Cover: The Coronavirus Terror

Cover: The Coronavirus Terror

Thursday, May 21, 2020 3:33 pm


Treatment of Coronavirus victims. Credit, The Straits Times

AYORINDE OLUOKUN

There is not a better imagery for depiction of COVID-19 and the terror it has constituted to the world, starting from late December last year when the first case of the virus behind the illness was detected in Wuhan, the capital of Hube Province of China than the one adopted by Daniel Uhlfelder, an Attorney in Florida.
Concerned that people in his part of Florida were throwing caution to the wind by flocking the beaches while COVID-19 was still causing havoc, the Attorney took on the character of Grim Reaper, depicted as death in European folklore (going around in a dark hooded cloak while wielding a scythe for the grisly business of harvest of human souls)  to warn that the danger is not over.

Daniel Uhlfelder, a lawyer, dressed as the Grim Reaper, showed up on US beaches, warning people of the danger of coronavirus . Malay Mail photo

“I know how beautiful and attractive our beaches are. But if we don’t take measures to control things, this virus is going to get really, really out of control,” CNN quoted the lawyer as saying after he, scythe in hand, visited one of the beaches crowded with people.
The description is even more fitting as Encyclopedia Britannica traces the origin of the  folklore of the Grim Reaper to the 14 Century pandemic, regarded then as the world’s worst which claimed about one third of Europe’s entire population. The publication noted that the first outbreak of the pandemic, also known as Black Death, occurred during 1347–51. The pandemic recurred several other times after that. “So, clearly, death was something that the surviving Europeans had on their mind, and it is not surprising that they conjured an image to represent it,” the publication said.

Kristalina Georgieva, head IMF, Coronavirus has created the worst crisis since the Great Depression . Financial Times photo

Covid-19 which has forced a lockdown of social, economic and even, political activities in most parts of the globe since the beginning of the year may not have been able to kill one third of people in any continent, including Africa, where the health system and ability to respond to such pandemic is believed to be generally poor.  Indeed, data indicated that over 95 per cent of those who got infected with the virus eventually recovered.

Rick Bright, former director of the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority

But it’s a sly disease which respects neither friend nor foe in its manner of spread and personalities it attacks. The highest confirmed loss to the virus at the governmental level so far in Nigeria was Mallam Abba Kyari the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari who succumbed to the infection on 17 April. Recent death of at least one Emir in Northern Nigerian has been linked to the infection while three Nigerian governors have been infected, but successfully battled the disease.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson was top among political leaders across the world that have been infected by the virus which has also not spared the British Royal Family. Thousands of healthcare personnel involved in the management of the disease in the world ranked among those who have been infected and have succumbed to the disease.
Yet, the virus is powerful enough to force closure of religious places and cancellations of religious festivals that have been on for many years.  Perhaps, most feared is its capacity to overwhelm the health system like it happened in Europe and the US, where at the height of the pandemic, infected persons were being left to die in their homes because there were simply no bed spaces for them at the hospitals.
Data from John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre indicated that over 3.6 million people have been infected while 257, 425 lives have been lost to the pandemic globally as at the morning of  Wednesday, 6 May. Thousands more cases of infections and deaths caused by the virus would have been recorded by the time you are reading this story, in spite of the fact that many countries are now reporting a slowdown in the spread of the pandemic in their territories.

Wuhan Seafood market. China Mail photo

Hence, the battle to stop the virus from doing ‘maximum damage’ to the human race and its means of survival is one that will continue for a long time. The virus, with its lethal impacts on life and livelihoods, Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund, said in a recent interview with ITV has sparked the greatest threat to humanity, the type that had not been witnessed before.  “It is the worst crisis since the Great Depression. But it is more than that because it is a combination of a health crisis and an economic shock. And it is truly global,” Georgieva  said.

From Wuhan To The World
SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the disease later named   COVID-19 sneaked in when pneumonia of unknown cause was detected in Wuhan, a city in Hube Province of China and reported to the WHO Country Office in China on 31 December 2019. It was also discovered that several of those infected worked at Wuhan’s  Seafood Wholesale Market, which was consequently shut down   on 1 January as health experts worked to identify the virus which had by then infected over 40 people.
But a laboratory in Shangai, one of China’s biggest cities, later confirmed that the virus behind the raging illness was genetically related to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which also originated in China between 2002 and 2003. The possibility of human to human transmission of the virus was raised on 6 January when  a doctor and 13 nurses contracted the infection after operating on an infected patient. The virus was formally identified as novel or new coronavirus the next day.  Chinese officials told the WHO on 7 January that they had identified the virus which was eventually named 2019-nCoV, a member of coronavirus family, which includes SARS and the common cold.
The first casualty of the virus was a 61-year-old man who was admitted for treatment on 9 January, but died three days later of heart failure. He was said to have purchased items in the seafood market.    The incubation period of the virus in infected persons was identified as 14 days on 13 January.

WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic. Think Global Health

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, called on countries to take urgent and aggressive action. Dominica News Online

The first case of the virus outside China was taken by a woman from Wuhan to Thailand on 13 January, according to WHO. A second death from the virus was recorded in Wuhan, on 17 January.  However, it was not until 19 January that a Chinese Pulmonologist ( a doctor who specialises in treatment of the diseases of the respiratory system) identified as Nanshan Zhong, announced that human to human spread of the infection had been established.
By then, the virus had begun to wreak real havoc among the population of the city of Hube Pronvince with over 200 infections and cases also reported in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen on 20 January. China also reported a third death and more.  Analysts believe that the widespread of the virus was aided by the celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year banquet and Annual Spring Festival which brought many people together in the Hube Pronvince. Therefore, to stop the rapid spread of the infection, Chinese authority placed cities of Wuhan, Xiantao and Chibi, all in Hubei province on quarantine on 23 January.

Governor Oyetola

However, in spite of the measures, lives lost to the virus in China had increased to 170, with 7,711 cases reported while the infection had spread to all 31 provinces of the country by 30 January. Cases of the virus were confirmed in South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, US, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore in the following day. The rapid spread of the infection led the WHO to declare a global emergency over the virus at the end of January.
However, the number of deaths in China had increased to 304 with report of 14,380 infections at the beginning of February. The first death to the virus outside China occurred in Philippines on 2 February. The victim was a Chinese from Wuhan. Malaysia reported the country’s first known human-to-human transmission of the virus on 6 February while the number of people infected in Europe rose to 30. On 9 February, China reported 811 deaths and 37,198 infections; the death toll surpassed that recorded by the Asian country during the 2002-03 SARS epidemic. This prompted the WHO to send an investigative team of experts to China.

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On 11 February, the WHO announced that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) as the virus strain behind coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The virus continued its spread in Middle East with Iran reporting two deaths from the coronavirus, hours after confirming its first cases on February 19, while South Korea reported its first death from the coronavirus on 20 February.
The virus landed in Africa on 14 February when Egypt reported its first case. France also reported Europe’s first death from the virus the same day. By 25 February, Iran’s number of cases of Covid-19 had risen to 95 with 15 deaths.  Other countries like  Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Norway, Romania, Greece, Georgia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Macedonia, Brazil, Estonia, Denmark, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands, Lithuania and Wales confirmed their first cases before the end of February.

The Pandemic

By early March, cases of the viral disease have been confirmed in at least 114 countries with more than 4,000 deaths. The number of deaths and infections continue to rise in spite of rigorous efforts to contain it. But about 90 per cent of the cases were in Italy, South Korea, Iran and China. Italy has over 10,000 cases with 630 people already killed by COVID-19 while the number of infections continues to rise sharply while over 9,000 cases were confirmed in Iran and more than 7,700 in South Korea.
Some countries, copying the example of China had started imposing drastic measures, including lockdown to slow the spread of the COVID-19 illness. Statistics by the WHO indicated that eight countries were each reporting more than 1,000 infection of the virus per day.
This led the WHO to declare COVID- 19 a pandemic.  “WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases.  And we have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear. In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled,” WHO Director-General,  Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a press conference in Geneva on 11 March.
Tedros noted that Iran, South Korea and China as at then had more than 90 per cent of the cases. He however noted though China and South Korea were recording successes in their efforts to contain the virus, new cases are emerging in other countries at a very rapid rate.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” he added while expressing concern over what he described as “alarming levels of inaction”  of world leaders to the disease despite the  spread and severity.
“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” he said. “For most people, COVID-19 infection will cause mild illness; however, it can make some people very ill and, in some people, it can be fatal,” the WHO says.
“Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease or diabetes) are at risk for severe disease.” There has been let up then as Covid-19 assume the status of Grim Reaper, cutting lives short, in the most painful manner across the world.COVID -19 In Lagos, Nigeria

Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos praised his Health Commissioner, Professor Abayomi, right, for asking the state to get prepared since December 2019

Even as most of the people and governments around the world were still wondering about what to make of the novel virus that had started becoming a big source of worry in Wuhan city of China’s Hube Province since late December 2019, Professor Akin Abayomi, was certain that trouble is in the offing for humanity in which Nigeria, and most especially,  Lagos State, where as the commissioner of health, he is in charge of the well-being of over 20 million people will not be spared.
He alerted his principal, the Governor of Lagos,  Babajide Sanwo-Olu, of the need to begin to put the necessary infrastructure in place, including the upgrade of the State’s Infectious Disease Hospital used to battle Ebola crisis in 2014 for the impending disaster. He also convinced the Governor of the need to set up a ‘control-and-command centre’ in anticipation of what was coming.

Mallam Abba Kyari the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari succumbed to the infection on 17 April

“We must give credit to the man, who professionally, had mentioned to me towards the end of last year (2019) urging that we should prepare for COVID-19, noting that there was trouble coming. In January, specifically, after we’ve cleared off the budgetary matters, the commissioner said to me that the pandemic was coming and it would get to us and what we needed to do was to activate a few things and I agreed with him,” Governor Sanwo-Olu said in an interview with Thisday newspaper.
Lagos has continued to be the epicenter of the virus in the country since the index case of the infection in Nigeria, an Italian Engineer landed in the country on 27 February 2020.
Realizing the enormity of the challenges posed by the epidemic to the country, President Muhammadu Buhari on 9 March set up a 12- member Presidential Task Force for Control of the COVID-19, chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha.
The National Coordinator of the committee saddled with the task of coordinating and overseeing multi-sectoral inter-governmental efforts to contain the spread and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria was Dr. Sani Aliyu. Other members are Minister of Health, Prof Osagie Ehanire; Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of Aviation, MrHadi Sirika; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Services, Sadiya Umar-Farouk; Minister of Education, MrAdamu Adamu; Minister of Environment, Mr Mohammed Mahmoud; Director-General, Department of State Services, Mr Yusuf Bichi; Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control; Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu; and World Health Organisation Country Representative.
The Committee has been handling Nigeria’s national response to the epidemic on behalf of the President.

Nasir El-Rufai

It was believed that recommendations by members of the committee led to the one month lockdown imposed on Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory which ended on 4 May.
The Committee has also been working with states to control the pandemic even as cases have been on the increase in the country after the beginning of the ease of the lockdown.  The Committee has been working with the Director General of NCDC to ramp up testing infrastructure and to put in place appropriate framework for responding to the pandemic in Nigeria.

Buhari

There are fears that Kano may in the next few weeks overtake Lagos and become the new epicenter of the virus, especially if the NCDC and the State Government fulfilled the promise of ramping up tests for the virus in the state. The number of cases is also growing rapidly in Katsina, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Bauchi and Sokoto. Significantly, most of the 74 active cases in Kaduna as at Thursday last week were street children popularly known as almajiris deported from Kano to the state. Positive cases of the virus have also been confirmed in almajiris in Bauchi, a situation which, according to an analyst, may indicate wide-spread community transmission of the virus across the North.
However, the fact is that Lagos with its ongoing active search for the cases, increase in number of tests will continue to be the centre of the epidemic in Nigeria for sometimes to come. The Lagos State team has been proactive in terms of construction of isolation centres which were also made comfortable for the patients.
Some of the patients discharged from the isolation centres have confessed to the good state of the facilities and well as the quality of care from the healthcare personnel. The State has also acted as a buffer to the country for the disease by helping to quarantine Nigerian returnees, to ensure that they are not carrying the virus before they are dispersed into the larger population.

Mixed Bag
Many believed that Lagos, which has 920 patients on admission with 358 already discharged will continue to cope in spite of the reports of the  strains on the resources of the state and emerging reports of scarcity of test kits and lack of bed space with the Governor and his able commissioner in charge. Other Governors that have also been proactive in response to the pandemic in Nigeria include the Governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola and Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State who helped the country avert what could have been a big disaster by stopping Nigerian returnees from Ivory Coast who later tested positive for the virus from joining the general population until they were treated. Governor Nasir-el Rufai of Kaduna, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Elkiti and Nyesom Wike of Rivers have also risen up to the challenge of combating the virus within their territory, taking difficult actions when necessary.
While most of the other Governors claim that they have put in place the necessary structures to tackle the crisis, the protest by Covid-19 patients over lack of feeding and treatment in Gombe last Tuesday indicated that most of the state chief executives are not saying the truth.
Another instance of lack of seriousness on display in tackling the challenge of coronavirus in the country was the report that seven out of the 124 persons were released from isolation centre in Jalingo before the release of the result of their Covid-19 tests which later came out positive. Kogi and Cross River are two states that have not recorded any case of Covid-19 as at the time of writing this story last week. Yet, it is believed that the two states have remained free because the Governors had discouraged testing for the virus among their people.  The situation in Kogi, particularly the attitude of Governor Yahaya Bello to the pandemic can be likened to that of the historical Emperor Nero, the early Christian Era Roman ruler. who fiddled  away while Rome was on fire – a case of unpreparedness, I don’t care attitude. Life goes on almost as usual.
The Governor’s case was even more pathetic given the fact that there were fears that he may have contracted the virus from the late Abba Kyari who led a presidential delegation to Kogi to condole with him over his mother’s death before he tested positive for the virus. But rather than address the issue properly, Bello had rained invectives on those who entertained such concerns,  tagging them his enemies. In a video that went viral on the social media, Bello, obviously at a gym to show how strong he is, was heard repeatedly shouting “ain’t got Covid.”
He then said anyone who wished him otherwise would have the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV. The Governor has continued to treat the issue of putting in place an isolation centre for Kogi with lack of seriousness.  Although the state is yet to record any case of the virus, it has border with ten states and the FCT, all of which have active cases of the pandemic.
Ironically, Kogi was among the first states to announce measures to contain the spread of the pandemic.  Governor Bello had designated two isolation centres and inaugurated a 29-man squadron headed by his Deputy, Edward Onoja on the pandemic immediately Nigeria recorded its index case. He also announced closure of schools and restriction of social activities.
The two designated isolation centres – FAREC Clinic and the Diagnostic Centre of the State Specialist Hospital are however in complete State of disuse as was discovered by this magazine. When TheNews visited FAREC Clinic, it was in a state of dilapidation and not equipped for any emergency on the breakout of the pandemic and no any sign of recent usage.

Boss Mustapha, heads a 12- member Presidential Task Force for Control of the COVID-19

The situation at the Diagnostic Centre was not better. The gate was under lock with few petty traders operating outside its premises. No medical personnel were seen around the two centres.
A source at the Specialist Hospital who preferred not to be named said the Diagnostic Centre was an ongoing project not yet in use. He said no activities have taken place in recent times.
Last week there were insinuations that a makeshift structure that collapsed in a windstorm at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Lokoja, was designed for isolation centre on which government allegedly spent billions of naira to construct. But government promptly issued a rebuttal.
Commissioner for Information and Communication, Kingsley Fanwo said although the place was constructed with funds from Kogi State Government, it was originally designed for Lassa fever patients. He denied the N7bn. claim. He said there is a private medical facility in Ankpa which has been donated to government as an Isolation Centre.
There are fears that the operation of the Covid-19 Committee may have been affected by shortage of funds.
MrIdris Miliki, a Lokoja based social crusader and Executive Director, Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, called on the governor to facilitate release of funds to boost efforts to keep covid-19 out of the State.
“It is disturbing, that since the composition of this important committee and its inauguration, the State Government is yet to release money and materials for the committee to commence substantive activities and set up genuine isolation and testing centres across the State, as there are no equipment purchase by the State Government. Why did the State Governor refuse to release money for the committee to function effectively?
“The so called isolation centre at FAREC CLINIC is a shadow of its self, as it lacks modern equipment to carry-out all these important assignment.
NCDC boss, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu had recently suggested that States which had not yet recorded an index case of the virus may have something to hide. He said they are probably not following the NCDC protocols or they are not sending samples for testing.
The government replied that it would not manufacture Covid-19 cases and accused the agency of playing politics with the pandemic. In another statement government hinted at plans to import the disease or declare fictitious cases in the state.
Last week one Tayo Soyombo, in a series of tweets that went viral, alleged that at least four persons had died of the virus at FMC since 22 March. The State NMA, in statement by its Chairman, Dr. Zubaru had also accused the State government of not adhering strictly to the protocols and guidelines on the pandemic. The union called for regular tests on suspected cases.

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But the association later recounted. However, health workers at FMC had also raised alarm that they were unduly putting their lives and those of their family at risk by treating Covid-19 suspects without confirmation and PPE. They threatened to embark on strike over the issue.

Supports For Nigeria

Nigeria’s fight against the virus is also being aided by two major private sector groups that have raised over N50 billion. There is the private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID,) a joint initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Aliko Dangote Foundation, Access Bank, UBA, GTBank and a host of other private sector organisations.
The Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) is a private-sector task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) with the sole aim of combating Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria.
There is also Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)-led Oil and Gas Industry Intervention Initiative on COVID-19.
Both bodies have been involved in building of isolation centres, donation of equipment and vehicles among others to aid Nigeria’s efforts to battle the pandemic in various states of the country. They have also been involved in efforts to provide palliative for the citizens.
There are other organisations involved in support of efforts of government to battle the pandemic at the various levels of government. There is also the Nigeria UN COVID-19 Fund Basket through which international organisations and the private sector are also contributing to for the support of efforts to tackle COVID-19 in Nigeria.Epicentres of Tragedy
Globally, the epicentre of the crisis had also at different times moved   from China to Italy and to the United States. On 19 March, the number of lives claimed by the virus in Italy rose to 3,405, surpassing the 3,245 fatalities reported in China, thus making the European country the new epicenter of the epidemic.
Authorities in Italy had put the country on strict lockdown on 10 March when the number of infections and deaths recorded to COVID-19 began to rise. The country,  however, began a gradual easing of the lockdown since last week as its death tally fell to 174 per day on 3 May, according to the Italian Civil Protection Agency which noted that the last time daily fatalities were below that figure was on March 10, with 168 deaths.
Also, the agency noted that total number of infections rose by a record-low 0.66 per cent, to 210,717; active cases dropped by more than 500, to 100,179; and intensive care patients fell by 38 to 1,501. “The situation has definitely improved compared to the past but we are not still out of the epidemic, so the utmost caution is needed,” Health Minister, Roberto Speranza, told RAI public television.
The ease of the lockdown will allow some workers to resume work with strict measures like mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces, including public transport made compulsory. The Italian Central Government had resisted the bid by some regions of the country for faster lockdown exit plans.
Yet, a report by Italy’s National Statistics Agency (Istat) on 4 Monday, however, indicated that the actual number of lives lost to the pandemic in Italy, like in so many other countries may be far higher than the reported figures. The Agency said its study revealed that the European country records nearly 40 per cent more deaths than usual in early 2020 as a result of Covid-19 crisis.
It noted that from February 20 to March 31, over  90,000 people died, 38.7 per cent more than the average of around 65,000 recorded during the same periods in 2015/2019.

Italy on lockdown. The Coliseum, Rome. NBC News

The  study, the agency said, was based on data from 6,866 Italian municipalities, about 87 per cent of the total municipalities in the country and covered the period  from when first locally transmitted case of the virus was  detected in the country’s  Northern Town of Codogno, until when the infection curve started to flatten.
The agency noted that this means excess mortality of 25,000 for the time period, even though there were only 13,710 fatalities officially linked to coronavirus then.
“The rest could either be undiagnosed COVID-19 cases or people with other conditions who were not treated properly while the health system was overwhelmed by the epidemic, “it said while noting that more than 90 per cent of the excess mortality were in municipalities with high virus infection rates, mostly in the North of the country.”
It noted that in March, the number of deaths compared to the 2015-2019 average jumped by 568 per cent in Bergamo province, 391 per cent in Cremona province, and 370 per cent in Lodi province.
Last Tuesday, the United Kingdom took the baton from Italy as the country worst-hit by the virus in Europe. UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) coronavirus-registered death figures revealed that the total death toll has passed 32,000, making Britain the worst-hit country in Europe followed by Italy where coronavirus related the death toll was given as 29,315 as at that date.
Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson said many of the early COVID-19 cases imported into Britain came from European countries, rather than China. “Early in March the UK got many, many different imports of the virus from many different places, and those places were particularly from European countries with outbreaks,’’ Vallance said when speaking at the members of the UK’s Parliament Committee on Health and Social Care last Tuesday.“So we see a big influx – probably from Italy and Spain, looking at the genomics of the virus, in early March – seeded right across the country… a lot of the cases in the UK didn’t come from China and didn’t come from places you might have expected,’’ he said.
However, in spite of its new unenviable status as the new epicenter of the illness in Europe, Prime Minister Boris Johnson believed that Britain was “past the peak” of the COVID-19 outbreak. As such, he said a “comprehensive” plan will be published on “how we can continue to suppress disease’’ while restarting the economy.
Johnson confirmed during the Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday that he will unveil details of his plan to start relaxing the lockdown on Sunday, 10 May.

Trump’s Tantrums

With 70,847 deaths and 1,201,337 cases as at 5 May the US remains the global epicenter of the pandemic as at last week. Statistics from the country as at 5 May indicated that New York remains the worst-hit state with 25,073 deaths and more than 321,000 cases. The Big Apple is followed by New Jersey with 8,244 deaths and over 130,600 cases.
In spite of this, President Donald Trump said early last week that the task force set up to manage the crisis headed by Vice President Mike Pence would wind up its activities as the focus shift to how to reopen the US economy. “Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job. But we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form and that form is safety and opening and we’ll have a different group probably set up for that,” the US President said during a visit to a company in Arizona.

Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping

Indeed, the US President who, many across the world, believed has failed to show leadership in tackling the pandemic has been at war with governors of some of the states in the country over the plans to reopen the economy. He has also egged on his supporters in their protests against lockdown measures put in place by their state governors to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Exchange of words between Trump and the Governor of New York,  Andrew Cuomo, over support and relationship between the States and the Federal Government dominates the media at the height of the pandemic  just as the US President regularly dishes out insults to journalists at his daily media briefing which was stopped some months ago.
Many in the US believed Trump failed to live up to expectations with his failure to take urgent steps that would have limited the spread of the virus in the US, especially when cases in Europe began to rise late February.

Anthony Fauci

Globally, the US President, according to analysts failed to show the usual leadership expected of the country as the world battles the pandemic. The American President had instead stumbled from one controversy to the other, including recommending the injection of bleaching agent and staying in the sunlight to kill the virus.
However, Trump had tried to deflect the accusation by accusing China of cover up of the virus in the early stage of its detection in alliance with the World Health Organisation. He had also claimed that the virus responsible for COVID-19 emerged from a mishap at a laboratory in Wuhan.
The American President had already stopped America’s funding to the WHO after he accused the Director General of collusion with China in hiding information about the virus from the US. He had also promised to punish China.
But US scientists and intelligence corps had insisted that Trump was alerted of the virus and its potential havoc as early as January, the US President failed to take action. One of such scientists is Rick Bright, former director of the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority who filed a whistleblower complaint about two weeks ago that he was sacked  after  the Trump administration rejected his coronavirus warnings after he “acted with urgency” to address the growing spread when the World Health Organization issued a warning in January.

Also, Dr Anthony Fauci again dismissed claims the coronavirus was created in a Chinese laboratory. “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward the fact that this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told National Geographic magazine in an interview published.

Economic, Job Losses

While the spread of the virus is slowing down in many countries of the world, WHO had insisted that the end of the pandemic is not in sight. Leaders across the world are however not ready to keep their peoples and economies in perpetual lockdown until the virus vanishes. Already, the lockdown had changed the trajectory of the global economy, leading to a collapse in consumption as people are confined to homes and are unable to go out for economic activities.
The collapse in consumption and spending has in turn led to the collapse and threat of collapse for operators in many sectors of the economy and loss of demand for labour. In a report published on 9 April, the World Bank said COVID-19  outbreak has set off the first recession in the Sub-Saharan Africa region in 25 years, with growth forecast at-5.1 per cent  in 2020 from  2.4% in 2019.
The Bank, which said this in Africa’s Pulse, the latest of its bi-annual analysis of the state of the region’s economies, also estimated that the pandemic could cost the region between $37 billion and $79 billion in terms of output losses for 2020. The Bank also projected that real gross domestic product growth will fall sharply in Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa, the continent’s three biggest economies.
“ In general, oil exporting-countries will also be hard-hit; while growth is also expected to weaken substantially in the two fastest growing areas—the West African Economic and Monetary Union and the East African Community—due to weak external demand, disruptions to supply chains and domestic production. The region’s tourism sector is expected to contract sharply due to severe disruption to travel,” the Bank said.
Generally, in the US, as at last week, the number of jobless people had reached 30 million and Britain, 8 million,Trouble For Nigeria/ World
For Nigeria, the weak demand for oil in the global market which has forced prices to historical low of between $20 and $30 since March is expected to lead to a decline of the revenue estimate expected from the commodity for the funding of the 2020 budget from N5.5 trillion to about N1.1 trillion, according to analysts. In reaction, the federal government had last month proposed a review of the oil price benchmark in the 2020 budget from $57 per barrel to $30 per barrel.
However, in tune with the reality of the oil market, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance,  Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, on Tuesday said the benchmark would be further reduced  to $20.
This will mean adjusting revenue expectations and expenditure in the 2020 budget with most capital projects likely to be abandoned.
The collapse in oil price will significantly  reduce allocations from the Federal Government which most of the 36 states and the FCT relied on to pay their workers and carry out infrastructure projects, thus raising the spectre of  unpaid salaries and possible mass retrenchments to reduce payroll expenditure.
The Federal Government itself has put all impending recruitments on hold. However, some states have also been adjusting their budgets to the new reality of the oil price. The Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria are also working on stimulus package to help operators in the private sector to survive the pandemic.Manufacturing: Foreign Exchange shortage starting to bite
A Business Day article reports that Nigerian manufacturers are struggling to stay in business because foreign exchange shortage caused by the collapse in oil prices means they cant import raw materials. According to the report, members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria have been unable to access foreign currency for the past five weeks.
The steep dip in oil prices caused by the covid-19 pandemic has meant a shortage of FX for the Nigerian government and there were estimates in the media of a back log of c.US$1bn in the queue to access FX. The CBN at the start of the week however noted that the countrys available foreign exchange will be devoted to to strategic imports or to service obligations that are a priority. Foreign investors looking to repatriate their funds were also assured of the safety of their funds but were asked to remain patient.
Foreign currency constraints, devaluation, and shrinking disposable incomes are all factors that significantly strain the performance of the manufacturing sector. A prolonged constraint in the ability of manufacturers to conduct businesses leads to a crisis in the sector and loss of loans extended to manufacturers by the banks. The scarcity of foreign exchange from the official window compels manufacturers to source funds from the black market, which trades at a significant premium to the I&E window, in order to sustain their business operations. Clearly, the obvious solution would be for these manufacturers to pass on these cost increases to consumers by increasing prices. However, increasing prices comes at a huge cost to volumes for goods which have relatively elastic demand and current economic pressures are pushing more goods into that category.
The real GDP growth of the Manufacturing sector has, according to CSL Stockbrokers, a wholly owned subsidiary of FCMB Group Plc been dismal in the past five years with only 0.8% growth recorded in 2019. While we believe the manufacturing sector will remain a priority to the Nigerian government in terms of FX allocation, which we think may help avert a crisis in the sector in the interim, shrinking d isposable income and high infrastructure costs are two factors that will continue to impede growth in the near to medium term.
In the U.S, the economy suffered  a 4.8 per cent loss in the first quarter, with more than 30 million unemployment claims filed in the past six weeks, while McKinsey a global consulting firm said about 60 million jobs across the European Union and the United Kingdom are at risk from the coronavirus pandemic.
McKinsay said in a report last Monday that that one in four jobs across the European Union and the United Kingdom are at risk of a reduction in hours or pay, temporary furloughs or permanent layoffs. UK and EU have adopted innovative ways like paying workers certain percentages of their salaries, wage subsidies and loans to businesses to stop massive lay off of workers. Also adversely affected are sports tournaments, airlines operations, tourism, hospitality business, and others.
Search For Cure/ Vaccine
The urge to stop the bleeding of the economy and livelihoods by the virus has resulted in frantic search for cure and vaccine throughout the world. Earlier reports amplified by President Trump that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine hold the ace in getting rid of Covid-19 had been disputed by scientists who argued that enough study has not been done to confirm the efficacy of the drugs in treatment of patients.
Remdesivir, a drug originally developed  for treatment of Ebola in the US is being touted  with potential to kick COVID-19 out of the bodies of the patients in the past few days.  The drug has already been approved by  the US authorities for the treatment of the virus, with Dr Fauci, saying “The data shows Remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.”
He added that results from the trials of the drug showed it  can block this virus, thus opening doors to  capability of treating patients.
The WHO had also indicated that eight of the vaccines under development worldwide for tackling COVID-19 have already entered trial stage. One of the major trials is ongoing at University of Oxford recently where the researchers recently announced that they had started testing a vaccine Covid-19. While the result of the test is still being awaited,  Biontech of Mainz, a German drug manufacturer and U.S.-based Pfizer announced last Wednesday that have started the clinical trial of BNT162, an mRNA vaccine, in the U.S.
According to the two companies, the German-U.S. coronavirus vaccine has been administered to human test subjects in the U.S. The first results of the vaccine trial which will be conducted on individuals in Germany and the US should be available in June, according to the companies. Israel also claimed to have made a  breakthrough in another possible line of treatment, that with antibodies.
The Director-General of WHO said last Monday that leaders from 40 countries have pledged to support research and development for vaccine, diagnostics and therapeutics with 7.4 billion euros. Ghebreyesus explained that the fund would be used to carry out activities for COVID -19 research and development. In a speech posted on WHO website, Ghebreyesus was quoted as saying: “ACT Accelerator, to support the development, production and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics against COVID-19 was inaugurated 10 days ago”.
Yet, the road to getting a vaccine or drug that will be effective for the virus may be long away.  Thus, the  Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force warned on Wednesday that of dangers ahead if Nigerians continue to treat measures put in place to control the epidemic with levity. Mustapha, said so far the guidelines put in place for the ease of lockdown phase are not being obeyed.
He noted that people were not obeying physical distancing guidelines in their daily activities “I am a bit sobered by the dangers I see ahead. The overall direction of the modelling we have developed points in the direction of danger ahead. I want to emphasis that so that we know that what we are playing with is very serious and it is a very sober thing to reflect upon. It points in the direction of danger. We need personal discipline and awareness to avert this”.
He asked Nigerians to take up the fight to defeat the virus, warning that an exponential explosion in the number of infections may overwhelm the health system.
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