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U.S. issues ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory for eight African countries

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department on Saturday advised against travel to eight southern African countries after the White House announced new travel restrictions in response to a new COVID-19 variant.

The CDC raised its travel recommendation to “Level Four: Very High” for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Eswatini and Botswana while the State Department issued parallel “Do Not Travel” advisories Saturday. On Monday, the CDC had lowered its COVID-19 travel advisory for South Africa to “Level 1: Low” from “Level 3: High”

Of the eight countries, only Botswana was previously listed as “Level 4.”

Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, is potentially more contagious than previous variants of the disease, although experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other strains. It could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the variant’s mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it.

The discovery of the variant has sparked global concern, a wave of travel bans or curbs and a sell-off on financial markets on Friday as investors worried that Omicron could stall a global recovery from the nearly two-year pandemic.

The new variant prompted the White House to announce Friday it would bar nearly all foreign nationals who have been in any of eight countries within the last 14 days from flying to the United States effective Monday at 12:01 a.m. ET (0500 GMT). Travelers on flights that depart before that time will be allowed to land in the United States. But foreign nationals must be vaccinated and have tested negative within three days.

Britain detected two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant on Saturday, even as Australia and other countries joined nations imposing restrictions on travel from southern Africa in an effort to stop its spread.

The variant was first discovered in South Africa and had also since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

A U.S. official told Reuters Friday the Biden administration could also add other countries to the travel curb list if the variant spreads. The United States only lifted travel restrictions on South Africa and 32 other countries on Nov. 8.

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Federal Government, Society to Publish Book On COVID-19

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Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding  (MOU) with the Society Committee Against COVID-19 (SOSOCOVID), to document government and stakeholders activities during COVID-19 pandemic.

SOSOCOVID is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).

Ehanire, represented by Mr. Okwudili Okechukwu, Director, Health System Strengthening Division in the ministry, said in Abuja that the project would educate Nigerians on issues of COVID-19.

Ehanire said stakeholders played vital roles in curbing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

He said that the project to write a book about all the efforts was a welcome development and for posterity’s sake.

Mr. Kenneth Ibe-Kalu, Director of SOSOCOVID, said the project was to tell the story of the dreaded Coronavirus to Nigerians.

“We will let Nigerians know how the virus declared war on an unprepared world, how its weapon of mass destruction was fired into Nigeria and how the country engaged in the warfare.

”It is usually said that events not written are lost to history. This is why we decided to chronic the advent of Coronavirus in the book of records titled `COVID-19: The Nigerian Story’,” he said.

Ibe-Kalu said the book’s storyline would celebrate those who planned strategies, those who braved it to the front line, and other people who rendered one service or the other.

He said that the book would celebrate and accommodate profiles of support, innovations, and contributions of Nigerians in the fight against COVID-19. (NAN)

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Yuletide COVID-19 Surge: FTC Admin Bans Nightclubs, Parties, Religious Congregations

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The current status of COVID-19 in the Nation’s capital Abuja has forced the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to place ban on nightclubs, parties and religious congregations with over 50 worshippers.

The administration in a statement Saturday by the Secretary, Health and Human Services Secretariat Dr. Abubakarl Tafida noted that the failure of residents to adopt simple preventive measures was worrisome.

The statement said read in part, “Any gathering in excess of 50 people must be done in open spaces. Street parties are discouraged. All night clubs and related activities are banned during this period. The indoor religious congregation should be limited to 50 per cent capacity with full compliance to public health social measures such as physical distancing two metres apart and use of face masks. “Consequently during the Christmas and New year celebration period, the residents of the FCT are urged to practice the following measures as advised by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, which will be enforced by FCTA.

The statement, called on residents of the territory to take action to protect themselves and their loved ones against this pandemic.

It said the cases so far as at December 24 were 2,591 which is 1,028% increase of the 252 cases confirmed in November 2021.

In addition, hospital admissions for COVID-19 had increased by over 634 per cent from 35 in November to 222 in December.

Also, the number of active cases being treated in the treatment centres and at private homes rose from 130 at the end of November to today’s figure of 2,352(1,809%) increase. About 25% of all cases over the months were between 30 to 39 years olds.

The administration said all COVID-19 deaths in December 2021 occurred in unvaccinated persons.

 

 

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Nigerian Govt Destroys Over One Million Expired Astrazeneca Covid-19 Vaccines

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The federal government has destroyed expired COVID-19 vaccines as AstraZeneca injections totalling 1,066,214 doses were destroyed.

The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) Dr. Faisal Shuaib briefed Journalists shortly before setting out to destroy the vaccines at the Idu Dump site in the Federal Capital Territory,

He said with the destruction of the vaccines, the country was able to save about $40 million by accepting the donated short shelf-live vaccines from donor countries.

Shuaib said that the move was to further demonstrate the high standards that the agency operates within Nigeria.

“Government took the action to destroy the expired vaccines not only to safeguard the health of Nigerians, but to also engender trust in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

“There were about two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines that were due for expiration last month, but that the agency was able to utilize over 60 per cent of the supplies before the expiry date.

“The agency has successfully withdrawn about 1,066,214 doses of expired AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccines have been deposited by the Abuja Environmental Protection Agency (AEPA). We have come through on our promise to Nigerians to be transparent in our delivery of vaccines.

“These vaccines did not expire before we took the decision to withdraw them, today is an opportunity for Nigerians to have further faith in our vaccination programme because we have lived up to the expectations of all Nigerians, we had the option of taking the advice of some experts to use these vaccines even beyond the labelled expiry date, but working together with NAFDAC, we took the decision to destroy them at the point they got expired.

“This work that we do is a work that requires trust, it is a sacred trust that has been bestowed on us by the generality of Nigerians. We hold that trust to be true and we guard that trust very jealously.

“This is why today we are destroying these vaccines that have expired. The heroes of today’s activities is actually the frontline health workers.

“A few months ago when these vaccines were offered to us, we knew that they had short shelve life, but we are living in an environment that supply of COVID-19 vaccine were very scarce. They were not available due to vaccine nationalism, we had developed countries that procured this vaccines and hoarded them in their stores and at the point they were about to expire, they offered them for donations, while we appreciate the donations by these countries, we have to acknowledge the fact that they were almost expired vaccines.

“Because we wanted to satisfy and protect Nigerians, we offered to accept these vaccines, worked collaboratively with NAFDAC to ensure that the agency tested and made sure that these vaccines were in good condition and we rolled out under very difficult circumstances, we got our health care workers working night and day, staff of NPHCDA worked round the clock under extreme situations just to make sure that Nigerians have access to vaccines even when these vaccines were not available,” he said.

Shuaib said the agency have been able to vaccinate over 10 million Nigerians with the short shelf life vaccines. According to him, if the country were to wait until much later when vaccines would be widely available, may be it would not have gotten any Nigerian vaccinated.

“We still have short shelf life vaccines in the country and they are still potent, they have not reached their end of use date. We have saved Nigeria over $40 million, resources that can be ploughed into other areas of the health sector.

“We will continue to encourage our health workers and continue to work with them until we are able to vaccinate at least 70 percent of our eligible population and achieve herd immunity.

“We guarantee Nigerians that these vaccines are safe, effective and can protect Nigerians against severe form of COVID-19 and also protect against death from Covid-19. The only people that are mostly dying from COVID-19 are people who are unvaccinated, very few people that are vaccinated,” he said.

On her part, the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojishola Adeyeye said the agency was discharging its function by ensuring that expired vaccines and any other unwholesome medicine were destroyed and put out of circulation.

She explained that the vaccines destroyed yesterday were very good and potent only that they have reached their expiry date.

“Nigerians deserve the best in terms of the quality of medicines and vaccines. That was the basis of the meeting between NPHCDA and NAFDAC. When NAFDAC approves a vaccine meaning what you have seen on paper, inform of a dosage like a package of the vaccine. When we approve we wait for the vaccine to come,” she said.

Adeyeye explained that the usually life span of the vaccines as they arrive Nigeria was eight to nine months.

According to her because the country does not manufacture the vaccines before they are brought into the country, they would have only about eight months life span remaining.

She said NAFDAC keeps strictly to its core mandate by ensuring that vaccines are properly tested before usage, adding that the agency was one of the few in Africa that tests vaccines before their usage.

Adeyeye described the destruction of the expired vaccine as a means of quality control, saying it marked the end of the journey for a product.

The NAFDAC boss used the opportunity to reassure Nigerians of the hope of revamping the country’s capacity to manufacture vaccines locally in the next one year.

The highlight of the ceremony was the display of the truck load of the expired vaccines which were eventually crushed and poured into a ditch before being buried with sand.

 

 

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