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‘This is absolutely not where we are at’: Zahawi denies there are plans to end free LFTs

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Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has emphatically denied reports that free lateral flow tests (LFTs) will be limited to high-risk settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools.

Speaking to Sky News’ “Trevor Phillips On Sunday” this morning, Mr Zahawi said he was “slightly puzzled” by the reports and didn’t “recognise it at all”. “This is absolutely not where we are at”, he added.

Currently, there are an unlimited number of free LFTs available for public use, with those testing positive with symptoms eligible to request a free PCR test.

News had emerged in The Sunday Times that Prime minister Boris Johnson was set to axe free lateral flow tests as the government and country prepare to “live with” coronavirus. A senior Whitehall source told the Times that it is no longer feasible to continuously use free LFTs and that the UK should scale back. “I don’t think we are in a world where we can continue to hand out free lateral flow tests to everybody for evermore”, they added.

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While Mr Zahawi confirmed the government view that we are “witnessing the transition of the virus from pandemic to endemic”, he stringently denied that an end to free LFTs would be part of this transition.

These comments come after the UK passed 150,000 Covid deaths. It is the seventh country to pass the milestone – after the US, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico and Peru. This morning, Mr Zahawi revealed that his uncle was among those who have died of COVID, having not been taken up the offer of vaccination. 

On this, Mr Zahawi said the 150,000 milestone “brings it home to me”, adding that these deaths are “not just a statistic – they are parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, husbands, wives”. When asked whether these deaths were avoidable, the education secretary said the government will “learn the lessons of how we dealt with the pandemic through the inquiry”.

Questioned on earlier comments, reported in The Sunday Times, that cutting the self-isolation period from seven days to five would be “helpful”, Mr Zahawi backtracked, arguing that we would have to be “careful” about making this move. “What you don’t want is to create a negative outcome by higher levels of infection,” he said. However, he added that it would “help mitigate some of the pressures on schools” if evidence suggested it is safe.

According to The Sunday Times, Nadhim Zahawi said: “The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have said they want to review it, so we will stick to seven days but if they review it and say they will bring it down to five days that is even better for me, it’s even more helpful”. The UK has already cut the isolation period from 10 days to seven, provided people can provide negative lateral flow tests on days six and seven. But several sectors are still experiencing staffing pressure.

Elsewhere, the United States recently shortened the self-isolation window to five days. The education secretary cautioned against following the US’ example, as in the UK we begin when symptoms are first recorded, whereas in the US isolation only starts following a positive test. 

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Politics

SDP suspends nat’l chairman, secretary over abuses on party’s constitution

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Dr. Olu Agunloye

The National Executive Committee of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has suspended its National Chairman, Olu Ogunloye, for alleged abuses on the party’s constitution.

This was contained in a communique signed by the party’s Deputy National Chairman, Adul Isaq, on Saturday, in Abuja, which noted that the National Secretary of the party, Shehu Gabam, was also suspended for the same reason.

The communique specifies that Isaq will serve as the party’s interim National Chairman, while Simon Adesina will act as the National Secretary, pending the outcome of its convention which holds from April 27 – 29, 2022.

The communique reads: “The NEC observed the wanton disregard to the provisions of the SDP constitution especially Article 12.5 (iv) 12.2.2 (viii) and Article 9.4 to suspend some officers from the party.

READ ALSO: Insecurity, bad economy destroying Nigeria – SDP

“The NEC considered the various abuses of the constitution by the following under-listed officers and there agreed by majority to suspend Shehu Gabam and Dr Olu Ogunloye.

“The NEC noted the urgency to put in place all that is required for a befitting party convention and therefore resolves; that the national convention of the Social Democratic Party is fixed for April 27 to 29 with arrival being Wednesday April 27, 2022.”

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2023: Race to ‘dethrone’ Tinubu, APC heats up, as Ayu, Saraki, five PDP govs storm Lagos

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The race for elective positions ahead of the 2023 elections has commenced in earnest as the two major parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – are strategizing on how to emerge victorious.

On the part of the PDP, a major coup was claimed in Lagos State with the defection of a crucial factional APC group, Lagos4Lagos led by Dr. Olajide Adediran, popularly called “Jandor.”

The Lagos4Lagos group has been in the forefront of groups in the state which has been fighting to unseat the APC stronghold on the state, which is believed to be firmly controlled by a former governor, Ahmed Tinubu.

The reception of Jandor into the PDP held on Friday at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos State and was graced by a handful of PDP governors and other crucial stakeholders including the new National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; and former PDP Deputy National Chairman, Olabode George.

The Governors who were present to receive Jandor and his supporters into the PDP fold were Seyi Makinde (Oyo State); Dr Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State); Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Dr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) and Nyesome Wike (Rivers).

READ ALSO: PDP should forget about winning 2023 election – Presidency

In his address, Ayu urged Nigerians not to give in to the ‘slavery’ witnessed in Lagos State after years of governance by the APC while mocking the ‘change’ mantra of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Are you enjoying the change? How much is a bag of rice? They deceived Nigerians. We declare no more slavery in Lagos. By this time next year, we will celebrate a PDP Governor in Lagos State,” he said.

Governor Makinde expressed his pleasure at welcoming the APC Lagos4Lagos movement into the fold, as they aimed “to reclaim Lagos for the people of Lagos State.”

“Today, we held a Lagos PDP unity rally. We also officially welcomed the Lagos4Lagos movement led by Dr Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran (Jandor) from APC to our great party, the PDP. Working together, we will reclaim Lagos for the people of Lagos State,” he noted.

Ikpeazu, on his part, pointed out the crucial role to be played by Jandor as the “bridge between the young and the old in Lagos politics and he should be given full support by all so that there can be unity.”

He said, “On behalf of my brother governors, we officially join the Lagos PDP family, to welcome new strategic members of our party.

“You are very important and strategic. PDP is the only democratic party in Nigeria,” he said.

Ikpeazu urged members of the PDP family in the state to give Adediran maximum support and cooperation for the defector to contribute his quota to the growth of the party.

“Jandor is the bridge between the young and the old in Lagos politics and he should be given full support by all so that there can be unity.”

In his speech, Jandor pledged to work towards ensuring that the PDP “take over Lagos” during the 2023 elections.

“We have declared for the PDP, we are going to win for the party. We are here (PDP) to add value, we are here to be part of the big family and together we will take over Lagos,” Jandor said.

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I have retired from partisan politics, Obasanjo reminds visiting PDP leaders

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Olusegun Obasanjo.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday reminded some leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that he had retired from partisan Politics, and would never return.

Ripples Nigeria reported that some former governors and members of the PDP National Working Commitee (NWC) had a closed-door meeting with the former President at his residence in the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

The delegation which was led by the National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, included the PDP Vice Presidential candidate in 2019 and former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; Sule Lamido of Jigawa State; Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Liyel Imoke (Cross River) and Donald Duke (Cross River), among others.

Addressing the PDP delegation after the meeting, Obasanjo said, “I’m no longer in partisan politics and there is nothing that can bring me back. Anybody who wants my advice, I will always be there in the best interest of Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Desmond Tutu played vital role in Nigeria’s debt cancellation – Obasanjo

“Whatever I do in my own life…because I became president on the platform of PDP, PDP will continue to be part of my life. Since the day I tore my PDP card, that was the day I ceased to be a member of PDP. That day I vowed not to be a member of any political party.

“I will continue to be a statesman.”

Obasanjo told Ayu that he was concerned about the problems of PDP and Nigeria, and prayed that God give him the wisdom to carry it.

Recall that Obasanjo publicly tore his PDP membership card in February 2015 after a feud with ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

By Oluwatobi Odeyinka

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