Covid-19: Need to know

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus .Most people who fall sick with COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without special treatment.

HOW IT SPREADS

The virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air, and quickly fall on floors or surfaces. You can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within close proximity of someone who has COVID-19, or by touching a contaminated surface and then your eyes, nose or mouth.

Stay home and stay safe!

Coronavirus: What are your thoughts on the Lockdown or restriction of movement?

There is no doubt that the global pandemic has taken the world by storm and so many were unprepared for it. To stay home for someone whose life has always been ‘outdoor’ is really tasking.

Your thoughts on the lockdown will be appreciated and how you have fared during this period. What do you think could have been done differently? Your experience(s) will be worth someone’s time.

You can share your story in written words, pictures or even video. It will truly be worthwhile. Thanks

Relationship matters: Falling in love versus staying in love

For most people, falling in love usually seems to just happen. It’s staying in love—or preserving that “falling in love” experience—that requires commitment and work. Given its rewards, though, it’s well worth the effort. A healthy, secure romantic relationship can serve as an ongoing source of support and happiness in your life, through good times and bad, strengthening all aspects of your well-being. By taking steps now to preserve or rekindle your falling in love experience, you can build a meaningful relationship that lasts—even for a lifetime.

Many couples focus on their relationship only when there are specific, unavoidable problems to overcome. Once the problems have been resolved they often switch their attention back to their careers, kids, or other interests. However, romantic relationships require ongoing attention and commitment for love to flourish. As long as the health of a romantic relationship remains important to you, it is going to require your attention and effort. And identifying and fixing a small problem in your relationship now can often help prevent it from growing into a much larger one down road.

German company begins human trials of coronavirus vaccine

The headquarters of biopharmaceutical company BioNTech in Mainz, Germany [File: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters]
The headquarters of biopharmaceutical company BioNTech in Mainz, Germany [File: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

German pharmaceutical company BioNTech has begun testing a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus on volunteers.

BioNTech, which is working with the US-based Pfizer, said on Wednesday that 12 participants of a clinical trial in Germany received doses of the vaccine candidate BNT162 since April 23.

Numerous pharmaceutical companies are racing to deliver a vaccine for the virus that has caused a pandemic and led to more than 215,000 deaths worldwide and sickened at least three million people.

BioNTech said in a statement that in the next step, it will begin increasing the dose of BNT162 in a trial involving about 200 participants aged 18 to 55.

The company said it expects to receive regulatory approval to begin trials in the United States soon.

While a safe, effective vaccine is still more than a year away, researchers are rushing to repurpose existing drugs and non-drug therapies as well as testing promising experimental drugs that were already in clinical trials.

Even moderately effective therapies or combinations could dramatically reduce the crushing demand on hospitals and intensive care units, changing the nature of the risk the new pathogen represents to populations and healthcare systems.

New drugs, together with new diagnostics, antibody tests, patient- and contact-tracing technologies, disease surveillance and other early-warning tools, mean the anticipated next “wave” of the global pandemic does not have to be nearly as bad as the first.

As many as 100 potential COVID-19 candidate vaccines are now under development by biotech and research teams around the world, and at least five of these are in preliminary testing in people in what are known as Phase 1 clinical trials.

Scientists in the United Kingdom began clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine on April 23 as other vaccine developers across Europe stepped up work on experimental shots.

The team at the UK’s Oxford University dosed the first volunteers in a trial of their vaccine – called “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19” – while Italy’s ReiThera, Germany’s Leukocare and Belgium’s Univercells said they were working together on another potential shot and aimed to start trials in a few months.

The UK’s GSK and France’s Sanofi have announced a similar agreement to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, with trials starting in the second half of the year.

Coronavirus: Major effort under way to determine extent of infection among Singapore’s population

Singapore has taken the fight against the coronavirus to the next level, with a major effort to determine the extent of Covid-19 infection among the population and where weak links exist.

A key focus is to find out how many have been infected but did not show any symptoms, and were therefore not tested for the virus.

The National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), which is spearheading the initiative, said this is being done using what is referred to as serology tests to analyse a person’s antibodies to determine whether or not someone had been infected.

Singapore is believed to be among the first in the world to use such tests on a large scale, to hopefully show whether precautionary measures, such as safe distancing and mandatory mask wearing, are effective and adequate.

The results would also help policymakers understand how different groups, such as front-line healthcare workers, have been affected.

And since these tests can identify those who had been infected but showed mild or no symptoms, they give an insight into the extent of under-diagnosed cases of Covid-19.

As such cases tend to involve young healthy individuals, they indicate how these people contribute to the spread of the disease.

Such serology tests are a well-established tool for managing infectious diseases, the NCID said yesterday, when sharing the preliminary results of the studies done so far.

The research, commissioned by the NCID’s Covid-19 research workgroup, were conducted between February and this month, and reflect case figures before the numbers began to spike early this month.

Three separate studies are being done: On healthcare workers, close contacts of Covid-19 patients and the rest of the population, including children.

Preliminary results show that the risk of infection is highest among close contacts.

The scope of the studies will be expanded in the coming months to help further shape Singapore’s response measures to the pandemic in the long term.

The NCID said the tests, when applied to Covid-19, are valuable for accurately comparing data across different groups of people according to such factors as age or geographical location.

This enables comparisons both within a country and across countries to help researchers understand factors that determine the effectiveness of Covid-19 control measures over time.

The studies were planned as early as January, soon after the virus began spreading outside of China.

The workgroup, formed in January, is chaired by the NCID’s executive director, Professor Leo Yee Sin, and advised by the Health Ministry’s chief health scientist, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan.

(ST)

Professor Leo Yee Sin. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Coronavirus could affect international football for ‘two or three years’

Artist's impression of Qatar World Cup in 2022
It is not yet known if the coronavirus will impact the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Coronavirus could impact on the international football calendar for “two or three years”, says a member of Uefa’s executive committee.

Lars-Christer Olsson, president of European Leagues, said that it would be a case of “wait and see” to assess the disruption of the pandemic, including on the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Uefa hopes to complete the Champions League and Europa League in August.

A decision is set to be made at the end of May around whether this is feasible.

There are also plans to fit three – rather than two – fixtures into international windows this autumn to play Euro 2020 qualifiers and Nations League fixtures.

Olsson said that he would “rather see a scenario where the current season is not finished than not kicking off the new season”.

Following the widespread suspension of football and the postponement of Euro 2020 and Euro 2021, he was asked on a Soccerex webinar how long he thought that the international calendar could be affected.

“Probably two or three years I think,” he said.

Earlier, he had told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast that there was “no consensus” between countries regarding finishing the domestic season, as each country faces different situations regarding the virus and government decisions.

Asked how Uefa would claim to have a satisfactory conclusion to their competitions if competing clubs, such as PSG and Ajax, have not played football for many months, he said: “It’s difficult to say but in any case, it’s a extraordinary situation we are in and there have to be extraordinary solutions.”

Speaking on the webinar, he said: “For the time being we are planning, trying to squeeze in the rest of the season 2019-20 in the month of August.

“If that would be possible, then I think it would be fine because that would also mean that we can safeguard the integrity of the final phase of the current season of international football.

“But of course we have to take decisions about that at the end of May at least because otherwise it will probably not be possible to squeeze it in and also to qualify the clubs for the new season.”

With the World Cup less than three years away, Olsson was asked if that could be affected.

“If the virus is developing in an even more serious way as it has been for the time being there will definitely be a problem with the international calendar,” he said.

“When some of the competitions are moved from one year to another. And then the Qatar World Cup is coming in the middle of the European season and you have to squeeze in domestic and international competitions. But I think we have to wait and see how that is going to affect the business.”

‘Hand of God’ can end pandemic – Maradona

Argentine football legend Diego Maradona has asked the “Hand of God” to deliver the world from the coronavirus pandemic and allow normal life to resume.

The World Cup winner referred to his hand-assisted goal in the 1986 World Cup after Argentine football chiefs voted to end the current season as well as suspend relegation, saving Maradona-managed bottom club Gimnasia from the drop.

“Today this happened to us and many people say it is a new Hand of God,” said Maradona, alluding to his infamous goal against England.

“But today I’m asking for that hand to end this pandemic so people can go back to living their lives, healthy and happy.”

Then-Argentine captain Maradona responded to the controversy over his goal at the World Cup in Mexico by saying “it was the Hand of God!”

Argentina went on to beat England 2-1 in the quarter-final.

On being thrown a lifeline by the suspension of the season, he told Argentine daily Clarin: “It’s not the ending we had wanted, we were convinced we could save ourselves on the pitch.”

Argentina has been in lockdown since March 20 against the coronavirus, which by early Wednesday had infected 4,114 people with 207 deaths.

The 59-year-old Maradona, appointed to manage struggling Gimnasia in September, said clubs in Argentina are facing years of financial difficulty.

“Hopefully it is understood that we have to face what’s coming together, for the good of football. No-one is like Rambo in this war, because even Rambo loses against this.”

(AFP)

Government offices, Manufacturing companies and Banks to re-open on Monday – FG

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19   has directed government offices, banks and manufacturing companies to reopen on Monday.

The Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, and the Coordinator, Dr Sani  Aliyu, stated this at the media briefing of the group on Wednesday in  Abuja, where they gave guidelines for the gradual reopening of the economy.

According to them, banks will start operating as from Monday, but will only open from 8am to 2pm and must adhere to social distancing measures.

They also stated that people in public places must use face masks, adding that schools would remain closed and social parties should not be held.

The PTF members disclosed that public buses would only be allowed to operate from  6am to 6pm and that drivers must maintain social distancing in terms of number of their passengers.

They said employers must provide face masks and thermometers besides maintaining social distancing in their premises.

Government offices and many business premises had been shut since last month when President Muhammadu Buhari announced measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

But the task force Chairman, Mustapha, on Wednesday said that the reopening of the economy did not mean an end to COVID-19 pandemic.

He urged state governments and security agencies to ensure that the measures introduced by the Federal Government were strictly enforced.

Mustapha said, “In line with Mr. President’s directive in paragraphs 38-41 of his broadcast (on Monday), the PTF has developed sector specific guidelines. The gradual reopening of the economy will span a total of six weeks broken into three tranches of two weeks each.

“This phased strategy is designed to reduce the pains of socio-economic disruptions while strengthening our public health response, which would ultimately reduce the recovery of our economy and provide succour for the poor and vulnerable.”

According to him, as the economy reopens gradually, public and private organisations are mandated to ensure fumigation and decontamination of their premises.

He added that in all private and public establishments,  there must be use of face masks; provision of thermometers for temperature checks and consideration must be given to persons living with disabilities while making all the arrangements

Mustapha said, “A mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of a workplace is strictly prohibited and controlled access to neighbourhood markets and locations of economic activities will be enforced.

“Mandatory temperature checks will be conducted in public places; social distancing of two metres will be maintained between people in workplaces and other public places; all passenger flights remain under ban; and there will be  mandatory supervised isolation of persons arriving from outside the country for at least 14 days.”

The National Coordinator of the PTF,  Dr Sani Aliyu,  gave more insight into the guidelines.

He stated, “For government offices, government staff will be allowed to resume from the 4th  of May, but it will be based on specific grade levels and specific days so that we can reduce the amount of congestion that we might have in our government offices and we will be discussing further with state governments to make sure that we have a common approach to this.

“Banks will be allowed to open but there will be a restriction in the opening hours to between 8am to 2pm and together with all the other preventive measures,” such as temperature check and maintaining of social distance.

Although the task force had said it did not stop banks from opening, many of them had shut their doors since the lockdown began.

Speaking on other aspects of the guidelines, Aliyu said, “From the point of agriculture and rural development, companies involved in food processing can commence operation.

“In construction sites, the critical roads  (work) will be allowed but waivers will be provided by state governments to enable movement.

“For the manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries, we will encourage shift work and limiting staff to only 30 to 50 per cent to maintain social distancing and pharmacy shops may remain open overnight.”

Aliyu also spoke on schools, theatres and social parties.

He said, “Restaurants will not open to the public, but will be allowed to engage in home delivery. Schools will remain closed till further evaluation. Schools are encouraged to continue with e-learning and virtual teaching.

“Social activities such as the use of recreational parks, communal sports, concerts, social parties and movie theatres will be suspended until further review.”

Aliyu added that outside the curfew hours, buses and motor parks would be allowed to open “for some hours in a day, I believe 6am to 6pm, and taxis will also be allowed to operate.”

The PTF Chairman, Mustapha, in his speech, admitted that it was true that some categories of contributory pensioners had not been paid since January. He give reasons for the gap.

He said, “Accrued right of the pensioners is to be paid by the FG and it is being processed to be paid to PENCOM. We are in the process of transition as far as pension is concerned. There are people that retired in January 2019 that came with their accrued rights from the old pension scheme that will be merged with the new scheme. That is being processed at the moment.”

He also explained the purposes of the two stimulus packages released by the Central Bank of Nigeria, which came in two batches of N100bn and N50bn.

He added, “There is a package of N100bn which is majorly for hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. They are the ones government is trying to ensure that after COVID-19, they would be adequately prepared to deal with future needs.

“The second stimulus of N50bn is for activities such as agricultural value chain, hospitality, accommodation and food services. There is also help for medical and pharmaceutical supplies, manufacturing, trading and any other income generating activities.

Also at the briefing, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said some staff members of the centre had been infected with coronavirus. When asked to state the number of the affected workers, the DG of the NCDC refused to give the number.

He said, “After work on Tuesday, I spoke with a number of people in my own team that had sadly become infected in the line of duty. I called them to encourage them but they ended up encouraging me and the PTF to continue pushing, that our work is  important for the future of our country.”

“Although they are isolated and some of them in hospitals, they keep working, contributing to the response. They said it is better to do that than to sit idly watching television or thinking about their fate.”

Ihekweazu said that he would not take issue with any governor on the number of person infected in each state. He stated that the only way to ascertain those who had the virus was to test them. During one of the briefings this week, the DG of the NCDC had charged states with zero case to collect more samples from people in their states for test to be conducted.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire,  said restriction on the lockdown would only be relaxed if Nigerians observed government advisory put in place to arrive at reduced number of cases.

The minister urged lawmakers to be involved in disease surveillance and provision of bed spaces in isolation centres at their constituencies.

The minister said that the delegation that was sent to Kano over rise in COVID19 cases and deaths in the state had begun working after meeting the governor of the state.

“They were well received by His Excellency the Governor and have been able to conduct an appraisal of the situation and start working on outlines of providing technical support for the state COVID-19 task force in several aspects, as well as planning capacity building for the frontline health workers.

On isolation centres, Ehanire said various activities were available for patients while efforts had been made to provide mental health support to fight boredom.

“There are those in single room because they have travelled and waiting for 14 days. For those who do not like to be alone, it may not be easy but for those who like to be alone, they can work on their computers, read books or watch television. It depends on your kind of mentality,” he said.