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Enforce compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for LG, state workers, FG tells govs

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The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency has urged state governments to step up mass vaccination against COVID-19 as part of moves to combat the virus.

The agency, in its latest advisory also urged state governors to enact and enforce vaccination mandate for local and state government workers.

This came to fore as the percentage for fully vaccinated Nigerians stalled at 4.2 per cent while those that had taken their first dose remained grounded at 9.8 per cent as of Sunday, January 9, 2021.

The NCDC in its daily updates continued to report an increase in the number of fatalities reporting no fewer than 38 deaths between January 1 and January 8.

Despite the increasing number of cases and deaths, some states have not vaccinated up to 200,000 individuals while Abia, Kogi and Niger states have not commenced administration of booster shots.

While some states had commenced the booster administration, analysis by our correspondent revealed that Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Imo, Kwara, Sokoto and Yobe had yet to administer boosters up to 100 residents.

While Imo had only administered ten booster shots, Ebonyi administered 52, Akwa Ibom administered 67 among others.

NPHCDA urges states to set up mass vaccination sites in markets, others

But the NPHCDA in its bid to speed up vaccination, in its advisory told governors that it was part of their responsibility to enact and to enforce vaccine mandate on state and local government workers.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha had in October announced that Federal Government workers who failed to show proofs of vaccination would be barred from government offices.

The Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shauib had another press briefing in 2021 had said that individuals who refused to get vaccinated would not be allowed to infect other people.

The Presidential Steering Committee went ahead to issue a vaccination mandate to Federal civil servants. The Boss Mustapha-led Committee had stated that Federal Civil servants without proof of vaccination and negative PCR tests would not be allowed into their respective offices as of December 1, 2021.

The federal civil servants who refused to adhere to the mandate were turned back home while others had to visit makeshift vaccination sites to get vaccinated.

State governments of Kaduna and Ondo states had also enforced vaccine mandate on state workers. But in a fresh advisory sighted by our correspondent, the NPHCDA advised governors to enact and enforce the same vaccination mandate on state and local government workers.

The advisory partly reads, “Enact and enforce vaccine mandate for all state and local government workers, direct mandatory set up of mass vaccination sites in public places including markets, parks, event centres, stadia and academic institutions.

“Approve and direct the release of state counterpart funds for advocacy, communication and social mobilization, logistics and additional teams in quarterly tranches.

“Pay weekly unscheduled visits to at least one mass vaccination site to supervise and motivate the vaccination teams, chair weekly review meetings with traditional and religious leaders to address vaccination gaps.

But the Senior Special Assistant to the FCT minister, Dr. Ejike Orji told one of our correspondents that the final decision to enforce the vaccine mandate lay on the minister.

He said, “Well the vaccine mandate is a Federal Government policy and it is expected that each state will start the process. A lot of people think we are trying to force it but what the government is saying is that if you have a right to not get vaccinated, other people also have rights to not getting the virus from you.”

“Sooner or later, the FCT will give the instruction. it is the mandate of the minister to do so and he will decide when to fully enforce it.”

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern cancels her wedding amid new Omicron restrictions

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has cancelled her wedding as the nation imposes new restrictions to slow the community spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, she told reporters on Sunday.

New Zealand will impose mask rules and limit gathering from midnight on Sunday after a cluster of nine Covid-19 Omicron cases showed community spread from the North to South islands after a wedding.

A family returned to Nelson in the South Island by plane after attending a wedding and other events in Auckland in the North Island. The family and a flight attendant tested positive.

New Zealand will move to a red setting under its Covid-19 protection framework, with more mask wearing. Indoor hospitality settings such as bars and restaurants and events like weddings will be capped at 100 people. The limit is lowered to 25 people if venues are not using vaccine passes, Arden said.

“My wedding will not be going ahead,” she told reporters, adding she was sorry for anyone caught up in a similar scenario. Ardern had not disclosed her wedding date, but it was rumored to be imminent.

Asked by reporters how she felt about the cancellation of her wedding to longtime partner and fishing-show host Clarke Gayford, Ardern replied: “Such is life.”

She added, “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill. That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”

New Zealand’s borders have been shut to foreigners since March 2020. The government pushed back plans for a phased reopening from mid-January to the end of February out of concern about a potential Omicron outbreak as in neighboring Australia.

People able to travel to New Zealand under narrow exceptions must apply to stay at state-managed quarantine facilities. The government last week stopped issuing any new slots amid a surge in the number of people arriving with Omicron.

About 94% of New Zealand’s population over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated and about 56% of those eligible have had booster shots.

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SERAP drags Nigerian government to ECOWAS Court over undisclosed loans spending

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has filed a lawsuit against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari before an ECOWAS Court over “secrecy in the spending of loans so far obtained, the unsustainable level of borrowing by the government and the 36 states, and the crippling debt burden”.

Last week, SERAP lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi filed a suit before ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, in which the organisation sought, “An order directing and compelling the Federal Government to issue an immediate moratorium on borrowing by itself, and the 36 states, in conformity with the country’s international human rights obligations.”

SERAP is also seeking, “An order directing and compelling the Federal Government to publish details of spending of the loans obtained by governments since 1999 including the list of projects and locations of any such projects on which these loans have been spent.”

The organisation maintained that, “Persistent and unsustainable borrowing by the federal and state governments and the crippling debt burden undermine the rights of Nigerians to economic and social development, and are antithetical to the public interest.

“There is lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of the loans so far obtained, and opacity around the terms and conditions in loan agreements, including repayment details for these loans. The details of the projects on which the loans are spent are shrouded in secrecy.

“Without a moratorium on borrowing, the Federal Government and many of the 36 states may be caught in a process driven mostly by creditors’ needs. 

“This will result in an exorbitant social cost for the marginalised and vulnerable sectors of the population.

“The Federal Government and many of the 36 states would seem to be in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress.

“The Senate and House of Representatives recently approved the loans of $5,803,364,553.50 and a grant component of $10million under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan of the Federal Government.

“This followed previous approvals by the National Assembly of $16.2 (16,230,077,718) billion loan; €1 (1,020,000,000) million and a grant component of $125 million loan; $36.8 billion, €910 million loans, and a grant component of $10 million; $8.3 billion and €490 million loans; $6.1 billion, $1.5 billion and 995 million loans; and $4(4,054,476,863), €710 million and grant component of $125million.

“Several of the 36 states are also facing a debt crisis, and vicious debt cycles. According to the Debt Management Office, the foreign debt stock of the Federal Government, 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory presently stands at $37.9billion.

“The loans from China alone amount to $3.59billion. According to the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Nigeria faces debt service relative to tax revenues that exceed 20 per cent, with escalating social tensions linked to poverty and inequality.

“According to the World Bank’s IDA FY21 Report, with debt exposure of $11.7billion US Dollars, Nigeria ranked fifth among the top 10 countries with highest debt risk exposure. The top four countries are India with $22billion, Bangladesh ($18.1billion), Pakistan ($16.4billion), and Vietnam ($14.1billion).”

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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COVID-19: Nigeria records 29 fresh infections, lowest in two months

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said that 29 people tested positive for Coronavirus on Saturday.

The figure is the country’s lowest single-day count since November 19, 2021 when 23 cases were reported.

In its latest update, NCDC said the positive cases of Coronavirus came from three states.

A breakdown of new cases showed that Lagos — Nigeria’s pandemic epicentre — recorded the highest number of new infections with 27 new positive samples, followed by Kano and Rivers with one each.

According to the agency, 40 persons recovered from the infection while 225,946 people have now been discharged.

No death figure was recorded from COVID-19 complications, leaving the death toll at 3,124.

Since the index case in February 2020, a total of 251,959 Coronavirus infections have been confirmed across Nigeria — out of which 22,889 are active cases. 

On Saturday, the Lagos government said the consistent decrease in COVID-19 cases indicates the end of the pandemic’s fourth wave in the state.

Giving a situation update via Twitter, Akin Abayomi, the state’s Commissioner for Health, said there was a reduction in positivity rates — from 29.3 percent recorded on December 21, 2021, to 1.9 percent as of January 20, 2022.

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