European countries experimented with further lifting coronavirus restrictions Monday as New Zealand declared victory over the pandemic, even as global cases topped seven million and deaths mounted in Latin America.
The number of COVID-19 fatalities has now passed 403,000 worldwide since the disease emerged in China last year before sweeping the globe, subjecting billions to some form of lockdown and paralysing economies.
But even the hardest-hit countries are lurching back to a new kind of normal, with bars and restaurants coming back to life and travel restrictions lifted from London to Brussels to Moscow.
But in some places, it was far from business as usual.
Britain on Monday rolled out a 14-day quarantine for all travellers entering the country, prompting uproar from the badly hammered aviation industry which is eager to see travel revived.
Pubs and eateries flung their doors open in Belgium, but with social distancing measures in force, while Ireland opened shops and allowed gatherings and travel, also with limits.
New Zealand meanwhile buoyed hopes for the rest of the world as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that her country had beaten the virus and lifted all restrictions, though strict border controls remain.
The country’s measures were lifted after its final coronavirus patient was declared recovered, prompting the leader to dance around her living room in celebration.
“We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now,” Ardern said, adding that Kiwis had “united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus”.
New Zealand Rugby also announced its top-flight domestic competition would restart this week, with fans allowed to pack into the stadiums for the first time in months.
– Belgian bar ‘invaded’ –
Governments around the world are cautiously peeling back punishing lockdown measures to resuscitate economies while trying to avoid a resurgence of infections.
Moscow said Monday it would ease border restrictions and lift lockdown measures in the Russian capital from Tuesday, while Ireland said it would permit gatherings of six people and allow citizens to travel up to 20 kilometres (12 miles) from home, an extension from the previous five-kilometre limit.
In Brussels, thirsty patrons lined up in the early morning for a cold beverage at L’Union, eager to drink in a pub again after three months of closures — much to the relief of manager Bart Lemmens.
“I was a bit worried beforehand,” he said, as some 50 people crowded into the pub.
“We work to create a convivial atmosphere. I was afraid we’d lose that. But what happened? We were invaded.”
Britain embarked on a more cautious reopening, imposing a two-week quarantine for anyone coming into the country by land, sea or air — British nationals included — sparking legal action by airlines.
British Airways and low-cost carriers EasyJet and Ryanair said in a joint statement the measure would devastate tourism and destroy even more jobs.
At London’s Heathrow Airport, where only two of the five terminals are operating, the quarantine measures were welcomed by some.
“It’s a good idea,” said Sandy Banks, 45, returning to Britain with her three children from Jamaica via the United States.
“Other countries are doing it.”
– Chile death count –
But across the Atlantic, countries were gearing up for the worst as the outbreak escalated in Latin America, the new virus hotspot, with Brazil, Mexico and Peru particularly hard hit.
Brazil has the world’s third-highest death toll at more than 36,000, but President Jair Bolsonaro continues to play down the impact of the virus and has urged regional officials to lift lockdown measures.
And in Chile the confirmed death toll reached 2,290 after miscalculations from March and April were corrected, adding 1,541 to the figure, officials said.
Meanwhile in Asia, fears that the virus may not be under control persist, with the death toll and infection rate climbing sharply in India.
Still, after a 10-week lockdown, the government is risking lifting some curbs to ease the devastating impacts on the economy, and malls and temples reopened in several Indian cities on Monday.
The police in Taraba State have intercepted 65 persons traveling from Ogun State to Adamawa.
According to the police, the heavy-duty vehicle that conveyed them from Ogun state was able to beat all the border patrol teams with the claim that he was conveying food items not knowing that there are human beings in it.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations, Faleye Olaleye said that upon reaching Jalingo, the driver of the said vehicle dumped them and ran away with the vehicle to an unknown destination.
Upon interrogation, the police discovered that the individuals, said to be workers of a Chinese firm in Ogun, paid huge sums of money to be conveyed to Numan in Adamawa.
One of the travellers, Haruna Adamu, who spoke to newsmen on behalf of others said after the Chinese company closed down, they were asked to leave, hence the decision to use such strategy.
“We had no place to go when the company closed down, we stepped out and found a vehicle heading to the north, then we contributed to pay him to convey us,” he said.
Adamu who noted that the bargain was for the driver to take them to Numan, said they were surprised to know that they were dumped in Jalingo, with another arrangement to convey them via 18 sitter buses to their destination.
He said despite the lockdown in Ogun State, they violated it and moved out since Wednesday, April 15 before been intercepted today in Jalingo.
While denying to have the mobile phone number of the driver, nor the registration number of the vehicle, Adamu stated that the amount spent on their transportation is N720,000.
Reacting to the development, the state’s Commissioner of Health, Dr Innocent Vakkai, said their presence in the state is worrisome and could make residents panic.
The Commissioner however noted that state government is considering quarantining them in its isolation centres or to take them to Adamawa state for quarantine since that is their final destination.
The Kaduna State government has converted the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp located along the Abuja- Kaduna highway into a quarantine centre.
The state deputy governor, Hadiza Balarabe, confirmed this during an inspection visit to the facility on Thursday along with members of the COVID-19 Task Force in Kaduna.
She explained that the facility would be used to quarantine travellers coming into the state during the lockdown, as part of measures to contain the further spread of coronavirus.
Balarabe warned unauthorised persons coming into Kaduna during the lockdown to better turn back or get ready to be quarantined at the NYSC camp for 14 days to ascertain their COVID-19 status.
She disclosed that similar quarantine facilities have been set up at all the 17 entry points into the state, with a view to curtailing the influx of travellers and reducing the chances of inter-state transmission of coronavirus.
The deputy governor reacted to the allegation of some security operatives collecting bribes from unauthorised motorists and granting them entry into Kaduna.
She said the complaints were being investigated by the relevant authorities with a view to putting a stop to such misconduct.
Canadian hip-hop superstar Drake took the top spot from The Weeknd as “Toosie Slide” debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, setting a new record in the chart’s history.
The “Toosie Slide” artist is now officially the first male artist — and second overall act — to debut three songs atop the Billboard Hot 100 song chart.
“Toosie Slide” joins “God’s Plan,” which immediately landed at No. 1 when it was released back in February 2018, and “Nice for What,” which actually knocked “God’s Plan” off the top spot when it arrived in April of the same year.
Drake now finds himself in good company, matching Mariah Carey’s achievement of three No. 1 debuts on the Hot 100 between 1995 and 1997.
After knocking The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” from the top spot, Drake’s “Toosie Slide” also becomes the rapper’s seventh total No. 1 on the Hot 100. In addition to “God’s Plan” and “Nice for What,” his other chart-topping singles include “What’s My Name?” with Rihanna, “Work” (also with Rihanna), “One Dance” with WizKid & Kyla, and “In My Feelings.”
Drake also released a quarantine-themed music video for “Toosie Slide” in April in which he responsibly dons a mask.
“Toosie Slide” was released on April 3, 2020, through Republic and OVO. The song is titled after social media influencer Toosie who had previously helped the song go viral.
The Kaduna State Government has threatened to sanction people who violate the quarantine order aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19.
In a broadcast at the Government House on Friday, the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Hadiza Balarabe, said that the Quarantine order and social distancing was variously breached in several places.
According to her, markets were opened for business and people and vehicles moving about freely like in a normal situation despite the global pandemic.
“The quarantine continues today, and this order must be strictly adhered to in the interest of public health and safety.
“Before the review, the quarantine order was variously breached in several respects. Although most places of worship remained closed, some clerics defied the law by insisting on holding congregational prayers.
“These clerics have been duly arrested, arraigned before the court of law for onward prosecution. Similarly, some markets were partially opened, and commercial activities took place therein,” she said.
Balarabe, therefore, warned the citizens to remain indoors and stay safe against COVID-19, stating that the law will catch up with anyone that violates the government’s directives.
Speaking further, the deputy governor said the government has concluded plans to set up an additional COVID-19 Isolation Centre in the coming days to take care of confirmed cases of the epidemic in the state.
Aside from the first centre located at the Infectious Diseases Center in the State capital, Balarabe explained that the state government has identified a location that will be also used as an isolation centre for asymptomatic people.
According to her, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has assured the state government of creating a COID-19 testing centre.
While giving an update on the activities of Kaduna COVID-19 Task Force, Balarabe stressed that as an interim measure, the government is in talks with the Ahmadu Bello University(ABU) Zaria for use of the PCR machine at the African Center for Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was on Sunday in quarantine after meeting a doctor who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as Germany further tightens rules on public gatherings and plots a taboo-breaking package of support for Europe’s top economy.
News of Merkel’s potential exposure to the virus came minutes after she announced a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and further infection control measures.
“The Chancellor has decided to quarantine herself immediately at home. She will be tested regularly in the coming days… (and) fulfil her official business from home,” spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.
Merkel had been slated to lead a cabinet meeting Monday to sign off on a 822-billion-euro ($882 billion) slew of measures to support Europe’s top economy through the shutdowns of public life designed to slow the infection’s spread.
The infected doctor visited Merkel on Friday to vaccinate her against the pneumococcus bacteria.
It could take some days to determine whether the 65-year-old chancellor is herself infected as “a test would not yet be fully conclusive,” Seibert said.
Merkel showed no apparent symptoms of ill health in Sunday’s televised press conference.
– Robust health –
During her 15-year term in office the chancellor has largely enjoyed robust health, although she suffered repeated shaking spells in public appearances during a summer 2019 heatwave that were never fully explained.
In response to the tremors, she chose to sit on a chair when receiving guests with military honours outside the chancellor’s office in Berlin.
Previously the veteran leader broke her pelvis in a cross-country skiing accident in 2014.
It was not immediately clear whether Merkel will isolate herself in a rarely-used official residence in the top floor of the chancellery building or at her personal flat in Berlin’s museum district.
Wearing one of her trademark block-colour blazers, she had been seen doing her own shopping at a local supermarket late Saturday, buying items including wine and toilet paper.
If conservative leader Merkel were incapacitated, her role would be filled by vice-chancellor and finance minister Olaf Scholz of her junior coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Scholz last week isolated himself at home with a heavy cold, but tweeted a day later that he had tested negative for the coronavirus.
– Infection control –
Earlier Sunday, Merkel had announced still-tighter restrictions on public gatherings after a telephone conference with regional leaders that aimed to get Germany’s 16 federal states into a common policy.
The closure of schools and non-essential shops had already been announced.
Businesses like massage studios and hairdressers where people come into close contact will also be shut.
And restaurants will be closed across Germany except for takeaway food.
The measures slated to last initially for two weeks, will be imposed by individual states, which will decide when to roll them out.
Merkel appealed to citizens’ “reason and empathy” in implementing the contact restrictions, saying she had been “very moved” by how closely people had stuck to less stringent measures implemented in recent days.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control authority, said early Sunday the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had grown by almost 2,000 in the previous 24 hours, to 18,610.
So far 55 Germans have died of the disease.
– Economic riposte –
Germany’s all-out support to the economy on the cabinet agenda Monday includes hundreds of billions of euros in potential support for companies and workers.
Much of it will come in the form of state guarantees for bank loans to business and easier access to short-time working and unemployment benefits.
But Berlin also plans to blow through a constitutional rule that limits the size of the federal budget deficit in any one year, with around 156 billion euros in new borrowing.
Ending the crisis “comes first”, Merkel has said, adding “we will see at the end of that where our budget stands”.
Five persons who happen to be family members have been quarantined at the Federal Medical Centre in Keffi, Nasarawa State for showing symptoms of the Coronavirus.
Speaking to Channels Television via the telephone on Thursday, the Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Dr Adamu Yahaya said the family members arrived Keffi Local Government Area from Ogun State today.
He noted that the patients showed some symptoms similar to that of COVID-19 which necessitated the quarantine.
Italians have been told to stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel as quarantine measures were extended to the whole country to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Here are the main points of a government decree signed on Monday night that brings the restrictions into effect until April 3.
– Don’t travel (unless it’s urgent) -From Tuesday, the movements of Italy’s population of 60 million are severely limited. Travel is only allowed for “urgent, verifiable work situations and emergencies or health reasons”.
People who have tested positive for COVID-19 must not leave their homes for any reason, while anyone with a fever or respiratory symptoms are strongly encouraged to stay at home and limit social contact, including with their doctor.
To avoid work-related travel, public and private companies have been urged to put their staff on leave.
– Gatherings cancelled -The latest decree prohibits “all forms of gatherings in public places or sites open to the public” — going further than the rules that went into force over the weekend in large parts of northern Italy.
Sporting events of all levels and disciplines were cancelled, stopping play in the top-flight Serie A football league.
High-level professional training for top national sports events and competitions organised by international bodies, such as the Olympic Games, may go ahead without spectators. All athletes, coaches and managers will undergo health checks.
Swimming pools, spas, sports halls and wellness centres must not operate, and ski resorts across the country are shut.
– Venues shuttered -To encourage people to stay in, bars and restaurants are only allowed to open between 6 am and 6 pm, and only if it is possible to keep a distance of at least a metre between customers.
All museums and cultural venues are closed, as well as nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and casinos, which have been shut since the weekend.
While supermarkets will remain open, large shopping centres and department stores must close on public holidays and the day before public holidays.
– School’s out -Schools and universities are closed, and all exams cancelled.
Religious institutions will stay open, as long as people can stay a metre from one another — but ceremonies such as marriages, baptisms and funerals are banned.
Three Chinese citizens have been quarantined in the Wase town of Plateau State for suspected case of the novel coronavirus.
The Commissioner for Information in Plateau, Dan Manjang, disclosed this to Channels Television on Saturday.
He revealed that the three Chinese citizens, who are workers in a mining site in Wase, flew into Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory on Wednesday.
“The situation right now is that they have been isolated,” Manjang confirmed.
He added, “The three of them came in through Abuja and once we heard that, the Commissioner for Health had to take a proactive measure to send a medical team to Wase to go and investigate.”
Manjang explained that they then made their way to Jos, the Plateau State capital, on Thursday.
He, however, said they were being clinically examined by a medical expert deployed by the State Ministry of Health.
According to the commissioner, there is presently no confirmed case of coronavirus in Plateau as it stands.
He was worried that the word ‘quarantine’ could be misconstrued, thereby causing panic among the people.
Manjang assured the people of the state to remain calm and go about their businesses, noting that the case was being investigated.
He said, “The problem that we have is that there is a tendency for people to think that investigation or quarantine, as the case may be, means that there is an outbreak of the virus.
“As far as Plateau case is concerned, there has been no known case of this virus on the Plateau; we just took proactive measures to make sure that we place them (the Chinese nationals) under investigation and that will take 14 days.”
The government, according to the commissioner, awaits the report of the team that was sent to Wase before taking the next step.
An Economist and Communication Strategist, Dr. Olaniyi Ibidapo, says stigmatization is one of the effects of any outbreak of diseases which comes out of fear, misinformation or misrepresentation of situations.
Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, he stated that except Nigeria comes up with “a legal policy and awareness creation among the populace, stigmatization would be a serious problem in the future.”
With a background of having done extensive research in Communications strategies with a bias for Health communication, Ibidapo recommended “multidimensional, multifaceted approaches” in sensitizing the populace on the facts about the Ebola Virus.
He explained that this is based on the notion that “the more the approaches, the more the effect of realising the goal.
“Most of these approaches are international templates that have not been adequately tested, so you cannot measure the effectiveness immediately. So you cannot rely on one approach,” he said.
Mass media, sensitization and training were among the approaches highlighted by Ibidapo but he noted that the community being involved remained an important feature in all the approaches.
He stated that the prevalence of the Ebola Virus Disease has been within the communities and “whatever the implementations you’re going to take on this Ebola outbreak, communities have to be involved.
“When I mean communities, it has to be the religious organisations, the MDAs, the NGOs, the individuals and the corporate bodies. This is the big opportunity for the corporate bodies in Nigeria to take advantage of, because Ebola is everybody’s business now.”
Speaking further on the issue of Ebola stigmatization, Dr. Ibidapo stated that Nigeria would need to improve its health infrastructure as this would help the country.
However, he noted, “Ebola victims need to come out and let people know they are still alive. That is why policy implication has to start because when Government backs it up with a law – Ebola health policy – this will help us in identifying and recognizing that we could curb Ebola spread.”
While he appreciated the Nigerian culture, which he says is communal and does not necessarily encourage the idea of victims coming out, he maintained that an upgrade of Nigeria’s health infrastructure would help build some confidence.
He also highlighted the level illiteracy in Nigeria as another challenge. “The population is huge, a lot of people are educated but are they really informed?”
The Consultant refused to blame citizens for the discriminative attitude towards Ebola survivors as he admitted that indeed fear was responsible for this, but “with information we will understand that once it is cured, it is cured.”
He made reference to a Channels Television report which featured an Ebola survivor who has suffered stigmatization.
“As we have seen, he is healthy, he is hale and he is active. The society needs to support him, the Government needs to back him up in terms of establishing a policy, making it a law and making sure that they prosecute any offender.
“It is an offence to infringe on the other person’s human rights – rights of association and right to work. It is a serious offence within our system here.”
He called for support for the survivors of the EVD, with emphasis on the need for everybody to be involved.
The Commissioner For Special Duties, Lagos State, Wale Ahmed has dispelled the notion that the use of face masks prevents the contraction of the ebola virus disease , saying that the disease is not airborne.
He also noted that the Ebola virus cannot be contracted by someone who has just had the symptoms but can be contracted by someone who is visibly sick. “It cannot be transmitted during its incubation period which is between 2-21 days.
Referring to the recent case of a nurse that had contact with the late Patrick Sawyer and escaped to Enugu, but has been brought back to Lagos, the commissioner said that the nurse was not under the care of the isolation centre at Infectious Disease Hospital, rather a controlled environment;” we have beefed up security with the help of some foreign healthcare workers who have advised on the amendments to be taken in order to prevent such action” mr. ahmed said.
Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, the commissioner acknowledged that certain preventive measures should have been taken at the time the late Patrick Sawyer was at the airport, “If the airport health facilities were working properly Mr. Sawyer shouldn’t have been allowed to leave the airport” he added.
He also added that most of the facilities used at these isolation wards is what has been kept for a later use but had to be used due to the spread of the virus in Lagos.
The Commissioner mentioned that presently there are over 200 people under surveillance both in primary and secondary contact.
He said that primary contact are put under quarantine and are about 200 while the secondary contact are put under observation with people watching over them to check if there is an increase in temperature.