Foreign

Singapore ends two-month virus lockdown, though some curbs remain

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Kuala Lumpur, Jun 2, 2020 Singapore on Tuesday

began allowing activities that “do not pose a high risk of transmission” to resume after two months of lockdown, despite reporting the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in East Asia.

Some offices and factories resumed operations, children went back to school, while places of worship began to open their doors.

Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, had said on Monday that the relaxation will likely prove “a big relief to all’’ but one that is “certainly not without its risks’’.

The tiny but wealthy city-state, an investment and trade hub, whose seaport and airport rank among the world’s busiest, has diagnosed 35,292 cases of the new coronavirus, more than any country in East or South-East Asia, except for China.

Most of the cases are among foreign migrants confined to dormitories, though the related death toll, at 24, is one of the world’s lowest.

Pledging that the government would build new residences to house up to 100,000 of the roughly 320,000 migrants, who sleep sometimes 10-20 to a room, National Development Minister, Lawrence Wong, described the situation at the dormitories as “under control” on Monday.

With new daily cases of the virus among Singaporeans down to single figures most days over the past week, the government opted to stick to the scheduled phased winding down of restrictions from June 1.

“More patients have now recovered and been discharged than are still receiving care,’’ Lee said.

Some restrictions will remain for several more weeks.

Restaurants cannot yet cater to dine-in customers and recreation facilities such as gyms and cinemas cannot yet reopen.

Some places of worship will not reopen despite having permission to do so.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore said it would delay reopening churches due to curbs on deploying volunteers.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore said that 64 mosques would allow up to five people to pray for up to 20 minutes, in keeping with the looser restrictions.

Singapore’s open economy looks set to be hit hard by the pandemic and lockdowns.

The government last week predicted a contraction of up to seven per cent in 2020 – before announcing that it would increase spending, aimed at curbing pandemic impacts to almost a fifth of gross domestic product.

Several of Lee’s cabinet said that despite Tuesday’s easing of restrictions, people in Singapore would have to get used to a “new normal” – a slogan that leaders around the world are echoing to refer to changes to daily life perceived as necessary to reign in the pandemic – unless a vaccine is created.

Even if a vaccine is made available, Lee warned on Monday, “everything will not simply go back to the way it was before’’.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

https://nnn.ng/singapore-ends-two-month-virus-lockdown-though-some-curbs-remain/

Sport

Whirlwind Bayern Munich dismantle Schalke 8-0 in season opener

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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)
Source: NAN

 

 

https://nnn.ng/whirlwind-bayern-munich-dismantle-schalke-8-0-in-season-opener/
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COVID-19

NIMR unveils COVID-19 molecular testing kit

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The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) on Friday unveiled the first SARS-CoV-2 Isothemal Molecular Assay (SIMA) machine in the country to boost COVID-19 testing capacity.


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.

Salako said that SIMA is a fast and sensitive point of carebtest for COVID-19 infection using molecular technique that is reliable.

“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.

Dr Onwuamah, who led the research work, said SIMA was far cheaper and faster compared to PCR which required a lot of power and goes through different temperature.

“The difference between the PCR used in Molecular lab and this is that PCR goes through different circle of temperature which requires more a lot of power for heating and cooling.

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
Source: NAN

https://nnn.ng/nimr-unveils-covid-19-molecular-testing-kit/
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Health

Pharmaceutical Products: Nigeria plans 60% local production

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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.

She explained that in spite the challenges, NAFDAC as a regulatory body in Nigeria had constantly used the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNIDO indices to monitor the manufacturing industries.

“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)
Source: NAN

https://nnn.ng/pharmaceutical-products-nigeria-plans-60-local-production/
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Sport

I was in the best of forms before Tokyo Paralympics was postponed, powerlifter Ejike says

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Powerlifting legend Lucy Ejike on Friday said she was physically fit and in top form before the postponed Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.


Ejike told the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja, following the long period of inactivity due to the coronavirus pandemic, that she was however yet to resume her gym sessions.

The three-times Paralympics gold medalist said she has been training at home since the lockdown to keep fit.

“I have been training at home since the lockdown and now that the lockdown is relaxed, I am still training at home and yet to resume gym sessions,’’ she said.

Ejike however said she did not want to push herself into any vigorous training at the moment.

“I don’t want to do that because I have not been training consistently due to the COVID-19.

“But I still know that this length of inactivity will not deter me. In a few months time, I will get back to my peak,” she said.

The 42-year-old said she was at her best form, before the lockdown, in preparation for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games.

Ejike, who won a gold medal in the women’s up-to-61kg category at the World Para-Powerlifting World Cup in Abuja in February, said she was reserving her energy for the Tokyo Games.

“That is where I am looking forward to breaking more records”.

The Paralympic Games earlier scheduled to begin in August 2020 has been postponed to August 2021 in Tokyo due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edited By: Franca Ofili and Olawale Alabi)
Source: NAN

https://nnn.ng/i-was-in-the-best-of-forms-before-tokyo-paralympics-was-postponed-powerlifter-ejike-says/
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