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Leak official documents, face dismissal, FG warns [Sun]

The Federal Government has described the trend whereby government documents are now found in the public space as embarrassing and has threatened to dismiss anyone found culpable in the civil service.

Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HoS), Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, gave the warning in a circular dated  May 22, 2020, made public yesterday by Olawunmi Ogunmosunle, spokesperson for the H0S.

The circular, HCSF/109/S.1/120, was addressed to the the following: Chief of Staff to the President, Office of the Vice President, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Permanent Secretaries, and Service Chiefs/Inspector-General of Police, and ministers, among other.

The HoS lamented the “unauthorised disclosure” of official government documents to social media platforms in recent months, saying civil servants engaged in such acts breached the provisions of the Public Service Rules nos. 030401 and 030402 and perpetrators risked being dismissed from service. She said the official documents, in some cases, were correspondences minuted on.

“This irresponsible and reckless action is an act of serious misconduct with a penalty of dismissal from service, as provided for in Public Service Rules Nos. 030401 and 030402. In some cases, official documents that have been minuted on are also leaked. The ugly development is embarrassing to government and, therefore, not acceptable. Any public officer caught engaging in this act of serious misconduct will be severely dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Rules. Permanent secretaries are to draw the attention of all staff to the contents of this circular and the consequences of breaking the rules,” Yemi-Esan said.

 

COVID-19: WHO advises on healthy diets [Sun]

Eating healthy diet is important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as food and drink can affect the body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections, said the World Health Organisation (WHO), in a statement from Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday.

“Good nutrition can also reduce the likelihood of developing other health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer,” it said.

WHO said, for babies, a healthy diet meant exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months, with the introduction of nutritious and safe foods to complement breast milk from six months to two years and beyond.

“For young children, a healthy and balanced diet is essential for growth and development. For older people, it can help to ensure healthier and more active lives,” it said.

The health agency gave tips for maintaining a healthy diet, stressing that consumption of variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, was nutritious.

“Every day, eat a mix of whole grains like wheat, maize and rice, legumes like lentils and beans, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, with some foods from animal sources like meat, fish, eggs and milk.

“Choose whole grain foods like unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat and brown rice when you can; they are rich in valuable fibre and can help you feel full for longer.

“For snacks, choose raw vegetables, fresh fruit, and unsalted nuts,” it said.

WHO advised that salt intake should be reduced, adding that it should be limited to five grammes, equivalent to a teaspoon, a day. In addition, moderate amounts of fats and oils should be eaten, substituting butter, ghee and lard with healthier fats like olive, soy, sunflower or corn oil when cooking.

“Choose white meats like poultry and fish, which are generally lower in fats than red meat; trim meat of visible fat and limit the consumption of processed meats.

“Select low-fat or reduced-fat versions of milk and dairy products; and avoid processed, baked and fried foods that contain industrially produced trans-fat. Try steaming or boiling, instead of frying food when cooking,” it said.

WHO added that intake of sweets and sugary drinks such as fizzy drinks, fruit juices, liquid and powder concentrates, flavoured water, energy and sports drinks, ready-to-drink tea and coffee and flavoured milk drinks should be limited.

“Choose fresh fruits instead of sweet snacks such as cookies, cakes and chocolate. When other dessert options are chosen, ensure that they are low in sugar and consume small portions.

“Avoid giving sugary foods to children. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods given to children under two years of age, and should be limited beyond that age,” it said.

The health agency advised that people should stay hydrated by drinking enough water, adding that good hydration was crucial for optimal health.

“Drinking water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages is a simple way to limit your intake of sugar and excess calories,” it said.

It advised people to avoid hazardous and harmful alcohol use, stressing that alcohol was not part of healthy diet.

“Drinking alcohol does not protect against COVID-19 and can be dangerous,” WHO warned, maintaining that frequent or excessive alcohol consumption increases immediate risk of injury, as well as “causing longer-term effects like liver damage, cancer, heart disease and mental illness. There is no safe level of alcohol consumption.”

 

 

COVID-19: INEC to introduce e-voting for Anambra guber [Sun]

…Raises concerns over rising cost of conducting frequent bye-elections

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that it will pilot the use of Electronic Voting Machines at the earliest possible time and work towards its full introduction in major elections starting from 2021 due to the challenges Coronavirus pandemic has posed on the conduct of elections in Nigeria.

Although the commission specifically emphasised in the ‘Policy on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic’ released on Monday, however, it looks obvious it would deploy full scale use of e-voting during Anambra state governorship election, which is one of the major election coming up next year.

Worried by the rising cost of conducting frequent bye-elections, especially in consideration of the Supreme Court position that votes belong primarily to political parties, the Commission promised to engage with the legislature and other stakeholders to explore ways of responding to it.

In the policy signed by the electoral umpire chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, the commission further noted that as part of the measure to mitigate the dangers of conducting elections during the pandemic, it will deploy several health procedures before, during and after conduct of any election.

On the involvement of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and voter registration, it noted: “The Commission recognizes the critical role that ICT will play in an electoral process vastly reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the growing demands by Nigerians for the deepening of the use of technology in our elections.

“Consequently, the Commission shall continue to apply relevant, value-for-money technology in all aspects of the electoral process and election management. Regularly validate and clean up the biometric Register of Voters by removing multiple registrants and deceased persons. Suspend the Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR) for the time being to prevent the health risks associated with it in the context of COVID-19.

“Continue to make available its electronic channels for voters to check their registration status. Pilot the use of Electronic Voting Machines at the earliest possible time (not Edo and Ondo), but work towards the full introduction of electronic voting in major elections starting from 2021,” it noted.

On legal issues of conducting election under the pandemic, the commission said: “As already announced, the dates for the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States remain September 19, 2020 and October 10, 2020, respectively. Dates for the four postponed bye-elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Plateau States, as well as other bye-elections that become due during the COVID-19 pandemic will be announced by the Commission following its established procedures.

“The Commission will engage with the legislature and other stakeholders to explore ways of responding to the rising cost of conducting frequent bye-elections, especially in consideration of the Supreme Court position that votes belong primarily to political parties, as well as the Commission’s records, which show that only in 10 per cent of all bye-elections since 2015 did the party that won originally lose the election.

“The Commission will engage relevant authorities, including the legislature, to designate election as an essential service to enable the Commission function effectively in times of national emergency,” it emphasised.

Commenting on the health measure to be adopted, the electoral umpire noted: “The most immediate challenge that COVID-19 poses to the electoral process is health related. In order to protect voters, election officials and other stakeholders in the electoral process, the Commission shall implement the following:

“General Protective Measures, infrared thermometers will be supplied and used at the Registration Area Collation Centres, the Local Government Area Collation Centres and the State Collation Centres. The use of face masks is mandatory for all involved in the election process and must be worn at all election locations.

“The Commission shall provide face masks for all election officials. Alcohol based hand sanitizers will be provided for election officials at the polling units. Methylated Spirit and cotton wool will be provided for the disinfection of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) after the fingerprint of each voter is read. The rules of physical distancing shall be enforced at all election activities including stakeholder engagements, training, queuing at Polling Units, etc.

“All protocols issued by the NCDC, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, State Committees on COVID-19 and other relevant health authorities shall be observed by election officials and all stakeholders. The Commission shall work with the PTF and health authorities to have in place a system of voluntary COVID-19 testing for INEC staff before and after deploying for elections.

“For voters and election officials showing symptoms of COVID–19, the Commission shall work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and health authorities in the States having elections to develop a protocol for dealing with persons who show symptoms of COVID-19 at election venues.

“Where an election official, a voter or any other person present at an election venue shows symptoms of COVID-19, the prevailing protocol shall be observed; the person must be isolated from other persons at the venue; the attention of the security personnel should be drawn; the dedicated number for COVID–19 emergencies shall be called; and if the affected person is an election official, the Commission must be notified through the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC),” it announced.

 

WHO suspends COVID-19 chloroquine treatment trial [Nation]

  • ‘More people dying from use of drug’
  • What to eat, by agency

A FEW weeks into solidarity trial of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has suspended the process.

It hinged its decision to temporarily halt the test trial of the drug on safety concerns.

This is based on a report published by Lancet, which indicated that more people are dying from the use of the drug to combat the pandemic.

Announcing the decision in an online briefing on Monday, WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “As you know, more than two months ago, we initiated the Solidarity Trial, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations against COVID-19.

“On Friday, the Lancet published an observational study on hydroxycholoroquine and chloraquine and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalised.

“The authors reported that among patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate.

“The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries, met on Saturday and agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally.

“The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and, in particular, robust randomised available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug.

“The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.”

Hydroxycholoroquine has been touted by United States President Donald Trump and others as a possible treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The U.S. President has said he was taking the drug to help prevent infection.

Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies programme, said the decision to suspend trials of hydroxychloroquine had been taken out of “an abundance of caution”.

Over 400 hospitals in 35 countries are actively recruiting patients and nearly 3,500 patients have been enrolled from 17 countries.

Five states – Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) –  have signed up to participate in the WHO’s solidarity trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19.

The WHO also warned that countries where coronavirus infections are declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak.

The world is still in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, WHO emergencies head Dr Mike Ryan told an online briefing, noting that while cases are declining in many countries, they are still increasing in Central and South America, South Asia and Africa.

Ryan said epidemics often come in waves, which means that outbreaks could come back later this year in places where the first wave has subsided. There was also a chance that infection rates could rise again more quickly, if measures to halt the first wave were lifted too soon.

“When we speak about a second wave classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time,” Ryan said.

“But we need also to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time. We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.”

He said countries in Europe and North America should “continue to put in place the public health and social measures, the surveillance measures, the testing measures and a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don’t have an immediate second peak.”

Many European countries and U.S. states have taken steps in recent weeks to lift lockdown measures that curbed the spread of the disease but caused severe harm to economies.

The WHO boss added: “The other arms of the trial are continuing. This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloraquine in COVID-19.

“I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria. WHO will provide further updates as we know more. And we will continue to work night and day for solutions, science and solidarity.”

 

Lagos working with Fed Govt on schools reopening [Nation]

THE Lagos State government  is working out modalities for the resumption of schools after the ongoing lockdown of some sectors in the state occasioned by the COVID-19(Coronavirus) pandemic.

It explained that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu “cannot not unilaterally” announce schools’ reopening  since the contagion did not affect Lagos alone.

The government  disclosed that  it had already started meeting with officials of the Federal Ministry of Education to design guidelines that would  be adopted before students could return to their classrooms.

Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, made this known while explaining    government’s  plans for education  at  an online show, Covinspiration show. The Online show was moderated by a United Nations (UN) Youth Ambassador, Dayo Isreal, to keep the public abreast of the administration’s activities in the last one year.

Adefisayo  said the government ,which also plans to recruit additional 2,000 teachers,  was watching the behaviour of COVID-19 to  determine the next step to take.

Her words: “This(school resumption} is not a decision that any state can unilaterally take on its own. If we are certain that the children are safe, we will reopen the schools for learning to resume.

“We   are already working with the Federal Ministry of Education and they are working with National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) on the guidelines that could be adopted when the need arises for the schools to reopen.

“After the protocol is completed and health officials assure us that the coast is clear, we will give the schools some days to adjust their premises in accordance with the guidelines on commencement of academic activities.”

She added that government had concluded plans to employ at least 2,000 teachers in another few months to boost the standard of public primary school education in the state.

This, according to her,  is in addition to the 1,000 teachers earlier recruited by the government.

“Aside from recruitment, we have spent a lot on the training of current teachers to improve their teaching skills . And this COVID-19 period was the time when we were able to do a lot of things in the Education sector,”  she added.

 

INEC okays e-voting from 2021 [Nation]

  • No face mask, no voting in Edo, Ondo polls

ELECTRONIC Voting Machine (EVM) will be used for future elections in the country beginning from next year, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has indicated.

But, the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states will run on the existing order, the agency added.

It said its decision on e-voting is in line with the demands by Nigerians to deepen the use of technology to conduct elections.

The agency has suspended Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR) to prevent the health risks associated with it as a result of COVID-19.

According to the details of the conduct of elections and voting in line with the guidelines for the management of Coronavirus Disease as released yesterday, polling unit layout shall be redesigned with e periodic disinfection of chairs, tables and work areas, as well as adequate ventilation.

It said the threshold for Voting Points shall be increased from 500/750 to 1,000/1,250.

It also clarified that any voter who does not wear a face mask will be disenfranchised.

The commission also unveiled as part of “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” uploaded on its website that:

“The Commission recognises the critical role that ICT will play in an electoral process that is being vastly reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the growing demands by Nigerians for the deepening of the use of technology in our elections.

“Consequently, the Commission shall:

             Continue to apply relevant, value-for-money technology in all aspects of the electoral process and election management.

             Regularly validate and clean up the biometric Register of Voters by removing multiple registrants and deceased persons.

             Suspend the Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR) for the time being to prevent the health risks associated with it in the context of COVID-19.

             Continue to make available its electronic channels for voters to check their registration status.

             Pilot the use of Electronic Voting Machines at the earliest possible time (not Edo and Ondo), but work towards the full introduction of electronic voting in major elections starting from 2021.

Although the commission was not specific on whether it will seek constitutional backing for EVM, it said it acted in line with Section 160 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Section 153 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended),

It said: “Section 160 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to by rules or otherwise, regulate its own procedure or confer powers and impose duties on any officer or authority for the purpose of discharging its functions. The Commission is also empowered by Section 153 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to issue regulations, guidelines and manuals for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the Act.”

On the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, it said: “As already announced by the Commission, the dates for the Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states remain 19th September 2020 and 10th October 2020 respectively.

“Dates for the four postponed by-elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Plateau States, as well as other by-elections that become due during the COVID-19 pandemic will be announced by the Commission following its established procedures.

“The Commission will engage with the legislature and other stakeholders to explore ways of responding to the rising cost of conducting frequent by-elections, especially in consideration of the Supreme Court position that votes belong primarily to political parties, as well as the Commission’s records, which show that only in 10% of all by-elections since 2015 did the party that won originally lose the election.

“The Commission will engage relevant authorities, including the legislature, to designate election as an essential service to enable the Commission function effectively in times of national emergency.”

“Conducting elections in a pandemic such as COVID-19 is yet uncharted waters. Only very few jurisdictions have any experience with this.

“That notwithstanding, the Commission is committed to conducting all elections that are due within the extant legal framework. However, in so doing it will put a premium on public safety and mitigation of health risks from COVID-19. Citizens must be assured that they will be safe while participating as voters, candidates and officials.”

On the conduct of election during the COVID-19 pandemic, INEC said it will enforce a no face mask, no voting measure.

It also said Methylated Spirit and cotton wool will be provided for the disinfection of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs).

It said: “The most immediate challenge that COVID-19 poses to the electoral process is health related. In order to protect voters, election officials and other stakeholders in the electoral process, the Commission shall implement the following: Infrared thermometers will be supplied and used at the Registration Area Collation Centres, the Local Government Area Collation Centres and the State Collation Centres.

“The use of face masks is mandatory for all involved in the election process and must be worn at all election locations.  The Commission shall provide face masks for all election officials.

“Alcohol based hand sanitizers will be provided for election officials at the polling units.  Methylated Spirit and cotton wool will be provided for the disinfection of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) after the fingerprint of each voter is read.

“The rules of physical distancing shall be enforced at all election activities, including stakeholder engagements, training, queuing at Polling Units, etc.

“All protocols issued by the NCDC, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, State Committees on COVID-19 and other relevant health authorities shall be observed by election officials and all stakeholders.

“The Commission shall work with the PTF and health authorities to have in place a system of voluntary COVID-19 testing for INEC staff before and after deploying for elections. “

As for voters and Election Officials showing symptoms of COVID – 19, the policy said: “The Commission shall work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and health authorities in the states having elections to develop a protocol for dealing with persons who show symptoms of COVID-19 at election venues.

“Where an election official, a voter or any other person present at an election venue shows symptoms of COVID-19, the prevailing protocol shall be observed; the person must be isolated; from other persons at the venue;   the attention of the security personnel should be drawn; the dedicated number for COVID – 19 emergencies shall be called; and if the affected person is an election official, the Commission must be notified through the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC).”

INEC also came up with a long list of protocols for the conduct of elections and voting.

It added: “All ad hoc staff databases in the commission will be harmonized for better management.  To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the Commission shall reduce to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and bye elections.

“The rule shall be that only shortfalls requested by the States are filled from outside the state. As much as possible, all election staff will be sourced in-state. d. Transportation of election staff shall comply with COVID-19 containment protocols.

“Consequently, there shall be a reduction in the number of passengers per vehicle on election day from 14 to 7 for buses, and from 12 to 6 for boats. Motorcycles and tricycles must be used sparingly with one passenger per motorcycle and two per tricycle. All passengers and drivers must wear face masks and it shall be mandatory and the responsibility of vehicle owners to provide hand sanitizers for occupants of their vehicles.

“In the establishment of Voting Points, in order to reduce the number of points in a Polling Unit to be monitored and controlled for COVID-19 compliance, the threshold for Voting Points shall be increased from 500/750 to 1,000/1,250.

“In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Polling Unit layout shall be redesigned by the Commission to ensure substantial compliance with the protocols established by health authorities. Among other things, social distancing, general hygienic conduct and enforcement of COVID-19 prevention protocols shall be emphasized in the redesign.

“There shall be a two-tier queuing system at the Polling Unit – one outside and the other in the voting area. Voters will be brought into the voting area periodically to prevent overcrowding. Tags and twines may be used to ensure crowd control and maintenance of social distance.”

 

Man kills brother over money raised for mother’s funeral [Punch]

One Patrick Obiesheike has allegedly murdered his brother, Remigus, in the Umulowoshie Umuoahochie Autonomous Community, Obowo Local Government Area of Imo State, following disagreements over funds raised for their mother’s funeral.

Our correspondent learnt that the suspect fled after killing his sibling on Sunday.

It was gathered that the 55-year-old victim was a commercial motorcyclist and lived in the village with his family.

A police source told PUNCH Metro on Monday that the victim’s wife reported the case of murder at the Obowo Divisional Police Headquarters.

A community source said Remigus’ corpse had been deposited in a morgue in Achingali.

The police spokesperson in the state, Orlando Ikeokwu, confirmed the incident to our correspondent on the telephone on Monday.

According to him, police personnel visited the scene and evacuated the corpse to a nearby morgue.

Ikeokwu stated that a manhunt had been launched for the fleeing suspect.

“Yes, the incident is confirmed. A manhunt for the suspect, who is on the run, has been launched,” he said.

 

FG screening 19 Nigerian firms for COVID-19 drugs production [Punch]

  • Ministry asks companies to submit samples to NAFDAC
  • Coronavirus has spread to 16 of our 20 LGs, says Ogun

The Federal Ministry of Health is screening 19 local firms for the production of herbal drugs that can possibly treat or cure COVID-19, The PUNCH has learnt.

The firms, it was learnt, made many claims ranging from the outright cure for COVID-19 to the treatment of the symptoms.

It was learnt that the 19 firms had met with the leadership of the ministry and the Department of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The firms have, however, been asked to submit their samples to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control out of which three would be picked and recommended for funding.

The Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, confirmed this during a chat with The PUNCH on Monday.

He said a meeting was held with the leadership of NAFDAC, the National Institute for Medical Research, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and other relevant stakeholders.

Mamora said the ministry asked interested herbal manufacturers to tell the government what their challenges were.

The minister said some of them complained about funding as well as possible theft of their patent. Mamora said concerns over how to identify patients for trial were also discussed.

He said, “We met with about 19 of them to know what remedies they have in place and to know how we can put them through the processes from listing the medicine to clinical trial and then we wanted to know the challenges they were having.

“They said those challenges essentially were funding and they needed assurances that their intellectual property would be protected and their product or remedy would not be stolen or repackaged by someone else.

“The other challenge is how to go about the clinical trial. Part of that is how they source for patients because they will need patients who are volunteers. These patients have to be volunteers since it is a new product that will be put out there.

“So, we are now in the process of screening the 19 of them and we will shortlist some of them. About three will be shortlisted for further assessment and we will recommend support for them in order to fast track the process of determining their efficacy.”

When asked if the drugs were for the outright cure of COVID-19 or just for the treatment, Mamora said it was too soon to say as discussions were still on.

He said NAFDAC would test the herbal solutions to see if they are safe for human consumption.

WHO suspends chloroquine trial, says Africa’s  cases, deaths  appear unreal

The World Health Organisation on Monday announced the suspension of clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

The organisation’s Director-General, Tedros  Ghebreyesus, disclosed this in his opening remarks at a virtual press conference.

Ghebreyesus attributed the suspension to a recent report on the effect of the drug on patients.

He said, “As part of our continued response to the pandemic globally,  WHO continues to work aggressively on research and development.

“As you know, more than two months ago, we initiated the solidarity trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations against COVID-19.

“Over 400 hospitals in 35 countries are actively recruiting patients and nearly 3,500 patients have been enrolled from 17 countries.

“On Friday, the Lancet published an observational study on hydroxycholoroquine and chloraquine and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalised.

“The authors reported that among patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate.

“The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries, met on Saturday and has agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally.

“The review will consider data collected so far in the solidarity trial and in particular robust randomised available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug.

“The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the solidarity trial, while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board. The other arms of the trial are continuing.”

The WHO chief stated the concern relating to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19, reiterating that the drugs were accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.

He promised that the organisation would provide further updates when  there were more developments.

Ghebreyesus noted that the figures of confirmed cases and deaths as a result of the pandemic in Africa did not appear real.

He said, “So far, although around half of the countries in the region have community transmission, concentrated mainly in major cities, Africa is the least-affected region globally in terms of the number of cases and deaths reported to WHO.

“Africa has just 1.5 percent of the world’s reported cases of COVID-19, and less than 0.1 percent of the world’s deaths.Of course, these numbers don’t paint the full picture.

“Testing capacity in Africa is still being ramped up and there is a likelihood that some cases may be missed.

“But even so, Africa appears to have so far been spared the scale of outbreaks we have seen in other regions.”

The WHO chief said the early set-up of a leaders coalition led by the African Union, under the chairmanship of President Ramaphosa of South Africa, was key to rapidly accelerating preparedness efforts and issuing comprehensive control measures.

He noted that countries across Africa had garnered a great deal of experience from tackling infectious diseases such as  polio, measles, Ebola, yellow fever, influenza and many more.

He added, “Africa’s knowledge and experience of suppressing infectious diseases has been critical to rapidly scaling up an agile response to COVID-19.

“There has been solidarity across the continent. Labs in Senegal and South Africa were some of the first in the world to implement COVID-19 diagnostic testing.

“And beyond that, they worked together with Africa CDC and WHO to extend training for laboratory technicians for detection of COVID-19 and to build up the national capacity across the region.

“Furthermore, health clinicians, scientists, researchers and academics from across Africa are collectively contributing to the worldwide understanding of COVID-19 disease.

“For many years and from the outset of this pandemic, WHO has been working through our country offices to support nations in health emergency preparedness and developing comprehensive national action plans to prevent, detect and respond to the virus.”

Coronavirus has spread to 16 of our 20 LGs, says Ogun

Meanwhile, the Ogun State Government  on Monday, said COVID-19 had spread to 16 out of  20 local government areas of the state.

The Commissioner for Health  in the state, Dr Tomi Coker, who disclosed in an interview with one of our correspondents, said only four local government were  free of COVID-19 in the state as of Monday afternoon .

The Commissioner, who mentioned three out of four councils that were  free of the virus,  said she did not remember the fourth one. She said   could not access her diary where the detailed report of the geography was recorded.

The commissioner  said,   “There are four local government areas  that are free of these cases. Both Egbado North and South, Ijebu-Ode, there is one more that I cannot remember now , but,  they  are four.”

 

INEC plans to start electronic voting in 2021 [Punch]

The Independent National Electoral Commission on Monday said it would engage with the National Assembly and other stakeholders to explore ways of responding to the rising cost of conducting frequent bye-elections in Nigeria.

The commission premised its decision on the Supreme Court judgment which states that votes belong primarily to political parties, as well as its records, which show that only in 10 per cent of all bye-elections since 2015 did the party that won originally lose the election.

INEC also said it would “pilot the use of Electronic Voting Machines at the earliest possible time (not Edo and Ondo), but work towards the full introduction of electronic voting in major elections starting from 2021.”

The commission gave these details in its 17-paged policy document on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, signed by its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made available to journalists in Abuja.

According to the document, the commission would ensure the use of electronic and non-contact means to recruit ad hoc staff beginning with the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19 and October 10, 2020 respectively.

The commission also said it would reduce to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and bye-elections to reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus.

The document reads, “The commission will engage with the legislature and other stakeholders to explore ways of responding to the rising cost of conducting frequent bye-elections, especially in consideration of the Supreme Court position that votes belong primarily to political parties, as well as the Commission’s records, which show that only in 10 per cent of all bye-elections since 2015 did the party that won originally lose the election.

“The commission will engage relevant authorities, including the legislature, to designate election as an essential service to enable the commission function effectively in times of national emergency.

“The commission shall revamp its election planning and implementation-monitoring processes in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the commission in planning elections shall respond to the growing demand for deepening the use of technology in the electoral processes, including the introduction of electronic voting.”

Apart from developing a new election budget template to reflect the likely impact of the COVID – 19 pandemic on the funding profile of electoral activities, INEC said it would constantly re-evaluate planned electoral activities in the light of COVID – 19 and the health risks it poses for voters, stakeholders and staff during elections.

For pre-election activities, the commission said it would “develop a Voter Code of Conduct document detailing how voters are expected to act and conduct themselves at the polling units in the light of the COVID – 19 pandemic.”

The document reads further, “The commission will ensure the use of electronic and non-contact means to recruit ad hoc staff by deploying its INECPres portal, as well as in notifying ad hoc staff of invitations and postings (for example, use of SMS) to prevent large gatherings at INEC offices during staff deployment.

“The Electoral Operations and Logistics Department will harvest all past ad hoc staff from its databases and send to each State preparing for elections.

“All ad hoc staff databases in the commission will be harmonised for better management. To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the commission shall reduce, to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and bye-elections.

“The rule shall be that only shortfalls requested by the States are filled from outside the state. As much as possible, all election staff will be sourced in-state.

“In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission shall encourage political parties to develop appropriate guidelines and regulations for conduct of party primaries that take into account the COVID-19 prevention protocols.”

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