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.
Monkeypox is spreading around the world. What is the disease and how dangerous is it?
Health authorities in Europe, the U.S. and Australia are investigating a recent outbreak of monkeypox cases, a rare viral disease typically confined to Africa.
Germany on Friday reported its first case of the virus, becoming the latest European country to identify an outbreak alongside the U.K., Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Sweden.
The U.S. and Australia this week also confirmed their first cases, as experts attempt to determine the root cause of the recent spike.
While some cases have been linked to travel from Africa, more recent infections are thought to have spread in the community, raising the risks of a wider outbreak.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and infection and the U.K.’s Health Security Agency said they are investigating a range of cases including those among individuals who self-identify as men who have sex with men, and urged gay and bisexual men in particular to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions.
In the U.K. alone, cases have doubled since the first was identified on May 7. The country now has 20 confirmed cases of monkeypox, though there are concerns there may be many more undetected.
Individuals exhibiting symptoms of the virus — which include rashes and fever — are being urged to seek medical advice, contacting any clinic before visiting.
“These latest cases, together with reports of cases in countries across Europe, confirms our initial concerns that there could be spread of monkeypox within our communities,” Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor at the UKHSA, said Wednesday.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, part of the same family as smallpox, though typically less severe.
Generally occurring in remote parts of Central and West Africa, the virus was first detected in captive monkeys in 1958. The first human case was recorded in 1970.
There have since been sporadic cases reported across 10 African countries, including Nigeria, which in 2017 experienced the largest documented outbreak, with 172 suspected and 61 confirmed cases. Three-quarters were among males aged 21 to 40 years old.
Cases outside of Africa have historically been less common, and typically linked to international travel or imported animals. Previous cases have been reported in Israel, the U.K., Singapore and the U.S., which, in 2003, reported 81 cases linked to prairie dogs infected by imported animals.
How do you catch monkeypox?
Monkeypox spreads when someone comes into close contact with another person, animal or material infected with the virus.
The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose and mouth.
Human-to-human transmission most commonly occurs through respiratory droplets, though usually requires prolonged face-to-face contact. Animal-to-human transmission meanwhile may occur via a bite or scratch.
Monkeypox is not generally considered a sexually transmitted disease, though it can be passed on during sex.
What are the symptoms?
Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headaches, muscle ache, swelling and backpain.
Patients typically develop a rash one to three days after the appearance of fever, often beginning on the face and spreading to other parts of the body, such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
The rash, which can cause severe itching, then goes through several stages before the legions scab and fall off.
The infection typically lasts two to four weeks and usually clears up on its own.
What is the treatment?
There are currently no proven, safe treatments for monkeypox, though most cases are mild.
People suspected of having the virus may be isolated in a negative pressure room — spaces used to isolate patients — and monitored by health-care professionals using personal protective equipment.
Smallpox vaccines have, however, proven largely effective in preventing the spread of the virus. Countries including the U.K. and Spain are now offering the vaccine to those who have been exposed to infections to help reduce symptoms and limit the spread.
How dangerous is it?
Monkeypox cases can occasionally be more severe, with some deaths having been reported in West Africa.
However, health authorities stress that we are not on the brink of a serious outbreak and the risks to the general public remain very low.
“While investigations remain ongoing to determine the source of infection, it is important to emphasize it does not spread easily between people and requires close personal contact with an infected symptomatic person,” Colin Brown, director of clinical and emerging infections at the UKHSA, said Saturday.
Health authorities in the U.K., U.S. and Canada urged people who experience new rashes or are concerned about monkeypox to contact their health-care provider.
The UKHSA added that it is reaching out and providing advice to any potential close contacts of cases and health-care worker who may have come into contact with infected patients.
WHO issues fresh COVID-19 alert
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned countries that COVID-19 is not over.
Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO said the reports of the decline in cases and deaths do not mean the end of the pandemic
Ghebreyesus spoke on Sunday in Geneva at the opening of the World Health Assembly.
The Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, has 194 member-countries.
At the meeting, the first in-person since 2019, Ghebreyesus advised health ministers not to relax.
“Is COVID-19 over? No. I know that’s not the message you want to hear, and it’s definitely not the message I want to deliver,” he said.
The DG expressed concern about increasing cases in nearly 70 countries in all regions with testing rates reduced.
Ghebreyesus added that reported deaths are also rising in Africa, the continent with the lowest vaccination coverage.
“It’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere. Only 57 countries have vaccinated 70 per cent of their population, almost all of them high-income countries,” he noted.
Nnamdi Kanu’s US lawyer, Bruce Fein challenges Buhari’s minister to public debate
Bruce Fein, a United States, US, lawyer of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has challenged the Nigerian Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami to a debate.
Fein challenged Malami to a debate on a national television over the legal right of the South-East to agitate for Biafra.
In a series of tweets, the US attorney said Malami would have accepted defeat if he turned down the challenge.
According to Fein: “I challenge Attorney General Malami or his designee to debate me on Nigerian television. Topic: The legal right of Biafrans to self-determination.
“My opponent can use two words to every one of mine. Malami concedes defeat if he scampers away from my challenge.”
Kanu is being held in the custody of the Department of State Services, DSS.
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