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COVID-19 deaths increase by 80% in Africa, driven by Delta variant — WHO

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WHO DG Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
WHO DG Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) says COVID-19 deaths have increased by 80 per cent in the past one month in Africa, mostly driven by the highly-transmissible Delta variant.

The Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said on Friday at his regular COVID-19 briefing that the Delta variant had been detected in at least 132 countries.

Ghebreyesus said almost four million cases worldwide were reported last week to WHO and the agency expected the total number of cases to pass 200 million in the next two weeks.

“And we know this is an underestimate.

“Infections have increased in every region of the world, with some even reaching 80 per cent more in the past month. In Africa, deaths have increased by 80 per cent over the same period,’’ the official warned.

The director-general blamed the rise of cases on increased social mixing and mobility, the inconsistent use of public health and social measures, and inequitable vaccine use.

He said “hard-won gains” were in jeopardy or being lost, and health systems in many countries were increasingly overwhelmed.

“WHO has warned that the COVID-19 virus has been changing since it was first reported, and it continues to change. So far, four variants of concern have emerged, and there will be more as long as the virus continues to spread.’’

In June, the WHO chief announced the setting up of a technology transfer hub for mRNA vaccines in South Africa as part of WHO’s efforts to scale up production of vaccines and their distribution in Africa.

“Today, we have taken another step forward, with a letter of intent that sets out the terms of collaboration signed by the partners in the hub.

“WHO: the Medicines Patent Pool, Afrigen Biologics; the Biologicals and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa; the South African Medical Research Council and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention,” he explained.

According to him, WHO’s goal remains to aid every country in vaccinating at least 10 per cent of its population by the end of September.

“At least, 40 per cent by the end of this year, and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.

“We are a long way off achieving those targets. So far, just over half of countries have fully vaccinated 10 per cent of their population, less than a quarter of countries have vaccinated 40 per cent, and only three countries have vaccinated 70 per cent.”

The WHO head reminded that the global distribution of vaccines remains unjust, in spite expert warnings and appeals, and said that all regions remain at risk, “none more so, than Africa”.

“On current trends, nearly 70 per cent of African countries will not reach the 10 per cent vaccination target by the end of September,” he cautioned.

Ghebreyesus also announced that on response to the Delta surge, the WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator was inaugurating the Rapid ACT-Accelerator Delta Response, or RADAR, and issuing an urgent call for 7.7 billion U.S. dollars for tests, treatments and vaccine.

Lead WHO epidemiologist and COVID-19 technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, explained that the Delta variant had certain mutations that allow the virus to adhere to human cells more easily and that experts were also seeing a higher viral load in individuals infected.

She called Delta “dangerous and the most transmissible SARS-CoV-2 virus to date,” adding “there are some laboratory studies that suggest that there’s increase replication in some of the modelled human airway systems.

In terms of severity, Kerkhove highlighted that there had6 been an increase in hospitalisations in certain countries affected by the variant, “but we haven’t yet seen an increase in mortality”.

According to the WHO expert, there is some data that suggest that people vaccinated can get infected and transmit the variant, the likelihood is much reduced after the second dose has been administered and reached full effectiveness.

She also clarified that Delta was not specifically targeting children as some reports had suggested, but warned that as long as the variants were circulating, they would infect anybody that was not taking proper precautions.

“Its in the virus’s interests to evolve, viruses are not alive they don’t have a brain to think through this, but they become more fit the more they circulate, so the virus will likely become even more transmissible because this is what viruses do, they evolve they change overtime.

“We have to do what we can to drive it down”, she added, reminding that public health and social measures do work against the Delta variant, and that the vaccines do prevent disease and death.”

Dr Michael Ryan, the Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, said that even with the virus getting “faster and fitter” the game plan does not change, but it needs to be implemented more efficiently.

“Delta is a warning that this virus is evolving, but it is also a call to action before more dangerous variants emerge,” he said. (NAN)

 

 

 

 

 

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Brain Drain: Fmr Commissioner wants medical practitioners involved in policy making

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Dr Jide Idris, the Convener, Healthcare Transformation Coalition (HTC), has urged medical professionals to contribute to policy making that will address brain drain and other lingering issues in the health sector.

Idris, a former Commissioner for Health in Lagos State, made the call on Saturday at a programme organised by HTC under the auspices of the Lagos State Health Service Commission, to address brain drain in Nigeria.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the programme was ”Imperatives of Brain Drain in the Health Sector”.

“We initiated this event to listen to our young professionals in the medical line why they are not happy and also want to leave the country and practice elsewhere.

“There are many causes to the challenge anda major part of it revolve around management of human capacity.

“This is an election period and a good opportunity for us to contribute to policy making by ensuring that we put the right leader in place to formulate good policies that will move the sector forward.

“Health is everybody business and just for the government alone,” he said.

He added that there was the need to train more healthcare personnel and have health financing grants to fill the gap created by those who have left and also improve their welfare.

Also, Prof. Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, said a rapid exit replacement strategy should be in place to address brain drain.

”Brain drain is not something that is new, it has existed for many decades and it has affected all professional cadre of the country.

”Nigeria is a natural exporter of human capital and this is because we don’t produce planes, equipment and the likes.

”We must make more healthcare professionals to address this issue and our institutions must pay attention to the selection process of medical students,” he said.

Similarly, Dr Muyiwa Eniayewun, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Health Service Commission, said the number of medical practitioners produced should be increased to mitigate brain drain effects.

Eniayewun said: ”For instance, we produce 3,000 doctors in the country annually; but I believe with this present challenge we should be able to do 10,000 to maintain a balance and sustain the system,” he said.

NAN reports that a panelist session was also held for young medical practitioners to discuss and proffer solutions to the current trend of “Japa” (human capital flight) in various medical fields.

 

 

 

(NAN)

 

 

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Nursing federation slams UK recruitment from poorer nations

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Britain’s recruitment of nurses from poorer countries as a quick fix for its own underinvestment in the profession is a serious cause of concern, the global nurses’ federation said Monday.

The International Council of Nurses said wealthy countries recruiting nursing staff from some of the world’s most fragile health systems was extremely hard to justify and perhaps should be stopped entirely.

The ICN said seven or eight wealthy countries — notably Britain, the United States and Canada — were driving around 80 percent of international nurse migration, to try to address their domestic shortages.

“We are very concerned by some of the examples,” ICN chief executive Howard Catton told a press conference organised by the UN correspondents association in Geneva.

He cited talks between Britain and Ghana whereby London will pay Accra £1,000 ($1,240) per nurse recruited.

“That, in no way, goes anywhere near recognising the true value of the training costs of that nurse, or the loss to the Ghanaian health system,” he said.

When adding in experience in the field, “I’d expect to see £50,000 as a price to compensate for that experience at least — if not more. £1,000 is woefully short.”

The ICN said international recruitment focused largely on experienced, specialised nurses, rather than the “myth” that only newly-qualified nurses were being targeted.

“That creates a serious deficit in expertise in countries that cannot afford to lose their more experienced nurses. That has really been a serious concern,” said ICN president Pamela Cipriano.

“When you take those nurses out of the clinical environment, you truly have a brain drain.”

She said countries had to adopt a strategy of becoming self-sufficient in producing nurses.

“We’re appealing to the ethics of countries that health is a global issue,” she said.

“We don’t want to see some countries thrive and others hurt.”

Catton also highlighted Britain’s agreement with the Nepalese government on nurse recruitment, noting that the ratio of nurses to the British population is around 80 to 10,000, while in Nepal it is nearer 20.

“That is already taking nurses from a very low base, where access to healthcare is limited,” he said.

“That sort of recruitment can mean that a service simply isn’t provided.”

“If you’re a government who is relying on international recruitment as a quick fix to shortages because you haven’t invested enough, be very, very careful about that,” Catton said.

“For probably the 45 or 50 most vulnerable countries around the world,” he said, “there is a very strong case that… there shouldn’t be any recruitment.”

Founded in 1899, the Geneva-based ICN is a federation of more than 130 national nursing associations representing 28 million nurses worldwide

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FG Suspends COVID-19 Tests For Travellers

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The Federal Government has approved the immediate relaxation of the COVID-19 safety measures and travel advisory, including the suspension of all pre-departure, pre-boarding, and post-arrival PCR test requirements.

This was contained in a statement on Monday by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC), Boss Mustapha.

According to Mustapha, President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval follows the recommendations of the PSC based on clinical and laboratory evidence of a sustained reduction in COVID-19 infection/transmission across the country.

“All pre-departure and post-arrival PCR test requirements for all persons who are not fully vaccinated have been suspended,” the statement reads in part.

“With the suspension of both the preboarding and post-arrival PCR tests, passengers will no longer be required to upload evidence of vaccination on the Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP). All unvaccinated and partially vaccinated passengers are strongly encouraged to get fully vaccinated.

“Health Declaration Form. A simplified Health Declaration (non-covid-19 specific) shall be completed by all passengers arriving in Nigeria on the Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP); while provision will be made on arrival for those who were unable to complete this form before departure.

“Finally, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC) passionately appeals to Nigerians to ensure that they take their COVID-19 vaccinations as well as booster doses.”

With Nigeria’s first recorded COVID-19 case in February 2020, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) restricted international flights from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and Nnamdi Azikwe International airport in Abuja on March 23, 2020.

However, emergency and essential flights are exempted from the restriction, according to the NCAA. This followed the Federal Government’s shutdown of three other airports on March 21, 2020, including Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu; and the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.

However, after five months of the shutdown, NCAA resumed international flights on September 5, 2020, with strict COVID-19 guidelines for pass

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