UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock

The first human trials for vaccines against coronavirus will begin in the United Kingdom on Thursday. The UK Government announced this on Wednesday.

UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, speaking from Downing Street on Wednesday, said the vaccine was being developed at the University of Oxford and vowed: “We will throw everything we’ve got at developing a vaccine.”

“At the same time we’ll invest in manufacturing capability so if either of these vaccines safely works then we can make it available for the British people as soon as humanely possible,” he said.

He, however, cautioned that “nothing about this process is certain”. On the trial beginning, he said: “In normal times, reaching this stage would take years and I’m very proud of the work taken so far. The upside of being the first country in the world to develop a successful vaccine is so huge that I am throwing everything at it.”

He added that work is being done so that a vaccine, if it is found, can be rolled out to the public “as soon as humanly possible” as that is the only way lockdowns and restrictions can be permanently lifted and people can resume their normal lives.

Pope Francis Prays for Europe and Unity Among Nations

Pope Francis has prayed for European unity during the Casa Santa Marta Mass, from the chapel of his residence on Wednesday. He prayed for Europe and for fraternal unity between each other and among nations.

“In this time in which so much unity is needed, among us, among the nations, we pray today for Europe, so that Europe will have this unity, this fraternal unity that the founding fathers of the European Union have dreamed of,” Pope Francis said.

His words come ahead of an EU Council meeting on Thursday to discuss a recovery package for the economic crisis the bloc is experiencing due to the pandemic.

Missouri sues Chinese government over COVID-19 impact in the state

Missouri is suing the Chinese government and other top institutions for the role they played in the coronavirus pandemic and the effects it has had on the state, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announces.

The lawsuit was filed against the Chinese government, Chinese Communist Party and other Chinese institutions accusing the government of suppressing information, arresting whistleblowers, and denying the “contagious nature” of COVID-19, leading to severe consequences in Missouri. 

A statement from Schmitt reads:

COVID-19 has done irreparable damage to countries across the globe, causing sickness, death, economic disruption, and human suffering. In Missouri, the impact of the virus is very real – thousands have been infected and many have died, families have been separated from dying loved ones, small businesses are shuttering their doors, and those living paycheck to paycheck are struggling to put food on their table. The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease. They must be held accountable for their actions.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, alleges, “During the critical weeks of the initial outbreak, Chinese authorities deceived the public, suppressed crucial information, arrested whistleblowers, denied human-to-human transmission in the face of mounting evidence, destroyed critical medical research, permitted millions of people to be exposed to the virus, and even hoarded personal protective equipment (“PPE”)—thus causing a global pandemic that was unnecessary and preventable.”

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According to Eric Schmitt official website, the key factual allegations can be found here.

Nigeria records 117 new coronavirus cases in biggest daily jump

After 24 hours of no new cases in Lagos State, the state has recorded almost three scores of new infections. However, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Imo, Kebbi, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara States are yet to record any case of the infection.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as of Tuesday night, 782 confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in the country while 197 recoveries and 25 fatalities have been recorded.

It said Lagos State recorded 59 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed infections in the state to 430, while 107 recoveries and 16 fatalities have also been reported. This is as the total confirmed cases in the country jumped to 782.

As at 11:25 pm 21st April, breakdown of cases by states: Lagos-430, FCT-118, Kano-73, Osun-20, Ogun-20, Oyo-16, Katsina-16, Edo-15, Kwara-9, Kaduna-9, Akwa Ibom-9, Borno-9, Bauchi-8, Gombe-5, Delta-4, Ekiti-4, Ondo-3, Rivers-3, Jigawa-2, Enugu-2, Niger-2, Abia-2, Benue-1, Anambra-1 and Sokoto-1.

Lagos State increases health worker hazard allowance from N5,000 to N25,000

Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has increased the hazard allowance of health workers in the state in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The increment was made official in a statement signed by the Lagos State head of service, Hakeem Muri-Okuno.

According to the statement, the increment is for the month of April and in appreciation of the dedication of all health workers in their fight against the pandemic and their daily exposure to the disease.

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It reads:

In appreciation of the dedication of all Health Officers in Lagos State to the fight against the Coronavirus Pandemic, as well as their daily hazardous exposure to the highly contagious disease, it is hereby notified for general information that Mr. Governor has approved the increment of Hazard Allowance for all Health Officers in Lagos State from N5,000 (Five Thousand Naira) to N25,000 (Twenty-Five Thousand Naira) for the month of April 2020.

The gesture is an incentive to all Health Officers in the State, as Frontline Responders in the fight against the Pandemic. It is believed that the Officers would reciprocate same with more doggedness and enthusiasm towards duty in all Health facilities State-wide.

Furthermore, I wish to reiterate that our collective efforts will yield the desired result, as this Pandemic shall pass. Accounting Officers are enjoined to note the contents of this Circular and give it the Service-wide publicity it deserves.

Sadiya Farouq says members from the same family cannot receive money more than once

On Tuesday, during the Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19, the Federal Government made some clarifications about the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme currently ongoing in many states in Nigeria.

According to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Farouq, members from the same family cannot receive money more than once.

According to Channels News, the minister said: “This is near impossible because the process involved is a very tedious process, where all critical stakeholders in the community are involved. The community leaders and the faith-based organisations, the youths and women leaders in that particular community are the ones that come up with the list of poor and vulnerable ones in that community”.

She also disclosed that the government is set to expand the social register for palliative distribution by employing digital models, including the use of BVN. This will be faster and make the distribution process more effective.

South Africa President Ramaphosa announces $26bn COVID-19 relief plan

On Tuesday, South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa announced a $26 billion relief package aimed at supporting the economy and the vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a special address to the nation, the president announced “a massive social and economic support package of 500 billion rand ($26.3 billion), which amounts to about 10 percent of our GDP”. “The scale of this emergency programme is historical,” he said.

Here’s a part of his statement shared via the official Twitter of The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa.

Fellow Compatriots, it is 25 days since South Africa began a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the #coronavirus. It has demanded of you great fortitude and endurance.

It has caused you much suffering and required much sacrifice. Once again, I salute you and I thank you. The #coronavirus pandemic has disrupted your lives and damaged our economy. Its severity will continue to take a heavy toll in the weeks and months to come. The pandemic has resulted in the sudden loss of income for businesses and individuals alike, deepening poverty and increasing hunger.

The urgent and dramatic measures we have taken to delay the spread of the virus have been absolutely necessary. They have given us space to better respond to the inevitable rise in infections and to thereby save tens of thousands of lives. While the nation-wide lockdown is having a devastating effect on our economy, it is nothing compared to the catastrophic human, social and economic cost if the coronavirus could spread among our people unchecked.

President #Ramaphosa: Medical scientists and our doctors inform us that we are still in the early stages of this pandemic. Without proven therapeutic medicines or a vaccine, we can expect this to continue as a problem for the foreseeable future. Our foremost priority now is to intensify the health interventions needed to contain and delay the spread of the disease and to save lives. To date, the coronavirus has taken the lives of at least 58 people in our country.

This is a loss that we all mourn, for we know the pain and the anguish of their loved ones. From the more than 126,000 tests conducted, 3,465 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been identified. More than 2 million people have been screened in communities across the country and, of these, over 15,000 have been referred for testing.

Alongside this unprecedented public health effort are the measures we are taking to protect livelihoods, to stave off hunger and destitution and to set our economy on a path of recovery. This evening, I wish to address you on our economic and social response to this global health emergency. The #COVID19 pandemic requires an economic response that is equal to the scale of the disruption it is causing.

This included a broad range of measures to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic on businesses, on communities and on individuals. The measures included tax relief, the release of disaster relief funds, emergency procurement, wage support through the #UIF and funding to small businesses. We are now embarking on the second phase of our economic response to stabilise the economy, address the extreme decline in supply & demand and protect jobs.

As part of this phase, we are announcing this evening a massive social relief and economic support package of R500 billion, which amounts to around 10% of GDP. The third phase is the economic strategy we will implement to drive the recovery of our economy as the country emerges from this pandemic.

Read the full statement here.

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