Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has called on northern traditional rulers not to relent in spearheading the campaigns to avoid the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the region, stressing that the cost of treating COVID-19 patients is very expensive.
The governor who made the call on Monday at the executive committee meeting of the traditional rulers chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, noted that it costs about N400,000 to treat one COVID-19 patient.
While noting that traditional rulers have critical roles to play in ensuring that people at the grassroots adhere to government’s directives as part of measures to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus and other diseases, El-Rufai told the customary leader that treating the infected is digging a big hole in the government’s coffers.
He, however, said that the challenges in the treatment of the pandemic make it imperative that people desist from activities that will promote the spread of the virus in the northern region and the country at large.
Traditional rulers from the nineteen northern States met in Kaduna on Monday to discuss the security and socio-economic challenges confronting the region particularly in the southern part of the state.
The meeting was chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar.
In his remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto while describing the killings in Southern Kaduna as total madness, said the time has come for all stakeholders including government and traditional rulers to rise up and find solutions to the lingering crises.
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has embarked on a nationwide strike to press home its demand.
The union says the strike is coming on the heels of the inability of the Federal Government to meet its yearnings in June this year.
The demands by the doctors include a pay rise, better welfare, and adequate facilities, union leaders said.
The industrial action by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which represents some 40 percent of doctors, is the latest in a string of stoppages by medics to hit Africa’s most populous nation as it struggles to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“We have kicked off the strike today,” NARD president Aliyu Sokomba told AFP, adding that medics treating virus cases would join the action this time around.
The United States on Sunday reached the extraordinary milestone of five million coronavirus cases as President Donald Trump was accused of flouting the constitution by unilaterally extending a virus relief package.
The US has been hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic, recording nearly 163,000 deaths — by far the highest of any country, ahead only of Brazil, which on Saturday became the second country to pass 100,000 deaths.
The global death toll is at least 727,288 since the novel coronavirus emerged in China last December, according to a running tally from official sources compiled by AFP.
Nearly 20 million cases have been registered worldwide — probably reflecting only a fraction of the actual number of infections.
As around much of the globe, the small African country of Malawi on Sunday imposed tight social restrictions to try to contain the disease, shutting all bars and churches, while hot weekend weather drew crowds in Europe to the beach.
In Washington, the new virus relief package — announced by Trump on Saturday after talks between Republican and Democrat lawmakers hit a wall — was “absurdly unconstitutional,” senior Democrat Nancy Pelosi told CNN.
Fellow Democrat and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, appearing on ABC, dismissed Trump’s unilateral measures as “unworkable, weak and far too narrow.”
But with the nation’s economy still struggling to dig itself out of an enormous hole, Democrats appeared skittish about any legal challenge to a relief package they see as seriously inadequate.
The four executive orders Trump signed Saturday at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey will, among other things, defer payroll taxes and provide some temporary unemployment benefits.
The president was seen as keen to show himself taking decisive action ahead of a November 3 election that could see him ousted from office, with polls showing a large majority of voters unhappy with his handling of the crisis.
On Sunday night, Trump blamed what he called Democratic stubbornness for his being forced to take executive action.
“The Democrats were unwilling to do anything,” Trump told reporters as he boarded Air Force One to return to Washington.
“It was time to act,” he said. “We have to get money out to the people.”
Democrats say the president’s orders infringe on Congress’s constitutional authority over the federal budget.
But Pelosi demurred when asked about possible legal action, saying, “Whether (it was) legal or not takes time to figure out.”
White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow defended the new measures.
“Maybe we’re going to go to court on them. We’re going to go ahead with our actions anyway,” he said.
Trump’s Democratic opponent in the presidential election, Joe Biden, tweeted that five million coronavirus cases was “a number that boggles the mind and breaks the heart.
“It shouldn’t have gotten this bad,” he said.
The US on Sunday had added 47,197 new cases in 24 hours, with 532 additional deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
US fatalities now total 162,913, and the number of infections is 5,041,473, the Baltimore-based university said.
Elsewhere, growing infections in and around Paris prompted French officials to make face masks compulsory outdoors in crowded areas and tourist hotspots in the city and surrounding areas from Monday.
The mask will be obligatory for all those aged 11 and over in “very crowded zones,” said a police statement, including the banks of the Seine River and more than 100 streets in the French capital.
As temperatures soared across western Europe, holidaymakers crowded beaches at the weekend despite warnings about the risk of infection.
Local authorities in Germany warned that some beaches and lakes would be closed if there were too many people.
Belgian police meanwhile arrested several people Saturday at the resort of Blankenberge after a brawl broke out on a beach between officers and youths they had told to leave for refusing to respect virus safety measures.
Around 5,000 people demonstrated in Vienna for increased financial support for nightlife and relaxing coronavirus regulations.
In Peru, indigenous people armed with spears and angry over what they consider government neglect of their communities in the pandemic assaulted a settlement for oil workers deep in the Amazon, triggering a clash with police that left three natives dead, the government said Sunday.
Back in the US, in another burst of defiance over health warnings, thousands of bikers converged on a town in South Dakota for what is billed as the largest cycle gathering in the world.
In past years, the 10-day rally in Sturgis has drawn hundreds of thousands of bikers to socialize, drink and party together — raising fears among some locals that this year’s version could be a superspreader event.
President Donald Trump on Thursday said that a vaccine may be produced ahead of the US presidential election on November 3 — a more optimistic timeline than given by his top infectious diseases doctor.
Asked by radio talk show host Geraldo Rivera whether a vaccine could come by the election, Trump said: “I think in some cases, yes, possible before. But right around that time.”
Trump said the vaccine would be ready “sooner than the end of the year. Could be much sooner.”
“We have a lot of vaccines under study by the way. We look like we’re going to be really good on vaccines and therapeutics also,” he said.
A more careful note was sounded on Wednesday by Dr Anthony Fauci, a lead government official on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci said he was “cautiously optimistic” of success and that “somewhere towards the end of the year, the beginning of 2021, we will know whether they have a safe and effective vaccine.”
The Trump administration is pouring federal funds into vaccine development, seen as the only way to stop the virus and end the mass shutdowns and social distancing that have crippled economies around the world.
Europe hit more than three million coronavirus cases on Thursday, while spiking infection numbers from Belgium to Tokyo and Melbourne led authorities to reimpose restrictions on citizens.
While EU lawmakers combed through a huge aid package for their economies, the UN called for a basic income for the world’s poorest to help slow the spread of the pandemic, and the Red Cross warned of “massive” new migration caused by the economic devastation.
The European continent now accounts for a fifth of the world’s more than 15 million cases and remains the hardest hit in terms of deaths, with 206,633 out of 627,307 worldwide.
A 750-billion-euro post-coronavirus recovery plan was hammered out at an EU summit this week, where fiscally-rigid nations butted heads with hard-hit countries like Spain and Italy that have called for huge aid grants.
EU chief Charles Michel said the total stimulus would eventually reach 1.8 trillion euros ($2.2 trillion).
“This moment, it’s my conviction, is pivotal in European history. We acted fast and with urgency,” Michel told the bloc’s parliament in Brussels.
“Europe’s response is greater than that of the United States or China,” he said.
Meanwhile, the UN warned that the world’s poorest also need help.
Funding of $199 billion per month would provide 2.7 billion people with a temporary basic income and the “means to buy food and pay for health and education expenses”, the UN Development Programme said.
“Bailouts and recovery plans cannot only focus on big markets and big business,” said UNDP administrator Achim Steiner.
UN projections have warned the virus could kill 1.67 million people in 30 low-income countries.
The knock-on effects will also be huge, warned Red Cross chief Jagan Chapagain.
“Many people who are losing livelihoods, once the borders start opening, will feel compelled to move,” he told AFP.
“We should not be surprised if there is a massive impact on migration in the coming months and years.”
– Plateaus and fresh spikes –
By far the worst-hit country in the world with close to four million cases and more than 143,000 deaths, the United States reported some stabilisation of its outbreak.
New cases appear to be plateauing in hotspots like Arizona and Florida, even if officials warn that current levels would continue to strain hospitals.
But as the Americas continue to be ravaged by the pandemic, Bolivia announced it was delaying its general election by six weeks to October.
Elsewhere, there were signs that the virus can quickly re-emerge when lockdown measures are lifted.
Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong and the Japanese capital Tokyo all had early successes in containing outbreaks, but are now facing an upsurge, prompting new restrictions.
Anyone venturing out in Australia’s second-biggest city Melbourne will have to wear a mask. The same will be true in Belgium’s outdoor markets and busy areas from Saturday.
“These measures are not advice, they are orders,” Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said.
“Announcing a strengthening of the rules is a hard blow for our morale, but we’d prefer to take these measures today than to regret it tomorrow.”
South Africa’s Medical Research Council has reported a 60-percent increase in overall numbers of natural deaths in recent weeks, suggesting a much higher toll of coronavirus-related fatalities in Africa’s worst-hit nation.
– ‘Untrue, unacceptable’ –
The politics around the virus continued, with WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus rejecting an allegation by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he owed his position to a deal with China.
Tedros said the claim was “untrue and unacceptable” and warned against the “politicisation of the pandemic”.
Meanwhile in France, while the number of foreign tourists in Paris, the world’s most visited city, has dwindled during a two-month lockdown, there has been a noticeable increase in home-grown visitors.
“Most clients are clearly French, with lots of families,” said a spokesman for catering firm Sodexo, adding that the chic Jules Verne restaurant on the Eiffel tower was booked solid every night in July.
There was also good news for basketball fans in China, who will be allowed back into stadiums from Sunday.
The Chinese Basketball Association on June 20 became the first league to return to action in China following a nearly five-month stoppage.
The production of a vaccine is now seen as key to ensuring a return to something close to normality.
More than 200 candidate drugs are being developed, with 23 having progressed to clinical trials.
DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has lifted a health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak and ordered a reopening in three stages of business activities, schools, and borders.
The vast country of more than 80 million people has recorded 8,534 infections including 196 deaths since March 10.
Tshisekedi said the figures place the Democratic Republic of Congo as ninth worst-hit country in Africa in terms of the number of cases and 12th in terms of deaths, “putting paid to all catastrophic forecasts for our country at the start of the epidemic.”
Tshisekedi’s government proclaimed a health emergency on March 24 in which borders were closed, as well as schools, bars and restaurants.
In a televised speech late on Tuesday, the president announced an end to the emergency.
He said that from Wednesday all shops, banks, restaurants and bars would be allowed to reopen, public transport can resume and large gatherings are permitted.
Schools and universities can reopen on August 3, and airports, ports, borders and places of worship on August 15.
But he warned that “the end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of the COVID-19 epidemic in our country,” reminding citizens to wear masks in public and wash their hands frequently.
Tempers flared as the deadlocked EU coronavirus summit rolled over from Sunday into Monday, with French President Emmanuel Macron upbraiding his Dutch and Austrian colleagues and threatening a walk-out.
Frustration had been building for three days as the 27 leaders wrangled over the size and form of an up to 750-billion-euro ($860-billion) package of loans and grants to lift virus-ravaged countries out of recession.
An alliance of so-called “frugals”, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria, has been resisting calls for the bulk of the funds to be doled out as non-repayable grants.
Macron, according to witnesses, bashed the table, attacked Kurz for leaving the room to make a call, and accused Rutte of behaving like former British premier David Cameron — whose strategy “ended badly”.
Cameron often took a hard line at EU summits seeking concessions for Britain, but ended up losing a Brexit referendum — and his job.
According to a European source Kurz was offended by Macron’s behaviour.
A member of the French delegation told AFP that some of the accounts of what had happened has been “a little caricatured” but confirmed that Macron had “taken a hard line on their inconsistencies”.
According to officials, Macron had denounced the two leaders for their insistence that the recovery funds take the form of loans with strict conditions attached, rather than as grants — and had said he would rather walk away than make a bad deal.
France wants at least 400 billion euros to be available as grants, but the Frugals want to cut that back substantially.
Mexican president Manuel Lopez Obrador on Sunday vowed to improve health standards in the nation, which has the fourth-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, as the number of fatalities rose to nearly 39,000.
“We want to remember those who died from the COVID-19 pandemic, and send a loving, fraternal hug to their relatives, to their friends,” Lopez Obrador said in a video released on social media.
Mexico, with 127 million inhabitants, had recorded 38,888 deaths from the new coronavirus, according to health authorities on Saturday, with additional suspected coronavirus deaths lifting the total to more than 40,000.
Mexico has the second-highest death toll in Latin America after Brazil, which has 78,772 deaths.
“There will be time later to pay tribute with all the protocol and ceremonies — a solemn tribute to those who have lost their lives due to this terrible pandemic,” added Lopez Obrador, flanked by a Mexican flag and two soldiers.
He read out 10 commitments to protect those vulnerable to COVID-19, including tackling “diseases caused by hunger and poverty,” launching “a permanent campaign” to promote healthier eating and lifestyles, and treating hypertension, diabetes and obesity as a priority.
The US has recorded more than 60,000 new cases every day for the last six days, peaking at a record 77,638 infections on Friday.
President Donald Trump, in a Fox News interview broadcast on Sunday, again defended his handling of the pandemic, claiming that the US was “the envy of the world” on testing. Referring to his early prediction that the virus would disappear, he said, “I’ll be right eventually.”
He again opposed any national mandate for mask-wearing, saying, “I want people to have a certain freedom.”
He was a director of The Strongest in La Paz, a century-old Bolivian soccer institution. His wife, head of the same club, also tested positive for COVID-19.
“My condolences to the family and friends of Cesar Salinas, president of the Bolivian Football Federation. They have all my support in these hard times,” wrote the interim president of Bolivia, Jeanine Anez, on Twitter.
The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said: “Conmebol and the South American soccer family deeply regret the death.”
Salinas had recently met with authorities to plan to restart football in Bolivia after the virus shutdown. With 11 million inhabitants, Bolivia has registered 58,136 cases and 2,106 deaths.
Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai has tested positive for the coronavirus, a Mumbai city authority official told AFP Sunday, just a day after her actor father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan said he was in hospital with the infectious disease.
Her eight-year-old daughter, Aaradhya, was also COVID-19 positive, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation official, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
Bachchan’s actor son Abhishek, Rai’s husband, said he too was positive but that both their cases were mild.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan took the Miss World crown in 1994 and made her acting debut in the late 1990s.
She went on to become one of the most famous Bollywood faces abroad as well as in India and has been a regular on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. She married Abhishek Bachchan in 2007.
The elder Bachchan, 77 — idolised in India and affectionately known as “Big B” — has a more than four-decade-long career in the film industry.
He was voted “actor of the millennium” in a BBC online poll in 1999 and became the first Indian actor to gain a lookalike at London’s Madame Tussauds waxworks museum.
India on Sunday reported its highest single-day virus tally of more than 28,600 cases, for a nationwide total of just under 850,000 infections.
The nation of 1.3 billion people is the third-worst infected in the world after the United States and Brazil.
US President Donald Trump wore a face mask in public for the first time Saturday, finally yielding to intense pressure to set a public health example as the coronavirus rampages across America.
Trump had on a dark mask featuring the presidential seal as he walked through the corridors of Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington to meet with wounded veterans.
Trump strode past reporters and did not stop to speak to them about what had become a hotly anticipated moment — would he have a change of heart on a practice recommended by the government’s own medical experts, even as he resisted?
“I’ve never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place,” Trump said as he left the White House.
News reports this week said aides practically begged the president to relent and wear a mask in public — and let himself be photographed — as coronavirus cases soar in some states and as Trump trails Democrat Joe Biden badly in polls ahead of the November election.
Trump has steadfastly defended his administration’s handling of the pandemic even though the US is the hardest-hit country in the world.
The country has recently seen several days of more than 60,000 new cases, nearly 135,000 people have died and states have been left to figure out on their own how to reopen without a clear and coherent strategy from the White House.
Masks ‘a great thing’
To wear a mask or not has become a sort of political fulcrum for a deeply divided America.
Conservatives who back Trump often refuse to don one on grounds it impinges on their freedom, while progressives tend to back the practice as a show of collective responsibility at a time of a life-or-death crisis.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend people wear masks in public when they cannot engage in social distancing.
But Trump — at political rallies, media briefings and elsewhere — has repeatedly avoided wearing a mask, even after staffers at the White House tested positive for the virus and as more aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, have taken to wearing them.
In May Trump even made fun of Biden when the latter started wearing a mask in public, sharing a tweet that featured an unflattering photograph of the former vice president in a black face covering.
Trump has reportedly told aides that wearing a mask would make him look weak and he could not stomach the idea of letting the media photograph him in one.
Even Saturday as he left the White House to head to Walter Reed, Trump made it sound like he would wear a mask only because he would be in a hospital — not that he had come around and embraced the idea of donning one regularly.
“I think when you’re in a hospital, especially in that particular setting, where you’re talking to a lot of soldiers and people that, in some cases, just got off the operating tables, I think it’s a great thing to wear a mask,” Trump told reporters.