‘Even The US Is Looking For Help’, SGF Explains Role Of Expected Chinese Experts

The SGF, Boss Mustapha, addressing a press conference in Abuja on April 3, 2020.

 

 

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, has explained the role of the Chinese health experts expected to arrive in Nigeria.

Mustapha, who is the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, noted that the experts were expected in the country on the invitation of a Chinese company, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

Addressing a press briefing on Monday in Abuja, he stressed that the development was to complement the efforts of the Nigerian government to curtail the spread of coronavirus just like other nations around the world were doing.

He said, “I wish to clarify that all the countries of the world are seeking assistance and are receiving help in the fight against COVID-19 – even the United States is looking for help elsewhere.

“The support coming from China is a cooperate social responsibility initiated by CCECC, a company with a total volume of infrastructural contracts in Nigeria worth over N10 billion.”

 

How It Works

The SGF said the gesture by the Chinese company has triggered mixed reactions from Nigerians recently, adding that it was important to address the issue.

He also noted the concerns raised by resident doctors and other medical professionals in the country.

Mustapha, however, clarified that CCECC intended to import a large number of equipment and items in different quantities.

He listed the items to be imported to include 1,300,000 medical masks, over 150,000 pieces of Personal Protective Equipment, as well as 50 medical ventilators.

The company, he noted, has also proposed and on its own suggested to sponsor public health experts to help strengthen Nigeria’s public health capacity and advise on processes and procedures.

“The professionals that have been invited by CCECC through their apparent company in China to come are public health specialists and medical engineers that will support Nigeria’s capacity in managing the pandemic on an advisory basis … while drawing from the experience of the Chinese,” the SGF explained.

He added, “In no way shall there be case management and interface with patients. They would train our manpower, advise on procedures and methods, install and test the equipment donated before handing them over for our technicians to begin to use them.

“I, therefore, use this medium to appeal to our medical professionals to see the positive aspect of these gestures as an extension of development in the field of medicine.”

US Lab Unveils Portable 5-Minute COVID-19 Test

French doctor Michael Bohbot displays a COVID-19 test kit at his office on March 25, 2020 in Ormesson-sur-Marne, a Paris suburb, on the tenth day of a strict lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP
French doctor Michael Bohbot displays a COVID-19 test kit at his office on March 25, 2020 in Ormesson-sur-Marne, a Paris suburb, on the tenth day of a strict lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP

 

A US-based lab has unveiled a portable test that can tell if someone has COVID-19 in as little as five minutes, it said in a statement Friday.

Abbot Laboratories said the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had given it emergency authorization to begin making the test available to healthcare providers as early as next week.

The test, which is the size of a small toaster and uses molecular technology, also shows negative results within 13 minutes, the company said in a press statement.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will be fought on multiple fronts, and a portable molecular test that offers results in minutes adds to the broad range of diagnostic solutions needed to combat this virus,” said Abbot president and chief operating officer Robert Ford.

The test’s small size means it can be deployed outside the “traditional four walls of a hospital in outbreak hotspots,” Ford said, and Abbott is working with the FDA to send it to virus epicenters.

The test has not been cleared or approved by the FDA, and has only been authorized for emergency use by approved labs and healthcare providers, the company said.

 

AFP

US Asks Health Workers To Apply For Visas Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

US Embassy Suspends ‘Dropbox’ Process For Visa Renewals In Nigeria
Photo: [email protected]

 

The United States government has called on health experts seeking to work in the country to apply for visas.

It made the call in a statement on Friday, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has killed many people with thousands infected in that country.

“We encourage medical professionals with an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor programme (DS-2019), particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to review the website of their nearest embassy or consulate for procedures to request a visa appointment,” the statement published on www.travel.state.gov said.

The US also asked other foreign medical professionals already in the country to consult with their sponsor to extend their programmes in the country.

It noted that ‘J-1 programme’ for foreign medical residents can be extended one year at a time for up to seven years.

The government, however, explained that the expiration date on a visa does not determine how long a foreigner can stay in the US.

US Offers $15m Reward For Arrest Of Venezuela’s President Maduro

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 21, 2019 Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks after meeting Chilean High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas. The US Treasury Department on June 27, 2019 indicted two former influential figures in Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government on money laundering and corruption charges. YURI CORTEZ / AFP

 

The United States will offer $15 million for information leading to the arrest of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on drug-trafficking charges, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.

Pompeo announced the reward as the Justice Department unveiled charges against Maduro, describing him like a common criminal rather than a head of state as Washington tries to help opposition leader Juan Guaido take power.

“The Venezuelan people deserve a transparent, responsible, representative government that serves the needs of the people — and that does not betray the trust of the people by condoning or employing public officials that engage in illicit narcotics trafficking,” Pompeo said in a statement.

AFP

US To Indict Maduro For ‘Narco-Terrorism’

Maduro Accuses US Of Financing Mercenary 'Plot' Against Him
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a pro-government demonstration in Caracas on March 23, 2019. Juan BARRETO / AFP

 

The US Justice Department is planning to indict Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for “narco-terrorism,” US Senator Marco Rubio said on Thursday.

The Florida senator confirmed in a brief tweet US media reports that the department will unveil charges accusing the Venezuelan leader and other senior members of his government of conspiring with drug cartels.

AFP

IOC Urged To Make Quick Olympic Decision As US Backs Postponement

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. The global sporting calendar has been swept away by the coronavirus pandemic but the International Olympic Committee has insisted the Tokyo Games will go ahead in four months despite growing calls for a postponement.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

The International Olympic Committee came under pressure to speed up its decision about postponing the Tokyo Games on Tuesday as athletes criticised the four-week deadline and the United States joined calls to delay the competition.

After Canada and Australia withdrew their teams, with the world hunkering down for the coronavirus pandemic, the US Olympic committee said postponement was the best way forward.

A growing group of national Olympic committees and sports bodies including World Athletics have called for the Games, set to start on July 24, to be pushed back, an outcome that now appears inevitable.

IOC officials are studying a postponement, among other options, but still believe a decision would be “premature” four months from the scheduled start. They will make an announcement within four weeks.

“My interpretation of the IOC’s communications is they don’t want to cancel, and they don’t think they can continue with the July 24 date,” senior IOC official Dick Pound told AFP.

“So you’re looking at the ‘P’ word — postponement.”

IOC president Thomas Bach, Japanese leader Shinzo Abe, Tokyo’s governor and the head of the organising committee will hold telephone talks later on Tuesday as the fate of the Games hangs in the balance.

The US Olympic team came out in favour of postponement after a survey of 1,780 US athletes found an overwhelming majority, 68 percent, backed delaying the Games.

The virus lockdown has shut down competition, including Olympic qualifiers, and made training not just difficult but also dangerous, as athletes risk contracting or spreading COVID-19.

– ‘Unacceptable, irresponsible’ –

Several countries have imposed strict stay-at-home orders and international travel has been drastically curtailed as worldwide deaths surge past 16,500 and confirmed cases surpass 378,000.

“Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner,” the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said.

USA Gymnastics also said it was “adding our voice to the chorus advocating for postponement”, after USA Swimming and USA Track and Field had already urged the US Olympic committee to press for a delay.

Meanwhile, British Olympic Association chairman Hugh Robertson told Sky Sports News: “If the virus continues as predicted by the government, I don’t think there is any way we can send a team.”

With opposition to the July start reaching deafening levels, athletes questioned why the IOC needed weeks to come to a decision. The Olympic torch relay is due to start in Japan on Thursday.

“Such a response is unacceptable, irresponsible, and once again ignores the rights of athletes,” Global Athlete, an organisation which aims to speak for sports competitors, said in a statement.

British cyclist Callum Skinner strongly criticised IOC president Bach, accusing him of placing his own interests first.

“Bach’s stubbornness and arrogance has spectacularly failed in this instance and he has weakened the Olympic movement,” Skinner wrote on Twitter.

“This isn’t the first time he has put his own motives above the athletes and the movement.”

– ‘Dither and delay’ –

British hurdler Dai Greene said the “dither and delay” was “obscene” while Ed Warner, the chairman-designate of British wheelchair rugby, said the IOC had misjudged the mood.

“The IOC has said it will make a decision in four weeks,” he told the Guardian. “It hasn’t got that long. It probably has only got four days.”

World Athletics said it was prepared to shift its world championships, scheduled for August 6-15 next year in Oregon, to accommodate a potential Olympics next summer, seen as the most likely option.

But experts warn that shifting the Tokyo Games, which are seven years in the planning and have a price tag of $12.6 billion, is no simple matter.

“It is mind-bogglingly complex to make a sudden change after seven years of preparation for the biggest sporting event in the world,” Michael Payne, the IOC’s former head of marketing, told AFP.

AFP

US Senator Rand Paul Tests Positive For Coronavirus

US Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, walks to participate in a series of votes related to a bill in response to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 18, 2020. – The US Senate easily passed a $100 billion emergency package on March 18 to help American workers hit hard financially by the coronavirus crisis. SAUL LOEB / AFP.

 

Rand Paul, a critic of emergency coronavirus spending, has become the first US senator to test positive for COVID-19, the Republican lawmaker’s office said Sunday.

A statement from a staff member said he was in quarantine but remained asymptomatic.

As US senators work on a multi-trillion-dollar rescue package to help the US economy hit hard by the pandemic, Paul has at least twice voted against such emergency funding.

Paul, who is 57, is the third member of Congress known to have contracted the virus. Two members of the House of Representatives — Ben McAdams of Utah and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida — earlier announced positive tests.

Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, “is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events,” said the statement from his staff.

It said Paul was not aware of any direct contact with an infected person. It added that the senator’s Washington office had begun operating remotely 10 days ago, so “virtually no staff has had contact with Senator Paul.”

It was not clear exactly when he was tested.

READ ALSO: Merkel In Quarantine After Meeting Virus-infected Doctor

On Wednesday, Paul voted against a $100 billion stimulus package designed to combat the virus.

The bill, which passed by a 90-8 vote, called for free virus testing and paid sick leave for some displaced workers.

The senator, a deficit hawk, argued that Congress should pay for the measure by cutting funding for wars or other “frivolous” programs, the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal reported.

He urged his colleagues to “stop being a rubber stamp for wasteful spending.”

Earlier in the month, he opposed a bipartisan $8 billion plan for emergency coronavirus funding.

AFP

COVID-19: Trump Says US On Top As Outbreak Shuts Largest Cities

In this file photo US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a "Keep America Great" campaign rally at Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey, January 28, 2020.
In this file photo US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a “Keep America Great” campaign rally at Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey, January 28, 2020.

 

New York and Illinois followed California Friday in locking down to stem the coronavirus pandemic as President Donald Trump declared the United States was already “winning” the war despite a rapid rise in confirmed cases and deaths.

The move effectively seals off America’s largest cities — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — with New Jersey also preparing to follow and Connecticut shutting.

But Trump insisted there was no need for a national lockdown, arguing that other parts of the US weren’t hurting as much as its most populous states.

Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered non-essential businesses to close and banned gatherings in New York state, a day after his counterpart Gavin Newsom told California’s 40 million residents to stay home.

“We’re all in quarantine now,” Cuomo told reporters, warning of civil fines and mandatory closures for anyone violating the order, which takes effect on Sunday evening.

The escalation came as COVID-19-linked deaths in the US rose to 216 — more than doubling in three days — with more than 16,600 confirmed infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the surge, Trump said the world’s number one power was “winning” and “going to win this war.”

“Those are really two hotbeds. Those are probably the two hottest of them all in terms of hotspots,” Trump told the daily White House news conference, adding that states in the American Midwest were not registering as many confirmed cases.

“So no, we’re working with the governors and I don’t think we’ll ever find that necessary,” he added.

But shortly afterwards Illinois Governor J.B Pritzker announced an immediate stay-at-home order for the state “to avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives.”

“The only strategy available to us to limit the increase in cases… is to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the most robust manner possible,” he said.

The order is in place from Saturday evening until April 7, Pritzker added.

The head of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Todd Semonite, said the agency was working on refitting more than 10,000 hotel and dormitory rooms in New York into temporary hospitals to alleviate the burden on health centers.

“We would like to think we can do this in three or four weeks and try to go as fast as we can,” he said.

The number of confirmed infections in New York state jumped past 7,000 Friday, largely because of an increase in testing, Cuomo said, as he announced he would pass an executive order mandating that only essential businesses can remain open from late Sunday.

He stressed that essential services included grocery stores, pharmacies and food delivery.

Cuomo said that under “Matilda’s Law,” named after his mother, “non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size” were canceled.

‘Strong Steps’ 

He ordered residents to exercise alone and not hold group activities outside, such as basketball.

He said citizens should avoid public transport “unless urgent and absolutely necessary.”

“New York state (is) on pause,” he said.

“These actions will cause disruption. They will cause much unhappiness. I understand that,” Cuomo added.

He dismissed references to the measures as “shelter-in-place,” which they have been called in California, but the rules effectively amount to the same thing.

California’s statewide directive, which went into force Thursday evening, also instructs residents to remain at home unless necessary.

It allows gas stations, pharmacies, banks and laundry services to remain open while restaurants can still provide take-out and delivery.

“They are taking strong steps. I applaud them,” Trump said, referring to Cuomo and Newsom.

Trump also announced Friday that the US and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travel across their border beginning on Saturday.

He said the move, similar to one already announced with northern neighbor Canada, was necessary to prevent the “spread the infection to our border agents, migrants, and to the public at large.”

On Capitol Hill, US senators began critical negotiations over a $1 trillion emergency stimulus package to help Americans ravaged by the coronavirus.

The version unveiled late Thursday includes onetime “recovery rebates” of up to $1,200 for adults earning under $99,000 annually, and hundreds of billions of dollars in loan guarantees to industries hard hit by the crises including airlines and small businesses.

Wall Street stocks finished a volatile session much lower Friday, with the Dow down 4.6 percent, bringing the market’s worst week since 2008 to a grim conclusion.

China Accuses Trump Of Trying To ‘Shift The Blame’ For Coronavirus Pandemic

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang takes a question during the daily press briefing in Beijing on March 18, 2020. GREG BAKER / AFP
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang takes a question during the daily press briefing in Beijing on March 18, 2020. GREG BAKER / AFP

 

Beijing accused US President Donald Trump on Friday of trying to “shift the blame” for the global coronavirus pandemic in an escalating row between the two powers.

Trump charged Thursday that the world is “paying a big price” for China’s lack of transparency on the outbreak when it emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

China has been criticised for suppressing information and punishing whistleblowers during the early stages of the contagion, which an AFP tally shows has now killed nearly 10,000 people with more than 232,000 cases worldwide.

“Some people on the US side are trying to stigmatise China’s fight against the epidemic, and shift the blame onto China,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

“This approach ignores the great sacrifice made by the Chinese people to safeguard the health and safety of humankind, and slanders China’s major contribution to global public health.”

Geng said China has shared data with the US throughout the health crisis.

The exchange marked an escalation in the bitter war of words between China and the US over the past week.

China’s announcement this week of mass expulsions of American journalists sparked a media freedom row that coincided with Trump’s ramped-up usage of the term “Chinese Virus”, which he claimed was in response to Chinese misinformation suggesting that the virus originated in the US.

In recent days, Chinese state media has been heavily critical of Trump.

The nationalistic Global Times claimed in several op-eds that his rhetoric is fanning the flames of global xenophobia and anti-Chinese sentiment.

Trump has defended his description of the virus, saying it was “not racist at all”.

AFP

US Urges Citizens To Avoid All International Travel, Return Home

 

The United States on Thursday warned against any international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic and advised citizens to come home if possible.

“In countries where commercial departure options remain available, US citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the State Department said as it upgraded its travel advisory to the highest level.

“US citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel,” it said.

The State Department said the growing number of temporary entry restrictions by governments as well as airline cancellations made smooth travel impossible.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Italy Passes China’s Virus Deaths, Braces For Long Lockdown

It also said that some US embassies had lower capacity to assist citizens due to departures of personnel over COVID-19.

AFP

US Approves Chloroquine To Treat Coronavirus – Trump

President Donald Trump speaks on the latest developments of the coronavirus outbreak, while flanked by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House March 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP
President Donald Trump speaks on the latest developments of the coronavirus outbreak, while flanked by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House March 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP.

 

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday antimalaria drug, chloroquine, has been approved to treat the new coronavirus.

The announcement follows encouraging research into chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in France and China, but many in the wider scientific community have cautioned more work is needed to prove they really work for COVID-19.

“We’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately, and that’s where the (Food and Drug Administration) has been so great,” Trump told reporters, referring to both antimalarials.

“They’ve gone through the approval process — it’s been approved. They took it down from many, many months to immediate. So we’re going to be able to make that drug available by prescription.”

The US has recorded 10,755 cases of new coronavirus infection, 154 of them fatal. But authorities expect the number to increase steeply in the coming days because of increased levels of testing after initial delays.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said that, while the antimalarials have not yet been formally approved, access was being expanded so that authorities could gather more data.

This is known as “compassionate use.”

“If there is an experimental drug that is potentially available, a doctor could ask for that drug to be used in a patient. We have criteria for that and very speedy approval for that,” said Hahn.

READ ALSO: Woman With Coronavirus Gives Birth To Healthy Baby

“As an example, many Americans have read studies and heard media reports about this drug chloroquine, which is an anti-malarial drug.

“It’s already approved, as the president said, for the treatment of malaria as well as an arthritis condition.

“That’s a drug that the president directed us to take a closer look at, as to whether an expanded use approach to that could be done to actually see if that benefits patients.”

Chloroquine is a synthetic form of quinine, which has been used to treat malaria since the 1940s. Hydroxychloroquine shares a similar mechanism of action but is less toxic.

French drug maker Sanofi on Wednesday said it stood ready to offer the French government millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine, sold under its brand name Plaquenil, in light of a “promising” study carried out by Didier Raoult of the IHU Mediterranee Infection in Marseille.

Raoult reported this week that after treating 24 patients for six days with Plaquenil, the virus had disappeared in all but a quarter of them. The research has not yet been peer reviewed and published.

Past failures

It followed a recent study by a Chinese team that was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases in March 9 on the two compounds that also found encouraging results, albeit in a lab setting.

Several clinical trials are also underway in China, where authorities have said the drug produced encouraging results, but the data has not yet been made public.

Writing in the journal Antiviral Research, French scientists Franck Touret and Xavierde Lamballerie urged caution, noting that chloroquine had been proposed several times for the treatment of acute viral diseases in humans without success.

“Its use in the treatment of HIV-infected patients has been considered inconclusive and the drug has not been included in the panel recommended for HIV treatment,” they wrote.

“The only modest effect of chloroquine in the therapy of human virus infection was found for chronic hepatitis C.”

They also said that “the margin between the therapeutic and toxic dose is narrow and chloroquine poisoning has been associated with cardiovascular disorders that can be life-threatening.”

AFP

COVID-19: Latest Global Developments

A woman wearing face mask, amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, walks along a street in Hefei, China’s eastern Anhui province on March 9, 2020. NOEL CELIS / AFP.

 

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

– Europe ‘underestimated’ threat –

The president of the European Commission admits political leaders in the EU “underestimated” the magnitude of the danger posed by the coronavirus.

Ursula von der Leyen tells Germany’s Bild newspaper “it is clear that this is a virus that will keep us busy for a long time yet.”

EU leaders agree to impose an entry ban on travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days.

– Strict lockdown –

France follows Italy and Spain in imposing general lockdown for at least 15 days. Belgium orders its citizens to stay at home until at least April 5.

Germany orders its population to stay at home while Britain and Israel call on citizens to avoid all non-essential travel.

In Russia, where borders are closed to foreigners, schools will close from March 23 to April 12, and flights to Britain, the US and the United Arab Emirates will be suspended from March 20.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: More than 850 Million Students Shut Out of School – UNESCO 

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan says the country cannot afford the large-scale lockdowns undertaken in the West, fearing this could devastate the fragile economy.

– Economic concerns –

German carmaker BMW says it will close European and South African factories accounting for half its output for a month.

The Trump administration and the US Central Bank announce massive financial assistance to the most affected businesses and households.

– State of emergency –

Switzerland, Armenia, Moldova and Kazakhstan as well as two regions in Ukraine and one in Kyrgyzstan declare a state of emergency. Brazil’s two largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, announce the same.

– Global toll tops 8,000 –

Since the virus first emerged in late December, 8,092 people have died around the world, with the global number of cases at 200,680, according to an AFP tally based on official sources as of 1300 GMT Wednesday.

The worst affected countries are mainland China, with 3,237 deaths, out of 80,894 cases, of whom 69,601 have been cured. Italy follows with 2,503 deaths, 31,506 cases, Iran 1,135 deaths, around 17,000 cases, Spain 558 deaths and 13,716 cases and France with 175 deaths and 7,730 cases.

Turkey, Bangladesh, Moldova and Burkina Faso report their first deaths.

– Britain’s nightmare scenario –

In Britain, scientists say infections and deaths will spiral and hundreds of thousands could die and the health system be swamped if there is only a focus on delaying and slowing infections.

The government’s scientific adviser says a reasonable estimate is 55,000 cases in the country.

Legislation will be introduced Thursday to allow arrests for public health reasons and to call back retired medical services staff.

– Cruise ship stranded –

More than 1,700 people are stranded on a cruise and a cargo ship off the coast of South Africa’s Cape Town over fears some are infected.

– Pope advises gestures of affection –

Pope Francis stresses the importance of families and friends making small gestures such as hugs and phone calls during times of isolation.