Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates - THISDAYLIVE

Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates

4/1/2020 11:48:00 AM

Coronavirus Outbreak: Round-the-clock Updates

WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020 Ekiti Confirms Another Case of Covid-19 By Victor Ogunje The Ekiti State government on Wednesday, confirmed another case of coronavirus, thereby increasing the number of victims to two. This came barely 48 hours after the first index case was discharged after three weeks of treatment in the state at the quarantined …

Emmanuel Ugwu in UmuahiaVehicular movements in and out of Abia State ceased on Sunday as the state government shut all entry and exit points and ramps up measures to keep COVID-19 out of God’s own state.The boundary closure, which became effective at exactly 4.00am on Sunday, was ordered by the state Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, following the recommendation of the state’s Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19.

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Abia shares boundaries with seven states — Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.The state Commissioner for information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, said that the COVID-19 Committee deemed it necessary to recommend closing of boundaries “based on situational reviews” of the pandemic.

The implication of this measure is that movement of vehicles in and out of Abia has ceased till further notice and all Abia residents currently out of the state have been advised to stay at their locations till further notice.“Security agencies, traditional rulers and community youths in the state are to ensure total compliance with this directive and take all necessary measures including total blocking of the borders till further notice,” Kalu said.

The information commissioner emphasized that no efforts should be spared “towards stopping those that might attempt to sneak into the state either at night or at dawn till further notice”.Traditional rulers and security agencies were further charged with the task of “ensuring that those identified to have returned from Lagos, Abuja and overseas are confined to their homes in isolation for at least 14 days”.

Meanwhile, the entire Abia State would experience total lockdown as from Wednesday as all markets would be closed and transportation grounded to a halt for a period of four weeks at the first instance, subject to weekly reviews.To prepare for the forthcoming lockdown, Governor Okezie has approved the setting up of a food security sub committee to plan necessary palliative interventions in case of a prolonged lockdown. The five-member committee is headed by the Commissioner for Information, Kalu.

The immediate and full enforcement of the previous guidelines on social distancing should be implemented by security agencies with defaulters handed over to mobile courts for further action.It expressed “particular concern” over the partial compliance by tricycle (Keke) operators, who were directed to carry not more than two passengers at a time.

To check this flagrant disobedience by keke operators, security agents were directed to henceforth apprehend any defaulter for trial by a mobile court.“Abians and residents are strongly advised against non essential movements within and outside the state. We also encourage Abians who are currently outside the state to remain at those locations pending full containment of the rampaging pandemic,” the statement said.

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A task force was set up at both state and local government levels to enforce the guidelines hitherto issued to all establishments in the state, particularly hotels, eateries and restaurants.The task force teams are headed at the state level by the Commissioner for Environment, Dr Solomon Ogunji, and at the council areas by the transition committee chairmen and divisional police officers (DPOs).

Their mandate is to shut down immediately any establishment that fails to comply with previous guidelines on COVID-19 containment.COVID-19: FG Activates Health Desks in 774 LGAsUdora Orizu in AbujaAs part of effort aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus, the Federal Ministry of Environment has activated environmental health desks in all the 774 Local Government Areas in the country to vigorously pursue grassroots advocacy.

The Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, disclosed this in a press statement on Sunday.Abubakar said the health desks will also offer guidance and counseling and disinfect all risk-prone areas.He said, “The Department of Pollution Control and Environmental Health, as well as the Environmental Health Officers Council of Nigeria have since deployed their personnel across the country disinfecting and decontaminating public places such as markets, motor parks, airports, schools, and other congested areas in conjunction with relevant authorities all in an effort to contain further spread of the epidemic.”

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The Minister also sent words of empathy to Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna State Governor, who on Saturday was confirmed to have tested positive to coronavirus.The Minister, in a series of tweets thereafter, noted that he was pleased to learn about the ways in which Nigerians are coming together to support the containment of COVID-19.

He however, said the increase in cases over the last few days according to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) update indicated that Nigerians need to take more serious measures to collectively contain the virus.Abubakar, who is also a member of the Presidential Task Force on the control of the spread of coronavirus urged Nigerians to continue to heed the advice of experts and government on COVID-19.

“As more people are being encouraged to go into self isolation, we must remind everyone to stay home & practice social distancing. We know this is immensely difficult for many of us, but we know this is the right thing to do. We can, & must take these steps together. The #PresidentialTaskForce of the on the control of the spread of COVID-19 is continuing to take necessary action, but we all need Nigerians to do their part. Avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing, wash your hands, cover your cough and stay home,” he added

Immigration Boss Tests Positive for CoronavirusThe Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede, has tested positive for coronavirus.Babandede confirmed his positive status Sunday.The Immigration boss who returned from a trip to the UK on March 22, said he had been in self-isolation since he returned to the country.

Details later..Italy’s COVID-19 Death Toll Exceeds 10, 000 Despite LockdownThe COVID-19 death toll in Italy shot past 10,000 on Saturday and showed little sign of slowing despite a 16-day lockdown.The 889 new fatalities reported in the world’s worst-hit nation came a day after it registered 969 deaths on Friday — the highest single toll since the COVID-19 virus emerged late last year.

Italy now looks certain to extend its economically debilitating — and emotionally stressful — business closures and the ban on public gatherings past their April 3 deadline.“Is it time to reopen the country? I think we have to think about it really carefully,” Civil Protection Service Chief Angelo Borrelli told reporters.

“The country is at a standstill and we must maintain the least amount of activity possible to ensure the survival of all.”Italians had begun to hope that their worst disaster in generations was easing after the increase in daily death rates began to slow on March 22.

But the new surge has changed the Mediterranean nation’s mood.Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italians late Saturday to be ready to spend more time cooped up at home.“If one is being reasonable, one cannot envision a quick return to normal life,” Conte said in his latest sombre television address.

The monumental economic toll of fighting the pandemic has triggered a huge row among European leaders about how best to respond.The southern European nations worst-hit by the virus are urging the EU to go abandon its budget rules.The bloc has already loosened its purse strings in ways not seen since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

But Conte argues that this is not enough.France is backing a push by Italy and Spain for the EU to start issuing “corona bonds” — a form of common debt that governments sell to raise money to address individual economic needs.More spendthrift nations such as Germany and the Netherlands are baulking at the idea of joint debt.

Conte said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had “not just a disagreement but had a frank confrontation” this week about how to proceed.“If Europe does not rise to this unprecedented challenge, the whole European structure loses its raison d’etre to the people,” Conte told Saturday’s edition of the Il Sole 24 Ore financial newspaper.The entire eurozone is expected to slip into a recession over the coming months.

But Italy is facing the threat of a near economic collapse after being the first European country to shutter almost all its businesses on March 12.Some forecasts suggest that its economy — the third-largest among nations that use the euro common currency — could contract by as much as seven per cent this year.

It shrank by 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product in 2009.Conte warned that EU leaders were in danger of making “tragic mistakes”.“I represent a country that is suffering a lot and I cannot afford to procrastinate,” Conte said.The energetic 55-year-old has seen his popularity shoot up thanks to a general sense that he has been doing all he could.

A growing number of medics are warning that Italy’s fatalities could be much higher because retirement homes often do not report all their COVID-19 deaths.The number of people who have died from the new disease at home is also unknown.“This is something very different from the 2008 crisis,” Conte warned in the newspaper interview. ‘We are at a critical point in European history.”

Niger Gov Tests Negative to CoronavirusLaleye Dipo MinnaThe Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, has tested negative to the coronavirus pandemic but will continue to remain in isolation.Governor Bello went into isolation and presented himself for the coronavirus test almost a week ago in line with the directive of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that those who have had relationship with people that had tested positive should go into isolation and present themselves for the test.

A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mary Noel Berje, Sunday confirmed the status of the governor and his decision to remain in isolation to play safe.According to the statement, “The governor has demonstrated exemplary leadership quality by subjecting himself to self isolation and test,” adding that: “He is expected to continue his official functions from home for some time.”

The statement reiterated the governor’s appeal to the people to embrace simple personal hygiene procedures as well as other precautionary measures that would guard them against contracting the dreaded virus.“We are still calling on the general public not to panic or despair as the measures taken by government is for the containment of the pandemic and in the overall interest of the people,” Berje said in the statement.

She maintained that “Niger State has not recorded a confirmed case of the Covid-19 but some people who have had contacts with confirmed cases are already in self-isolation and are being monitored accordingly”.Meanwhile, the governor has congratulated the National Leader of the All Progressives Party (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on his 68th birthday, describing him “as a true democrat and a blessing to the nation”.

Bello, in the congratulatory message signed by his Chief Press Secretary Berje also described the APC chieftain “as a phenomenon in the annals of the nation’s political history”.“Turning 68 is a huge milestone especially to someone who never gets tired of doing great things in great ways; someone who has provided the much-needed guide on each step of the way; someone who in spite of the cumbersome nature of our political terrain has successfully led us in the right direction,” the governor said.

US COVID-19 Deaths Double in Two Days, Now 2,000Confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the United States doubled in two days, surpassing 2,000 Saturday and highlighting how quickly the virus is spreading through the country.Johns Hopkins University reported that confirmed deaths rose to more than 30,000 around the world. The US ranked sixth in deaths, after Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy alone had more than 10,000 dead.

The US death toll has risen abruptly in recent days. It topped 1,000 just Thursday.Rhode Island announced its first two deaths from the coronavirus, leaving just three states with zero reported deaths: Hawaii, West Virginia and Wyoming.The risk of death from COVID-19 is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. In most cases, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough and milder cases of pneumonia

COVID-19: Lagos Begins Clinical Trials of Hydroxychloroquine, AzithromycinUS prepares to evacuate citizens, releases $274m to Nigeria, others8 new cases as El-Rufai tests positive, total now 97Commuters, vehicles stranded as Rivers border closure bites amid fears of virus spread

Ogun shuts bordersOur CorrespondentsThe federal government through NAFDAC and the Ministry of Health has granted Lagos State permission to commence clinical trials of a combination of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and Azithromycin for the treatment of the dreaded coronavirus that is currently burning through human populations around the world.

Given the success the state has recorded so far in the treatment of patients, having treated and discharged six and 10 others due to be discharged in the coming days should they record two negative tests following treatment, THISDAY has learnt.A presidency source told THISDAY yesterday that the federal government was impressed with the state government and consequently decided to grant the approval for clinical trials of the drugs for treatment of the virus.

This is seen as a major step forward towards the usage of the drugs. It is not certain yet how the trials would pan out. But French researchers had announced last week that a combination of both drugs was effective 100 per cent cure in treating Covid-19 patients.

In a related development, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control yesterday said it has expanded the number of labs with the capacity to test for #COVID19 to 6 with the inclusion of the Virology Laboratory of University College Hospital, IbadanThe centre in its twitter handle said: “Tomorrow, we will be in Abakaliki to set up another lab as we quickly ramp up #COVID19 testing capacity in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, the report by French research study, which allegedly confirmed a combination of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and Azithromycin as effective in treating Covid-19 patients, was published by TECHSTARTUPS, a fast growing online technology media destination, dedicated to promoting new technology startup companies.

TECHSTARTUP had earlier published a story about a new study published by NIH, which showed that Hydroxychloroquine has been found to be more effective and potent than chloroquine in vitro treatment of coronavirus.Rivers Border Closure Bites, Impact Felt Far and Wide

Also yesterday, fears mounted over the closure of Rivers State border with Bayelsa town of Mbiama by the Rivers State government in an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus. However, there are fears that the closure may turnout to be counter productive as hundreds of vehicles are stranded in Mbiama waiting to be allowed into Rivers state. The massive crowd has raised fears of a possible epidemic as no one is observing social distancing guidelines.

According to a source, those who can bribe security operatives enforcing the closure bribed their way and were allowed into Rivers State while others who couldn’t waited and mingling with one another hoping that the closure would be lifted.As the closure bites, the newspaper industry is hard hit the most as most circulation vans could not take newspapers in or out of the state.

The fate of the newspapers was so alarming that the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the umbrella body of correspondents of national newspapers in the state, had to write to Governor Nyesom Wike, who is also the chairman of the Task Force for the enforcement of restrictions, for special waivers for newspaper distribution vans.

Ogun Shuts Down BordersOgun State Government has announced the closure of its borders with the neighbouring states and the international border with the Republic of Benin.The closure will be enforced at midnight on Sunday, March 29, 2020 and will be in force for two weeks in the first instance.

A statement by Kunle Somorin, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun, claimed the state was constrained to effect border closure in order to stem and flatten the curve of the spread of the dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, not only in the state but in the country and in the West African sub-region.

“The position of Ogun State is peculiar. It not only shares an international border with the Republic of Benin, it does so with all other states in the Southwest (except Ekiti), including Lagos State, which has understandably recorded the highest number of infections in the country largely, because it hosts the busiest air and sea ports and it’s the nation’s economic capital.

“The border closure will not only be beneficial to Ogun State but the national efforts to curtail and contain the virus. Lessons from other climes strongly indicate that closure of borders has the potential to drastically flatten the curve of spread whilst unrestricted movement portends grave dangers,” Governor Abidoun further explained.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)Worried that the economic effect of the coronavirus outbreak may endure longer than envisaged, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has asked the G-20 to give Nigeria and other African countries $100 billion in emergency grants to stimulate their economies and cushion the effects of the pandemic that has claimed over 30,847 lives and infected 662,852 across the globe. The United States death toll so far reached a grim milestone, According to CNN, over 2,000 persons has lost their lives as at late yesterday. Nevertheless, the US at the weekend announced an initial investment of nearly $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to help countries in need to fight the raging coronavirus and other related health issues. Nigeria is billed to get more than $7 million from the fund, according a statement by the US Department of State

In the meantime, as the virus continues to take its toll on the physical and economic health of nations, eight new persons in Nigeria, including Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-rufai, tested positive on Saturday, bringing the total cases in the country to 97. Nigeria recorded new cases in Benue State, which had its first infection, and Edo State.

Fearing imminent explosion of the virus in the country, the US and some European countries have concluded plans to evacuate their citizens from Nigeria in the wake of the rising COVID 19 cases. The warning came from some European diplomats, who projected that the infection rate might rise to 10,000 in the coming weeks, because, according to them, about 5,000 persons had already had contact with infected persons across the country.

Consequently, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development said it would focus on the poor and vulnerable, including the elderly, refugees, IDPs, persons living with disabilities, trafficked persons, and petty traders in its response to COVID-19 in the country. Taking a cue from private sector operators and the state national oil company, NNPC, the 43 ministers in the federal cabinet announced the donation of 50 per cent of their salaries for March 2020 to support government’s effort to combat the pandemic.

This is just as state governments across the country announced tough measures, including shutting their borders, in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Many of the states were already considering economic stimulus packages to help majority of their residents cope with the stay-at-home order by government.

UNECA, one of the five regional commissions created by the United Nations to promote the economic and social development of its member states, predicted that the global health crisis would hit Nigeria and other African countries harder, with a heavy and durable and economic toll. The commission, which proposed $100 billion economic stimulus package to the G-20 on behalf of its African member states, in a statement THISDAY obtained from its Communication Office Friday, predicted that post-COVID-19 challenges would complicate Africa’s economic challenges.

G-20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the EU, comprising economies that account for about 90 per cent of the gross world product, 80 per cent of world trade, two-thirds of the world population, and half of the global land area.

In its statement, UNECA observed that COVID-19 would leave Nigeria and other African countries with durable economic consequences, which it predicted, would threaten progress and prospects, widen inequalities between and within countries, and worsen current fragilities.

Specifically, for Nigeria, the commission forecast that there might be potential loss of 1.6 per cent growth rate, which according to its report, might be worse with COVID-19 forcing Africa’s biggest economy to shut down its strategic sectors.The commission explained that the growth rate for Nigeria could fall from 2.9 per cent to 1.3 per cent in 2020, noting that with Nigeria accounting for 74 per cent of ECOWAS, the region might follow a similar trend.

In the light of the short-term and long-term effects of the virus, the commission pleaded with the G-20 leaders “to announce a US$100 billion (in addition to the $50bn already committed) to fund the immediate health response, social safety nets for the most vulnerable, feeding for out-of-school children, and to protect jobs.

“As a proportion of GDP, this is consistent with measures taken in other regions. To ensure immediate fiscal space and liquidity, this package should include a waiver of all interest payments, estimated at US$44 billion for 2020.”Besides the $100 billion economic stimulus package, UNECA urged the G-20 leaders “to support a waiver on principal and interest for African Fragile States such as the Sahel, Central African Republic and others that are already struggling with the burden of debt and have limited fiscal space.”

The commission challenged the G-20 leaders to make provision for enhanced predictability, transparency and accountability of financial flows so that African finance ministers could plan effectively and civil society stakeholders could help track flows to ensure they reach those most in need.

UNECA predicted the likely loss of 30 million jobs on the continent in the post-COVID-19 era, thus proposing that the G-20 leaders should implement emergency measures to protect 30 million jobs immediately at risk across African economies, particularly in the tourism and airline sectors.

It added that the G-20 leaders should take measures “to support agricultural imports and exports, the pharmaceutical sector and the banking sector. An extended credit facility, refinancing schemes and guarantee facilities should be used to waive, restructure and provide additional liquidity in 2020.”

It equally emphasised the need for the G20 leaders “to support a liquidity line available to the private sector operating in Africa to ensure essential purchases can continue and all SMEs dependent on trade can continue to function.“G20 leaders should ensure that national and regional stimulus packages covering private and financial systems include measures to support African businesses through allowing for the suspension of leasing, debt and other repayments to global businesses.”

UNECA proposed that the G-20 leaders should support and encourage open trade corridors, especially, for pharmaceuticals and other health supplies, as well as support the upgrade of health infrastructure and provide direct support to existing facilities. It said this would enable countries “to focus on prevention as much as possible and start building curative facilities. Support should be provided to WHO and CDC Africa with funds channelled through the Global Fund, GAVI and others.

“G-20 leaders should support public health campaigns and access to information including through an expedited private sector partnership for internet connectivity to enable economic activity to continue during social distancing measures and to support the effective sharing of information about the pandemic.”

The commission argued that the G-20 leaders should take these measures “to support Nigeria and African countries to cushion the effects of COVID-19. This is a global crisis affecting the whole world.“Africa, however, will be hit harder with a heavy and durable economic toll, which will threaten progress and prospects, widen inequalities between and within countries, and worsen current fragilities. African countries need support in preparing for the health crisis, and for the economic fallout.

“The measures being taken in Asia, Europe and North America such as physical (social) distancing and regular handwashing will be a particular challenge for countries with limited internet connectivity, dense populations, unequal access to water and limited social safety nets.”

UNECA said African countries “are preparing for the worst effects of COVID-19,” a pandemic that has put the global economy to a halt.US Preparing to Evacuate CitizensFearing an escalation in the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, the United States prepared emergency flights to evacuate its citizens in the country. The US Embassy and Consulate in Nigeria had advised nationals, who were not in Abuja and Lagos, to work with local airlines to make travel arrangements while flights were still available. The Embassy, in a notice titled, “Health Alert: US Mission in Nigeria”, urged American citizens to be in Abuja and Lagos as soon as possible to join the arranged flights back to the US.

The notice read, “At present, there are no scheduled flights to the United States. However, we are actively exploring options and attempting to secure flights despite global airport closures and travel restrictions.“We will email US citizens immediately once we have flight details, routes, and costs. US citizens, who are considering returning to the United States, are urged to travel to Abuja or Lagos as soon as possible.

“The Embassy and Consulate are unable to assist with lodging, food, or transportation costs, and some hotels have closed or are closing.“To disseminate important information and alerts for US Citizens including possible evacuation flights, the State Department uses the Smart Traveller Enrolment Programme as its primary messaging system. US Citizens in Nigeria, who want to be informed about emergency flights and receive other alerts should enrol in STEP immediately.”

Diplomats Warn of Virus ExplosionSome Western diplomats, last week, warned that the number of persons infected with the virus could witness a significant rise in the coming weeks on account of the poor handling of the situation by government. Nigeria currently has over 81 confirmed cases and one death from the pandemic.

The diplomatic community contended that infections could rise to over 10,000 in the coming weeks, as there were at least 5,000 persons, who had come in contact with infected persons in the country. This category of persons, it was believed, had mingled with thousands of others in the society without realising they had the virus, which is largely asymptomatic in this part of the world.

“This is the real danger. A lot of people, who have had contacts with original carriers of the virus don’t even know they have the ailment and have in fact gone ahead to mingle with hundreds and thousands of others in the society, spreading the virus further,” said a senior diplomat attached to one European high commission in the country.

The diplomat, who spoke to an online newspaper on Friday, explained, “From information we have in the diplomatic community, there could be an explosion of confirmed infections in the coming weeks. It is going to disrupt a lot of things.”Another diplomat, whose country was reported as having provided technical support to African nations battling the spread of the virus, also echoed the same sentiment, when he said the situation in Nigeria was dire, because the number of untested infections far outweighed those examined by the government agencies.

It is alleged that so far only about 200 persons have been tested for coronavirus in Nigeria due to the unavailability of testing kits. But this figure is being disputed because Lagos alone is said to test between 120 and 150 daily.Although in the week, a Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, donated testing kits and protective items to Nigeria and other African countries to help combat the virus, hundreds of potentially infected persons are yet to be examined in Nigeria, therefore increasing the risk of an epidemic in the West African state.

“We could be having tens of thousands of confirmed cases across Nigeria in a few days from now. There are thousands of people with the virus already on the loose in the country and many of these people cannot be traced. They have taken this pandemic into every nook and cranny of this country,” the diplomat stated.

He advised Nigeria to act fast to avert a full-blown war, adding, however, that Western countries would continue to provide technical support to help Africa and the rest of the world conquer the virus.Nonetheless, some Western countries are said to have begun to evacuate their citizens from Nigeria and other African countries. An example was an Air France flight, which Thursday moved 260 Europeans from Nigeria to France to prevent them from being infected with the virus. This followed a one-week permission to Air France and KLM by the federal government to evacuate Europeans from the country as a result of the spread of the pandemic.

Similarly, on same Thursday, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms. Catriona Laing CB, said the mission was exploring available options to send staff and their families back to the United Kingdom.The World Health Organisation said Nigeria and other African countries battling COVID 19 must conduct more tests to show the true picture of things and avert a major crisis.

8 New Cases as El-Rufai Tests PositiveNigeria recorded eight new cases of COVID 19 carriers, including El-rufai, who personally announced the results of his test, bringing the total number of infected persons in the country to 97.The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced this yesterday, saying of the total 97 cases, Lagos has 59, FCT 16, Ogun three, Enugu two, Ekiti one, Oyo seven, Edo two, Bauchi two, Osun two, Rivers one, Benue one and Kaduna one.

Announcing his test result Saturday evening, El-Rufai said, “Earlier this week, I submitted a sample for COVID-19 test. The result came in this evening and I regret to say to say it is positive.“According to the protocol managing the COVID -19, I am in self isolation as requested by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control – that is for someone that is showing no symptoms.”

He called on the people of the state to continue to observe preventive measures announced by the state government.“It is important that everyone should stay home and stay alive”, El-Rufai said, adding that his deputy, who is in charge of the task force on coronavirus, would continue to issue statements from time to time.

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who broke the news of the state’s index case to journalists in Makurdi after a meeting of the State Action Committee on COVID-19, said the infected person, one Susan Okpe, had returned from the United Kingdom a few days earlier. The governor stated that the blood sample of the affected lady was taken to Abuja alongside others and tested for the virus at the NCDC, stressing that the others tested negative.

Advising against stigmatisation, he noted that about eight contacts were being observed and pointed out that staff of the facility where the patient went for medical attention would also be isolated and monitored for the required number of days.Ortom said as part of proactive measures to prevent the spread of the disease, major markets would be closed from Monday, 30th March 2020, and hinted the possibility of closing roads linking Benue and other states in the days to come.

He, however, said shops and medical stores would be open to the public with hand sanitisers placed at strategic entry points to the shops for use by customers.He reiterated the ban on social gatherings such as funerals, weddings, Church as well as Mosque activities, urging Christians and Muslims to worship at home until the situation improves.

Humanitarian Ministry Targets Vulnerable GroupsThe Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, announced the decision to target the vulnerable in the society after a meeting of the COVID-19 response committee, comprising all the agencies under her supervision. Farouq said work must commence immediately.

“We are in an emergency and work must start immediately. Given the current global crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must work together and deploy all of our resources in unison to support the national efforts for maximum impact,” she said.

The National Emergency Management Agency will anchor the delivery of services and relief to people most especially, the vulnerable groups, along with the other agencies, including National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the North East Development Commission (NEDC) and the four components of the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIPs); namely N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme (NHSFP).

The minister said the ministry-led intervention would prioritise prevention and community engagement and increase sensitisation to curtail spread of coronavirus particularly, among the person of concern in the implementation of the initiative to drive the overall national strategy adopted by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

The ministry also directed all its agencies to make available both human and material resources to NEMA and the PTF for use in the response to the pandemic.Ministers Donate Half of Salaries to COVID-19 CauseThe 43 ministers in the federal cabinet have announced the donation of 50 per cent of their salaries for the month of March 2020 to support government’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

A statement issued in Abuja on Saturday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, quoted the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, who coordinated the donation, as saying it was a gesture of solidarity and support for the federal government’s efforts to tackle the disease, which at the last count has afflicted over 92 persons in the country.

”This global virus outbreak will require nations, continents and smaller communities to pull together to contribute their resources and support one another. This will facilitate an early resolution of the problem,” Mohammed further quoted Senator Saraki as saying.

Plateau Takes Tougher Measures, Shuts Down BordersThe Plateau State Government has taken tougher measures to prevent any case of the virus in the state, appealing to citizens to endure and comply with the orders in the interest of all.Addressing the press in Jos on Saturday, the Secretary to State Government (SSG), Professor Danladi Atu said, “In order to ensure that we prevent any case from coming into the State, government has rolled out measures including shutting of markets; ban on festivals; restriction of gatherings to not more than 50 people; ban on weekly Sunday markets at Ahmadu Bello Way, Bukuru and environs; closure of night clubs and drinking joints.

“As of yesterday Friday 27th March 2020, there is substantial compliance and the government commends the good and peace loving citizens of Plateau State who have adhered to the directives.“However, the government takes exception to the non-challance and flagrant disregard of the directives by some individuals and groups who have remained recalcitrant. They have also mobilised their followers to disobey the orders of government, which is meant to protect the lives of the people.

“Let me categorically make it clear that nobody is above the law and government is taking necessary action. In line with the directive of Government for full implementation of compliance, the Governor has asked Security agencies to take the necessary measures on such persons.”

Also, Atu said the state has decided that tricycles would no longer take more than 1 passenger, while Saloon cars will only take 4 passengers including the driver.On border restriction, Atu said, “Effective Sunday 29th March 2020, there will be prohibition of vehicular movement into Plateau State from all border entry routes from 6pm to 7am. All people coming into Plateau State should note and take note of this and prepare their trips to avoid unnecessary inconveniences.

Oyo Imposes Curfew as Governor Goes Into IsolationWith cases in Oyo State now three, the state government has taken additional measures to contain a further spread of the virus by introducing a dusk-to-dawn curfew between 7 pm and 6 am, while at the same time closing some markets in the state to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is just as the governor, Seyi Makinde has gone into isolation to observe if he has been infected or not, even as the state is monitoring 84 other people suspected of contracting the virus.The state COVID-19 Task Force, which made the disclosure in a statement issued in Ibadan, the state capital, stated: “The COVID-19 confirmation test for two suspected cases have come back POSITIVE. The isolation process has been initiated. 84 Persons of Interest have been identified, and contact tracing and collection of samples have commenced.

“The state’s diagnostic centre set up in collaboration with the University College Hospital is now ready. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) certification is still pending but the Director-General of NCDC has made a pre-statement about the molecular laboratory in Oyo State.

“The index case remains stable and is still under observation in the isolation unit at Agbami Chest Centre, Jericho. The number of confirmed cases in Oyo State is now three.“As a result of this, I have directed that the following additional measures be put in place: a dusk to dawn curfew (7 PM to 6 AM); no gatherings of more than ten people should be held anywhere in Oyo State. From Sunday night, March 29, 2020, all markets will be closed except those selling perishable food items

Also, Makinde made the disclosure of his isolation while speaking on phone to a live private radio programme monitored in Ibadan, saying the Coronavirus was no respecter of anyone and that he took the decision to be on self-isolation based on the advice given by the NCDC.

“I am now in self isolation, yes, I have been advised by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to isolate myself, because I had contacts with some people. All the governors, who had contacts with some of the people who have it have been advised to isolate themselves. The governors’ forum advised us to do so.

“This disease is no respecter of anyone, whether you are rich or poor. I am currently on isolation. It is unfortunate that some people, rather than assist themselves or the people, are criticizing. When they want to criticise, we are not saying that they should not criticise, but I care for the people of Oyo state.”

Meanwhile, Makinde, on Saturday informed residents of the state that his government was already working on palliatives to ease the pressure on residents of the state following the partial shutdown of activities as part of the precautionary measures put in place by the government to curtail the spread of Covid-19.

He, however, stated that the state would need to work on accurate data and design to ensure that the palliatives get into the hands of residents with genuine needs for them and not get cornered by middlemen.Uzodinma Locks Down Imo StateImo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, has ordered a complete lockdown of the state, effective from yesterday as part of the government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

In a State broadcast, the governor ordered that all markets be closed indefinitely and prohibited all forms of marriage ceremonies. He also announced the ban of all forms of burial and funeral ceremonies and declared that all forms of religious worships in churches and mosques, including crusades and open evangelism were prohibited.

Uzodinma further directed that all borders into the state be barricaded with road blocks and that those coming into the state must be given a clean bill of health by the health officials attached to the check points, before they are allowed entry. He equally directed all civil and public servants in the state, except those on approved essential duties, to stop work immediately.

He said a combined team of military, police and other security agencies would be deployed to the streets to ensure strict compliance with the directives.Edo Confirms Second Coronavirus CaseThe Edo State government has confirmed a second index case of coronavirus pandemic in the state

Last Tuesday, the first case was confirmed in the person of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Francis Okiye who travelled to United Kingdom and has since being quarantined.Confirming the second index case whose name was not given, Special Adviser to Governor Goodwin Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie urged residents of the state, especially traders and businesses to support the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration’s efforts to curtail the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state by complying with the basic precautionary measures and other guidelines to contain the scourge.

Meanwhile, chairmen of the local councils have in the state intensified campaigns to complement efforts by the state government in checking the spread of COVID-19.Inaugurating a 20-man Local Government Taskforce Committee on COVID-19 management, the Chairman of Uhunmwode Local Government Area (LGA), Hon. Napoleon Agbama, said the committee would ensure residents were sensitized on precautionary measures put in place by the Federal and State Ministries of Health to check the spread of COVID-19.

US Releases $274m to Nigeria, OthersAt the weekend, the United States of America announced an initial investment of nearly $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to help countries in need to fight the raging coronavirus and other related health issues.

A statement by the US Department of State said US’ government agencies were working together to prioritize foreign assistance based on coordination and the potential for impact. The statement read: “The U.S. government is leading the world’s humanitarian and health assistance response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are mobilizing all necessary resources to respond rapidly, both at home and abroad. As part of this comprehensive and generous U.S. response, the State Department and USAID are providing an initial investment of nearly $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to help countries in need, on top of the funding we already provide to multilateral organizations such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

The funds will be shared out to different countries across the world.Out of the funds, US is committing “more than $7 million in health and humanitarian funding to Nigeria.US State Department said the find “will go toward risk communication, water and sanitation activities, infection prevention, and coordination.

“This assistance joins more than $5.2 billion in U.S. health assistance and more than $8.1 billion in total assistance for Nigeria over the past 20 years.”Rivers Considers Palliatives to ResidentsThe Rivers State Government has said it was considering palliatives to residents to ease their pains as a result of the closure of markets and other restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19.

This is as Governor Nyesom Wike expressed satisfaction with the level of compliance in respect of the government’s directive on the closure of markets, saying the state government was committed to checking the spread of the virus in the state.Speaking yesterday after leading the state Task Force on enforcement of the ban on public and religious gatherings to monitor compliance with the directive of the state government, Wike said government would consider palliatives in the next phase of intervention, noting that the focus for now was to check the spread.

“When you talk of palliative, you are aware that the federal government gave Lagos State N10 billion as support. And so many people in Lagos have also made various donations. But in this state, we have not received a dime from any person. For the time being, people should make the sacrifice. The issue of palliative will be in the second phase.”

Activist Charges Govt to be Honest in Fighting COVID-19A human rights activist, Comrade Mulade Sheriff has charged the federal government, the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory Minister not to politicise the fight against COVID-19, so as to save Nigerians from death.

Mulade, the National Coordinator of the Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, (CEPEJ), gave the charge in Abuja while speaking with journalists and expressed sadness over the way and manner the deadly disease was being handled in Nigeria without adequate health equipment, personnel and public enlightenment on the need for Nigerians to adhere strictly to WHO guidelines.

Although he commended President Muhammadu Buhari, the Ministries of Health and Information, State Governors, as well as NCDC for taking bold steps to lock down the States, restricting human movement through daily media announcements, the CEPEJ boss however urged the authorities not to politicise the curbing of the killer virus from spreading in Nigeria.

NUJ Makes Case for JournalistsThe Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the umbrella body for all Journalists in the country has called on the federal and state governments to provide safety kits and palliatives to journalists to enable them do their work in safety and relative comfort.

It said it was of great importance that government must come up with ways of cushioning the effect of this pandemic on media houses in order to ensure they sustain the tempo of their coverage of it.In a joint statement by Comrade Chris Isiguzo, National President and Shuaibu Usman Leman, National Secretary, the NUJ also said journalists on assignment should bear in mind that responsible and ethical journalism is vital to the reporting of this pandemic.

COVID-19: Tinubu Advises FG to Increase Naira ExpenditureSeeks tax reduction for firms, suspension of VATUrges CBN to print more naira notes, lower interest rate to spur borrowingObinna ChimaAs the world races to enact measures to suppress the effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has advised the federal government not to reduce its budgetary expenditure. Tinubu suggested, instead, that the government should increase its public expenditure by 10 to 15 per cent. He gave the advice in a statement titled, “A Message on the Coronavirus: A Time for Unity, A Time for Thought, A Time for Action,” released today on his 68th birthday celebration.

The statement was, apparently, in lieu of a colloquium, which had been held in the past 11 years on Tinubu’s birthday. He said in line with current social distancing measures against the spread of the coronavirus, the organisers of the event had decided to postpone it.

The former Lagos State governor said to save both lives and livelihoods in times of emergency, like the present one, extra inflation from enhanced government spending was a necessary price to pay. He also advised the federal government to announce a tax credit or partial tax reduction for companies, adding that the Value Added Tax (VAT) should be suspended for the next two to four months to help lower import costs and protect businesses against shortages.

Tinubu advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to lower interest rates to stimulate borrowing and private sector activities. He described COVID 19 as a health and medical problem with heavy economic costs, saying it is blind to social, economic, and tribal boundaries, and imposes a need for cordiality and love.

Citing interventions by governments in most developed economies, including China, he advised the federal and state governments to begin to prepare appropriate responses to counteract the effect of grimmer emergencies, just in case the situation deteriorated gravely, in the face of falling oil prices and dollar shortfall.

The APC leader, discussing the effects of the current pandemic, stated, “This does not, however, necessitate a corresponding shortfall in public sector naira expenditures. The US controls dollar issuance. We control naira issuance, as is our sovereign right. Just as America has used its sovereign right to issue its currency to stave economic disaster, so, too, may Nigeria issue naira for the same purpose.

“The natural instinct will be to reduce spending. Such reductions may be prudent for individuals and households. For government to move in this direction only feeds economic carnage by amplifying economic hardship. Prudent fiscal policy is generally ‘countercyclical.’ As the private sector shrinks, government does more.

“At minimum, the federal government must stick to its naira budgetary expenditures. In fact, government should increase naira expenditures by at least 10 – 15 per cent during an emergency.”According to him, the federal government cannot become naira insolvent because it has the ability to issue the national currency.

“Consequently,” Tinubu stated, “should circumstances require increased spending, we should not hesitate to do so; but we must keep the watchful eye to ensure inflation does not climb too high. However, to save both lives and livelihoods during a moment of historic emergency, a touch of extra inflation from enhanced government spending is a small price to pay. In fact, it is a price that must be paid.

“The alternative may be a harmful deflation which historically has proven more difficult to tame and cure than a small inflationary increase.”He added, “Allocations to state and local governments should be included in this addition. If not, we risk subnational recessions in important sections of the country.

“If the virus is largely kept from becoming a widespread public health menace, government should accelerate spending and actual work on key infrastructural projects particularly regarding transportation.“This will lower costs while bolstering the economy by generating employment and business activity. If the virus does become a large-scale public health challenge, more funds should be allocated to the health sector.

“Government should announce a tax credit or partial tax reduction for companies or firms. VAT should be suspended for the next two-four months. This will help lower import costs and protect against shortages.“We need to protect the people from food shortages and high prices. As such, we must quickly improve farm-to-market delivery of agricultural produce. Also, government should initiate a crash programme to decrease spoilage of agricultural produce by construction of storage facilities in local marketplaces in and around major cities and towns throughout the country.”

Tinubu stressed the need for the establishment of strategic grain reserves, where government should facilitate steady supply by establishing minimum prices for basic food products.He said, “The CBN should lower interest rates to spur borrowing and private sector activity. CBN and other financial regulators should be alert to signs of fragility in the financial markets and banking sector. The central bank should be prepared to enact extraordinary measures should the financial sector exhibit stress.

“The CBN should be prepared to give banks liberal access to its loan discount window to ensure adequate liquidity within the banking sector. The Cash Reserve Requirement for banks should be revised downward.“Also to ensure liquidity, the CBN should be willing to expand its balance sheet and improve liquidity by purchasing government bonds and other instruments held by banks and other institutions.

“The Nigerian stock market is falling. CBN and others should be planning how they might intervene to prevent a potential run on the stock market. Potential measures include expanding Quantitative Easing to enable the central bank to purchase strategically important instruments trading in the stock market and instituting a moratorium on margin calls.

“The corona crisis will shrink the inflow of dollars. Hopefully, this is temporary, no more than a few months. CBN can allow some downward pressure on the naira without energetically intervening to defend the exchange rate. Only if and when the rate seems that it might dip precipitously should the CBN intervene.

“The Bank may want to revisit its decision prohibiting non-institutional Nigerian dollar holders from participation in open market operations. Greater leniency will bring more dollars into the CBN.“If economic trouble does come, government must be willing to freeze payment of certain consumer-related private debts. Evictions, foreclosure and light and water cut-offs might have to be suspended. Suspension or partial reduction of payment of school fees for our most indigent families must be considered (that is when schools reopen) while government offers temporary support to the schools themselves.”

He called on the international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to be cooperative and forward-leaning in the current “sobering period”.According to Tinubu, “We have entered a sobering period. We face a challenge we cannot see but one that can find us all too easily. As individuals, this puts every one of us at a startling disadvantage.

“Each is rendered vulnerable by the reckless act of his neighbour. Each is made safer by the enlightened conduct of a stranger. The very nature of this assailant calls us toward greater unity and kindness.“In the normal push of our daily affairs, we tend to focus on what divides us. We are either APC, PDP or another political affiliation. One person is rich. Another is poor. There is the labourer then there is the boss.

“One person is of the north, another of the south, with both often acting as if the boundary between the two cannot be traversed. We are of different ethnic groups; these identities mean so much to us that we behave as if the affiliations are the very source of our humanity.

“In this, we tend to forget God. Even when we worship God, we divide ourselves in ways that too often bring violence to a way of life meant to bring peace and compassion.“But, the coronavirus is now here. If we carry forth in our usual ways, we may well carry ourselves into national disaster. Normal practices will not suffice. We all must do better lest we all fail and suffer the grave consequences of collective failure. We pray that this terrible cloud will pass from us. However, we must prepare for the possibility that it may linger to rain hard upon us.”

Tinubu advised against the myth that the virus was not a black man’s disease.He said, “We hoped that our hot climate would bake and destroy the virus. That wish now appears too optimistic. We even said our history in dealing with malaria and other tropical diseases granted us some type of immunity.

“Well, I doubt that immunity exists as there is no scientific evidence supporting this claim. If such an immunity exists, it is at most incomplete and so unreliable as to be of no avail to large segments of our population.“The rich cannot bargain with the disease or pay it off. It neither reads bank account statements nor is it intimidated by them. The poor, likewise, are subject to it for it has no mercy nor cares about one’s prior or present hardships. Neither does it seem to study geography.

“Northerner and southerner are equally its prey. It will attack those who pray at the altar in church as well as those who face the Qiblah when praying in the mosque. To corona, we are all the same. Thus, to fight corona, we must treat each other the same, as brothers and sisters in one national family under one heaven.”

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Jump to 97Martins IfijehNigeria has recorded eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing total number in the country to 97Announcing this Saturday night, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said of the eight cases, four were reported in Oyo State, two in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), one in Kaduna and one in Osun State.

According to NCDC, Lagos has 59 cases, FCT has 16, Oyo has seven, Ogun has three, Enugu, Osun and Bauchi have two each, while Ekiti, Rivers, Benue and Kaduna have one each.So far, three have been discharged, one has died while 93 persons are currently being managed

SATURDAY MARCH 28, 2020Buhari’s Media Aide, Garba Shehu, Tests NegativeOmololu Ogunmade in AbujaSenior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, tested negative for COVID-19 on Saturday.Shehu has been in isolation since Tuesday when the news of the Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari’s infection with the disease broke.

He had to go into isolation having been one of the presidential aides, including ministers, who had close contact with Kyari before showing symptoms of COVID-19.Announcing the result of his test on his Twitter handle, @garsheu, Saturday, Shehu advised others in his category who had been in isolation to remain in such isolation and continue to work from home.

“My test proved negative for the virus, Alhamdu Lillahi. Notwithstanding,I advise everyone that we continue the isolation and work from home,” he tweeted.Kaduna Governor, El-Rufai, Tests Positive for CoronavirusBy John Shiklam in KadunaGovernor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has tested positive for Coronavirus.

The governor disclosed his status on Saturday in Kaduna.He said: “Earlier this week, I submitted a sample for COVID-19 test.“The result came in this evening and I regret to say to say it is positive.“According to the protocol managing the COVID -19, I am in self-isolation as requested by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control- that is for someone that is showing no symptoms.”

He called on the people of the state to continue to observe preventive measures announced by the state government .“It is important that everyone should stay home and stay alive” he said.El-Rufai said his deputy who is in charge of the task force on Coronavirus will continue to issue statements from time to time

El-Rufai is the second governor to test positive for the coronavirus. Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed had earlier in the week tested positive. .Nigeria curently has 89 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Three of the cases have been discharged. while one has died.

Nigeria Records 8 New Cases of COVID-19, Spread to BenueMartins IfijehNigeria has recorded eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing total number in the country to 89.Announcing this Saturday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said of the eight cases, seven were reported in Lagos, while one was confirmed in Benue State.

Of the total 89 cases, Lagos currently has 59, Federal Capital Territory 14, Ogun and Oyo three each, Enugu, Edo, and Bauchi has two each, while Rivers, Osun, Benue and Ekiti has one each.NCDC said: “Three has been discharged, one dead, while 85 are currently being managed”

COVID-19: Two Test Positive in EnuguBy Christopher Isiguzo and Gideon Arinze in EnuguEnugu State on Friday evening confirmed two new cases of coronavirus.The state Ministry of Health confirmed that two patients who voluntarily presented themselves tested positive for the virus.

A statement by Dr. Ifeanyi Agujiobi, Permanent Secretary, Enugu State Ministry of Health, disclosed that the patients voluntarily contacted the ministry on arrival from United Kingdom (UK) and requested the COVID-19 test which came out positive.“So far, the patients have remained in isolation and the Enugu State Multi Sectoral Rapid Response Team has commenced contact tracing.

“The Enugu State Government expresses her gratitude to these patients who reported to the Enugu State Ministry of Health following the announcement that all returnees from overseas in the last 14 days should report for evaluation.“We still wish to encourage all those that returned recently from overseas to contact the Enugu State Public Health Department through these dedicated lines- 08182555550 or 09022333833.

“We urge the general public not to panic as health personnel are already positioned to respond to the present situation even as all should observe high level of personal hygiene, maintain the social distance protocol and stay home,” Agujiobi said.Meanwhile, the state government has said it will completely shut down all markets as well as entry and exit points to and from the the state starting from 6pm on Tuesday, March 31.

The state ordered the closure of all land borders and inter-state transportation in the state till further notice, with effect from 6pm on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, except those on medical emergency services.In a statement by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Simon Uchenna Ortuanya, the state government also ordered the closure of all markets in the state, “no matter the size, till further notice, with effect from 6pm on Tuesday, the 31st day of March, 2020”.

The statement added that other categories exempted from the closure include “those dealing on food items, water, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and other basic items of daily domestic need who must comply with the standard hygiene protocol as stipulated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), including frequent hand washing with soap, use of sanitizer and social distancing”.

According to Prof. Ortuanya, “All local government chairmen are hereby directed to ensure strict compliance with the closure of the markets within their respective local government councils, without prejudice to the exceptions above.”He appealed for understanding from the residents and citizens of the state “at this difficult time as no sacrifice is too much to save the lives of our people”.

The state government also directed the security agencies and the state Medical Response Team to enforce all the directives as stated above.COVID- 19: Bauchi Fumigates Govt HouseBy Segun Awofadeji in BauchiAs part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Bauchi State Ministry of Health has disclosed that the state rapid response committee on coronavirus has fumigated the state government House and residences following the confirmation of Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed’s positice status.

The State Commissioner of Health, Dr Aliyu Maigoro, who made the disclosure yesterday while updating journalists on the pandemic said so far a total of 70 samples had been taken of which 47 tested negative while results of 21 other suspects were pending.

According to him, seven donor agencies promised to support the state. He called on the federal ministry of health to assist the state with containers to take samples or testing kits.He said the two confirmed victims did not exhibit any sign or symptom of the disease but had been isolated and were receiving care.

While assuring that government is on top of the situation, the commissioner recommended regular hand washing, taking of plenty of water, fruits, avoiding unnecessary crowds, touching of eyes, nose, mouth, coughing and sneezing in the midst of people as some measures to avert the spread of the disease.

Maigoro also advised the public in the state to comply strictly with the guidelines on the disease control and provide useful information to the state response team on the pandemic.Celebrating High-profile Positive Cases of Covid-19 Wrong, Dangerous, Says PGF DG

Adedayo Akinwale in AbujaThe Director General of Progressive Governors Forum, Dr. Salihu Lukman, has decried the inhuman disposition of many Nigerians who appear to be celebrating high-profile positive cases of Covid-19 in the country, describing it as misplaced and dangerous.

Lukman in a statement issued yesterday said that the pandemic was far more serious in Nigeria given citizen’s mindset, adding that most commentaries in the media is largely about evaluating what government is doing or not doing.Appealed to every person living in Nigeria, he said tackling the challenge of Covid-19 require very good synergy of initiatives between government and citizens.

Lukman noted that If advanced countries like US, Italy, France, Spain, UK, were battling the virus with devasting consequences, it should be clear to all that the challenge is beyond infrastructural capacities such as hospitals, doctors, medical personnel, drugs, equipment, among others.

He stated: “Yes, capacity is very much required but given the speed with which Covid-19 spread across the population, ability of governments to develop the needed capacity will be overwhelming.“Therefore, the current attitude of many Nigerians focusing on lamenting the state of health sector and what could appear to be the inhuman disposition that celebrate the unfortunate high-profile cases of Covid-19 positive cases in the country is misplaced and dangerous.

“By all means, we can criticise our governments and our leaders, but we need to do that by demonstrating our commitment to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 through clear actions, recommendations and initiatives to mobilise citizens to also play their roles.”

The Director General stressed that the fight against Covid-19, from all the evidences would only be won by combination of government and citizens’ initiatives.“Where are our civil society leaders with all the claimed selfless services and international networks around issues of health and welfare services? This is the time to showcase those competencies and networks by joining all the taskforces setup by the federal and state governments to mobilise complimentary initiatives.”

Ministers Donate Half of March Salaries to Support Fight against COVID-19Olawale AjimotokanThe 43 ministers in the federal cabinet have donated 50 per cent of their salaries for the month of March 2020 to support government’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, quoted the Minister ofState for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, who coordinated the donation, as saying it was a gesture of solidarity and support for

the federal Government’s efforts to tackle the disease, which at the last count has infected 81 persons in the country.”This global virus outbreak will require nations, continents and smaller communities to pull together to contribute their resources and

support one another. This will facilitate an early resolution of the problem,” Mohammed further quoted Senator Saraki as saying.The ministers also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his leadership role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

COVID- 19: Bauchi Fumigates Govt HouseBy Segun Awofadeji in BauchiAs part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Bauchi State Ministry of Health has disclosed that the state rapid response committee on coronavirus has fumigated the state government House and residences following the confirmation of Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed’s positice status.

The State Commissioner of Health, Dr Aliyu Maigoro, who made the disclosure yesterday while updating journalists on the pandemic said so far a total of 70 samples had been taken of which 47 tested negative while results of 21 other suspects were pending.

According to him, seven donor agencies promised to support the state. He called on the federal ministry of health to assist the state with containers to take samples or testing kits.He said the two confirmed victims did not exhibit any sign or symptom of the disease but had been isolated and were receiving care.

While assuring that government is on top of the situation, the commissioner recommended regular hand washing, taking of plenty of water, fruits, avoiding unnecessary crowds, touching of eyes, nose, mouth, coughing and sneezing in the midst of people as some measures to avert the spread of the disease.

Maigoro also advised the public in the state to comply strictly with the guidelines on the disease control and provide useful information to the state response team on the pandemic.Celebrating High-profile Positive Cases of Covid-19 Wrong, Dangerous, Says PGF DG

Adedayo Akinwale in AbujaThe Director General of Progressive Governors Forum, Dr. Salihu Lukman, has decried the inhuman disposition of many Nigerians who appear to be celebrating high-profile positive cases of Covid-19 in the country, describing it as misplaced and dangerous.

Lukman in a statement issued yesterday said that the pandemic was far more serious in Nigeria given citizen’s mindset, adding that most commentaries in the media is largely about evaluating what government is doing or not doing.Appealed to every person living in Nigeria, he said tackling the challenge of Covid-19 require very good synergy of initiatives between government and citizens.

Lukman noted that If advanced countries like US, Italy, France, Spain, UK, were battling the virus with devasting consequences, it should be clear to all that the challenge is beyond infrastructural capacities such as hospitals, doctors, medical personnel, drugs, equipment, among others.

He stated: “Yes, capacity is very much required but given the speed with which Covid-19 spread across the population, ability of governments to develop the needed capacity will be overwhelming.“Therefore, the current attitude of many Nigerians focusing on lamenting the state of health sector and what could appear to be the inhuman disposition that celebrate the unfortunate high-profile cases of Covid-19 positive cases in the country is misplaced and dangerous.

“By all means, we can criticise our governments and our leaders, but we need to do that by demonstrating our commitment to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 through clear actions, recommendations and initiatives to mobilise citizens to also play their roles.”

The Director General stressed that the fight against Covid-19, from all the evidences would only be won by combination of government and citizens’ initiatives.“Where are our civil society leaders with all the claimed selfless services and international networks around issues of health and welfare services? This is the time to showcase those competencies and networks by joining all the taskforces setup by the federal and state governments to mobilise complimentary initiatives.”

Ministers Donate Half of March Salaries to Support Fight against COVID-19Olawale AjimotokanThe 43 ministers in the federal cabinet have donated 50 per cent of their salaries for the month of March 2020 to support government’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, quoted the Minister ofState for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, who coordinated the donation, as saying it was a gesture of solidarity and support for

the federal Government’s efforts to tackle the disease, which at the last count has infected 81 persons in the country.”This global virus outbreak will require nations, continents and smaller communities to pull together to contribute their resources and

support one another. This will facilitate an early resolution of the problem,” Mohammed further quoted Senator Saraki as saying.The ministers also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his leadership role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

COVID-19 Cases Rise to 81, Buhari Approves 4 Stadia for Quarantine•Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Kaduna stadia listed•NYSC orientation camps also to serve as isolation hubs•Obasanjo donates former residence for seclusion•Sanwo-Olu targets 200,000 families in stimulus

•Death toll surpasses 25,000 globally•Military sets aside 17 hospitals for isolation•Donations: President applauds Atiku, Dangote, Elumelu, Rabiu•U.S. moves to mop up doctors, nurses worldwide•China pledges to share containment strategyOur Correspondents

Nigeria yesterday recorded 16 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 81, up from 65 earlier Friday morning.The Nigeria Disease Control Centre made this known late yesterday night.It said eight new cases were recorded in Lagos State, three in the FCT, two in Enugu State, two in Oyo State and one in Edo State.

“As of 11:55pm on 27th of March, there are 81 confirmed cases of #COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. Three have been discharged with one dead,” the NCDC tweeted.Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has given the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development approval to open and make available four federal government owned stadiums in addition to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camps spread across the country as isolation centres for Coronavirus cases.

The stadiums are the National Stadium, Lagos; Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan; MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja and Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna.The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, confirmed this directive yesterday via his Twitter handle.

He said that the Ministry was already in touch with relevant authorities and stakeholders to make these facilities available in line with Buhari’s approval and as part of the ministry’s contribution to halting the spread of COVID-19.He described the stadiums as huge complexes boasting of several outdoor and indoor areas and which can also be put into use as testing centres.

He stated that because of space they will allow for required distancing, adding it is up to medical personnel and authorities to determine the appropriate areas of usage if and when necessary.“The world over, stadiums are being used by nations as they race against the ravages of COVID -19. The Santiago Bernabéu (Real Madrid Stadium) will be turned into a storage and distribution centre for medical materials donated to the health authorities in Spain. London’s ExCeL Exhibition and Conference Centre is being repurposed to care for patients infected with COVID-19. In Brazil, top football clubs have turned over their stadiums to the country’s health authorities to use as field hospitals. The Hard Rock Stadium in Florida, United States was converted into a community testing centre amongst others. Back home, Lagos State Government has set up the Onikan Stadium (Mobolaji Johnson Stadium) to support efforts at halting the pandemic.

“While our prayers are that Nigeria never gets to the level where these facilities will be put to this use, we must however all be prepared to support the system and ensure that the nation is not caught unawares,” Dare stated.The minister assured Nigerians that together they will fight and win the battle against Coronavirus contagion.

He also called on the youth to be at the vanguard of dissemination of timely and accurate information via social media to Nigerians in their communities.The Federal Government had on March 18 ordered the immediate closure of NYSC orientation camps nationwide over coronavirus fears.

But Dare, yesterday, said the President, approved the re-opening of the camps as COVID-19 isolation centres.Nigeria is Racing against Time, Says NCDC DGThe Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu has said Nigeria was racing against time in curbing the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and advised Nigerians to cooperate and collaborate to stem a potential outbreak.

Ihekweazu, who stated this in an interview on The Morning Show on Arise TV, yesterday, said “70% to 80% of the infections we are dealing with have been in Nigerians that have come back to their country. We are not saying don’t come back to your country, but please do carry out that self-isolation very strictly. We need you more than ever to stay at home in your room, let your family work around you for 14 days, if you’re ill, let us know.”

Ihekweazu said the Coronavirus outbreak was about to go into its third wave. “There has never been an outbreak that has been reported real time around the world the way this is being reported. We have seen the first wave of this outbreak go through mostly China and other countries. We’ve seen a second incredible wave now going through Europe and unfortunately we are seeing the beginnings of what is most likely to be a third wave, starting off in many countries in Africa, South America and in South-east Asia.”

Obasanjo Donates former Residence for IsolationFormer President Olusegun Obasanjo has offered his former residence at the Presidential Hilltop, Abeokuta, Ogun State, to be used as an isolation centre for victims of the ongoing coronavirus disease.An aide said Obasanjo made the offer on Friday, and has since handed over the 32-room facility to the Ogun government for immediate use. Ogun State has recorded three cases of the coronavirus, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Obasanjo’s special assistant media, Kehinde Akinyemi, who confirmed the development said the former president was concerned about the pandemic. “And I think those who can in one way or another assist in this situation should do so,” Obasanjo was quoted as having said.

The facility located off the Presidential Boulevard, Oke Sari, Abeokuta has each of the 32 rooms ensuite, with a standby generator.China Pledges to Share Coronavirus Containment StrategyThe People’s Republic of China yesterday pledged to share containment strategies, drugs and vaccines of Coronavirus with Nigeria.

The Ambassador of China to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian, disclosed this in Abuja while presenting some medical items, including hand gloves, sanitisers, automatic hand dryers and other hygiene products to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials.He said that though the situation in China is now under control with life gradually returning to normal, but stressed that there is no way China would lower its guard or relax control.

Pingjian noted that he and other Chinese diplomats would stay in the country and work closely with Nigerian medical professionals to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.The envoy said it was imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response.

He stated: “Despite the daunting task of epidemic control remaining at home, China will try its best to provide medical supplies to Nigeria and do whatever it could to support Nigeria.“China will continue to share information and experience with Nigeria and strengthen cooperation on containment, treatment and vaccines in response to the coved-19 challenge, with a view to building together a community of shared health for mankind.”

Death Toll Surpasses 25,000 WorldwideThe coronavirus pandemic has killed 25,066 people, with Europe accounting for most of the deaths, according to an AFP tally at 1430 GMT yesterday based on official statistics.Europe was the worst-hit continent with 17,314 fatalities. Italy had the highest number of deaths in the world at 8,165, followed by Spain (4,858) and China (3,292).

At least 547,034 coronavirus cases have been registered around the world since December.The death toll in Spain soared over 4,800 yesterday after 769 people died in 24 hours, in what was a record one-day figure for fatalities in the country, the government said.

Spain has the world’s second-highest death toll after Italy, and has so far suffered 4,858 deaths, while the number of cases jumped to 64,059.Although the figures showed a daily increase of nearly 8,000 new infections, the uptick comes as Spain moves to dramatically increase its rate of testing, ordering millions of new kits from around the world.

Despite the increase, the rate of new infections appears to be slowing, registering a 14 per cent increase compared with 18 per cent on Thursday.Even so, the number of deaths over a 24-hour period was far higher than Italy, which counted 662 deaths in its last update on Thursday night.

Italy has so far suffered 8,165 deaths as a result of the epidemic with 80,539 people infected.Until Thursday night, Italy had registered the largest number of declared cases until it was overtaken by the United States, where 85,991 people have now tested positive for the virus.

U.S. Asks Doctors, Nurses Around the World to Apply for VisaThe United States has asked medical professionals seeking to work in America to apply for a work visa at the nearest US Embassy as part of measures to strengthen the health system to contain the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

The government in a statement published on www.travel.state.gov yesterday, advised foreign medical professionals already in the US to consult with their sponsors to extend their programmes.The U.S. government further clarified yesterday evening that only medical professionals with a previously approved H or J petition would receive the emergency visa appointment.

According to the statement posted on its website, it said, “The U.S. Mission is aware of a misunderstanding caused by a message that led many to believe the U.S is recruiting foreign medical professionals to assist the COVID-19 response. This is incorrect. Only medical professionals with a previously approved H or J petition will receive an emergency visa appointment. We are sorry for the misunderstanding.”

As of Friday evening, the United States had at least 82,100 cases while China was reporting 81,782, while there have been more than 510,000 cases reported worldwide.In New York, where more than half of the US cases have been reported, exhausted hospital workers are turning to increasingly desperate measures to combat the virus.

Military Sets Aside 17 Hospitals for IsolationThe military yesterday said it had prepared 17 hospitals for the isolation and treatment of confirmed cases of the coronavirus pandemic.The Defence Headquarters in a press conference in Abuja added that the military had also concluded plans to recall its retired medical personnel to complement those in the active service.

The Coordinator of the Defence Media Operations, Maj Gen John Enenche, said in Abuja that apart from medical preparations, the military has activated its Disaster Response Units across the country to manage security situations in any part of the country as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Enenche said, “Sequel to the ongoing fight against the spread of the Coronavirus disease 2019 by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Armed Forces of Nigeria have put measures in place to aid the civil authorities. As you may be aware, Section 217 (2) c of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), empowers the military to act in aid of civil authority.

FG Orders NCDC Staff Training Aboard Back to NigeriaThe federal government has ordered all staff of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) currently training abroad to return home.The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who stated this while addressing journalists in Abuja yesterday, also said Lagos State was currently the epicentre of COVlD-l 9 outbreak in Nigeria, with its increasing number of cases.

He said that the federal government had directed the Nigeria Air Force Command to facilitate the return of the NCDC staff since they were needed in the current campaign against the spread of the Coronavirus.According to the minister, health facilities and health workers at all levels, whether public or private, have been put on high alert and to give full cooperation to contact tracers everywhere.

The minister said the Lagos State government and the Federal Ministry of Health were doing very commendable work. “They have scaled-up their response activities and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is supporting them, as well as other affected states through the Rapid Response Teams deployed.”

Also, he said that precautionary measures were being taken by the federal government to protect the nation’s seaports, adding that currently, only ships that have been at sea for more than 14 days can dock, after crew members have been confirmed negative for COVID-t 9.

“An exception to this 14-day restriction is for vessels carrying oil and gas products as they require minimal contact,” he said.On the issue of increasing the number of testing centres for Coronavirus, the minister said that federal government will upgrade the facilities at the medical laboratories in the Teaching Hospitals in Abakaliki, Ibadan and Maidugiri to national reference laboratories.

Sanwo-Olu Targets 200,000 Families in StimulusFew days after the Lagos State Government issued a stay-at-home directive to residents in order to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu yesterday unveiled economic stimulus package for the indigent and the most vulnerable in the society.

The stimulus, which comes in food packs, to be distributed to every local government in the State, is aimed at cushioning the effect of the 14 days stay-at-home directive.Speaking after an on-the-spot assessment of one of the State-owned food banks, located inside the premises of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in Agege, Sanwo-Olu said the economic stimulus will reduce the burden of the temporary economic downturn on the citizens caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.

The Governor said the food packs, which were put together by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, will reach the most vulnerable communities and households across Lagos, saying that the indigents who rely on daily wages will be given priority.

He said: ‘‘We are here for an on-the-spot assessment, of our readiness, to see how we can fast track some of our stimulus package for our citizens.“We are all aware that this is a trying time for our citizens and since the partial drop in economic activities, our government deemed it necessary to reach out to the vulnerable ones in the society.

“These people are those that fall below the pyramid, the aged and the physically challenged who need to move from one part of the city to another for them to have a living.“We felt that as a government, the least we can do is to identify them and give them these stimulus packages immediately.”

The Governor stated that the package will touch at least 200,000 thousand households in the first phase, adding that the food packs are produced for a size of six people per household and would last for at least fourteen days.Sanwo-Olu said: “We have packaged dry food stimulus for about 200,000 families in the first instance for a household of husband, wife and about four children.

“We would be giving bags of rice, bags of beans, garri, bread, dry pepper and we are trying to see if we can add water and some elements of vitamin C.“Each ration, we believe is going to be able to last them at least minimum 14 days just so our advocacy around stay at home, stay with your loved ones will be respected.”

Boris Johnson Tests PositiveBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday that he was self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19.“Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus,” he said on Twitter, posting a video message.

“I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” he wrote.“Be in no doubt that I can continue thanks to the wizardry of modern technology to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus,” he added in the video message.

A Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement that Johnson, whose partner Carrie Symonds is pregnant, experienced mild symptoms on Thursday and was tested for COVID-19 on the personal advice of England’s chief medical officer.The test was carried out in No 10 by NHS staff, the spokesperson added.

In his video message, Johnson thanked workers in Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) for their efforts in battling the spread of the virus.A total of 11,658 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Britain, and 578 deaths.Earlier this week, Prince Charles, the eldest son and heir to Queen Elizabeth II, also tested positive for the virus.

British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has temporarily assumed the role of Prime Minister.Also yesterday, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock tested positive for COVID-19.“Following medical advice, I was advised to test for #Coronavirus. I’ve tested positive. Thankfully my symptoms are mild and I’m working from home and self-isolating,” Hancock announced on Twitter.

Donation: Buhari Applauds Elumelu, Rabiu, Dangote, AtikuPresident Muhammadu Buhari yesterday applauded the generous interventions of affluent Nigerians such as Aliko Dangote, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Abdusalmad Rabiu, among others in the fight against COVID-19.

The president also expressed appreciation for the generous support of opulent men such as Femi Otedola, Tony Elumelu, Herbert Wigwe, Segun Agbaje and Jim Ovia in the battle against the scourge.Specifically, the president hailed Dangote, Elumelu, Otedola, Rabiu, Ovia, Agbaje and Wigwe who under the aegis of the Private Sector Coalition Against Covid-19 contributed N1 billion each to fight the scourge.

The president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari commended these opulent Nigerians “for being in the vanguard of encouraging others in the private sector to do same.”Adesina also noted that Elumelu’s UBA had equally donated N5 billion to both Nigeria and the entire Africa while Atiku pledged to offer N50 million and the First Bank offering to partner with the federal government in the war against the disease.

He said Buhari also praised the United Nations, and innovative technological firms which had offered to provide e-learning solutions to at least one million children through its ‘Keep Them Engaged, Keep Them Safe’ initiative.NNPC, IOCs Mobilise N11bn for Fight against COVID-19

By Emmanuel Addeh and Peter UzohoThe Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in Nigeria and independent oil companies in the upstream and downstream sectors, said yesterday that they were contributing about N11 billion in an effort to push back the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The oil firms said the donation would be made to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as part of its support to combat the Coronavirus pandemic in the country.According to a statement by NNPC’s Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr. Kennie Obateru, the Group Managing Director of the corporation, Mele Kyari, unveiled the donation in Abuja yesterday.

Kyari said in recognition of the impact of the pandemic on the Nigerian population and the economy, the oil and gas sector embarked on an industry-wide collaborative initiative to support the effort to combat the ailment and its attendant impact.He said: “The intervention initiative is in alignment with the ongoing Federal Government’s efforts and in collaboration with the NCDC to curb the pandemic.

“It is aimed at supporting our national healthcare delivery facilities and covers three key thematic areas: provision of medical consumables; deployment of logistics and in-patient support system; and delivery of medical infrastructure.”The NNPC boss added that the three thematic support initiatives amounted to $30 million (N11bilion naira) and would be delivered in phases, starting yesterday.

He noted that the increasing demand for medical services, medical consumables covering testing kits, medical protective suits and ambulances to the highly impacted areas across the federation informed the intervention of the oil industry.The NNPC helmsman added that as a responsive industry, the oil and gas industry was taking the action to strengthen the collective national resolve to stem the pandemic.

He stated that the effort was a collaboration between the NNPC and its partners in the upstream and downstream sector of the nation’s oil and gas value chain.“As a national oil company, the corporation on its own, would equip the intensive care unit of the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital with 16 beds; provide ventilators and a dedicated laboratory.

“The medical infrastructure would be made available to the hospital immediately.”Kyari noted that the industry was prepared to make further contributions to the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.Some of the medical items to be donated to the NCDC include 200 ambulances, 86 ventilators, 2,000 test kits, over 4,000 coveralls and laboratory equipment.

Other items include one diagnostic centre and several medical equipment.Pathologists Worried over Inadequacy of Testing CentresBy Onyebuchi EzigboAs number of Nigerians infected by the Coronavirus continues to rise, the College of Nigerian Pathologists (CNP) has asked federal government to substantially decentralise the testing centres as a strategy to accelerate the control of the outbreak.

In a statement issued yesterday by the CNP President, Professor P. O. Olatunji, the body warned against the use of non-validated test kits in handling Covid-19 disease tests.On the restriction of testing centres to five facilities in Lagos, Irua in Edo State, Ede in Osun State and the national reference laboratories in Abuja, CNP said there were competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists in the tertiary hospitals that carry out COVID-19 tests , thereby spreading out the testing centres across the country.

“We do not see any reason why our tertiary healthcare centres where competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are situated, cannot carry out COVID-19 tests.“We urge the federal and state governments to deploy a portion of the COVID-19 budget to bridge whatever deficiencies exist in our tertiary diagnostic laboratories, “ it said.

Olatunji said members of the CNP had been playing leading roles in case identification, case management and development of guidelines and protocol for infection prevention and control of COVID-19.CNP also called for the adoption of a more innovative and quicker diagnostic approach as against the NCDC recommended Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) being used at the moment.

The statement also said that CNP was concerned about a possible abuse of Chloroquine arising from its purported usefulness in treating COVID-19 infection.According to CNP, although some evidence was emerging about chloroquine efficacy, there was need for caution against inappropriate use of Chloroquine due to its damaging effect to the eye and interference with the functioning of the heart.

World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics said that over 400,000 people had been infected, by Coronavirus, leaving more than 18,000 of them dead. In addition, the economic fallout in economies across the globe both developed and developing had been enormous.

However, CNP said there was a cheering news as the disease had shown about 95% survival rate.It said there was therefore no need to panic or get confused or over-react, adding that people should keep to all preventive and protective instructions – washing hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water weren’t available.

It advised people not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and to avoid close contact with people who were sick, sneezing or coughingNasarawa Gov Thanks God for Testing NegativeBy Igbawase UkumbaGovernor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State yesterday thanked God for testing negative from the CONVID-19 despite having had contact with persons who were confirmed positive of the virus.

This was even as he equally expressed appreciation to God for his deputy, Emmanuel Akabe, as well as the Emir of Lafia and chairman of the state council of chiefs, Justice Sidi Bage (rtd), for coming out clean from the CONVID-19 disease test carried out on them recently.

The governor stated this at a press briefing in Lafia, the state capital, adding that a man suspected with symptoms of the virus in isolation at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) had also tested negative to the virus.Sule continued that as a result of his contact with persons who were confirmed to be positive to the disease, he resorted into self-isolation in order not to infect his family, aides and associates with the virus.

He said: “Consequently, I sought for the services of medical experts who came and took my blood sample, alongside that of my deputy and the Emir of Lafia, for a laboratory test for the disease. When the result came out, we were both found to be negative.”

The governor then banned worships in churches and mosques across the state as part of precautionary measures to curtail spread of the Coronavirus.According to him, “All social gathering including weddings, naming ceremonies are suspended, if not, attendance should be restricted to not more than 50 people.”

This was even as he added that all markets were closed with exception of those selling food items and pharmaceutical shops.Sule, however, concluded that there was no confirmed case of COVID-19 in the state, but advised residents to be mindful of the virus by always taking precautionary measures to contain disease in the state.

I’m Sound, Calm, in Good Spirit, Assures Gov MohammedBy Segun AwofadejiThe Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, has assured the people of the state and his well-wishers that he is sound, calm and in good spirit despite being infected with COVID-19.

In a message issued by Comrade Mukhtar Gidado, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on Media and made available to newsmen yesterday, the governor assured that he was strong, capable and equal to the task.Governor Mohammed who only regretted that his condition would not allow him to serve his people at this critical time of need, said by Allah’s grace, the challenges were surmountable.

The governor thanked well-wishers for their concern and care, especially their prayers as well as appreciated their love, encouragement and good wishes.“By the grace God, we shall have the courage, strength and faith to overcome all the tribulations. Allah is the Greatest! He is Sufficient and Merciful. May these tests be the utmost expiation of our sins, limitations and inadequacies.

“Insha Allah we shall overcome. With humility and gratitude, I wish all the people of Bauchi and Nigeria Allah’s bountiful blessings, prosperity and protection from the scourge of sickness, insecurity and poverty,” he said.Governor Mohammed however appreciated the numerous calls, flurry of texts massages and WhatsApp posts sympathising with him, prayed God to continue to guide and protect all of them out there.

“Thank God I am still leading the fight against our numerous challenges from isolation.”Fayemi Tests NegativeBy Victor OgunjeThe result of Coronavirus test conducted on the Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has been released and turned out to be negative.

Fayemi in his tweeter handle yesterday said : “I just received my test result from NCDC and it is negative. Thanks to all for your concern.“This, however, calls for continued vigilance on the part of everyone. Covid-19 is real and we cannot afford to be complacent,” he stated.

Fayemi, had on Monday gone on self-isolation over suspicion that he had came in contact with some people already tested positive for the disease.However, as part of the desperate measures to enforce Fayemi’s order directing the closure of markets and shops to curb the spread of Coronavirus, combined forces of security agencies have been deployed in the Ado Ekiti metropolis.

The security agencies, comprising soldiers, police and operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, were deployed around 5.20p.m. on Thursday after the ultimatum given by Fayemi, had elapsed.Governor Fayemi, had on Thursday issued a directive that all shops and major markets like the popular Oja Oba, Irona Market, Basiri Market and others be closed down with effect from 5p.m. on Thursday.

The governor however, exempted sellers of drugs, food items and other essential commodities from the order.The heavily deployed security agencies immediately took over areas like Atikankan, Irona, Okeyinmi, Ijigbo and the Oja Oba market to enforce the order, which made the sellers to scamper for safety.

They were seen in large number at all the areas where there was large concentration of market stalls.The action was more at Atikankan where many Hausa sellers with large concentration were plying their trades.When called for confirmation, the Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti Command, Mr. Sunday Abutu, said the security agencies must support the government to ensure that every action taken is enforced to guarantee safety of all citizens .

“Since the issue of Coronavirus started, the police as an institution have been working with other stakeholders to make sure that the lives of the citizens are protected and that we will continue to do”.Concerning the upsurge of robbery at some sections of Ado Ekiti, especially at Emirin Estate and Tenibegiloju along Polytechnic road, Abutu said the police had mapped out strategies to tame the attendant crimes that could accompany the stay at home order .

“We know that the stay at home order will lead to increased crimes and we have stepped up our night patrol across all divisions.“We are also putting in place other security measures to ensure that the lives and property of our people are safe with the situation caused by Coronavirus.

“We are appealing to our people to shun vices and cooperate with police through useful information, because all our divisions have been mandated to work hard this time to make Ekiti a no go area for criminals”, he said.FRIDAY MARCH 27 2020US Coronavirus Cases Hit 100,000

The United States now has 100,000 known cases of coronavirus, passing a new milestone, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.The mark comes shortly after the United States this week moved into first place in the world, passing China and Italy, in the number of known cases

Davido’s Fiancee, Chioma, Tests Positive for CoronavirusChioma, Davido’s fiancee, has tested positive for the coronavirus that is gradually spreading through the country. The ‘Risky’ singer took to his Instagram page to announce the news.According to the singer who recently returned from the States, he had gone for the COVID-19 test with his wife and other associates that they had come in contact with to ensure that they were safe from the virus on March 25.

Chioma who had recently returned from London with their baby tested positive. The singer, his baby and associates however tested negative.The afro-pop sensation wrote that his wife was yet to show any symptoms but has been quarantined.“I have also gone into full isolation for a minimum of 14 days,” he wrote while thanking his fans in advance for their prayers and well-wishes.

Davido had earlier cancelled his ‘Good Time Tour’ in North America scheduled for March and April because of the coronavirus outbreak.The couple’s love story came into limelight last year with Davido singing and featuring his beau in his music videos. One of his popular songs that drew attention to their relationship was ‘Assurance’.

Last month, the singer released visuals of his ‘1milli’ single which saw the couple in a traditional wedding occasion. They welcomed their child last October.Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Rise to 70By Martins IfijehNigeria has recorded five new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 70.

Announcing this Friday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said three of the cases were from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), while the other two were from Oyo State.So far, eight states and the FCT have been affected. Lagos has 44 cases, FCT 14, Ogun three, Oyo three, Bauchi two, Ekiti one, Edo one, Osun one, and Rivers one.

NCDC said: “Of the 70 confirmed cases in Nigeria, three have been discharged while one case has died.”COVID-19 Cases May Rise to 39,000, Says Lagos Govt…As NCDC activates four new laboratories for testingBy Martins Ifijeh and Ayodeji AkeThe Lagos State Government has warned that if residents of the state refuse to adhere to social distancing, the number of confirmed cases may reach 39, 000.

This is even as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated four new laboratories as part of efforts to expand its testing capabilities and ensure no COVID-19 case is left unconfirmed.Speaking at a news briefing Friday, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi said it was very important for Lagosians to adhere to social distancing, adding that it was one of the measures to halting the spread of the respiratory disease.

He said: “Our mathematical modelling shows that the worst-case scenario is that we may see up to 39,000 cases in Lagos, but if everyone practises good social distancing, the figure will be limited to 13,000.“If we add social distancing to active contact tracing, then we will be able to bend the curve further. The figures may seem alarming at this point, but this is just to emphasise to the Lagos community to follow instructions of the incident commander to make sure that we practice social distancing.

“Looking at the same timeframe from the introduction of the index case, you can see that Lagos State is not seen anywhere near what Spain, Italy, and Iran are showing. So, at weeks two and three of our index case, we are flat; and at week four, we have 37 cases; while at the same fourth week, Italy, Iran, and Spain had more than 20,000 cases,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has stated that it has activated four new laboratories as part of efforts to expand its testing capabilities.Stating this on THISDAY sister broadcast station, Arise News Channel Friday, the Director General, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said one of the centres will be in Abakaliki, one in Port Harcourt and one in Ibadan.

He said: “Lagos and Abuja are activating treatment centres. This needs to also happen in other states. We need to preserve the hospitals for those that are severely ill, and in other to do that, we need to have alternative treatment and isolation centres where most people that do not require ventilator can be put together safely. We are not ready yet, but we are working and increasing our level of preparedness everyday.

“The minister of health is completely focused on this and he has been going around everyday making sure we have this facilities and he has been calling up the commissioners.”“Most states have identified treatment centres and we are calling on the governors to take personal responsibility to make sure that these spaces are ready. People do not take it seriously until they have their first, fifth and 10th case .

While commending Lagos State for showing leadership, scaling up treatment, diagnosis and information, he cleared the air on the misinformation regarding the six confirmed cases recorded in a vessel Thursday.He said: “on the six cases from a vessel, the ship hadn’t berthed yet in Lagos port when we went on helicopter to meet it. We then tested 50 people on the ship for the virus. Six eventually came out positive.”

COVID-19: Lagos Rolls out Economic Stimulus for Residents*Targets 200,000 Households in Phase 1Few days after the Lagos State Government issued a stay-at-home directive to residents, in order to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has unveiled economic stimulus package for the indigent and the most vulnerable in the society.

A statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, said the stimulus, which comes in food packs, to be distributed to every local government in the State, was aimed at cushioning the effect of the fourteen days stay-at-home directive.Speaking after an on-the-spot assessment of one of the State-owned food banks, located inside the premises of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in Agege, Sanwo-Olu said the economic stimulus will reduce the burden of the temporary economic downturn on the citizens caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.

The governor said the food packs, which were put together by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives will reach the most vulnerable communities and households across Lagos, saying that the indigents who rely on daily wages will be given priority.

He said: ‘‘We are here for an on-the-spot assessment, of our readiness, to see how we can fast track some of our stimulus package for our citizens. We are all aware that this is a trying time for our citizens and since the partial drop in economic activities, our government deemed it necessary to reach out to the vulnerable ones in the society. These people are those that fall below the pyramid, the aged and the physically challenged who need to move from one part of the city to another for them to have a living. We felt that as a government, the least we can do is to identify them and give them these stimulus packages immediately.’’

The governor stated that the package will touch at least 200,000 thousand households in the first phase, saying the food packs are produced for a size of six people per household and would last for at least fourteen days.“We have packaged dry food stimulus for about two hundred thousand families in the first instance for a household of husband, wife and about four children. We would be giving bags of rice, bags of beans, garri, bread, dry pepper and we are trying to see if we can add water and some elements of vitamin C. Each ration, we believe is going to be able to last them at least minimum 14 days just so our advocacy around stay at home, stay with your loved ones will be respected.

“This is a catalytic initiative of our administration with the hope that well-meaning corporate organisations and private individuals can step up to complement the efforts of the government’’ Sanwo-Olu said.The Commissioner of Agriculture, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, earlier said the Government would be working with the existing database of the state – using the Lagos State Social register and 4000 community development association register in 377 wards.

He said the economic stimulus was part of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration’s initiatives tailored towards ensuring that food security is sustained in Lagos.COVID-19: Honeywell Flour Mills to Support Low-Income Families with Food Packs*Applauds Lagos govt’s plan to feed 200,000 families

As Lagos government takes stringent measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, Honeywell Flour Mills has said it will support the state government’s goal of feeding 200,000 low-income families by providing customised Honeywell Flour Mills food packs.

In a statement on Tuesday, the company said “These packs, containing various food products, will feed one family for one month.”It said, “The COVID-19 crisis reminds us of how intertwined we all are and presents an opportunity for every member of society to show responsibility and take action for the greater good.

“Honeywell Flour Mills believes strongly in the power of community and in line with our mission of using enterprise to make our world better, we are partnering with Lagos State in its bid to feed 200,000 low-income families during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Expressing support for the Lagos State government’s objective of implementing social distancing policies across the state, the company said its recognises the unfortunate challenge this restriction of movement would place on many Lagosians who need to leave their homes daily to earn an income to feed their families.

“In this regard, we will be supporting the Lagos State Government’s goal of feeding 200,000 low-income families by providing customised Honeywell Flour Mills food packs. These packs, containing various food products, will feed one family for one month,” it stated.

The company also commended the “leadership of Lagos State in spearheading the efforts to help alleviate the burdens of the less fortunate amongst us caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” adding “our thoughts and prayers are with everyone at this trying time.”

NNPC, 32 Operators Commit $30m to Combat COVID-19 in NigeriaBy Peter UzohoThe Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and 32 indigenous oil and gas operators have donated $30 million as part of an industry-wide collective support in the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria.

The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, disclosed this Friday via his tweeter handle: GMD @MKKyari.…Details later.Pathologists Urge FG, States to Decentralise Covid-19 Testing CentresBy Onyebuchi EzigboAs the numbers of Nigerians infected with coronavirus continues to rise, the College of Nigerian Pathologists (CNP) has asked the federal and state governments to substantially decentralize the testing centres as a strategy to accelerate the control of the outbreak.

In a press statement issued Friday by the CNP President, Prof. P. O. Olatunji, the body warned against the use of non-validated test kits in handling Covid-19 disease tests.On the restriction of testing centres to five facilities in Lagos, Irua in Edo state, Ede in Osun State and the national reference laboratories in Abuja, CNP said there are competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists in the tertiary hospitals that carry out COVID-19 tests thereby spreading out the testing centres across the country.

“We do not see any reason why our tertiary health care centres where competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are situated, cannot carry out COVID-19 tests.“We urge the federal and state governments to deploy a portion of the COVID-19 budget to bridge whatever deficiencies exist in our tertiary diagnostic laboratories,” it said.

Olatunji said members of the CNP have been playing leading roles in case identification, case management and development of guidelines and protocol for infection prevention and control of COVID-19.CNP also called for the adoption of a more innovative and quicker diagnostic approach as against the NCDC recommended Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) being used at the moment.

The statement also said that CNP is concerned about a possible abuse of Chloroquine arising from its purported usefulness in treating COVID-19 infection.According to CNP, although some evidence are emerging about Chloroquine efficacy, there is need for caution against inappropriate use of Chloroquine due to its damaging effect to the eye and interference with the functioning of the heart.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics said that over 400,000 people have been infected with coronavirus, leaving more than 18,000 of them dead.In addition, the economic fallout in economies across the globe both developed and developing has been enormous.

However, CNP said there is a cheering news as the disease has shown about 95% survival rate.It said there is therefore no need to panic or get confused or overreact, adding that people should keep to all preventive and protective instructions — washing of hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

It advised people not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and to avoid close contact with people who are sick, sneezing or coughing.China Reports First Local Transmission of COVID-19 in 3 DaysChina has reported its first locally transmitted COVID-19 infection in three days, although cases involving travellers from overseas continued to dominate the total number of new cases.

So far, China has recorded 81, 340 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3, 292 deaths since the outbreak started in Wuhan city December 19.China’s National Health Commission said on Friday that 55 new coronavirus cases were reported on mainland China on Thursday, with all but one case involving so-called imported cases. There were 67 new cases a day earlier.

The one locally transmitted case was in Zhejiang province, the health commission said.COVID-19: Iran’s Death Toll Rises to 2,378Iran is battling the worst COVID-19 pandemic in the Middle East region, with at least 2, 378 persons said to have died since the outbreak started in the country.

The Special Adviser to the Health Ministry, Ali Reza Vahabzadeh said on Friday that the virus had killed another 144 people in the country, pushing the death toll to 2,378 amid 32,332 confirmed cases.Authorities have urged people to stay home but have not imposed the sweeping lockdown seen elsewhere in the region.

Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted they have the outbreak under control despite concerns it could overwhelm the country’s health facilities.Pets Could Be Infected by COVID-19, Virologist WarnsA virologist, Steven Van Gutch, has advised people to wash their hands before touching their pets after a cat was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Brussels, Belgium.

The cat was said to have contracted the virus from its owner who earlier tested positive to the respiratory disease.Gutch said although the infection appears to be isolated, it was best peope take precaution when handling pets.He said:“A week after the owner developed symptoms, the animal also developed symptoms. It was diarrhoea, vomiting and breathing difficulties. The researchers found the virus in the cat’s faeces. Two dogs were previously reported to have been infected in Hong Kong but neither of those animals had symptoms.

“There are no indications that this is common. It is also important to note that it was a transfer from human to animal and not from animal to human. The virus does not normally pass from animal to human. We therefore consider the risk to people to be small. ”

The Federal Food Agency in Belgium has made a number of recommendations to protect pets.The Belgian government said: “If an owner becomes infected with the COVID-19, they are requested to keep the animal inside and to keep contact between owner and animal to a minimum.

“The National Council for Animal Protection (CNPA) said the development should not be a cause of alarm.“Animals are not vectors of the epidemic, so there is no reason to abandon your animal,” the organisation said in a statement,” it added.Malaysia Reports 130 New COVID-19 Cases

Malaysia has reported 130 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total in the country to 2,161 infections, the highest so far in Southeast Asia.According to its Ministry of Health, the number of deaths from the virus has risen to 26.Earlier on Friday, Malaysia announced a stimulus package worth 250 billion ringgit ($58.28 billion) to help cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has reported 65 new COVID-19 infections. It is the biggest daily rise in the city, taking the total number of cases in the Chinese-ruled city to 518, health officials said.Of the latest cases, 41 had recently returned from travelling abroad.

With Highest Covid-19 Cases, US Seeks Foreign Medical ProfessionalsBy Adedayo AkinwaleThe United States (US) has urged medical professionals around the world seeking to work in US, particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to approach the nearest embassy or consulate to request a visa appointment.

The US which had in the past few months put in place visa restrictions made the plea after recording the highest number of known cases of coronavirus in the world with more than 85, 749 confirmed cases.The US cases piled up Thursday, surpassing China and Italy.

The US in a statement published Thursday March 26 on the website of the Department of State read: “We encourage medical professionals seeking to work in the United States on a work or exchange visitor, particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to reach out to the nearest embassy or consulate to request a visa appointment.

“For those foreign medical professionals already in the United States:“J-1 Alien Physicians (medical residents) may consult with their program sponsor, ECFMG, to extend their programs in the United States. Generally, a J-1 program for a foreign medical resident can be extended one year at a time for up to seven years.

“Note that the expiration date on a U.S. visa does not determine how long one can be in the United States.”As of Friday, the United States has at least 85,749 cases while China was reporting 81,782, while there have been more than 550, 530 cases reported worldwide.

In New York, where more than half of the US cases have been reported, exhausted hospital workers are turning to increasingly desperate measures to combat the virus.COVID-19 Cases Rise to 550,530, Death Toll Now 24,903 GloballyBy Martins IfijehAt least 550, 530 persons have been infected by COVID-19 across the world with the United States having the highest infected cases.

The global death toll has also risen to 24,903 as of 12:45 GMT, March 27, 2020, according to Worldometer.US currently has 85, 749 infected persons and 1,304 deaths, edging out China which has 81, 340 infected cases and 3, 293 deaths, and Italy which has 80, 589 cases and 8, 215 deaths.

The US President, Donald Trump said the country was waging a war on the virus using every financial, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and military resource, to halt its spread and protect its citizens.With about 40 percent of Americans under lockdown orders, Trump urged citizens to do their part by practicing social distancing while also staying at home.

With fears mounting of a global recession if not depression, leaders from the Group of 20 major economies held crisis talks by video link Thursday, pledging a “united front” to fight the outbreak — along with an enormous financial injection.“The virus respects no borders,” the leaders said in a statement.

“We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic.”They also pledged “robust” support for developing nations, where coronavirus could next take hold after ravaging China and then Europe.

But the unity pledged by the G20 has been in short supply, with China and the United States trading blames over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.And Italy as well as Spain, which has the second-highest death toll, objected to a draft economic plan by the European Union which they saw as too weak.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wants a “strong and sufficient” financial response that deploys “innovative financial instruments truly adapted to a war,” his office said.NCDC Activates Four New Laboratories for Testing COVID-19By Ayodeji AkeThe Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated four new laboratories as part of efforts to expand it’s testing capabilities.

Stating this on THISDAY sister broadcast station, Arise News Channel Friday, the Director General, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said one of the centres will be in Abakaliki, one in Port Harcourt and one in Ibadan.He said: “Lagos and Abuja are activating treatment centres. This needs to also happen in other states. We need to preserve the hospitals for those that are severely ill, and in other to do that, we need to have alternative treatment and isolation centres where most people that do not require ventilator can be put together safely. We are not ready yet, but we are working and increasing our level of preparedness everyday.

“The minister of health is completely focused on this and he has been going around everyday making sure we have this facilities and he has been calling up the commissioners.”“Most states have identified treatment centres and we are calling on the governors to take personal responsibility to make sure that these spaces are ready. People do not take it seriously until they have their first, fifth and 10th case .

While commending Lagos State for showing leadership, scaling up treatment, diagnosis and information, he cleared the air on the misinformation regarding the six confirmed cases recorded in a vessel Thursday.He said: “on the six cases from a vessel, the ship hadn’t berthed yet in Lagos port when we went on helicopter to meet it. We then tested 50 people on the ship for the virus. Six eventually came out positive.”

British PM Boris Johnson Tests Positive for Coronavirus British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus, the government has said.According to BBC, Mr Johnson has mild symptoms and will self-isolate in Downing Street, after being tested at No 10 by NHS staff.

“He was tested for coronavirus on the personal advice of England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty,” a statement said.He will still be in charge of the government’s handling of the crisis, the statement added.In a tweet, Mr Johnson said: “Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus. I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.

Mr Johnson was last seen on Thursday night as he clapped outside No 10 as part of a nationwide gesture to thank NHS staff.There are more than 11,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, and 578 people have died.It comes after the Prince of Wales also tested positive for the virus earlier this week.

Prince Charles, 71, is to be displaying mild symptoms “but otherwise remains in good health”, a spokesman said.Buhari Applauds Elumelu, Rabiu, Dangote, Atiku, Others over Donations to Fight COVID-19By Omololu OgunmadePresident Muhammadu Buhari Friday applauded the generous interventions of affluent Nigerians such as Aliko Dangote, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Abdusalmad Rabiu, among others in the fight against COVID-19.

The president also expressed appreciation for the generous support of opulent men such as Femi Otedola, Tony Elumelu, Herbert Wigwe, Segun Agbaje and Jim Ovia in the battle against the scourge.Specifically, the president hailed Dangote, Elumelu, Otedola, Rabiu, Ovia, Agbaje and Wigwe who under the aegis of the Private Sector Coalition Against Covid-19 contributed N1 billion each to fight the scourge.

The president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari commended these opulent Nigerians “for being in the vanguard of encouraging others in the private sector to do same.”Adesina also noted that Elumelu’s UBA had equally donated whooping N5 billion to both Nigeria and the entire Africa while Atiku pledged to offer N50 million and the First Bank offering to partner with the federal government in the war against the disease.

He said Buhari also praised the United Nations, and innovative technological firms which had offered to provide e-learning solutions to at least one million children through its ‘Keep Them Engaged, Keep Them Safe’ initiative.The statement added: “The President extols every other helping hand that has been lent by individuals, groups and organizations, which may not necessarily be in the public domain, noting that God who sees all things will abundantly recompense.

“President Buhari recommends these laudable strides to other high net-worth Nigerians and organizations, stressing that hand in hand, the country will overcome the challenges brought by the pandemic, and chart new course in nationalism and brotherhood.”

With 85,500 Coronavirus Cases, US Overtakes ChinaUnited States of America now has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country, with more than 85,500 positive tests, according to the latest figures collated by Johns Hopkins University.Latest figures show that US has overtaken China’s 81,782 cases and Italy’s 80,589.

But with almost 1,300 Covid-19-related fatalities, the US death toll lags behind China’s 3,291 and Italy’s 8,215.Coronavirus: Katsina Shuts down Land BordersSuspends Friday, Sunday religious activitiesFrancis Sardauna in KatsinaThe Katsina State Government has ordered the closure of land borders and routes linking the state to other parts of the country with effect from Saturday, March 28, 2020 to curtail the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The government also suspended the weekly Friday prayers by Muslims and Sunday service for Christians and other social gathering such as weddings and political events across the state.The state Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs, Mr. Abdulkarim Yahaya Sirika, disclosed this in a statement issued to journalists on Friday.

He explained that movements in and out of the state are banned beginning from 6:00 am on Saturday, March 28, 2020.He therefore urged residents to minimise all gatherings in view of the warning by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in order to tackle the spread of the dreaded pandemic.

Sirika said: “In continuation with its efforts to contain the possible spread of coronavirus pandemic in the state, His Excellency, the Governor of Katsina State, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, has directed the closure of all borders with neighbouring states and Niger Republic.

“To this effect therefore, movement of people into the state is strictly prohibited with effect from 6:00am on Saturday, 28th March, 2020.“However, fuel tankers and vehicles carrying food items and other essential commodities will be allowed into the state subject to their screening and test at the point of entry. Meanwhile people are at liberty to move within the state.”

The commissioner urged the people of the state to comply strictly and continue to pray for God’s intervention against the pandemic in the state and the country in general.In a related development, the state government has directed all civil servants in the state to stay at home till further directive.

The sit-at-home order, which commenced Friday, however does not affect workers providing emergency and essential services in hospitals, fire services, media houses and water board.The state Head of Service, Idris Usman Tune, who issued the order in a statement, said government would monitor the situation up to March 29 and will issue further instructions.

He said: “While appealing for cooperation of workers in the state, the government is looking forward to total compliance with the sit at home order.”Muoka Leads Congregational Prayers against COVID-19By Mary NnahThe General Overseer of The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministries, Pastor Lazarus Muoka on Thursday, during his deliverance service at the headquarters, fervently prayed against COVID-19.

Leading the congregational prayers, Muoka declared that the evil kingdom responsible for the spread of the virus shall be no more.Standing on the Scriptural authority bestowed on the born again Christians written in Mathew 18:18 which says, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” Muoka thus bound and banished the evil spirit in charge of the virus.

He decreed that its power to cause the death of anybody be it American, Asian, Australian, African and European is henceforth destroyed.Praying further, the man of God asked the Lord Almighty to intervene and deliver Nigerians in present hopeless situation as He did for His people in the days of the Bible when the plaques and pestilences ravaged the land of Egypt.

He affirmed that with God all things are possible and assured the worshippers that the spread of COVID-19 will cease for God answers our prayers.Muoka attributed the pandemic to a programme of anti-christ. He said through prayers, the church will vehemently resist its activities.

Referring to the ban on religious meetings, the man of God said that the church, being an organisation that is not only heavenly conscious, but health conscious has adhered to the government directives, adding, “we are calling on our members across the state to key into any move that would make the pandemic disease a thing of the past”.

He urged every member of the church to maintain personal hygiene, and do the best to join the campaign against the spread of the disease in the church, homes and business places.Consequently, as preventive measure to further protects the worshippers from the spread of the virus; the General Overseer has suspended all activities at its mega auditorium in Lagos headquarters.

Addressing the press after the meeting, the Public Relations Officer of the Church, Pastor Louis Chidi, said before now, the church places very high premium on the spiritual and physical lives of its members because he understands that man is made of the soul, spirit and body.

Accordingly, the church has provided sanitisers at every entry point of the church because a healthy man is he whose sound health is directly proportional to his mental and spiritual health.“Our pastor in addition to his holiness and righteous messages to the church also taught members how to prosper and be in good health vis-à-vis personal hygiene, particularly washing of their hands with soap regularly, as well as sanitising their hands.

That was even before the Christian Association of Nigeria’s directive came that churches should provide sanitisers to their members and encourage them to wash hands with soap”, he said.COVID-19: Lagos Begins Disinfection of Markets, Turns Onikan Stadium to Isolation Center

Sunday EhigiatorIn a bid to curb further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lagos State Government has commenced the disinfection of markets in the state.Also, the state government has turned the popular Onikan Stadium in the state into isolation center.

The commencement of disinfection exercise was revealed on Friday by the states’ Environmental Health Officers Association of Nigeria, via their Twitter handle, @TheEhoanLagos.According to the tweet, the disinfection is being managed by EHOAN.“The Disinfection is going to be round the state managed by @TheEhoanLagos thru the LGAs,” it stated.

Compliance with COVID-19 Advisory: Buhari, Osinbajo Lead by ExampleSince the declaration of Coronavirus a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, self-isolation amongst other measures are increasingly being adopted as effective means of checking the spread of the disease across the world, including Nigeria where top leaders are also complying with the advisories.

Leading the pack in observing self-isolation and social distancing are President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who both worked from their respective official residences, as figures from relevant authorities indicated a surge in the number of confirmed cases.

Still leading by example, both leaders were reported to have gone into self-isolation and further undergone the COVID-19 tests in compliance with established protocols by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).In the same vein, President Buhari and his deputy, Prof. Osinbajo have been noted for their symbolic salutation styles at public events, prompting other leaders across different fields and levels of government to adopt similar styles, all in a bid to stay safe and check the spread of the disease.

In a unique way of leading Nigerians, especially Christian faithful, to observe social distancing, the Vice President encouraged the live streaming of last Sunday’s service at the Aso Villa Chapel, a Christian worship center at Nigeria’s seat of power.

Worship at that particular service was streamed live on social media with not more than 10 church officials conducting proceedings while other faithful including the Vice President followed from home.On Monday, the Vice President, according to his spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, deployed technology to continue to discharge official engagements like holding meetings via video-conferencing, while still observing social distancing.

“VP Osinbajo yesterday at the office conducted his meetings via video conferencing, while observing social distancing. Today, he continues his work from the home office, as he is in self-isolation in accordance with NCDC protocols,” Mr Akande tweeted.

Even as test results of Prof. Osinbajo and his close aides showed negative, the Vice President, up until Wednesday continued to observe all NCDC protocols on social distancing and hygiene advisories.Following this, some State governors who were suspected to be exposed to some confirmed COVID-19 cases, have gone into self-Isolation and declared their status.

Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who is also Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), has been tested and is awaiting the result, but has since gone into self-isolation.In a tweet on his official handle yesterday, Fayemi said, “I just took a COVID-19 test, having gone into self-isolation since yesterday (Tuesday) evening.”

Other governors also in self-isolation include: Abdullahi Sule of Nassarawa, Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Sani Bello of Niger and Godwin Obaseki of Edo.As compliance to expert advisories relating to hygiene and social distancing increases, it is expected that more individuals including highly placed political leaders will cooperate with authorities to check the spread of COVID-19.

But despite their exposure to some of the confirmed cases at the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, some State governors are yet to go into isolation as reports indicate that they are still carrying on with their respective public engagements. The governors are Mallam Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna; Akwa Mr Emmanuel Udom of Ibom; Alhjai Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe; Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara; Alhaji Bello Matawalle of Zamfara; Prof. Babagana Zulum of Borno; Alhaji Mai Mala Buni of Yobe; and Mr Darius Ishaku of Taraba.

The NCDC, in its isolation guidelines for Nigeria, stated that anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case and returning travelers from high risk countries should self-isolate for at least 14 days.FG Traces 4,370 Contacts as COVID-19 Cases Jump to 65

Buhari releases N10bn to Lagos, N5bn to NCDC to fight pandemicSGF, four ministers, four govs test negativeLagos Assembly passes punitive law, to discharge six patientsBauchi confirms second caseAir France evacuates 378 Europeans, UK explores optionsOur Correspondents

The federal government said thursday that it was tracing at least 4,370 people of interest suspected of having contacts with or being in close proximity to persons whose COVID-19 status had been confirmed to be positive.The central government’s revelation preceded President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement last night that he had received briefings from appropriate agencies on the status of COVID-19 in the country, saying he had directed the immediate release of N10 billion grant to Lagos State and another N5 billion to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for tackling the raging pandemic.

Buhari said the grant would enable Lagos State increase its capacity to control and contain the outbreak, while also supporting other states with capacity building, adding that the money for NCDC would help it to equip, expand and provide personnel to its facilities and laboratories across the country.

The president stated: “The Nigerian Air Force is already making its fleet available to the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, to enable a better coordinated and more effective response across the country.“To protect our homeland from external exposure, I directed the immediate closure of our International Airports and Land Borders for four weeks in the first instance, to enable us to put up the appropriate policies, processes, and infrastructure to cope with suspected and confirmed cases at home, without risking a compounding of the situation with more imported cases.”

Saying the inconvenience caused by the flight and travel restrictions to Nigerians abroad, who wanted to return home was regrettable, but necessary for the greater good of the country, the president thanked them for their understanding and cooperation.

He listed other measures he had taken: “I have also directed that only cargo vessels that have been at sea for more than 14 days be allowed to dock in our ports after the crew have been tested and confirmed disease-free by the Port Health Authorities. This 14-day restriction, however, does not apply to vessels carrying oil and gas products as by their nature, there is minimal human contact.

“We have also suspended the movement of commuter trains to limit the spread of the virus to other parts of the country.“I have directed the NCDC to draft all its recent retirees back into service to beef up our manpower as we respond to the pandemic.“Furthermore, all NCDC staff and experts who are away on training or international assignments are to return immediately. Already the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is conducting an evacuation mission to bring back some of our specialists in Central Africa, to enable them to support the national response.”

Buhari commended the monetary policy authorities for their financial intervention to support entrepreneurs and companies in a difficult time and stated that he looked forward to fiscal measures that would minimise the negative impact of the pandemic on the livelihood of millions of Nigerians.

He reminded Nigerians that he had begun the process of review of the 2020 Budget, stating that he directed the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, to work with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, to ensure that all production of essential items such as food, medical and pharmaceutical products continued unhindered.

“We are engaging our international friends and partners to share knowledge and to seek their support in our response to the pandemic,” Buhari said, adding: “We are grateful for the show of support thus far – we have already started receiving goods and supplies intended to help us scale up our efforts.”

He commended the hard and heroic work being done by the nation’s medical personnel, the NCDC, Port Health Authorities, Security Agencies, State Governments, and all ad-hoc staff and volunteers.“I urge all Nigerians to be mindful of those among us who seek to spread panic and misinformation, and sow confusion at this time. We must all pay attention only to the relevant government agencies working day and night to make accurate and useful information available to the public,” he said.

COVID-19 Cases Rise to 65So far, 65 people have tested positive to the pandemic with 14 new cases recorded yesterday, the highest in a day since the spread of the disease to the country on February 27 by the Italian index case.A breakdown of the 14 new cases, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), showed that 12 were confirmed in Lagos, bringing the tally to 44, while two were confirmed in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to make its count stands at 12.

“Of the 14 cases, six were detected on a vessel, three were returning travellers into Nigeria and one was a close contact of a confirmed case,” NCDC tweeted yesterday.From the 65 total cases, Lagos has now recorded 44, FCT 12, Ogun three, Ekiti, Edo, Oyo, Bauchi, Osun and Rivers States all recorded one each.

While 62 cases are under isolation and receiving treatment, three had been discharged after their viral load regressed back to negative. One person had died.THISDAY also gathered that the fumigation of the State House, including the office of the president commenced thursday.

Bauchi State also recorded a second case as the state government identified a patient described as a friend of the Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, who tested positive to COVID-19, as also testing positive to the virus.However, the results of tests conducted on some governors, ministers and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who took the COVID-19 test, having come into contact with the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, who tested positive, showed they tested negative for the virus.

The rising incidence of the pandemic has prompted the federal government and states to ramp up efforts to curb the spread. Some states have ordered the closure of their boundaries to interstate movements, an action which drew condemnations from lawyers who described the ban as illegal and unconstitutional.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed yesterday outlined fresh actions by the federal government to deal with the pandemic.The minister, at a press briefing in Abuja where he gave the number of people being traced, urged those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities.

He also raised the alarm that Nigeria is on the verge of reaching the level of community spreading of COVID-19 and called for collective efforts to stop it immediately else the country will record exponential cases in the days ahead.Mohammed, however, said outside the “aggressive measures’’ being taken in containing the spread of COVID-19, the federal government was considering “tougher measures” to enforce compliance in order to stop the spread of the disease to states without incidence.

Reacting to the status of the president, Mohammed said: “Mr. President is well, kicking and in charge,” adding that “at the appropriate time, he will address the nation.”He also confirmed THISDAY’s story yesterday that ministers and other top government officials were tested for the virus, adding that he was not at liberty to know the results.

“As for me, I tested thursday and the result came out negative. After the test, we were supposed to go on self- isolation. But giving the nature of the crisis we have at hand, we cannot disappear. But we are taking the necessary measures,” the minister said.

Mohammed identified some of the measures being considered by the federal government to contain the virus to include stopping inter-state/inter-town travels – except for essential services; closing all motor parks and inter-state rail stations, and using fire-fighting and other adaptable vehicles and personnel to fumigate cities and towns.

“We will be considering and announcing new measures from time to time, but rest assured that whatever decisions we take will be in the best interest of Nigerians,” he added.The minister said while he did not intend to sound apocalyptic, time was running out, warning that if Nigerians did not urgently and more aggressively enforce the recommended measures, they would have a short window within which to stop the pandemic.

He confirmed that the federal government had received donated safety and test kits from the Jack Ma Foundation in China, which include: 100,000 face masks, 1,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and 20,000 test kits.He said some of the supplies would be distributed to the frontline health workers, while the test kits would be shared among the five test laboratories in the country.

The minister added that the federal government was also taking measures to increase the number of bed spaces for the isolation of suspects.“The facilities we have now include a 40-bed hotel, the 60-bed Medical Centre in Zuba and the 160-bed centre in Abuja. We are still looking at other facilities within the Federal Capital Territory.

“As we said during our last press conference, contact tracing is very critical to stopping the spread of the virus. Today, we have 51 cases covering eight states: Lagos – 32, FCT – 10, Ogun – three, Ekiti – one, Edo – one, Bauchi – one, Osun – one, Oyo – one and Rivers – one.

“We have 4,370 people of interest whom we are tracing. We urge those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities. We urge Nigerians to support the authorities in this regard.”While noting the decision of at least five domestic airlines, Air Peace, Aero, Azman, Dana and Arik, to suspend flight operations, the minister said the suspension would boost the efforts of the government to check the spread of the pandemic.

Relief as SGF, Akeredolu, Diri, Ehanire, Mamora, Others Test NegativeThere was relief thursday as the SGF, Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu; Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri; Nasarawa State Governor, Mr. Abdullahi Sule; Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora; and Minister of State for FCT, Dr. Ramatu Aliyu, all tested negative to the virus.

Akeredolu shared the message that was sent to him by the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro, indicating that the test was negative.Diri’s acting Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, said in Yenagoa thursday, that the test result of the governor was obtained at NCDC-accredited laboratory at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo State.

“The result showed that Governor Douye Diri had ‘no evidence of COVID-19 infection,” Alabrah said.Sule, his deputy, Dr. Emmanuel Akabe and a man suspected with symptoms of COVID-19 in isolation at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) in Nasarawa State all tested negative for the virus.

The deputy governor of the state, who is chairman of the state Quick Response Committee, yesterday in Lafia, the state capital, said: “Governor Abdullahi Sule, I and the man in isolation at the DASH in Lafia have all given our samples in Lafia. It was taken for a test at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the results for all the three of us proved that we are negative.”

Mamora in a WhatsApp message said the test conducted on him on Wednesday came out negative.The FCT junior minister confirmed her negative status on her personal Twitter handle yesterday, saying: “Dear compatriots, I am glad to inform you that my results came out this afternoon and tested negative to #COVID-19.”

Briefing journalists yesterday on the pandemic, Ehanire said the top presidency official who tested positive on Monday was being attended to at a secure government facility in an undisclosed location based on peculiarities of his case.The minister, who declined further comments on the identity of the president’s aide and location of his treatment said the health condition of the patient could not be revealed except with his consent.

While explaining the handling of the case of the top aide, Ehanire said: “We have four categories, up to 80 per cent may have little or no symptoms; some will have mild, some moderate, and some severe symptoms and will require oxygen and ventilator and those with severe symptoms are the ones that will go to Gwagwalada. The others will be in facilities where they will be taken care of. The president’s aide, who tested positive, is receiving treatment in a secure facility in the country; he does not need category four treatments; he requires general treatment.”

He added that most of those who were known to have had contact with the presidential aide had undergone test with the NCDC and contact tracing for all casual contacts and close contacts had been done.He said he had the permission of the SGF and that of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Mr. Abdulaziz Marshi, to reveal the results of their tests, which are negative.

The trio was among the contacts of the top presidential aide.“I am one of those who tested and it came out negative. The permanent secretary and the Secretary to the Government of Federation also tested negative. Every other person that did the test has to reveal his status by himself,” he said.

Ehanire also opened up on the fears about the state of health of other top government functionaries who might have had close contacts with the top presidential aide, saying that they had been tested and were awaiting the results.Speaking further on the condition of the president’s aide and Bauchi governor, the minister said at present they had not developed symptoms, adding that they were being kept in isolation in a secure government facility where they were being monitored and checked but that if they got to a critical level they would be moved to a higher facility.

Bauchi Confirms Second CaseThe confirmed cases of the virus have increased to two in Bauchi State.The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Aliyu Maigoro, announced this during a press conference thursday.According to him, the second case is a 62-year-old male and a close friend of the state governor.

Maigoro explained that 48 samples were taken for test and two had been confirmed positive.He added that 37 others returned negative while the results of nine samples were still pending.Six COVID-19 Patients to be Discharged in LagosMeanwhile, Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Health, Dr. Tunde Ajayi, has said six of the patients at the Infectious Disease Hospital had recovered and would soon be discharged.

Ajayi via his twitter handle, @thetundeajai, said: “Six of our #COVID19 in-patients have recovered and will be discharged soon. There is something Lagos is doing right. Lagos takes the lead.”The cheering news came just as the Lagos State House of Assembly passed an emergency bill yesterday empowering the governor with extensive powers to deal with the pandemic and stipulating punishments, including a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for anyone who violates the directives of the governor.

Lawyers Kick as States Close Boundaries to Interstate MovementsTwo Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Mr. Ebun-olu Adegboruwa and Mr. John Baiyeshea have said it is illegal for state governors to close borders over fear of COVID-19.They spoke against the backdrop of some states such as Rivers, Kano, Kogi, and Osun banning interstate movements.

Adegboruwa stated that the right to freedom of movement is guaranteed to every citizen of Nigeria under section 41 of the 1999 Constitution and also under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.He noted that through this fundamental right, every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part of Nigeria and no citizen of Nigeria shall be refused entry to or exit from any part of Nigeria.

“Consequently, no state governor is allowed to deny any citizen of Nigeria the right of movement into or exit from any state in Nigeria, even under emergency situations such as coronavirus. There has to be a law backing up such policy or declaration,” he said in a statement.

Adegboruwa argued that most states in Nigeria share boundaries with other states such that denial of access to one state may lead to denial of access to other states.Baiyeshea also told THISDAY that the states lacked powers to shut borders.According to him, the constitution makes the closure of sky, sea and land borders the responsibility of the federal government.

He, however, said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a serious crisis, including a constitutional crisis in the country, stressing that whatever action was taken by state governors should not be an issue at this stage.He blamed the action of the governors on the failure of the federal government to take prompt initiative against the spread of the disease.

COVID-19: Smile Assures Uninterrupted Services, Offers Free DataBy Emma OkonjiAs the global pandemic of Coronavirus persists, West Africa pioneer 4G LTE broadband service provider, Smile Nigeria, has enjoined all Nigerians to strive to be safe by observing all necessary safety precautions. To this end, the company has created data free access to websites for everyone, on its network, to have easy access to up-to-date information on the pandemic. The websites are: http://covid19.ncdc.gov.ng/ and https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

In a statement issued today by the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband service provider, it said: “Appreciative of the current restriction of movement, aimed at combatting the ravages of Coronavirus in Nigeria, Smile has taken steps to remain fully operational and serve the best interest of its customers in this challenging time. Consequently, it has created many online platforms to enable its teeming customers to recharge, make enquiries and seek assistance. Smile customers can henceforth utilize these platforms: Instagram @smilecomsng; Twitter @smilecomsng; and Facebook Smile Communications Nigeria.”

Smile also advised customers to visit the Smile website on smile.com.ng to chat with a representative via web chat or send an email to customercare@smile.com.ng or call the Smile help line on 0702 044 4444 for assistance and enquiries. The Charlatan-in-Chief in COVID-19 Pandemic

By Adeola AkinremiIn a serious time of COVID-19, when red alert is placed on increase risk of cross-border and community transmission by the world leaders, President Muhammadu Buhari’s storied absent leadership and tradition of ducking responsibility for tough decisions, is to blame for the surge in the number of cases across the country.

In another sign of incompetence that resonates with how President Buhari badly managed Nigeria’s national security crisis that has now turned into a festering sore, the handicap president again ignored all prompts to act to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country–starting with the first imported case by an Italian visitor, until members of his executive cabinet are struck by the disease. This follows a gamble of traveling to countries with cases of the novel Coronavirus by these government leaders.

First, Buhari’s inertia during crisis period re-surfaced with COVID-19 crisis. As he often do, the president failed to address the nation in the face of a pandemic, until the parliament forced him to do so, after a March 17 parliamentary debate on COVID-19.

It is the hallmark of leadership to infuse courage in the heart of citizens during crisis. But Buhari has no capacity to lead in crisis time. He simply couldn’t understand why he needed to address the nation with encouraging words in a time of fear.The other sad story is the composition of Nigeria’s COVID-19 Task Force. It is untenable that in a country with intellectually sound infectious disease experts, Buhari couldn’t find a single one to play a prominent or lead role in the taskforce.

Mr. President gave the seriousness of our health and safety, and our ability to sleep with sound mind to Boss Mustapha, a government secretary whose experience in healthcare crisis management is limited and his country-wide political influence is challenged.

In the taskforce, beside a Center for Disease Control’s representative, the only man in the taskforce with healthcare management experience is the state Minister of Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, a fine gentleman whose previous work as a medical doctor is helpful, except that he has worked more on political campaign strategies than in the surgical room in the last 20 years. It is unclear, if Mamora ever worked in any healthcare emergency. It is even worse that he’s a subordinate in the taskforce.

Since end of January, countries have stepped up precautions as COVID-19 crossed borders with community spread, even as people freely moved from one country to another, particularly from China to other countries.This means that the Nigerian government has all the opportunities to study the countries already in crisis, learn from their failures and implement plans to fence off spread of the virus in the country. But leaderhip failure in Nigeria is a continuum. The missteps and missed opportunities came from Nigeria’s delay in shutting down its airports and land borders before the virus boomeranged.

Surely, the president’s men will rush to justify his slow response as observance of freedom of movement but in emergency where lives are in danger, it is the number one duty of a president to protect lives. The real story actually is that many government officials were intentionally out of the country during this global health crisis and the government waited for their return before taking it’s now too late decision to lockdown the country.

By mid-February, when other countries in Africa suspended direct flights to China, thereby limiting the risk that an infected passenger will disembark and spread the virus, Nigeria did not take any serious decision on flight suspension.The COVID-19 is already taking its toll on the country with the ‘big and mighty’ coming down with sickness associated with the virus that has killed more than 17,000 people in the world and more than 150,000 cases. There are more symptoms reported by people impacted by the disease that are equally novel, that is, different from the initially known symptoms of coughing and weakness. There are people reporting loss of taste and smell.

For instance, the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery has said “anecdotal evidence is rapidly accumulating from sites around the world that anosmia and dysgeusia are significant symptoms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” For what it means, anosmia is the loss of smell while dysgeusia is an altered sense of taste.

There is something more worrisome about COVID-19 in Nigeria that we all need to pay attention to. It is that a vast majority of Nigerians do not know what underlying health conditions that they have. This is because most people don’t go for physical examination or medical check up to put it simply. It is my exhortation that every Nigerian living in the country observe diligently the recommended social distancing approach, act to protect others by behaving as if you already have the virus, report If you experience any of the symptoms or at least have an unusual fever.

And if you’re looking for leadership in this time of crisis, look up to Lagos State, where the proactive and pragmatic leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu means more than hope. President Buhari is a pure pretender with no capacity to govern, but his masquerading leadership is what Nigerians have to put up with till 2023.

Private Sector Coalition Targets N120bn to Overcome COVID-19CBN, Zenith, Access, GTB, UBA, Dangote, Otedola foundations pledge N1bn eachObinna ChimaLeading players in the private sector have coalesced under the Nigeria Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19, to mobilise resources to support the concerted efforts by the federation to fight the pandemic that has spread to eight states.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who broke the news of the formation of the coalition at a media briefing in Lagos yesterday said it planned to raise N120 billion for the acquisition of healthcare facilities for advocacy about the virus across the country, among others.

According to Emefiele, the objective of the coalition is to mobilise private sector thought leadership, mobilise private sector resources, increase general public awareness, education, and buy-in, provide direct support to private and public healthcare ability to respond to the crisis as well as support the federal government’s efforts.

He said: “In response to the impact of the COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy, the CBN has in the last few days begun engaging Nigerian compatriots and stakeholders in the private sector on how to provide support to the Nigerian government in procuring equipment, funding and materials to combat the menace of this unfortunate pandemic in Nigeria.”

According to Emefiele, although the number of cases so far in the country stood at 51 as of thursday, the private sector leaders were concerned that the number might rise exponentially in the next few weeks.He added that Nigeria must prepare for the worst in responding.

Emefiele said the CBN, on behalf of the Bankers’ Committee and in partnership with the private sector led by the Dangote Foundation and Access Bank, came together to form the Nigeria Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19.“This coalition was created out of the urgent need to combat the unfolding COVID-19 crisis in Nigeria. The rate at which the virus is spreading is unprecedented and it appears we are fighting our most lethal adversary today.

“So far, the federal government has made strides in the fight, but, it is clear that the private sector needs to step in to support efforts being made,” the CBN governor said.Emefiele explained that four major committees have been set up which include the Steering Committee; the Funding Committee; Operational Committee and the Technical Committee.

“Steering Committee to provide leadership and steer the coalition and committees in procuring all needed funding, equipment and materials for the battle against this pandemic.“The steering committee will be chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who currently chairs the Federal Government Committee on Covid-19. Other members of the committee will be announced later.

“The second one is the Funding Committee. This committee will be responsible for the initial funding of this effort. Membership comprises the CBN, Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Segun Agbaje, Abdulsamad Rabiu, and Femi Otedola.“Each member of this committee is expected to contribute at least N1 billion to this effort. More members are invited and allowed as long as they are willing to contribute N1 billion,” he added.

Emefiele said the Operational Committee would be responsible for project management, logistics, communication and advocacy.He said: “This comprises the CBN, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, GTBank, Stanbic IBTC, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank and Nigerian Breweries.

“We held a video conference with the Bankers’ Committee this morning and membership of this committee was agreed during the video conference meeting.“The fourth is the Technical Committee. This Committee is responsible for gathering data about the equipment and materials needed nationwide. They will also be responsible for intellectual leadership around testing issues, treatment protocols, isolation centers, etc.

“Membership Comprised of National Centre for Disease Control, WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Federal Ministry of Health and select members of the operational and funding committee.”According to him, the coalition will be working with reputable institutions and consultants, including the Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, Dr. Christian Happi and Dr. Phillip Onyebujo.

Emefiele said information gathered so far revealed that to procure all needed equipment, material and all infrastructures needed to fight the pandemic, “over N120 billion needs to be raised.”He said the Bankers Committee and the stakeholders would be required to step up to support this endeavour.

“We are already engaging other important stakeholders in Nigeria and abroad, such as the NNPC and players in the oil industry.“An account will be set up at the Central Bank of Nigeria to receive both naira and foreign currency from our donors.“The Technical Committee will be providing information about the venue where equipment and materials will be received just for those who wish to donate materials and equipment.

“They have made a commitment to provide funding, equipment, and material as well,” Emefiele added.He assured Nigerians that at the end of the process, reputable accountants would be engaged to account for how the funds were utilised as well as account for the materials donated.

“The need for all Nigerians to play a role in this fight cannot be understated as we are quite literally in the fight of our lives. I must highlight the fact that this is not just about bringing money. Your time, your services, your products will all be helpful.

“The committee has already begun work and we will keep you updated of our progress,” he said.Responding to a question about private sector organisations that may not have up to N1 billion but would be willing to contribute, Emefiele said: “If you want to contribute N1, we would receive; if you want to contribute N1 billion or more, we would receive the fund and we assure you that we would account for it.

“But what we are saying is that we have created a core group who would like to be identified that they are in the funding committee.“Naturally, what you expect is that practically everybody would want to be in that committee. But we are saying that to be a member of that committee, you must be somebody who is willing to contribute at least N1 billion,” he said.

How Creatives are Coping with COVID-19As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the globe, the creative industry is hit the most with cancelled shows and closed clubs. Vanessa Obioha chats with creatives on how they are surviving the pandemicThe creative industry has been badly hit by the novel coronavirus since the Lagos state government enforced restrictions on social gatherings. The Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered closure of clubs and restricted the number of social gatherings to 25 as a preventive measure to curb the spread of COVID-19, thus affecting music shows, film festivals, and other events tied to the creative industry.

“It’s terrible for the business though,” said Matthew Ohio, a showbiz promoter and founder of Industry Nite. “Entertainment, hospitality, travel sectors are the hardest hit. We thrive from social activities and interactions, which is what everyone is running away at the moment. Shows are cancelled, venues are closed, clubs are affected.”

Ayoola Sadare, the convener of the annual Lagos International Jazz, Afrobeat and Fuji Festival which usually holds in April, in commemoration of the annual Jazz Appreciation Month, moved the event to September.“The festival has been postponed till September. This decision was made over a month ago when we anticipated that events might unfold like this. I am sure all jazz and music lovers would agree that it’s the best decision in line with the situation on ground and government directives. I believe they are also adhering to the stay home orders.”

For celebrity dancer Kaffy, the directive from the government required her to shut down her dance studio and gym. She also postponed her 20th anniversary celebration slated for May to August.“We postponed the event till August. We are praying that we would have conquered coronavirus by then and get everyone back together. Safety however is my top priority, not the event. Everybody understands what is going on in the world right now so things are still in place. Our resource persons and other invited guests from within and outside the country are considerate and empathetic with us. They are very supportive and can’t wait for the pandemic to end. The feedback has been very amazing. They say man proposes, God disposes. It’s all for the best.”

The crippling of socioeconomic activities inadvertently is a big financial loss to operators in the creative industry. Ohio noted that almost everyone is affected by the closedown of social venues.“It’s a heavy financial loss to everyone. From owners of venues, food vendors, production companies, ticketing companies , musicians, a whole entire ecosystem. Unlike some other sectors that can still partially operate such as the finance, digital and telecoms, the entertainment industry is completely shut down.”

Ohio however sees a beacon of light in the midst of the crisis. He advised that online streaming platforms are the best bet for creatives to showcase their work.“Stream and content. The few people who are probably benefiting at the moment are streaming platforms such as Netflix, Youtube, MusicTime, iTunes etc. Everyone is at home watching or listening to something on the internet so if you have content, this is the time to put it out there. If you have a streaming platform, this is the time to promote it because everyone is stuck at home.”

Creative entrepreneurs like Samuel Olatunji who made his directorial debut with the movie ‘Dear Affy’ prior to the outbreak in Nigeria said he is exploring other distribution channels such as Iroko, Africa Magic channels and Netflix.Kaffy said she already moved her dance and fitness classes to online while also educating her fans on the pandemic.

“Most entertainers, particularly musicians have used online channels to drive traffic. I think it’s going to push more people to be creative. I will implore entertainers who are very influential to use this opportunity to be more empathetic and educate people. I still see some influencers uploading pictures of them at parties to undermine the gravity of the pandemic. That’s not right.

“This is the time to use their platforms to educate their followers who may not understand the danger of not adhering to the social distancing order by the government. This is the time to educate people, to teach them proper hygiene and how to boost their immune system. Businesses definitely would be affected but online streams and downloads will increase.”

In a city like Lagos that thrives on social gatherings, the staying at home orders is not an easy step to follow. Nollywood actor and director Ramsey Nouah said he is doing the needful by practicing self-isolation.“It is the only way to reduce spread and death counts to the minimum and a better life for us.”

Ranti, an opera performer who played the lead character in Ike Nnaebue’s stage play ‘Off-Key’ recently, said she is finding it hard to accustom to social distancing.“It is tough to have to think twice about simply going to the market or grocery store. However, it is great to have more bonding time with my family. I‘ve had rehearsals cancelled, meetings, interviews postponed. I‘m just grateful for life, it’s forcing me to reprioritize what is truly important,” she said, adding that she needs some momentum boost.

“I had some momentum building as the year started and now it feels like I’m fighting to keep it going. There is so much to worry about – the virus and the people impacted all over the world. I’m trying my best to view this time as a self-development retreat. I’m back to learning a new language, reading abandoned books, checking up on loved ones.”

Like other creatives, she’s also moving her work to social media.“I could definitely do more with social media. This is a good reminder that more than ever, people need to hear some encouragement instead of just bad news from every corner. This may be a good time to get more people listening to some of my positive lyrics such as ‘there is a fire inside of you and me…together…we’ll rebuild the future…’ It is such a difficult thing to isolate or distance oneself but it’s the least we can do to show we care about ourselves, those around us and the world at large.”

Prolific filmmaker Femi Odugbemi finds the social distancing the perfect inspiration to complete abandoned works and read books.At the moment, he is reading the creative works of Zakes MDA, a profound South African writer whom he met at the Johannesburg Film Festival last year.

“He is one of South Africa’s great writers. It was an amazing experience spending time with him. His storytelling is incredible. Right now I’m reading two of his books ‘Black Diamond’ and ‘Rachel’s Blue’. I’m also reading T.D Jakes’ ‘Crushing: How God Turns Pressure into Power.’”

Odugbemi has also devised a way to make his stay at home more productive. First thing he does is to turn off the news “It’s so depressing.”He then proceeds to make a list of the things he wants to accomplish every day.“The crazy thing is I don’t have to dress up to do everything. I finish my exercise and I’m ready to work. I discovered that I accomplished much by midday. I realise that truthfully our destiny is consumed by Lagos traffic. By the time you go from home to work, you probably would have lost one to two hours. But in that same time at home, I have ticked off two to three things on my to-do-list. This is very eye opening and explains why technology companies abroad are comfortable with their workers working from home. I’m kinda liking it. It’s healthy. There are no distractions. I believe one can make staying at home very productive if they inculcate self-discipline,” he concluded.

 UBA Provides N5bn to Fight COVID-19 in AfricaNigeria gets lion’s share of N2.5bnNume EkegheThe United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) thursday announced a donation of over N5 billion ($14 million) through its UBA Foundation, to catalyse a comprehensive pan-African response to fight the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A statement by the bank explained that the donation would provide significant and much needed support to Nigeria and 19 other African countries, by supplying relief materials, critical care facilities and financial support to governments.A breakdown of the support programme showed that N1 billion ($2.8 million) would be given to Lagos State Government; N500 million ($1.4 million) to the Federal Capital Territory(FCT), N1 billion ($2.8 million) to the remaining 35 states in Nigeria; and N1.5 billion ($4.2 million) to UBA’s presence in countries in Africa.

In addition, the bank said N1 billion ($2.8 million) would go to medical centres for equipment and supplies as well as for free telemedicine call centre facility.The pan-African bank also stated that it would fund a medical centre immediately in Lagos, Nigeria, with beds for isolation and ICU facilities, managed and operated in partnership with Heirs Holdings’ healthcare subsidiary, Avon Medical Hospital.

In addition, UBA said it would provide free telemedicine platform, that is physician-led, to provide direct access to medical advice to citizens, in compliance with social distancing requirements.Commenting on the intervention, the Chairman, UBA Group, Mr Tony Elumelu, said: “This is a time when we must all play our part. This global pandemic must bring citizens, governments and business leaders together – and quickly.

“As we see a rapidly increasing number of cases of the coronavirus in Nigeria and Africa, the private sector has to work hand in hand with various governments, in stemming the spread of the global pandemic.“We commend the efforts of governments and we are keen to partner and contribute our resources to the collective effort, that will ensure the response to the pandemic is swift and effective.”

Operating in 20 African countries and globally in the United Kingdom, the United States and France, the United Bank for Africa has a strong record of supporting its communities, through challenging times. COVID-19: Lagos Begins Fumigation of Public Places

By Rebecca EjifomaThe Lagos State Government has deployed more equipment for the fumigation of public spaces in the state as part of measures to halt the spread of COVID-19.The Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a statement on his Twitter page @jidesanwoolu said the new equipment will help in halting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are aware that to totally rid our state of this scourge, all our public spaces must be disinfected, fumigated and sterilised.”Sanwo-Olu noted: “Aggressive times call for aggressive measures. Therefore, we will aggressively tackle this novel virus and bring its catastrophic reign to a complete end.”

Covid19: Niger Suspends Friday, Sunday Services for Muslims, ChristiansBy Laleye DipoThe Niger State Government has suspended the weekly Friday prayers by Muslims and Sunday service by Christians as one of the ways to discourage large gatherings of people of more than 20 and to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Chairman of the state Committee on Covid-19, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, gave the directive in a statement made available to newsmen in Minna on Thursday.Matane also placed a ban on all congregational prayers by both Christians and Muslims.

He explained that the suspension of the Jumma’at prayers and church services are part of the state government’s precautionary measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.“Government has a duty to work with all religious leaders and other stakeholders to ensure that everything humanly possible is done to reduce the chance of the virus taking root and spreading in the State,” he said.

Matane therefore appealed to the people of the state to abide by all instructions and guidelines issued by the state government, saying that coronavirus could increase with mass gatherings.He also called on the people of the state to “show more understanding and teamwork” while the pandemic lasts and prays for God’s protection over the spread of coronavirus disease in the state.

In the meantime, the 12-hour curfew imposed on the state effective from Wednesday has been reduced to 10 hours.The curfew is now from 10am to 8pm as against the previous 8am to 8pm.For the second day running, the state was in partial lockdown as the restriction of movements of people and vehicles took effect.

All markets, petrol stations and departmental stores were opened up to 10 am but later closed.COVID-19: Fumigation of Presidential Villa BeginsBy Omololu Ogunmade in AbujaThe Presidency Thursday in Abuja commenced the fumigation of the Presidential Villa following the outcome of COVID-19 test conducted on the Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari, which turned out to be positive on Monday.

Since Thursday morning, every part of the State House including the office of the chief of staff is being sprayed with disinfectant.This came as some staff in the office of the chief of staff who have been in self-isolation since Tuesday when their boss tested positive are yet to be tested and currently lamenting their continuous stay in isolation.

THISDAY learnt that fumigation experts arrived the Presidential Villa at about 9.30am on Thursday and commenced intensive fumigation of all the offices and environs of the Villa.THISDAY also learnt that at about 11.15am Thursday, the fumigation experts were already in the main building housing the offices of President Muhammadu Buhari as well as the floors, corridors and major pathways leading to his office.

They were said to be dressed in white outfits with masks and other protective materials.A source said, “These people are not from the Villa. They came from outside, from the town (Abuja city). They are dressed in complete white overalls, masked and wear other protective gears.

“The dressing is similar to how the National Centre for Disease Control people wear theirprotective gears.” Coronavirus Death Toll Rises Above 1000 in USThe United States has registered more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths as the country confirmed more than 69,000 cases.

The US Senate passed a sweeping $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses, and the healthcare system. It has gone back to the lower house for approval.Meanwhile, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has launched an appeal for $2bn in international humanitarian aid to help poorer countries tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 472,000 people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. More than 114,000 have recovered, while more than 21,000 people have died. (Aljazeera)UBA Commits N5bn to Fight COVID-19 Across Africa

By Obinna ChimaThe United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) on Thursday announced a donation of over N5 billion ($14 million) through its UBA Foundation, to catalyse a comprehensive pan-African response to fight the COVID-19 global pandemic.A statement from the bank explained that the donation would provide significant and much needed support to Nigeria and 19 other African countries, by supplying relief materials, critical care facilities, and financial support to governments.

A breakdown of the UBA support programme showed that N1 billion ($2.8 million) would go to Lagos State Government; N500 million ($1.4 million) to Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; N1 billion ($2.8 million) to the remaining 35 states in Nigeria; N1.5 billion ($4.2 million) to UBA’s presence countries in Africa; N1 billion ($2.8 million) for medical centres with equipment and supplies; and free telemedicine call centre facility.

*More details laterNERC Boss Tests Negative for CoronavirusBy Emmanuel AddehThe Management of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), said on Thursday that its Chairman, Prof. James Momoh, had tested negative for the Covid-19 virus.There had been apprehension over Momoh’s health status earlier in the week, following media reports that he was part of a delegation of the Federal Government which recently visited Germany and Egypt.

Describing the insinuations as misleading, the regulatory agency noted that the chairman had however carried out a test , which it said came out negative.Some of those Prof. Momoh was said to have participated alongside with, including senior government officials, are now in self isolation after the meeting with the executives of Siemens in Germany.

A statement by Mr Michael Faloseyi, the Manager in charge of Government, External and Industry Relations, in Abuja, however said that Momoh had taken the test just to be sure, adding that he had been given a clean bill of health after his return from the United States.

“Breaking the news of his test result, Momoh said, ‘I have been tested negative to COVID-19.“But let me say that this is a trying moment that requires our collective efforts. I will advise our media houses to hold themselves to the highest standards of professionalism.

“Rumours and misinformation can frustrate the significant efforts of the government, private sector, and the international community in combating this virus,” he said.He prayed for the healing of those receiving treatment, including the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, who tested positive to the virus recently.

The commission said that in line with the advice from the relevant health authorities, NERC had taken some preemptive measures to protect its staff from exposure to COVID-19.“Such efforts include scaling down on the number of staff in the office for the next two weeks. During that period, the commissioners and top management report for work, while those in the essential services departments maintain a roster of duty.

“The commission has also reduced visitors’ access to its headquarters building as the Registry Department operates from the reception.” Staff in the Forum Offices across the country are on instruction to receive complaints from electricity consumers using the information communication technology platforms.

” These efforts are to be in place for the next two weeks as part of the lockdown exercise of the Federal Government,” NERC stressed.It noted that Momoh who had been in isolation since his return from the USA last week, has offered to complete the isolation period.

Momoh thanked his well-wishers and members of the public who had expressed fear over his status as he moted that only “God has the final say in the affairs of men.”South African Police Arrest Two COVID-19 Patients for Failure to Self-isolateCharge them with attempted murder

By Rebecca EjifomaThe South African Police have arrested two persons positive to COVID-19 for failure to self-isolate.They have now been charged with attempted murder.The Police Minister, Bheki Cele, announced the charges, Wednesday during a press conference, where he detailed the enforcement of an incoming lockdown meant to curtail the spread of the pandemic.

Cele said: “If you break these law of regulations, you could be six months in, or fined, or both.”According to him, two people have been charged already for deliberately moving around after they were advised not to.The police minister added: “So it is not a fairytale to say the law will act and act very harsh on you.”

According to the AFP, the first confirmed case was a 52-year old salon owner diagnosed on March 18 and instructed to quarantine for at least 14 days.Police spokesperson, Vish Naidoo, said local officials raised the alert on Tuesday after one of the men was seen around the western city of Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal province.

“He allegedly continued with his business, and in doing so disregarded the instructions by a doctor. The man has since been arrested and taken to hospital,” Naidoo added.The second charge was filed against a male tourist, who tested positive for COVID-19 while on holiday at Kruger National Park.

“The man ignored instructions to remain in his hotel room and went to the nearby town of Saint Lucia, where he interacted with an unknown number of people,” the police spokesman noted.South Africa is said to have recorded the highest number of COVID-19 infections on the African continent with 709 cases confirmed so far.

As a result, the President, Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown after the number of infections multiplied six-fold in just eight days.Naidoo noted: “Only essential trips to grocery stores, pharmacies and medical appointments will be permitted during the lockdown, which will be enforced by army troops.”

Speaking further, he said the simplest and best way to combat the spread of the virus was to “stay home”.“It is exactly that stubborn behaviour that has caused us a national lockdown,” he added.Ministers to Take Tests as COVID-19 Bites Harder, Spreads to Eight States

•Infects Prince Charles•With cases rising to 51, more govs self-isolate•FG directs pharmaceutical research institute to identify herbal medicines active against pandemic•Votes N16.5bn to curb spread•CBN directs non-critical staff to work from home•Dangote, banks to provide medical tents, urge govt to allow private labs conduct tests

Our CorrespondentsNigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is to conduct tests on ministers to determine their status following their contacts with some of the confirmed cases of COVID-19, THISDAY learnt wednesday.No fewer than five governors have also gone into self-isolation as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the virus following their close proximity to some infected persons, especially their colleague in Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, and Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, both of whom tested positive to the virus.

It was also gathered that the ministers, some of whom had self-isolated, had been directed to take the test as many of them had contact with Kyari in the course of their official engagements.THISDAY had exclusively reported yesterday that some of the ministers had gone into self-isolation when the test showed Kyari to be positive.

The spread of COVID-19 to Aso Rock, the seat of power, has triggered anxiety among top government officials and prompted the presidency to scale up steps to curb the disease, which has so far infected 51 people since its outbreak in February.Of the five more cases recorded yesterday, there were two fresh incidences in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), two in Lagos and one Rivers, bringing the number of infected states to eight and FCT.

However, amid the gloomy situation, there was cheering news wednesday as the result of the test conducted on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who had self-isolated in the last two days, was negative.Osinbajo’s media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, confirmed the status of the vice president wednesday.

There were also reports that Prince Charles tested positive while the only case of COVID-19 in Edo State was identified as the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Frank Okiye.THISDAY gathered that the federal government directed all the ministers to proceed on self-isolation and to allow the NCDC to ascertain their COVID-19 status. It also directed the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) to develop models for identifying herbal medicines active against the pandemic.

THISDAY also gathered that the Presidential Taskforce on the Containment of the COVID-19, headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, has been thrown into confusion as almost all its members who recently held meetings with Kyari have now gone on self-isolation for 14 days.

A presidency source told THISDAY yesterday that the situation is causing concern as governance is almost being crippled.According to the source, most of the ministers who attended last week’s Federal Executive Council meeting are being suspected of being infected by the virus.

The situation is said to have jolted most of the ministers some of whom were said to be angry at the health risk they were exposed to.“Everybody is in disarray. Almost every minister is on self-isolation – the same with all members of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19. They held meeting twice with the Chief of Staff on Saturday and Sunday and they all shook hands with him,” he said.

The source explained that the implication is that the ministers would be technically on suspension from duties till the next 14 days after they have been tested and their result is known before they could resume work.THISDAY gathered that even the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, was not at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja yesterday to receive the aircraft that brought in the medical equipment donated by a Chinese billionaire, Mr. Jack Ma.

The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Alhaji Abdullahi Marshi, was at the event.Governors that THISDAY confirmed were on self-isolation were Mr. Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) and Alhaji Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa).

However, the governors were said to be asymptomatic and only went into self-isolation in compliance with NCDC protocols.THISDAY gathered that some other governors are also on self-isolation but refused to issue official confirmation.The Deputy Governor of Edo State, Hon. Philip Shaibu, who announced the self-isolation of Obaseki, identified Okiye as the index case of the COVID-19 reported on Monday in the state.

He said Okiye who had travelled to the United Kingdom, came back and went into self-isolation at the Irrua Specialist Hospital, Irrua in the state.“He sent his sample for testing and the test came back positive. He is in a stable condition and his family members have been tested and the tests came back negative,” Edo deputy governor said.

He noted that the two persons the speaker got in close contact with were his wife and daughter whose samples had been taken and the result came out negative.According to him, Obaseki went into self-isolation following his close contact with Mohammed and Kyari.

He said: “On his own, the governor avoided meeting with everybody when he arrived Benin from Abuja and has maintained social distance before going into self-isolation.”He also stated that 111 persons were being tracked by the state government, adding that 64 had been contacted out of which six has been isolated and five samples were taken for testing.

The deputy governor urged residents of the state not to panic as the government was taking measures to curtail the spread of the disease.Niger State Government also said the governor went into self-isolation as a result of his presence at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) meeting on March 18, attended by his Bauchi State counterpart.

A statement by Bello’s Chief Press Secretary, Mrs. Mary Berje, said the governor self-isolated considering the fact that as a public figure, he must have had contact with some confirmed contact cases of COVID-19.“The governor has also directed that all his close aides and all cabinet members should subject themselves to self-isolation.”

Like his Niger State counterpart, Oyetola was said to have gone into self-isolation since he returned from Abuja on Tuesday where among other official functions, he attended the NGF meeting.His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Ismail Omipidan, told THISDAY in a telephone interview yesterday that it was after he took a COVID-19 test, which turned out negative, that he performed some official functions.

At a press briefing yesterday to announce the spread of COVID-19 to the state, Oyetola said his wife had also tested negative for the virus.He appealed to citizens to take the necessary action to avoid any precarious transmission.“I want to passionately encourage all returnees from the UK, the US, Europe, the West African countries and indeed other high-risk countries to self-isolate and submit themselves to test, so as to assist the government in containing the spread of the virus,” he stated.

He announced the closure of markets with effect from tomorrow; and commencement of screening at all its 10 land borders in addition to the ban on all public gatherings.Fayemi, who doubles as the NGF chairman, announced yesterday on his Facebook page that he had gone on self-isolation following his contact with some persons who had tested positive.

He urged the people not to panic over the development, saying he took the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease.Fayemi’s counterpart in Nasarawa State said he self-isolated following his contact with Kyari on March 14 at the wedding ceremony of the son of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu.

However, Kogi State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, refuted claims that Governor Yahaya Bello tested positive to the virus.NGF Director General, Mr. Asishana Okauru, and his wife, a former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Ifueko, have also self-isolated after having contacts with some persons that have tested positive to the virus.

In a statement signed by him, Okauru said: “I wish to inform the general public that my wife together with my entire household will be proceeding on self-isolation.“We are taking this action following my exposure to His Excellency, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, who today announced the positive outcome of his test for COVID-19.

“My wife and I would be undergoing COVID-19 testing this week.”He said he attended different meetings of the NGF and the Nigerian Economic Council (NEC) last week, which were also attended by Mohammed.Nigeria’s Cases Climb to 51 in Eight States, FCTAn update by the NCDC showed that five more cases were recorded yesterday, bringing the total number in the country to 51 in eight states and the FCT.

The NCDC said two of the cases were recorded in FCT; two in Lagos; and one in Rivers.“Three are returning travellers into Nigeria and two are close contacts of a confirmed case,” NCDC said.So far, Lagos has 32 cases, FCT 10, Ogun three, Ekiti one, Oyo one, Edo one, Bauchi one, Osun one and Rivers one.

While 48 persons are presently in isolation receiving treatment, two of the cases have been successfully treated and discharged and one person died on Monday.20 Osun Judges on Self-isolationOsun State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, also yesterday confirmed that 20 judges from the state who recently returned from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates were on self-isolation.

He said the judges went into isolation shortly after they arrived in the state pending when their medical status would be ascertained.Isamotu spoke on the sidelines of a press conference in Osogbo, where the governor told journalists about the index case in the state.

CBN Directs Non-critical Staff to Work from HomeCentral Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed its staff in non-critical roles to stay at home and work remotely effective yesterday.It, however, said it remained fully operational despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen most public institutions scale down their operations.

The banking sector regulator, in a statement by its Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, said: “Following the current impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the global economy coupled with efforts by the Nigerian government, including partial lockdown in some states and at the federal level, to check the spread of the virus in Nigeria, the CBN wishes to inform stakeholders and members of the Nigerian public that the bank will remain open for business during this period.”

According to him, as a responsible public institution and regulator, the CBN has triggered its business continuity plans to ensure that its operations remain undisrupted at this present time when social distancing has become key to checking the further spread of the virus.

He said the CBN had directed deposit money banks (DMBs) and other financial institutions to do the same, adding that the welfare and safety of staff and their families, and indeed all Nigerians, remain a top priority to the central bank.World Bank to Deploy $150bn for Economic Recovery

The World Bank Group has expressed its readiness to deploy about $150 billion over the next 15 months to stimulate economic recovery of countries affected by the pandemic.The pandemic has led to unprecedented disruptions to global supply chains, sharp drop in global crude oil prices, turmoil in global stock and financial markets, and lockdown of large swaths movements of persons in many countries, among others.

These outcomes have had severe consequences on households’ livelihoods and business activities, resulting from a drop in global demand, declined consumer confidence and a slowdown in production.The World Bank Group President, Mr. David Malpass in his remarks from the G20 Finance Ministers conference call on the COVID-19 pandemic said these were difficult times for all, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable.

For the World Bank Group, he said the first goal is to provide prompt support during the crisis, based on a country’s needs.He noted that it was vital for governments of countries affected by the pandemic to shorten the time of recovery and create confidence that the recovery can be strong.

Malpass noted the bank is currently restructuring existing projects in 23 countries.Testing Positive Not Death Sentence, Says PresidencyThe presidency yesterday in Abuja said testing positive to the virus was not a death sentence, adding that the State House, like the entire country, is under a partial lockdown but not completely shut.

Speaking on the turn of events in the Presidential Villa, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the seat of power was not shut down but its activities were on a low key.“Well, things are a bit on a low key. It doesn’t mean that the State House is shut down. It’s just that things are a bit on the low key just like the rest of the country.

“The rest of the country is also on a low key. There is a partial lockdown in most parts of the country. So, what is happening at the State House can also be called a partial lockdown but not a complete lockdown,” Adesina said.Asked to confirm the report that Buhari tested negative for COVID-19, Adesina pushed the question back to the reporter and made his remarks on the basis of the reporter’s submission.

“What did you hear about the result?” he asked the reporter.“They say it’s negative,” the reporter responded.Then, Adesina retorted: “Good. So, that calls for rejoicing with him. Anybody that does the test and tests negative, we will rejoice with that person, and anybody that does it and tests positive, it’s not a death sentence.

“We also would pray along with the person. Give the person our goodwill and best wishes and they will surely come out of it. Even the index case in Nigeria recovered and has been discharged.”Adesina also spoke on the suspension of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, saying the meeting was suspended because over 50 people attend the forum every week and the number exceeds the specification for convergence this season.

On the decision pruning number of State House correspondents, he said the number of correspondents was large and contravened the current rule prohibiting more than 50 people from congregating at a place.Prince Charles Tests Positive for COVID-19Meanwhile, Prince Charles has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement from the Buckingham Palace.

The 71-year-old and his wife, Camilla, who does not have COVID-19, are currently self-isolating in Scotland.It stated: “The Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus“He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.

“The Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) has also been tested but does not have the virus.“In accordance with government and medical advice, the prince and the duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.” The couple was tested by the state-run National Health Service (NHS) in Aberdeen shire in northeast Scotland, it said.

“It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks,” it added.Queen Elizabeth II, 93, and her husband Prince Philip, 98, retired to Windsor Castle, outside London, on March 19.

They brought forward their Easter break by a week because of the pandemic. Britain has more than 8,000 confirmed cases of the disease, and 422 people have died. WEDNESDAY MARCH 25, 2020COVID-19: Nigerians Slam Former Lagos PPRO Dolapo Badmus for Allegedly Refusing to Self-isolate after UK Trip

By Rebecca EjifomaSome Nigerians have taken to their Instagram pages to slam the former Police Public Relations Officer of Lagos, CSP Dolapo Badmus, after allegedly returning from the United Kingdom and refusing to go on self-isolation yet advising others.

The trolls accused her via her IG page, @opetodolapo, Tuesday. She was said to have deleted all pictures of her stay in the UK on March 17 and came up with advice for prevention.One of her followers, who resides in the UK, Cutie_julls on IG, claimed, “Mama posted pictures of herself in London on 17th of March and I took screenshots to give her shout outs. Today I remembered and visited her page only to find out that she has yanked all her London visit pictures of her page,” she fumed.

“But why are Nigerians suddenly afraid to admit that they’ve been travelling overseas?”However, Cutie_julls’ accusations seem to be gaining grounds as she backed it up with screenshots of Dolapo in the UK sharing with her Instragram followers her experience with a selfie post. “It’s so cold here. I think hot weather is better…”.

The post, which was already viewed by 1,053 persons, have suddenly gone missing, hence, IG followers lashed out.This attack is coming after Dolapo posted an update on the COVID-19 with an advice on her IG page. “Cases are increasing ….. Folks let’s be more careful! Since this disease hub is mouth, (sneezing and coughing), let’s avoid mouth to mouth contact like kissing. Avoid anyone whispering to your ears or coming too close to communicate with you! Above all, distancing is the best now….may God help us”.

Cutie_julls attacked yet again and tagged the Nigerian police and the president: “Mama police, I hope you are doing your two weeks isolation. It’s a must, honey. @nigerian_po|ice_force @muhammadubuhari please kindly check your staff. This is to help them and all other citizens. Let’s stop the panic”.

Cutie_julls added: “Please are you back from UK? And I hope you’re observing the two weeks mandatory self quarantine that the FG has put in place for all those that recently returned from affected countries. I know as of 17th March, you were in the UK. I live in the UK and I know how badly we’ve been affected. I hope you are isolating as this coronavirus is no respecter of status or position. Thanks ma.”

Cutie_julls slammed her further: “Shame on you @opetodolapo. I took a screenshot immediately I commented on your page because I knew you might either block or delete my…”Meanwhile, efforts to reach her to respond were futile.COVID-19: NAF Hands over Medical Donations from Jack Ma Foundation to Health Ministry

Sunday EhigiatorThe Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has handed over medical materials donated by the Jack Ma Foundation, China to the Federal Ministry of Health in Abuja.The donated medical materials, which consist of 107 boxes of medical supplies and equipment, comprising surgical masks, medical disposable protective clothing, face shields and detection kits, weighing about 3,000 pounds, were airlifted in a single mission on Tuesday Night, using the NAF C-130 Hercules aircraft (NAF 913) and handed over by the NAF Aircrew to a delegation from the health ministry led by the Permanent Secretary, Abdullahi on Wednesday.

Speaking to the press after inspecting the delivered items, Abdullahi thanked the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar for the timely deployment of aircraft to airlift the items to Abuja.He said: “We appreciate NAF officers and men who participated in the airlift mission for their professional conduct. The donated items would go a long way in supporting government’s effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the Country.”

The NAF leadership, through a statement signed by the Air Commodore Director of Public Relations, Ibikunle Daramola, also expressed the readiness of the Service to provide any form of support within its statutory responsibility of providing aid to civil authority, as the nation continues to work assiduously to deal with the threat posed by COVID-19 pandemic.

Presidency: There’s Partial, Not Total Lockdown, of Presidential VillaOmololu Ogunmade in AbujaThe presidency Wednesday in Abuja said the State House, like the entire country, is under a partial lockdown but not completely shut, as a result of the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

Speaking on the turn of events in the Presidential Villa, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, insisted that the seat of power was not shut down but its activities are on a low key.“Well, things are a bit on a low key. It doesn’t mean that the State House is shut down. It’s just that things are a bit on the low key just like the rest of the country.

“The rest of the country is also on a low key. There is partial lockdown in most parts of the country. So, what is happening at the State House can also be called a partial lockdown but not a complete lockdown,” Adesina said.Asked to confirm the report that President Muhammadu Buhari tested negative for COVID-19, Adesina was very diplomatic in answering the question as he neither confirmed nor denied it.

Instead, he pushed the question back to the reporter and made his remarks on the basis of the reporter’s submission.“What did you hear about the result?” he asked the reporter. “They say it’s negative,” the reporter responded.Then, Adesina retorted: “Good. So, that calls for rejoicing with him. Anybody that does the test and tests negative, we will rejoice with that person, and anybody that does it and tests positive, it’s not a death sentence.

“We also would pray along with the person. Give the person our goodwill and best wishes and they will surely come out of it. Even the index case in Nigeria recovered and has been discharged.“So, God that has shown us mercy thus far, will continue to show that mercy. Anybody that tests positive is not a death sentence. They will be attended to. They will be tested, and they will be fine.”

Adesina also spoke on the suspension of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, saying the meeting was suspended because over 50 people attend the forum every week and the number exceeds the specification for convergence this season.However, he said suspension notwithstanding, consultations are ongoing with relevant government officials and executive decisions taken whenever necessary.

“The council was suspended because of the size. You have over 50 people seated in the council chambers whenever the meeting holds and that is not advisable at a time like this.“But if there would be a very important decision to be taken, you can always summon the relevant people – three, four or five and hold a small meeting and arrive at a decision.

“It does not mean that one man is going to be taking all the decisions. Of course, yes, there are executive decisions but the ones that must pass through consultations, which must have a buy in of the Federal Executive Council can always be discussed at a smaller meeting,” he explained.

The presidential media adviser also spoke on the decision restraining majority of the State House correspondents from accessing the Presidential Villa this period, saying the number of correspondents is very large and contravenes the current rule prohibiting more than 50 people from congregating at a place.

He denied reports alleging that the journalists were banned, pointing out that restriction on their entry to the State House, is only a precautionary measure against further spread of the disease.He said: “Ban is a wrong word. Anybody that uses that word, ban, is just operating from a mindset, and you know that Nigerians love conspiracy theories but this one is no conspiracy at all. There is no ban.

“What happens is that in the press gallery, you have about 108 journalists in that single hall and it goes contrary to the spirit of the times. The times dictate that you don’t have too many people congregating in one place.“Imagine 108 journalists, if one of them happens to catch the virus, he spreads it among all the journalists. “So, we said for now, let them stay away, not much is happening for now. But we picked a certain number, representatives of the media.

“They will come in, if there is anything, they will cover and those outside will also not miss because there would be a system in which they can share reports.“So, ‘ban’ will be a wrong word. It will be operating from a mindset of conspiracy and there is no conspiracy here at all,” he insisted.

On other measures taken to forestall the entry of the disease into the Villa, he said: “Of course, you know when you come into the State House, you have about three, four, five spots in which your temperature is tested and you have to sanitize your hand, and if you come in and your temperature is way above a certain figure, then you will be advised to go for test and take care of yourself.

“So, I think so far, so good. Before you will go into the general area, you will meet about three areas of test and before you get into the president’s area, you will meet like another two. So, I believe that a lot has been done to ensure that those who operate in the presidency are taken care of.”

COVID 19: CBN Directs Non-critical Staff to Work from HomeObinna ChimaThe Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed its staff in non-critical roles to stay at home and work remotely, effective Wednesday.The Bank, however, said it remains fully operational despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen most public institutions scale down their operations.

The banking sector regulator disclosed this in a statement signed by its Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okorafor.“Following the current impact of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) on the global economy coupled with efforts by the Nigerian Government, including partial lockdown in some States and at the Federal level, to check the spread of the virus in Nigeria, the CBN wishes to inform stakeholders and members of the Nigerian public that the Bank will remain open for business during this period,” Okorafor explained.

According to him, as a responsible public institution and regulator, the CBN has triggered its business continuity plans to ensure that the Bank’s operations remain largely undisrupted at this present time when social distancing has become key to checking further spread of the virus.

He said the CBN has also directed deposit money banks (DMBs) and other financial institutions to do same, adding that the welfare and safety of staff and their families, and indeed all Nigerians, remain top priority to the central bank.“Consequently, with effect from Wednesday, March 25, 2020, till further notice, only essential staff of the CBN Head Office and the 37 Branches of the Bank will be expected to report for duty daily. In other words, our staff in non-critical roles have been directed to stay at home and work remotely, when their services are required.

“We have also directed all our staff to follow stipulated guidelines by the Federal Ministry of Health, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other relevant health agencies of government to curb possible spread of the virus in Nigeria.“For the avoidance of doubt, the CBN, in line with its mandate of ensuring monetary and price stability, will remain open for business during these trying times,” the statement added.

COVID 19: Kwara BansParks, MarketsBy Hammed Shittu in Ilorin.Following the spread of Covid-19 to neighbouring states of Osun, Oyo, and Ekiti, the Kwara State government Wednesday ordered a lockdown of the state by placing a ban on social and economic activities with immediate effect.

The government said all motor parks, markets, taxi and commercial motorcycle operators, mosques and.churches, and other social gatherings had been closed.The deputy governor, who is also the chairman, technical committee on Covid-19, Mr. Kayode Alabi, disclosed this in Ilorin on Wednesday while addressing newsmen on the activities of its technical committee on Covid-19 in the state.

He said that, the development became imperative so as to protect the lives of the residents of the state.Alabi said that, the government would put security arrangement on ground so as to ensure compliance in the state.He explained that, the lock down of the state would curb spread of the virus by people from affected neighbouring states.

He said that fast food operators in the state should do take-away and must not allow any customer to sit down to eat in their business premises henceforth”.While assuring the members of the public of prompt preventive measures to curb the spread of covid-19 in the state, Alabi said that, the government would not rest on its oars so as to make the state covid-19 free.

He therefore called on the people of the state to cooperate with the government in the task of curtailing the spread of the pandemic in the state.On the insinuations that the state governor, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, has been in isolation for allegedly shaking hands with the top federal officials that have tested positive for the virus, Alabi said “I want to say emphatically that, our governor is not in isolation and he is hale and hearty”.

COVID-19: Kaduna Bans Operations of Motorcycles, Taxis, TricyclesJohn Shiklam in KadunaThe Kaduna State Government has banned the operations of motorcycles, taxis and tricycles in the state, saying they do not satisfy the conditions for social distancing.

The Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, who announced the ban in a state broadcast on Wednesday, said the decision was taken after Governor Nasir el-Rufai met with senior government officials to review the level of compliance with the measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19.

She however said commercial buses are allowed to operate, but must comply with the new rule of not more than two passengers per row.She said government will suspend all forms of pubic transportation if circumstances compel it to do so.She said the state government “will today (Wednesday) be taking steps to stop the Abuja-Kaduna train service which needs to be suspended for a few weeks”.

According to the deputy governor, the government has directed all utility vehicles that have been assigned to officials to be recalled in order “to enhance the state’s capacity for rapid response and contact tracing, monitoring and supervision of surveillance activities should any positive case be identified’’.

‘’The vehicles should be parked in the yard of the Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructure. Drivers of the utility vehicles should also report to the Commissioner of Public Works to submit their contact details,’’ she directed.According to Dr. Balarabe, “Payment of salaries for March 2020 has commenced and advised everyone to be financially prudent, given the tough times that lie ahead.

‘’The state government is committed to getting food and necessities across to identified vulnerable groups should a lockdown become inevitable.‘’The required supplies are being procured while a system of distribution to the persons that most need them is being worked out.”

She said the state government will continue enlightenment campaigns in the media to help people stay safe and save lives.Balarabe reiterated the ban on large gatherings, the closure of markets, with the exception of traders in food, medicines and essential items, including the need for people to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel.

‘’Government recognises that compliance with these measures come with a level of inconvenience for which we readily apologise. But we trust that everyone understands the necessity for these sacrifices as the most pragmatic way to keep people safe and alive,’’ she added.

 Coronavirus: 20 Osun Judges in Isolation after Visit to UAEBy Yinka Kolawole in OsogboOsun State Commissioner for Health Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, Wednesday confirmed that 20 judges from state who recently travelled to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirate were currently in self isolation.

He said the judges went into isolation shortly after they arrived the state to ascertain their medical status as the virusjravages the world .Isamotu made this known on the sidelines of a press conference at the Osun State government house in Osogbo, where the governor briefed journalists about the index case in the state.

The Commissioner said, “Yes, they are presently in self isolation, I can’t disclose any hospital, it is not necessary that they go to the hospital before being isolated.“There are many people who are even positive for the virus, but stay in their homes to isolate themselves without going to the hospital. The judges are in self isolation and we are monitoring them”.

The judges had attended International Conference in the Middle East country between March 9 and March 20, before returning back home over the weekend.COVID-19: 436,000 Confirmed Cases, 19,600 Deaths Recorded Globally*Europe now epicenter of virusThe humanitarian costs of the coronavirus outbreak continue to mount, with more than 436,000 people infected globally, according to the Financial Times.

The number of people confirmed to have died as a result of the virus has now surpassed 19,600.The virus’s proliferation has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, meaning it is spreading rapidly in different parts of the world.More than 180 countries have confirmed cases so far. The epicentre of the coronavirus is now Europe, with the largest number of confirmed cases in Italy, and death tolls growing more quickly in Italy and Spain than they did in China at the same stage of the outbreak.

In many countries one or a small number of regions have borne the brunt of the virus. Lombardia has eclipsed Wuhan as the most badly affected region in the world, and in Spain Madrid could soon surpass even that.US states also show very different trajectories. Washington saw the first outbreak in the US, but its death toll has risen relatively slowly since then. New York’s mortality curve is much steeper. In most western countries case numbers have been increasing by about 33 per cent a day, a sign that other countries may soon be facing the same challenge as Italy.

The Asian city-state of Singapore and the territory of Hong Kong are on a different trajectory in terms of the growth in case numbers. The rate of increase has so far been relatively contained through rapid and strict measures.Covid-19: Fayemi Orders Closure of Markets in Ekiti

* APC shuts secretariatVictor Ogunje in Ado EkitiThe Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has taken more stringent measures by directing all markets in the state that do not sell essential commodities such as foodstuff, medicine, medical equipment and water to be closed down effective from 5.00 pm Thursday, March 26, 2020.

This is in a bid to curtail the spread of the dreaded coronavirus (Covid-19) in the state and by ensuring that citizens observe the social distancing practice, among other measures.The governor’s directive was contained in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Yinka Oyebode, in Ado-Ekiti, on Wednesday.

The statement directs all medicine stores that are open to the public to make sure they do not sell or display any other items whatsoever, while those selling food stuffs should not display or sell anything outside food stuffs.Similarly, the governor has appealed to commercial drivers and the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in the state to reduce the outrageous fares being charged commuters mainly students who have been returning home in their numbers following the closure of schools in the state.

“Pharmacy stores are also urged not to hike the prices of essential drugs,” the statement said.Meanwhile, members of the public are reminded of the ban on gatherings that are above 20 persons either for social, communal or religious purposes as a monitoring and enforcement taskforce has been dispatched across the state.

The governor urged all citizens in the state to join hands with the government and its agencies in the collective war against the coronavirus pandemic.Similarly, the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has closed down its state secretariat for 14 days to help in stemming the tide of coronavirus in the state.

A statement by the party’s Publicity Secretary, Hon Ade Ajayi, on Wednesday, said the closure became inevitable to help Governor Fayemi find a lasting solution to the spread of the scourge.The party appealed to Ekiti residents to comply with the directive by Fayemi not to hold any gathering of more than 20 persons in every home, church, mosque and other public institutions.

“The temporary closure will last for two weeks as agreed by the Central Working Committee members of the APC state Exco.“During this period, we also place a ban on party rallies, ward meetings and other political gatherings until further notice.“We urge our party members to maintain social distancing and personal hygiene during this critical period,” APC advised.

The party commended Governor Fayemi for taking proactive measures to contain Covid-19, saying this has helped in taming the spread of the pandemic.“The prompt closure of all private and public institutions was right. We stand by Governor Fayemi and all the decisions he had taken since Ekiti recorded the first victim.

“The governor being a humanist that is passionate about the wellbeing and development of humanity resolved to shut all institutions and also directed that all civil servants must work from home with assurances that their salaries will be paid despite this development,” APC said.

Covid 19: Theologians’ Association Chides Pastors Disobeying Restriction OrderBy Kayode Fasua in AbeokutaThe Association of Christian Theologians (ACTS) Tuesday took a swipe on some church leaders who are yet to comply with government’s directive that there should be no public gathering of more than 50 persons, in the move to curtail the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

The ACTS is the regulatory body for all Christian theological institutions in Nigeria.In an interview with THISDAY in Abeokuta, Ogun State, its National President, Prof. Olakunle Macaulay, said it was lamentable that some clergymen could not separate spiritual matters from public health, going by widespread reports that some churches with large crowds still gathered to worship last Sunday.

Rationalising the clerics’ defiance to the directive, Macaulay said it could only be traced to the high level of illiteracy among those parading themselves as pastors, noting that majority of them had neither formal nor thorough theological education.

The octogenarian, who is also the national coordinator of International Christian Conscience Initiative (ICCI), said, “The Coronavirus is a pandemic that up till now, no nation has found a solution to.“The medics and scientists alike are doing their best to solve the problem but we are still hopeful and praying for a breakthrough.

“It’s unfortunate that we have many Christian leaders who are not educated and they account for the ranks of those who refuse to comply with government’s directive that no gathering should be more than 50, in order to prevent the spread of the Covid 19.

“It’s essential to note that the present situation demands that we should be reasonable with whatever we are doing; as whatever can save Nigeria and Nigerians should be the concern of patriotic Nigerians.“Christianity does not mean congregating alone; it also means understanding the will of God and obeying it. So, staying at home, praying and reading your Bible to prevent the spread of Coronavirus does not make you less Christian.

“Even, Jesus Christ approved of the medical profession, when he said that those who are sick need physicians; but here, Nigerian Christian leaders overdo many things by spiritualising everything.”The ACTS president, who is a nephew to the late nationalist, Herbert Macaulay, particularly has some knocks for pastors who did not undergo theological education before mounting the pulpit.

“They (such pastors) are victims of the economic situation in Nigeria. They use the church as a way of making money rather than preaching the true word of God. No doubt, they are victims of circumstances.“I’m sure, if any one of them is offered job in an oil company, he will throw away the hoods and cassock, and rush to take the juicy offer.

“So, those who want to lead the Church should submit themselves to formal, thorough theological education,” he advised.Edo Speaker Tests Positive for Coronavirus, Gov in Self-isolationAdibe Emenyonu in Benin CitySpeaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Mr. Frank Okiye, who recently returned from the United Kingdom, is the first confirmed case of Coronavirus in the state.

The Deputy Governor, Mr Phillip Shaibu, who disclosed this on Wednesday also saidGovernor Godwin Obaseki had gone into self isolation as a precautionary step following contact with Bauchi Governor Bala Mohammed and chief of staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, both of whom have tested positive.

Shaibu said the speaker who returned from the UK recently went straight into self-isolation at the Irrua Specialist Hospital, Irrua, Esan Central local government area of Edo State.“He (Speaker) sent his sample for testing and the test came back positive. He is in a stable condition and his family members have been tested and the tests came back negative”, the deputy governor stated.

He noted that the two persons the speaker got in close contact with were his wife and daughter whose samples had been taken and the result came out negative.The National Centre for Disease Control.had announced on Monday that Edo had recorded a confirmed case of coronavirus, but did not mention the individual who tested positive

According to Shaibu, Obaseki went into self-isolation following his close contact with the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Muhammed and the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari, who had both tested positive.He said, “On his own, the governor avoided meeting with everybody when he arrived Benin from Abuja and has maintained social distance before going into self isolation.

Meanwhile, Shaibu said 101 persons were being tracked by the state government, adding that 64 have gotten in touch, six have been isolated and five samples taken.The deputy governor urged residents of the state to help curtail the spread of the disease.

He listed the measures as the procurement of 40 drums of hand sanitizers to be distributed to all local government areas, palaces and other public places.Besides, he said government still maintained that gathering of persons above 20 persons should be strictly adhered to.

He said markets remain closed except for those selling essential commodities such as food items and medicine, adding that the state COVID-19 Response Committee would continue to meet on daily basis to review the situation.CONVID-19: Rivers Govt Closes All Borders

*Bans vehicular movements in and out of stateErnest Chinwo in Port Harcourt Rivers State Government has announced the closure of air, sea and land routes into the state with effect from Thursday in what it said is a move to check the spread of CONVID-19.

In a broadcast Wednesday, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, said the measure became necessary in view of recent developments.He said: “It is with gratitude to God that I announce to you that our State would have been infected with coronavirus yesterday, but for the vigilance of security agents who, acting on a tip-off prevented an infected person from boarding a flight from Abuja to Port Harcourt.

“The infected person beat all security measures that were put in place at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and was to sneak into Port Harcourt before security agents stopped her.“Based on this alarming Information, the State Security Council met yesterday and reviewed measures already put in place and decided that there was urgent need to adopt stringent measures to protect those living and doing business in the state from the virus.

“The council has therefore taken the following painful decisions: With effect from 6pm on Thursday, March 26, 2020, the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa will not be open to air traffic. While we may not have the right to stop flights from entering Port Harcourt, we cannot allow anybody coming from the airport to enter our State. We are confident that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other federal agencies will cooperate with us.

“All Land and Sea Borders will be closed. Vehicular movements in and out of the state have been banned. In essence, no vehicle will leave Rivers State for any other State and no vehicle will be allowed to enter the state.Wike said the new measures will be in place till further notice.

He noted: “Let me reiterate that the situation we are facing requires drastic measures because coronavirus has ravaged many countries.“Security Agencies have been empowered to strictly enforce this directive. There will be no room for sacred cows because the virus is no respecter of persons.

“May I once again call for the support and understanding of everyone living and doing business in Rivers State to help the relevant Government Agencies implement these measures to check the spread of coronavirus to the state.”The Rivers State Governor added: “At this time in our national life, we must shun primordial sentiments and face the reality on ground.

“I am confident that God being on our side, the temporary hardship we are facing today will come to an end very soon.”Wike recounted earlier measures taken by the Rivers State Government to tackle coronavirus, emphasising that they were still in force.

He said: “In that broadcast, I announced the setting up of surveillance posts at our land and sea borders, beginning from Tuesday, March 24, 2020.“I also informed you that after due consultations with religious leaders, all forms of open worship including crusades and vigils were banned.

“Public Burials and weddings were prohibited, while public parks, night clubs and Cinemas were directed to close down.”Electricity Workers Threaten to Shut down Power Sector over Covid-19Accuse minister of laxityBy Onyebuchi EzigboNigeria electricity workers under the aegis of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) have threatened to shut down the power sector if the Ministry of Power and other employers in the sector fail to take adequate precautionary measures to protect staff.

In a letter to the Minister of Power, Sule Mamman, the General Secretary of NUEE, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said the minister would be held responsible for the transmission of COVID-19 to any staff in Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) especially its headquarters for his failure to comply with the federal government’s directive on people that travelled to countries with high cases of infection to self-isolate.

The letter read in part: “Our attention has been drawn to the return of the Minister of Power Sule Mamah from his trip to Germany and Egypt while on the entourage of the Chief of Staff to the President. The Minister despite the President’s directive to self-isolate; reported at the office in the midst of agitation and complaints from the staff at TCN headquarters, Abuja. If not for the intervention of the Union, there would have been pandemonium at the office, on Monday, March 23, 2020.

“In view of recent developments, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) wishes to state unequivocally that the Minister of Power – Sule Mamman will be held responsible for the transmission of COVID-19 to any staff in TCN especially its headquarters for his failure to comply with the federal government’s directive on people that travelled to countries with high cases of infection to self isolate.

“Besides, NUEE wishes to warn employers in the Power Sector especially those whose staff constantly have an interface with customers/public, that should they fail to, within twenty-four (24) hours take adequate precautionary measures to protect staff, we will be forced to pull out our members and will not be held responsible for any consequence arising there from. Employers of labour in the power sector are hereby urged to take necessary measures to ensure the safety of staff in the power sector.”

Prince Charles, Heir to the British Throne, Tests Positive for CoronavirusPrince Charles has tested positive for coronavirus, Clarence House has confirmed.The Prince of Wales, 71, is in the government’s high risk category because of his age.A Clarence House spokesman said: “He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.

“The Duchess of Cornwall has also been tested but does not have the virus. In accordance with Government and medical advice, the Prince and the Duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.“The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire where they met the criteria required for testing.

“It is not possible to ascertain from whom the Prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”The couple is understood to be self-isolating separately at Birkhall in Scotland.Concerns for the heir apparent were raised last week when Prince Albert of Monaco became the first royal to test positive for the disease.

They had been at the same event in London at the beginning of March.The Royal Family had been taking precautions and following government advice since the outbreak of coronavirus in the UK.At the Commonwealth Day Service on 9 March, the last major royal event before many engagements were postponed, the royals avoiding shaking hands.

Prince Charles has been seen adopting the namaste greeting instead of shaking hands.Covid-19: Governors’ Forum DG, Wife in Self-isolationNGF secretariat staff advised to self-isolateGovs meeting cancelledChuks Okocha in AbujaThe Director General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Asishana Okauru, and his wife, Ifueko Okauru,who is former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), have embarked on self-isolation after having contacts with several persons that have tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a statement Wednesday morning signed by him, Okauru said, “I wish to inform the general public that my wife together with my entire household will be proceeding on self-isolation.“We are taking this action following my exposure to His Excellency, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State who today announced the positive outcome of his test for COVID-19”.

He said that he attended different meetings of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the Nigerian Economic Council last week, which were also attended by the Bauchi State Governor.Consequently, he announced, “my wife and I would be undergoing COVID-19 testing this week”.

Okauru further stated that all of the organizations to which his wife is affiliated have already begun ‘Work from Home’ in line with earlier Government directive.In fact, he said, “through DAGOMO Foundation Nigeria Ltd/GTE, and in her personal capacity, my wife was already in the forefront of raising awareness around COVID-19.

“All members of NGF secretariat that were exposed will be observing self isolation. We encourage all those who were invited to the NGF meetings for presentations to also do same.“By our actions, we hope to encourage others who are exposed and not sure of their status to undergo self-isolation and make themselves available for the test, where applicable”, the governors forum Director General said.

He said that at the NGF meetings held, “all necessary precautions as advised by the NCDC were taken, but we cannot make any assumptions about our status. We will self-isolate and take the stringent measures possible to protect the general public.”Meanwhile, the meeting of governors scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the health impacts of the coronavirus on the economies of states has been put off. No new date has been fixed for the meeting .

Osinbajo Tests Negative for COVID-19By Omololu OgunmadeVice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who went into self-isolation on Tuesday has tested negative for COVID-19, THISDAY has learnt.Announcing the result of COVID-19 test conducted on the vice-president, via a tweet on his Twitter handle, @babaloveme3, at 8:22am Wednesday, his political adviser, Senator Babafemi Ojudu,, said the outcome of the test was negative.

“Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo tests negative,” Ojudu had tweeted.The vice-president was said to have been forced into self-isolation on Tuesday because he was one of the personalities who had contact with the Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari, who had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

Disclosing Osinbajo’s self-isolation on his Twitter handle, @akandeoj, on Tuesday night, his spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the vice-president had been working from home having gone into self-isolation.According to the tweet, Osinbajo’s decision to self-isolate was in compliance with the directive of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC).

Akande further disclosed that the vice-president held meetings on Monday through video conferencing in observance of social distancing.“VP Osinbajo yesterday (Monday) at the office conducted his meetings via video conferencing, while observing social distancing.

“Today, he continues his work from the home office, as he is in self-isolation in accordance with NCDC protocols,” Akande tweeted. Nigeria Records Two New Cases of COVID-19, Bringing Total Number to 46By Martins IfijehNigeria has recorded two more cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the country to 46.

Announcing this Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said one of the cases was from Lagos, while the other one was from Osun State.It said: “Both cases are returning travellers to Nigeria in the last seven days. As at 07:00 am March 25, there are 46 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with one death recorded.”

Osinbajo, Ministers Self-isolate as Kyari, Mohammed Test Positive•Buhari not infected•COVID-19 tally rises to 44, spreads to sixth state•Relief as ventilators, test kits arrive Nigeria•Sanwo-Olu closes non-essential markets, banks•National Assembly shuts down

•NNPC tells staff to work from homeOur CorrespondentsVice President Yemi Osinbajo, some ministers, senior government officials, and top business executives who recently had contact with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari, have gone on self- isolation, THISDAY has learnt.

Their self-isolation followed Kyari’s testing positive for COVID-19 after a trip to Germany where he had talks with officials of Siemens in Munich on improving power supply in Nigeria.However, while Kyari, who had travelled to Germany on March 7 and returned on March 14, but did not show any symptoms, tested positive, the president, one of those who had contacts with him, tested negative.

With the spike in the COVID-19 incidence, federal and state authorities have ramped up efforts to tame the pandemic by stepping up measures to promote social distancing and flattening the curve.Among the new curbs yesterday were the suspension of plenary, for two weeks, by the two chambers of the National Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives; the ban on interstate travelling as well as the closure of markets, except for those selling foodstuffs and drugs, and courts by the Lagos State Government; and a directive by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to all non-managerial staff to work from home.

However, efforts at tackling the pandemic got a boost yesterday with the arrival in Nigeria of test kits and ventilators donated to Africa by Chinese billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate, Jack Ma.THISDAY learnt that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), had tested the president and Kyari on Monday and yesterday informed them of the results.

Kyari and Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, were among the four new COVID-19 cases discovered yesterday to bring the toll to 44, covering six states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).Of the 44, two persons had been discharged and one died.

Osinbajo’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, in a tweet yesterday on his Twitter page, @akandoj, said the vice president was working from home as he was on self-isolation in accordance with NCDC protocols.He said: (The) “VP Osinbajo yesterday at the office conducted his meetings via video conferencing, while observing social distancing.

“Today, he continues his work from the home office, as he is in self-isolation in accordance with NCDC protocols.”It was gathered that Kyari had gone on self-isolation in a private house in Abuja.A press conference scheduled by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, for 3.30 p.m. yesterday to give Nigerians an update on COVID-19, was hurriedly put off.

Although no official reason was given for the cancellation, a presidential source said the minister was instructed to cancel the briefing.THISDAY gathered that the press conference was expected to give an update on the tracing of ministers, senior government officials, influential politicians and top business executives, who had contact with the chief of staff.

A minister confided in THISDAY yesterday that he had gone on self-isolation because of his recent contact with Kyari.“I am currently on self-isolation because I had contact with the Chief of Staff to the President recently in the cause of my official duty. Some of my colleagues are also on self-isolation for similar reasons,” the minister stated.

It was also gathered that a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who also had contact with Kyari was on self-isolation in his private house in Abuja.A top government official told THISDAY that the chief of staff was on self-isolation where he was being monitored by medical personnel because he’s not showing severe symptoms of the disease.

Asked if he was not expected to be moved to Abuja University Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada where victims of COVID-19 are being treated, the source said it was not compulsory that everyone who tests positive must be taken to the hospital.According to him, if the patient is not showing severe symptoms of COVID-19, he can merely be given bed rest, noting that most of the victims of the disease naturally, recover.

He added that over 80 per cent of victims recover without any intervention.He said: “He may test positive and not show severe symptoms and so be in self-isolation. The symptoms in over 80 per cent cases are mild as they manifest modestly. Most people will recover without intervention. Fatality is common in old people.

“They only have to be monitored to find that the situation is not deteriorating. He can be on bed rest and given drugs related to the symptoms he’s showing. If the symptom is fever, he can be given paracetamol.“He will be given water to help him hydrate. His blood sample will be taken to know that he’s not showing any signs of deterioration. The treatment given to them is just to support the immune system.”

According to him, most of the victims of the disease who die are those who show respiratory symptoms like pneumonia and that is why ventilators are needed.The source explained that staff working with Kyari who had had contact with him had been asked to self-isolate.

THISDAY also learnt yesterday that some notable presidential aides who had contacts with the chief of staff had gone into self-isolation.Some of them contacted by THISDAY to confirm their status opted to keep mum.Asked if there is no necessity to subject such staff to tests, the source said no test would be conducted on them unless they show signs of the ailment.

According to the source, while it is ideal for everyone to be tested, the test cannot be carried out on every suspected case until the person shows symptoms of the disease.The members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 yesterday visited the State House for undisclosed reasons.

Led by their chairman and incumbent SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, members of the group visited the office of the chief of staff.The group declined to speak on their mission in the State House.Members of the group in the visiting team included Ehanire; Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Investment, Ms. Sadiya Farouq.

Earlier in the day, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, and the Governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu Masari, had visited the State House for undisclosed reasons.Bauchi Gov Tests PositiveThe Bauchi State Government yesterday confirmed that Mohammed had tested positive for COVID-19.

A statement yesterday by the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Mukhtar Gidado, also said Mohammed, who was tested on Monday by NCDC, had gone into self-isolation after his result turned positive.“This is to inform the general public that the result of the six initial tests carried out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on His Excellency, Senator Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, his family and aides that accompanied him to Lagos are out.

“Of the six initial tests carried out, one sample was confirmed positive for COVID-19. The positive result happened to be that of His Excellency, Senator Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, the Executive Governor of Bauchi State,” the statement explained.The governor had earlier gone into self-isolation after having contact with the son of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who had tested positive of the virus.

Test Kits, Ventilators Arrive in NigeriaNigerians may soon experience relief as test kits and ventilators sent to Nigeria by the Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, arrived in the country yesterday and thus raising hope of the possibilities of conducting more tests that may be considered necessary.

Patients showing respiratory symptoms can also have access to ventilators, which can help their breathing system.Ethiopian Airlines brought in the ventilators and the test kits yesterday.COVID-19 Cases Climb to 44, Spread to Six StatesIn an update yesterday on its official Twitter page, @NCDCgov, the NCDC put the number of new cases at four more, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 44.

Announcing the new cases, the NCDC said Bauchi, Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) recorded one case each.NCDC said: “Of the four cases, one had travel history to Germany, the other to the United Kingdom, while one is a contact of a previously confirmed case.”

NCDC did not mention from which country the last person came into Nigeria.So far, Lagos has 29 cases; FCT, eight; Ogun, three; Ekiti, one; Oyo one; Edo, one and Bauchi State, one.While 41 persons are presently in isolation receiving treatment, two of the cases have been successfully treated and discharged and one died on Monday.

National Assembly Suspends Plenary for Two WeeksAs part of the efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the National Assembly yesterday suspended activities for two weeks.The Senate suspended plenary for two weeks and expressed concern for the lack of sufficient testing kits to fight the epidemic in the four NCDC isolation centres across the country.

President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, who announced the suspension at the end of an executive session of the Senate that lasted for over an hour, said: “The Senate resolves to adjourn sitting for two weeks from today due to the pandemic of COVID-19 ravaging the entire world.”

According to him, the Senate will resume plenary on April 7.Lawan, however, gave an assurance that the Senate will be ready to attend to urgent national matters during the two-week break.“However, the Senate would be on hand in case of emergency on any national issue that requires its attention,” he added.

He advised Nigerians to observe all preventive measures recommended by the NCDC.While calling on the federal government to immediately set aside a special intervention fund to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria, Lawan advocated the release of financial assistance to states for the same purpose.

Shedding more light on the epidemic, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, told reporters after plenary that “for over two weeks now in the Senate plenary, we have been observing no-hand shake and I can assure you that no senator has tested positive to Coronavirus.”

According to him, the nation did not have enough testing kits in the four isolation centres across the nation.The House of Representatives also announced that plenary and other activities would be shut down for two weeks.The Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, made the announcement at the resumption of plenary yesterday.

Gbajabiamila said the shutdown was not a holiday, but an act of necessity in furtherance of the social distancing and isolation guidelines that have proven to be effective in preventing secondary transmission of the COVID-19.He stated that the House would continue to observe developments and respond as the circumstances demand, adding that if it becomes necessary, the House may reconvene to act on emergency legislation and possible amendment of the Appropriation Act, 2020.

He also assured all doctors, nurses and other medical professionals on duty call that the House will ensure that the tools needed to protect themselves and practice effectively are provided.He appealed to members to restrict all non-essential movements and observe self-isolation and social distancing according to NCDC guidelines.

The National Assembly also asked all staff to remain at home for two weeks in the first instance effective today.The Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, stated this in a two-page circular dated March 24, 2020.NNPC Asks Workers to Work from Home

Like the National Assembly bureaucracy, the NNPC has instructed its employees who are not in the management cadre to work from home, effective from yesterday.The NNPC said the order was in compliance with the federal government’s directive following the increasing cases of COVID -19.

It said the instruction affected all office-based staff below management level across all its formations.A statement in Abuja by the corporation’s Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr. Kennie Obateru, said the directive, which was conveyed to the NNPC workforce through a message signed by the National Oil Company’s Group Managing Director, Malam Mele Kyari, directed all NNPC Strategic Business Units to activate their business continuity plans immediately.

Obateru noted that the decision to allow SBUs to continue work was to ensure minimal disruption to operations while protecting staff from exposure to the COVID-19.“The NNPC leadership, since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, has been providing daily enlightenment to staff on how to keep themselves and their families safe from infection,” he stated.

On the reported death on Monday of Mr. Suleiman Achimugu, the NNPC condoled with the family of the late engineer who it said passed on in the early hours of Monday after a bout with COVID-19.Lagos Bans Interstate Travels, Closes Markets, CourtsLagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday stepped up measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state with a directive closing all markets and courts effective from tomorrow.

He also encouraged the private sector, including banks, to follow the steps of the public sector by focusing on online services.Sanwo-Olu stated these after a meeting of the state’s Security Council in Lagos.The governor, who described his directive as not a lockdown, however, said the new order would be for seven days in the first instance.

He also reduced the number of people who can gather together from 50 to 25.He said all travels to Lagos by air or by road would no longer be encouraged and urged all public parks, gym, swimming pools to close down with immediate effect.According to him, security agents have been ordered to strictly enforce the directive as anyone who contravenes it will be dealt with.

The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has also appealed to guests who attended the recent Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA), organised by the pay-TV company, Multichoice Nigeria Limited, to self-isolate as one of the attendees had tested positive to COVID-19.

Among movie and showbiz stars at the event were Funke Akindele, popularly called by her moniker, Jenifa, and her husband; Uzor Arukwe, Seun Akindele, Iyabo Ojo, Toyin Abrahams and her husband; and TuFace, Banky W and his wife, Adesua, a movie star.Enforce Quarantine Now, ANAP Tells FG

Meanwhile, the Atedo N. A. Peterside (ANAP) Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank has called on the federal government to use various agencies at its disposal to enforce quarantine following the spread of COVID-19 in the country.It also recommended that government should separate people who are vulnerable to the virus, including sick and old from young Nigerians to curb further spread of the disease.

In a report signed by the Chairman, ANAP, Chief Atedo Peterside and made available to THISDAY yesterday, he said: “Most young people survive the illness from the virus. It can be fatal for people aged 45 years and upwards and those with underlying lung, liver, kidney, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

“They need to be kept in a room by themselves and shielded from other members of the family, especially from young ones that are carriers of the virus or who can survive the illness. “However, it is a fallacy to say it is the disease of the elderly and young people should not care. It is simply humane to avoid infecting vulnerable, sick people by young people.

“I recommend that the government makes use of various agencies at their disposal to enforce quarantine, help distribute food and prevent crime.“Government is waking up to its responsibilities and some state governments are shutting down schools; universities have been shut down, but a lot more has to be done.”

ANAP said the federal government should move into full national lockdown now.“We also, recommend that government partners with the private sector and NGOs. This will require some distribution of food and other basic amenities to keep the most vulnerable at home.

“It is now that companies, churches, mosques and wealthy individuals should use much of their money to distribute to poor areas to help them stay at home,” he stated.Other members of the group include the Vice Chairman, Abubakar Mohammed, George Etomi, Ayo Ahonkhai, Matthew Kukah, Salamatu Suleiman, Adwoa Edun, Yinka Sanni, Funke Aboyade, Ndidi Nnoli-Edozien, Leo Ekeh, Innocent Chukwuma, Ayisha Osori, Buti Sam Kputu, Lambert Shumbusho, Ibrahim D. Waziri, Dudu Manuga, Lucy Surhyel Newman and the Project Coordinators, Tariye Peterside and Kunbi Dixon.

Beware of COVID-19 Ransomware, FG Warns Nigerians Olawale Ajimotokan in AbujaThe federal government has alerted Nigerians to the existence of an Android-based malicious and fraudulent COVID-19 Ransomware Application, which claims to provide updates on the virus and infections near the user.

In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the Ransomware blocks access to users’ personal data and accounts and threatens deletion, unless users pay one hundred US dollars ($100) in Bitcoin within 48 hours.

He said the Ransomware App, detected on the website www.coronavirusapp.site, prompts users to download an Android App purportedly for COVID-19 map tracking and heat map visuals.Mohammed said the development confirmed warnings against cybercriminals seeking to exploit the growing spread of the virus for nefarious gains.

He, therefore, called on the general public not to download the Ransomware App, urging them to seek updates on the pandemic only from the appropriate authorities.COVID-19 Levels the High and LowMartins IfijehWorld over, middle- and low-class people often bear the major burden of disease outbreaks. The infections, the deaths and the devastations are mostly the preserve of the poor and ‘ordinary’ people in the society.

But there seems to be a shift in the epidemic spread of COVID-19. It does not respect status as it has moved from one high profiled person to the other, including politicians, entertainers, media influencers and those who are often referred to as the elites.

The pattern of spread has now resulted in several high profiled persons and their families scrambling for tests as they may have, in one way or the other had contact with some of their kinds who have tested positive to the virus.Here are the big names battling the disease:

Vice President of Iran, Masoumeh EbtekarThe Vice President of Iran, Masoumeh Ebtekar was diagnosed with COVID-19 on February 27, making her one of the seventh government official to test positive to the disease in a country afflicted with over 24, 800 cases of COVID-19.

Wife of Canadian Prime Minister, Sophie TrudeauOn March 12, the Wife of Canadian Prime Minister Sophie Trudeau tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a brief trip to the United Kingdom where she had a speaking engagement.Sophie has since been placed under isolation and treatment. Her husband has described her symptom as mild, noting that she would come out of it in few weeks.

Canadian and UK authorities said they were contacting all the persons she had contact with in both countries, and that they have been advised to self-isolate themselves for 14 days.Although her husband Justin has tested negative for COVID19 following his wife’s status, he has since gone into self-isolation for 14 days.

Iran’s Religious Leader, Ayatollah Hashem BathayiAmong the seven high profiled persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Iran is its religious leader, Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi. He was a member of the clerical body that appoints the supreme leader in Iran.

Bathayi, who was 78 years old, died of the disease two days after he commenced treatment.US Senator, Rand PaulOn March 22, Rand Paul became the first United States Senator to test positive for the coronavirus. The news was relayed on his official Twitter account, where a spokesperson said he’s doing fine and in self-quarantine.

Paul, who has since commenced treatment said he was not aware he had met with someone who tested positive to the virus, adding that he was asymptomatic.He said he will join his colleagues at the senate after his quarantine period was over, adding that he will continue to work for the people of Kentucky despite the temporary setback.

Mayor of Miami, Francis SuarezOn March 13, THE Mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez tested positive for COVID-19. He announced his status himself in a video on his social media accounts, adding that he was asymptomatic as at the time of getting his result.Since his diagnosis, he has been sharing daily “digital journals” to update the public on his condition and local government efforts to fight the pandemic.

He wrote: “In my fifth digital journal, I explain how my condition directly ties into the importance of social distancing, as well as another bold action the City of Miami is now taking to promote that. We are in this together,’ he added.Nigeria’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari

Nigeria’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, yesterday tested positive for COVID-19, a situation that has now made him the first government official in the country to have the virus.Kyari, a close ally to President Muhammadu Buhari, was away in Germany in early March with a delegation of other Nigerian officials for meetings with Siemens AG. It is unclear if he self-isolated before he was tested.

The news of his status has rattled Aso Rock; the seat of power, as it is believed he has had contact with other government officials.Wife of Spain Prime Minister, Begona GomezThe Spanish government announced that the wife of Spanish Prime Minister, Begona Sanchez tested positive for the virus on March 14. The announcement came soon after the prime minister announced sweeping state measures to curb the spread of the virus.

At least 39, 000 persons have tested positive for COVID-19 while almost 3000 persons have died from the disease in the country. The country is currently on lockdown.Arch Duke of Australia, Karl von HabsburgOn March 17, the Archduke of Austria, Karl von Habsburg confirmed he had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The archduke, who heads the historic House of Habsburg-Lorraine, has been in self-quarantine since March 12 after testing positive for the virus. He called into Austrian TV network oe24 to inform the public of his condition:

“It is annoying, but I am fine. It is not the Black Plague. I thought it was the usual flu. When a friend called me that he had a positive test at a congress in Switzerland, I was also tested.”Hollywood Couple, Tom Hanks and Rita WilsonOn March 11, Hollywood superstar, Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife, Rita Wilson has tested positive for COVID-19, adding that they contracted the virus in Australia.

Hanks was said to have been preparing for the shooting of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic when he and Wilson started to feel cold and flu symptoms. The couple subsequently tested positive for the virus and assured they were isolating themselves during their recovery period.

According to a March 16 report from People, after a five-day stay at a Queensland hospital, the couple is now recuperating at a rented home in Australia.British Actor, Idris ElbaBritish actor and musician Idris Elba shared a video via Twitter on March 16 to announce that he had tested positive for COVID-19. While he said he remains asymptomatic, he decided to go for testing after discovering he was exposed to someone who had been diagnosed with the virus.

Elba appears in the video with his wife, Sabrina Dhowre. He urges viewers to take up global solidarity, social distancing, and soap to combat the spread of the virus.He said: “This morning I tested positive for COVID-19. I feel okay, I have no symptoms so far but I have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus. Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing,” he added.

Hollywood Star, Olga KurylenkoOn March 15, Olga Kurylenko, who starred as Daniel Craig in the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace, said she tested positive for COVID-19. The Ukrainian–born French actress shared the news on Instagram, where she urged followers to take the virus seriously.

She said: “Locked up at home after having tested positive for COVID-19. I have actually been ill for almost a week now. Fever and fatigue are my main symptoms. Take care of yourself and do take this seriously.”Jazz Legend, Manu DibangoCameroonian jazz legend Manu Dibango died on March 24 of COVID-19, according to an announcement on his Facebook page.

His family, while announcing his death wrote: “It is with deep sadness that we announce to you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove.“His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organised when possible. The 86-year-old was admitted to the hospital to receive treatment for the COVID-19.

March 18. Dibango, who was a member of the legendary Congolese ensemble African Jazz, is best known for his 1972 hit “Soul Makossa.”Arsenal Coach, Mikel ArtetaThe Head Coach of Arsenal Football Club, Mikel Arteta was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 12. The 37-year-old club manager and former player was the first in England’s football Premier League to test positive for coronavirus. According to an official club statement, the team’s training center has since been closed, and Arteta is self-isolating in line with public health guidelines.

TUESDAY MARCH 24, 2020Kyari’s Covid-19 Test: State House in Sober MoodOmololu Ogunmade in AbujaThe Presidential Villa, Abuja wore a different look Tuesday after the Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari, tested positive for COVID-19.Activities were low key in the Villa while State House staff and presidential aides were in sober reflection.

There were also concerns on people’s faces as nobody seemed to know who would be the next victim.Some staff and appointees wore face masks with almost everyone cuddling the hand sanitizer.Added to the mood was the transfer of the Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi, out of the Villa to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.

THISDAY learnt Tuesday that a number of the staff in the chief of staff’s office and other presidential aides who had contact with himare currently in isolation.Also, the number of State House correspondents in the Villa has been pruned from over 100 to only 13.

A circular released by the Deputy Director, Information, Mr. Attah Esa, said the pruning was done in accordance with the directive to reduce the number of people gathering anywhere to 50.Covid-19: Uzodinma Shuts down Night Clubs, Late Night Eateries* Civil servants above 45 to stay at home

Amby Uneze in OwerriImo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, has shut down all night clubs, late night eateries, and civil servants above 45 years have been asked to stay at home, while assuring the people of the state of his government’s preparedness to tackle head on the Coronavirus crisis rocking the nation and the world at large.

Speaking on Tuesday, during the flag-off of the distribution of hand sanitizers to ministries, agencies, markets, churches, schools and other public places in the state, Uzodimma also ordered the partial shutdown of the workforce.Uzodinma said: “In continuation of our programme to nip the spread of coronavirus in the bud, government has decided to close all nite clubs and late night restaurants. From Wednesday, civil servants above 45 years will be encouraged not to come to work because they are the most vulnerable group.”

However, he said those on essential services will continue to come to work and promised that adequate measures have been put in place for their safety.The governor reiterated that his government will continue to be proactive in the fight against the virus and enjoined all citizens of the state to keep away from crowded places and strive to upgrade their personal hygiene.

According to him, “We are consistent with our commitment to the fight against coronavirus. Our commitment to ensure that citizens’ awareness is put in place is unwavering. We will continue to remain vigilant to ensure that all things needed to enlighten our people about this dreaded disease are put in place.”

While admitting that coronavirus is real and spreading fast, the governor assured the people of the state that he is ready to guard against anything that will bring the disease to the state.“Today, we decided to procure hand sanitizers and we will distribute them to all nooks and crannies of the state,” he said.

Uzodimma further promised that his administration will continue to do its best to ensure that the state is safe.He encouraged the citizens to watch out for coronavirus symptoms and go for test, stating that Imo State has one of the best isolation ventres in the country.

COVID-19: Kano Orders Workers to Stay at Home for 14 DaysIbrahim Shuaibu in KanoThe Kano State government has directed civil servants to stay at home for 14 days with effect from Wednesday, March 25 as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic to the state.

A statement made available to THISDAY in Kano, Tuesday, signed by the Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, on the outcome of the special session of the State Executive Council meeting held at the Africa House, Government House, however, said that essential service workers to be identified by the government, are exempted from the stay-at-home order.

The commissioner explained that the council approved the measures to ensure the prevention and spread of the virus through contacts at government offices across the state.Garba said that while the state is yet to record a single case of the deadly disease, as part of measures to curtail its spread, the council has from Wednesday, banned the inflow of large capacity buses into the state.

He said this was in consideration of the risk involved in the mode of operations of the buses that involves stuffing of passengers and the in orderly sitting arrangement in the buses.The state government, the statement added, is working tirelessly to ensure the virus do not find its way to the state and if it does, the government is prepared to control and manage it.

The commissioner urged residents to ensure adherence to health instructions released by the federal and the state’s Ministry of Health on how to prevent the disease as well as ensure personal hygiene.Other resolutions of the council included the release of N21,410,000.00 and N17,114,000.00 for the conduct of 2020 Interim Joint Matriculation Examination at the College of Education and Preliminary Studies and Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso College of Arts and Remedial Studies respectively.

He said the council also approved the sum of N15,561,200.00 and N11,440,800.00 for the 2020 NECO and 2020 NABTED Examinations in respect of qualified candidates all from College of Science and Technical Schools Board.Garba also announced that the council has approved the release of N10,189,897 for the payment of compensation in respect of the demolished service station at Kano Line Terminus belonging to Messrs Equatorial Petroleum Coastal and Process Limited affected by the construction of State Road/Kofar Nassarawa flyover.

COVID-19 Task Force Visits Presidential VillaOmololu Ogunmade in AbujaMembers of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Tuesday visited the State House for undisclosed reasons.Led by their chairman, Boss Mustapha, members of the group visited the office of the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who had tested positive for the virus.

The group declined to speak on their mission in the State House.Members of the group in the visiting team included the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; and Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Investment, Ms Sadiya Farouq.

Earlier in the day, the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, and the Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Masari, had visited the Villa, for different reasons.Covid-19: Senate Adjourns Sitting Till April 7Deji Elumoye and Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The Senate has adjourned sitting till April 7 so as to avoid the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the upper chamber.President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, who announced this on Tuesday at the end of a two-hour executive session, said the adjournment was necessitated due to the Coronavirus epidemic ravaging the nation.

He, however, stressed that the upper chamber of the National Assembly will be on hand to attend to urgent national issues whenever the need arises.Details later…Covid-19: House Suspends Plenary IndefinitelyUdora Orizu in AbujaIn a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, The House of Representatives has announced that plenary and other activities of the House will be suspended indefinitely.

The Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, made the announcement at the resumption of plenary on Tuesday.It would be recalled that in a chat with THISDAY on Monday, The Chairman House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, said aside from barring visitors from entering the National Assembly complex, the House might review the need to stay at home for members and aides unless when it is absolutely necessary to meet.

More details later …BREAKING NEWS….Buhari Tests Negative for COVID-19, Kyari is PositiveNigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has tested negative for the COVID-19 virus (Coronavirus), following a test for the disease that was carried out Monday on the president by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), THISDAY can report.

The NCDC has informed the president on the outcome his negative result this morning in Abuja.According to presidential sources, the test for the president was necessitated after his Chief of Staff, Mr. Abba Kyari tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

Kyari had travelled to Germany on Saturday, March 7th to meet with officials of Siemens in Munich on the Nigerian electricity expansion programme.He returned exactly one week later on Saturday, March 14th, but did not show any symptoms.He was said to have been at a meeting on containing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria all through Sunday, where he reportedly started to cough.

Subsequently, he voluntarily submitted himself for testing and was informed of his status on Monday.Kyari has however gone into absolute isolation following the test result.THISDAY gathered that he is hale and hearty showing no symptoms apart from the occasional cough.

Details later…COVID-19: FG Gets Tougher, Moves to Deploy Military to Curb Spread•Nigeria records first death as cases rise to 40, spread to Edo State•Govt directs total closure of land borders, suspends FEC, Council of State meetings•Recalls retired doctors, nurses, urges Lagos, Abuja residents to stay at home

•Presidency asks lawmakers to submit to medical checks•CJN shuts courts nationwideOur CorrespondentsAs the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases rose to 40 yesterday with the discovery of 10 new incidences and Nigeria recording its first fatality since the virus seeped into the country last month, the federal government yesterday outlined tougher steps to curb the further spread of the disease.

The new measures include government’s preparedness to deploy the military in tracing and apprehending recalcitrant case contacts, the indefinite suspension of statutory meetings such as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Council of State, closure of the nation’s land borders to human traffic, and restriction of activities in Lagos, with the largest concentration of cases in the country, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with the directive that people on non-essential services should stay at home.

To boost the medical workforce to fight the virus, the federal government recalled doctors and nurses from retirement.The presidency has also written to the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and the House of Representatives, with an exhortation to them to prevail on lawmakers, who just returned from trips to countries with high cases of COVID-19, to submit themselves for medical checks.

Besides, to complement the efforts of the federal government to curb the spread of the disease, which has now spread to five states with the discovery of an incidence yesterday in Edo State, more states and the FCT Administration have ordered a large proportion of their workforce to stay at home while Niger State has clamped a 12-hour curfew on the state. Apart from Edo, the other states with cases of COVID-19 are Oyo, Ekiti, Ogun, and Lagos. The FCT is also infected.

However, amid the concerted efforts by local authorities in Nigeria to check the spread of the pandemic, the United Nations warned the global community to prepare for hard times ahead, saying the world was at war with the virus.The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, announced the federal government’s decision yesterday in Abuja.

Mustapha said the Council of State meeting earlier scheduled for Thursday had been postponed.In addition, the federal government also resolved that all land borders that had hitherto been under a partial closure would now be closed to human traffic for four weeks effective, from yesterday.

The SGF also added that a circular would soon be issued to the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi- Esan, for immediate action to be taken to protect federal civil and public servants from the pandemic.“If and when the need arises, any national assets required for use in the response to COVID-19 shall be mobilised and deployed. The federal government is at the highest level, engaging with state governors in order to ensure a collaborative and effective response to COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, adding: “All Abuja and Lagos residents are strongly advised to stay at home, avoid mass congregation of any kind as well as non-essential outings, until further advice is given.”

He said the taskforce would continue to monitor the global and domestic developments, while it has isolated Lagos and Abuja for particular attention in view of their population, mobility, and number of cases already reported.Mustapha added that advisories had been issued and measures taken, including “escalating the nation’s capacity for testing and detection through the acquisition of more testing kits and establishment of additional test centres, enhancing contact tracking, deepening awareness creation, closure of schools and tertiary institutions and the total ban on international travels, which commenced at 12.00 midnight tonight at all the nation’s airports.”

Last night, the Head of Service of the Federation gave effect to the federal government’s directive on the need to safeguard the welfare of its service personnel. She told all civil servants from level 12 and below to stay at home from today till further notice.

Former PPMC MD, Achimugu, Becomes First Fatality FigureWhile giving an update on the epidemic yesterday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported the death of an infected case, but did not disclose the name of the deceased.But THISDAY later identified the deceased as a former Managing Director of the Pipeline Products and Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Suleiman Achimugu.

Announcing the death yesterday, NCDC said: “The case was a 67-year-old male who returned to Nigeria following a medical procedure in the United Kingdom. He had underlying medical conditions, including multiple myeloma and diabetes, and was undergoing chemotherapy.”

Achimugu died in the early hours of Sunday.In confirming his death, his family said his remains had been buried according to Islamic injunctions.The statement signed by Mr. Abubakar Achimugu on behalf of the family called for prayer for the repose of his soul and healing for all other COVID-19 patients undergoing treatment.

Cases Rise to 40While announcing the number of the new cases yesterday, NCDC said of the 10 new cases, six were from Lagos, three from Abuja and one from Edo State. This brings the total number of cases in the country to 40.Sharing the information on its Twitter handle, @NCDCgov, the agency said of the 40 confirmed cases, two had been discharged after successful treatment of the disease; one died while 37 others were still under isolation and undergoing treatment.

Shortly after the NCDC’s announcement, Lagos State Government provided further details on three of the six new cases from the state.The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said one of the three patients came into Nigeria from Ukraine since March 15.

He said: “The other two had a travel history to the United Kingdom. They both came into Lagos on March 13 and March 20 respectively.”FG Threatens to Use Army, Police for Contact TracingWith the rapid spread and reports of case contacts refusing to report for testing and self isolate, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday advised Nigerians to prepare for tougher measures as part of government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mohammed told journalists in Abuja yesterday that the federal government would not hesitate to deploy the military and other security agents for contact tracing in cases where persons suspected to have contacted the virus do not voluntarily show up for testing.

He said: “We should be ready for tougher measures. The forms they will take will be out from the end of today or tomorrow. But Nigerians should be ready for tougher measures. If we don’t do proper contact tracing, the figure will multiply every five days. Nigerians must take ownership of this initiative.

“We will not hesitate to use any platform, including the military and the police, to enforce social distancing, and to ensure that proper tracing is done because we are talking of a situation where if we do not take time, there are several hundreds of thousands, who will be infected.

“Containment is very cheaper than cure. A few people have helped. If you know you travelled recently, give yourself up to relevant agencies.”Presidency Asks Lawmakers to Submit to Medical ChecksAs part of the containment strategy, the presidency has implored members of the National Assembly, who just returned from trips abroad, to subject themselves to COVID-19 test.

The Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, in separate letters to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, urged them to ensure that the lawmakers present themselves for screening at the airports.

In the two separate letters dated March 21, Kyari noted that senators and members of the House of Representatives were not presenting themselves for screening at the airports.He said: “As you are aware, these airport screenings are our primary line of defence and refusal by any citizen to subject to these tests is a threat to our nation.

“Accordingly, you are kindly requested to direct all senators who returned to Nigeria from foreign trips to report themselves to the nearest NCDC test centre with immediate effect.”CJN Orders Temporary Closure of CourtsMeanwhile, the impact of the ravaging pandemic has also hit the judiciary, following an order by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, suspending all courts’ activities.

Justice Muhammad’s directive was contained in a fresh circular dated March 23 to all heads of courts.The closure, which is for an initial two weeks, comes into effect from today.However, the CJN said the judges could attend to pressing issues and or time-bound cases in their courts.

“In view of the reality of COVID-19 in the country and in order to take further preventive steps, all heads of courts are, from tomorrow (March 24) directed to suspend court sittings for an initial period of two weeks at the first instance, except in matters that are urgent, essential or time-bound according to our extant laws,” he said.

INEC Suspends Regular ActivitiesThe COVID-19 pandemic has also forced the Independent National Electoral Commissions (INEC) to announce the suspension of its regular activities.It, however, said the suspension did not affect preparations for the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Imo states.

In a statement issued by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, the commission said the directive was in line with the advisory on social distancing from WHO and the NCDC.Okoye said the commission had taken the following additional measures to protect its staff, visitors and the general public.

According to him, “Effective from Tuesday 24th March 2020, all regular and non-essential activities will be suspended in its headquarters and offices nation-wide for 14 days in the first instance.”He added that the regular quarterly meetings with stakeholders, namely: political parties, civil society organisations, the media, security agencies and all other meetings had been suspended until such a time when normalcy returns.

World is at War, Says UN ChiefAmid the various measures to tame the virus, the Secretary-General of United Nations, Antonio Guterres, yesterday raised the alarm over the spread and deaths from COVID-19, saying the world was certainly at war.Guterres, in a video on the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak on the world, called for more commitment from governments to combat the effect the outbreak would have on economies.

“We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the UN — one that is spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives,” he said.Guterres said labour organisations across the world could lose as much as $3.4 trillion in income by the end of the year.

He added that above the crisis, the effect on humans, especially the vulnerable would be disastrous if governments did not intervene by doing things differently.The human crisis, he said, called for solidarity, as the human family was stressed and the social fabric was being torn.

“My central message is clear, we are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.“We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times. The creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis and the magnitudes of the response must match its scale. Our world faces a common enemy. We are at war with a virus,” he stated.

Tomorrow, Guterres would launch a COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. He would be joined by the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Mark Lowcock; WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; and UNICEF Executive Director, Ms. Henrietta Fore.

More States, FCT Tell Workers to Stay at Home•Bauchi gov in self-isolation•Aisha Buhari advocates complete lockdownOur CorrespondentsThe rising cases of COVID-19 yesterday forced more states to ask their non-essential workers to stay at home in a desperate effort to check the spread of the pandemic.

Edo, Kaduna, Niger, Bauchi and Osun states joined Lagos, Kwara, Zamfara, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi states in slamming a stay-at-home order on their workers, particularly those from level 1-12.Edo State Government, which yesterday confirmed its first case, said the measure and many more had been put in place to curtail the spread of the pandemic in the state.

The Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, while briefing journalists in Benin City on the preparedness of his government in tackling the spread of the virus in the state said though the state was witnessing its first case, there was no need to panic.“COVID-19 is not a death sentence, so there is no need to panic. With swift identification and proper and management and care, many persons who had been infected with the virus have made full recoveries if we all work together to take the right precautions,” he said, advising citizens to practise social distancing to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

He prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people and said all schools remained closed in the state until further notice.The governor said public transportation would remain in operation but warned against crowding in commercial vehicles.“All public officers below grade level 12 (except those providing essential services such as fire and healthcare) should work from home till further notice,” he directed, adding: “Citizens are advised to postpone unnecessary travels in and out of Edo state and if possible stay at home.”

Kaduna to Enforce Restriction on Large GatheringIn Kaduna State, the government said it would commence the enforcement of restrictions on large gatherings, especially in churches and mosques.Governor Nasir el-Rufai announced this yesterday in a broadcast to the people of the state.

He said security agencies had been directed to ensure compliance across the state.The governor warned that “the state government will not hesitate to impose a statewide curfew, should that become the only way to enforce compliance and make everyone understand the collective danger that we face.”

The governor also announced that relevant federal authorities had been contacted to stop the Abuja-Kaduna train service in order to limit the danger from contact on the train and influx from people who might have been exposed to infected persons.Civil servants from Level 12 and below have also been directed to remain at home for the next 30 days, effective from today.

Workers providing essential services, especially in the health, security and emergency service sectors are, however, exempted from the directive.El-Rufai said: “Kaduna State Government has decided to move from advice to actual enforcement of its restrictions on large gatherings, especially in churches and mosques.

“Security agencies have been directed to ensure compliance across the state.“These agencies will also enforce compliance with the decision to close all schools, whether public or private, religious or secular, Islamiya or run by Christian missions.“The emphasis on prevention is the only logical thing to do because our health system cannot cope with an outbreak of Covid-19.

“It is better to impose restrictions and save lives, than to be complacent and bury victims.”Niger Imposes 12-hour CurfewNiger State government has restricted the movements of people throughout the state in the daytime following Governor Abubakar Sani Bello’s announcement of 12-hour state-wide curfew.

The curfew, according to the governor, is from 8.00 a.m to 8.00 p.m, the period most business activities take place and this would become effective from tomorrow.In a broadcast, Bello also said civil servants from level 1 – 12 should remain at home but those on essential services should move round to perform their duties.

The governor directed all traditional rulers to ensure Almajiri schools in their domains are closed immediately, while also banning all hawking and street begging.He also ordered the closure of all public and private schools and institutions in Niger State from Monday.

Bello reduced the number of people that could gather at a given event from 50 to 20 and directed that all public offices, including Ministries, Departments, and Agencies should provide hand washing items at the entrance of their facilities.Six FCT Area Councils Shut down

Also, the FCT Administration has directed the closure of all the six Area Council secretariats in the FCT indefinitely as a precaution to the spread of Covid-19.The affected Area Councils are Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Bwari, Kuje, Gwagwalada, Abaji, and Kwali.

In addition, all the workers in the affected secretariat have been ordered to stay at home.The Chairman of the FCT Association of Local Governments Nigeria (ALGON), Mr. Mustapha Danze, conveyed this decision yesterday when he addressed the media at AMAC secretariat on behalf of other council chairmen.

Danze, who is the Chairman of the Gwagwalada Area Council, said all the six council secretariats would remain closed pending when further directives would be issued.Bauchi Gov in Self–isolationBauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, went into self-isolation yesterday after having contact with former vice president Atiku Abubakar’s son, Mohammed, who tested positive for the virus.

According to a statement by the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Mukhtar Gidado, Mohammed went into self-isolation following “the report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that the son of the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, had tested positive for the COVID-19 upon his return from an international trip through Lagos.”

The statement said the governor, who recently returned from an official trip to Lagos, met with the Atiku’s son on an Aero Contractors flight where they shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.“The governor did not exhibit any symptom of the disease, but based on the recommendation of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, he will remain in isolation in order to avoid the risk of spreading the disease.”

The statement added that the blood sample of the governor had been taken for clinical test and for the period of the test, the governor and his entourage would remain in isolation.Osun Grants Civil Servants Two-week LeaveOsun State Government yesterday told its junior and middle-level civil servants to proceed on two-week leave effective from today as part of measures to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

In a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Prince Wole Oyebamiji, the precautionary measure was taken to forestall any possible outbreak of Covid-19 anywhere in the state.He stated: “All officers from Grade Level 1 – 12 in all services of the state should proceed on two weeks leave beginning from Tuesday (March 24).

“All officers on essential services in health and medical facilities, environmental sanitation, fire services, water corporation, and all other essential services, are, however, to report for duty as usual.”Aisha Buhari Advocates Total LockdownIn a related development, the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, yesterday called for a total lockdown across the country in a bid to fight COVID-19.

Aisha, who made the call on her Twitter handle, @aishambbuhari, said as much as governors’ decision to shut schools was commendable, it would be counter-productive with parents of schoolchildren going to work.According to her, keeping children away from school while exposing their parents to contacts with people would make no difference as the exposed parents would return to meet their children at home.

She added that only a total lockdown and sit-at-home declaration could avoid further spread of the disease.“It is commendable that state governors have closed down schools; however, this could be counterproductive if parents are still going to work. We should not isolate students and expose their parents.

APC, PDP Shut down SecretariatsThe All Progressives Congress (APC) has shut down its national secretariat in Abuja for two weeks.The National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has also directed a partial shutdown and skeletal activities at its national secretariat in Abuja from today.

The National Chairman of APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, while addressing the staff yesterday in Abuja, said if the situation did not improve, the shutdown might be extended.Oshiomhole noted that the decision to shut down the party secretariat was a result of the conversation held by National Working Committee (NWC) members.

Also, a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party was already adopting pre-emptive health safety measures to safeguard lives in all its offices nationwide.MONDAY MARCH 23, 2020Breaking: Nigeria Records Four New Cases of COVID-19, Bringing Total Number to 40

Martins IfijehNigeria had recorded four new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the country to 40.Stating this Monday night, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said of the four cases, three were from Lagos while one was from the Federal Capital Territory.

It said: “Two of these cases are returning travellers.”Eko Hotel Remains Open, Scales Down Services to Minimise Coronavirus RiskBy Demola OjoThe Eko Hotels and Suites has clarified its decision to scale down operations following misinterpretations which followed an earlier statement where it said it would be scaling down services.

According to a statement today by its management, the hotel takes pride in prioritizing the safety of its guests, staff and community and is taking extensive precautionary measures in fighting COVID-19.This informed the decision to only keep open Eko Signature hotel, Eko Hotel, 1415 Seafood/Steakhouse, Kuramo Sports Cafe, Lagoon Breeze and Calabash Bar, in adherence to government’s instructions of having not more than 20 people gathered in the same space.

“A significant number of our administrative staff have been advised to work from home. This is because we strongly concur with the precautionary measure of social distancing, in order to eliminate the spread of the COVID-19 virus,”” the statement said.

It further stated other measures to include; educating staff and providing visible information to guests about COVID-19 around all four hotel buildings; providing hand gloves and face masks to every security guard, especially those who check the temperature of everyone that uses any of the entrance gates into the hotels’ premises; mounting hand sanitizer dispensers near elevators, entry way to the halls and meeting rooms, and other public spaces around the hotels’ premises.

Other measures include making sure the housekeeping team is continually disinfecting all surfaces around the premises at intervals; providing hand gloves and face masks to all staff who have direct contact with guests within the hotels’ premises; encouraging staff to properly wash their hands with soap and water at 20 minute intervals and minimizing the movement of staff by housing the staff servicing its operations within the premises of the hotel.

Coronavirus: Ogun Police Release DetaineesKayode Fasua in AbeokutaAs the fear of more people contracting the killer Coronavirus disease heightens, the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Kenneth Ebrimson, Monday ordered the immediate release of all persons detained for minor offences in all police facilities across the state.

Ebrimson gave the order through a statement issued by the state’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Abimbola Oyeyemi.Oyeyemi, a deputy superintendent of police, said, “The CP has ordered the immediate release of all suspects being detained for minor offences in all police facilities across the state, as part of the preventive measure; while the police medical team has been directed to take the awareness campaign (on Coronavirus) to market places and detention facilities, to ensure public safety.”

However, the police authorities in the state also warned that following the order by the federal and Ogun state governments banning all forms of social and religious gathering, they were ready to embark on full enforcement of the banning order.“To that effect, all the command’s tactical squads as well as Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers have been activated to ensure the full implementation of the order and make sure that the order is obeyed to the letter,” the police spokesman stated.

He added that members of the public could reach the command through its control room number 08081770416 or 08081770419, if they noticed anywhere where the banning order is not being obeyed.Meanwhile, a cleric, Pastor Lai Bamidele, has warned law enforcement agents against the use of the Coronavirus pandemic to extort members of the public, stressing that this moment calls for sober reflection globally.

Bamidele, who is the General Overseer of Glorious End-Time Evangelical Ministries, told THISDAY in Ifo, Ogun State Monday that much as Christian leaders were willing to comply with the Under-50 gathering order aimed at safeguarding public health, overzealous policemen and other law enforcement agents should not capitalise on people’s vulnerability to intimidate or extort them.

“All over the world, countries had been taking preventive measures to combat the spread of the disease, but in our own case in Nigeria, we believe in the fire-brigade approach and relish taking to the bandwagon effect.“Some of the steps we are taking now that are affecting the socio-economic wellbeing of the country, would not have been necessary if we had safeguarded our ports of entry at the outbreak of the disease,” he remarked.

The cleric, however, urged Christians and Muslims in the country to keep praying and continue to be law-abiding, noting, “No problem is too difficult for God to solve.”COVID-19: In Ogun, It’s Now 20 Persons Per GatheringKayode Fasua in AbeokutaIn furtherance to its effort at curtailing the spread of Coronavirus, the Ogun State Government Monday lowered the threshold of those who may gather in one place at a time, from 50 to 20.

The latest action thus implies that no church or mosque can congregate with more than 20 persons at a time, and that those attending burial, wedding or sundry ceremonies cannot exceed 20Announcing the latest development in a statement Monday, the Chief Press Secretary o Governor Dapo Abiodun, Mr. Kunle Somorin, said, “The decisions were taken after the daily review of developments at a meeting chaired by the Incident Commander, His Excellency, Prince Dapo Abiodun, MFR, Governor of Ogun State”.

He said apart from that, the government had also resolved that all heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies as well as the Local Governments are to draw up rosters that would ensure that no more than 20 percent of their workforce across all cadres work daily, “thus ensuring that most staff come to work once a week”.

Health workers, fire service and Ogun State Emergency Management Authority (OGSEMA) are exempted from this arrangement. Also, all teachers in Public Primary and Secondary Schools are to proceed on their vacation immediately.“All Government offices, irrespective of where they are, are to maintain social distancing, provide hand sanitizers and hand washing facilities, among other hygiene measures, at all times,” the statement added.

However, the state government has also extended the frontiers of the restriction orders to include a ban on visits to all government offices, stating that they are put on hold until further notice.“Also, banks, telecommunications and other similar service providers that offer services in hubs and or bays are required to ensure that no more than 20 clients are in their service areas at a time.

“Social distancing must be maintained between those who will be on the queue or waiting halls by at least five feet between clients. Those outside the halls should maintain similar standards of social distancing,”The government also set some rules for marketers and commercial vehicle operators, warning those whoever flouts the order will be accordingly dealt with.

Meanwhile, the government said some religious leaders that flouted the restriction order on the number of congregation last Friday and Sunday respectively, had tendered their apologies to government and promised to comply accordingly.“Although, the leadership of the religious organisations involved had apologised to the government and people of the State for the overt indiscretion and promised to observe all measures associated with the fight against COVID-19 henceforth, government wishes to reiterate its commitment to public safety through various measures, including the enforcement of the ban on high-density gathering.

“Henceforth, any group of more than 20 persons that congregate in the name of any meeting – spiritual or secular – shall be visited with the full wrath of the law. The State Task Force has been mandated to ensure full and total compliance,” the state government warned.

COVID-19: FCTA Impounds 72 vehicles for OverloadingOlawale Ajimotokan in AbujaIn spite of the directive by the FCT Administration against overloading of vehicles to stem the spread of Coronavirus in the nation’s capital, at least 72 drivers have reportedly contravened that order.

Chairman of the Ministerial Task Team on Decongestion of Traffic, Attah Ikharo, told newsmen in Abuja that 72 vehicles were impounded across the territory by the enforcement team comprising men of the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Directorate of Road Transport Services and the Police Force.

“I was at Nyanya this morning where we observed the level of compliance. I observed at Dutsen-Alhaji, Area one by Rain Oil and from what I gathered from different government agencies, about 72 cars were impounded as at 12noon today,” Attah said.He said drivers were only allowed to carry only three passengers at the back, as against their practise to load four passengers in the vehicles.

He said the administration was also discussing with drivers of high capacity buses to reduce, if possible, totally eliminate standing on high capacity buses, adding the enforcement team will also discourage overcrowding at the entry points where a conductor will have some people hanging with him.

“Though we have not been able to make any arrest on that one yet, we are hoping that by Monday we will commence intensive enforcement on high capacity buses, to discourage those who are standing and those who hand around the doors.“But we are appealing to commercial motorists particularly those of high capacity buses to please live their windows open for proper ventilation

and ensure passengers by the windows live them open because often times passengers by the window side want to take air that is sufficient for them without considering other passengers inside the buses.”COVID-19: Lagos Police Arrest Three Pastors for Flouting Govt’s Directive

Sunday EhigiatorThree pastors were arrested by the Lagos State Police for conducting church services last Sunday in violation of the state government’s stipulation of maximum of 20 persons per gathering.The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Operations, Lagos State, Mohammed Ali, confirmed the arrest of the pastors on Monday, adding that they were not detained but warned to comply with the government’s directive to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

He said: “I also implore churches and other religious organisations to follow suit.“Any religious leader caught disobeying the directive of the state government would face the consequences,” he added.COVID 19: Borno IDPs Camps on LockdownBy Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

All internally displaced persons camps in Borno state are on lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus in the state.The lockdown announced by the state government on Monday, imposes a four-week ban on visitors to all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the state, and it is one of the state’s strategy to containing the outbreak of the virus in the state.

The governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum had last week appointed the state’s deputy governor, Umar Kadafur to chair a high powered multi-stakeholder response team for coronavirus.In the team are all agencies of the United Nations led by the World Health Organization and Borno’s ministries of health, education, transport, information, local governments, religious affairs and agencies involved with humanitarian affairs.

The lockdown on IDPs camps was announced by Chairperson of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (BOSEMA), Hajiya Yabawa Kolo who is a member of the Response Team appointed by the governor.Kolo announced the ban during a meeting with 51 camp managers on Monday in Maiduguri.

According to her, the state took the decision as one of the strategies to prevent the transfer of the virus between the camps and the larger society with its associated dangers.She said the measure became necessary as some of the neighbouring countries like Chad Republic and Cameroon had recorded suspected cases.

She lamented that despite closure of the borders by the neighbouring countries, there was still influx of IDPs into the state.The Borno SEMA Boss directed all camp managers from Gamboru-Ngala, Damasak, Kalabalge, Banki, Bama and Monguno not to accept IDPs from any neighbouring country into their camps.

She said; “We know we have a lot of threat around us following record of suspected cases of the virus in Cameroon and Chad and we have some border towns very close to those countries.“We do not want to go to the issue of response because even in developed countries, it was difficult for them to contain this pandemic. So at our own level, we are positioning ourselves to see how best we can stop the virus from transmitting in the state” she noted.

COVID-19: Declare State of Emergency Now, Falana Tells BuhariBy Martins IfijehLagos lawyer, Femi Falana, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to issue a proclamation of a state of emergency in Nigeria immediately, as part of measures to halt the spread of COVID-19.

He said this was the legal backing required for the enforcement of measures against the disease.Falana, in a statement made available to THISDAY Monday, said Nigerians, especially highly placed political and religious leaders, have ignored government directive because the measures were not backed by any law in the country.

He said: “In order to stem the dangerous trend the government should put necessary legal measures and mechanisms in place without any further delay.“In particular, the attention of the Nigerian people ought to be drawn to section 45 of the Constitution which provides that the fundamental rights of citizens to personal liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and association etc may be infringed upon or restricted in the interest of public health and public safety.

“Once the proclamation is issued and published, it is required to be approved by a resolution supported by two-thirds majority of each house of the National Assembly. Once the measures are set out in the said proclamation they will have the force of law capable of being enforced by the police and other security agencies.”

He said if President Buhari fails to declare a state of emergency, state governors should proclaim Executive Orders to address the health challenge.FG Cancels Heads State of Lake Chad Basin Meeting over Coronavirus.*Begins contact tracing of coronavirus patients

Olawale Ajimotokan in AbujaPresident Muhammadu Buhari has cancelled the meeting of the Heads of State of the Chad Basin Commission scheduled for next week, over the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made this disclosure on Monday in Abuja.

He said that even though some political and religious leaders had either denied the existence of coronavirus or defied the directives to avoid a large gathering, President Buhari took the decision as a leader to demonstrate great responsibility at this time so as to avoid putting the lives of the general public in danger.

Mohammed also vowed that the long arm of government would soon catch up with those who willfully flout the directives aimed at checking the spread of the coronavirus disease.He also sought the cooperation of the public in the area of contact tracing by the health services to find people who may have been exposed to the contagion, saying those who have come into close contact with others who have coronavirus are at higher risk of infection and of potentially infecting others.

“For those who will not cooperate by submitting to the authorities, as required, the government will use all lawful means at its disposal to trace and bring them in,” Mohammed said.More to follow …Covid-19: Atiku Releases Son’s Itinerary Since Arrival in Nigeria

*Says son’s wife, child tested negativeChuks Okocha in AbujaFormer vice president and presidential candidate of the PDP in the last general election, Atiku Abubakar, has clarified the circumstances that led to one of his sons testing positive to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement signed by his media aide, Paul Ibe, the former vice president said that the clarification was to stem the various misinformArion about his son testing positive for the virus.According to Atiku, “The clinical case returned to the country on 17th March via Switzerland from some business engagements in France and Switzerland.

“He attended a private meeting of six (6) persons same day in Lagos, stayed in his private house for the night and took an Aero 5.20pm flight to Abuja on the 18th”.He said that his son did not travel with his family or any other but travelled alone by Emirates Airline and moreover that he wore face mask as a precautionary measure since his arrival in Nigeria.

According to Atiku, his son did not show symptoms of infection and that he voluntarily placed a call to NCDC on arrival in Abuja late on the 18th to inform them he had returned from COVID-19 prone country and desired to be tested.He further stated, “On the 19th, NCDC took his blood sample which result came positive on the 20th. He subsequently went into self isolation to protect his family within his own house”.

In the meantime, he said that his son’s wife and their child had since tested negative, adding that the two persons are currently in self isolation.The former vice president therefore said, “We urge members of the public to disregard the perfidious information that the case accessed open locations. He was not at Play Lounge nor any other club in Abuja as being mischievously bandied about”.

He also explained that his son neither attended the Friday Jumu’a prayers nor any social gathering until his evacuation to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital on the 20th where he is being treated and managed.He thanked Nigerians for their prayers and support through this difficult time, adding, “Once again, it needs to be restated that the risk and danger of #COVID19 is real. Ensure you follow the World Health Organization and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines on how to stay safe”.

Covid -19 Forces Indefinite Closure of FCT Area CouncilsOlawale Ajimotokan in AbujaAll the six Area Council Secretariats in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have been shut down indefinitely as a precaution to the spread of Covid-19, also known as Coronavirus, in the territory.

The affected Area Councils are Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Bwari, Kuje, Gwagwalada, Abaji and Kwali.As a fallout of this development, all the workers in the affected secretariats have been ordered to stay at home.The Chairman of the FCT Association of Local Governments Nigeria (ALGON), Mustapha Danze, conveyed this decision Monday when he addressed the media at AMAC secretariat on behalf of other council chairmen.

Danze, who is the Chairman of the Gwagwalada Area Council, said all the six council secretariats will remain closed pending when further directives are issued in the future.He said all council staff were expected to strictly comply with this directive.

The six Area council chairmen disclosed that the decision to close the secretariats was reached when they met on Monday. They also resolved that the decision was taken in the interest of the staff and all FCT residents.Coronavirus: NSCIA Orders Closure of All Mosque in FCT

Olawale Ajimotokan in AbujaThe Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has ordered immediate closure of all mosques in the Federal Capital Territory as a way of stemming the steady spread of the coronavirus contagion among the Muslim faithful during prayers.

The Director of Administration of NSCIA, Alhaji Yusuf Nwoha, said in a statement issued on Monday that the decision was taken on the same day by the council under the leadership of its President, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, after consultations with Muslim scholars and other relevant stakeholders.

Nwoha said that the order for the mosques to close was with immediate effect.While describing the decision as hard, he said Muslims should see it as necessary and join hands with federal government and its agencies in the sustained fight against the spread of Covid-19, which has already been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organizations (WHO).

He added that the decision to close down Mosques was not alien to Islamic tradition and culture as it could be traced to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, when under such situation, the Mu’adhdhin was asked to inform the faithful to pray in their dwellings.

“The NSCIA therefore solicits the cooperation of the Imams and all Muslims in the FCT to ensure compliance to this directive as it is in the interest of all and sundry,” the statement said.Access Bank Shuts down Lagos Branch over Visit by Customer Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus

Ayodeji AkeOne of the leading banks in Nigeria, Access Bank, has shutdown its Ligali Ayorinde, Lagos branch over visit to the branch by one of its customers who has now tested positive for coronavirus.The bank in a statement made available to THISDAY Monday said a customer who visited the branch March 16 had tested positive for the virus.

Access bank disclosed that the customer was currently being monitored at Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba.It said customers who visited the bank last week should commence 14-day self-quarantine, adding that if any one develops symptoms, they should contact NCDC through their toll-free lines.

The statement read: “We have just confirmed that an individual who visited our Ligali Ayorinde Branch on Monday March 16, 2020, had tested positive for COVID-19. He was symptom-free as at the time of visit and he is currently being monitored at an isolation centre in Yaba.

“In line with our emergency response plan and following regulatory practices, the branch has been temporarily closed for thorough disinfection. Persons who had any contact with the concerned individual are currently in isolation.“Should you feel sick or exhibit any of the COVID-19 symptoms, please contact the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on 08009700001 or send a text message to 08099555577 to find out what to do,” it said.

Aisha Buhari Calls for Total LockdownOmololu Ogunmade in AbujaThe First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, Monday called for total lockdown across the country in a bid to fight COVID-19.Mrs. Buhari who made the call on her Twitter handle, @aishambbuhari, said as much as governors’ decision to shut schools is commendable, it will yet be counter-productive as long as parents of school children go to work.

According to her, keeping children away from school while exposing their parents to contacts with people will make no difference as the exposed parents will return to meet their children at home.She reasoned that only a total lockdown and sit at home declaration can avoid further spread of the disease.

“It is commendable that state governors have closed down schools; however, this could be counterproductive if parents are still going to work. We should not isolate students and expose their parents.“It us remember that they will meet at home.Niger Imposes Curfew over Coronavirus

Laleye Dipo in MinnaNiger state government has restricted the movement of people throughout the state in the day time following Governor Abubakar Sani Bello’s announcement of a 12-hour statewide curfew.The curfew according to the Governor is from 8am to 8pm the period most business activities take place and will become effective on Wednesday.

In a broadcast to the people of the state, Bello also said that civil servants on grades level 1 to 12 should remain at home with the exception of workers on essential services who are allowed move round to perform their duties.The governor in the broadcast directed all traditional rulers to ensure almajiri schools in their domain were closed immediately while also banning all hawking and street begging.

The governor declared: “Niger State Government will enforce all preventive measures as advised by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), especially social distancing and hand washing routines” adding that : “All public and private schools and institutions in Niger State are to remain closed” from Monday.

Bello reduced the number of people that can gather at a given event from 50 to 20 directing that all public offices including Ministries, Departments and Agencies should provide hand washing items at the entrance of their facilities.“The general public including market men and women must practice social distancing and hand washing with soap regularly” he ordered before advising the public to be “vigilant, adhere strictly to personal hygiene, social distancing and seek medical attention in the event of symptoms.

“We also call on individuals with travel history from countries and states with cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to ensure self-isolation and report to the nearest Health facility in the state”Bello disclosed that government had strengthened its surveillance system to detect any case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) including investigation and monitoring of any outbreak adding that the Isolation Centre at General Hospital, Minna and isolation rooms in all the General Hospitals have been upgraded.

Bauchi Gov Quarantined after Contact with Atiku’s Son who Tested Positive for CoronavirusFrom Segun Awofadeji in BauchiBauchi state Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, has gone into self – isolation after having contact with Atiku Abubaka’s son who has been tested positive for coronavirus.

A press release signed by the Senior Secial Assistant on Media to the Governor, Comrade Mukhtar Gidado, Monday, said “This followed the report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control(NCDC) that the son of the former Vice President, Mohammed Atiku Abubakar was tested positive to the Coronavirus upon his return from an international trip through Lagos”.

Governor Bala Mohammed who recently returned from an official trip to Lagos, met with Mohammed Atiku Abubakar in the Aero Contractors aircraft where they shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.“The governor did not exhibit any symptom of the disease, but based on the recommendation of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, he will remain in isolation in order to avoid the risk of spread of the disease”.

The release noted that the blood sample of the governor had been taken for clinical test, adding that for the period of the test, the governor and his entourage will remain in isolation pending the outcome of the clinical result.Breaking: Lagos Records New Case of COVID-19

By Martins IfijehThe Lagos State government has confirmed a new case of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the state to 25, and that of the country to 36.Announcing this on its Twitter handle, @LSMOH, the Lagos State Government said the patient arrived Nigeria from Ukraine since March 15.

The state has so far recorded three cases Monday. The other two had travel history to the United Kingdom. They both came into the country March 13 and March 20, 2020.Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said it will no longer announce individual cases henceforth, adding that each states will update the public on cases in their location.

Former PPMC MD, Achimugu, Dies of COVID-19*Family mournsBy Martins IfijehThe former Managing Director, Petroleum Pricing Monitoring Corporation (PPMC), Suleiman Achimugu, has become the first casualty from COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.Late Achimugu was said to have returned from the United Kingdom Tuesday after undergoing surgical procedure for underlying illness.

Announcing the death Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said: “The case was a 67 year old male who returned to Nigeria following a medical procedure in the United Kingdom.“He had underlying medical conditions, including multiple myeloma and diabetes, and was undergoing chemotherapy.”

Achimugu died in the early hours of Monday.Of the 35 cases recorded in Nigeria, 32 are currently on isolation and treatment, two have been discharged, while one has died.Meanwhile, the family of the deceased has said that his remains have been buried according to Islamic injunction.

The statement signed by Abubakar Achimugu on behalf of the family called for prayer for the repose of his soul and healing for all other Coronavirus patients undergoong treatment.The statement read.“Our family is deeply saddened to inform you of the sudden deof the familyath of our beloved Father, Uncle, Brother and friend. Engr. Suleiman Achimugu (former Md of PPMC).

“He died of COVID 19 on 22/03/2020 some days after he arrived Nigeria from the UK. He was in self isolation upon his return from the UK and personally called NCDC after experiencing some discomfort that are related to COVID 19 symptoms.“He tested positive and was promptly evacuated to the specialist hospital. He died while recieving treatment.

“We implore the general public to pray upon his soul and the recovery of infected persons .Your thoughts and prayers would be appreciated.“Please maintain the public social distancing and restriction advice as we all walk through this very difficult time.

“He has since been buried according to Islamic rites.May Allah SWA have mercy on him.Ameen”Covid-19: Presidency Writes N’Assembly, Wants Senators, Reps Returning to Nigeria to Undergo Screening* Visitors turned back at National Assembly gateChuks Okocha in Abuja

The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, has written to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to ensure that members of the National Assembly returning to the country present themselves for screening at the airports.

In two separate letters to the two presiding officers of the Senate and House of Representatives dated March 21, 2020 and signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, the presidency complained that Senators and Members of the House of Representatives refused to present themselves for screening at the airports.

Also at the National Assembly gate, Monday, many visitors were turned back by officials of the sergeant at arms office manning the gate. The visitors were asked to go back and wait till there would be information for them to visit.They were told that the Senate in particular had stopped receiving visitors till further notice.

Even journalists without proper means of identifications were turned back. This may not be unconnected with the Senate decision that it has closed down its gallery as well as stopped all public hearing till further notice.The letter sighted by THISDAY at the National Assembly complex said the letter was sequel to the complaint by the Minister of Health in the attitude of the lawmakers, urging the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to use their offices to ensure that the lawmakers comply and ensure that they are screened at the airports.

The letters stated that screening of people arriving from airports remain one of the defence the federal government has over the coronavirus pandemic.The letter titled COVID-19 AIRPORT Screening read thus:“It has been brought to the Honourobte Minister of Health recently reported to this office that some Senators are refusing to subject themselves to medical screening at airports.

“As you are aware, these airport screenings are our primary line of defense and refusal by any citizen to subject to these tests is a threat to our nation.“Accordingly, you are kindly requested to direct all Senators who returned to Nigeria from foreign trips to report themselves to the nearest NCDC test centre with immediate effect”.

The same letter with the same content was written to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.During Thursday plenary sitting of the Senate, some senators complained of space distancing of their colleagues that just returned from overseas trip.

It was as a result of this, that the senate went into a closed door session after which they announced a partial closure of the Senate to the public.President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, announced the decision of the Senate to suspend public hearings and restrict access to its chamber over growing concerns of Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread in the country.

The announcement came after the Senate embarked on a closed session at the resumption of plenary to deliberate on the devastating impact which a spread of the disease may cause in the absence of preventive measures.“The Senate resolves to suspend all public hearings till further notice as a result of the Coronavirus, COVID-19.

“In addition, the Senate gallery will remain closed to the public till further notice including excursions from schools and organisations from Tuesday 24th of March, 2020,” Lawan said.Breaking: Nigeria Records First Death from COVID-19Martins IfijehThe federal government has confirmed the first death from COVID-19.

Announcing this Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the case was a 67 year old male who returned to Nigeria following a medical procedure in the United Kingdom.It said: “He had underlying medical conditions, including multiple myeloma and diabetes, and was undergoing chemotherapy.”

Of the 35 cases, 32 are currently on isolation and treatment, two have been discharged, while one has died.More details later ….Breaking: Nigeria Records First Death from COVID-19Martins IfijehThe federal government has confirmed the first death from COVID-19.

Announcing this Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the case was a 67 year old male who returned to Nigeria following a medical procedure in the United Kingdom.It said: “He had underlying medical conditions, including multiple myeloma and diabetes, and was undergoing chemotherapy.”

Of the 35 cases, 32 are currently on isolation and treatment, two have been discharged, while one has died.More details later ….COVID-19: MTN Orders Staff to Work from HomeBy Chiamaka OzulumbaFollowing the lockdown of social gatherings to 20 persons per meeting point, in compliance, MTN Nigeria has announced that its staff would now work from home.

The company’s Senior Manager, External Relations, Funso Aina said that the telcos operations would continue to run at full scale with essential staff working limited hours on-site.He said: “MTN Nigeria has directed its team to start working from home from Monday as parts of precautionary measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We also plan to announce the temporary closure of some of our stores.Those that remain open will operate reduced hours and maintain strict and social distance measures.“The situation unfolding around the world is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime and is a reminder that we are all more connected than we ever know,” he added.

Nigeria Records Five New Cases of COVID-19, Bringing Total Number to 35By Martins IfijehNigeria has recorded five new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 35 in the country.Announcing this on its Twitter handle, NCDCgov Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said: “Five new cases of COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria: Two in FCT, two in Lagos, and one in Edo.”

It said two of the cases were returning travellers from the United Kingdom.Of the 35 cases, two have been discharged.More details later..Bolivia Suspends Presidential Election over COVID-19An electoral court has postponed Bolivia’s general election over the COVID-19, according to local media.

Voters were due to head to the polls on May 3 to elect a permanent successor to former President Evo Morales, who resigned in November.According to the Pesident of the Supreme Election Tribunal Salvador Romero,Bolivia’s congress will have to enact legislation in order to select a new date for the elections.

Breaking; Atiku’s Son Tests Positive for CoronavirusSon of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has tested positive for coronavirus.Annoincing this on his twitter handle @atiku, the former vice president who was also the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 general election said the National Centre for Disease Control had been duly informed.

He also said his infected son had been moved to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital Abuja for treatment.The NCDC had earlier on Sunday put the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria at 30. It is however unclear if Atiku’s son is among the 30 cases or a fresh case..

Atiku’s Son Tests Positive as COVID-19 Cases Escalate to 30•Lagos now has 22, FCT 4, Ogun 2, Ekiti 1, Oyo 1•Churches defy mass gathering restriction, hold services•Sanwo-Olu directs civil servants to stay at home for 14 days•CJN asks judicial officers to comply with social distancing

•IG directs AIGs, CPs to enforce restriction orders, says citizens should stay away from police stations•Global death toll rises to 13,799, confirmed cases hit 322,278 in 189 countries, 100 die in 24 hours in US, UK’s body count now 244•German Chancellor Merkel quarantined, US senators seek medical advice after colleague tests positive

Our CorrespondentsThe first high profile case of COVID-19 broke yesterday as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar announced that his son had tested positive for the pandemic.Atiku’s announcement came through his Twitter and Facebook platforms last night, several hours after the federal government had said eight new cases of COVID-19 in Lagos, Oyo and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), had brought the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 30, spread over four states and the FCT.

Although the former vice president did not divulge the identity of the son, he said he had duly informed the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and that the son was moved to Gwagwalada Specialist Teaching Hospital in Abuja for treatment and management.

He said: “My son has tested positive to coronavirus. @NCDCGov has been duly informed, and he has been moved to Gwagwalada Specialist Teaching Hospital in Abuja for treatment and management. I will appreciate it if you have him in your prayers. Stay safe, coronavirus is real. -AA.”

A close family source told THISDAY that the son, who returned from Switzerland recently, is responding to treatment and is in a stable condition.The global death toll from the pandemic has since jumped to 13,799, with 322,278 persons confirmed to be positive in 189 countries across six continents, compelling the World Health Organisation (WHO) to warn Nigeria and other countries affected that lockdown approach alone can’t defeat the growing spread of the disease.

Following the increasing cases in the country, the federal government and some state governments had shut down schools and international airports, advising citizens to observe social distancing by avoiding the gathering of more then 20 people.Despite the restrictions, many churches across the country held services yesterday, increasing the possibilities of an escalation of the pandemic in the country.

Concerned by the disobedience to the restrictions, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, yesterday ordered Zonal Inspectors-General of Police and State Police Commands Commissioners to enforce social restriction orders imposed by government at all levels.

He also directed the Zonal AIGs and Command CPs to guard against cases of unnecessary arrests and detention of suspects, telling citizens to stay away from police stations.Announcing the new cases on its Twitter handle yesterday, @NCDCgov, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said six of them were from Lagos, while one each is from Oyo State and the FCT.

It said: “The three cases from Lagos had a travel history to high-risk countries in the last seven days. They have all been placed under isolation and treatment.“Breaking down these figures means Lagos has recorded 19 cases, Abuja four, Ogun two, Oyo one and Ekiti one.

“Of the total 27 cases, two have been discharged. We are working closely with the affected states, including the FCT identify and follow up with contacts. If you have returned to Nigeria from any country in the last 14 days, please stay in self-isolation.”

In a separate update, NCDC confirmed three more cases of COVID-19 in Lagos, bringing the number of recorded cases in the state as at yesterday to six, and that of the country to 30.Stating this on its Twitter handle Sunday, @NCDCgov, the centre said two of the latest three new cases were returning travellers while one was a contact of a confirmed case.

It said: “As at 05:28 pm on March 22, there are 30 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with no deaths.”The Lagos State Government through the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, gave further details on the first three new cases from the state, noting that one of the three cases was a 51-year-old Briton, who arrived in Nigeria on March 8 via BA75 flight.

He said: “The second patient is a Nigerian on connecting flight KL0582 London Amsterdam/KL0587 Amsterdam to Lagos. He arrived in Nigeria on March 14.“The third case is a 65-year-old citizen of the United States of America who arrived in Lagos about six weeks ago.”

In a related development, the Governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde, who doubles as the Chairman, State COVID-19 Task Force said the case from the state had been placed under isolation and treatment.He said: “The COVID-19 confirmation test for the suspected case at Bodija has come back positive. The result was released at 17:35 PM of March 21, 2020. Oyo State Public Health Officials are collaborating with the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan’s team on the case.

“A follow up on the Ekiti COVID-19 case revealed that the person was picked up directly from Lagos Airport to a private apartment in Ona Ara Local Government Area.“The Health Authorities have contacted the family concerned and the community has been alerted for intensified contact tracing and self-isolation of identified close contacts.

“The information given that he stayed in some hotels in Ibadan has been found to be false.”He also stated that another returnee from Texas, USA, has also been identified at Oluyole Local Government Area, adding that she has been kept in self-isolation with close monitoring by the state’s epidemiological team.

Makinde urged all recent returnees to identify themselves to health ministry officials and self-isolate for 14 days.“We have released funds for Activation of Emergency Operation Centre at the Ministry of Health and establishment of Diagnostic Centre for the screening of Coronavirus and other related infectious diseases to be stationed at the UCH, Ibadan,” he said.

The governor said the equipping of the newly designated Oyo State Infectious Disease Centre at Olodo that has the capacity for over 100 cases had started, releasing telephone helplines of the state Ministry of Health to be contacted in case of any suspected case around the state as 08038210122; 08023229267; 08073431342.

Churches Defy Mass Gathering Restriction, Hold ServicesHowever, many churches in at least 15 states and the FCT yesterday defied the restriction on mass gathering and held their normal Sunday services.The 15 states include: Bauchi, Enugu, Katsina, Ebonyi, Ogun, Taraba, Kwara, Sokoto, Kogi, Benue, Kano, Kaduna, Oyo, Adamawa and Plateau.

However, most churches in Lagos and Osun States adhered to the restriction, while Ondo and Ekiti States recorded partial compliance.THISDAY gathered that churches in Jos, Plateau State held their usual services yesterday without restrictions.It was also gathered that the congregation mixed up during praise and worship time, with only a handful of members seen with face masks at the beginning of services, but they soon removed them as the services went on.

At some of the churches visited by THISDAY in the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) in Abuja, normal church services were being observed with a huge turnout, although there were few places where the attendance was low.Sanwo-Olu Directs Civil Servants to Stay Home for 14 Days

In Lagos State that has 22 cases, the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday directed all workers under the state government to observe a stay-at-home order for 14 days in the wake of the increasing cases of COVID-19 in the state.Addressing journalists at the State House Marina, Sanwo-Olu said the directive would take effect from today, adding that all officers from Grade 1-12 are to observe it.

The governor urged members of the public to refrain from visiting the state secretariat, urging them to utilise other available options to carry out their transactions, including online and via phones.The governor, however, added that the directive would not apply to first responders, including staff of LAWMA, LASEMA, Fire Service, LASAMBUS, and LASEPA among others.

He also encouraged private-owned organisations to take a cue from the state government and direct their staff to work from home for the period.IG Orders AIGs, CPs to Enforce Social Restriction OrdersAs part of the containment efforts, the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu, at the weekend directed the Zonal Inspectors-General of Police and State Police Commands to enforce social restriction orders imposed by government at all levels.

He also directed the Zonal AIGs and Command CPs to guard against cases of unnecessary arrests and detention of suspects.The IG directed them “to ensure that all legitimate orders given in pursuant to the containment efforts are strictly enforced within their areas of jurisdiction.”

The IG, in a statement by Force Headquarters, said the detention of suspects must be reduced to the barest minimum and that only very serious cases such as terrorism, armed robbery, homicide and other non-bailable offences should warrant detention.He further directed that adequate measures be emplaced to screen persons to be committed into police custody.

Adamu “ordered Command CPs to immediately publicise phone numbers of their Command Control Rooms, Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and other tactical commanders using the conventional and non-conventional media in order to facilitate alternative interacting and reporting options between the public and the police.”

The statement signed by Force PRO, Mr. Frank Mba, affirmed that in compliance with the federal government’s directive that all tertiary institutions be shut, the IG has ordered the immediate closure of the Nigeria Police Academy as well as all police primary and secondary schools nationwide while the force medical services were empowered and directed to step up sensitisation programmes across commands, formations and barracks in the country.

Police Detainees Regain Freedom in OgunPerhaps in compliance with the IG’s directive, the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Kenneth Ebrimson, yesterday ordered the immediate release of all persons detained for minor offences in all police facilities across the state to avoid the spread of the pandemic.

Ebrimson gave the order through a statement by the state’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Abimbola Oyeyemi.Oyeyemi, a deputy superintendent of police, said: “The CP has ordered the immediate release of all suspects being detained for minor offences in all police facilities across the state, as part of the preventive measure; while the police medical team has been directed to take the awareness campaign (on COVID-19) to market places and detention facilities, to ensure public safety.”

Eko Hotel Announces Partial Closure of Its ServicesAlso following the lockdown of social and religious gatherings to 20 persons per meeting point, in compliance, Eko Hotel & Suites has announced a partial closure of its services because of COVID-19.

In a statement issued yesterday on its Facebook page, the hotel said it will temporarily close down some of its services including the spa, gym, pool, conference and banquet facilities.“It is with great difficulty, but with the safety of you and our community in mind, that we have made the decision to temporarily close our Eko Suites Hotel, Eko Gardens Hotel, 88 Restaurant, Lagos Irish Pub, Sky Restaurant, My Thai Restaurant, Red Chinese Restaurant, Crossroads, the spa, gym, pool, and conference and banquet facilities.

“However, part of Eko Signature and Eko Hotel, as well as Kuramo Sports Cafe, Calabash Bar, Lagoon Breeze, 1415 Seafood and Steakhouse are still operational,” it said.CJN Urges Judicial Officers to Comply with Social DistancingFrom the judiciary came the news that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, has directed all judicial officers to comply with the guidelines issued by the NCDC and other relevant bodies towards containing the spread of the deadly disease.

Muhammad, who gave the directive in a circular issued on March 20, 2020, to judicial officers said the need to comply is of utmost importance because the disease which is spreading wide and fast has no known cure.The CJN in the circular titled: “Preventive measures on the Spread of COVID-19 and the Protection of Justices, Judges and Staff of Courts,” said that the matter is of grave concern to the judiciary, hence the need to reduce crowd in the courts and order judiciary environments.

It stated: “Consequently you are expected to take all necessary steps to ensure that the safety of management and staff within your jurisdiction by averting large gathering of people in view of the risk it may pose.“As you all know, all federal judicial bodies are expected to continue work, however, as much as possible, efforts must be made to ensure that members of the public coming for official matters/meetings/conferences within your jurisdiction do not exceed the recommended number.”

Lockdown Alone Can’t Tackle Outbreak, WHO Warns Nigeria, OthersAs the death toll from COVID-19 jumped to 13,799, with 322,278 persons confirmed to be positive, WHO has warned Nigeria and other countries affected that lockdown approach alone can’t defeat the growing spread of the disease.

Although an estimated 96,000 people have so far recovered from the disease worldwide, at least 10, 000 people are still in critical condition, a situation that predicts more fatalities will be recorded.WHO urged governments to show leadership to defeat the virus.

A WHO Chief Emergency expert, Mr. Mike Ryann, who spoke yesterday on BBC said: “What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them.“The danger right now with the lockdowns is that, if we don’t put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.”

US Records 100 Deaths in 24 Hours, Senator Tests PositiveThe novel coronavirus epidemic has claimed more than 100 lives in the past 24 hours in the United States, bringing the total to 389 deaths as of Sunday, according to an authoritative tally from Johns Hopkins University.

According to the university, the states of New York (114 deaths), Washington (94 deaths) and California (28 deaths) have been the hardest hit by far. The virus has infected at least 30,000 people nationwide.Senators in the country panicked yesterday as one of them, Senator Rand Paul, revealed he had tested positive to COVID-19 after mingling with his colleagues for days as they negotiated a new set of economic stimulus.

He becomes the third member of Congress to test positive, raising concerns of senators who are now seeking medical advice on what to do.UK’s Body Count Rises to 244In Britain, 11 more people have died after testing positive for COVID-19 in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – taking the UK total to 244, according to Sky News yesterday.

There have been seven fatalities in Wales over the last 24 hours, taking its total to 12 and a further three in Scotland, where the number of deaths overall now stands at 10.German Chancellor Angela Merkel QuarantinedIn Germany, the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has quarantined herself at home after having contact with her doctor who tested positive for COVID-19.

Her spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said she was informed of her doctor’s test result on Sunday shortly after a press conference.Seibert said the doctor had administered a precautionary vaccine against pneumococcal infection on Merkel on Friday.He said the chancellor would undergo regular tests in the coming days, and that she would continue to work from home in the meantime.

The country has lost 93 people to the disease with 24,806 confirmed cases………………………………………………………………………………Nigeria’s COVID-19 State of the StatesMartins IfijehWhile all 36 states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory are gradually locking down activities in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, the disease seems to have intensified its coverage in the country.

As at yesterday, it has infected 30 persons, comprising of 28 Nigerians, an Italian and one American in four states and the FCT; a situation that has now prompted the federal and state governments to initiate more stringent measures to halt its community spread.

The states so far affected are Ogun, Lagos, Oyo and Ekiti. FCT, the seat of power has also recorded cases.Ogun StateUnlike Ebola outbreak in 2014 where the Liberian index case, Mr. Patrick Sawyer, was recorded against Lagos State, the index case from COVID-19 outbreak was reported to have been identified in Lafarge Africa Plc in Ogun State for suspicion of having the virus after he developed its symptoms, prompting his host to call on the Lagos State government, which eventually evacuated him to the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba where he tested positive to the disease.

Eight days after, a staff of Lafarge Africa, who had contact with the Italian index case also tested positive to the disease.They have both been discharged from the Lagos isolation centre after their viral load regressed back to negative.Lagos StateLagos state is presently the epicenter of the disease in Nigeria as 22 persons have been confirmed to have tested positive to the virus in the cosmopolitan state.

It recorded its first case of the disease March 17 when a 30 year old female, who returned from the United Kingdom tested positive to the virus.She was independent of the Italian case. She is presently under treatment.On March 18, the state recorded five more cases.

Just barely 24 hours after, it recorded another three cases. One of the cases had contact with the 30 year old Nigerian woman who had tested positive to the virus March 17.By March 21, Lagos recorded another seven cases; a development that prompted the state government to institute a number of stringent measures against the virus, as it was believed there could be community spread of the virus.

The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, closed down schools, reduced religious gatherings to 50 per time, and called on residents of the state to limit their movements to crowded places.Sunday, the state again recorded another six confirmed cases, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 22.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said many of the cases were recovering.Ekiti StateWhile Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, was announcing the five confirmed cases in Lagos March 18, he also mentioned that the 6th case was from Ekiti.

While most residents of Ekiti believed the Ekiti case had contact with a diseased American, who was suspected to be positive to the virus in the state, the state government traced his status to one of the confirmed cases in Lagos.Oyo StateOyo is the latest state to be affected by the virus. Its Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, in a statement yesterday said the female patient was picked up directly from Lagos airport after flying into the country last weekend.

Federal Capital TerritoryThe Federal Capital Territory is the second most hit region after Lagos. It presently has six confirmed cases of the virus.Ehanire announced its first case on March 21 where three persons were reported to be infected by the virus. On Sunday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) also announced three more cases, bringing the total to six in the FCT.

Other StatesAlthough other states have intensified measures against the disease, it is believed there is already community spread of the virus in the country, prompting states to suspend school, religious and other social gatherings.However, 32 states do not have any case but lack isolation centres at the moment.

…………………………………………………………………………………It’s 30 Patients and where they came fromMartins IfijehBy global health prediction, disease outbreaks are only 36 hours away from potentially entering any country of the world irrespective of how farther apart the index country and the receiving nations are geographically placed.

It, however, took Nigeria 59 days to get its first confirmed case of COVID-19, a new coronavirus disease, which broke out from Wuhan City in China since December 31, 2019.Twenty-four days after the first index case of the virus was recorded at the Infectious Disease Centre in Lagos, Nigeria’s burden of the virus has surged to 30 with the majority of the cases confirmed to be exported into the country from nations with a high burden of the disease.

So far, the federal government has named countries of import of the virus into Nigeria to be United Kingdom, Italy, France, Canada, Spain, Netherland, and the United States.9 Cases from …United KingdomOf the 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, at least nine of the patients came into the country from the United Kingdom, hence representing the country with the highest import of the respiratory disease into Nigeria.

Majority of the patients had travelled to the country within in February and did not have symptoms of the disease when they left the UK for Nigeria.The UK is one of the countries with a high burden of the disease. As of yesterday, at least 5, 683 persons have been infected, while about 300 have died from the disease.

Nigeria last week closed its borders to 15 countries, including the UK.4 Cases from …United StatesAccording to the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who on different occasions provided travel histories of COVID-19 confirmed cases in Nigeria, at least four of the cases were said to enter into Nigeria from the United States.

The country presently has a burden of over 30,000 infected cases and 388 deaths. It has now surpassed Spain’s burden thereby becoming the 3rd most-affected nation by the COVID-19 pandemic.Despite being one of the countries with the best healthcare globally, its health force fear it may be overwhelmed should the virus surge beyond its present number.

Already, the outbreak is already having a toll on the country’s economy with 283 persons said to have lost their jobs last Friday due to the outbreak.2 Cases from …FranceSo far, at least two of the 30 confirmed cases in Nigeria came into the country through France. Although the two cases are presently receiving treatment, it is believed one of them infected another Nigerian before he tested positive and commenced treatment.

France is one of the high-risk countries for COVID-19. It presently has over 14, 000 infected cases and 562 deaths.One case each from Spain, Netherland, Italy and CanadaAlthough Italy is referred to as the epicenter of the outbreak in Italy, only one case has been announced by the Nigerian government to have come into its territory from the country.

The only Italian case so far mentioned is the index case of COVID-19 in Nigeria.Italy’s death toll has surpassed that of China, with over 53, 000 persons said to be infected, while 4, 823 persons have died so far.Italy has a high old population and those most at risk of COVID-19 deaths are old persons above 65 years, and persons with underlying illnesses.

Spain, Netherland and Canada have so far imported one case each into Nigeria.4 Cases of Community SpreadWhile countries often guide against the import of foreign diseases into their country, the greatest fear from pandemics is the community spread of the disease.

Community spread of a disease is a public health term, which refers to person to person transmission of disease.So far, Nigeria has had four community spread of the COVID-19. The Italian index case infected a Nigerian in Ogun. The 30-year-old female, who came into the country from the United Kingdom, infected another woman. As at the last count, this has so far been transmitted to four persons in the country.

The federal and state governments have instituted a lockdown of activities in their respective domain as part of plans to halt community spread of the disease; as this remains the fastest way diseases can spread across people in a particular region.7 Cases …unannounced origin

During the announcement of each confirmed case in Nigeria, the federal government, either through the Ministry of Health or the NCDC gives details on the travel history of the patients.It, however, didn’t give detail on seven cases. While it is certain they were not exposed to the virus through community spread, the country with which they imported it has never been mentioned.

The Nigerian government has not also mentioned whether any case was imported into the country through China, the epicenter of the disease despite Nigeria’s high trading partnership with the country.SUNDAY MARCH 22, 2020COVID 19: Lagos Issues Public Transport Guidelines

Segun JamesAs part of the efforts by the Lagos State Government to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the state, the government Sunday issued a guideline on the operation of public transportation in the state.The government in a statement by the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde states that “henceforth all stakeholders in public transportation in the State are to sanitize their parks and garages regularly and continuously before and after each trip.”

Also transport operators are expected to have at the entrance to their parks and garages, washing hand equipment with soap and running water.“All Operators are not allowed to over crowd or over load their vehicles at this point in time, Passenger’s spacing must be fully observed. NCDC recommends that at least 2m (5feet) distance is required between anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness. No standing in all BRT and LBSL bus operations

“All buses should be at 60% capacity and not 100% with all Air Conditioning System in public transport be put off.”Oladeinde also said that all drivers and their conductors should always wear hand gloves and nose guides while in transitTurkish Airlines Reschedules Nigeria Flights Ahead of Airport Shutdown

Following the announcement of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to shut down international airports in Lagos and Abuja for all flights, starting from Monday, 23rd March 23, Turkish Airlines, Sunday, said it would reschedule its flights for Tuesday, March 24 to Monday, March 23.

A statement by the airlines on Sunday said the rescheduling was to accommodate passengers of the cancelled flights and ensure they all reach their destination before the closure of airports.The statement said “as the airline that always put the travel security at the forefront, Turkish Airlines will continue to monitor the latest developments on the situation with the national and international health authorities and take appropriate precaution.”

(Updated) COVID 19: Stay Home for Two Weeks, Sanwo-Olu Orders Civil ServantsSegun JamesLagos State Governor, Babajide-Sanwo-Olu, has ordered civil servants in the state to stay away from work for two weeks.Sanwo-Olu, who gave the order during a live press conference on Sunday, said the order applies to civil servants on grade level one to 12.

This order, he however said, does not apply to workers on essential duties.“We are shutting down almost 70 per cent of our workforce from Monday, 23rd of March 2020. We are shutting down levels 1-12 in our public service for the next 14 days.“We know the enormity of the task at hand and we are ready for it. We are working with market leaders and even public transport unions to ensure social distancing.

“Self-Isolate for at least 14 days if you are just returning to Nigeria. That would be the right thing to do.“We must always rise to our challenges. We will win with the cooperation of Lagos residents. We have done this before, we will do it again.”The Governor who expressed worry over increasing rate of confirmed cases in the state at a press conference held in Lagos House Marina, urged the private sector to bench their non –essential services staff to effectively tackle the pandemic disease.

He said it had become necessary for him to address the residents again because of the confirmation of an additional six cases within 72 hours he briefed on the disease bringing the total in Lagos State to nineteen confirmed cases.“First let me say that these confirmations are evidence the system is working, that we are actively and met tracking and testing suspected cases. Let me also reiterate that all confirmed cases have been isolated at the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Yaba’’

Sanwo-Olu added that the state government had been working closely with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). the World Health Organization (WHO) and the private sector to halt the spread of this disease.The Governor who hailed Lagosians for obeying his directive on large congregation of people above 50, said the state government would arrest anyone or group found to be frustrating government’s efforts.

Sanwo-Olu pointed out that the directive was not meant to deprive anybody of his or her freedom, saying,’’ Many mosques were closed on Friday and many churches shut down today.’’“In addition to all the previous directives issued so far. I am now hereby directing all public officers in the entire unified public service from Grade Levels 1 to 12 which constitutes 70 percent of the entire public service workforce to stay at home from Monday 23″ of March 2020. for 14 days in the first instance.

‘’We will review this as time goes on. Members of the public are advised to refrain from visiting public offices. and to transact as much business as is possible through the telephone and online channels’’.‘’This stay at-home order does not affect medical personnel. Fire Service. LASEMA. LAWMA and other first responders and essential services. We are working to ramp up our capacity to take on new cases as they’re confirmed; other Health facilities will on due time be deployed to support the Mainland Infectious Diseases Hospital.’’

The governor added that the state government would set up more facilities in Yaba to contain a likely upsurge in Coronavirus cases, saying more health workers were being trained and retired health personnel were also being put on notice that they may be recalled to serve in these trying times.

COVID-19: German Chancellor, Merkel, QuarantinedAngela Merkel has gone into quarantine after being informed that a doctor who administered a vaccine to her has tested positive for the new coronavirus.Merkel’s spokesman said the German chancellor, who is 65, was informed about the doctor’s test shortly after holding a news conference Sunday announcing new measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel had received a precautionary vaccine Friday against pneumococcal infection.For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. About 93,800 people have recovered, mostly in China.

Seibert said in a statement that Merkel would undergo “regular tests” in the coming days and continue with her work from home for the time being.Merkel had earlier expressed her gratitude to Germans who were following the rules on social distancing, saying it was important to remain at least 1.5 meters (about five feet) apart to reduce the likelihood of infection.

The development illustrated how even world leaders aren’t free from the risk of infection.“With a certain distance the risk of infections is reduced almost to zero,” Merkel told reporters. “Whether you are half a meter apart or 1.5 meters apart makes a huge difference

Seconds later, she was informed that her doctor had tested positive for COVID-19 (TIME)COVID-19: Eko Hotel Announces Partial ClosureBy Chiemelie EzeobiFollowing the directive limiting social and religious gatherings to 20 persons per meeting point by the Lagis State Government to halt the spread of coronavirus, Eko Hotel & Suites has announced a partial closure of its services.

In a statement issued on Sunday on its Facebook page, the hotel said it will temporarily close down some of its services including the spa, gym, pool, conference and banquet facilities.Meanwhile, the hotel said the temporary closure would not affect other services, including parts of the hotel.

The statement read thus, “It is with great difficulty, but with the safety of you and our community in mind, that we have made the decision to temporarily close our Eko Suites Hotel, Eko Gardens Hotel, 88 Restaurant, Lagos Irish Pub, Sky Restaurant, My Thai Restaurant, Red Chinese Restaurant, Crossroads, the spa, gym, pool, and conference and banquet facilities.

“However, part of Eko Signature and Eko Hotel, as well as Kuramo Sports Cafe, Calabash Bar, Lagoon Breeze, 1415 Seafood and Steakhouse are still operational.“We urge you to take the necessary precautionary steps advised by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in staying safe, as we fight COVID-19 together!”

COVID-19 Death Toll Climbs to 13,799*Lockdown alone can’t tackle outbreak, WHO warns Nigeria, othersMartins IfijehDeath toll from COVID-19 has jumped to 13, 799, with 322, 278 persons confirmed to be positive with the virus in 189 countries across six continents, the World Health Organisation (WHO) records show.

This is even as the world health body has warned Nigeria and 185 other countries affected that only lockdown approach can’t defeat the growing spread of the disease.Although an estimated 96,000 people have so far recovered from the disease worldwide, at least 10, 000 people are still in critical condition, a situation that predicts more fatalities will be recorded.

One of the major countries most hit by the latest death rate from the disease is Spain, which has recorded 374 deaths and 3, 107 confirmed cases within the last 24 hours, bringing the total deaths and cases in the country to 1756 and 28, 603 respectively.

Echoing measures taken by Italy – Europe’s hardest hit country – the Spanish government declared a state of emergency on Saturday, ordering the closure of all non-essential shops as well as bars, restaurants, cafes, football grounds and cinemas.Residents have been ordered to stay at home, allowed out only to buy food and medicine or travel to work, health centres or banks. Travel is also allowed for those looking after the elderly or dependents.

Save for a handful of people walking their dogs or picking up groceries, most streets in Madrid were empty.Although the WHO and Worldometrics have not released figures yet for Italy’s burden since last night, the country Sunday recorded over 800 deaths in one single day. its death figures have surpassed that of China. China has 81,054 confirmed cases with 3, 261 deaths, while Italy has 51, 578 confirmed cases and 4, 825 deaths, the highest fatality by any country since the disease started.

Although China’s cases have declined with no recorded deaths since the last three days, it was not so lucky Sunday as it recorded 46 new cases and six deaths between Saturday and Sunday. Of the 46 new cases, only one was recorded as community spread, while the remaining 45 were exported cases.

The country said since it has made progress in the fight against the outbreak, it would now send health experts to Italy and Spain to help tackle the deadly virus.To halt import of the spread from other countries, it has now started diverting all international flights due to arrive in Beijing starting Monday another airport where passengers will undergo virus screening, according to government agencies Sunday.

International flights that were scheduled to arrive in the capital will land instead at one of 12 airports. Passengers who clear screening will then be permitted to re-board the plane, which will then fly to Beijing, the regulator said.Among the new cases recorded in China, record 14 were in the financial hub of Shanghai and 13 were in Beijing, a decline from 21 the previous day.

In Canada, death toll has climbed by 46 per cent. Officials in the country announced that the total number of COVID-19 deaths jumped to 19, an increase of 46 percent. The total number of infected cases rose from 1,099 to 1,328, according to John Hopkins University.

Afghanistan Sunday recorded its first death, according to the country’s health ministry.The Spokesman of the Ministry of Public Health, Wahidullah Mayar said a 40-year-old man died in the Northern Balkh province.Afghanistan has 34 confirmed cases of the virus and there are fears its vulnerable health system, devastated by years of war, would be overwhelmed by an outbreak.

Breaking: Lagos Records Three New Cases of COVID-19By Martins IfijehThe Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed three more cases of COVID-19 in Lagos State, bringing the number of recorded cases in the state Sunday to six, and the total number in the country to 30.

Stating this on its Twitter handle Sunday, @NCDCgov, the centre said two of the cases were returning travellers while one was a contact of a confirmed case.It said: “As at 05:28 pm on March 22, there are 30 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. 2 have been discharged with no deaths.”

More details later..Breaking: COVID-19: Sanwo-Olu Orders Civil Servants to Stay at HomeSunday EhigiatorIn an effort to further curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has mandated all civil servants from level one to 12 to remain at home effective from Monday, March 23, 2020.

The governor disclosed this, Sunday during a live press conference at the state’s secretariat.More details shortly…Breaking: COVID-19: Sanwo-Olu Asks Civil Servants to Remain at HomeSunday EhigiatorIn an effort to further curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has mandated all civil servants from level one to 12 to remain at home effective from Monday, March 23, 2020.

The governor disclosed this, Sunday during a live press conference at the state’s secretariat.More details shortly…Covid-19: Mountain of Fire Suspends Activities in Lagos, OgunThe Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM), has said that it is suspending all church activities at all of its branches in Lagos and Ogun States forthwith till further notice incompliance with the ban on gatherings and religious activities by the Lagos and Ogun State governments,

A leading healing and deliverance ministry, the church this weekend released prayers to arrest the continuing spread of the dreaded coronavirus disease and advised Nigerians not to take panic.General Overseer (GO) of the MFM, Dr. Daniel Kolawole Olukoya, in a statement by his Media Office, signed Mr. Collins Edomaruse reminded Nigerians of the various steps being taken by the Federal and State Governments to contain the pandemic

CONVID-19 : Churches Open in OyoKemi Olaitan in IbadanChurches in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital and other towns in the state, Sunday defied the order of the state government to avoid gatherings of more than 50 persons in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-19.

While the state government made the closure of worship centres and religious gatherings voluntary, it however strongly advised churches, mosques and other religious centres not to have more than 50 people gathered in the same place at once.However some churches visited by THISDAY Sunday opened for service with large gathering of members in attendance.

The Stone Church, Mokola, Ibadan recorded large number of members, but with the church providing water for washing hands as well as sanitizer for members.Also, the sitting arrangement was altered from the previous ones with large space among members while they were implored not to shake hands or hug themselves.

Service also held at the Cook Memorial Baptist Church, Oja Oba, Ibadan, which also witnessed large presence of members.A member of the church, Prince Segun Adeyemo, while speaking with THISDAY, said the church opened for service based on the directive of the President of the National Baptist Convention (NBC) and National President, Christians Association of Nigeria (NBC), Rev. Supo Ayokunle, that it should gather to pray against Coronavirus.

He added that the church only operated skeletal service, stating that after Sunday Service, it was prayers thereafter.At the Assemblies of God Church, Mokola, Ibadan, members were made to wash their hands and sanitizer applied before they were allowed into the church.

COVID-19 Cases in Nigeria Rise to 27, Spread to FCT, Four StatesBy Martins IfijehThe federal government has announced five new cases of COVID-19 in Lagos, Oyo and the Federal Capital Territory, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 27.Making this known on its Twitter handle Sunday, @NCDCgov, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said three of the cases were from Lagos, while one each from Oyo State and the FCT.

It said: “The three cases from Lagos had travel history to high risk countries in the last seven days. They have all been placed under isolation and treatment.“Breaking down these figures mean Lagos has recorded 19 cases, Abuja four, Ogun two, Oyo one and Ekiti one.

“Of the total 27 cases, two have been discharged. We are working closely with the affected states, including the FCT identify and follow up with contacts. If you have returned to Nigeria from any country in the last 14 days, please stay in self-isolation,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government through the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi has given further details on the new cases from the state, noting that one of the three cases was a 51-year-old Briton who arrived Nigeria on March 8 via BA75 flight.

He said: “The second patient is a Nigerian on connecting flight KL0582 London Amsterdam / KL0587 Amsterdam to Lagos. He arrived in Nigeria March 14.“The third case is a 65-year-old citizen of the United States of America who arrived in Lagos about six weeks ago,” Abayomi added.

Meanwhile the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, who doubles as the Chairman, State COVID-19 Task Force, said the case from the state had been placed under isolation and treatment.He said: “The COVID-19 confirmation test for the suspected case at Bodija has come back positive. The result was released at 17:35 PM of March 21, 2020. Oyo State Public Health Officials are collaborating with the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan’s team on the case.

“A follow up on the Ekiti COVID-19 case revealed that the person was picked up directly from Lagos Airport to a private apartment in Ona Ara Local Government Area.“The Health Authorities have contacted the family concerned and the community has been alerted for intensified contact tracing and self-isolation of identified close contacts.

“The information given that he stayed in some hotels in Ibadan has been found to be false.”He also stated that another returnee from Texas, USA, had also been identified at Oluyole Local Government Area, adding that she has been kept in self-isolation with close monitoring by the State Epidemiological Team.

“All recent returnees are again urged to identify themselves to ministry officials and self-isolate for 14 days.“We have released funds for: Activation of Emergency Operation Centre at the Ministry of Health.“Establishment of Diagnostic Centre for screening of Coronavirus and other related infectious diseases to be stationed at the UCH, Ibadan.

“Equipping of the newly designated Oyo State Infectious Disease Centre at Olodo that has the capacity for over 100 cases,” he added.He also released telephone helplines of the state Ministry of health to be contacted in case of any suspected case around the state. The numbers are, “Oyo State Ministry of Health Helplines: 08038210122/ 08023229267/ 08073431342.

Breaking: Abuja Records New Case of COVID-19, Bringing Total Number in Nigeria to 27By Martins IfijehThe Federal Capital Territory has recorded another case of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases recorded in Nigeria to 27 since the outbreak started in Nigeria.

Announcing this Sunday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), through its Twitter handle, said so far Lagos has recorded 19, Abuja four, Ogun two, Ekiti and Oyo one each.Details later ..Coronavirus: FCTA Orders Arrest of Drivers Who Overload their Vehicles

Olawale Ajimotokan in AbujaFCT Administration has issued an immediate directive to road traffic enforcement officers across the city to arrest drivers who overload their vehicles with passengers.The order was issued on Sunday morning by theChairman, FCT Ministerial Task Team on Traffic Management, Mr Ikharo Attah.

Attah said it would be grossly inappropriate for drivers to fully pack their vehicles with passengers for pecuniary gains at a time the world is advocating social distancing as a means of fighting covid-19.“Those carrying two passengers in front of their vehicles would have their vehicles impounded and drivers licence seized. Besides the health risks, it is also unsafe as the driver finds it difficult to adjust his gear and hand break,” he warned.

He also added that High Capacity Bus drivers would also be properly checked to ensure that they do not overload their buses.He called on all transport operators, particularly those only permitted to operate at the suburbs, such as commercial motorcycles and tricycles to also avoid overloading.

The order is also directed at managers of motor parks and transport unions to obey the directives of the FCT authority limiting any gathering to a maximum 50 persons.Attah also advised transporters to be observant of their passengers and report those with signs of respiratory challenges to appropriate health authorities for prompt examination.

COVID-19: Winners Chapel Defies Lagos, Ogun Govt BanSunday EhigiatorAt the Living Faith Church in Ota, social distance was not observed as members of the church sat close to each other.No temperature check was done on any member of the church. Hand sanitizers were also not used.

The first and second services were held normally.The General Overseer, Living Faith Church, Bishop David Oyedepo encouraged members to attend their usual house fellowships this Wednesday, adding that announcement on steps to be taken against COVID-19 would be announced to members at their various house fellowships.

COVID-19: How Lagos, Ogun Churches are Defying Govt BanBy Sunday EhigiatorDespite Lagos and Ogun governments’ ban on religious gatherings of more than 50 persons in a bid to halt community spread of COVID-19, many churches have defied the ban.For instance, Living Faith Church (also known as Winners Chapel) Bus from Bolade Oshodi in Lagos is currently conveying members to Canaan Land.

The bus which is supposed to be four persons per roll is admitting five persons per roll, while some even sat on other passengers’ legs.A bus ideally meant for 28 persons is presently conveying 39 adults and five children to Canaanland, Ota in Ogun State.

Also worthy of note is the fact that there is no temperature check and sanitizers are not being provided for passengers in the bus moved.Passengers are heard discussing the outbreak of coronavirus.“No one, and nothing can stop us from God’s house. We serve a living God. That is why we are called Winners Faith.”

“God give us strength against any COVID-19.”Oyo Records First Coronavirus Case*Keeps US returnee in isolationMartins Ifijeh and Kemi Olaitan in IbadanOyo state has recorded its first case of Coronavirus.Governor Seyi Makinde who doubles as the Chairman of the State Covid-19 Task Force, made the disclosure in his Twitter handle Sunday morning, saying the suspected case who has been in isolation eventually tested positive.

He said although the result was released at 17:35pm on March 21, it got to the state late in the night and was received by the Task force.He added that another UK returnee suspected of having the virus had been identified and kept in isolation in Oluyole Area of the state.

Makinde added that the state government had released funds for the Activation of Emergency Operation Centre at the Ministry of Health as well as the establishment of Diagnostic Centre for screening of Coronavirus and other related infectious diseases to be stationed at the UCH, Ibadan.

According to him, “The Covid-19 confirmation test for the suspected case at Bodija has come back positive. The result was released at 17:35 PM of March 21, 2020. Oyo State Public Health Officials are collaborating with the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan’s team on the case.

“A follow up on the Ekiti covid-19 case revealed that the deceased was picked up directly from Lagos Airport to a private apartment in Ona Ara Local Government Area.“The Health Authorities have contacted the family concerned and the community has been alerted for intensified contact tracing and self-isolation of identified close contacts.

“The information given that he stayed in some hotels in Ibadan has been found to be false.“Another returnee from Texas, USA, has also been identified at Oluyole Local Government Area. She has been kept in self-isolation with close monitoring by the State Epidemiological Team. All recent returnees are again urged to identify themselves to Ministry Officials and self-isolate for 14 days.

“We have released funds for: Activation of Emergency Operation Centre at the Ministry of Health.“Establishment of Diagnostic Centre for screening of Coronavirus and other related infectious diseases to be stationed at the UCH, Ibadan.“Equipping of the newly designated Oyo State Infectious Disease Centre at Olodo that has the capacity for over 100 cases.”

He also released telephone helplines of the state Ministry of health to be contacted in case of any suspected case around the state. The numbers are, “Oyo State Ministry of Health Helplines: 08038210122/ 08023229267/ 08073431342.”Breaking: Oyo Records First Case of COVID-19

By Martins IfijehThe Oyo State Government has confirmed a case of COVID-19 in the state, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 26.The Governor, Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, who confirmed this in a statement on Sunday morning said: “The COVID-19 confirmation test for the suspected case at Bodija has come back positive. The result was released at 17:35pm of March 21, 2020.

“A follow-up on the Ekiti COVID-19 case revealed that the deceased was picked up directly from Lagos Airport to a private apartment in Ona Ara Local Government Area,” he said.The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), via its Twitter handle, NCDCgov, Sunday had earlier confirmed three new cases in Lagos, and noted that they had travel history to high risk countries in the last seven days.

CBN Directs Oil Companies to End FX Sale to NNPC•Plans special naira, dollar intervention for health companies•Total economic stimulus now N3.5trnObinna Chimaand Nume EkegheThe Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday directed all oil companies in the country, both international and domestic, to immediately stop the sale of foreign exchange (FX) to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). It said henceforth, oil companies should sell their FX to the CBN.

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, gave the directive while briefing journalists at the end of an extraordinary Bankers’ Committee meeting in Lagos. Emefiele explained that the directive, which was aimed at shoring up FX supply in the country, was in line with the new policy on price modulation that the federal government announced last week.

The CBN governor stated, “All related oil companies are to sell FX to CBN and no longer NNPC. Whether you are in the oil service industry or oil production, upstream, midstream or downstream, all oil related companies must sell their FX to the CBN and no longer to the NNPC, for the purpose of funding the importation of petroleum products, given the new policy on price modulation.”

The federal government had last week deregulated petrol pricing, directing the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to modulate pricing in accordance with prevailing market dynamics and oil market developments. Subsequently, NNPC announced that its outlets would sell petrol at N125 from today, N18 reduction from the N143 it was previously sold.

Emefiele said the committee discussed the health and economic crisis caused by the novel Corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic, which resulted in escalating worldwide infections, deaths, disruption in global supply chains, travel restrictions, and turmoil in the international financial markets. He said it was resolved that the central bank and banks would collaborate at this critical time with one coherent strategy to provide confidence to customers, counter parties, the public and, most importantly, put Nigeria first.

According to him, the industry has learnt lessons from previous crises, including the 2008 global financial crisis and oil price slump of 2016. The experiences, he said, would be applied in dealing with the current crisis.“The industry resolved that profit will not be the primary motive at this time. Rather, preserving confidence, financial stability and support for the economy will be the overriding objectives,” he said.

The CBN governor stressed that engagements would be held with correspondent banks, trade creditors, and trading partners regarding existing Letters of Credit (LCs) and trade commitments.He explained, “We would be holding engagements with our correspondent banks and trading partners. In 2016, when we had same incident, we had same engagements with our trading partners and correspondent banks, who provide credit lines to customers through Nigerian banks.

“During those engagements at that time, we told everyone that those obligations would be met. We are saying at this time, there is no need to panic.“We would be dimensioning the size of all those commitments and obligations. Just like we succeeded in 2016, once more I am saying they would be paid.

“The industry is committed to resolving these commitments in a comprehensive and orderly way. There will be transparent and open communication with all counterparties.”Emefiele pointed out that in view of the significant disruption of the global supply chain, the Bankers’ Committee advised Nigerians and companies to prioritise their import needs and focus more on sourcing raw materials and inputs locally.

“Indeed, there is no choice, but to focus on sourcing your raw materials locally because with various lockdowns that are happening in different parts of the world, all countries are locking their borders, making it impossible for raw materials and inputs to leave their borders,” he stated. “Therefore, we do not have any choice, but to look inwards.”

He added, “The Bankers’ Committee noted the success of the CBN’s 43 items policy and encouraged it to strengthen it and other measures targeted at export promotion and/or import substitution to position Nigeria as a key global producer and build a self-sufficient economy.”

According to the CBN Governor, the committee discussed the financial system’s implication and operationalisation of the policy measures earlier announced by the CBN. He listed them to include additional moratorium of one year on CBN intervention; interest rate reduction on intervention facilities from nine per cent to five per cent; creation of N50 billion targeted credit facility for affected households and SMEs; and granting regulatory forbearance to banks to restructure terms of facilities in affected sectors.

Others include strengthening the apex bank’s loan-to-deposit ratio policy; activation of the N1.5 trillion InfraCo project for building critical infrastructure; additional N100 billion in healthcare loans to pharmaceutical companies, healthcare practitioners intending to expand/build capacity; and the N1 trillion in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors.

He said the combination of the measures, which amounts to over N3.5 trillion in stimulus, was to ameliorate the pains arising from the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.Emefiele added, “Given that this crisis is first and foremost a public health crisis, we are paying particular attention to our health industry.

“As aforementioned, global supply chains have been disrupted, including dominant drug supply channels from China and India. In fact, many countries have or are planning to ban export of drugs and medical supplies from their countries.“Clearly, we have no choice but to produce these items locally. As a result, the Committee has identified a few key local pharmaceutical companies who shall be granted naira and FX funding facilities to support procurement of raw materials and equipment required to exponentially increase local drug production in Nigeria.

“These loans would be granted at single-digit interest rate and for long tenors, include granting the necessary moratorium.“These include, but are not limited to, Emzor, Fidson, GSK, May & Baker, Unique Pharma, Swiss Pharma, Neimeth, Sagar, Orange Drugs, Dana Pharma, etc.”

He disclosed that in the course of the meeting, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, called in requesting that the Committee should pay special attention to the health sector, saying the fiscal authorities are willing to grant necessary incentives and waivers to encourage operators in the healthcare sector.

Emefiele also disclosed that this week, the central bank would convene a meeting with pharmaceutical companies to discuss ways to support them to immediately begin to expand their plants and machineries with a view to becoming self-sufficient.Nigeria Moves to Lockdown as 10 New Cases are Confirmed in Lagos, Abuja

•NRC shuts down rail operations•Death toll rises to 12,978, infected cases jump to 304,035 globally•Lagos reduces social gathering to 20 people•Police to enforce restriction order

Read more: THISDAY LIVE

Coronavirus: Ekiti index case now negative - Fayemi - Daily Post NigeriaEkiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has disclosed that the Index Case of COVID-19, recorded in the State has now tested negative and would soon be 🙏🏿 If u like u people should be playing with the results ... U think is JAMB result abi...

Coronavirus patient in Ekiti State has been dischargedThe index COVID-19 patient in Ekiti State has been discharged from the isolation centre by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Ekiti State government. The 37-year-old man who came in contact with an American tourist has tested negative after about two weeks of treatment. Although there are more than 41 people in … I think you should be disclosing the identities of the said discharged patients, so that people within their localities will not mingle amongst them. I know is unethical, but just this once for the sake of humanity. Thanks!

Coronavirus: Ekiti index case recovers, dischargedThank God Tank God ooo. Corona pack ur load and leave our land. Here is not your dwelling place in Jesus name Good news muyiwajazz

Ekiti Coronavirus index case discharged - Daily Post NigeriaThe Ekiti State Commissioner for Health, Dr Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, said on Tuesday that the index case in isolation in Ekiti State, has been discharged Tweetwizzard Where is the patient

Ekiti discharges coronavirus patient – Daily TrustThe 37-year-old COVID-19 lone patient in Ekiti state has been discharged. The male patient, who has been receiving treatment since 18th March, 2020 at the Ekiti State Infection Disease Control Centre situated inside Oba Adejuyigbe General Hospital in Ado-Ekiti, was confirmed negative on Tuesday, having fully recovered from the deadly coronavirus. In a chat with …

Ekiti discharges coronavirus patient – Daily TrustThe 37-year-old COVID-19 lone patient in Ekiti state has been discharged. Good news Thank God for that & I hope more recoveries will be recorded soon How is Nigeria managing the COVID19 better than countries far better equipped than us