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COVID-19: Give Nigerians One-Month Free Subscription, Keyamo Tells DSTV, Others

A file photo of Mr Festus Keyamo.

The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has asked direct broadcast satellite service providers in Nigeria to support the fight against COVID-19 by giving Nigerians an extension on their current subscription. 

In a series of tweets on Monday, Mr Keyamo urged DSTV and Star Times to extend existing subscriptions by one month, to aid ease the pains of many across the nation.

READ ALSO: President Buhari Signs COVID-19 Regulations 2020

The minister also urged the the major telecommunication companies in Nigeria to give out some tokens of airtime and data in a bid to ease the pains of Nigerians and to help them stay connected to their loved ones in this trying times.

Mr Keyamo had in some earlier tweets on March 26, opined that God allowed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease to afflict the human race.

He argued that God allowed COVID-19 to afflict the human race only to redirect our steps back to Him.

According to hi, “We have so distorted God’s Word to suit our own human weaknesses and satisfy our greed, even in supposed Holy Places”.

The minister urged Nigerians to collectively ask for forgiveness, stressing that it will all end in praise.

Ooni of Ife reveals cure for Coronavirus

Currently, Nigeria has recorded 131 cases of the global pandemic, which has killed over 30,000 people in three months globally.

On Monday, the Ooni recalled that a divine proclamation came out to the world last year, June 6th, 2019, during the World Ifa Festival – Otura Meji.

The statement was posted on his social media accounts.

“We foretold about the impending rage of this invisible pandemic war, but few heard us”, the monarch said.

“Please note that Efod/Urim and Thurim are in the holy Books. They are the same as our ancient readings that have not failed us till date. On this throne, I work very closely with all the nations of the world most especially the nation of Cuba.

“Centuries go by, the nation of Cuba hold dearly the tenets of our ancestors and rely on the blessings of the mystery of nature, and as a result they have the best medical care in the world. They are the ONLY country that have come out boldly to help the world.”

He stated that the Almighty is above religion and he is moving now; that the world will now respect nature wholly.

“To solve this ailment is through natural elements put together above all from nature. It has been tested!!! I have used it and also used it for some of the chronic Corona patients with testimonials.”

He challenged researchers both in Nigeria and the world to put these natural herbs into clinical medicine and extract the vaccines from it.

Source: PM News

Mexico president defends meeting mother of 'El Chapo'

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holding up his amulets, which he says serves him as ‘protective shields’ against the coronavirus disease [File: Handout.Mexico’s Presidency/Reuters]

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday defended his weekend handshake with the mother of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, calling her a “respectable old lady” and seeking to cast his critics as the principal menace to the country.

In a 30-second video posted on Twitter on Sunday, Lopez Obrador could be seen approaching Maria Consuelo Loera’s car, parked on a dirt road on the outskirts of Badiraguato, a mountainous municipality in the northwestern state of Sinaloa.

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Surrounded by onlookers, Lopez Obrador told Loera she need not get out of the car, they shook hands and, after a brief exchange, he told her he had “received her letter”.

Guzman was for years boss of the Sinaloa Cartel, a powerful criminal organisation blamed for the deaths of thousands of people in Mexico ranging from rival gang members, general citizens, police and members of the armed forces.

Critics on social media asked what kind of message the encounter, videotaped by part of the entourage that regularly accompanies the president on weekends, was meant to send.

Questioned about the meeting at his regular morning news conference, Lopez Obrador was unrepentant and quickly blamed “adversaries” for trying to make a “scandal” out of it.

“Sometimes, because it’s my job, I have to shake hands with white-collar criminals who haven’t even lost their respectability. How am I not going to greet an old lady who leaves her hand outstretched?” he told reporters.

In the video, Lopez Obrador could also be seen talking to one of El Chapo’s lawyers, Jose Luis Gonzalez Meza.

Lopez Obrador said Loera, a “respectable old lady,” wrote to him to ask for help in getting permission from US authorities to visit her son, who is in a maximum-security US prison.

“This depends on the United States government, the US embassy. I believe that for humanitarian reasons she should be allowed to go with caregivers, sanitarians, doctors,” he said.

Ignoring coronavirus guidance 

The left-wing leader said “conservative” opponents, were trying to use the encounter to hurt him.

Accusing them of hypocrisy, he said the corruption he identifies as their legacy is a much bigger threat to the country than a 92-year-old woman “who deserves my respect”.

After questions by reporters about the meeting, Lopez Obrador promised to publish the letter from Loera, saying: “We have nothing to hide … there’s nothing that can embarrass us.”

Guzman shipped tonnes of drugs around the world and twice embarrassed the Mexican government by escaping from prison.

Captured for a third time in 2016, he was extradited to the United States in 2017 and sentenced to life in prison by a US judge last year after his conviction on multiple drug charges.

The Sinaloa Cartel caused Lopez Obrador’s government considerable embarrassment last October, when security forces briefly surrounded and captured the notorious drug lord’s son Ovidio Guzman in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa.

Cartel gunmen responded with prolonged bursts of gunfire in the streets after Ovidio’s arrest.

To avoid bloodshed, the government ordered Ovidio’s release, sparking widespread criticism of Lopez Obrador’s security policy, and angering some military leaders.

Lopez Obrador saw Guzman’s mother on a visit to a rural area of Sinaloa where the government was building a new road that would pass near El Chapo’s birthplace. The president said he went to meet Loera after hearing she wanted to greet him.

The 66-year-old, who has flouted the advice of his own government not to engage in physical contact during the coronavirus crisis, dismissed the suggestion that he should not be shaking hands with an elderly woman at risk of contagion.

He said it would have been “disrespectful” not to take her hand – even as two state governors Lopez Obrador had recently met with said over the weekend they had coronavirus.

Source: Aljazeera

Austria to make basic face masks compulsory in supermarkets

Austria will require shoppers to wear basic face masks in supermarkets in a bid to slow the still-too-rapid spread of the coronavirus, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday.

Austria has closed schools, restaurants, bars, theatres and other gathering places, including non-essential shops. People have been told to stay at home and work from there if possible.

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The country has reported 108 deaths and more than 9,000 cases, fewer than its neighbours Italy and Switzerland and within its health system’s capacity so far, but Kurz told a news conference its intensive care capacity could be exceeded by mid-April.

“Many cannot imagine what is heading our way within weeks, but the truth is that this is the calm before the storm. And to tell how horrific that storm can be, you can look at our neighbour Italy,” Kurz said, referring to hospitals unable to cope with the number of sick people, and hundreds of dead each day.

The rate of infection remains “far too high”, Kurz said, adding that less than medical-grade masks would be distributed this week, probably from Wednesday onward.

“As of the moment, these masks are handed out in front of supermarkets [and] it will be compulsory to wear them in supermarkets,” Kurz said, adding that the aim in the medium-term was for people to wear them in public more generally as well.

While the masks would not protect wearers against infection, they would stop wearers from sneezing or coughing on others and potentially infecting them, he added.

The World Health Organization has, however, been sceptical about such measures.

“There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any particular benefit,” Dr Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, told a news conference later on Monday, while adding that he was not aware of Austria’s measure specifically.

“In fact, there is some evidence to suggest the opposite – in the misuse or [not] wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly or taking it off and all the other risks that are otherwise associated with that,” Ryan said.

Source: Aljazeera

Wuhan awakens from two months of coronavirus isolation

The city of Wuhan, which was subjected to the most aggressive quarantine in China after the coronavirus first emerged there late last year, is slowly returning to normal with the lockdown imposed at the end of January expected to be completely lifted on April 8. 

At its peak, some 56 million people in the city and the surrounding province of Hubei were forced to stay at home, and all travel was suspended.

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Residents struggled to get treatment for their family members, and medics were overwhelmed with cases before reinforcements were drafted in from across China, and field hospitals built;  a situation now being repeated in hard-hit countries like Italy and the United States.

As life slowly returns to normal, there are concerns that cases of the disease could spike, not only as people return from new epicentres of the disease overseas, but because China does not disclose the number of asymptomatic cases of infection.

Nevertheless, there is a sense that the worst has passed. 

During the peak of the outbreak, people in Wuhan spoke to Al Jazeera about what they were going through.

With businesses and shopping centres reopening on Monday, and the lockdown to be lifted in full next week, we asked them what had happened since.  

These are their stories. They preferred to remain anonymous or use only one name for fear of reprisals.

Stories as told to Shawn Yuan, but edited for clarity and length.

The teacher

The teacher wrote a diary for Al Jazeera, describing his first week of life under quarantine. With the lockdown about to be lifted, he shares some of his experience and observations about the past two months and what it has meant, not only to him but for the city of Wuhan.

Yesterday, I went out to go to the pharmacy 20 metres from our apartment compound (In China apartment buildings are grouped together to form a neighbourhood with a main gate). “Where are you going?” the security guard asked me.

“Just going to the pharmacy to get some hand sanitisers,” I answered, while pointing at the pharmacy. “Look, it’s only a few steps away.”

He watched me while I made my way to the pharmacy, fetched my sanitiser and nodded to him as I swiftly made my way back to my apartment building. That was the first time I had left the complex in more than six weeks, and it was somewhat surreal to think that there is still a world outside. 

These days, when I go down to the park within our development, I see a lot more people strolling and chatting, some even without masks – something unimaginable just over two weeks ago. People’s conversations are still dominated by the coronavirus outbreak, but the focus seemed to have shifted. 

During the peak of the epidemic, everyone was almost fanatically worried about the virus: whenever there was an ambulance driving into our community, our WeChat group would explode with messages with people speculating whether someone they knew was infected by the virus. 

Now as the epidemic winds down, I still hear people talking about the virus, but more about overseas cases. “Oh my God, can you believe there are over 80,000 cases in the US already?” I overheard some grandpas chatting over a few exercising sessions in our community park. 

Even after April 8 comes, I don’t think all of us are going to rush out to the streets or out of the city. The day before the lockdown when I returned home from my work on the train, it was almost an apocalypse-like silence, and Wuhan has been silent for over two months except for ambulance sirens. 

I don’t see how this city can just return to its old-time glory, if I can put it this way, just overnight. 

China Wuhan

I’m an optimistic person, but there were two things during the past two months that made me almost lose hope. The first was the death of the father of my childhood friend. I didn’t personally know anyone who died from the virus until then. That’s when I realised that it seemed like no one could escape – that thought kept me awake and anxious for days. 

The second time was when Dr Li Wenliang died. The ferocious censorship and the government’s disregard for public opinion made me want to throw up. I felt so powerless and hopeless then – I thought everything was over. 

Now as I look back, those memories are still fresh. 

So yes, of course lifting the lockdown is a milestone for Wuhan, but for we people who are living in Wuhan, it doesn’t really mean all that much. We are still going to be exercising extreme caution, and more importantly, Wuhan has been forever changed. 

The professional

Fubin tried to get his father admitted to a hospital after he developed a high fever on January 20 but was repeatedly turned away due to a lack of hospital beds. He finally managed to get his father into Wuhan No.5 Hospital. 

My father was discharged two weeks ago and just finished his post-discharge quarantine a few days ago. We had a little welcome party for him – my father loves festivity, and he always says that it was such a shame that we couldn’t celebrate the Lunar New Year this year.

We picked him up from the quarantine centre a few days ago. My wife and I had been preparing a big meal the entire day – a delayed Lunar New Year dinner – just to make sure my father, and our entire family, could make up for the messed up New Year (Lunar New Year fell on January 25 this year with the big celebration on the eve). 

At the dinner table, I could hold my father’s hands for the first time in almost two months. I don’t know how to describe that feeling but you know the happiness of you finding something that you thought you had lost? That’s exactly how I felt. 

My father told me that he had been through a lot in his life, but the last two months was the most intense. 

“There was a patient who was gasping for air for a good 10 minutes while the doctors and nurses were trying to help him,” my father told me after he was discharged. “Then they wheeled him out of the ward, and I heard they were sending him to ICU. But I never saw him again.”

He doesn’t know if that person died or not, nor does he seem to really want to know because I think that’s too much emotional toll on him – that could very well have been him. 

China Wuhan

Thankfully, my father’s treatment journey went smoothly, but we have been vigilant and sometimes to a paranoid level in trying to make sure we are not infected. We stayed at home for the entirety of the last two months. I never stepped out of my apartment building for even one second – we have people who delivered our groceries. 

April 8 – I think it’s over-hyped. I don’t think much is going to change. Nobody expected Wuhan to go back to normal as soon as the quarantine measures were lifted, especially now that the virus seems to be spreading far and wide. I think that all we, and everyone in the world, can do is to follow the government’s instructions and stay at home. 

The healthcare worker

On January 25, a medic working at Xiaogan First People’s Hospital told Al Jazeera that her hospital was running out of protective equipment, and doctors and nurses had to use disposable raincoats as protection. She was imploring the world to help her hospital, which is about 73 kilometres (45 miles) northwest of Wuhan. Now Xiaogan has only one remaining case, which is at her hospital. 

Will you believe me if I say it’s a miracle that I’m not dead from the virus? Because that’s what I told myself in the past two weeks when I finally got some off time from my shifts. 

The last two months felt surreal – never in my life have I ever experienced anything like that. All the resources were going to Wuhan in the early days, and that had left a gigantic gap between supply and need in medical protective equipment in our hospital. 

The situation only got better after mid-February. It may seem like a short time – only two weeks of severe shortage, but that meant many of my colleagues were infected. I can’t count how many times I have cried in the break room from the overwhelming scene. 

I really thought we couldn’t make it. That reached the peak when a patient I was in charge of died on February 4. I remember that day – I had been in the isolation ward with my colleagues attending the patients for well over six hours without eating or drinking, and almost as soon as I was about to leave, this patient’s blood oxygen level started to drop. We tried everything we could, but he passed away almost as soon as he was sent to ICU.

I spent the rest of the day crying because he was like a grandpa to me – every day when I walked into the ward, he’d nod and smile at me even though he couldn’t move or speak. My colleague came to comfort me and asked me to take a break.

But I knew I couldn’t – it was at the peak of the outbreak. Our hospital had over 400 patients and it was an absolute chaos at the beginning, with patients pouring in and medics not having equipment. Even though the situation got better, it was still tremendous pressure. 

It’s hard for me to actually wrap my head around what happened, but now that Xiaogan only has very few cases left and the city lockdown has also been lifted, I do want to caution against getting life back to complete normal just yet. 

The Health Commission doesn’t tell us how many asymptomatic cases there are, and there are even cases where discharged patients later were admitted again because their test came back positive – all that after the original test was negative.

Source: Aljazeera

COVID-19: Two Islamic Clerics Arraigned In Kaduna For Defying Ban On Large Gatherings

A map showing Kaduna, a state in Nigeria’s North-Central region.

The Kaduna State Government has arraigned two Islamic clerics before a Chief Magistrate court sitting in the state capital for defying the ban on large gathering and not complying with the 24-hour curfew imposed across the state.

The two Imam’s and their followers were arrested last week Friday while they were holding congregational service with their members contrary to the existing directive on social distancing in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Confirms 20 New Coronavirus Cases

They were however arraigned on Monday before a Kaduna State Chief Magistrate Court on two counts of criminal conspiracy and disobedience to lawful order as enshrined in sections 59 and 115 of the penal code of Kaduna State.

Due to their unknown status of whether positive or negative to COVID-19, the Chief Magistrate, Ibrahim Musa granted the defendants bail in the sum of N1million each and two sureties in like sum.

He also ruled that the sureties must be related to the defendants, must show evidence of being residents of Kaduna State and also show proof of ownership of land titles.

The court, however, adjourned the case to April 21 and 29 for hearing and ordered that the defendants will remain the custody of the police pending when they fulfill their bail conditions.