on August 22, 2020.

 

In her Saturday statement, Mrs Buhari thanked Nigerians for their prayers and well-wishes and also extended gratitude to the men and women of the Nigerian Airforce who facilitated her journey back to Nigeria.

 

READ MRS BUHARI’S FULL STATEMENT:

I want to use this opportunity to thank all Nigerians for their prayers and well wishes while I was away for medical treatment in the United Arabs Emirates (UAE). I am well now and fully recovered and had since returned back home, Nigeria.

On our way back, the Nigerian Airforce Flight encountered a violent clear air turbulence which was navigated safely and professionally by the Captain and crew of the Flight.

I want to commend and appreciate the courage and professionalism of the Captain and his crew, the wonderful gallant service men and women of the entire Nigerian Airforce for their dedication to duty and the quality of maintainance of its Fleet.

I recall hosting the private healthcare Providers earlier in the year and we had a very productive engagement where the issue of building the capacity of Nigeria health sector was the major focus, and funding was discovered to be the major challenge.

I therefore call on the healthcare providers to take the advantage of the Federal Government’s initiative through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) guidelines for the operation of NGN100 Billion Credit Support for the Healthcare Sector as was released recently contained in a circular dated March 25, 2020 to the Commercial Banks. This will no doubt help in building and expanding the capacity of the Nigerian health sector and ultimately reduce medical trips and tourism outside the Country.

Once again, I thank our frontline workers, and all Nigerians for their steadfast as we navigate the challenges facing the entire world.

Aisha Muhammadu Buhari
First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria
August 22, 2020

Nasarawa Govt Distributes N300m Worth Of Equipment To Hospitals

File Photo of Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule

 

The Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule, has commenced the distribution of hospital equipment worth over 300 hundred million Naira to General Hospitals and Primary Health Care Centres across the state.

Engineer Sule flagged-off the distribution of the hospital equipment at a ceremony in Lafia, on Wednesday.

According to the Governor, the hospital equipment was procured through the Save One Million Lives Programme, a World Bank/Federal Government initiative, in collaboration with the state government, to tackle some of the challenges in the health sector especially maternal and child mortality.

He disclosed that the hospital equipment will be distributed across the three senatorial zones of the state, in order to expand access to essential quality health care delivery, especially for women and children.

Handing over the equipment to the State Hospitals Management Board, at a ceremony on Wednesday, Governor Sule said the initiative was a deliberate effort towards injecting a new life in the health sector considering the upsurge in the confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The Governor added that the state government would continue to support development partners to ensure quality health care service delivery.

State Commissioner for Health, Pharmacist Ahmed Baba Yahaya, in his remarks,  pointed out that the distribution of the hospital equipment would go a long way in addressing the difficulties women and children especially in the rural areas past through to access medical attention.

The hospital equipment was made up of five units of 4D scanner machine, weighing scales, beds, mattresses and face masks among others.