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COVID-19 on increase in Americas, Africa – WHO

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Road Traffic Injuries, Leading Cause of Young People’s Deaths, Globally – WHO

… As U.S. surpasses 1m COVID-19 deaths***

COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline but omicron sub-variants are driving an increase in the Americas and Africa.

Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, told journalists at the weekly briefing in Geneva on Wednesday that despite weekly fatalities being at their lowest since March 2020, they don’t tell the full story.

Also read: Post-COVID-19: Obaseki decries brain drain in health sector

He said “The South African scientists who identified Omicron late last year have now reported two more Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, as the reason for a spike in cases in South Africa.

“It’s too soon to know whether these new sub-variants can cause more severe disease than other Omicron sub-variants, but early data suggest vaccination remains protective against severe the disease and death.

“The best way to protect people remains vaccination, alongside tried and tested public health and social measures.

“This is another sign that the pandemic is not done with us, and there are some clear takeaways,’’ he said.

The WHO chief reiterated that the best way to save lives, protect health systems and minimise cases of “long COVID” is by vaccinating at least 70 per cent of every country’s population – and 100 per cent of most at-risk groups.

He said although more jabs had become available, a lack of political commitment, operational capacity problems, financial constraints, misinformation, and disinformation, had been limiting vaccine demand.

“We urge all countries to address these bottlenecks to provide protection to their populations,” the top WHO official said.

According to him, testing and sequencing remain critical, noting that both sub-variants were identified because South Africa is still doing the vital genetic sequencing that many other countries have stopped.

Ghebreyesus cautioned that many countries were blind to how the virus is mutating – not knowing what lies ahead.

“Scant availability and high prices of effective antivirals continue to render them inaccessible to low- and middle-income countries.

“Coupled with low investment in early diagnosis, it is simply not acceptable that in the worst pandemic in a century, innovative treatments that can save lives are not reaching those that need them,” he said.

WHO supports fair reward for innovation and while ACT Accelerator partners are negotiating lower costs and increased availability, “we cannot accept prices that make life-saving treatments available to the rich and out of reach for the poor.”

He informed the journalists that he would be traveling to Poland on Thursday, for the International Donors’ Conference for Ukraine.

“The health challenges in Ukraine are worsening by the day, especially in the country’s east,” the official said, noting that WHO has now verified 186 attacks on healthcare in the country.

The WHO chief highlighted the importance of humanitarian corridors by pointing out that WHO and its partners were able to receive and provide healthcare to scores of civilians fleeing Mariupol.

He urged Russia to allow all remaining civilians to leave the shattered port city and all other areas where they are “at great risk”.

Turning to the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, Ghebreyesus spelled out that the climate crisis, spiking food prices and food shortages are threatening to cause famine and further insecurity.

According to him, 15 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, noting that the region is experiencing its worst droughts in 40 years.

He said repeated attacks on scarce water resources in Burkina Faso are depriving citizens of access to the minimum amount of water they need just to survive.

Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, WHO is supporting vaccinations for an Ebola outbreak.

“WHO is responding to a huge range of challenges around the world – to say nothing of our work outside of emergencies to strengthen health systems and promote the conditions in which people can live healthy lives,” he said.

In another development, the U.S. on Wednesday surpassed one million COVID-19 deaths, according to data compiled by the American broadcast television network, NBC News.

The number – equivalent to the population of San Jose, California, the 10th largest city in the U.S. – was reached at stunning speed, 27 months after the country confirmed its first case of the virus.

“Each of those people touched hundreds of other people.

“It’s an exponential number of other people that are walking around with a small hole in their heart,” said Diana Ordonez, whose husband, Juan Ordonez, died in April 2020 at age 40.

While deaths from COVID-19 have slowed in recent weeks, about 360 people have still been dying every day.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline but omicron sub-variants are driving an increase in the Americas and Africa.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday recommended travellers continue to wear masks in airplanes, trains and airports despite a judge’s April 18 order declaring the 14-month-old transportation mask mandate unlawful.

The CDC said it based its recommendation on current COVID-19 conditions and spread as well as the protective value of masks.

The Justice Department in April filed notice it would appeal the ruling and it had until May 31 to do so.

But the government has made no effort to seek immediate court action to reinstate the mandate.

The mask mandate had been due to expire on Tuesday just before midnight unless the CDC sought an extension of a Transportation Security Administration directive.

A CDC spokeswoman said, “As a result of a court order, the mask order is no longer in effect and is not being enforced.”

At a Senate hearing Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, cast doubt on the idea that the administration wanted to reimpose the mask mandate.

“The appeal concerns whether the CDC has the authority to (require masks) in this pandemic or in any pandemic, which is completely distinct from whether a mask mandate ought to be applied any given day,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg said he agreed that based on conditions on April 13, when the mandate was extended for 15 days, it should have been allowed to expire but said it was a CDC decision.

Hours after the April 18 ruling, the Biden administration said it would no longer enforce the mask mandate, which prompted airlines to let passengers end wearing masks mid-flight.

 

Health and Safety

OSUN: Angry youths set ablaze Iree Oba’s Palace, days after torching Akinrun’s 

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OSUN: Angry youths set ablaze Iree Oba’s Palace, days after torching Akinrun's 

Only a few days after the palace of Akinrun was torched in Osun State, the Palace of Aree of Iree in Boripe North Local Council Development Area of Osun, was on Thursday evening, also vandalised and similarly set on fire by angry youths in the town.

The palace was said to have been burnt by youths who were not pleased about the arrest of the Aogun of Iree, Chief Soliu Atoyebi, by security agents on Thursday morning.

It was attacked and burnt around 7.00 p.m, when the traditional ruler, Oba Ponle Ademola, was said to be out of the palace.

The incident led to the blockage of major roads leading to the town, while the aggrieved youths made burn fires on the roads.

Business owners in the town were said to immediately lock up their shops, while residents too locked themselves for safety measures.

The Osun Police Spokesperson, SP Yemisi Opalola, was not available for comments, as her phone was switched off.

The Maritime First learned that this was what the Osun Governor, Prince Ademola Adeleke had wanted to avoid, when he, on Monday, a day after his inauguration, issued an Executive Order, setting aside the appointment and enthronement of three traditional rulers, Aare of Iree; Akirun of Ikirun and Owa of Igbajo.

Consequently, the Palace of OWA of Igbajo has now been beefed up.

Adeleke also directed that the palaces of the three traditional rulers should be locked up, while security agents should take charge of the palaces to the prevent breakdown of law and order.

There had been palpable fear in Iree town following the appointment and approval of Prince Ponle Ademola as the Aree of Iree by the immediate past administration of Gboyega Oyetola.

Some ruling houses and groups in the town had rejected the selection of Ademola, alleging that he was imposed on the people by officials in the Oyetola’s administration.

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Health and Safety

ALARM: Kogi has 43,000 HIV carriers; Take Preventive Steps to avoid getting infected-  Commissioner

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ALARM: Kogi has 43,000 HIV carriers; Take Preventive Steps to avoid getting infected-  Commissioner

At least 43,373 people are living with HIV in Kogi, Commissioner for Health, Dr. Zakari Usman, said in Lokoja on Thursday.

Usman made the declaration at a news conference organised as part of activities marking the 2022 World AIDS Day.

The 2022 World Aids Day has: “’Equalise’’ as its theme.

Usman advised residents to disregard misconceptions that HIV had been eradicated.

The commissioner said also that it was advisable to take preventive steps not to get infected and when infected, to take management measures already provided by the government.

He assured that Kogi government would not relent in its effort at reducing HIV and AIDS to the barest minimum in the state.

“I assure that government will increase the availability of quality and sustainable services for HIV handling, testing, and prevention to reduce its negative impacts.

“Government will also encourage reform laws, policies and practices to tackle the stigma and exclusion faced by people living with HIV and AIDS

“Government will as well ensure the sharing of technology to enable equal access to HIV testing in communities.

“Getting tested for HIV is the only way to find out if one is infected as all people living with HIV are eligible for treatment,’’ the commissioner said.

Usman said World AIDS Day, celebrated every Dec. 1, gave opportunities to communities and stakeholders in the fight against HIV and AIDS to be united and advance the cause of reducing the scourge.

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Health and Safety

Troops Eliminate over 44 Terrorists, Arrest 47 in 2 Weeks 

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Troops Eliminate over 44 Terrorists, Arrest 47 in 2 Weeks 

…Troops recover 15 AK 47 rifles, eight AK 47 magazines, 82 rounds of 7.62mm special, 35 locally fabricated 7.62mm special***

The Defence Headquarters says the troops of Operation Hadin Kai have within two weeks, eliminated more than 44 terrorists, and apprehended 47 and their collaborators, in addition to rescuing 10 kidnap victims in the North East.

The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Musa Danmadami said this on Thursday in Abuja at the bi-weekly update on nationwide military operations.

He said the troops between Nov. 17 and Nov. 24 neutralised nine Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists in ambushes, raids and clearance operations at different locations within the theatre.

He said that while scores of the terrorists escaped with various degrees of injury, cache of arms were recovered and 10 kidnapped civilians were rescued during the operations.

Danmadami said a notorious Boko Haram/ISWAP logistic supplier was arrested by the troops on Nov. 20 at a checkpoint in Bama Local Government Area.

He said that the logistic supplier was conveying 49 jerrycans 30 litres of Premium Motor Spirit and 50 packs of energy drinks, and other sundry items in a vehicle, while the sum of N70,510 was also recovered from him.

“Consequently, within the weeks in focus, troops recovered 15 AK 47 rifles, 82 rounds of 7.62mm special, 35 locally fabricated 7.62mm special, three dane guns, 36 hand grenades, six knives, and eight AK 47 magazines.

“Other items recovered include 51 jerrycans of groundnut oil, one carton of klin detergent, 50 packs of energy drinks, nine bicycles, three motorcycles, 10 mobile phones, one vehicle and the sum of N100, 510.

“Troops equally neutralised 11 terrorist elements, arrested 47, including their logistic suppliers as well as rescued 10 abducted civilians.

“Also, a total of 139 Boko Haram Terrorist/Islamic State of West Africa Province terrorists and members of their families comprising 27 adult males, 44 adult females and 68 children surrendered to troops at different locations within the theatre.

“All recovered items rescued civilians and apprehended suspected terrorists have been handed over to the relevant authority for further action.

“While the surrendered Boko Haram Terrorist/Islamic State of West Africa Province terrorists and members of their families are being profiled for further action’’, he said.

Danmadami said the air component carried out a series of air strikes on terrorist locations in the Tumbuns near Lake Chad, which recorded some remarkable results during the period.

He said the air task force on Nov. 26 conducted an air interdiction operation on the terrorists at Mallam Fatori from Tumbum Fulani, killing several terrorists on the shores of Lake Chad and destroyed three gun trucks.

“Similar strikes were conducted on Nov. 27 at an identified terrorist training camp at Tumbun Hamma in the Lake Chad Region.

“Intelligence revealed that about 24 ISWAP terrorists were undergoing weapons handling and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) training at the location for six consecutive days.

“Consequently, the location was bombarded.

“The effect of the strike from the feedback revealed that several terrorists were neutralized with their weapons and IED destroyed,” he added.

Danmadami said the theatre command had also intensified non-kinetic operations geared towards maximising civil support for the military in the zone.

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