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COVID-19: Biden cautions Americans, schools in France shut over new surge

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United States President Joe Biden implored Americans to maintain precautions and expanded federal efforts to vaccinate the country as signs of a potential new surge in Coronavirus, COVID-19, cases spawned fears of deadly fourth wave of infections.

France’s schools are to close for at least three weeks and travel within the country will be banned for a month after Easter in an attempt to curb a dramatic surge in Covid-19 cases that threatens to overwhelm hospitals, Emmanuel Macron, has said.

The US President announced that by April 19, his administration would more than double the number of pharmacies where people can get shots.

He also said 90 per cent of American adults would have become eligible for the vaccine by that point, and the final 10 per cent after May 1.

The faster timetable and expanded network of inoculation sites represent an effort to outrun the Coronavirus as states loosen restrictions on public gatherings and people are eager to return to normal life.

New infections, hospitalisations, and deaths are all on the rise, fueled by looser behaviors and the virus’s contagious variants.

“The war against COVID-19 is far from won,” Biden warns at the White House complex. This is deadly serious.

“We’re in a life-and-death race with a virus that is spreading quickly,” he added, and we’re giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains.

“Biden urged states to stop loosening restrictions on public gatherings and admonished people against “reckless behaviour.”

He spoke soon after a White House briefing where Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters that she felt a sense of “impending doom.”

Her voice cracked as she talked about treating dying patients and seeing the extra mobile morgue parked outside the hospital where she had previously worked in Massachusetts.

“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” she said, adding: “But right now, I’m scared.”

For weeks, public health officials have been warning the country to remain on guard, especially as caseloads stopped declining after winter’s spike of infections.

Numbers are now rising again, and Walensky acknowledged that Americans are tired of the isolation caused by anti-Coronavirus restrictions more than one year after the disease was declared a pandemic.

But she pleaded for people to continue wearing masks and to keep their distance from one another.

“I’m asking you to just hold on a little while longer, to get vaccinated when you can, so that all of those people that we all love will still be there when this pandemic ends,” she said.

Walensky said she would be meeting with governors Tuesday to urge them to keep restrictions in place, but the federal government has limited tools to ensure compliance, especially in large, Republican-led states where limitations are politically unpopular.

Texas has already ended its statewide mask mandate and Florida welcomed an influx of vacationers for spring break.

Some states in the Northeast and Midwest face bigger problems. New Jersey, New York, and Michigan have some of the fastest rising caseloads.

In France, President Macron said the government had waited “until the last moment” to impose further restrictions, winning the country “precious weeks of freedom”, but that “we now have to make one more big effort”.

Macron in January rejected scientific advice to impose a strict lockdown, instead ordering an evening and night-time curfew but keeping schools and shops open in a “third way” intended to limit repercussions on the economy and mental health.

The government this month also shut non-essential shops and limited movement in Paris and 18 other hard-hit areas, measures criticised by many health professionals as insufficient to counter the more contagious UK variant driving France’s third wave.

But with daily infections doubling to 40,000 since February and more than 5,000 Covid patients in intensive care – the highest since October – tougher restrictions became inevitable. Macron said the rapid spread of the more contagious variant meant France “risks losing control” without further measures.

A “lockdown lite” in place in 19 départements would be extended throughout the country from Saturday, he said, with most shops closed, people barred from travelling more than 10km from their homes and working from home to be the rule.

Inter-regional travel will be banned from 5 April, to allow Easter journeys that were already planned, he said, but he added: “We must limit all contact as much as we can, including family gatherings. We know now: these are where the virus spreads.”

All schools would switch to distance learning from next Tuesday, Macron said, followed by a two-week holiday for all pupils. Junior school pupils will return to the classroom on 26 April but secondary school students will have a further week of online classes.

Macron also announced an additional 3,000 intensive care beds, concentrated in the hardest-hit regions, bringing the total to just over 10,000. “We have endured a year of suffering and sacrifice,” he said, “but if we stay united and organised, we will reach the end of the tunnel. April will be a critical month.”

On Tuesday authorities reported 569 new ICU patients in 24 hours, the most since April last year. The death toll is also rising, averaging nearly 350 a day over the past seven days against just under 250 last week. The greater Paris region has been most hard hit, with a seven-day incidence rate of 644 cases per 100,000 people.

COVID-19

FG okays another COVID vaccine, Sinopharm, for Nigeria

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Another COVID-19 vaccine, Sinopharm BBIBP-CorV, has been approved for use in Nigeria, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, has said.

He stated this on Tuesday at a media briefing in Abuja.

The approval is coming some weeks after NAFDAC approved the Moderna and Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in Nigeria.

The Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine is an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine and had been approved by the World Health Organisation for emergency use.

Shuaib said on Tuesday that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control had approved the vaccine three days ago.

“NAFDAC has approved Sinopharm vaccine. The approval was done three days ago. And yes, Sinopharm vaccine has also received WHO certification,” he said.

He also said, “It is a potential vaccine that we could use. There are so many vaccines out there, but one thing that we are very clear about is that we are not going to use all the available vaccines in Nigeria.

“At some point, we are going to draw a line in terms of the number of vaccines we would use, so that we can keep a close watch on the number of vaccines we are utilising in Nigeria.”

He said the vaccine was developed by Sinopharm’s Beijing Institute of Biological Products, “sometimes written as Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products”, noting that there are sometimes two different acronyms, BBIBP and BIBP, for the same vaccine.

“It completed phase three trials in Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru and United Arab Emirates (UAE), with over 60,000 participants. BBIBP-CorV shares, similar technology with CoronaVac and Covaxin, other inactivated virus vaccines for COVID-19,” he said.

“Its product name is SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine ‘Vero Cell’, not to be confused with the similar product name of CoronaVac,” Shuaib said.

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Lagos records 35 deaths amid COVID third wave

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A total of 135 deaths have been recored in Lago State amid rising third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state government has said.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, disclosed this on Monday during a media briefing on the COVID situation in the state.

On July 11, Sanwo-Olu had warned Lagos residents of a third wave of infections, following an increase in the number of cases recorded in the state.

The Federal Government on August 2 declared that Nigeria was experiencing a third wave of infections.

Sanwo-Olu said on Monday that since the start of the pandemic, 5,551 positive cases had been admitted at COVID isolation centres in Lagos.

“We are now clearly in the middle of third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and Lagos has remained the epicentre of the disease in Nigeria,” he said.

The governor also said, “Test positivity rate currently stands at 12.1 percent, compared to 1.1 percent at the end of June, and seven percent at end of July. As at August 21, 4,387 positive cases are currently being managed actively in community.

“Over the course of managing the COVID-19 pandemic, about 5,551 patients have been admitted into our various COVID-19 care centres in Lagos, with 506 registered fatalities. Of these deaths, 135 have sadly, happened in this current third wave.

“I commiserate with all residents who have lost loved ones to the pandemic. We share in your pain and grief. As a society and as a government, it is for us to redouble our efforts to defeat this devastating pandemic.”

He said the state had seen a surge in severe cases, adding that the number of oxygen cylinders used rose from 75 per day to 400 within the third wave.

He also said, “In terms of treatment of severe cases, we have seen a gradual increase in the uptake of oxygen during the current wave. Utilisation has increased from 75 cylinders per day at the beginning of this third wave, to over 400 cylinders per day currently,” he said.

“With our modelling suggesting that we may be requiring even more oxygen supply over the next few weeks, we are exploring several ways of increasing our oxygen capacity.

“One of the major pillars of our mitigation strategy for the third wave is vaccination. We are seeing that countries that have vaccinated a large percentage of their population are recording drastic reductions in the numbers of COVID-19 related deaths.

“This is one of the reasons why we have not spared any cost to ensure that the vaccines that have been provided by the federal government are made available to every resident that meets the requirements for the vaccination programme.”

According to the state ministry of health, Lagos has so far confirmed a total of over 70,000 positive cases, with more than 60,000 recoveries.

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After COVID scare, UNILAG reopens campus for exams

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The University of Lagos (UNILAG) has asked its students to resume physically for second semester examinations, which will be held between August 26 and September 26, 2021.
The students were sent home six weeks ago to prevent spread of COVID-19 after a scare on the campus.
The students have been receiving online classes using the institution’s Learning Management System (LMS) since the July 12 closure.
But the institution said it had made a staggered arrangement for students with registered bed spaces to resume in the hostels from August 9, 2021.
Part of the statement read, ”The university has also approved the commencement of the second semester examinations to hold physically from Thursday, 26th August, 2021.
“The examinations will start with the General Studies (GST) Examinations scheduled to hold from Thursday, 26th August, 2021 to Saturday, 28th August, 2021.
“In order to ensure the safety of staff and students during this period, the University will adhere strictly to all COVID-19 protocols.
“Special arrangements have been made with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and Gbagada General Hospital for necessary isolation and treatment of any incidence of COVID-19 case during the examinations.
“The university management has approved the schedule of accommodation of bonafide students with allocated bed spaces in the hostels for the second semester examinations as follows: 100 and 200 level students with allocated bed spaces should move into the hostels from Thursday, 26th August 2021 and depart on or before Saturday, 11th September 2021.
“500 level Faculty of Law Students with allocated bed spaces should move into their hostels on Saturday, 28th August 2021 and depart on Sunday, 5th September 2021.”

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