Nearly 56 million people in England will return to a full coronavirus lockdown, possibly until mid-February, to try to cut spiralling infection rates, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.
The measures, which include the closure of primary and secondary schools, will come into effect Wednesday, he said in a televised address, after Scotland announced similar measures would come into force from midnight (0000 GMT) on Tuesday.
Some 44 million people or three-quarters of the population of England are already living under the toughest restrictions, as Britain grapples with one of the worst mortality rates from coronavirus in the world.
But they have failed to halt an upward trend in positive cases, which have been blamed on a more infectious new variant.
Johnson said that as of Monday, almost 27,000 people with Covid were in hospital — 40 percent more than at the peak of first wave of the outbreak on April last year.
Last Tuesday, more than 80,000 people tested positive in just 24 hours.
“With most of the country already under extreme measures, it’s clear that we need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out,” he said.
“In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown.”
The new measures are similar to those during the first, three-month lockdown from late March to June last year.
They include the closure of schools, working from home wherever possible, limits on leaving home, except for exercise, essential shopping and for medical supplies, and no household mixing.
A decision on whether to hold annual national exams for 16- and 18-year-olds will be made after consultations between the education secretary and qualifications bodies, said Johnson.
Shortly before Johnson’s announcement, the four chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said the country had moved to the highest coronavirus level five.
That means the state-run National Health Service is at risk of being overwhelmed within 21 days if no action is taken.
Johnson said he hoped the restrictions could start to be lifted after the next school holidays in mid-February, and acknowledged the weeks ahead “will be the hardest yet”.
But he said he was encouraged by the roll-out of two Covid vaccines, including one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which could see the four most vulnerable groups inoculated in the next six weeks.
“With every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people,” he added.
53 Health Workers In Edo Infected With COVID-19
Edo State Government on Thursday disclosed that no fewer than 53 healthcare workers have been infected with the COVID-19 virus since the federal government declared a second wave of the pandemic in December.
The State COVID-19 Incident Manager, Dr. Andrew Obi, who disclosed this during a meeting of the State Taskforce on Covid-19, chaired by Governor Godwin Obaseki, also revealed that the state had recorded eight new cases and one death in the last 24 hours and added that the government will soon roll out more measures to halt the virus’ spread.
“We have, in the last 24 hours, recorded 8 new coronavirus cases and 1 new death.
“240 samples were collected from the various screening and testing centres across the state.
“As of today, Thursday, January 14, 2021, we have 238 active cases of the virus in the state.
“Since the second wave of the deadly disease, Edo State has recorded 447 confirmed cases out of which 53 are health workers. The State has also recorded 202 recoveries and 12 deaths from the disease”, Obi submitted.
He cautioned residents to observe all precautionary measures to guard against the spread of the infectious disease, including compulsory and proper use of face masks, regular handwashing with soap under running water and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers, observe physical distancing measures, and limit social events.
The Incident Manager urged residents with any COVID-19 symptoms to contact the Edo Emergency Operation Centre on the toll-free number 08003625000 for assistance or their nearest health facility.
Africa COVID-19 cases top 3 million, first wave peak surpassed
As COVID-19 cumulative cases in Africa top 3 million and daily case numbers exceed the first wave peak, the continent is now confronted with emerging variants of the virus. Revamped public health measures are ever more critical to avert a runaway surge in infections that could stretch health facilities to the breaking point.
An average of 25, 223 cases were reported each day between 28 December 2020 and 10 January 2021 in Africa, which is nearly 39% higher than the July 2020 two-week peak of 18 104 daily average cases. Yet numbers may rise further in the coming days in the wake of travelling, gathering and festivities over Christmas and New Year holidays.
Overall cases in the region have risen steadily since mid-September 2020, with a steeper rise from late November. In addition, a new variant of the virus called 501Y.V2 is circulating widely in South Africa, accounting for most of the new infections during the second wave.
Mutations of the virus are unsurprising as the more the pandemic spreads the higher the likelihood of changes. However, preliminary analysis finds the 501Y.V2 variation to be more transmissible. Genomic sequencing has found the variant present in Botswana, the Gambia and Zambia.
Deeper investigations are underway to fully understand the epidemiological implications, but at present there are no indications the new variant increases the severity of the disease.
“Even if the new variant is not more virulent, a virus that can spread more easily will put further strain on hospitals and health workers who are in many cases already overstretched,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “This is a stark reminder that the virus is relentless, that it still presents a manifest threat, and that our war is far from won.”
Nigeria is also carrying out more investigations on a variant identified in samples collected in August and October. While for now there are no reports of the COVID-19 variant circulating in the United Kingdom cropping up in the African region, further investigation is needed.
With WHO support, African countries are reinforcing genome sequencing efforts, which are key to finding and understanding new variants as they emerge and to help blunt their impact.
WHO and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention network of genome sequencing laboratories in Africa is supporting governments with training and data analysis on genome sequencing, bioinformatics and technical expertise. WHO has also developed guidance on containing new variants and is assisting countries to manage and safely transport samples for sequencing and analysis.
While much progress is being made in building genome sequencing capacity, the more than 5000 sequences which have been conducted so far in the region account for just 2% of global sequencing data.
“We call on all countries to increase testing and sequencing of the virus to swiftly spot, track and tackle new COVID-19 variants as soon as they appear. To defeat an agile, adaptive and relentless enemy, we must know and understand its every move, and double down on what we know works best against all variants of the virus,” said Dr Moeti.
“We must not become complacent. We must persist with the proven public health measures that helped stop the spread of the virus during the first wave – that’s physical distancing, constant handwashing and wearing masks in public spaces.”
Dr Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group. She was joined by Prof Francisca Mutapi, Professor in Global Health Infection and Immunity, University of Edinburgh, UK, and Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Nigerian researchers call for tobacco tax increase to reduce fatality rate
Some researchers have said that 23,838 deaths and 602,325 DALYs from smoking attributable diseases would be averted in 10 years if the price of tobacco cigarettes was raised by 75 percent as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
They gave their separate submissions on Wednesday during a Report Dissemination Workshop on Illicit Tobacco Trade in Nigeria held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan.
The workshop was organised by the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA).
Dr Adedeji Adeniran, a Senior Research Fellow at CSEA, called on the government to think deeply around tobacco taxation and other tobacco control policies towards reducing its burden as well as havoc
Adeniran, who presented the report of a research on ‘Health Burden and Economic Costs of Tobacco Smoking in Nigeria said the country expended more on tobacco attributable diseases than it earned from it.
“In Nigeria on a per annum basis, we spend, in terms of cost basis, more than 500 billion naira on tobacco attributable diseases.
“And if we look at what we are benefitting, it is not in anyway going to approach that.
“This exercise we are doing today in Ibadan, we are trying to talk directly to the public and we are also trying to talk to the government about what the costs are.
“And in this case, we want government to think more deeply around tobacco taxation and other tobacco control policies,” he said.
Corroborating him, Mr. Iraoya Augustine, a Research Associate from CSEA, said that illicit trade in terms of tobacco trade was rampant in Nigeria, saying the most effective mechanism to address it is to increase taxes.
According to him, “Illicit trade is rampant in Nigeria especially in terms of tobacco trade. Presently, Nigeria is using a tax rate which is far below the recommended rate of 75 percent.
“And we have discovered that one of the most effective mechanism of addressing illicit trade according to the World Health Organisation framework is to increase taxes”.
Augustine said that revelations from their research revealed that death rate, cancer and rate of contracting disease would be reduced if tax rate was increased by 25 percent.
“let’s talk about increasing it to 50 percent or 75 percent, you will discover that the issues, the economic burden and the health burden of illicit tobacco trade and smoking in Nigeria will be greatly reduced.”
Also commenting, Dr Adeniyi Olabumuyi from University of Ibadan, said there was need for improvement on the nation’s data gathering and recording system.
“I think the economic impact in terms of what the economy has to pay is been underestimated.
“Government should tax those products so that they can save some part of that tax. That will now be involved in having to manage health-related issues that comes from indulging in such,” he submitted.
He said that tobacco and alcohol ought to carry luxury tax like it was in the developed countries.
Participants at the workshop supported the need for all stakeholders including government to take action towards reduction of smoking attributable diseases.
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