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CORONAVIRUS — THE WORLD AT CROSSROADS — PANDEMIC FAR FROM BEING OVER – World Health Organisation; Nigerian government extends revised lock down measures

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  • SIX MONTHS OF CORONAVIRUS — PANDEMIC REMAINS A FORMIDABLE THREAT – World Health Organisation
  • Nigerian government extends revised lockdown measures
  • COVID-19: STAY HOME IN NIGERIA for now; UK GOVT TELLS NIGERIANS; OTHERS
  • Diaspora remittances to fall

The Director-General of the World Health Organisation today had disquieting news for the global community. Briefing the media, WHO DG, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: ‘’Tomorrow marks six months since WHO received the first reports of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in China. The six-month anniversary of the outbreak coincides with reaching 10 million cases and 500,000 deaths.  This is a moment for all of us to reflect on the progress we have made and the lessons we have learned, and to recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to save lives.

Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world – and our lives – would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus. The pandemic has brought out the best and the worst of humanity. All over the world we have seen heartwarming acts of resilience, inventiveness, solidarity, and kindness.  But we have also seen concerning signs of stigma, misinformation and the politicization of the pandemic.

For the past six months, WHO and our partners have worked relentlessly to support all countries to prepare for and respond to this new virus. Today, we are publishing an updated and detailed timeline of WHO’s response to the pandemic on our website, so the public can have a look at what happened in the past six months in relation to the response.  It illustrates the range of WHO’s work to stop transmission and save lives.  We have worked with researchers, clinicians and other experts to bring together the evolving science and distill it into guidance.

Millions of health workers have enrolled in courses through our OpenWHO.org online learning platform. We launched the Solidarity Trial, to find answers fast to which drugs are the most effective. We launched Solidarity Flights, to ship millions of test kits and tons of personal protective equipment to many countries.  We launched the Solidarity Response Fund, which has raised more than US$223 million for the response.

Three major innovative solidarity activities  And we have worked with the European Commission and multiple partners to launch the ACT Accelerator, to ensure that once a vaccine is available, it’s available to everyone – especially those who are at greatest risk. On Friday we launched the ACT Accelerator Investment Case, which estimates that more than US$31 billion will be needed to accelerate the development, equitable allocation, and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics by the end of next year.

Over the weekend, WHO was proud to partner in the “Global Goal: Unite for Our Future” pledging conference, organized by the European Commission and Global Citizen.  The event mobilized new resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic globally, including in support of the ACT Accelerator. Although a vaccine will be an important long-term tool for controlling COVID-19, there are five priorities that every single country must focus on now, to save lives now.

First, empower communities. Every individual must understand that they are not helpless – there are things everyone should do to protect themselves and others. Your health is in your hands. That includes physical distancing, hand hygiene, covering coughs, staying home if you feel sick, wearing masks when appropriate, and only sharing information from reliable sources. You may be in a low-risk category, but the choices you make could be the difference between life and death for someone else.

Second, suppress transmission. Whether countries have no cases, clusters of cases or community transmission, there are steps all countries can take to suppress the spread of the virus. Ensure that health workers have access to training and personal protective equipment.

Improve surveillance to find cases. The single-most important intervention for breaking chains of transmission is not necessarily high-tech and can be carried out by a broad range of professionals. It’s tracing and quarantining contacts. Many countries actually have used non-health professionals to do contact tracing.

Third, save lives. Early identification and clinical care save lives. Providing oxygen and dexamethasone to people with severe and critical disease saves lives. And paying special attention to high-risk groups, including elderly people in long-term care facilities, saves lives. Japan has done this: it has one of the highest populations of elderly people, but its death rate is low, and the reason is what we just said – many countries can do that, they can save lives.

Fourth, accelerate research. We’ve already learned a lot about this virus, but there’s still a lot we don’t know – and there are still tools we need. This week we will convene a second meeting to assess progress on research and development and re-evaluate research priorities for the next stage of the pandemic.

And fifth, political leadership. As we have said repeatedly, national unity and global solidarity are essential to implementing a comprehensive strategy to suppress transmission, save lives and minimize the social and economic impact of the virus.  No matter what stage a country is at, these five priorities – if acted on consistently and coherently – can turn the tide. WHO will continue to do everything in our power to serve countries with science, solidarity and solutions.  The critical question that all countries will face in the coming months is how to live with this virus. That is the new normal.

Many countries have implemented unprecedented measures to suppress transmission and save lives. These measures have been successful in slowing the spread of the virus. But they have not completely stopped it.  Some countries are now experiencing a resurgence of cases as they start to re-open their economies and societies. Most people remain susceptible. The virus still has a lot of room to move. We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives.  But the hard reality is: this is not even close to being over.

WE MUST NOT LOSE HOPE: Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up. We’re all in this together, and we’re all in this for the long haul. We will need even greater stores of resilience, patience, humility and generosity in the months ahead.  We have already lost so much – but we cannot lose hope.  This is a time for renewing our commitment to empowering communities, suppressing transmission, saving lives, accelerating research and political and moral leadership.

But it’s also a time for all countries to renew their commitment to universal health coverage as the cornerstone of social and economic development – and to building the safer, fairer, greener, more inclusive world we all want. \

Nigeria extends second phase of eased lockdown by four weeks The second phase of the gradual easing of the lockdown in the country has been extended by four weeks. Task Force chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, disclosed this at a news briefing in Abuja. The first lockdown followed the need to prevent the spread of the pandemic in the country. President Muhammadu Buhari had  approved the gradual easing of the five-week lockdown in FCT, Lagos and Ogun states.

The lockdown was eased to a nationwide night curfew (8 p.m. to 6 a.m.) from May 4 to May 17. The curfew was later amended by many state governments to commence from 10:00 p.m. The first phase of the relaxed lockdown was extended by two weeks and elapsed midnight June 1. The second phase commenced on June 2 and elapses by midnight today, June 29.

Mustapha while speaking at the daily Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing, said the extension of the second phase was approved by President Buhari. He stated that: “I am pleased to inform you that Mr President has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase Two of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020, through Midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020,” he said.

 Diaspora remittances to fall Diaspora remittances may fall by 20 percent as a result of coronavirus, forecasts by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, PwC, world’s leading accounting and management firm has revealed. The World Bank analysis of sub-Sahara Africa, indicates that Nigeria’s DR inflow will also drop by 20 percent in 2020. This development is seen as one of the direct impacts of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic on Nigeria.

Though Nigeria is second to Egypt in the African continent, it leads sub-Sahara Africa in DR accounting for over a third of total remittance flows to the sub-region as of 2019. PwC had estimated that DR to Nigeria could grow from US$25.5 billion in 2019 to US$29.8 billion and US$34.8billion in 2021 and 2023 respectively. But World Bank is projecting a reversal to $20 billion in 2020, a performance which will ultimately make the PwC’s $29.8 billion estimates for 2021 largely unrealistic.

Consequently, given the critical role of DR in Nigeria’s economy, the World Bank advised that more channels of mobilizing the migrant remittances should be explored. The operators of the Bureau de Changes, BDCs, in Nigeria have offered to fill the gap. But protecting the remittances market will require policy shift including breaking the current monopoly that limits funds receipts to only ‘few lucky’ players at the detriment of the economy.

President, Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) Alhaji (Dr.) Aminu Gwadabe insists that now is the time to break the current industry monopoly that puts the remittances market in the hands of few players depriving others of tapping into the goldmine. For him, there is an urgent need to get more players to join the remittance collection market including getting BDC operators approved for the business.

 STAY HOME IN YOUR COUNTRY FOR NOW; UK GOVT TELLS NIGERIANS, AMERICANS, BRAZILIANS,  OTHERS: In another development, if you are a Nigerian planning to travel to the United Kingdom, you had better put your plans on hold. This is because the UK government has temporarily barred Nigerians and a few other countries from visiting on account of Coronavirus.  Reports indicate that United States, Brazil, and Russia are also similarly barred.

The European countries had shut their borders when the COVID-19 pandemic spread into the region. Also read: Influx of Sub-standard Goods: Reps back return of SON, NAFDAC to ports With the easing of lockdown restrictions, the EU had released a draft list of 54 countries that will be granted entry into the borders. An update of the countries on the entry list to Europe include Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, and New Zealand. Others are Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, and China.

On June 11, the European Commission had asked its member to extend the entry ban on third-country nationals until June 30. Eric Mamer, the spokesperson for the EU commission, said the criteria used to select the countries is based on their health situation. “The European Union has an internal process to determine from which countries it would be safe to accept travellers,” he said.