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Prepare for another pandemic, COVID-19 won’t be the last, UN warns

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The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres, has called on countries of the world to prepare for the next pandemic as COVID-19 will not be the last.

Guterres said this in his message late on Monday to mark the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, which was held on December 27 to advocate the importance of prevention of, preparedness for and partnership against epidemics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of investing in systems to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.  

The first-ever International Day of Epidemic Preparedness was held last year, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) working closely with governments to support efforts to build strong emergency and epidemic preparedness systems, as part of an overall approach to advance universal health coverage and strengthen primary healthcare systems.

The UN boss said: “COVID-19 demonstrated how quickly an infectious disease can sweep across the world, push health systems to the brink, and upend daily life for all of humanity.

“It also revealed our failure to learn the lessons of recent health emergencies like SARS, avian influenza, Zika, Ebola and others. And it reminded us that the world remains woefully unprepared to stop localised outbreaks from spilling across borders and spiralling into a global pandemic.

“COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic humanity will face. Infectious diseases remain a clear and present danger to every country.

“As we respond to this health crisis, we need to prepare for the next one. This means scaling-up investments in better monitoring, early detection and rapid response plans in every country — especially the most vulnerable.

“It means strengthening primary healthcare at the local level to prevent collapse. It means ensuring equitable access to life-saving interventions like vaccines for all people.

“And it means achieving Universal Health Coverage. Most of all, it means building global solidarity to give every country a fighting chance to stop infectious diseases in their tracks.”

The UN boss added that by building global solidarity, every country would have a fighting chance “to stop infectious diseases in their tracks.”

Earlier in the month, the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, welcomed the decision of a special session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the UN agency’s top decision-making body to develop a new global accord on pandemic prevention and response. 

ISRAEL’S National Security Council has assumed control of a massive bird flu outbreak in Galilee, which scientists warn could become a “mass disaster” for humans.

Over half a billion migrating birds pass through the area every year, heading for warm African winters or balmy European summers, making this a catastrophic location for a major bird flu outbreak—right at the nexus of global avian travel.

The virus can be deadly if it infects people. WHO said more than half of the confirmed 863 human cases it has tracked since 2003 proved fatal. Most strains or variants of avian flu, H5N1, are relatively difficult to transmit to people.

Yossi Leshern, one of Israel’s most renowned ornithologists told newsmen that it is the ability of these viruses to mutate into new strains that pose such a threat as we have seen with the Coronavirus.

“There could be a mutation that also infects people and turns into a mass disaster,” said Leshem, a zoologist at Tel Aviv University and director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration at Latrun.

So far, at least 5,400 wild cranes have died infected with the new H5N1 avian flu, which Israeli authorities fear could expand into a global emergency.

Meanwhile, as cases of the new Omicron variant continue to spread like wildfire, 70 per cent of COVID vaccines have been distributed to the world’s 10 largest economies, and the poorest countries have received just 0.8 per cent, according to the UN, calling it “not only unjust but also a threat to the entire planet.”https://718a63aa1ee96c3c83f8414d7d7ba78b.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

To end this cycle, the world body underscored that at least 70 per cent of the population in every country must be inoculated, which the UN vaccine strategy aims to achieve by mid-2022, although this will require at least 11 billion vaccine doses.

“An outbreak anywhere is a potential pandemic everywhere”, said the Secretary-General.”

Just about three per cent of the almost eight billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa, and only around eight per cent of Africans are fully vaccinated, compared with more than 60 per cent in many high-income countries.

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Google set to invest $9.5bn in US

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Google has announced plans to invest $9.5bn in its US offices and data centers around the country in 2022, up from more than the $7bn it spent in 2021.

According to CNN, the big bet on office space was coming at a point Google was embracing a hybrid work model. The Alphabet-owned company has called for many of its employees to work in an office three days a week after two years of being fully remote.

The Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet and Google, Sundar Pichai, said, “It might seem counterintuitive to step up our investment in physical offices even as we embrace more flexibility in how we work.

“Yet we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities.”
Google said it would open an office in Atlanta this year and continue to develop and expand office space in Austin and New York. It added that it planned to continue investing in data centers in Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee, among other states.

As part of the announcement, Google said it expected to create at least 12,000 new full-time jobs at the company this year.

Google and other tech companies were among the first businesses to shift to remote work when the pandemic hit in early 2020. But that shift always appeared to be temporary. Like others in Silicon Valley, Google had previously invested billions in expansive campuses and lavish office benefits for workers.

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European markets pull back amid doubts over latest Russian pledges over Ukraine

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European stocks retreated on Wednesday following the latest round of talks between Russia and Ukraine, aimed at finding a solution to the conflict.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.8% in early trade, with autos shedding 1.9% to lead losses, while oil and gas stocks gained 1.7%.

In terms of individual share price movement, Finland’s Nokian Tyres fell 6.6%, while Sweden’s Lundin Energy added 4.7%.

Investor sentiment was boosted on Tuesday following negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials in Turkey, at which Russia’s deputy defense minister claimed Moscow had decided to “drastically” cut back its military activity near Ukraine’s capital.

Alexander Fomin, who spoke following the talks in Istanbul, said Russia would slow its military operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv in order for peace talks to progress. Russia previously claimed that it would reduce military operations in other parts of Ukraine but then continued its advance.

Growing hope for a cease-fire appeared to boost investor sentiment Tuesday, as Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 200 points, or 0.6%. S&P 500 futures also climbed 0.6%, while Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 0.7%. Meanwhile, the price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil, which spiked on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fell more than 4% to $100 per barrel.

Doubts have set in over the pledge, however, and while the Russian military has begun moving some of its troops in Ukraine away from areas around Kyiv to positions elsewhere in Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby warned the troop movements do not amount to a retreat.

Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Wednesday trade as investors watch for developments surrounding the war in Ukraine. Stateside, traders are keeping tabs on a slew of key economic reports, while also monitoring the Federal Reserve’s planned interest rate hikes.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey on Tuesday showed 11.3 million job openings, higher than the 11.1 million expected. The ADP will also release its private payrolls data ahead of the closely watched monthly jobs report, on Friday.

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Lagos Assembly kicks against harassment of residents by police

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Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, yesterday, cautioned police in the state against harassment, intimidation and extortion of residents.

Obasa said this on the floor of the House when lawmakers honoured outgoing Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, who has been promoted to Assistant Inspector-General, and is due to retire in January 2022.

Obasa said Odumosu was honoured as the first Commissioner of Police in the state to stand before the lawmakers and address Lagosians on his experience policing the state.

The Speaker thanked Odumosu for his openness and responsiveness to issues affecting the peace of the state.

“It is important to call on those behind you to know that the relationship between the police and the people need to be constantly improved upon,” Obasa said, adding that men of the Nigeria Police Force need to build more trust among the people.

“Everybody must be treated with respect, dignity and honour. And that is how we can earn respect. Policing should not be about harassment and extortion but building trust among the people and making them comfortable,” Obasa said.

The Commissioner of Police, who led a team of officers to the House, thanked the lawmakers for their support. According to him, nothing could have been achieved in terms of security and peace in the state without assistance of the House.

He said he would remain grateful to Lagosians for making it possible for him and his team to effectively manage the security of the state.

Odumosu, who described Lagos as ‘mini-Nigeria’, said proactivity of the Assembly led to the creation of laws that helped the police remain successful in the state.

He said the Cultism Prohibition Law also helped to reduce illegal associations in tertiary institutions in the state and enlightened property owners and residents.

“We promise to continue to excel in providing watertight security for people of the state,” he told the lawmakers. He also promised he would encourage his successor to sustain the relationship between the police and the House, while urging the lawmakers to extend their support to his successor.

“Policing Lagos is not a tea party. Without the laws in Lagos, it would have been difficult to police the state. Don’t get tired, don’t relent in making laws that would make Lagos maintain its place as the most peaceful state in Nigeria,” he said.

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