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COVID-19: PTF transforms into presidential steering committee, completes task December

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COVID-19: PTF transforms into presidential steering committee, complete task December

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the transition of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to the presidential steering committee.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said President Muhamadu Buhari, stated this at a media briefing on Tuesday, adding that the mandate of the PSC would end on December 31.
According to him, the PSC will focus on ensuring effectiveness in the roll-out of the vaccine, and promote policies that will result in the development of the country’s health sector.
“Mr president has considered the report and has approved the following: That the PTF will transition to a presidential steering committee on COVID-19, effective from 1st April, 2021, with a modified mandate to reflect the non-emergent status of COVID-19 as a potentially long-term pandemic,” he said.
“That the structure of the PSC shall reflect the new focus of the response with a targeted approach on vaccine oversight, risk communication, international travel quarantine processes and sub-national engagement; that the tenure of the presidential steering committee shall last till 31st December, 2021.
“The presidential steering committee would maintain the present constitution, functions and strategies of the PTF; be supported by a slim technical and administrative structure.”

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US to halt J&J COVID vaccine after blood clotting cases

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The United States federal health agencies on Tuesday recommended suspending the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The development comes after six recipients of the vaccine — all women– developed a “severe type of blood clot”.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said they would stop using the vaccine at federal sites and asked states to do so as well while they investigate safety issues.

The agencies, in a joint statement, said they were “reviewing data involving six reported US cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the vaccine. Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare”.

“Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered,” they said.

“CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases.

“Until that process is complete, we are recommending this pause. This is important to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”

It is the third COVID-19 vaccine that has received FDA’s authorisation, and also the first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine available in the US.

About seven million people in the US have received the vaccine.

Similar reports of blood clot development in recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine made several European countries to suspend use of the product in March.

They have, however, resumed using the vaccine after European Union and British regulators said there was no link between the vaccine and the reported side effects.

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Lagos shuts 430 event centres, night clubs

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The Lagos State Safety Commission says it has shut 430 event centres and night clubs for violating COVID-19 protocols.
Director General at the commission, Lanre Mojola, said at a news conference in Alausa, Ikeja that the commission was saddled with developing safety guidelines for the state’s reopening of economic activities in post COVID-19 lockdown.
“The commission was involved in the enforcement of COVID-19 protocols and this led to the shutting of 30 event centres and 400 clubs across the state,” he added.
On construction safety, the DG said the commission carried out risk assessment and unscheduled safety inspection of construction sites to ensure safety compliance, as well as adherence to COVID-19 protocols, to prevent accidents, incidents, illnesses and loss of lives.
He said the commission issued provisional safety compliance certificates for 90 days and safety compliance certificates thereafter if compliance status was maintained.
Mojola said the enforcement was carried out in 609 construction sites for repeated failure to comply with safety regulations.
He said the annual World Safety Day would hold across the world on April 28 to create awareness, sensitise and educate people on the importance of keeping the workplace safe and free from occupational hazards, accidents, incidents and preventable illnesses.

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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.

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