By Adedapo Adesanya
The United Kingdom has pledged up to £105 million of UK emergency aid to help vulnerable countries tackle the Omicron COVID-19 variant, with a particular focus on Africa.
This was disclosed by the Foreign Secretary, Ms Liz Truss, who added that the vital aid will be delivered through trusted partners and will help scale-up testing, especially in parts of Africa where testing rates for the virus remain lowest – allowing health systems to track and respond to the spread of the virus more effectively.
This is in addition to the UK’s world-leading genomic sequencing support.
She also added that it will help improve access to oxygen supplies for ventilators – a surge in demand for oxygen is a significant risk for some countries, provide communities with hygiene advice, products and access to handwashing facilities and support deep cleaning in schools, health centres and other public places.
This will build on the successful global hygiene campaign between UK aid and Unilever which has reached over 1.2 billion people since its launch in 2020.
The fund will also aid the UK’s science and research into the spread of variants like Omicron to enable innovative evidence-based policy responses in low and middle-income countries.
It will also ready the UK’s own expert emergency teams for deployment overseas to crisis hotspots, including with new medical equipment.
Speaking on this, the country’s Foreign Secretary said, “The UK is providing vital assistance to help tackle the spread of new variants around the world. This is key to securing our freedom and ending this pandemic once and for all.
“I am proud that we have also delivered over 30 million vaccines to benefit our friends around the world this year. The UK is helping other countries most in need. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
Doses donated by the UK have reached four continents and provided vital protection from Covid-19 in countries including Angola, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Malawi, Nepal, and Rwanda.
Of the more than 30 million doses now donated, 24.6 million have been received by COVAX for delivery to countries and 5.5 million have been shared directly with countries in need including Kenya, Jamaica, and Indonesia.
Millions more vaccines will be sent to other countries in 2022, including 20 million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses and 20 million Janssen doses.
The UK has been at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19 and its latest announcement builds on the £1.3 billion in UK aid committed to the international health response early on in the pandemic, supporting vaccines, health systems and economic recovery in developing countries.
The UK Government also invested more than £88 million to support the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and the UK became the first country in the world to approve the jab a year ago.
NAFDAC Stops Registration of Alcoholic Drinks in Sachet, Bottles
By Adedapo Adesanya
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has stopped the registration of new alcoholic drinks in sachet, small volume PET and glass bottles above 30 per cent ABV (alcohol by volume).
This information was contained in a statement issued on Monday in Abuja by the Director-General of NAFDAC, Mrs Mojisola Christiana Adeyeye.
She disclosed that the ban followed the recommendation of a high powered committee of the Federal Ministry of Health and the agency.
The NAFDAC chief added that this also followed other recommendations from Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) and Industry represented by the Association of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE), and the Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN) in December 2018.
“In a decisive move to reduce availability and curb abuse of alcohol in the country, NAFDAC has stopped the registration of alcohol in sachet and small volume PET and glass bottles below 200ml amidst other stringent regulatory measures,” the statement reiterated.
According to her, NAFDAC will ensure that the validity of the renewal of already registered alcoholic products in the affected category will not exceed the year 2024.
She explained that manufacturers of low volume alcohol beverages (200ml) with satisfactory laboratory reports, which were already submitted to NAFDAC for registration before this decision have been directed to reformulate their products to stipulated standards free of charge.
According to her, the Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria was also given a matching order to embark on intensive nationwide sensitization campaigns against underage consumption of alcohol by adolescents below the age of 18 years in the bid to stem the tide of alcohol abuse in the country.
She explained that the producers of alcohol in sachets and small volume agreed to reduce production by 50 per cent with effect from January 31, 2020, while ensuring the products are completely phased out in the country by January 31, 2024.
“Even as we grapple with the containment of COVID-19 pandemic, NAFDAC is resolutely committed to the strict implementation of the regulations and regulatory measures towards safeguarding the Health of Nigerians particularly the vulnerable youths against the dangers of reckless consumption of Alcohol,” the NAFDAC DG noted.
FG Strengthens Efforts to Combat Lassa Fever Outbreak
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government through the Ministry of Environment has strengthened responses to the current Lassa fever outbreak in the country as cases continue to rise.
In a statement signed by the Director of Press in the Ministry of Environment, Saghir el Mohammed, it was stated that the most recent situation report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on January 16, 2022, indicated that the country recorded 96 confirmed cases and 11 deaths from January 3 to January 16, 2022, in 27 local government areas across 11 states.
These states are Bauchi, Edo, Ondo, Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Plateau, Kogi, Cross River, Ebonyi and Oyo.
The NCDC added that 510 confirmed cases and 102 deaths occurred from January 2021 to January 2, 2022.
The statement revealed that activities on environmental health and sanitation response to the Lassa fever outbreak in the country have been put in place.
Mr Mohammed noted that the Minister of State for the Environment, Ms Sharon Ikeazor, has already embarked on environmental health and sanitation response campaign in 11 states of the federation to ensure improvement in environmental sanitation of premises, abatement of the nuisance, rodent control, food hygiene and safety.
Ms Ikeazor, while noting that Nigeria was currently experiencing an increasing number of reported Lassa fever cases across the country, revealed that before the recent outbreak, the ministry had taken proactive measures to improve the overall sanitation and hygiene situation in the country by establishing sanitation desks in all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT to ensure proper monitoring and proactive measures on environmental health issues and concerns.
She said: “This is in addition to the setting up of Environmental Health Surveillance Systems (EHSS) designed to strengthen cooperation between the states and federal government on environmental health and sanitation issues, which would aid information/data gathering and sharing between the federal, state and local governments.
“They are also involved in prevention and containment activities including surveillance/monitoring and reporting of Lassa fever cases and other environmental determinant diseases to the Federal Ministry of Environment. The Sanitation Desks are being replicated in all the 774 LGAs in the country.”
The Minister added that the ministry, over the years, had collaborated with the NCDC, World Health Organisation (WHO) and other stakeholders to carry out activities to prevent and contain the perennial Lassa fever outbreaks in Nigeria.
She stated that the ministry’s environmental health officers, in collaboration with sanitation desks in the states and local government environmental health officers, are currently in the field implementing environmental sanitation response activities in Lassa fever affected states.
“As a ministry, we remain committed to our mandate of pest and vector control in Nigeria. To this end, we are entrenching sustainable programmes focusing on eliminating and reducing breeding avenues for disease vectors which involve fostering collaboration with relevant stakeholders.
“Furthermore, we shall continue to develop the capacity of Environmental Health Practitioners in the federal, state and local government jurisdictions. State Ministries of Environment are hereby enjoined to develop a comprehensive Lassa fever prevention programme that will include rodent infestation survey and deratisation,” Ms Ikeazor stated.
She, however, assured the general public that the ministry remained committed to ensuring that the environment would remain clean, healthy and safe for all.
Lassa fever virus is transmitted by rodents (rats), which could be found in our environment including homes, motor parks, offices and even places of worship. This contributes largely to the risk of spread that occurs in Nigeria and other countries with similar ecological factors.
The Minister, therefore, called on members of the public to keep their surroundings clean, keep food away from rodents, store grains and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers and cook all foods thoroughly before consumption.
She also advised residents to block rat hideouts, carry out deracization, put an end to the practice of eating rats, dry farm produce in hygienic manners by refraining from drying crops on the ground where rodents could freely run through; as Lassa fever is often associated with poor sanitary and hygiene practices with cases being recorded all year round.
Lagos Calls for Caution as COVID-19 Fourth Wave Ends
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Lagos State Government has announced the end of the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the state following the consistent decrease in cases over a period of time.
The state’s Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi disclosed this through his verified Twitter account @ProfAkinolaAbayomi over the weekend, while giving the state’s COVID-19 update for the week ended January 20.
The state had on December 7 announced the beginning of the fourth wave as the daily infection figure from the virus spiked.
Prof. Abayomi said that there was a reduction in positivity rates of COVID-19 infection from 29.3 per cent recorded on December 21, to 1.9 per cent as of January 20.
According to him, bed capacity utilisation now stands at two per cent, and the fatality rate stands at 0.71 per cent, which indicated that the COVID-19 fourth wave has ended.
The Commissioner said that 46 new infections were confirmed on the reported date, increasing the number of COVID-19 infections in the state to 98,284.
He noted that 1,023,203 sample tests had been conducted since the inception of the pandemic in the state.
Mr Abayomi advised residents to get vaccinated and continue to adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions to further reduce the spread of the virus.
In another interview with Channels Television, he confirmed the result saying, “We are now out of the fourth wave, we don’t know what will happen next.
“But we want to be prepared and the State Governor has said that we need to hit certain targets this year, so we are going to go back to the drawing board because there’s a little bit of vaccine hesitancy in Lagos.
“We really need to look at how to encourage Lagosians to accommodate taking these vaccines. We know that vaccines are effective in terms of reducing your vulnerability to severe illness from Covid.
“It doesn’t so much protect you from Covid but it protects you from getting extremely unwell or even dying and that’s exactly what we want in Lagos: we don’t want people to get sick and die. You can catch a cold or Covid, but we want you to recover.
“In this fourth wave, most people were managed at home, because the Omicron variant didn’t seem to affect the lungs as badly as the Delta variant.”
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