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Nigeria Develops Diagnostic Kit for COVID-19

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Nigeria’s efforts at developing solution to the challenge of non-availability and high cost of coronavirus diagnostic kits have finally paid off with the development of RNASwift Extraction kit.

Nigeria Develops Diagnostic Kit for COVID-19

This was disclosed by Prof. Alex Akpa, director-general of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), on Thursday during a news briefing held at the conference room of Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Abuja.

He said the RNASwift test kit would not only revolutionalise Africa’s PCR-Based COVID-19 testing, but will also expand the capacity by 50 times at least.

Akpa also said it would equally reduce cost by over 500 per cent as compared to the conventional kit in use.

“This meets the demands of the Test Africa Initiative. The kits will be produced in Nigeria, which is great news considering that it will enable preference to be given to the testing needs of Africa.

“The need for the invention was conceived by the request from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), to test five million farmers and farm hands.

“This was to ensure that our food security chain was not compromised by COVID-19,’’ the D-G said.

According to him, the RNASwift test kit is an indigenous diagnostic test kit designed, developed and validated in Nigeria for the identification of the causal agent, SARS-Cov-2, which causes COVID-19.

He noted that the diagnostic kit is “very accurate and sensitive’’ and competes favourably with conventional and commercially available kits for the diagnosis of COVID-19.

“This is in addition to a careful choice of reagents that are human and environmentally friendly in the development of the protocol for the diagnostic kit.

“In fact, the attributes of the RNASwift kits make it a game changer in the design and production of diagnostic kits for infectious diseases in the face of an epidemic or a pandemic,’’ Akpa said.

He further said that the project was made possible due to the scientific collaboration between the NABDA, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).

Prof. Akpa added that the technical support team of University of Sheffield, led by Dr Alison Nwokeoji, also made the project successful.

In his speech at the briefing, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, minister of Science and Technology, recalled that the first index case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria on Feb. 27.

Onu said he had tasked Nigerian scientists to come up with a solution with the sum of N36 million pledge.

The Minister said Nigerians were creative and talented enough to develop home grown solutions to major challenges confronting the country, Africa and the world, with the RNASwift test kit as an example.

“Today, the RNASwift extraction kit developed by Nigerian scientists has capacity in an accurate, sensitive and affordable cost to detect SARS-Cov2, the causative agent of COVID-19.

“With the RNASwift test kit, we are going to test five million farmers, and the new test kit will reduced cost drastically,’’ Onu said.

He hinted that the African Development Bank was interested in it, not only as Test Africa Initiative, but that Nigeria should be the rallying point.

Similarly, he said the other African countries stood to benefit from the test kits due to the low cost.

The minister commended NABDA and said the agency had not only made the Ministry proud but Nigeria as a whole.

Alhaji Sabo Nanono, minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the test kit invented and developed was very critical to the present situation of insufficient test kits.

He said the FMARD was in the forefront when it came to food security, adding that with the invention and successful validation of the test kit, it was time for Nigerians to look inwards.

“We have talents and we need to develop and build on these talents, we will realise our target of testing five million farmers and Nigerians would be proud of this test kits,’’ Nanono said.

He applauded NABDA for the project, saying the success of the test kit was a milestone recorded in the FMST.

Speaking to newsmen on the sideline of the briefing, Dr Rose Gidado, Scientist and Deputy Director at NABDA, said the day was remarkable and historic for the agency, the ministry as well as Nigerians.

She said the new test kits could test more than 20,000 people a day but if more testing centres were set up, it could go up to 50,000 with automation.

The Scientist added that the need to test more Nigerians was necessary in order to isolate and treat.

 

 


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WHO Confirms COVID-19 Vaccines in Phase 3 Clinical Trials

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Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general, World Health Organisation (WHO), Monday, said that a number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials to prevent COVID-19 pandemic.

WHO Confirms COVID-19 Vaccines in Phase 3 Clinical Trials

Ghebreyesus who made this known at a virtual news conference at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, said that: “ We all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection.

“However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be; for now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control.

“Testing, isolating and treating patients, tracing and quarantining their contacts. Do it all.

“Inform, empower and listen to communities. Do it all.

“For individuals, it’s about keeping physical distance, wearing a mask, cleaning hands regularly and coughing safely away from others. Do it all.’’

Ghebreyesus said the message to people and governments was clear: “Do it all, and when it’s under control, keep going! Keep strengthening the health system.

“Keep improving surveillance, contact tracing and ensure disrupted healthcare services are restarted as quickly as possible.

“Keep safeguards and monitoring in place, because lifting restrictions too quickly can lead to resurgence.

“Keep investing in the workforce and communicating and engaging communities.

“We have seen around the world, that it’s never too late to turn this pandemic around,’’ he said.

According to him, if we act together today, we can save lives, we can save livelihoods, if we do it all together.

He told journalists that the Emergency Committee on COVID-19 met on Friday and reviewed the current pandemic.

“It was a sobering moment coming six months on from when the committee advised.

“And, I agreed that the outbreak constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

“At the time, Jan. 30, there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths outside of China.

“When the Committee met three months ago, three million cases of COVID-19 had been reported to WHO, and more than 200,000 deaths.

“Since then, the number of cases has increased more than five-fold to 17.5 million, and the number of deaths has more than tripled to 680,000,’’ the director-general said.


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Confusion as PR Firm Contradicts Shoprite Exit Rumour

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Contradicting statements from Shoprite, Africa’s largest retail chain, and Chastex Consult, public relations firm, have cast airs of confusion over the reported plans by Shoprite to exit the Nigerian market it entered 15 years ago.

Confusion as PR Firm Contradicts Shoprite Exit Rumour

Earlier on Monday, Shoprite, disclosed in a statement titled: “Operational and Voluntary Trading Update (52 Weeks Ended June 28, 2020), that “Following approaches from various potential investors and in line with our re-evaluation of the Group’s operating model in Nigeria, the Board has decided to initiate a formal process to consider the potential sale of all, or a majority stake, in Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Shoprite International Limited.

“As such, Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited may be classified as discontinued operation when Shoprite reports its results for the year. Any further updates will be provided to the market at the appropriate time,” the company explained.

It disclosed that its international supermarkets (excluding Nigeria) contributed 11.6 per cent to the group’s sales and reported 1.4 per cent decline in sales from 2018. South African operations contributed 78 per cent of overall sales and saw 8.7 per cent rise for the year.

It stated that despite difficult circumstances occasioned by the Covid-19 lockdown and accompanying regulations governing trade, transport and operations, the group increased total sale of merchandise for the 52-week to June 28, 2020 (including the impact of hyperinflation in the prior year), by 6.4 per cent to approximately R156.9 billion.

But Chastex Consult, PR firm handling Shoprite claimed that “Shoprite is not leaving Nigeria”

Ini Archibong, country director, Chastex Consult, said Shoprite is only allowing Nigerian investors into the South African retail company, and not packing up from Nigeria.

According to him, the superstore giant won’t shutdown its $30 billion investment as it makes no sense, “Shoprite is not leaving Nigeria.

“We have only just opened to Nigerian investors which we have also been talking to just before now. We are not leaving, who leaves over a $30billion invest and close shop? It doesn’t sound right. We only just given this opportunity to Nigeria investors to come in and also help drive our expansion plan in Nigeria. So we are not leaving.

“I have tried to say this as too many people as I can. There should be no panic at all and all of that. There is no truth in that report.” Archibong told Vanguard in a report.

 


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Why We Sacked Pilots-Air Peace

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Air Peace, Nigeria’s biggest carrier Air Peace has confirmed the sack of some of its staff due to the “devastating effect of COVID-19 pandemic.

Why We Sacked Pilots-Air Peace

The airline said it took the “very painful but rightful decision, in the circumstances the airline has found itself as a result of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its operations and financial health.”

In a statement, the airline said: “This decision was taken for the greater good of the company and its almost 3000 workforce, the affected pilots inclusive.

“The airline cannot afford to toe the path of being unable to continue to fulfil its financial obligations to its staff, external vendors, aviation agencies, maintenance organizations, insurance companies, banks and other creditors hence the decision to restructure its entire operations with a view to surviving the times.

“The pandemic has hit every airline worldwide so badly that it has become very impossible for airlines to remain afloat without carrying out an internal restructuring of their costs.

“Anything short of what we have done may lead to the collapse of an airline as could be seen in some places worldwide during this period. “Therefore, we decided to review the salaries being paid to all staff. The new salaries reflect a 0%-40% cut of the former salary depending on the salary grades of every staff.

“Even after the cuts, it was obvious that for us to be able to sustain our operations and survive the times, some jobs must inevitably have to go.

“Air Peace has never, for one day, ever owed salaries to its workers in its almost six years of existence, pilots inclusive. Rather the management of Air Peace has always been known to be increasing salaries of its employees periodically without being prompted by staff.

“In fact, in one fell swoop, Air Peace increased the salaries of pilots by over 100% in one day! Our salaries have always been paid even before the end of the month in the last five years! So we love all our staff.”

According to the airline, the decision is inevitable under the circumstances it found itself. “In order to protect the continuity of the majority of the existing jobs and the possibility of creating new ones in future, the survival of the airline is of paramount importance.

“When everything comes back to normal those pilots affected today will have a place to come back to in the future if they so wish.

“The decision is a reflection of the negative impact of the pandemic on airlines and aviation worldwide. We are in trying times.

“Even the biggest airlines in Europe, America, Middle East, Asia, Australia and, indeed, Africa, are all either slashing jobs and cutting salaries in order to remain afloat or are shutting down. Air Peace is not immune to these challenges.”

 

 

 

 


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