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Covid-19: Confirmed Case of Delta Variant Detected in Nigeria

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has detected a confirmed case with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2. The variant was detected in a traveler to Nigeria, following the routine travel test required of all international travelers and genomic sequencing at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.

The Delta variant is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a variant of concern, given its increased transmissibility. The variant has been detected in over 90 countries and is expected to spread to more countries. The variant has also been linked to a surge in cases in countries where it is the dominant strain in circulation. There are ongoing studies to understand the impact of the variant on existing vaccines and therapeutics.

As part of Nigeria’s COVID-19 response, NCDC has been working with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), African Centre for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), and other laboratories within the national network, to carry out genomic sequencing. This is to enable the detection of variants of concern, and initiate response activities. All data on variants from Nigeria have been published on GISAID, a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data. Given the global risk of spread of the Delta variant, positive samples from international travelers to Nigeria are sequenced regularly.

The Government of Nigeria through the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) has initiated several measures to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19. This includes the introduction of travel restrictions from countries where there is a surge in cases associated with widespread prevalence of variants of concern. The national travel protocol which includes compulsory seven-day self-isolation and repeat test on the seventh day after arrival, are in place to reduce the risk of spread of the virus. It is very important that this is strictly adhered to, to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria.

Given the high transmissibility of the Delta variant and following its detection in Nigeria, NCDC urges all Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to public health and social measures in place. Proven public health and social measures such as physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and proper use of face masks, prevent infections and save lives. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and offers protection against the disease.

Additionally, states are urged to ensure sample collection and testing for COVID-19 is accessible to the public. Public settings such as schools with accommodation facilities, workplaces and camps should utilise the approved Antigen-based Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) for rapid testing of their population.

According to the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, “Although we have seen a low number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria in the last eight weeks, it is incredibly important that we do not forget to be careful. The surge in cases in countries across the world and Africa is an important reminder of the risk we face. Please protect yourselves and the people you love by adhering to the known public health and social measures, getting vaccinated if you are eligible and getting tested if you have symptoms”.

The recommended control measures to limit the spread of the Delta variant continue to be testing, following the existing public health guidance and abiding by the current travel and public restrictions

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Covid-19: UK Eases All Restrictions July 19th

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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday revealed plans to lift most of England’s legal coronavirus restrictions, including face masks and social distancing from July 19, urging personal responsibility rather than government edict.

Johnson had initially aimed for a full reopening on June 21, but was forced to push back the date because of a surge in the highly contagious Delta variant.

That variant now accounts for nearly all new Covid-19 cases in Britain, and infection rates have soared, sparking concern.

But mass vaccinations have stopped a resultant surge in hospital admissions or deaths.

“This pandemic is far from over, it certainly won’t be over by the 19th,” warned Johnson. “We must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid.

“There’s only one reason why we can contemplate going ahead… in circumstances where we’d normally be locking down further, that’s because of the continuing effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.

“We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions,” he said.

Around 86 percent of British adults have had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 63 percent their second dose.

But the government’s emphasis on personal judgment was met with concern by scientists, who worry that hospitals and medics could yet be stretched anew if the Delta variant runs amok or new strains emerge.

“Allowing people to make their own choices on this is, effectively, handing control of the safety of such spaces over to the least informed, least caring and indeed the most callous members of society,” said Peter English, former chair of the British Medical Association Public Health Medicine Committee.

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said he would still wear a mask “in any situation which is indoors and crowded” or “if someone else is uncomfortable as a point of common courtesy.”

And he hinted at possible tension between scientists and ministers, telling a news conference: “Ministers decide, advisers advise.”

A snap YouGov poll meanwhile suggested that 71 percent of Britons believe face masks should continue to be mandatory on public transport.

– Travel still in doubt –

After Russia, Britain has the highest coronavirus death toll of any European country, at more than 128,000, but has been gradually transitioning out of its third lockdown imposed in January.

The remaining restrictions in England encompass requirements for social distancing and wearing masks indoors in public, bans on most outdoor large events, and guidance for people to work from home.

The government has already relaxed the ban on major events to allow 60,000 football fans to attend the semi-finals and final of the European Championship at London’s Wembley stadium — two-thirds of its capacity.

The first semi-final is Tuesday and the England team play in the second one on Wednesday — although German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week told Johnson that he was risking too much by permitting so many fans.

The UK government is meanwhile expected later this week to set out plans for fully vaccinated Britons to travel to “amber” countries, which includes most of Europe, without having to quarantine for 10 days on their return.

But Germany and other countries in Europe show no sign of relaxing their own rules to allow in unrestricted numbers of British holidaymakers this summer.

As a result, most Britons will have to remain content with vacationing at home, but will have the attraction of summer music festivals under the planned easing.

They can also anticipate an end to social distancing in pubs, the reopening of nightclubs, and the scrapping of a requirement to register their personal details every time they enter a pub or restaurant.

But businesses can still impose their own rules, and it remains to be seen whether operators of mass transit including Transport for London drop the wearing of masks on trains and buses.

The UK’s other nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — set their own health policy and are moving more slowly.

(AFP)

 

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COVID-19: FG Hasn’t Introduced New Lockdown – SGF Clarifies

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…We Are Only Maintaining Existing Regulations, He Says
Boss Mustapha

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee, (PSC) on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, has clarified misrepresentation in the briefing of the PSC on Monday.

Mustapha, who spoke to News Agency of (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja, said it was erroneously reported that the had re-introduced nationwide curfew between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. as part of the COVID-19 safety protocols.

 

 

He, However, said the announcement by the National Incident Manager, Dr. Mukhtar Mohammed, during the PSC press briefing was taken out of context because the did not relax the curfew imposed earlier under Phase Three of the eased lockdown.

Rather, he explained that what Mohammed said was that the was maintaining the curfew under the Phase Four of the phased restriction of movement.

 

 

“Under the Fourth Phase of restriction of movement, night clubs, gyms and others will remain closed till further notice; while all citizens will also ensure that mass gatherings outside work settings do not exceed maximum of 50 people in an enclosed space.

“These restrictions have been in existence under the Third Phase but are being maintained under the Phase Four of the phased restriction of movement,” said the SGF.

 

 

He further said because people had been violating the safety protocols, they had forgotten that the protocols were never relaxed in the first place.

“Therefore, the PSC hereby reiterates that there is no newly introduced lockdown. There is no need for the panic that followed the announcement of the Fourth Phase of the phased restriction of movement.

 

“We will continue to appeal to members of the public to comply with these restrictions because they are necessary safety measures against contracting the dreaded coronavirus, which is still ravaging human populations across the world,” said Mustapha.

NAN reports that approved the transition of the Presidential Task Force () on COVID-19 to PSC on COVID-19, which took effective from April 1, with a modified mandate to reflect the non-emergent status of COVID-19 as a potentially long-term pandemic.

“The structure of the PSC shall reflect the new focus of the response with a targeted approach on vaccine oversight, risk , international travel quarantine processes and sub-national engagement; and that the tenure of the PSC shall last till 31 December, 2021,” said the president.

He added that the PSC would maintain the present constitution, functions and strategies of the ; be supported by a slim technical and administrative structure.

Mohammed is expected to formally take over from the National Coordinator, Dr. Sani Aliyu, and function as the Head (Technical Secretariat) and member of the PSC. (NAN)

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FG Reintroduces COVID-19 Restrictions, Shuts Bars, Recreational Centres, Limits Public Gatherings

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The Federal Government has reintroduced COVID-19 restrictions across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

This new directive is to take effect by midnight of Tuesday, a member of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Dr Mukhtar Mohammed, declared.

Mohammed, who is the Head of Technical Secretariat of the PSC, made the announcement while briefing reporters on Monday in Abuja.

With the restrictions imposed, mass gatherings in public spaces have been restricted to 50 people at any given time.

Access to government institutions would also be denied to anyone not wearing a face mask while government meetings and travels have been limited to the virtual platform.

According to Mohammed, the government has directed that bars and nightclubs should remain closed and the nationwide curfew will be in force until further notice.

He added that only essential international travels would be encouraged, and all existing protocols must be strictly adhered to.

The PSC member, however, stated that there was no limitation to intra-state travel.

A file photo of a healthcare worker holding a COVID-19 test kit. TARSO SARRAF / AFP

 

On his part, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, said returning foreign passengers who fled the quarantine facilities and violated the compulsory requirement would not go unpunished.

He noted that the committee has received reports that some persons who recently returned to the country violated the mandatory quarantine requirement under the advisory by escaping from the facilities.

Mustapha, who is also the PSC Chairman, condemned the violation of the nation’s laws and hospitality, noting that the committee was awaiting the report of ongoing investigations and would impose appropriate sanctions on the violators.

He revealed that the PSC has considered several pre-emptive measures to be taken to mitigate the likely impact of the variants of COVID-19, should they get imported into Nigeria.

The SGF explained that the step became important in view of the fragile state of the nation’s health systems, the disruption to the delivery of vaccines, and the lack of compliance with the extant public health measures and social measures contained in the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021.

According to him, it is imperative to reinstitute the various public health measures that were put in place under the health protection regulations.

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