Three African leaders yesterday declared a state of emergency in their respective contries on the escalating and devastating coronavirus (COVID-19), which has infected some of their nationals.
The affected countries – Ghana, Rwanda, and South Africa – apart from announcing travel restrictions, shut down schools, worship centres and postponed several events.
In Ghana, the Ministry of Information directed airlines not to allow persons from countries where 200 persons had been infected by the disease to embark on journey within the country’s shores.
In statement signed by Kojo Oppong (MP), he said: „Any traveller, except for Ghanaian citizens and persons with Ghana residence permits, who, within the last 14 days, has been to a country that has recorded at least 200 cases of COVID-19, will not be admitted into the Ghanaian jurisdiction.
“There will be a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for persons who are otherwise allowed to enter the Ghanaian jurisdiction. Guidelines for self-quarantine will be available at the various Ghanaian ports of entry. Enforcement protocols are being deployed in collaboration with state security and health authorities. Persons determined to be unable to satisfactorily self-quarantine will be quarantined by the state.
“Any admissible traveller, who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 will be quarantined and tested upon reaching Ghana. Item one of this statement, takes immediate effect. Items 2, 3 and 4 take effect at 1pm on Tuesday March 17th 2020,“ the statement added.
Already, there are officially, six coronavirus cases in Ghana, according to the country’s Health Service.
This was disclosed by the Ghana Health Service at a news briefing at the Information Ministry yesterday afternoon.
This implies that from the time the first two cases were made public the number of COVID-19 infections in Ghana has increased by 200 per cent. Five of the cases are all Ghanaians with one foreigner, a Norwegian.
The Ghanaians had returned from the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) and. They are all in quarantine and in stable condition, according to the Health Service.
At the news conference yesterday, the information minister also announced certain travel advisories and restrictions.
The health authorities are also conducting contact tracing for more than 200 people who might have come into contact with the six cases so far recorded in the country.
More strident measures were announced by the Republic of Rwanda as the government closed down places of worship, large gatherings and schools in order to strengthen its ability to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
A statement on the new measures to prevent the virus transmission, which was signed by Lasant Serede, the Ministry of Health said that the closure became necessary following its assessment, adding that the steps shall be observed for an initial period of two weeks.
The statement reads: „Places of worship are closed from Sunday, 15th March 2020, with prayers to be conducted from home.
“Schools and higher education institutions (both public and private) shall close on Monday, 16th March, 2020 and employees should be permitted to work from home wherever possible, in consultation with their employers
“Large gatherings such as weddings and sporting events are to be postponed, and the number of people attending burial ceremonies should be minimised.
“Businesses and restaurants continue to operate, but adequate distance between customers must be maintained (at least one metre).
“Unnecessary movements should be avoided, and public transport must not be overcrowded; hand hygiene and social distancing are the only effective methods of preventing transmission of coronavirus.
“Citizens are therefore reminded of the critical importance of frequent hand washing and of avoiding unnecessary physical contact with others. Ordinary soap is the most effective product for hand-washing, followed by alcohol-based sanitiser. The use of face masks is only recommended for patients and those in direct contact with patients.
“Any person with the classic symptoms of COVID-19 coronavirus (dry cough, high fever) should stay at home and call the toll-free number 114 for further guidance, or consult a community health worker,“ the statement added.
The South African authorities toed similar lines as President Cyril Ramaphosa, said that the state of emergency declared on the pandemic was in line with the country’s Disaster Management Act.
In the 19 tough measures he rolled out, the president said that South Africa has placed a travel ban for incoming visitors from high-risk countries from tomorrow 18th March, 2020.
He named the affected countries as China, Iran, Korea, Germany, Italy and Spain
According to him, visas are cancelled for visitors from high and medium-risk countries while South African (SA) citizens returning from high-risk countries will be tested with forced quarantine.
Also, South Afrcian citizens returning from medium-risk countries will be subject to additional screening while several ports of entry will be closed across all modes of transport.
Ramaphosa added non-essential international travel for government are banned while local travels for government are limited.
Others are the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people; cancellation of mass celebrations and government functions; small gatherings to attract stringent precautionary measures by organisers; schools to be closed from 18th March until after Easter weekend, and school holiday in June to be one week shorter.
Ramaphosa directed all sectors, including malls and shopping centres to increase hygiene control; review of government testing and surveillance systems, and creation of morel isolation and quarantine venues.
The measures also include setting up of national tracking and reporting system in collaboration with private sector; government to start campaign for general and ongoing hygiene; provide additional funding for departments dealing with the pandemic, and government’s command and control to be implemented and meet three times a week.
Nigerian-Italian dies in Canada
Meanwhile, a Nigerian, Dr. Olumide Okunuga, has died of coronavirus in Canada. The news of his death was broken on Saturday morning.
A United States (US)-based blog Irohinoodua reported that Okunuga died of coronavirus and the age of 63 and was the first Nigerian known to have died of the dreaded disease.
Before his demise, Okunuga was the president of Egbe Omo Yoruba, Emila Romagna and vice president of Yoruba National Community in Italy.
He was a pathologist and a native of Ikenne Remo in Ogun State.
Okunuga was also a two-time councillor for Modena in Italy where he had lived for 35 years. He was diagnosed to have contacted coronavirus in Canada, a country which has recently been hit by the deadly virus, the blog said.
It quoted sources as saying that the remains of Okunuga were asked to be recognised from a distance by his daughter, Dr. Bolanle Okunuga, whose mother is a Caucasian of Italian origin.
Irohinoodua further quoted Canadian health officials as saying that Okunuga’s body would not be released but had to be cremated.
It said: “His death has left the Yoruba community in Italy totally devastated. We have lost a very great man who was in the apex of his career,” an official of the Egbe Omo Yoruba, who did not wish to be named, said.
Also mourning Odunuga, Mr. Abiodun Gbadamosi, an official of Egbe Omo Yoruba in North America, said: “We lost a great man this weekend. He was an affectionate and decent man who lived for others through his meritorious services since he left Nigeria for Canada many years ago.”
Enugu Suspected Case Tests Negative
The Enugu State Ministry of Health, yesterday announced that the suspected case of Coronavirus ealier announced by the state government has tested negative.
A statement signed by the permanent secretary in the ministry, Dr. Ifeanyi Agujiobi, declared that result of the test conducted at the IRUA Specialist Hospital and corroborated by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed that the suspected case proved negative.
“This is to inform the general public that we have received the result of the investigation sent to IRUA Specialist Hospital which is further corroborated by Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as negative.
“We hereby enjoin the general public to go about their normal business however to remain alert and vigilant observing basic personal health hygiene,” the statement reads. On the homefront, Enugu State has recorded suspected case of the coronavirus.“
Agujobi, had in a statement he issued ealier on behalf of the commissioner for health, said: “Sample has been collected and sent for investigations. We await the result. The suspect is being monitored.’’
Also, the commissioner for Information, Mr Chidi Aroh, said that the ministry’s officials were able to observe the suspected case due to its high surveillance of health security.
He stated that the ministry had earlier issued a statement on the suspected case after reporting the situation to the NCDC.
Italy Loses 368 Within 24 Hours
It was another sad day for Italy yesterday as the country reported 368 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak bringing the nation’s death toll to 1,809 while the number of positive cases rose to 24,747 from 21,157 on Saturday.
Italy has become the worst-hit country after China, with total number of cases hitting nearly 25,000.
Meanwhile, Spain became the second European country to impose a nationwide lockdown after 2,000 new cases were confirmed and the number of reported deaths doubled.
Iran, however, announced more than 100 people have died in the past 24 hours, with the confirmed cases nearing 14,000. Tehran said that its fight against coronavirus is being severely hampered by US sanctions.
In the Philippines, the capital Manila has been sealed off, with its 12 million residents told to avoid travel for a month. Schools in the city have been closed and large events banned while the US increased screening measures for people returning from Europe which caused chaos at airports.
UAE Orders Adherence To Public Health Directives
In the Arab world, the United Arab Emirate (UAE) Council for Fatwa declared that it is a religious obligation for all segments of society to strictly adhere to all public health directives and regulations provided by the dedicated state agencies as well as to take all necessary measures to prevent the transmission and spread of the disease.
The council, which issued a statement on the coronavirus pandemic, declared that it is impermissible according to sacred law to disregard such directives and measures under any circumstances.
In the statement signed by its chairman, His Eminence Shaykh AbdAllah Bin Bayyah, said: “It is forbidden by Sharia for anyone infected with this illness or even one thought to be at risk for infection to enter public places or go to the mosque for all congregational prayers, including Friday prayers and the Eid prayers.
“It is an obligation for such a person to take all necessary precautions as outlined by medical authorities, such as observing quarantine and adhering to any prescribed treatment. This is so that one does not transmit the illness to others.
“ There is a religious concession (rukhah) for the elderly, children, anyone suffering from respiratory conditions, and those with compromised immunity to not attend all congregational prayers, including Friday prayers, Eid prayers, and tarawÏ prayers. Such people may pray in their homes or wherever they are and can pray ·uhr in place of the Friday congregational prayer.
“ Such directives include frequently washing hands with soap and water, for cleanliness is part of the teachings of Islam based on the agreed upon hadith narrated by Ab Hurayrah in which the Prophet said, ‘when one of you wakes up from sleeping, he should wash his hands thrice before putting them into the water vessel’; limiting greeting others to verbal salutations and avoiding shaking hands and hugging; observing proper etiquette when sneezing, including covering the mouth and nose with the elbow or a tissue; and others.
“Regarding the hajj, umrah, and visiting the Messenger of God, it is obligatory to adhere to all directives issued by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which are rooted in their governmental and religious responsibilities for the welfare of all pilgrims. Adhering to these directives helps them in ensuring the well-being and safety of all.
“It is a religious obligation for all parties to cooperate with the appropriate agencies, each within their respective capacity, to limit the spread of disease and to work to eradicate it. They should also not circulate misinformation or rumours and should rely only on official statements from the appropriate agencies. Those committed to the safety and stability of society should ignore all unfounded rumors and prevent their spread,” the council said.
Catholic Church Reviews Celebration Of Mass In Rivers
To curtail the spread of coronavirus in Rivers State, the Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt has announced changes in the celebration of its Holy Mass.
The Catholic Bishop of Port Harcourt, Most Reverend Camillus Etukudoh, in a statement made available to newsmen yesterday, directed the suspension of parts of the Mass where faithful are meant to shake hands with one another as sign of peace till further notice.
Etukudoh also directed that hand washing points be provided at all Catholic churches in the state, while the holy water vessels that are usually placed at the entrance of the churches be removed immediately.
He stated that there should be massive education and enlightenment of the faithful on the most hygienic way of receiving Holy Communion during the Holy Mass.
The bishop, however, urged the faithful not to panic over the presence of the virus but take the situation to God in prayers, saying that God has the power to stop its spread.
Also, the Rivers State government has begun the sensitisation of various groups in the state, aimed at creating awareness on the virus as a means of preventing its infection.
The campaign, which began last Friday with chairmen and secretaries of Community Development Committees (CDCs) will continue today with religious groups and media practitioners.
According to the chairman of the Rivers State Committee on Coronavirus Enlightenment and commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, all the meetings will hold at the main auditorium of the Ministry of Justice, Port Harcourt.
Germany, US Feud Over Coronavirus Vaccine
The governments of Germany and the US are wrestling over the German-based company CureVac, which is working on a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, reported German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
The German media outlet cited unnamed sources that US President Donald Trump was offering large sums of money to German scientists working on a vaccine. He wanted to secure exclusive rights to their work, the newspaper reported.
However, in a news release, the company on Sunday rejected „any claims on a possible sale of the company or its technology.“
CureVac focuses on the development of a mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine to protect people worldwide. We abstain from commenting on speculations and rejects allegations about offers for acquisition of our company or our technology, the firm said.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said that a takeover was not on the cards and that the ministry „has been in good talks with the company for the last two weeks.“