COVID-19: FG directs all civil servants to resume, get vaccinated

By AdvocateNews on 28/11/2021

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• WHO urges countries to brace up over new variant

The Federal government has directed civil servants from Grade Level 12 and below to resume work effective Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

The federal civil service workers from Grade Level 12 and below had been working from home following a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country. 

In the now-viral circular seen by The Nation, the directive, signed by the Head of Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan, noted that beginning December 1, all Federal Government workers are requested “to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result done within 72 hours.”

“It will be recalled that as part of the measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, Officers on GL 12 and below were directed to work from home. Following the advice of the PSC on COVID-19, this category of officers are expected to resume duties on Wednesday, 1st December 2021,” the circular reads in part 

Recall that the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, had earlier announced that beginning December 1, 2021 all Federal Government employees will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative PCR result to gain access to their offices.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a new COVID-19 variant called the B.1.1.529 named Omicron, which was first reported in South Africa.

 Noting that the new variant has been associated with recent increased infections in South Africa, the global body added that the variant is also associated with an increased risk of reinfection compared to other Variants of Concern (VoC). It therefore urged countries to ramp up efforts in surveillance, diagnosis, sequencing, and public health and social measures.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VoCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant.

“Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage,” it stated.

Furthermore, WHO has also urged the Federal Government to continue to sustain and scale up COVID-19 interventions, even as many countries in the regions of the Americas, Europe, and South-East Asia, continue to experience a fourth wave of the pandemic, with increasing cases.

It noted that while Europe continues to drive the upsurge of cases globally, Africa and specifically Nigeria, continues to report low cases of the disease.

The WHO Health Emergency Information and Risk Assessment Lead, Dr Geoffrey Namara, made this known in Nasarawa, during the 5th Annual Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), with theme: “Improving confidence in COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria beyond 2022, the role of the media.”

He noted that COVID-19 vaccination coverage is still low compared to the government’s target to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population by next year. He therefore urged the media to use their platforms to encourage Nigerians to get vaccinated.

“Europe is driving the upsurge of COVID-19 cases globally. As countries continue to experience a surge in cases, Nigeria is experiencing low numbers. Nigeria should therefore sustain whatever it is doing because the cases are reducing.

“In terms of COVID-19 VACCINATION coverage, 6.11 million Nigerians have received the first dose. 3.41 million eligible Nigerians have received a second dose. Of the vaccines received, 2.04 million were AstraZeneca, 1.15 million were Moderna. We need to put in efforts to scale up COVID-19 vaccination,” he said.

WTO postpones conference due to pandemic travel restrictions

The World Trade Organisation (WTO), has postponed a major conference that was to be held next week in Geneva after governments around the world imposed travel restrictions due to a new and particularly transmissible variant of COVID-19.

The EU Trade Ministers’ Consultations on the Ministerial Conference of the WTO has been postponed indefinitely, the WTO said on Friday night, after countries, including Switzerland, suspended passenger flights from seven southern African countries to contain the potentially more dangerous coronavirus strain.

Trade ministers had planned to negotiate on several pressing issues including relaxing vaccine patents, eliminating harmful fisheries subsidies and WTO reforms, as of Tuesday.

The conference was set to run until Dec. 3.

The delay is the second time the meeting has been postponed because of the pandemic, as it was originally scheduled for June 2020.

“It is better to err on the side of caution,’’ said WTO Director-General. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The conference was planned as a hybrid event, with attendees able to come to Geneva, or join online.

Many still wanted to attend in person and would have been disadvantaged by the new restrictions, Okonjo-Iweala said.

Concerns over COVID-19 variant trigger more travel curbs on southern Africa

Australia and several other countries joined nations imposing restrictions on travel from Southern Africa on Saturday after the discovery of the new Omicron coronavirus (COVID-19) variant sparked global concern and triggered a market sell-off.

The omicron variant – believed to be more contagious than previous variants of the disease – was first discovered in South Africa and has since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, and Hong Kong.

It could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the variant’s mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it.

Omicron is the fifth variant of concern designated by the World Health Organisation

Although epidemiologists say travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally, a string of countries including the United States, Brazil, Canada, and European Union nations announced travel bans or restrictions from southern Africa on Friday.

On Saturday, Australia said it would ban non-citizens who have been in nine southern African countries from entering and will require supervised 14-day quarantines for Australian citizens and their dependents returning from there.

Japan said it would extend its tightened border controls to three more African countries after imposing curbs on travel from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Lesotho on Friday.

Sri Lanka, Thailand and Oman also announced travel curbs on southern African nations.

In Britain, the main opposition Labor Party called on Saturday for a faster booster vaccination program, saying the gap between the second dose of a vaccination and the booster jab should be cut from six to five months.

“This new variant is a wake-up call,” said Labor’s junior health spokesman Alex Norris.

“The pandemic is not over. We need to urgently bolster our defenses to keep the virus at bay,” Norris added.

 South Africa being punished for early COVID-19 variant detection – Ministry

South Africa said on Saturday it was being punished for its advanced ability to detect new Coronavirus (COVID-19) variants early.

South Africa’s Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation said this in a statement.

The allegation is coming as travel bans and restrictions imposed because of the new Omicron variant threaten to harm tourism and other sectors of the country’s economy.

South Africa has some of the world’s top epidemiologists and scientists, who have managed to detect emerging coronavirus variants and their mutations early on in their life cycle.

The Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa and has since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, and Hong Kong.

“This latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker,” the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation said.

“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” the ministry said.

Many nations rushed on Friday and Saturday to announce travel curbs to South Africa and other countries in the region.

The foreign ministry noted that while the new variant was also detected in other countries, the global reaction to those countries have been “starkly different” to cases in southern Africa.

The new variant was first announced on Wednesday by a team of scientists in South Africa who said they had detected a variant that could possibly evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible.

The foreign ministry noted that while the new variant was also detected in other countries, the global reaction to those countries have been “starkly different” to cases in southern Africa.

The new variant was first announced on Wednesday by a team of scientists in South Africa who said they had detected a variant that could possibly evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible.

On Friday the World Health Organisation named it Omicron and designated it as a “variant of concern” – its most serious level – saying preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of re-infection. read more

“Our immediate concern is the damage that these restrictions are causing to families, the travel and tourism industries and business,” South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in the statement.

The government was engaging with countries that have imposed travel bans to persuade them to reconsider, it added.

On Friday, the World Health Organisation cautioned countries against hastily imposing travel restrictions linked to the variant, saying they should take a “risk-based and scientific approach.”

UK confirms first two cases of Omicron

Britain on Saturday confirmed its first two cases of the new Omicron strain of Covid-19, both linked to travel from southern Africa, and expanded travel restrictions on the region.

“After overnight genome sequencing, the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed that two cases of Covid-19 with mutations consistent with B.1.1.529 (Omicron) have been identified in the UK,” a government statement said.

“The two cases are linked and there is a link to travel to southern Africa,” it said.

One case was detected in the central English city of Nottingham, and the other in Chelmsford east of London, officials said.

“We have moved rapidly and the individuals are self-isolating while contact tracing is ongoing,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.

He added that the government was placing another four African countries on its travel “red list” — Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola — effective from 4:00 am  today (Sunday). (The Nation)

Posted 28/11/2021 04:48:51 AM

 

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