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Respite For Transporters As FG Lifts Interstate Ban

Reprieve came the way of transporters and commuters as the federal government yesterday lifted the ban on interstate travels for movement of vehicles as well as domestic airlines.

But the interstate travels billed to resume tomorrow, July 1, 2020, is only permitted outside the curfew hours, as motorists and commuters are to set on their journey from 4am to 10pm in observance of the curfew.

LEADERSHIP had reported last week Monday that transporters and commercial drivers were lamenting the continued enforcement of the ban on inter-state transit emplaced to curb the spread of COVID-19, saying it has impoverished them, rendered most of their workers jobless and crippled their transport businesses.

Apparently heeding to their plea, the federal government yesterday lifted the interstate ban, noting however that its aim had been defeated.

Speaking at the daily briefing of the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19, secretary to the government of the federation (AGF), Boss Mustapha explained that government had to lift the ban because it was no longer effective as it has become huge business for some transporters who engage in serious business of extortion.

He also explained that state governments were carried along in the planned interstate lifting of the ban as some of them actually expressed willingness for the lifting of the ban.

On the dangers of transferring affected people to other states with the interstate travels, Mustapha said that would not be the case as the transmission of COVID-19 was already at the community level.

The SGF who is also the PTF chairman announced that the ban on domestic airlines has also been lifted and operations are set to resume soon.

He noted that all guidelines for the resumption of the interstate travels and domestic airlines will be further released by the ministries of Transportation and Aviation respectively.

Accordingly, the federal extended the second phase of the gradual easing lockdown by another four weeks.

Mustapha said the extension will start from Tuesday, June 30, 2020 through Midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020.

He also announced the reopening of schools as part of modifications to the COVID-19 lockdown, the phase two of which it extended for another 30 days.

The resumption of schools is, however, limited to graduating primary 6, JSS 3 and SSS 3 preparing to write their final examinations.

According to him, the second phase of the eased lockdown was to sustain the gains from earlier steps taken to control the COVID-19 pandemic and to enable additional sectors of the economy restart activities.

He further explained that given the challenges and the visible danger ahead occasioned by skepticism, poor public perception, both leading to lack of compliance, government came to the inevitable conclusion that the extension of phase two of the eased lockdown would be needed.

He said, “Mr. President has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase Two  of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020 through Midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020.

“Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect: Maintaining the current phase of the national response, for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the National Coordinator; permission of movement across State borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July, 2020.

“Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by States, in particular, the use of face masks in public places; safe re-opening of schools to allow students in graduating classes resume in-person in preparation for examinations.

“Safe reopening of domestic aviation services as soon as practicable; publication of revised guidelines around the three thematic areas of general movement, industry and labour, and community activities; provision of technical support for states to mobilise additional resources for the response.

“Strengthening partnerships with States, Local Governments, traditional rulers, community/religious leaders and civil society to ensure increased public awareness and compliance with preventive guidelines”.

He listed others to include: “Encouraging State governments to empower Local Government Authorities to intensify contact tracing efforts and ensure stronger grassroots mobilisation to support the response.

“Encourage States and Hospital authorities to ensure continuity of other health services to prevent fatalities from other life-threatening conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Deepening of collaboration with other mandate groups at States/Federal levels to harmonise the country’s COVID-19 response in the short, medium and long terms”.

Mustapha noted that airlines would have to increase their fares to remain afloat.

He said, “I think there is a general increase in everything, not only air tickets. If you go to the market now, the prices prior to Covid-19 are different from what you get in the market now. That is the difficult thing that is going to confront us as a people.

“Because of the protocols that are going to be introduced in the whole business of aviation, you would definitely expect an increase in the fares. The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria FAAN has already increased its customer service fare by 100 percent. It used to be ₦1000 but now it is ₦2000 even before the operations start.

“So, it is not just the airlines, even the government institutions who have the responsibility of managing the aviation industry will review their charges because that is the nature of what Covid-19 has thrust on the people of the country and all over the world.

“Also, there is going to be some bit of social distancing in the aircraft. If an aircraft has the capacity of 150 people, they might now be restricted to about 100 or 75. Flying comes with components of cost. Aviation fuel is one of them.

“Salaries for the pilot and cabin crew are part of it. Services that are paid for to the aviation industry institutions are there. The costs have to be shared by the passengers and the business owners because nobody runs a business at a loss. Profit is the motivation for going into business. Flying is not a social service”, he declared.

On his part, national coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said government retained the nationwide curfew and would remain in force between 10pm and 4am.

He also said it was difficult to lock down some areas without defined boundaries.

According to him, the PTF would ensure that all other non-pharmaceutical measures are strictly adhered to in the 18 high burden local government areas.

Noting that only essential movements would be allowed, he said, “On the restriction of movements in specific local governments we are still working with the state governments because you cannot lock down local governments without locking the states.

“Some of these local governments, by their geographical locations, do not have defined borders. We will be sending out clarifications as soon as we finish this piece of work. The restriction of movements in these local governments is only one of several interventions that we are putting in, in terms of hotspots.

“The precision target in these areas includes not only to improve testing but isolation and to make sure that we do a lot of risk communication and public awareness activities. So, cessation of movements are only part of it and in some of the local governments, it may not be practicable to do so.

“We already know some local governments where it will be impossible to enforce this. But overall, what we are trying to do is to put out the small fires across the country rather than trying to fight a raging fire across the whole country which will be very difficult and will also be damaging, economically, for us.

“So, for those areas where we have a high burden, where the numbers are increasing rapidly, where we have a high positivity rate, we will be introducing specific precision measures working with the state governments to make sure we get on top of this”.


Why Nigeria’s COVID-19 Mortality Is Low – PTF

Meanwhile, the presidential task force on COVID-19 has explained that compared to other countries with similar climatic characteristics, the mortality rate of the disease is low due to the age bracket of most of those infected by the virus.

Chairman of the task force, SGF Boss Mustapha stated this after he led his team to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the progress of the national response to the pandemic at the presidential villa, Abuja.

Speaking to State House correspondents, he said 80% of the infections were in the age bracket of 31 to 40 years, which he described as a very active part of the population.

According him, even when they have the infection, they are able to surmount it because of their level of energy.

However, he added that the PTF was worried about the remaining 20% as he said nobody knows who may become victim among them.

Therefore, he said, everything was being done to protect the vulnerable such as the elderly and those with underlying illnesses.

He also hinted that government may introduce precision lockdown for pinpoint management of coronavirus hotspots.

According to him, 18 out of the 774 local governments in the country have been identified as responsible for 60% of the confirmed cases in the country.

He added that the reason for the precision lockdown will be to place specific measures in certain places especially by state governments to enable aggressive testing for the disease and management.

 Gilead Pegs Price Of Coronavirus Drug, Remdesivir, At $390

Gilead Sciences has announced the price for the long-awaited coronavirus-fighting drug, Remdesivir.

Since remdesivir became the first medicine shown to have an impact on Covid-19, doctors, politicians, and Wall Street investors have engaged in a tense guessing game, asking how much the company would charge for the drug.

However, the company announced that for all governments in the developed world, including the US government’s Medicaid program and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Gilead will charge $2,340 for a five-day course.

US insurers will pay 33% more, or $3,120. Countries in the developing world will get the drug at greatly reduced prices through generic manufacturers to which Gilead has licensed production.

Gilead CEO, Daniel O’Day told STAT: “We spent a lot of time and considerable care and discussion about how to approach the pricing of this medicine.

“At this price it’s significantly below the value it brings to patients and to society. There is no doubt of that in my mind.” He also wrote an open letter explaining the company’s decision”.

Remdesivir’s effectiveness against COVID-19 was established in a 1,063-patient study conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

In results released in late April and later published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the drug reduced the median time it took a patient to recover from 15 days to 11 days with a 10 day course of treatment.

The mortality rate in the remdesivir group was 7.1%, compared to 11.9% among those who received placebo, but the difference was not statistically significant. In another study in less sick patients, remdesivir led patients to improve more than placebo when it was given for five days, but not when it was given for 10.

Following the NIAID trial, in May, the Food and Drug Administration said it would allow emergency use of remdesivir to treat patients with Covid-19.

There will be room for outsiders to argue the price is too high — and too low. The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), a nonprofit which sets benchmarks for what it thinks are fair prices in the U.S., said that remdesivir would be cost-effective at as much as $5,080 per treatment course.

But it also said that, given recent studies showing that dexamethasone, a cheap and ubiquitous steroid, could save lives among ventilated patients, a fair price might be as low as $2,520.

That would mean that governments would be getting a good deal, but perhaps not private insurers in the U.S.

In another analysis as part of the same document, ICER said that if remdesivir does not save patients’ lives, the drug might be worth as little as $310. The group also said that, to recoup the manufacturers cost, the drug might need to cost anywhere from $10 to $1,600 per patient.

O’Day said Gilead believes that remdesivir’s value is much higher than any of those numbers, arguing that just by reducing the time patients spend in the hospital the drug would save $12,000 per patient.

“There’s no playbook for how to price a medicine in a pandemic,” O’Day said. “In normal circumstances, we’d have priced this medicine in accordance with value. But we’re not in normal circumstances. This is an extraordinary global situation.”

The price, O’Day said, was determined by finding one that would be affordable to the developed country with the lowest purchasing power, and then setting a single price for all countries.

Why is the price for private insurers in the U.S. higher? Because, O’Day said, that is how the U.S. system works. “There are always two prices in the United States for a medicine,” he said.

Gilead expects that insurers and government programs, not patients, will shoulder most of the cost of the drug in the U.S. The company said government programs, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which supports uninsured patients, should support the drug’s affordability and that Gilead will provide additional assistance.

The company will be continuing to invest in new studies of remdesivir, which must be given intravenously. It is also working on a version that could be inhaled into the lungs, which will be priced separately. Gilead said it expects to spend $1 billion developing remdesivir by the end of this year.


Wike Orders Testing Of All Government House Staff

Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has directed that all staff of Government House, Port Harcourt, should undergo test for Coronavirus.

This is even as he called on people not to shy away from the testing and treatment of the Coronavirus, saying it is not a result of any wrong doing and could be gotten by anyone.

Wike spoke yesterday while receiving a donation of three Covid-19 Life Support Ambulances from the management of Bua Cement Company at Government House, Port Harcourt.

The governor said, „The more we test, the more the number will increase and we are willing to continue to test. Let our people know that this not the kind of sickness to be ashamed of.  Nobody knows who you have shook hands with”.

Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has called on people not to shy away from the testing and treatment of the Coronavirus as it is not a result of any wrong doing and can be gotten by anyone.


 PTF, Paramilitary, 6 States Receive 1.5m Facemasks To Tackle Pandemic

The presidential task force (PTF) and six other states across the country, yesterday received 1.5 million face masks as part of efforts to stop the spread of COVID 19 across the country.

The PTF received one hundred thousand, six other states which include: Kano, Jijawa, Osun, Ogun, Ondo and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) received three hundred thousand each.

Apart from the above states agencies like the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) also benefited from the donation.

While presenting the facemasks to the chairman of the PTF, SGF Mustapha, a member of the board of directors, Lee group, who represented the chairman, Alhaji Ahmed Haruna Zago, said his company has about twenty seven thousands Nigerians has staff members, enhance the need to prioritize the good health of Nigerians.

Alhaji Zago said: „Lee group of companies was established in 1963 and we are 57 years old. Nigeria is our home and our country; we have no other country except Nigeria and we have a lot of workers in the country numbering up to 27 thousands working under this group.


COVID-19 Killing People In Enugu, De-escalation Committee Warns

The Enugu State Ad hoc Expert Medical Advisory Committee (EMAC) on de-escalation of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) transmission has advised the state government to put in place stricter enforcement measures that will help contain the spread of the virus in the state, warning that the deadly virus was already killing people in the state.

Addressing journalists yesterday in Enugu on their findings so far, Prof Emmanuel Ejim, who is the chairman of the 12-man committee recently constituted by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, advocated  urgent need for the enforcement of “compulsory wearing of facemasks, observing of physical distancing and ensuring hand hygiene”.

The chairman committee said their findings revealed that the stakeholders they interfaced with acknowledged the existence of COVID-19 but expressed concerns that the commitment and capacity to enforce the necessary preventive measures “were all being undermined by several factors that we continue to unearth”.


Taiwan Donates Medical Equipment, PPE To CRSG

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Business Association (TABA) yesterday donated consignment of medical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment to assist the Cross River State government’s current effort to win the fight against COVID -19.

Representative of Taiwan in Nigeria, Vincent Yang, while delivering the medical equipment to the authority of the state government stated  that with the equipment, government of Cross River will be in a proper position to win  the  fight against the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the state.

The State commissioner for Finance, Mr Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr, who received the medical items on behalf of the  State government in a brief ceremony held at the grounds of Taipei Trade Office in Ikoyi-Lagos thanked the Government of Taiwan for the donation of medical equipment.

Vincent Yang while handing over the consignment emphasized that the donation was coming from Taiwan-Africa Business Association (TABA) that had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Cross River State government last November during the visit to the State by a 13 member TABA delegation from Taiwan.

Yang stressed that in keeping with the spirit and letters of the MOU, members of TABA decided to reach out to Cross River State government by donating the medical equipment and PPE for the use of frontline workers who had been at the forefront of the fight against spread of COVID-19.


WHO Provides Timeline Of COVID-19 Response For 6 Months

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has provided the timeline of COVID-19 response activities for general information from December 2019 when China reported the virus till date.

WHO, in a statement issued from its headquarters in Geneva on Monday, stated that the agency would update the timeline on a regular basis and in light of evolving events and new information.

The timeline covered a media statement issued on the 31st of December, 2019 picked from Wuhan Municipal Health Commission to June 26 when the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator was published.

According to WHO, it will continue to provide update on the timeline on a regular basis, unless noted otherwise, country-specific information and data are as reported to WHO by its Member States.

“This timeline supersedes the WHO Rolling Updates and WHO Timeline statement published in April 2020. It is not intended to be exhaustive and does not contain details of every event or WHO activity.’’

EU’s external borders will remain closed to most foreigners

The European Union will continue to ban travellers from the United States and most other countries beyond July 1, EU diplomats tell dpa.

Only 14 countries made it onto the list of states that will be allowed into the bloc, including Australia, Canada, and Thailand. Chinese citizens will be allowed in principle – but only once China lifts its ban on EU citizens.

The European Council has now initiated the formal written procedure to pass the agreement, according to EU diplomats.