New York, March 13, 2020
U.S. President Donald Trump has declared a national health emergency over the fast-spreading coronavirus that has killed no fewer than 41 people and infected 1,875 others in America.
Trump said the move would open up access to $50 billion in federal funding to state and local governments to tackle the virus.
Insisting that the U.S. had done better in efforts to contain the virus compared to other affected countries, Trump said the declaration would unleash the full power of the country to defeat the virus.
132,000 cases reported in 123 countries
By Cecilia Ologunagba
Abuja, March 20, 2020
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says no fewer than than 132,000 cases of Coronavirus ( COVID-19) have now been reported to WHO, from 123 countries and territories.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, gave the update at a news conference on Friday in Geneva.
According to him, 5,000 people have lost their lives to the virus, describing it as “ a tragic milestone.
“Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China.
“More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.
“We are encouraged that many countries are now acting on the eight pillars of WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.
“Most countries now have a national plan; most are taking a multi-sectoral approach and most have laboratory testing capacity.’’
The director general said WHO had evidence-based guidance that every country could use, according to each of the eight pillars.
“And we are continuing to support countries to prepare and respond.
“We have shipped supplies of personal protective/equipment to 56 countries, we are shipping to a further 28 countries, and we have sent almost 1.5 million diagnostic tests to 120 countries.
“Our message to countries continues to be: you must take a comprehensive approach.
“Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all.
“Any country that looks at the experience of other countries with large epidemics and thinks “that won’t happen to us” is making a deadly mistake. It can happen to any country,’’ he said.
Ghebreyesus said the experience of China, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and others clearly demonstrated that aggressive testing and contact tracing, combined with social distancing measures and community mobilisation could prevent infections and save lives.
He said Japan was also demonstrating that a whole-of-government approach led by Prime Minister Abe himself, supported by in-depth investigation of clusters, was a critical step in reducing transmission.
According to him, WHO has clear advice for governments, businesses and individuals.
“First, prepare and be ready and every person must know the signs and symptoms and how to protect themselves and others.
“Every health worker should be able to recognize this disease, provide care and know what to do with their patients.
“Every health facility should be ready to cope with large numbers of patients, and ensure the safety of staff and patients.
“Second, detect, protect and treat.
“You cannot fight a virus if you do not know where it is. Find, isolate, test and treat every case, to break the chains of transmission.
“Every case we find and treat limits the expansion of the disease.’’
He gave the third advice as reduction of transmission, saying “Do not just let this fire burn.
“Isolate the sick and quarantine their contacts. In addition, measures that increase social distancing such as cancelling sporting events may help to reduce transmission.
“These measures, of course, should be based on local context and risk assessment, and should be time-limited.
“Even if you cannot stop transmission, you can slow it down and save lives,’’ he said
In addition, he advised countries to be innovative and to learn.
“This is a new virus and a new situation. We are all learning, and we must all find new ways to prevent infections, save lives, and minimise impact. All countries have lessons to share.
“There are simple, effective things we can all do to reduce the risk of infection for ourselves and those around us.’’
Meanwhile, the director general acknowledged that COVID-19 had captured the world’s attention, saying“ there are still many other health issues people continue to face every single day, and that WHO is continuing to work on.
“Babies are still being born. Essential surgery is continuing. People still need emergency care after road traffic crashes. People still need treatment for cancer, diabetes, HIV, malaria and many other diseases.
“And for all of these, we need health workers. Today, I want to send a personal and sincere thank you to every health worker around the world.
“Health workers – especially nurses and midwives, who we are celebrating this year through the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.
“You do a heroic job. We know that this crisis is putting a huge burden on you and your families. We know you are stretched to the limit.
“You have our admiration, our respect, and our commitment to doing everything we can to keep you safe and enable you to do your job,’’ he said.
Montreal, March 13, 2020
In a rare display of unity, Canada’s House of Commons put aside partisan wrangling and voted unanimously on Friday to suspend its session until April 20.
The suspension of session was in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s important to mention that we did this together and it’s the right thing to do,” Government House Leader Pablo Rodrigues told reporters in Ottawa at a joint news conference with opposition party leaders.
In the course of a normal day, the 338 members of parliament shake thousands of hands while meeting with constituents and members of the public, and then congregate together on Parliament Hill, Rodrigues said.
“Now, we’re avoiding that. These are not normal times,’’ Rodrigues said.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May welcomed the unanimous motion, telling the House of Commons that history would not look kindly at Canadian legislators if it emerged that they had become vectors for the coronavirus spread.
The vote in the House of Commons came hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he was going into self-isolation after his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive for Covid-19 following a trip to London.
Trudeau’s communications director, Cameron Ahmad, said Thursday evening she was feeling very well and only had mild symptoms.
Trudeau was in good health with no symptoms and would not be tested on the advice of doctors,” but would remain in isolation for 14 days, Ahmad said.
In a phone interview with French language public broadcaster Radio-Canada on Friday, Trudeau urged people to stay home if sick.
London, March 13, 2020
Buckingham Palace said on Friday that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, 93, has cancelled some public engagements for next week due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“As a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances, changes are being made to the Queen’s diary commitments in the coming weeks,’’ a statement said.
The queen has cancelled visits to the Camden area of London and to Cheshire in northwest England.
The Palace said “in consultation with the medical household and government, Her Majesty’s forthcoming visits to Cheshire and Camden will be rescheduled. Audiences will continue as usual.’’
A spokesman for the royal couple said Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his wife, Camilla, have cancelled an upcoming tour of Bosnia, Cyprus and Jordan on British government advice.
By Cecilia Ologunagba
Abuja, March 13, 2020
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, says there are now 147 confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Africa in 15 countries and there have been four COVID-19-related deaths.
The UN Health agency disclosed this in a statement posted on its website.
It said that the agency had on Wednesday declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said “With COVID-19 officially declared a pandemic, all countries in Africa must act.
“Every country can still change the course of this pandemic by scaling up their emergency preparedness or response.
“Cases may still be low in Africa and we can keep it that way with robust all-of-government actions to fight the new coronavirus.”
According to her, containment remains the most appropriate strategy for African countries.
Apart from South Africa and Algeria – which have clusters of transmission linked to imported cases – the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the African region are sporadic importations from European countries, mainly Italy, France, Germany and Spain.
To focus on containment in this narrowing window of available time, the WHO Regional Office for Africa is shifting from readiness to response mode.
In countries with confirmed cases, efforts are underway to trace people who may have come into contact with those confirmed to have COVID-19.
Efforts to support countries as they bolster essential early detection and surveillance capabilities at their ports, airports and land crossings are underway.
So far, 62 WHO experts in technical areas including coordination, treatment, infection prevention and control, community engagement and surveillance have been deployed across 18 countries, and more deployments are planned.
Those experts who have arrived in countries with confirmed cases are now assisting national governments in their response, helping them to manage the disease and prevent onward transmission.
The WHO Regional Office for Africa has also developed tools for Member States to help with the rapid collection and reporting of alerts, cases and contact data, streamlining any eventual contact tracing.
A WebEx training was recently held to help surveillance focal points and data managers in-country on the use of these tools.
Istanbul, March 13, 2020
Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan said Turkey has suspended flights to nine European countries, including Germany, as part of its measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Turhan told a news conference in Ankara that there would be no flights to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, starting at 8 a.m (0500 GMT) on Saturday until April 17.
Turkey said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has increased to five.
Turkey had earlier halted flights to China, Iran, Iraq, Italy and South Korea.