Buhari Constitutes Committee On U.S. Visas Ban

President Muhammadu Buhari has constituted a committee, to be chaired by the Minister of Interior, Ra’uf Aregbesola, to study the reason why the United State banned Nigerians from its immigration visa.

According to a statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, in Abuja on Saturday, the committee will work with the U.S Government, INTERPOL and other stakeholders to ensure all updates are properly implemented.

The president further charged the committee to look at the real reason President Donald Trump banned Nigerians from US immigration visa.

He reiterated the commitment of Nigeria towards maintaining productive relations with the United States and its international allies especially on matters of global security.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Jan. 31 announced temporary travel restrictions on six countries including Nigeria.

For Nigeria, the restriction is the suspension of the issuance of “immigrant visas” to Nigerian passport holders only.

This suspension shall come into effect on Feb 21.

The suspension does not apply to other U.S visas such as those for official, business, tourism and student travel.

According to the DHS, the suspension of “immigrant visas” became necessary following a review and update of the methodology adopted by the U.S Government to assess compliance of certain security criteria by foreign governments.

It stated that this resulted in certain enhancements on how information is shared between Nigeria and the U.S.

NCDC Manages 95 Cases Of Lassa Fever In 1 Week

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), says it will continue to work closely with  states  affected by the Lassa fever outbreak in the midst of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

It said the move was to ensure that the 95 confirmed cases of Lassa fever in some states across the country within the week were effectively managed.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of NCDC, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Saturday in Abuja that the 95 established cases was the highest number of confirmed cases in a single week.

“This reporting week, NCDC managed a record number of 95 cases. This was possible through collaborative efforts across states with coordination from us,” he said.

Ihekweazu said that as of Jan. 26, a total of   258 confirmed cases and 41 deaths were reported from 19 states since the beginning of the year.

According to him, of the confirmed new cases, 89 are from three states of Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi with 38  per cent each from Edo and Ondo, and Ebonyi having 11 per cent.

He said that NCDC had continued to support states in responding to the outbreak including the deployment of Rapid Response Teams to support affected states.

“The NCDC, through its National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Gaduwa, collaborates with 37 laboratories divided into five laboratory networks for the diagnosis of epidemic-prone diseases across Nigeria.

“Currently there are five Lassa fever laboratories in this network. Three of these laboratories are situated in states where we recorded the highest number of cases- Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi.

“Despite the increase in the number of cases, the overall case fatality rate (CFR) for 2020 is lower at 15.9 per cent compared to the same period in 2019 which was 19.7 percent,” he stated.

The NCDC boss attributes the seasonal rise in Lassa fever cases to ecological factors and the presence of rats in the environment which could transmit the virus.

According to him, this is also the case for other African countries with similar context.

“Lassa fever is largely transmitted through contact with items or surfaces contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats.

“It can also be transmitted from person-to-person through contact with blood, urine, faeces and other body fluids of an infected person.

“To minimise the risk of infection, members of the public are advised to ensure their environment is always kept clean to avoid contact with rodents,” he said.

Ihekweazu advised health workers to continue to maintain high index of suspicion of the disease as Lassa fever could present just like malaria and similar illnesses.

“It is very important that health care workers maintain standard care precautions when managing patients.

“Early symptoms are fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, sore throat.

“It is in very severe cases that the patient bleeds from body openings.

“If a patient does not respond to treatment for malaria or other febrile illnesses after 48 hours, it is important to test immediately for Lassa fever,” the disease expert said.

Apple Inc has said it would shut all of its official stores and corporate offices in mainland China until Feb 9. as fears over the coronavirus outbreak mounted and the death toll more than doubled to over 250 from a week ago.

“Out of an abundance of caution and based on the latest advice from leading health experts, we’re closing all our corporate offices, stores, and contact centers in mainland China through Feb. 9,” Apple said in a statement.

The company said it looked forward to re-opening stores “as soon as possible”.

Earlier this week, Apple closed three stores in China due to concerns about the spread of the virus.

It joined a handful of overseas retailers, including Starbucks Corp and McDonald’s Corp to temporarily shut storefronts as a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, many other companies have called for employees in China to work from home and cease non-essential business travel in the first week of February.

Normally, businesses in China would be preparing to return to normal operations following the end of the week-long Lunar New Year Holiday.

Apple remains heavily reliant on China both for smartphone sales as well as for its supply chain and manufacturing.

Many factories in Hubei province, including plants run by AB InBev and General Motors Co, have temporarily suspended production due to the virus.

In a recent earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was working out mitigation plans to deal with possible production loss from its suppliers in Wuhan.

Wuhan, the city where the virus outbreak originated, is home to several Apple suppliers.

Smoking Greatly Increases Risk Of Complications After Surgery

Tobacco smokers are at significantly higher risk than non-smokers for post-surgical complications including impaired heart and lung functions, infections and delayed or impaired wound healing.

But new evidence reveals that smokers who quit approximately 4 weeks or more before surgery have a lower risk of complication and better results 6 months afterwards. Patients who quit smoking tobacco are less likely to experience complications with anesthesia when compared to regular smokers.

A new joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO), the University of Newcastle, Australia and the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), shows that every tobacco-free week after 4 weeks improves health outcomes by 19%, due to improved blood flow throughout the body to essential organs.

“The report provides evidence that there are advantages to postponing minor or non-emergency surgery to give patients the opportunity to quit smoking, resulting in a better health outcome,” said Dr Vinayak Prasad, Head of Unit, No Tobacco, World Health Organization.

The Nicotine and carbon monoxide, both present in cigarettes, can decrease oxygen levels and greatly increase risk of heart-related complications after surgery. Smoking tobacco also damages the lungs making it difficult for the proper amount of air to flow through, increasing the risk of post-surgical complications to the lungs. Smoking distorts a patient’s immune system and can delay healing, increasing the risk of infection at the wound site. Smoking just one cigarette decreases the body’s ability to deliver necessary nutrients for healing after surgery.

“Complications after surgery present a large burden for both the health care provider and the patient.  Primary care physicians, surgeons, nurses and families are important in supporting a patient to quit smoking at every stage of care, especially before an operation.” Explained Dr Shams Syed, Coordinator, Quality of Care, WHO. WHO encourages countries to include cessation programmes and educational campaigns in their health systems to spread awareness and help people to quit smoking.

Kobe Bryant Helicopter Firm Was Not Allowed To Fly In Fog

The company that owns the helicopter that was carrying basketball great Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others when it crashed was not licensed to fly in foggy conditions, officials say.

Island Express Helicopters was limited to operating when the pilot was able to see clearly when flying.

The pilot reportedly had the federal certification to fly the helicopter relying only on cockpit instruments.

However he is likely to have had little experience in doing so, experts say.

This was due to him being restricted by the company’s licensing.

The cause of the crash in foggy weather west of Los Angeles is still being investigated.

Bryant was on his way to coach his daughter’s basketball team in a local youth tournament at the Mamba Sports Academy.

Meanwhile, on Friday the Lakers played their first game since Bryant’s death, going up against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in LA.

The team paid tribute to Bryant by warming up wearing his numbers – 8 and 24 – while thousands of fans chanted, “Kobe, Kobe!”

Singer Usher then began a formal tribute by singing Amazing Grace, flanked by bouquets in the shape of the numbers 8 and 24.

Paying tribute to the icon, Lakers star LeBron James told the crowd: “The fact that I’m here now means so much to me.

“I’m going to continue with my teammates to continue his legacy not only for this year but as long as we can continue to play the game of basketball that we love, because that’s what Kobe Bryant would want.”

What more do we know about the crash?
Island Express Helicopters was restricted to flying under what are known as visual flight rules, meaning pilots must be able to see clearly outside the aircraft in daylight, Keith Holloway, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.

The company was not permitted to fly using cockpit instruments alone.

Mr Holloway said it was not known if the pilot, Ara Zobayan, was flying on instruments at the time of the wreck

Mr Zobayan was licensed to fly by cockpit instruments, Kurt Deetz, a former pilot for the company who flew Bryant for two years, told Forbes.

However, he added: “I don’t think he had any actual [experience] inside the clouds.”

Island Express referred a request for comment to the NTSB.

On Thursday the firm said it was suspending operations.

“The shock of the accident affected all staff, and management decided that service would be suspended until such time as it was deemed appropriate for staff and customers,” it said in a statement.

The aircraft – a Sikorsky S-76B – went down into a hillside outside the city of Calabasas on Sunday morning.

Conditions were foggy when the flight took off, and local police had grounded their helicopters due to the poor weather.

The pilot asked air traffic controllers for a special clearance, known as Special Visual Flight Rules, to fly in less than optimal weather, said NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy, who went to the crash scene to collect evidence.

The helicopter, she added, circled in the air for 12 minutes before being given the clearance. The pilot then asked controllers for “flight following”, an assistance given to helicopters to avoid collisions, but was told the craft was too low to be picked up by radar.

Minutes later, the pilot said he was “climbing to avoid a cloud layer”, she added. The helicopter climbed and began a left descending turn, according to radar data, before communication was lost “consistent with the accident location”.

At least 20 people have been killed and others injured in a stampede during an outdoor religious service in Tanzania.

Worshippers were attending a Pentecostal service at a stadium in the northern town of Moshi on Saturday evening when the incident occurred.

Moshi district commissioner Kippi Warioba said attendees rushed forward to be anointed with blessed oil.

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli sent his condolences and called for better security at such large events.

The service was held by pastor Boniface Mwamposa, who refers to himself as “the apostle”.

Survivors said Mr Mwamposa told hundreds of people gathered at the service to pass through an area where “blessed oil” had been poured over the floor.

The crowd rushed forward to try to step in the oil in the hope of being cured of sickness.

Peter Kilewo, who attended the service, described the scene as “horrible”, telling AFP news agency that people were “trampled on mercilessly, jostling each other with elbows”.

He added: “It was like the preacher had thrown bundles of dollars about.”

The service was held by Pentecostal pastor Boniface Mwamposa who is being questioned by police.

Police said Mr Mwamposa was being held for questioning.

Mr Warioba said the authorities were looking into whether more casualties were taken to other local clinics, health facilities and hospitals.

“The incident took place at night and there were many people, so there is a possibility that more casualties could emerge. We are assessing the situation,” he told Reuters.


Coronavirus Could Cost China’s Economy $60 Billion This Quarter

China may have to cut taxes, boost spending and slash interest rates to prevent the coronavirus outbreak wreaking havoc on an already fragile economy.

The economic impact of the virus is still impossible to determine, but one state media outlet and some economists have said that China’s growth rate could drop two percentage points this quarter because of the outbreak, which has brought large parts of the country to a standstill. A decline on that scale could mean $62 billion in lost growth.

China can ill afford that kind of hit. Growth last year was already the country’s weakest in nearly three decades, as China contended with rising debt and the fallout from its trade war with the United States.

The coronavirus, which first appeared in the central city of Wuhan, has already killed more than 200 people and infected more people than the SARS outbreak in 2003.

 A disease of this magnitude wasn’t even on China’s radar. Before the outbreak, the government was more worried that social unrest could be its “black swan” problem — an improbable but chaotic event officials feared could be spurred by rising unemployment.
Now Beijing is scrambling to stop the virus from cratering its economy. The ruling Communist Party recently put Premier Li Keqiang in charge of virus control. The decision was a clear signal that stopping the virus is “the priority among priorities” for the government right now, the official People’s Daily newspaper wrote in a recent commentary.
So far, policymakers have taken some steps to help the businesses that are most affected by the rapid spread of the disease.
Central and local governments have allocated $12.6 billion so far to spend on medical treatment and equipment.
Major banks have cut interest rates for small businesses and individuals in the worst-hit areas. And the Bank of China said it would allow people in Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province to delay their loan payments for several months if they lose their source of income because of the disruption.
The People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, has said that it will ensure there is enough liquidity in the financial markets when they reopen next Monday after a 10-day Lunar New Year holiday.
When Hong Kong’s markets reopened earlier this week, the Hang Seng index (HSI) plunged nearly 6% in just a few days of trading.

Aggressive action
The government will likely have to be even more aggressive in the coming months to avert a more serious slowdown, according to Chinese economist Zhang Ming.

Zhang, who works at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote this week that he expects economic growth to slump by a percentage point to 5% in the first quarter, assuming the epidemic lasts until the end of March. He described that as his most optimistic scenario, but didn’t give a specific forecast should the outbreak last even longer.

China is really worried about unemployment. Here’s what it’s doing to avoid mass layoffs
The government could cut taxes and boost spending on public healthcare and employment training, Zhang said.

 He also expects local governments to spend more on infrastructure. By boosting economic activity and creating jobs, he added, cities can offset any weakness in private investment in real estate and manufacturing.
The central bank is also likely to deliver more interest rate cuts to stabilize the economy, Zhang said. Altogether, he said such measures could help growth rebound next quarter and push annual GDP growth to around 5.7%. While that’s lower than last year’s 6.1% growth, it would be in line with many analyst expectations.
Others take a more pessimistic view.
Analysts at Nomura believe growth could drop by two percentage points or more in the first quarter. The Global Times, a state-run tabloid, wrote Friday that the outbreak could shave two percentage points off GDP growth this quarter, citing industry insiders. Government’s efforts to contain the virus by extending Lunar New Year holidays and forcing factories to shut down could “take a piece out of the nation’s manufacturing industry and disrupt the global supply chain.”
Measuring the fallout
It’s too early to say whether that level of upheaval is on the horizon. Tesla (TSLA) has been forced to close its new Shanghai-built factory temporarily. And Apple (AAPL) has lost production from suppliers in Wuhan. The longer term impact on both companies is much less clear.

Apple, more than most companies, stands to lose from the coronavirus outbreak
Other sectors might have more to lose right now. Tourism — a multibillion-dollar industry during the Lunar New Year — has been decimated as the government quarantines major population centers and people avoid traveling for fear of becoming infected.

Major travel companies, hotels and airlines have offered refunds through most of February, while some airlines have suspended services to and from China.
Holiday celebrations have been canceled and major tourism spots have been closed off.
China’s massive box office will also likely take a hit after several blockbuster movies set to release during the holiday season were pulled.
Zhang and other analysts suggested that the fallout could even be more serious than after SARS, the respiratory disease that caused China’s economic growth to briefly plunge before rebounding nearly two decades ago.
The spread of the coronavirus threatens to cause job losses and push consumer prices higher, compounding economic woes that already exist.
The employment market is already under stress this year. Industries that traditionally create a lot of jobs, like the technology sector, have been hurt by the economic slowdown. The coronavirus outbreak will make things worse, according to Zhang.
China’s 290 million migrant workers are among those most exposed to a slump. Many of them travel from rural areas to the cities to take on construction and manufacturing jobs or perform low paying but vital work, such as waiting tables in restaurants, delivering packages or acting as janitors.
But because many factories and businesses remain shut down, millions of those workers might find it hard to land a job after the extended Lunar New Year holiday ends. More than 10 million migrant workers from Hubei province alone might also face discrimination from employers fearful that they may spread the virus.

How the coronavirus is already hurting global business
Zhang warned that China’s unemployment rate — already a concern for officials — could reach a record high in the coming months. The rate traditionally has hovered around 4% or 5%.

He added the virus could also make consumer goods more expensive. Budgets are already tight because of rising debt, and a pork crisis brought on by the outbreak of African swine fever among China’s pigs last year has caused the price of meat to skyrocket.
Now vegetable prices have risen as people rush to buy basic necessities during the virus outbreak, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
Other challenges
Dealing with the disease will make some of China’s other problems that much tougher to solve — including its tricky trade relationship with the United States.
As part of a truce reached earlier in January, Beijing agreed to buy $200 billion worth of US products in the next two years.
 Analysts have already said that shrinking domestic demand in China will make it tough for the country to hit those targets. If the virus weakens the country’s buying power even more, those goals could move even further out of reach.

The trade war is still on. Consider this a fragile truce
Substantial tariffs totaling hundreds of billions of dollars also remain in place on many Chinese goods. And Washington has made it clear that those will remain a form of leverage as the two sides negotiate the next phase of their agreement.

Even so, at least one analyst finds it unlikely that the trade war will escalate just because China is “temporarily” unable to honor its trade commitments. The United States is in an election year, and such an action could jeopardize President Donald Trump’s campaign, said Ken Cheung, chief Asian foreign exchange strategist at Mizuho Bank.

A second French-chartered plane carrying 300 evacuees from China was flying to France on Sunday as more foreigners fled China’s rapidly developing virus.

The A380 is expected to land at the military base of Istres in the southern French region of Bouches-du-Rhone. A first plane landed Friday near Marseille.

Officials said none of the passengers on this plane from the central Chinese city of Wuhan had symptoms of coronavirus on leaving China. They include French, Belgians, Dutch, Danes, Czechs, Slovaks and some citizens of African countries.

Authorities said the plane would drop off most of its passengers at Istres before leaving for Belgium with several dozen people from northern Europe. Authorities haven’t said if the travellers arriving at Istres will be put into quarantine.

Of the 180 French people flown back from Wuhan on Friday, one showed symptoms of being infected with the virus and was sent to a Marseille hospital for testing, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said.

The other passengers were being quarantined for 14 days at a large, isolated Mediterranean resort not far from Marseille near Carry-le-Rouet.

Europe so far has 23 people infected with the virus that emerged from Wuhan: Germany with eight, all tied to the same auto parts factory; France with six; Russia, Italy and the U.K with two each and Finland, Sweden and Spain each with one.

The death toll from the virus in China climbed Sunday to 304 and the number of infections rose to 14,380. In addition, the Philippines on Sunday reported the first virus death outside of China.

On Saturday night, a Turkish military transport plane carrying 42 people arrived in Ankara from Wutan. The 32 Turkish, six Azerbaijani, three Georgian nationals and an Albanian will remain under observation in hospital for 14 days, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

Twenty Turkish personnel who participated in the evacuation will also be kept in quarantine.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government is going through a “deliberate process” to airlift Canadians out of Wuhan and is awaiting approval from China to send a plane to the city.

Trudeau said the government is co-ordinating evacuation efforts with other countries.“It is a deliberate process in which we are engaged responsibly,” he said.

Global News

There is no case of coronavirus in Lagos – Officials

Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said that there has been no reported or suspected case of coronavirus in Nigeria.

The health agency in a statement as at the time of this report said it is aware of the circulating news of a coronavirus case in Lagos, but it  debunked the news as untrue.

So also, the Lagos State Ministry of Health affirmed that there is no confirmed case of coronavirus in the state.

Akin Abayomi, the commissioner for health, said the suspected carrier of the infection arrived Nigeria from China on Wednesday and submitted himself for quarantine.

“The subject in question is an adult male Nigerian who arrived from China 4 days ago,” the commissioner said.

“He was in Shanghai throughout his stay in China and during his stay he did not have any contact with anyone who was ill or from Wuhan region.”

The commissioner said the report from the epidemiology officers and the doctor that attended to the subject at the hospital in Lekki indicated that he is in perfect health with no symptoms of the virus.

“He is, therefore, clinically not a suspected case of nCoV as he is not exhibiting any symptoms. Nevertheless we will continue to monitor his welfare till the end of his self quarantine period,” the ministry said.

Mr Abayomi had earlier said that the state government was working with the Chinese embassy in Nigeria to prevent the entry of coronavirus into the state.

The agency said the individual had truly arrived the country from China last week but he had went on a routine medical check-up as advised by his employers as soon as he got back to Nigeria.

“This individual returned from China last week and went for a routine medical check as requested by his employers. He showed no symptoms of illness and has not been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus virus”.

Hence,  NCDC, urge members of the public to disregard rumours and discourage further spread.” NCDC, port health service and state epidemiologist are aware of the process of case identification and confirmation. We will investigate every suspect case to ensure Nigerians are safe.”

Though no case has been reported, NCDC advised Nigerians to take necessary precautions while travelling or returning to the country.

Those who had travelled from China to Nigeria in the last 14 days are also advised to report immediately to NCDC through the existing communication centres, if they feel sick.

East Africa Is Suffering It’s Worst Invasion of Desert Locusts in 25 years


The Horn of Africa has been hit by the worst invasion of desert locusts in 25 years, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

The invasion poses an unprecedented threat to food security in the entire sub region, where more than 19 million people in East Africa are already experiencing a high degree of food insecurity, the agency said.

In Kenya, it is the worst invasion in 70 years, and the government is spending $5 million to manage the swarms of locust and prevent spreading.

Invasions of desert locusts are irregular in the region, the last instance occurred in 2007 at a much smaller scale.

“This current invasion of desert locust is significantly larger in magnitude and scale than previously experienced in Kenya and across East Africa,” said Dr. Stephen Njoka, the Director General of Desert Locust Control Organization.
Irregular weather and climate conditions in 2019, including heavy rains between October and December, are suspected to have contributed to the spread of locusts in the region.
A cyclone that swept through northeastern Somalia and eastern Ethiopia in December, bringing heavy rains to the area, created ideal conditions for the insects to breed for the next six months, said Keith Cressman, FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer.
Large swarm areas of northeastern Somalia and eastern Ethiopia are not being detected or treated, leaving the area vulnerable to new generations of locusts.
If locusts are left untreated by control measures, swarms can potentially grow 400 times larger by June, Cressman said.
Unexpected and unpredictable rainfall in northern Kenya that carried into January also continues to enable favorable breeding ground.
 As large swarms continue to move into Kenya and multiply, “you have a recipe for the situation to deteriorate further,” said Cressman.

“Under a worst-case scenario,” the invasion could become a plague if it is not contained quickly, the FAO said in a statement.

Emergency action plan
The locusts have already devastated large swaths of food and pasture in the region, but the extent of the damage cannot yet be determined since new swarms are spreading across borders everyday, said Njoka.
While Njoka remains positive the pesticides are working, the rapid and constant movement of the locusts makes it difficult to assess just how effective it has been.
The FAO has escalated the situation to the highest disaster level, leading the agency to put in place a six month emergency action plan and suggest it will take USD $70m to contain the swarms across the region.

The desert locust is the most destructive of all food-eating locust species because of its speed and ability to multiply rapidly.

According to the FAO, the insects do not attack people or animals and there is no evidence they carry diseases that can harm humans.
Desert locusts swarms can stay in the air for very long periods of time, traveling up 130 kilometers (80 miles) or more a day, the FAO said.

A swarm can vary from one square kilometer to several hundred square kilometers with up to 80 million adult locusts in each square kilometer of a swarm.

A swarm the size of Paris can devour as much food as half the population of France, according to the FAO.