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CORONAVIRUS – Reported cases may climb to 10 million next week; as NCAA announces air travel regulations in Nigeria


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Director-General, World Health Organization  Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has revealed that more than 9.1 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, and more than 470,000 deaths recorded.  In the first month of this outbreak, less than 10,000 cases were reported to WHO.  In the last month, almost 4 million cases have been reported. We expect to reach a total of 10 million cases within the next week.

This is a sober reminder that even as we continue research into vaccines and therapeutics, we have an urgent responsibility to do everything we can with the tools we have now to suppress transmission and save lives. One of the most effective ways of saving lives is providing oxygen to patients who need it.  Several news reports published today have highlighted the vital role of oxygen in treating patients with severe and critical COVID-19.

This has been an area of intense focus for WHO since the beginning of the pandemic. Patients with severe and critical COVID-19 cannot get enough oxygen into their blood by breathing normally. They need higher concentrations of oxygen and support to get it into their lungs. Left untreated, severe COVID-19 deprives cells and organs of the oxygen they need, which ultimately leads to organ failure and death.

Medical oxygen is produced using oxygen concentrators, which extract and purify oxygen from the air. WHO estimates that at the current rate of about 1 million new cases a week, the world needs about 620,000 cubic meters of oxygen a day, which is about 88,000 large cylinders. However, many countries are now experiencing difficulties in obtaining oxygen concentrators. 80 percent of the market is owned by just a few companies, and demand is currently outstripping supply.

WHO and our UN partners are working with manufacturers across the world through a variety of private-sector networks to buy,  oxygen concentrators for countries that need them most.  Ongoing talks with suppliers in recent weeks have enabled WHO to buy 14,000 oxygen concentrators, which will be sent to 120 countries in the coming weeks. WHO has identified a further 170,000 concentrators that can be available over the next 6 months, with a value of US$100 million dollars.  In addition, WHO has bought 9800 pulse oximeters, a simple device used to monitor oxygen in a patient’s blood, which are being prepared for shipment.

Another challenge is that many patients with critical diseases need a higher flow rate of oxygen than is produced by most commercially available concentrators. To address this challenge, WHO is supporting several countries to buy equipment that will enable them to generate their own concentrated oxygen in larger amounts. This is a sustainable solution for COVID-19 and beyond, but requires technical expertise for maintenance.  WHO has also published technical specifications for the design of this equipment, as well as guidance for countries on oxygen sources and distribution.

This is just one way in which WHO is continuing to support countries with science, solidarity and solutions. As some countries start to reopen their societies and economies, questions about how to hold gatherings of large numbers of people safely have become increasingly important.

ANNUAL HAJJ PILGRIMAGE: This is especially true of one of the world’s largest mass gatherings, the annual Hajj pilgrimage.  Earlier this week, the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that this year’s Hajj will proceed with a limited number of pilgrims of different nationalities who live within the Kingdom. This decision was made based on a risk assessment and analysis of different scenarios, in accordance with WHO’s guidance, to protect the safety of pilgrims and minimize the risk of transmission.

WHO supports this decision. We understand that it was not an easy decision to make, and we also understand it is a major disappointment for many Muslims who were looking forward to making their pilgrimage this year. This is another example of the hard choices that all countries must make to put health first.

EBOLA IN THE CONGO: Finally, tomorrow the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is planning to announce the end of the Ebola outbreak in the east of the country, after almost 2 years of struggle. In total there have been almost 3500 cases, almost 2300 deaths, and almost 1200 survivors. WHO is proud to have worked under the leadership of the Government of the DRC to bring this outbreak under control.

This has only been possible thanks to the service and sacrifice of thousands of Congolese health workers, working side by side with colleagues from WHO and many other partners. I salute them all. Many of the public health measures that have been successful in stopping Ebola are the same measures that are now essential for suppressing COVID-19: Finding every case, isolating every case, testing every case, caring for every case and relentless contact tracing.

These are the measures that must remain the backbone of the response in every country. There are no short-cuts. But Ebola and COVID-19 are only two of the health threats facing the people of DRC, and many other low- and middle-income countries.  That’s why WHO is committed to continuing to work with the people and government of DRC to strengthen its health system and support it on the road towards universal health coverage.  I thank you.

COVID-19: Air Travellers In Nigeria must use face mask – Federal government.

As Nigeria prepares to open her airspace to interstate flights the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) will this Saturday stage what it described as Test runs at designated approved airports.  It will be made compulsory for all passengers to wear face masks among other stringent rules that will be announced by FAAN.

The General Manager, Public Affairs, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu made this known in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the decision was in compliance with the Federal Ministry of Aviation’s directive that agencies in the sector relocate their headquarters to Abuja.

Yakubu said the new development was aimed at ensuring operational efficiency, while improving the quality of service delivery to our esteemed customers. The test runs are to demonstrate the preparedness of how the airports would handle passengers ready to board flights. Ministry of Health approves COVID-19 protocols for aviation sector, as airports prepare to resume.

The federal ministry of health had last month announced  that flight attendants would be required to undergo mandatory COVID-19 test every fortnight, at the expense of their employers. Flight crew members will now be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and observe Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) measures for the duration of their flights. They would also be required to undergo mandatory COVID-19 test every fortnight, at the expense of their employers.

This forms part of the mandatory COVID-19 protocols approved by the Federal Ministry of Health for the aviation industry, as the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) gradually eases the lockdown on its operations. The NCAA Director-General, Captain Musa Nuhu announced that new protocols override existing practices where the international flight crew members are quarantined for 14 days upon their return to Nigeria.

In addition, the airlines must also conduct orientation and sensitisation of their crew on Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) measures, in addition to having adequate stock of PPE, minimum 70% alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and Universal Precaution Kits (UPK) on board every aircraft

The document indicates that: “Onboard the flight crew will request passengers wash their hands after using the lavatory, apply disinfectant spray in lavatory every 60 minutes during the flight and maintain a safe distance between passengers and themselves; avoid direct physical contact and serve only pre-packed meals to passengers.

Flight deck crew must wear non-medical face masks and gloves but can remove face masks when the cockpit door is closed. They must also ensure safe removal of gloves after performing specific tasks and avoid touching their face and eyes with unclean hands.”  The new protocols according to Nuhu, are a result of a proposal earlier sent by the NCAA to the Ministry of Aviation for approval.