Ministry warns against ‘racism’ of linking people in country’s northeast with COVID-19: The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday directed states to take action in cases of harassment against north-eastern people in India, which have increased with the outbreak of the coronavirus.
It has also asked states to sensitise people as the harassment is “racially discriminatory, inconvenient and painful”.
With coronavirus cases rising in India, exponentially, verbal and physical attacks on people in the country’s north-eastern states have also increased, as many are targeting them for their facial features that resemble those of average Chinese nationals.
The coronavirus outbreak, which first case emerged in China’s Wuhan city, has triggered rampant discrimination against northeast Indians due to their Mongoloid features.
“There have been cases where people of northeast including the athletes and sports persons have been harassed by linking them to COVID-19.
“This is racially discriminatory, inconvenient and painful to them,’’ the Ministry of Home Affairs said in an order dated 23 March.
It, however, came after the Delhi police booked a man on Sunday for allegedly spitting on a woman from Manipur and attacking her with racial slurs and calling her “corona”.
In another similar incident, Angellica Aribam, a woman from the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur lodged a complaint against a man identified as Mayank Sikarwar for allegedly attacking her with the racial slur “Chinki”, used for northeast Indians with Mongoloid features.
According to the country’s anti-racism legislation, use of the slur is a punishable offence with up to a five-year jail term.
People from seven north-eastern states, known as the seven sisters, are often discriminated against for their facial features.
The easternmost region of India comprised seven states, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura.
According to the Health Ministry, India has a total 415 positive cases, with seven deaths and 23 recovered patients.
The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), India’s premier research lab, told media that they have ordered 1,200 ventilators and are stepping up the testing of suspected cases.
Edited By: AbiodunOluleye/Felix Ajide
COVID-19: Lagos govt reopens cinemas, gyms
The Lagos State Government on Saturday permitted the reopening of cinemas and gyms, with a maximum of 33 per cent occupancy.
Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said this during the 18th update on the management of coronavirus in the state.
Sanwo-Olu said that in October, the state government would announce the decisions regarding the reopening of other sectors of the economy.
”Dear Lagosians, henceforth, cinemas and gyms are permitted to reopen as soon as possible, with a maximum of 33 per cent occupancy.
”This means that there must be a minimum of two empty seats between occupied seats; and in the case of gyms, there must be constant disinfection of machines and equipment throughout the course of the day.
”Next month, October, we will announce the decisions regarding the reopening of other sectors of the economy: night-clubs, bars, event centres, spas, public parks and so on.
”For now, these will continue to remain closed, until fixed plans for reopening are announced in October 2020,” he said.
Accordings to him, places of worship are also permitted, while the mosques to resume their five times a day prayers; the churches are permitted to resume their mid-week services.
”We must not forget that the coronavirus pandemic is still very much with us, and we must therefore strive to prioritise the safety of all our children, teachers, parents, and the entire society.
”All of these resumption guidelines and protocols must be strictly adhered to by the various stakeholders,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu said that the state government was committed to continuing the maintenance of a balance between the safety of lives and the sustenance of livelihoods.
He said that the state would continue to make adjustments as required, but the gradual resumption of social, educational and economic activities must never be taken as an excuse to let down the guard against the pandemic.
According to him, some parts of the world are seeing a resurgence of infections, and rising possibilities of the kind of hard lockdowns being experienced a few months ago.
”Let me make it clear that if we do not continue to maintain our guard, and sustain the adherence to all required protocols and guidelines, we will find ourselves in a situation where fresh lockdowns are inevitable.
”The only way to avoid this is to continue to act responsibly: maintain the required levels of hygiene, through regular handwashing and use of sanitisers, wear masks in all public places, avoid non-essential public gatherings, and maintain the prescribed levels of physical distancing at all times,” Sanwo-Olu said.
Edited By: Tayo Ikujuni/Wale Ojetimi
Vulture Day: NCF advocates Vulture Conservation
As the world marks the International Vulture Awareness Day, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) on Saturday underscored the importance of Vultures in the maintenance of balance in the ecosystem.
The NCF in a communique released after its five days webinar forum on Vultures and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos, noted that vultures were sanitary officers with a clean-up service on the environment.
Dr Joseph Onoja, Director of Technical Programmes, NCF, in his presentation, revealed that nature had bestowed on humanity vultures with the role of environmental sanitary officers with a clean-up service worth $11,000 a year.
Onoja said: “Without vultures, humans are vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases, because in the absence of vultures, dogs and rats become the clean-up crew.
“’The danger in this is that these animals are not equipped for such and are close to human population, exposing us to diseases.”
In his presentation, Mr Aniekan-Abasi Emmah Uwatt, a conservation biologist and ornithologist, observed that human activities were the major drivers to the vultures’ threatened status.
He added that the world could suffer from negligence if something drastic was not done to preserve the remaining vulture species in Nigeria.
“Imagine a world without vultures, it will lead to disease outbreaks such as anthrax; rabies and botulism.
‘“We would also have dirty environment with dead carcasses and foul smells,” he said.
Another facilitator, Mr Apeverga Paul Tersoo, Lecturer, Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State , said that Vultures might not be very appealing by their looks, but these birds, also known as scavengers do the dirty jobs of cleaning our environment.
Tersoo said they do this by taking care of carcasses and preventing the spread of diseases, which in turn keeps the ecosystem healthy.
“’The importance of these natural environmental cleaners cannot be over emphasised because the benefits we derive from them for free will cost us so much that it can only be imagined.
“A case study is seen in India where a crash in the vulture population was observed after the birds fed on carcasses of livestock that were treated with Diclofenac.
“The Indian white-rumped vulture was the most hit, with a decline rate of 99.9 per cent.
“What followed was a surge in population of feral dogs that were infected with rabies from litters of carcasses as a result of the absence of our natural cleaners (the vultures).
“Consequently, an increase in human deaths from rabies nearly caused a public health catastrophe that saw the government of India spending about $34 billion to fight the spread of the disease,” he said.
Malam Samaila Mohammed Alkali, Airport Wildlife Hazard Management Coordinator, Kano Airport, said that aviation was a major threat to the survival of vultures.
“This is due to bird strike. Bird strikes occur when bird physically collide with aircraft,” Alkali said
According to him, approximately 10,692 vultures were killed by aircraft between 2008 and 2015, these may represent 1,500 Vultures killed every year for the period of seven years.
Meanwhile, in his presentation, Mr Adewale Awoyemi, Head of Forest Centre, Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan observed that the vanishing vultures had critical implications on human health and existence.
Awoyemi said that the destruction of their habitats by deforestation was a threat to vulture conservation.
International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) is celebrated on the first Saturday of September every year to reflect on the importance of vultures and the essential role they play in a healthy ecosystem.
It also aims at spreading awareness about range of threat facing vultures and urge the people to take action and prevent extinction of the ecological bird specie.
Edited By: Peter Ejiofor)
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