Fire Guts Shopping Mall In Lagos

The scene of the fire outbreak in the Victoria Island area of Lagos State.

 

Fire on Wednesday gutted a part of the shopping complex on Ligali Ayorinde Street in the Victoria Island area of Lagos State.

Channels Television gathered that the inferno started in the early hours of Wednesday in one of the shops where combustible items such as tyres and car batteries were stored.

READ ALSO: 174 Stranded Nigerians Return From Libya

The South-West Coordinator, National Emergency Management Agency, Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, confirmed the incident.

He said the fire has been brought under control after officials of the state and Federal Fire Services battled to put it out.

The cause of the inferno, which lasted for hours before it was contained, is yet to be ascertained.

“The fire incident happened at a shopping centre but it has been handled by Federal and state fire services,” Farinloye said.

According to the NEMA Coordinator, an investigation was ongoing and the report would be made available upon completion.

Cases of fire outbreaks are common in Nigeria’s commercial capital. On April 13, a fire incident occurred in the Maryland area of Lagos that made people to panic.

The incident caused gridlock in the area as passengers, residents and passers-by scampered to safety.

780 Monkeypox Outbreak Cases – WHO

This handout picture depicts the dorsal surfaces of a monkeypox case in a patient who was displaying the appearance of the characteristic rash during its recuperative stage. Photo: AFP

 

The World Health Organization said Sunday that 780 laboratory-confirmed monkeypox cases had been reported to it from 27 non-endemic countries, while maintaining that the global risk level was moderate.

The WHO said the 780 figure, for cases from May 13 to Thursday, was probably an underestimate due to limited epidemiological and laboratory information.

“It is highly likely that other countries will identify cases and there will be further spread of the virus,” the UN health agency added.

Few hospitalisations have been reported, apart from patients being isolated.

The WHO listed the non-endemic countries reporting the most cases as Britain (207), Spain (156), Portugal (138), Canada (58) and Germany (57).

Besides Europe and North America, cases have also been reported — in single figures — in Argentina, Australia, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

One case of monkeypox in a non-endemic country is considered an outbreak.

READ ALSO: Saudi Eyes Tripling Of Foreign Tourists In 2022

“Some countries are reporting that new generations of cases are no longer appearing only among known contacts of previously confirmed cases, suggesting that chains of transmission are being missed through undetected circulation of the virus,” the WHO said.

“Although the current risk to human health and for the general public remains low, the public health risk could become high if this virus exploits the opportunity to establish itself in non-endemic countries as a widespread human pathogen,” it said in a disease outbreak update.

“WHO assesses the risk at the global level as moderate considering this is the first time that many monkeypox cases and clusters are reported concurrently in non-endemic and endemic countries.”

– Atypical cases –

Most reported cases so far have been presented through sexual health or other health services and have mainly involved men who have sex with men, said the WHO.

The organisation said many cases were not presenting with the classical clinical picture for monkeypox: some have described having pustules appear before symptoms such as fever, and having lesions at different stages of development — both of which are atypical.

The WHO said there had been no deaths associated with outbreaks in non-endemic countries, but cases and deaths continue to be reported from endemic areas.

The WHO listed the endemic states as Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gabon and Ivory Coast, plus Ghana where it has been identified in animals only.

From the first seven of those countries, 66 deaths were reported in the first five months of 2022.

Last week the WHO convened virtually more than 500 experts and over 2,000 participants to discuss monkeypox knowledge gaps and research priorities.

Experts stressed the need for clinical studies of vaccines and treatments to better understand their effectiveness, and called for faster research into the disease epidemiology and transmission.

AFP

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.

Guinea Declares End Of Marburg Virus Outbreak, Says WHO

A picture of the billboard of the World Health Organization (WHO)

 

Guinea has declared the end of an outbreak of the Marburg virus, which belongs to the same family as Ebola, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

Health authorities in the country confirmed West Africa’s first recorded case of Marburg on August 9, in a man whose infection was detected after he had died a week earlier.

No treatment or vaccine exists for Marburg, which belongs to the same filovirus family as Ebola and is somewhat less deadly.

Its symptoms include high fever and internal and external bleeding.

To prevent the spread of the virus, Guinean health authorities began monitoring the Marburg victim’s contact cases.

The WHO said in a statement that no other cases had been detected since, and the outbreak is over.

“Without immediate and decisive action, highly infectious diseases like Marburg can easily get out of hand,” the statement quoted WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti as saying.

She added that Guinea’s growing expertise in responding to viral outbreaks had prevented a “spillover” and saved lives.

A poor nation of 13 million people, Guinea was hit hard by the 2013-16 West African Ebola outbreak, which killed about 2,300 people in the country.

Ebola resurfaced in northeastern Guinea in February, killing 12 people, before that outbreak was declared over in June.

AFP

African National Teams Set To Resume Playing In October

File Photo

 

African national teams are set to resume playing this October, according to CAF, with a nine-day window available for friendly matches ahead of 2022 Cup of Nations qualifiers one month later.

No international matches have been possible in the continent this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, leading to new dates for both Cup of Nations and 2022 World Cup eliminators.

Clubs have also been badly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak with the semi-finals and finals of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup, originally set for May, yet to be played.

Here, AFP Sport updates the positions regarding the main national team and club competitions in Africa.

World Cup

The two-leg preliminary round was completed last year before the pandemic took hold, leaving 40 contenders for five places at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

African champions Algeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia are seeded to win the 10 first-round groups.

Only Mali among the 10 favourites have not qualified before and the Eagles could face strong competition from Uganda and Kenya in Group D for the single final-round place.

Dates: First round: May 31-June 15 2021, Aug 30-Sept 7, Oct 4-12 (all two matchdays); play-offs: Nov 8-16 (two legs)

Africa Cup of Nations

Qualifying for the 2022 tournament in Cameroon will resume this November with two matchdays and be completed with two further rounds next March.

The biggest surprise during the opening two matchdays was the lacklustre form of record seven-time champions Egypt, who could only draw with Kenya and the Comoros.

Those setbacks left the Pharaohs, whose star is Liverpool sharpshooter Mohamed Salah, third in the Group G table ahead of home and away clashes with unpredictable Togo this year.

Dates: Nov 9-17, Mar 22-30 2021 (both two matchdays)

African Nations Championship

The biennial tournament for footballers playing in their country of birth was among the first victims of coronavirus and has been rescheduled for January in Cameroon.

Four venues in Douala, Limbe and Yaounde will host the 16 teams over 22 days with Morocco hoping to become the first nation to win back-to-back titles.

Togo will be the only debutants, having shocked 2019 runners-up Nigeria 4-3 on aggregate. Other casualties of regional qualifying included Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Dates: January 2021 (dates to be announced)

CAF Champions League

The semi-finalists come from Egypt and Morocco, the first and third most successful countries in CAF club competitions with 34 and 17 titles respectively.

After considerable tinkering, CAF decided to stage two-leg semi-finals, with the venue for the single-match final dependant on who qualifies.

A Raja Casablanca-Wydad Casablanca final will be in Morocco, an Ahly-Zamalek final in Egypt and a neutral venue will be chosen should the title decider involve a club from each nation.

Dates: Semi-finals, first legs – Sept 25/26, second legs – Oct 2/3; final – single match date, venue to be announced

CAF Confederation Cup

The format for the African equivalent of the Europa League will differ from the CAF Champions League with single matches deciding both the semi-finals and the final.

Morocco will stage the ‘final four’ tournament and two clubs from the kingdom, Renaissance Berkane and Hassania Agadir, meet at the penultimate stage.

African debutants Pyramids of Egypt are in the other semi-final against Horoya of Guinea, the only non-north African survivors in either club competition.

Dates: Semi-finals – Sept 22; final – Sept 27 (all single matches hosted by Morocco).

AFP

UK PM Johnson Pledges ‘Infrastructure Revolution’ For COVID-19 Crisis

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech during his visit to Dudley College of Technology in Dudley, central England on June 30, 2020. – Johnson said Britain needed the type of massive economic response that US president Franklin D. Roosevelt mobilised to deal with the Great Depression. He has earmarked £1 billion ($1.2 billion) for school repairs and a further £4 billion for “shovel-ready” projects that cover everything for road maintenance to public transport. Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged on Tuesday to deliver an “infrastructure revolution” to help Britain build its way out of the economic devastation of the coronavirus outbreak.

But his optimistic message, thin on detail and reminiscent of last year’s election pledges, was overshadowed by the first local lockdown since an easing of measures was announced, because of a spike in cases in the city of Leicester.

Shops which only reopened two weeks ago after being shut for more than three months were forced to close again, and travel was restricted to the city in the English East Midlands.

Johnson, however, tried to harness the can-do spirit that US president Franklin D. Roosevelt adopted when he introduced a “New Deal” for tackling the Great Depression 90 years ago.

“This is a programme for jobs, jobs, jobs because it’s by building, building, building… that we will get the jobs this nation needs,” he said after touring a construction site in Dudley, 40 miles (64 kilometres) away in the West Midlands.

“It sounds like a New Deal, and all I can say is, if that is so then that is how it is meant to sound and to be because that is what the times demand.”

He promised £1 billion ($1.2 billion) for school repairs and a further £4 billion for “shovel-ready” projects from road maintenance to public transport in what he said was a new “infrastructure revolution” that will also build new homes.

– ‘Neglected and unloved’ –

Johnson’s message was thin on detail, particularly on jobs, and in part repackaged broad-brush promises made by his Conservative party before December’s general election.

He pledged again to spread the wealth more fairly from London to economically struggling regions that traditionally supported the opposition Labour party.

“Too many parts of this country have felt left behind, neglected, unloved,” he said.

That pledge helped Johnson secure a record 80-seat parliamentary majority that enabled him in January to take Britain out of the European Union after repeated delays.

But Britain is now dealing with Europe’s deadliest virus outbreak and the worst economic contraction among the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialised states.

Johnson’s once soaring approval ratings slipped into negative territory in a YouGov poll this month.

And opposition leaders said the £5 billion announced on Tuesday was simply bringing forward some of the money promised in a spending plan his government had already unveiled for the coming five years.

“The government’s refusal to genuinely emulate Roosevelt’s boldness is a missed opportunity,” the Labour-supporting New Statesman magazine wrote.

The Financial Times said Roosevelt’s New Deal “spawned mega-projects such as the Hoover Dam” but Johnson’s list of priorities included repairing a bridge near Birmingham.

– Local lockdown –

Johnson’s rambunctious style and oratory flourishes have appealed to Britons tired of ceaseless battles over Brexit that dragged on for nearly four years.

The 56-year-old former journalist remains popular in his party and has commanding control of Britain’s political agenda.

But he has faced criticism for Britain having the world’s third-highest virus death toll in the outbreak — now officially at 43,575 — and one of Europe’s longest lockdowns.

Labour leader Keir Starmer accused Johnson on Monday of falling “asleep at the wheel” — and the Leicester lockdown will be a further test of his strategy to fight the disease.

It will mean the city’s pubs and restaurants will not fully reopen along with those across the rest on England from this weekend.

Johnson had expected the reopening, along with swathes of the tourism and cultural sectors, to help kick-start the country’s stalled economy.

Revised official data released on Tuesday indicated the country has suffered its biggest quarterly contraction for more than 40 years, as the pandemic slashed activity.

Gross domestic product shrank 2.2 percent in the first quarter compared to the three previous months, with second quarter data likely to be even worse.

Recent data showed UK economic activity crashed by a record 20.4 percent in April, and there are widespread predictions of a deep, long-lasting recession.

AFP

A World Redrawn: Nobel Winner Deaton Warns COVID-19 Could Worsen Inequality

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 08, 2016 (FILES) In this file photo taken on September 08, 2016 US-British microeconomist and 2015 Nobel Prize winner in Economics Angus Deaton poses during an interview in Paris on September 8, 2016. – The coronavirus outbreak has exposed existing inequalities but without reform, argues Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton, it also risks making them much worse. ERIC PIERMONT / AFP.

 

The coronavirus outbreak has exposed existing inequalities but without reform, argues Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton, it also risks making them much worse.

In an interview with AFP, the Scottish-born Princeton professor called for changes to the US healthcare system and the power of the country’s big tech firms.

“Someone compared the pandemics to an X-ray machine that makes the inequalities already there much more transparent,” the 75-year-old said.

“The educated people, most of us have jobs we can continue to do almost the same way, we talk to people on Zoom and we get paid just the same.”

But those with less formal education are often “essential workers (who) risk their lives with COVID. Or if they are in non-essential things, they might lose their jobs”.

In the United States, death rates have risen for those without a university degree and are going down for those with one, he says.

READ ALSO: Africa Urges UN Probe Of US ‘Systemic Racism’, Police Violence

In addition, “mortality rates from COVID are much higher for African Americans than they are for whites”.

He said these factors could not have predicted the wave of protests that have swept the US following the death of George Floyd.

“But I nor you can say it has nothing to do with COVID,” he said.

– Healthcare reform –

Deaton, who won the Nobel prize in 2015, is lauded for his insights into poverty and health issues — and he sees this as a key area for change.

He expressed hope that the outbreak will finally force reform of US healthcare, as “people will realise that this is just not possible anymore”.

“When people lost their jobs they lost their medical insurance,” he said.

“There are a huge number of people who have been treated for COVID and survived and will end up with huge medical bills.

“There’s a huge number of people that have died from COVID and their families will end up with huge medical bills.

“And they cannot pay these bills — even people who have insurance, because often insurance has huge deductibles.”

Asked what could replace the US system, Deaton rolled off a list that includes the French, Canadian, German, Dutch and Swiss models.

“Anything is better than pretending that the market can deliver healthcare — because it can’t,” he said.

“All you get is this enormous conspiracy to sort of transfer money from ordinary people to much better-off people.

“It’s been a major destroyer of jobs and a major source of inequality.”

He added: “The stumbling block for better welfare state in America has often been race, and maybe what’s happening now will change that.”

However, Deaton is not optimistic: “The most likely thing it that it will end up the same as it was.”

– Big tech –

The global outbreak has paralysed many economies, although reopenings and government aid in the United States are credited with lowering the unemployment rate to a still-high 13.3 percent.

“I’m worried that unemployment will last for a very long time, that this will strengthen the share of capital relative to GDP,” Deaton said.

“I’m really worried that big tech firms are going to prosper while many other businesses go bankrupt.”

And he warned: “If you have more monopolistic firms, that’s a recipe for GDP to be distributed towards capitalists.”

Deaton warned that reform was needed to break up the big tech companies — along with reform in other areas, such as improving policing in inner cities.

“Unless the system breaks and you get major reform I think all of this, I think all the indicators turn towards making inequalities worse,” he said.

AFP

Europe Reopens Borders But China Battles New Virus Outbreak

A passenger wearing a face mask and gloves as a preventive measure pushes a trolley at the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport in Barajas on March 20, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.

 

A raft of EU nations reopened their borders to fellow Europeans on Monday after months of coronavirus curbs, but China was battling a new outbreak that has stoked fears of a second wave.

As caseloads have declined in recent weeks across many parts of Europe, governments have been keen to ease painful lockdowns that have saved lives but devastated economies and wearied confined populations.

Belgium, France, Germany, Greece and Ukraine were among those lifting border restrictions on Monday, while shops and outdoor attractions in England were set to welcome their first customers since March and in Paris cafes and restaurants were allowed to fully reopen.

“We’re desperate about tourists, we need them and we want them. If we don’t have the people, how will we survive,” says Michalis Drosos, who works in a souvenir shop in Fira, capital of the Greek island of Santorini.

However, the pandemic is gathering pace in Latin America, and Iran and India have reported worrying increases in deaths and infections — adding to concern over challenges the world will face in the long fight against COVID-19.

China, where the virus emerged late last year, was the first country to implement extreme restrictions on movement early this year, forcing local transmission down to near-zero as the crisis hammered the rest of the world.

READ ALSO: Norway Suspends Virus-Tracing App After Privacy Concerns

But health officials on Monday reported 75 cases of the respiratory illness in Beijing where the fresh cluster has been linked to a wholesale food market.

Streams of people queued in a Beijing stadium as mass testing was carried out, and a strict lockdown was extended across 21 Beijing neighbourhoods.

– US reports lowest daily toll –

More than 430,000 people worldwide have died from COVID-19, nearly halfway through a year in which countless lives have been upended and the global economy ravaged by the crisis.

The United States — by far the hardest-hit country with more than 115,700 recorded fatalities — on Sunday reported its lowest 24-hour death toll since its infection rate peaked in mid-April.

President Donald Trump’s administration has noted that some states have seen new flare-ups, but insists there will be no shutdown of the economy even if a new wave arises.

But stock markets tumbled again on Monday on fears that an upsurge of infections could put the brakes on the easing of lockdowns and dash hopes of economic recovery.

– ‘Micro-outbreaks inevitable ‘ –

The Middle East’s worst-hit country, Iran, reported an uptick on Sunday, recording more than 100 new virus deaths in a single day for the first time in two months.

Surging infections in India have highlighted the precarious state of its healthcare system, and more than 1,000 new cases are being reported each day in the capital alone.

Mortuaries in New Delhi are overflowing with bodies and cemeteries and crematorium staff say they cannot keep up with the backlog of victims.

There have also been two new outbreaks in Rome, with 109 infections including five deaths diagnosed at a hospital and 15 cases detected at a building inhabited by squatters.

“It means the virus hasn’t lost its infectiousness, it isn’t weakening… we shouldn’t let down our guard,” World Health Organization deputy director Ranieri Guerra told journalists.

“Such micro-outbreaks were inevitable, but they are limited in time and space. And today we have the tools to intercept them and confine them.”

– ‘It’s going to be a party’ –

Despite fears over fresh clusters, many countries are making moves towards semi-normality.

In Paris, restaurant and cafe owners were cheering after the government said they could once again open their dining rooms, three months after being shut to blunt the coronavirus outbreak.

Until now, restaurants in and around the capital could only serve clients on outdoor terraces, even though eateries in the rest of the country opened fully earlier this month.

“It’s going to be a party,” Stephane Manigold, owner of four Paris restaurants, including the two-starred Maison Rostang, told AFP.

In England, thousands of non-essential retailers such as bookshops and electronics outlets will be welcoming their first customers since halting in-store business in late March.

Drive-in cinemas, safari parks and the outdoor parts of zoos will also be able to reopen, while places of worship are also set to swing open their doors again for individual prayer.

Egypt says it will open its doors for tourists to beach resorts in July, and Peru’s Machu Picchu will also reopen next month, although it will sharply reduce the number of daily visitors.

And top-level football continues its return in Europe with the English Premier League making its long-awaited comeback this week, days after Spain’s La Liga.

AFP

Britain Closes Embassy In North Korea, Evacuates Diplomats

Britain Flag

 

Britain has shuttered its embassy in North Korea and all its diplomats have left the country, its ambassador said Thursday as Pyongyang maintains strict entry controls to try to prevent a coronavirus outbreak.

The North has closed its borders and insists it has not had a single case of the virus that emerged in neighbouring China late last year and has since swept the world.

The closure was a temporary move and came because Pyongyang’s “restrictions on entry to the country have made it impossible to rotate our staff and sustain the operation of the Embassy”, a Foreign Office spokesperson said.

Ambassador Colin Crooks tweeted: “The #BritishEmbassy in #Pyongyang closed temporarily on 27 May 2020 and all diplomatic staff have left the #DPRK for the time being.”

The Swedish embassy — which remains open — replied that they would miss him and his team “and hope they can return soon”.

The specialist news site NK News said the British diplomats crossed the border into China overland on Wednesday.

Britain intends to maintain diplomatic relations with the North “and will seek to re-establish our presence in Pyongyang as soon as it is possible to do so”, the Foreign Office said.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Do Not Cut Health Spending During Downturn, WHO Warns

Early in the outbreak, Pyongyang imposed tight quarantine restrictions on all resident foreigners, including a virtual lockdown in their own premises that Russian ambassador Alexander Matsegora described as “morally crushing”.

Those rules were later eased and dozens of diplomats and other foreigners were allowed to leave the country in March, when several missions in Pyongyang closed, among them the German embassy and France’s representative office — Paris does not maintain full diplomatic relations with the North.

Hundreds of foreigners remain in the country.

Analysts say that the North is unlikely to have avoided infections, and that its ramshackle health system could struggle to cope with a major outbreak.

AFP

Japan Lifts Coronavirus Emergency For Most Regions

People walk through a shopping area in Tokyo on May 12, 2020. Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP.

 

Japan’s prime minister on Thursday lifted a state of emergency imposed due to the coronavirus for the majority of the country but kept it in place for top cities Tokyo and Osaka.

After fears the virus could explode in Japan, new infections have come down sharply, enabling the government to end the measure in 39 out of 47 prefectures before it was due to expire on May 31.

But with new cases still emerging daily in Tokyo, Osaka and the northern island of Hokkaido, Shinzo Abe told reporters in a televised news conference that the state of emergency would be kept in place for those regions.

“If possible, before May 31, we would like to lift the state of emergency for the other regions as well,” he said.

“It’s going to be a long road ahead,” Abe warned, asking residents to continue to refrain from going out and visiting other regions.

He also urged Japan’s 126 million people to remain alert to prevent a possible fresh outbreak.

“If each of us fails to exercise full vigilance, the future in two weeks time is unpredictable. A second declaration of a state of emergency is possible,” he warned.

– ‘Cluster-focused approach’ –

Japan’s state of emergency falls far short of the toughest measures seen in parts of Europe and the United States.

It allows local governors to urge people to stay at home and call on businesses to remain shut.

But officials cannot compel citizens to comply and there are no punishments for those who fail to do so.

Schools in much of the country closed down even before the emergency was declared on April 7 in Tokyo and six other regions, before being expanded nationwide.

Japan’s virus outbreak remains small compared with those seen in parts of Europe and the United States, with a little over 16,000 confirmed infections recorded and 687 deaths.

READ ALSO: World Leaders Demand Free COVID-19 Vaccine For All

New cases have dropped recently, with 55 fresh infections confirmed Wednesday nationwide, and just 10 in Tokyo.

Japan recorded its first coronavirus infection in mid-January and came under early pressure with a mass outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked off the city of Yokohama.

Despite so far avoiding the devastating tolls seen in places such as Italy and New York, there have been persistent fears that Japan’s healthcare system could be quickly overwhelmed by a sudden spike in infections.

Japan has also come under fire for a relatively low level of testing.

However, Abe stressed that Japan’s strategy of keeping track of clusters had worked in the regions where the state of emergency was being lifted.

“As for the 39 prefectures, we were able to contain (the spread of infections) to the level at which it can be prevented with a thorough cluster-focused approach,” Abe told reporters.

AFP

Lassa Fever Kills One In Borno, Three Others Hospitalised

Death Toll Rises To 75, As NCDC Confirms 355 Cases Of Lassa Fever
File photo

 

Borno State has recorded its first Lassa fever death, in this year’s outbreak.

The Commissioner For Health, Dr Salisu Kwaya-Bura confirmed the death to journalists at a news conference on Thursday.

According to Kwaya-Bura, three other suspected cases are still under investigation and can only be confirmed as Lassa Fever when the results come back.

The cases were detected at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital on Thursday, which led to a temporary closure of the Accident and Emergency Unit of the hospital as part of measures to manage the situation.


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Reacting to the development, the government has advised people of the state not to panic but imbibe hygienic and preventive practices that would deny carrier rodents a breeding ground and consequently, curtail further spread of the virus.

W.H.O Says DRC Ebola Outbreak Not A ‘Global’ Emergency

File Photo: Health workers are seen inside the ‘red zone’ of an Ebola treatment centre, which was attacked in the early hours of the morning in Butembo. / AFP

 

The World Health Organization (W.H.O) said Friday that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo does not qualify as an international threat, despite the spread of the virus to neighbouring Uganda carried by an infected family.

The closely-watched decision followed advice from WHO’s emergency committee, which only meets to review the world’s most severe outbreaks.

The head of the UN health agency Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is in DRC reviewing the Ebola response, said he accepted the committee’s advice.

“Although the outbreak does not at this time pose a global health threat, I want to emphasise that for the affected families and communities, this outbreak is very much an emergency,” Tedros told reporters.

He also appealed for more funds to combat the ongoing Ebola flare-up, which has recorded more than 2,000 cases, including over 1,400 deaths, since it emerged in eastern DRC in August.

Friday’s emergency committee meeting was prompted by confirmation this week of Ebola deaths in a western Uganda region that borders DRC.

Rare Declaration

The W.H.O panel has used the label “public health emergency of international concern” only four times previously.

Those included the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic of 2009, the spread of poliovirus in 2014, the Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016 and the surge of the Zika virus in 2016.

This is the third time the WHO panel has considered — but held off — making the emergency call for this DRC outbreak, which has been concentrated in the restive provinces of Ituri and North Kivu.

The head of the committee, Preben Aavitsland, told reporters in Geneva that current Ebola crisis was “an extraordinary event, with risk of international spread, (but) the ongoing response would not be enhanced” by an emergency declaration.

Uganda Cases Confirmed

The Uganda cases stem from a Congolese woman, married to a Ugandan, who travelled with her mother, three children and their nanny to DRC to care for her ill father, who later died of Ebola.

WHO said 12 members of the family who attended the burial in Congo were placed in isolation in the DRC, but six “escaped and crossed over to Uganda” on June 9.

The next day, a five-year-old boy was admitted to hospital in Bwera, a border town, vomiting blood before he died. Tests confirmed he had Ebola and the family was placed in an isolation ward.

His three-year-old brother was also confirmed to have Ebola, as was their grandmother, who died late Wednesday.

Speaking from western Uganda’s Kasese district, a senior Red Cross official told AFP that “the biggest challenge” was ensuring robust monitoring along the porous border with DRC.

“People are continuing to come into the country and not passing through the areas where screening is taking place because screening has been instituted along certain points of entry but not all the points,” said Josephine Okwera, the director of health and social services for the Ugandan Red Cross.

Restive Region

Health officials had initially hoped that they could contain the outbreak with help from a new vaccine, which has now been given to more than 130,000 people in DRC.

But chronic violence and militia activity in the affected eastern DRC provinces, as well as hostility to medical teams among some in the region have hampered the response.

WHO has also accused political leaders in Ituri and North Kivu of manipulating the Ebola issue to turn people against health workers.

Ebola spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person.

The current outbreak is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016, leaving more than 11,300 people dead.