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New COVID variant sparks international alarm

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New COVID variant sparks international alarm

 

 

What do we know about the variant?

B.1.1.529 has multiple mutations and it could help; it evade the body’s immune response; and make it more transmissible, South African scientists said on Thursday.

 

While the delta variant has two mutations and the beta variant has three ;— the B.1.1.529 variant has at least 32 spike protein mutations.

 

Younger people appear to be contracting and spreading the newly identified variant; but the next weeks will be key in determining how severe the variant is, scientists said.

 

Germany’s health minister and the director of federal agency for disease control and prevention; the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), were asked about the B1.1.529 variant during their weekly press briefing on Friday.

 

Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin that the “high number of mutations” noted were “at least cause for preliminary concern;” even if tests were ongoing to determine how transmissible or how resistant to vaccines the variant was.

 

He described the German decision to impose travel restrictions on South Africa and some other countries in the region, with an exact list yet to be decided; as a “necessary, proactive, preventive protective measure.”

 

RKI director Lothar Wieler said that some genome mutations appeared to “suggest that there could be a higher rate of transmission.”

 

“And there are other mutations where it’s not yet clear what they mean biologically. That means we really are very concerned,” Wieler said.

 

Spahn was also asked about people who had recently returned to Germany from South Africa.

 

Legally, he said, the new restrictions could only apply once imposed. However, he appealed to anyone who’d recently returned from southern Africa; even if it was 10 or 20 days ago, to isolate themselves and to “take a test — and preferably a PCR test.”

 

Markets down across the board on variant news

 

Germany’s blue chip stock index DAX was down 3% and the UK’s FTSE 100 was down and on course; for its biggest drop in a year on news of the new COVID-19 variant in the morning trading session.

 

The FTSE 100 was down to its lowest in nearly two months; with a sell-off being led by commodity, travel and banking stocks.

 

Oil fell below $80 (€71) per barrel.

 

Bitcoin also tumbled 7.8% to $54,337, its lowest since October 12.

 

The second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, Ether, tumbled 11.6%.

ALSO READ: As world continues to battle the Delta variant, a new variant ‘worse than delta’ emerges

 

Investors dashed to the relative safety of the Japanese Yen and the Swiss franc Friday.

 

Gold also rose 0.7% on Friday.

 

Roland Kaloyan, the head of European equity strategy at Societe Generale, told Reuters: “We don’t know so much about this variant yet but if it’s serious; it could change the macro scenarios altogether.”

 

Israel finds case of variant

Israel’s Health Ministry said it had detected its first case of the new coronavirus variant in a person returning from Malawi.

 

In a statement Friday, the ministry said the individual; and two other individuals with suspected cases of the variant were all in quarantine.

 

All three were fully vaccinated.

 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held consultations with health experts Friday regarding the variant.

 

“During the night I was informed that there is one verified case here in Israel; and this is disturbing,” he said.

 

On Thursday, authorities announced travel to southern Africa from Israel for citizens was banned and foreign nationals from the region would be denied entry.

 

“We are currently on the verge of a state of emergency,” Bennett said.

 

Officials sound the alarm

Scientists are studying the variant that was first detected in South Africa earlier in the week.

 

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa said 22 cases of the new B.1.1.529 variant; as it is known, had been detected in the country but that it expected more cases as genomic analysis is ongoing.

 

The WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said there are currently fewer than 100 whole genome sequences of the strain available.

 

She said it would take a few more weeks of scientific work to determine whether the variant would be considered a “variant of interest” or a “variant of concern.”

 

“Everybody that’s out there needs to understand that the more this virus circulates; the more opportunities the virus has to change, the more mutations we will see,” Van Kerkhove said.

 

The UK Health Security Agency reports the new variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong.

 

Germany’s health ministry moved to declare South Africa a virus variant area.

 

The WHO convenes emergency talks

The WHO convened an emergency meeting set for early Friday afternoon to discuss the new variant.

 

Scientists are concerned about the high number of mutations within the variant and worry it could be resistant to vaccines and more easily passed on to others.

 

The working group meeting Friday will determine whether to officially label the variant “of concern;” a distinction only four variants to date have received.

 

Countries move to close air traffic from southern Africa

Countries in Asia and Europe including Germany; the Czech Republic, Italy and the UK quickly imposed restrictions Friday after the emergence of a potentially vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variant was detected in South Africa.

 

The EU moved to halt air travel from the entire southern African region amid concerns over the newly detected South African variant; the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

 

She said the Commission will propose “to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region” due to the emergence of the new variant.

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Shonekan’s death major loss to Nigeria, private sector -Osinbajo

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that the late head of Nigeria’s Interim National Government, Ernest Shonekan, was highly consequential as a leader in the private sector who impacted economic policy in Nigeria.

This is as he described Shonekan’s demise as a major loss to the country.

Osinbajo stated this on Sunday when he paid a condolence visit to the family of the late head of the Interim National Government, in Lagos.

Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity Laolu Akande, disclosed this in a statement he signed late Sunday titled ‘Shonekan was consequential as private sector leader, his death a major loss, says Osinbajo’.

The Vice President who visited in company of his wife, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, was received at the Ikoyi residence of the Shonekans by the late ING head’s widow, Margaret Shonekan, and the son Adeboye Shonekan.

Osinbajo described Shonekan’s death as “a very major loss for the country and for the private sector and even internationally.

“Here was a man who made an impact. He was one of the very first leaders in the private sector to shape economic policy in Nigeria, and his role in that respect was very significant.”

During the visit, the Vice President also signed the condolence register thus: “We bless the name of the Lord for the excellent life of service to the country and to God, of our leader and father  Chief Ernest Shonekan, GCFR.

“We are proud of his contributions to the shaping of the modern Nigerian economy while being a leading light in the private sector. And for his statesmanship and leadership of the country at a time of great uncertainty in our nation.

“His integrity, legacy and high value service will remain evergreen in our memories. We pray that the Lord will comfort the family and may his memory be blessed forever. Amen.”

The Vice President also prayed for the family of the deceased business guru.

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Nigerians in diaspora key to revamping the economy, democracy, says Utomi

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By Chukwudi Nweje

Former presidential adviser, Prof Pat Utomi, who is also the leader of the National Consultative Front (NC Front), has said Nigerians in the diaspora have a crucial role to play in revamping the economy and saving the country’s democracy.

Utomi, who said this during a meeting with Nigerian professionals in Dallas, Texas, the United States at the weekend also noted that Nigerians in diaspora remit more money home than the country earns from the sale of crude oil, but have been denied the opportunity to fully participate in the democratic process by selfish politicians who fear the positive changes they will engender in the country’s democracy.

He said, “The Diaspora have higher competencies and a global network but is being blocked from their natural role in national rejuvenation by professional politicians in Nigeria who thrive on exclusion to achieve state capture, deserves a place at the table. The Diaspora remit more money home than Nigeria earns from crude oil sales. The Diaspora are high stakeholders with a moral obligation to help halt the drift in Nigeria.”

He urged Nigerians in the diaspora to partner the NC Front in ‘a shadow government’, which he said aims at developing policy plans to revive some critical sectors of the country’s economy that are lying comatose.

“The alternative government’s strategy involves a Marshal Plan type saturation investment in education, healthcare and the stimulation of markets that would further yield a prosperity paradox in infrastructure. The national economic strategy which is built on clusters of manufacturing hubs and technology parks in the six zones of Nigeria will drive global value chains anchored on the latent comparative advantage of each zone’s factor endowments and will produce a dramatic turnaround in Nigeria’s fortunes.

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He added that the NC Front will in the coming weeks announce a political party platform that will enable Nigeria to claim the promise of the founding fathers that peace and prosperity will define the future, in brotherhood, though tribe and tongue may differ.

“As soon as the current government is replaced there would be a diaspora global roadshow to showcase opportunities for diaspora joint ventures on the select endowments around which the value chains will be rolled out. This will quickly bring us to a full-employment economy and make Nigeria the true powerhouse of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Utomi said Nigerians should reject both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2023 as they both represent retrograde opportunism.

He said that as 2023 approaches that Nigerians must move away from the politics of big men to those of big ideas to save the country.

“It is this politics of big men that deluded many Nigerians to think Buhari would help eliminate corruption only for corruption to get worse on his watch. Governing has reached its lowest ebb in memory with Nigeria’s import bills having at its top two items Nigeria should be exporting, premium motor spirit and food. These kinds of failures were the tradition of the anti-people government of corrupt big men that APC and PDP represents. A government that cares for and loves its people will not have politicians obsessed with self-love when just a little thoughtfulness can reduce the sufferings of the people and accelerate the pace of progress. To achieve a purposeful, people-centred government requires leaders of integrity, character, and a heart for the people”, Utomi said.

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2023: Sen Adamu’s reconciliation c’ttee will position APC for victory – VON DG, Okechukwu

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The Director-General,  Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, has said the Senator Abdullahi Adamu reconciliation committee is positioning the p

All Progressives Congress (APC) for 2023 electoral victory.

Okechukwu told newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, that the decision to set up the committee was one of the sterling achievements of the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) led by Governor Mai Mala Buni.

The APC chieftain, who was a member of the sub committees in the merger process that formed APC, noted that the Adamu-led conciliation committee has been going about their responsibilities with uncommon insight, purpose and empathy.

He stated, “I will not be mistaken if one calls the Reconciliation Committee the nine wisemen, because they are generating germane responses and inputs that would help in strengthening our great party and turning it into a formidable national political movement on the eve of 2023 general elections.

“The committee yes has some challenges, nonetheless has recorded tremendous success that would position our great party for 2023 general elections.

“I think with this reconciliation move, APC is becoming the party the founding fathers envisioned and it is a thing of joy that the CECPC selected such claiber of persons to perform this onerous task.”

On reports about setbacks suffered by the committee in some states, Okechukwu, said, “Nobody expected the crisis dogging over 15 state chapters to be settled at once. All I know is that the Senator Adamu’s Committee has so far recorded huge successes in the South East, North West, North East, South West and South South.

“Yes, there are unresolved issues in states like Osun, Kwara and Adamawa, but my understanding is that reconciliation is a work in progress.”

The APC chieftain disclosed that he participated in the meeting for reconciliation of the three factions or tendencies in his home state, Enugu, remarking, “One was impressed with how diligent and painstaking Senator Adamu and his team grilled us. That one can say today that we are rebuilding APC Enugu State Chapter with Senator Ken Nnamani, former Governor Sulivan Chime and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geofrey Onyeama, which was mangled by the congresses.”

“It must be noted that the Committee rebuked us for playing blame games instead of building bridges for victory in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.

“Today, we are almost united, as we are harmonising at ward, local government and state levels. We hope before the end of this week, APC Enugu State chapter will reunite as one family.”

He expressed optimism that Abia, Gombe, Akwa Ibom and other states would comply with advisory template of the Senator Adamu’s Committee.

His words: “Based on what I have witnessed, the Senator Adamu Committee will reconcile all the prolonged crisis in the state chapters, which contributed to the delays in holding the party’s national convention.”

He recalled with pain that since June 2020, when the APC caretaker committee led by Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, was inaugurated, the convention has been postponed several times.

He hoped that the efforts of Senator Adamu’s Committee will lead to seamless national convention, a mandate which President Buhari gave H.E. M.M. Buni CECPC.

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