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No Omicron deaths yet, as variant spreads worldwide, says WHO



no Omicron deaths yet as variant spreads worldwide



The Omicron variant has been detected in 38 countries but no deaths have yet been reported; the WHO said on Friday, as authorities worldwide rushed to stem the heavily mutated Covid-19 strain’s spread amid warnings that it could damage the global economic recovery.


The United States and Australia became the latest countries to confirm locally transmitted cases of the variant; as Omicron infections pushed South Africa’s total cases past three million.


The World Health Organization has warned it could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is; whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it.


“We’re going to get the answers that everybody out there needs,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.


The WHO said on Friday it had still not seen any reports of deaths related to Omicron; but the new variant’s spread has led to warnings that it could cause more than half of Europe’s Covid cases in the next few months.


ALSO READ: Omicron: South Korea traces new COVID-19 variant to visitors from Nigeria



The new variant could also slow global economic recovery, just as the Delta strain did, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday.


“Even before the arrival of this new variant, we were concerned that the recovery; while it continues, is losing somewhat momentum,” she said.


“A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence.”


A preliminary study by researchers in South Africa, where the variant was first reported on November 24; suggests it is three times more likely to cause reinfections compared to the Delta or Beta strains.


The emergence of Omicron was the “ultimate evidence” of the danger of unequal global vaccination rates; Red Cross head Francesca Rocca said.


South African doctors said there had been a spike in children under five admitted to hospital since Omicron emerged, but stressed it was too early to know if young children were particularly susceptible.


“The incidence in those under-fives is now second-highest, and second only to the incidence in those over 60;” said Wassila Jassat from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.


In the US, two cases involved residents with no recent international travel history — showing Omicron is already circulating inside the country.


“This is a case of community spread,” the Hawaii Health Department said.


US President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled his plans to battle Covid-19 during the winter; new testing requirements for travellers and a surge in vaccination efforts.


‘Kick in the nuts’

All incoming travellers will need to test negative within a day of their flights, and rapid tests that cost $25 will be covered by insurance and distributed free to the uninsured.


Australia on Friday reported three students in Sydney had tested positive for the variant; despite a ban on non-citizens entering the country and restrictions on flights from southern Africa, with multiple countries rushing to limit travel from the region in the past week.


“It’s quite a kick in the nuts,” said Sabine Stam, who runs a South African tour company and whose customers are demanding refunds. “Everyone is too scared to set a new travel date,” she said.


In Norway, officials said at least 13 people who contracted Covid-19 after an office Christmas party in Oslo last week had the Omicron variant; — though so far they have only had mild symptoms, city health official Tine Ravlo told AFP.

ALSO READ: 2 fully vaccinated Israeli doctors get infected with Omicron variant


But the government ushered in restrictions in greater Oslo after fears of the cluster surfaced.


On Friday, Malaysia also reported a first Omicron infection in a foreign student arriving from South Africa on November 19. Sri Lanka also announced its first case; a citizen returning from South Africa.


Russia’s federal statistics agency Rosstat; meanwhile, it was said that nearly 75,000 people died of coronavirus in the country in October, making it the deadliest month of the pandemic.


Snogging discouraged

The new variant poses a major challenge to ending the pandemic.


Rising Delta cases had already forced European governments to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, curfews or lockdowns, leaving businesses fearing another grim Christmas.


Belgian authorities said on Friday that primary schools would close a week early for the Christmas holidays.


Germany’s regional leaders agreed new measures including a ban on fireworks at new year parties to discourage large gatherings.


Ireland said it will close nightclubs and reintroduce social distancing in some settings over Christmas and the New Year.


In the UK, ministers have been expressing divergent opinions, not only on the idea of hosting parties, but also on the kind of conduct deemed acceptable.


“For what it’s worth, I don’t think there should be much snogging under the mistletoe,” said one minister, Therese Coffey.



Security forces kill 70 bandits in Niger forests, free 500 stolen cattle



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From John Adams, Minna

The total war against gunmen in Niger State declared by the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello two weeks ago has been yielding positive results, as the Joint Security Taskforce has neutralized over 70 armed bandits in the last one week.

The Joint Security Task Force, which also comprises special hunters in the state, have equally intercepted over 500 cattle.

The Joint Security Task Force has intensified it operation in the forests at Galadiman- Kogo, Kusasu, Alawa and Erena communities in Shiroro Local Government and Kutchi, Zagzaga, Guni and Katarma in Munya Local Government Area of the state.

The Commissioner of Local Government, Chieftaincy Affairs and Internal Security, Emmanuel Umar confirmed the on-going operation when he spoke with newsmen in Minna, saying that a number of the gunmen have met their waterloo in the hands of the Joint Security Task Force.

He pointed out that the recovery consisted of over 300 cows and over 200 sheep, adding that many more were still being recovered as the gunmen are on the run.

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All the animals, which were rustled by the gunmen, he said were being kept under the care of the Ministry of Livestock in the state, waiting for the owners to come forward to claim them.

He disclosed that a number of the gunmen were heavily neutralized while some members of the Joint Security Task Force were killed during the encounter with the gunmen.

While appreciating the sacrifice of the security men to the state and the country in general, the commissioner assured that the government would take care of the families of the slain officers.

Umar said the onslaught against the gunmen in the state would be a continuous exercise until the state is rid of all rustlers, kidnappers and other criminal elements.

A number of the gunmen were arrested during the gun battle; the commissioner however did not disclose the number of arrest made so far.


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Master plan: Abuja needs to be surveyed, says surveyor-general



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From Isaac Anumihe, Abuja

Following the increasing rate of violation of the master plan of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Surveyor General of the Federation  (SGoF), Abuduganiyu Adeyemi Adebomehin, at the weekend, stated the need to survey the entire Abuja for effective monitoring.

In a statement, Head of Press and Public Relations of Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation, Mr. Abu Michael, said that apart from the violation against the master plan of the country’s capital, there are other emerging inimical activities that might frustrate the developmental efforts of the government. The SGoF also noted that surveying the capital would equally help towards the even distribution of infrastructure and ensure good road network.

Speaking while playing host to the Chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS), Abiodun Peter Alonge, who led the Chairman of the Association of Private Practising Surveyors of Nigeria (APPSN), Solomon Olutokun with fresh officials of the FCT chapter to the Survey House in Abuja, Adebomehin called for the engagement of qualified surveyors in every stage of a project in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for seamless improvement and durability of projects.

According to him, surveying remains an integral factor to the growth and durability of especially projects of physical development because man uses earthly materials to improve his environment for beneficial living.

“Surveying gives man the idea of his land space, location and quantity of the material resources therein to enhance effective planning, utilisation of the resources and implementation.

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“It has been acknowledged that the most developed countries of the world today are the ones that ensured surveying in their development enterprise and placed high premium on the use of geospatial data and maps for planning and implementation,” he said.

Adebomehin observed that Abuja was still in its first and second stage of development and would require requisite geospatial inputs to achieve the desirable physical infrastructural arrangements and expansion for the entire Abuja.

He appealed to the NIS, APPSN and other surveying professional bodies to work in tandem with the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation (OSGoF) towards providing the Federal Government the requisite geospatial data and models for the planning and implementation of projects for the proper development of the FCT and Nigeria as a whole.

Earlier, Alonge and Olutokun commended the giant strides recorded by Adebomehin within the few months he superintended over the activities of OSGoF. They commended his vision and efforts towards putting the country’s apex surveying and mapping office on world-class pedestal.


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Insecurity in schools: NSCDC sensitizes education stakeholders



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From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi

To forestall the increasing spate of insecurity in schools across the country, the Benue State Command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), has stressed the need for all security guards in all schools in the state to be duly registered and trained by licensed private guards. 

State Commandant of NSCDC, Dr. Philip Okoh stated this during a stakeholders’ meeting with key actors in the educational sector held at the state command of the Corps recently.

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Okoh, while addressing the stakeholders, said the training became necessary following reports of kidnapping and other vices linked to security guards in schools around the country and the need to prevent such occurrence in Benue.


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