Life in the West Bank has returned to normal after Palestinian government decided to lift most of the precautionary measures against the coronavirus pandemic.
Big cities in the West Bank is unprecedentedly busy and crowded. Public transportation and traffic were all resumed in the area on Tuesday, the last day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
The West Bank cities, towns, villages, and refugee camps have also witnessed the return of busy trade and commercial activities, where all private sector establishments, stores, pubic parks, and squares were opened.
The Palestinian ministries and official establishments will get back to work all over the West Bank on Wednesday amid the government’s instructions for people to keep committed to personal precautionary measures.
Mosques all over the West Bank were also opened on Tuesday.
Husam Abu Robb, Director General of the Palestinian Ministry of al-Waqf (Islamic properties) said in a press statement that although all mosques were opened, prayers must abide by the personal precautionary measures.
“Worshipers must wear their facemask and use sterilization materials and keep a distance between each other for the needed social distancing,” said Abu Robb.
He called on elderlies and others who suffer from chronic diseases and with weak immunity to pray at home and avoid mixing with others.
Meanwhile, the ancient Church of Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem was also reopened.
Ra’ed el-Atrash, a 52-year-old Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem said, “Reopening the church today is an indication that life is back to normal after a closure that went on for almost three months.”
In Bethlehem, there are 16 churches, including the Church of Nativity, where all have been closed after the state of emergency was declared in the West Bank on March 5.
Palestinian Minister of Health Mai al-Kaila on Tuesday told a news briefing that no new COVID-19 cases were recorded in Palestine for the 5th day in a row, adding that eight cases had recovered.
“The total number of infected cases reached 602 in all Palestinian districts,” she said adding that 483 cases had recovered.
Whirlwind Bayern Munich dismantle Schalke 8-0 in season opener
Treble winners Bayern Munich crushed Schalke 04 8-0 with a hat-trick from Serge Gnabry and a superb debut from Leroy Sane on Friday.
It was a sensational start to the new Bundesliga season and the win sent an ominous warning to potential challengers.
Also, it was the biggest opening win in Bundesliga history.
Bayern Munich showed they had lost none of the sharpness which helped them to lift the UEFA Champions League trophy less than a month ago in dominant fashion.
Gnabry grabbed his first goal for the hosts with a fine turn and shot in the fourth minute in what turned out to be a one-sided affair.
It stretched Bayern Munich’s unbeaten run to 31 games this year, having now won the last 22 matches in a row.
Schalke 04, without a league win in 17 consecutive matches since January, were helpless against Bayern Munich’s lightning-quick game.
Leon Goretzka found plenty of space to drive a low shot past goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann in the 19th minute.
“You can see that the team was already strong last season,” said Sane, who joined from Manchester City. “The team is still hungry in spite of winning the treble last season and to have such a start is outstanding.”
Bayern Munich finished their season in August when they added the Champions League to their Bundesliga and German Cup titles and then had only a short preparation for the new season.
Last season’s top goalscorer Robert Lewandowski found the net with a 31st minute penalty kick to become the first player to score in 10 successive appearances against the same Bundesliga opponents.
Gnabry then scored twice from Sane’s assists in the 47th and 59th before Thomas Mueller made it half a dozen after Lewandowski set him up with an impressive rabona kick.
Sane then capped his superb Bayern Munich debut with a fine finish from a counter attack in an empty Allianz Arena.
This was after the city had banned spectators due to rising coronavirus infection numbers in the region.
A little later substitute Jamal Musiala drilled in goal number eight to become the youngest ever Bayern Munich goalscorer in the league at 17 years old.
The result piled more pressure on already-embattled Schalke 04 coach David Wagner, who has been under intense scrutiny during their winless run this year.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)
NIMR unveils COVID-19 molecular testing kit
Speaking at the unveiling, Prof. Babatunde Salako, Director General of NIMR, said the equipment was developed to ease the challenges posed by the current method which required heavy laboratory and expensive equipment to function.
“As a foremost research institute in Nigeria with a mandate to conduct research into diseases of public health importance like COVID-19 pandemic which at present a difficult management challenge for scientists.
“While no effective vaccine has been develop till date, case detection remains the surest way of controlling the pandemic.
“Seeing that molecular laboratories remain limited in number and remote areas are at disadvantaged in getting tested and limited testing centres.
“Our researchers once again swung into action to develop a point of care molecular test for COVID-19 to ease the challenges of getting a molecular laboratory which requires huge fund.
“The Isothemal used for our point of care testing cost 9500 dollars which is cheaper than the regular real time PCR equipment which cost about 100,000 dollars.
“This test reagent can be produced in country with 80 per cent to 90 per cent locally sourced material,” he said.
According to him, a NIMR research team, led by Dr Chika Onwuamah, a Senior Research Scientist, developed a molecular test for coronavirus that gives test result in less than 40 minutes.
He thanked Fate Foundation, for supporting the research with N20million through its Fate Philanthropy Coalition for COVID-19 Support.
“We are very grateful for the support given to the institute to develop the assay which is not only first of its kind in the country but also in Africa.
“The objective of the grant was to develop a fast multiplex isothermal assay for SARS-CoV-2 while we also designed and evaluated primers and probes for multiplex.
“Work is currently ongoing on a simple release reagent to simplify the RNA extraction step and the assay development procedure involve both bioinformatic analysis designing the primers and probes.
“To date we have a working assay guaranted to test 100 copies/ml of SARs-CoV-2 RNA, as we continue to improve on the detection limit,” he said.
“SIMA works at one temperature and that is why it is called isothermal which makes it far cheaper and faster,” he said.
On the duration of the research, the Senior Researcher said the project started around May, noting that there was a bit delay due to COVID-19 induced lockdown.
Onwuamah, however, called for more support to aid scientists in the country to carryout research work on public health emergency such as COVID-19.
“Support for scientists in Nigeria need to be strong because we have a lot to give but the enabling environment is not visible.
” This research work cost close to N10million before we arrive here and it is a continuous thing because we have to keep improving on what we have developed,” he said.
Mrs Adenike Adeyemi, Executive Director of Fate Foundation, said the foundation established the support fund to assist the ongoing national and local efforts to strengthen public health infrastructure.
Adeyemi said the focus was to key into government effort to properly equip and support public health facilities and frontline health workers.
“This foundation was founded 20 years ago by Fola Ade with a goal to enable aspiring and emerging Nigerians to excel in their prospective fields.
“The foundation have supported in the fight against the ravishing pandemic through our various programmes and with the support of 61 individual donors and institute.
“We are happy to be part of this huge research development that will go a long way to ease some of the present challenges in the fight against the virus,” she said.
Edited By: Wale Ojetimi
Pharmaceutical Products: Nigeria plans 60% local production
Prof. Moji Adeyeye, Director-General of National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), says the country is working toward producing 60 per cent of its pharmaceutical products locally to reduce the over-dependence on international companies.
Adeyeye said this at a virtual conference with the theme “Seizing the Moment: Providing Faster Access to Quality Medical Products during COVID-19 and Beyond”, organised by the Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in partnership with Deloitte, a multinational professional services network.
The conference which had participants from some African countries was specifically on novel approaches emerging from COVID-19 response that can be effectively leveraged to respond to the pandemic, especially in Africa.
Adeyeye said the coronavirus pandemic was an eye opener to the world and as such efforts should be made to accelerate progress toward universal health coverage.
“Right now, we manufacture only 30 per cent of our products locally, and import 70 per cent; the goal is to change it to around 60 per cent locally and 40 per cent import.
“That is going to really contribute positively to reducing falsified substandard medicines and improve the health of the population,” she said.
According to Adeyeye, pharmaceutical manufacturing industries cannot survive without good regulatory system and as such stringent measures are to be adopted for a healthy system.
“We have also faced challenge of herbal medicine unspecified claims (unproved claim) for cure of COVID-19, so we have to also contend with that.”
Dr John Nkengaso, Head of Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in his view noted that Africa was able to overcome the over 2 million COVID-19 death projection due to partnership and collaboration of its leaders.
Nkengaso said that accurate diagnosis and power of partnership where public and private sector came together to solve a common problem, were other factors that assisted Africa in navigating the pandemic.
“We were told by the Taskforce in Geneva that after a period of two months the continent will witness over 2million deaths, so we decided as a continent to regroup and figure out ways to diagnose ourselves,” Nkengaso said.
Mr Kofi Nyame, one of the MSH supply chain experts, said the role of pharmaceutical system in this pandemic era should be to get the people ready for other pandemics.
“COVID-19 has served as a magnifying lens for us; it has exposed the inherent weaknesses.
“We know that substandard products are all over in Africa and a greater percentage of our medicines are substandard but the only way out is to strengthen the pharmaceutical systems to ensure that the service delivery is properly monitored.
“We need to ensure that there is a system to regulate, select and distribute medicine. This is how to ensure quality and efficacy,” Nyame said.
He advocated for good supply chain management, strong regulator and use of modern tools to mitigate crisis as solutions to providing faster access to quality medical products during and post COVID-19 era.
Edited By: Peter Ejiofor)
Facebook announces opening of new office in Lagos
Facebook on Friday said it would be opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria, as part of its continued commitment and ongoing investment in Africa.
Facebook, in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos, said this would be its second office on the African continent.
It said the opening of the new office was aimed at supporting the entire Sub-Saharan Africa region.
The office, it said, was expected to become operational in 2021.
According to Facebook, it will be the first on the continent to house a team of expert engineers building for the future of Africa and beyond.
It said the office would be home to various teams servicing the continent from across the business, including Sales, Partnerships, Policy, Communications as well as Engineers.
Commenting, Ime Archibong, Facebook’s Head of New Product Experimentation, said: “The opening of our new office in Lagos, Nigeria presents new and exciting opportunities in digital innovations to be developed from the continent and taken to the rest of the world.
“All across Africa, we are seeing immense talent in the tech ecosystem and I am proud that with the upcoming opening of our new office, we will build products for the future of Africa, and the rest of the world, with Africans at the helm.
“We look forward to contributing further to the African tech ecosystem.
“The investment of the new Facebook office follows the 2018 opening of NG_Hub, its first flagship community hub space in Africa.
“The hub was opened in partnership with CcHub, and the 2019 opening of a Small Business Group (SBG) Operations Centre in Lagos, in partnership with Teleperformance, “Archibong said.
Kojo Boakye, Facebook’s Director of Public Policy, Africa said that the new office in Nigeria presents an important milestone which further reinforces the company’s ongoing commitment to the region.
“Our mission in Africa is no different from other parts of the world, which is to build community and bring the world closer together.
“I am excited about the possibilities that this will create, not just in Nigeria, but across Africa,” Boakye said.
The policy director said since the opening of its first office in 2015, Facebook had made a number of investments across the continent, aimed at supporting and growing the tech ecosystem.
Boakye noted that the support includes the recent rollout of its SMB Grants programme in Nigeria and South Africa.
He said thia was aimed at supporting over 900 businesses by providing a combination of cash and ad credits to help small businesses as they rebuild from COVID.
Nunu Ntshingila, Regional Director, Facebook Africa, said: “We are delighted to be announcing our new office in Nigeria.
” Five years on from opening our first office on the continent in Johannesburg, South Africa, we will continue to invest in and support local talent, as well as the various communities that use our platforms.
“The office in Lagos will also be key in helping to expand how we service our clients across the continent,” Ntshingila said.
Edited By: Oluwole Sogunle