Will life ever return to normal after coronavirus lockdown?

It is now more than four months since the novel coronavirus started spreading from Wuhan in China.

Although the pandemic hasn’t stopped, some countries with falling infection rates are slowly easing lockdown restrictions. Small shops and restaurants are reopening in a dozen countries across Asia, Europe and Africa.

Some schoolchildren are returning to class. A few more domestic flights are taking off, and train services are increasing in frequency.

What are the risks of a second wave of infections? And how should we adapt to life post lockdown?

Covid-19: South Korean students to go back to school

South Korea said it will reopen schools in stages starting from May 13, as the daily number of domestic cases has fallen close to zero over recent days.

But health authorities urged vigilance once some 5.5 million elementary, middle and high school students gather in classrooms and they are conducting mock drills and preparing guidelines in the event of a surge in infection.

“We’re now preparing for the opening of schools while managing the daily risks of the disease,” Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said in a televised briefing.

“If a student turns out to be infected with the virus, health authorities will take the necessary action, and the school will switch to online classes.”

US report: China hid coronavirus severity to hoard supplies

US officials believe China covered up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak – and how contagious the disease was – to stock up on medical supplies needed to respond to it, according to intelligence documents.

Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January, according to a four-page Department of Homeland Security intelligence report dated May 1 and obtained by The Associated Press news agency. 

The revelation comes as the Trump administration has intensified its criticism of China, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying on Sunday that that country was responsible for the spread of disease and must be held accountable.

The sharper rhetoric coincides with administration critics saying the government’s response to the virus was slow and inadequate. President Donald Trump’s political opponents have accused him of lashing out at China, a geopolitical foe but critical US trade partner, in an attempt to deflect criticism at home.

Not classified but marked “for official use only,” the DHS analysis states that, while downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies. It attempted to cover up doing so by “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data,” according to the analysis.

The report also says China held off on informing the World Health Organization that the coronavirus “was a contagion” for much of January so it could order medical supplies from abroad – and that its imports of face masks and surgical gowns and gloves increased sharply.

Those conclusions are based on the 95-percent probability that China’s changes in imports and export behaviour were not within normal range, according to the report.

China informed the WHO of the outbreak on December 31. It contacted the US Centers for Disease Control on January 3 and publicly identified the pathogen as a novel coronavirus on January 8.

Chinese officials muzzled doctors who warned about the virus early on and repeatedly downplayed the threat of the outbreak. However, many of the Chinese government’s missteps appear to have been due to bureaucratic hurdles, tight controls on information, and officials hesitant to report bad news. There is no public evidence to suggest it was an intentional plot to buy up the world’s medical supplies.

In a tweet on Sunday, Trump appeared to blame US intelligence officials for not making clearer sooner just how dangerous a potential coronavirus outbreak could be. The president has been defensive over whether he failed to act after receiving early warnings from intelligence officials and others about the coronavirus and its potential impact.

“Intelligence has just reported to me that I was correct, and that they did NOT bring up the CoronaVirus subject matter until late into January, just prior to my banning China from the US,” Trump wrote, without citing specifics. “Also, they only spoke of the Virus in a very non-threatening, or matter of fact, manner.”

Trump had previously speculated that China may have unleashed the coronavirus due to some kind of “mistake”. His intelligence agencies say they are still examining a notion put forward by the president and aides that the pandemic may have resulted from an accident at a Chinese lab.

Speaking Sunday on ABC’s This Week, Pompeo said he had no reason to believe the virus was deliberately spread. But he added, “Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories.”

“These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab,” Pompeo said. “And so, while the intelligence community continues to do its work – they should continue to do that, and verify so that we are certain – I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”

The secretary of state appeared to be referring to previous outbreaks of respiratory viruses, like SARS, which started in China. While the remark may be seen as offensive in China, Pompeo repeated the assertion hours later, via a tweet on Sunday afternoon.

Experts say the virus arose naturally in bats, and make clear that they believe it was not man-made. Many virologists say the chance that the outbreak was caused by a lab accident is very low, although scientists are still working to determine a point at which it may have jumped from animals to humans.

Beijing has repeatedly pushed back on US accusations that the outbreak was China’s fault, pointing to many missteps made by American officials in their own fight against the outbreak. China’s public announcement on January 20 that the virus was transmissible from person to person left the US nearly two months to prepare for the pandemic, during which time the US government failed to bolster medical supplies and deployed flawed testing kits.

“The US government has ignored the facts, diverted public attention and engaged in buck-passing in an attempt to shirk its responsibility for incompetence in the fight against the epidemic,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday.

SOURCE: AP NEWS AGENCY

Search for Covid-19 patients begin in Anambra state

Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, has commenced community search for persons with COVID-19 symptoms.

Obiano disclosed this in a broadcast to the people of the state on the effort prevent COVID-19 spread in the area.

The governor said, “I am delighted to announce that so far, we have conducted 72 tests on samples out of which one only returned positive. And that one was the index case, who has been treated and discharged.

 “So, at this moment, there is no active COVID-19 case in Anambra State. As a result of this, our next battle front with COVID-19 is to mount an active search for people with COVID-19 symptoms in all communities in Anambra State.

Premier League: Clubs open to use of neutral venues with relegation removed

A growing number of Premier League clubs are open to playing the remaining fixtures at neutral venues but with the threat of relegation removed.

Top-flight clubs have been told that using up to 10 neutral stadiums will be the only way to complete the season.

Brighton say they are “not in favour” of using neutral venues because it may affect the “integrity” of the league.

Clubs near the bottom of the table feel it is unfair to play in such different conditions when at risk of relegation.

The Premier League has been suspended since 13 March because of the coronavirus pandemic but all clubs are committed to playing the 92 remaining fixtures of the 2019-20 season if and when safe to do so.

Clubs accept matches may need to be played behind closed doors for an extended period and that it may well not be financially viable to wait until normal playing conditions, such as having fans attending, can resume.

However, those near the bottom are concerned playing matches at neutral stadiums, behind closed doors and with the ongoing uncertainty over the availability of players whose contracts expire on 30 June makes for a vastly different situation to that in which their first 28 or 29 fixtures this season were played.

They argue it is impossible to uphold the integrity of the competition under these circumstances.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said the club “fully appreciate why playing behind closed doors is very likely to be a necessary compromise to play our remaining games”.

However, he added: “At this critical point in the season, playing matches in neutral venues has, in our view, potential to have a material effect on the integrity of the competition.”

Clubs who risk losing large amounts of money if relegated are also worried their finances could take a further hit if they still have to play matches behind closed doors in next year’s Championship.

If there was no relegation from the Premier League, two or three teams could still be promoted from this year’s Championship and a 22- or 23-team top flight run next season.

A major factor in the decision to require neutral venues is reducing the chance of fans congregating, and the selection of grounds will be largely based on a rating from the police and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.

Not all of the proposed eight to 10 neutral venues will necessarily be Premier League grounds, although the vast majority will be.

Premier League clubs will discuss these issues again after the government’s review of the lockdown restrictions on 7 May.

Brighton are 15th in the league, two points above the relegation zone, with nine games left to play – including home fixtures against Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City.

“The disadvantages of us not playing the league’s top teams in our home stadium and in familiar surroundings, even with 27,000 Albion fans very unlikely to be present at the Amex, are very obvious,” said Barber.

“Clearly, we must accept there may also be some benefit from playing our remaining four away matches at neutral venues but the fixture list simply isn’t equally balanced at this stage of the season, and we didn’t play our first 29 matches of the season in this way. So, in our opinion, one thing doesn’t cancel out the other.”

West Ham, who are 16th in the table and only clear of the relegation zone on goal difference, want to play their remaining five home games at London Stadium but feel this does not set them apart from other clubs with major goals still to play for.

Birx warns against gatherings as US reopens from lockdowns

Dr Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House coronavirus taskforce, has warned against US citizens gathering in public spaces again as the number of Covid-19 infections topped 1.1 million in the country and the death toll rose to more than 67,000 on Sunday.

Birx said massing on beaches was not safe unless people kept at least two metres (six feet) apart, and weighed in against allowing such businesses as beauty salons and spas to reopen in the first phase.

“We’ve made it clear that that is not a good phase one activity,” she said on Fox News Sunday.

Protesters gathering, as they did last week in Michigan and other parts of the country to demonstrate against stay-at-home restrictions, pose a huge risk, she said.

“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a comorbid condition and they have a serious or a very – or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives,” Birx said.

Coronavirus: 80% of samples taken in Kano are positive – Presidential panel

The Head of the  team sent to Kano State by the President, Dr  Nasiru Gwarzo,  said the state had a high rate of community transmission of COVID-19.

Gwarzo told the BBC Hausa service in an interview that the high rate of transmission, as shown by increased testing, was evident when compared to the former situation in the state.

According to him, there is an urgent need for the people of Kano to take the deadly disease seriously as out of every 100 samples taken for testing, 80 per cent  always came out positive.

He said, “This is a serious situation which needs collective effort to address as the case of pandemic has gone beyond people’s imagination as it has gone to community transmission.

“What we are afraid of in this pandemic  is what is happening.   The pandemic has left the first stage of entering the country. It has left the second stage and has  entered the third stage of community spread. This is not news that will be palatable to the public but like a Hausa proverb says, ‘on the day you are to take a bath, you cannot hide your navel.’”

He said the team was worried about deaths, which had claimed many personalities in the state.

According to him, most of the recent mass deaths in the state were caused to COVID-19.

He said, “If you follow the debate (over the cause of the Kano mysterious deaths), while there is some truth in other causes, (complications from hypertension, meningitis, among others), coronavirus is the leading cause of these deaths in Kano.”

“On the coronavirus itself, when we conducted tests before, you saw four or five; now you can take 100 samples and 80 (per cent) return positive,” he added.

But the NUAHP, which consists of clinical professionals in the health sector with the exception of physicians and nurses, in its statement, said its decision to call for the reversal of the President’s order was based on its observation in the last few days concerning the increase in the number of infected persons, number of deaths and testing capacity.

It said, “The union has studied carefully the declaration by President Buhari on the gradual easing of lockdown nationwide with effect from Monday, May 4, 2020 and hereby raises a serious concern based on reported cases of increase in coronavirus infection and spread across the country in the last few days.

“As a union with members as frontlines workers, we cannot but caution the federal and affected state governments to continue with the lockdown until adequate measures have been taken to contain it.

“We must not forget the fact that the deficit of health professionals, medical materials and facilities in our country would not be able to handle whatever upsurge that may arise due to the high incidences especially the community transmission that is being presently witnessed in some parts of the country.”

Lagos State: Don’t resume work on Monday – Sanwo-Olu

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has ordered all civil servants in the state to stay away from work on Monday, May 4.

The five-week-old total lockdown imposed on the nation’s economic capital terminates on Sunday night, May 3, and the new phase of gradual easing starts on Monday, as ordered by the President, Muhammadu Buhari.

But the governor in a statement on Sunday evening asked all its civil servants not to resume work immediately, noting that the delayed resumption is a deliberate attempt to prevent overcrowding in the state.

He, however, added that emergency workers and those on essential duties would be allowed to work on Monday.

Sanwo-Olu said, “In amending the work guidelines earlier issued, which stopped members of the public service from Grade Level 1 to 12 from going to work; we have had to review this position and we are extending the directive to all civil servants, regardless of level. All civil servants must stay away from work on Monday.