Tag Archives: disaster

Abuja Aircraft crash leaves seven ‘dead.’

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Seven persons have been killed after a military aircraft crashed a few yards off the runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja.

Confirming the incident on Sunday, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) spokesman, Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola stated that the Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft crashed while returning to Abuja Airport after reporting engine failure enroute Minna.

Caregivers work at the scene of an accident involving a Nigerian military aircraft that crashed killing seven occupants on board at the Airport runway near Nigeria’s capital Abuja, on February 21, 2021. KOLA SULAIMON / AFP

Vice Marshal Daramola further stated that first responders were already at the scene, adding that all seven personnel on board died in the crash.

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According to the NAF spokesman’s statement published on Twitter, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao has ordered an immediate investigation into the accident.

While urging the general public to remain calm and await the outcome of the investigation, the CAS, on behalf of all Nigerian Air Force personnel, commiserated with the families of the deceased.

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#Newsworthy

Five ‘rest in pieces’ as early morning bombs rock Kabul.

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Peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government that began in September remain deadlocked.

Three explosions rocked Kabul Saturday morning, killing at least five people and injuring two others, authorities said, the latest in a series of similar recent attacks in the Afghan capital.

Police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said that three “sticky bomb” explosions had taken place in different locations between 08:00 and 10:00 am local time.

Targeted killings with remotely detonated bombs attached to vehicles have long been a favoured tactic of militants in Afghanistan, especially during the morning commute in cities, where civilians pay a disproportionate price for the violence.

No group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks, though Afghan and US officials have blamed the Taliban for previous similar incidents, a charge it rejects.

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Faramarz said the first explosion had injured two civilians, while the second blast had killed two soldiers, as well as a woman.

The third bomb left two police officers dead.

The details were confirmed by the Afghan Ministry of Interior.

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Security sources also said at least two of the victims in the second explosion worked for the defence ministry, though the ministry would not confirm.

Peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government that began in September remain deadlocked.

The latest rise in violence has led US President Joe Biden’s administration to launch a review of a deal signed between Washington and Taliban last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of all American troops in coming months.

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Biden is reviewing whether to stick to a looming May 1 deadline to withdraw the remaining 2,500 US troops or risk a bloody backlash from the insurgents by staying.

General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command, on Thursday indicated that conditions have not been met for a withdrawal.

While the Taliban had pledged to reduce violence under their deal with the US, they have not done so, McKenzie said on a plane to Pakistan.

“Certainly ISIS has launched some attacks. It pales against what the Taliban is doing,” McKenzie said, denouncing violence against Afghan forces, and “targeted assassinations in some of the urban areas.”

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“This is clearly the Taliban,” he said. “There is no way it’s anyone else. That’s very clear.”

The Taliban denies being behind escalated violence, saying those responsible are other jihadist groups.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Nigeria report 877 cases; 1,803 total deaths.

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As COVID-19 cases increases everyday and death toll rises gently, total cases in Nigeria hits 150,246.

Nigeria reports 877 fresh COVID-19 cases as total death hit 1,803 and total recovery hit 126,417.

Lagos, Kaduna and Rivers records highest cases of 273, 87 and 58 respectively while Katsina & Sokoto reports lowest case(s) of 1.

New cases of 877 were reported from 26 Nigerian states and the whole 36 states in Nigeria has part in above total cases.

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877 new cases of #COVID19Nigeria;

Lagos-273
Kaduna-87
Rivers-58
Akwa Ibom-47
Ebonyi-47
Edo-46
Ogun-46
Abia-34
Imo-34
Kano-34
Oyo-26
Osun-22
Gombe-20
Ekiti-19
Cross River-15
FCT-15
Plateau-11
Enugu-9
Kebbi-8
Borno-7
Niger-6
Bayelsa-5
Nasarawa-4
Kwara-2
Katsina-1
Sokoto-1

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#Newsworthy

Ebola virus surges to six in DR Congo; 2 dead.

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Ebola is named after the DR Congo’s Ebola River, near which the virus was discovered by Belgian microbiologist Peter Piot and his team in 1976.

The number of confirmed cases of the Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) has reached six, with two people having died, the health minister of the North Kivu province said.

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The new outbreak of Ebola started in DR Congo in early February.

“Today we have confirmed two new cases (of Ebola).

“Now we have six cases, two people have died. The vaccination is underway,” Eugene Nzanzu Salita said on Thursday, as quoted by the 7sur7 news outlet.

The Ebola virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals and is estimated by the World Health Organisation to have a 50-per-cent fatality rate.

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Ebola is named after the DR Congo’s Ebola River, near which the virus was discovered by Belgian microbiologist Peter Piot and his team in 1976.

‌The largest Ebola outbreak took place in West Africa in 2014-2015, with more than 11,000 people having died and some 28,000 cases having been reported.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Political pressure blocking vaccine deal – Taiwan Gov’t.

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Taiwan has survived the pandemic largely unscathed — with fewer than 940 confirmed cases and nine deaths so far — by closing its borders early, imposing strict quarantine measures and rolling out effective tracing.

An attempt by Taiwan to secure five million doses of coronavirus vaccine failed at the last minute because of “political pressure”, Taipei’s health minister said Wednesday, raising fears China could be creating roadblocks for the inoculation drive.

Health minister Chen Shih-chung revealed during a radio interview that a crucial deal to acquire the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine had failed “at the final step” of negotiations with BioNTech.

“I was worried about interference from external forces all along and there were many possibilities. I was worried about political pressure. We believed there was political pressure,” he said.

“The deal fell through… because someone doesn’t want Taiwan to be too happy.”

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German firm BioNTech has struck a deal with the Shanghai-based Fosun Pharmaceutical Group to bring the vaccine to China.

When asked if Beijing might be blocking the deal, Chen replied “this could be a possibility but we can’t confirm it. We are still communicating with” the company.

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“It’s very rare to stop the process before swapping the contracts,” Chen said, adding BioNTech called off the December deal citing “different internal opinions” and “international vaccine distributions”.

Fosun and BioNTech did not return requests for comment.

The pandemic has highlighted the diplomatic and economic isolation China forces on Taiwan’s 23 million citizens.

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Beijing sees self-ruled democratic Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

It has dramatically stepped up its pressure campaign since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016, poaching seven of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and blocking Taipei from global bodies including the World Health Organization (WHO).

Taiwan has survived the pandemic largely unscathed — with fewer than 940 confirmed cases and nine deaths so far — by closing its borders early, imposing strict quarantine measures and rolling out effective tracing.

But it has struggled to locate adequate vaccine supplies and only recently announced a supply of five million doses by American pharmaceutical giant Moderna and 200,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine via COVAX.

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An analyst said Beijing has previously used the pandemic to pressure Taiwan.

“China’s continued weaponisation and politicisation of people’s health — which should be apolitical — should not come as a surprise, especially given everything that has been going on with the WHO,” tweeted Jessica Drun, a Taiwan-China expert at the Project 2049 think-tank.

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#Newsworthy

Explosion kills 6 children in Zamfara bush.

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Those who sustained injuries were immediately rushed to a hospital in Gusau, the state capital for medical attention.

Six children have been feared killed following an explosion in Magami village in Maradun Local Government Area of Zamfara State.

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The state’s Commissioner for Security and Home Affairs Abubakar Dauran on Tuesday said the victims went to the bush in search of firewood when they picked an explosive devise.

Dauran said the kids began to play with it, and shortly after, it exploded.

While six were killed instantly, others were left with various degrees of injuries.

Those who sustained injuries were immediately rushed to a hospital in Gusau, the state capital for medical attention.

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Dauran said he later got information that one person among the victims that were hospitalized also died.

He said the state had put measures in place to prevent future occurrences of such.

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#Newsworthy

Driver, 38 others dead as bus dives into canal.

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High-speed vehicles jostling with motorbikes, pedestrians and cyclists combine with poor infrastructure and poorly maintained vehicles to make India’s roads treacherous.

Thirty-nine people were killed Tuesday when a bus plunged into a deep canal in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, officials said, with seven others managing to swim to safety.

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The accident happened when the bus, which was carrying more than 50 passengers, veered off a bridge and crashed into the 30-feet (9.1-metre) deep canal in Sidhi district early on Tuesday morning.

It was unclear what caused the bus to swerve, but India’s vast network of roads is poorly maintained and notoriously dangerous.

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Local media reported the bus was completely submerged, and images showed officials in orange life jackets using rescue boats to look for survivors.

Officials said the driver and six others swam to safety. Several other people remain missing.

“The death toll in the bus accident has risen to 39,” district magistrate Ravindra Kumar Choudhary told reporters.

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Sixteen women and a child, whose age was not released, were among the dead. Some of the men who died were on their way to an employment exam for a job at Indian Railways.

The state government has ordered an inquiry.

An initial investigation suggested the driver lost control of the privately-owned bus, reports said. The vehicle then hit the boundary of the bridge before crashing into the water.

Local officials stopped the release of water into the canal, which sped up rescue operations by divers and allowed cranes to pull the blue bus out.

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Treacherous roads
The Times of India newspaper quoted sources saying it took three hours to lift the vehicle out.

Images showed bodies lined up on the banks of the canal as distraught relatives hugged each other and cried.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office tweeted that the families of those killed in the “horrific” accident would receive 200,000 rupees ($2,750) in compensation.

Onlookers stand along a canal as rescue teams search for survivors after a bus plunged into a canal killing at least 37 passengers, in Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh state on February 16, 2021. (Photo by Uma Shankar MISHRA / AFP)

“The entire state is standing with those affected,” Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said in a video message.

High-speed vehicles jostling with motorbikes, pedestrians and cyclists combine with poor infrastructure and poorly maintained vehicles to make India’s roads treacherous.

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In 2019 more than 150,000 people died — 410 every day or 17 an hour — in almost half a million accidents, according to the government.

The United States sees nearly five times more accidents than India every year but the number of deaths in India is four times higher, according to the Times of India.

The main causes are excessive speed, not wearing helmets — sales of two-wheelers far outstrip those of cars — and not using seatbelts.

Earlier this month, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari inaugurated Road Safety Month, saying that the government aimed to halve road deaths and accidents by 2025.

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In the same month an out-of-control dumper truck crushed 15 people to death as they slept by the roadside in the western state of Gujarat.

The dead included a baby girl, eight women and six men. The truck collided with a tractor carrying sugarcane just after midnight at a crossroads.

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#Newsworthy

DR Congo begins Ebola vaccination.

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The WHO’s office in the Democratic Republic of Congo said four people in Biene had been vaccinated and 334 other contacts would also receive the jab.

Health workers in eastern DR Congo have begun an Ebola vaccination drive after four cases, two of them fatal, surfaced just three months after the country’s last outbreak of the disease, the UN said.

“The authorities today… launched an anti-Ebola vaccination campaign in Butembo just a week after the virus re-emerged,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a tweet.

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“Workers at Matanda hospital, where the first positive case of Ebola was treated, were the first to be vaccinated,” it said.

The health ministry announced on February 7 that four women in Biene, in the troubled region of North Kivu, had fallen ill with the notorious haemorrhagic fever. Two have since died.

The WHO’s office in the Democratic Republic of Congo said four people in Biene had been vaccinated and 334 other contacts would also receive the jab.

On November 18, DR Congo declared that the country’s 11th documented epidemic of Ebola was over.

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The outbreak, in the northwestern province of Equateur, claimed 55 lives.

On Sunday, the West African state of Guinea said it had confirmed seven cases of Ebola — the first resurgence of the disease in the region since a 2013-2016 epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people.

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#Newsworthy

Ukraine Mine: Three Soldiers Dead.

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Ukraine has been fighting separatists backed by Russia in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine since 2014 following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Three Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a mine explosion in the war-torn east of the country Sunday, Kiev said, as an uptick in violence tested last year’s ceasefire.

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They were killed when an explosive device went off near the village of Novoluganske some 50 kilometres (30 miles) northeast of the main separatist stronghold Donetsk, the military said in a statement.

The latest casualties came after two Ukrainian soldiers were killed in clashes with Russian-backed separatists on Friday, testing last year’s ceasefire that had brought relative calm to the simmering conflict.

During a visit to the frontline on Thursday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that separatist attacks had increased recently.

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“We understand that in general, it’s only our side that thinks the ceasefire is necessary,” said Zelensky.

He was accompanied by diplomats from several Western countries.

Ukraine has been fighting separatists backed by Russia in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine since 2014 following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Since then, more than 13,000 people have died and nearly 1.5 million have been displaced.

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Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms to support the separatists, claims Moscow denies.

The war was at the centre of a diplomatic spat at the United Nations last week when Western countries claimed that Russia was blocking efforts to end the fighting.

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#Newsworthy

Pandemonium as 3 reportedly died in Mogadishu car bomb.

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They were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011, but still, control swathes of territory from where they plan and launch frequent, deadly strikes against the government and civilian targets.

At least three people were killed and eight others wounded after a car bomb detonated near a security checkpoint along a key road in Mogadishu Saturday, security official and witnesses said.

“The police were chasing the hostile vehicle after spotting it a few kilometres away from where it exploded. Three civilians died according to the information we have received so far and eight others are wounded,” security official Abdirahman Mohamed told AFP.

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“The police opened fire on the vehicle and chased it and this has allowed many people to flee away from road. This has really limited the number of casualties the blast could have caused,” he added.

Witnesses said they heard gunfire and saw vehicles and three-wheel tuk-tuks scatter before the heavy blast occurred.

“I was at a gym close to where the blast occurred, but thanks to God we have heard the gunshots before the blast. And this alerted many people including myself and we fled from the area to take cover before the vehicle reached the area of the explosion,” Dahir Osman, a witness said.

“The blast was huge, I was inside a shop and I saw police chasing a vehicle on the wrong side of the road. It crashed into several vehicles and tuk-tuks before it exploded close to the checkpoint as police continued opening fire on the vehicle,” said another witness, Aisha Ahmed.

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Mogadishu is regularly targeted with attacks by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group who have been waging a long and violent insurgency seeking to unseat the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.

They were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011, but still, control swathes of territory from where they plan and launch frequent, deadly strikes against the government and civilian targets.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Nigeria reports 1005 fresh cases.

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As COVID-19 cases increases everyday and death toll rises gently, total cases in Nigeria hits 144,521.

Nigeria reports 1,005 fresh COVID-19 cases as total death hit 1,734 and total recovery hit 118,866.

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Lagos, Kwara and Oyo records highest cases of 205, 155 and 124 respectively while Jigawa reports lowest case(s) of 2.

New cases of 1,005 were reported from 19 Nigerian states and the whole 36 states in Nigeria has part in above total cases.

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1005 new cases of #COVID19Nigeria;

Lagos-204
Kwara-155
Oyo-124
Plateau-80
FCT-75
Edo-56
Osun-48
Ondo-41
Kaduna-40
Rivers-40
Taraba-35
Borno-32
Ekiti-21
Ogun-20
Kano-14
Bayelsa-8
Delta-7
Bauchi-3
Jigawa-2

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144,521 confirmed
118,866 discharged
1,734 deaths

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#NobleSong

COVID-19: Europe still vulnerable.

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The number of vaccine doses administered in Europe now stands 41 million, greater that the nearly 36 million cases recorded since the start of the pandemic.

The World Health Organization on Thursday warned of a “false sense of security” in Europe, saying most of the continent’s nations were still vulnerable despite a fall in Covid cases.

WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told a press conference that “the decline in cases conceals increasing numbers of outbreaks and community spread involving variants of concern.”

More than a million cases are registered every week across the 53 member states in the UN agency’s European region, which includes several in central Asia.

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But the number of reported cases has been falling over the past four weeks and deaths have also been declining over the past two weeks.

A healthcare worker takes a swab sample to run an antigen rapid test for coronavirus during a mass screening to test 100 percent of the town’s population in Leon, northern Spain, on February 3, 2021. – The Spanish government is “open” and “enthusiastic” to using Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Spain, one of the countries in Europe most affected by the pandemic, as long as it is approved by the European Medicines Agency, Health Minister Carolina Darias said today. The shot — named after the Soviet-era satellite — faced criticism last year when it was approved in Russia before large-scale clinical trials. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

“At this point, the overwhelming majority of European countries remain vulnerable,” Kluge said, adding that as of now there is “a thin line between the hope of a vaccine and a false sense of security.”

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The number of vaccine doses administered in Europe now stands 41 million, greater that the nearly 36 million cases recorded since the start of the pandemic.

According to data from 29 out of the 37 countries that have begun vaccinations, 7.8 million have received both doses of the vaccines, Kluge said, warning that the number only accounts for 1.5 percent of the population in those countries.

“Vaccines are essential, but as of now, they are not sufficient to control the pandemic,” Kluge said.

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The regional WHO director cautioned against “rash decisions” for countries contemplating easing restrictions.

“Time and again have we seen countries reopen too fast and lose hard-earned gains,” Kluge said.

With the emergence of new variants, vaccinations could also be undermined if the virus is allowed to circulate, potentially causing mutations that “may influence vaccine efficacy.”

“Unless we halt transmission now, the expected benefits from vaccinations in controlling this pandemic may not be evident,” Kluge said.

The WHO director also reiterated a call for an equitable distribution of vaccines to include poorer countries, both citing it as a “moral imperative,” but also as a means to mitigate risks.

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“Unfair access to vaccines, can backfire. The longer the virus lingers, the greater the risk of dangerous mutations,” Kluge said.

Across the WHO’s European region, 38 countries have recorded cases linked to the variant first discovered in Britain and 19 nations have recorded cases from variant discovered in South Africa.

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#Newsworthy

Quakes hit Indonesia’s Sumatra Island – Report.

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In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami on Sulawesi island left more than 4,300 people dead or missing.

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said, but there was no tsunami warning or immediate reports of damage.

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The strong offshore quake hit about 217 kilometres south-southwest of the city of Bengkulu at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres at 7:52 pm local time (1252 GMT).

Shallow quakes tend to cause more damage than deep ones.

The Southeast Asian archipelago experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.

More than 100 people were killed when a 6.2-magnitude quake rocked the small city of Mamuju on Sulawesi island last month.

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In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami on Sulawesi island left more than 4,300 people dead or missing.

A devastating 9.1-magnitude quake struck off the coast of Sumatra in 2004, triggering a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia — one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.

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#Newsworthy

WHO-China’s COVID origin probe ‘unsuccessful’ – New step taken!

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In France, a row is brewing over restrictions on cultural institutions, with one local mayor allowing museums to reopen despite a nationwide ban.

A much-anticipated inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic wrapped up its mission in China on Tuesday with no breakthrough discovery, as investigators ruled out a theory that Covid-19 came from a lab but failed to identify which animal may have passed it to humans.

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While the coronavirus likely jumped to humans from animals, it is still unclear which species first transmitted it, said Liang Wannian, who headed up the Chinese contingent of an inquiry carried out jointly with World Health Organization (WHO) experts.

The WHO mission — which China repeatedly delayed — was dogged by fears of a whitewash, with the US demanding a “robust” probe into the origins of the pandemic in late 2019, and China firing back with a warning not to “politicise” the investigation.

During the closely monitored mission — which included a visit to a propaganda exhibition celebrating China’s recovery — reporters were largely kept at arms’ length from the experts.

Liang, supported by WHO expert Ben Embarek, said there was “no indication” the sickness was circulating in Wuhan before December 2019 when the first official cases were recorded.

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Embarek, who said identifying the virus’ pathway from animals to humans remains a “work in progress”, also scotched a controversial theory that the virus had leaked from a lab, calling it “extremely unlikely”.

‘Martyrdom’ of health workers
As investigators have struggled to pinpoint the origins of a virus that has now killed more than 2.3 million people, governments are continuing to grapple with its daily consequences.

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Vaccination campaigns are gaining pace worldwide, with Iran the latest country to begin its rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V jab.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the vaccination was being carried out in “memory of the martyrdom of health workers”, as medics at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini hospital received the first shots.

Peter Ben Embarek (3rd-R) and Marion Koopmans (2nd-R) attend a press conference to wrap up a visit by an international team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the city of Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province on February 9, 2021. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

Iran is also expected to receive 4.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines under the Covax scheme, which intends to ensure jabs are distributed across the world and not hoarded by richer nations.

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The AstraZeneca vaccine makes up the bulk of initial Covax deliveries to some 145 countries but it suffered a setback in recent days with a trial showing it only offers minimal protection against the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa.

The results forced South Africa to delay the start of its vaccinations, but the WHO insisted Monday that the AstraZeneca shot remained vital to the global fight against Covid-19.

Richard Hatchett, head of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), said it was “vastly too early to be dismissing this vaccine”.

“It is absolutely crucial to use the tools that we have as effectively as we possibly can,” he told a WHO press briefing.

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AstraZeneca has stood by its vaccine, and said researchers are working on an updated version that can be effective against the new variants. WHO authorisation for the shot is expected next week.

‘Let’s get used to it’
Despite the vaccine rollouts, life is far from back to normal for most people.

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The pandemic and associated restrictions have crushed entire sectors of the global economy, laid waste to sports and cultural calendars and confined hundreds of millions to their homes.

In France, a row is brewing over restrictions on cultural institutions, with one local mayor allowing museums to reopen despite a nationwide ban.

“There is a virus and it will be with us for a long time,” said Louis Aliot, the far-right mayor of the southern city of Perpignan. “Let’s get used to it and start by trying things out.”

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As the pain of shutdowns has bitten hard, governments have turned to other measures to try to facilitate reopening — mass testing campaigns and quarantines for travellers are still prominent tools.

Britain is the latest country to order international travellers to undergo several tests while under quarantine.

But the surest sign that the world is far from back to normal comes from Tokyo, where organisers of this summer’s Olympic Games have issued a 33-page booklet of rules on social distancing.

Athletes’ time in Japan will be minimised to reduce the risk of infection and those staying at the Olympic Village will be expected to “avoid unnecessary forms of physical contact”.

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Despite this, organisers told AFP on Tuesday that they still plan to hand out roughly 150,000 free condoms to athletes.

“If you have been to the Games before, we know this experience will be different in a number of ways,” the guidebook warns, adding that breaching the rules could result in expulsion.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Panama defends hiring Cuban doctors.

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The decision to bring Cuban doctors produced controversy in some sectors because in Panama, medical practice is restricted to local professionals.

Panama’s health minister on Monday defended the deployment of more than 200 Cuban doctors to help the Central American country battle the coronavirus, despite criticism of the island government’s human rights record at home.

“We are eternally grateful” to the Cuban doctors because “they came here to save the lives of Panamanians,” Luis Francisco Sucre said during an appearance before the National Assembly to answer questions about the management of the pandemic.

Several deputies criticized the Panamanian government’s decision to hire the 220 Cuban doctors, calling it “a violation of human rights.”

But Sucre defended the agreement between his ministry and its Cuban counterpart, which he said “complies with all due legal processes.”

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He said his government would not hesitate to “sign it again.”

“The same people who today criticize the agreement signed with the Cuban Health Ministry would have been criticizing if there were dead in the streets, or if people were dying in the corridors of hospitals because we had no doctors to treat them,” Sucre said.

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The Cubans arrived in Panama on December 24, at a time when Panama was facing a crisis that had completely overwhelmed its health system and exhausted local doctors.

The decision to bring Cuban doctors produced controversy in some sectors because in Panama, medical practice is restricted to local professionals.

The announcement also met with resistance from Washington.

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“Governments that hire Cuban medical workers must ensure their fair and humane treatment — in tark contrast to the Castro regime, which traffics in, and exploits, the workers’ bravery for its own gains,” tweeted Michael Kozak, Washington’s acting assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

“Make contracts transparent and pay workers directly,” he said.

Washington and some human rights organizations consider the sale of Cuban medical services a form of “forced labour” that “violates human rights” and only serves as propaganda for the Communist government of the island.

During his speech, Sucre said that in addition to Cuba, the Panamanian government also requested medical support from other countries, such as the United States, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Italy, Israel, China and Russia, but had been unsuccessful.

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“The criticisms are easy, the difficult thing is to be here directing a pandemic that nobody asked for,” Sucre said.

Panama, with 4.2 million inhabitants, has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Central America, with more than 327,000 cases and 5,506 deaths.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: President Andres Manuel of Mexico speaks on his health.

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The left-wing populist, who has a history of heart problems and hypertension, announced on January 24 that he was undergoing treatment for the coronavirus.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that he had overcome the coronavirus as he resumed his daily news conference after more than two weeks in isolation.

“I thank all Mexicans, men and women, who worried about my illness because of my Covid infection. Fortunately, I got through it,” said the 67-year-old, who as usual wore no mask.

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“We are back on our feet and fighting,” he told reporters gathered at the National Palace.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during his daily press conference at the Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City, on February 8, 2021. – Lopez Obrador resumed his official activities at his morning conference on Monday after recovering from COVID-19, which was diagnosed on January 24. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP)

The left-wing populist, who has a history of heart problems and hypertension, announced on January 24 that he was undergoing treatment for the coronavirus.

Last Thursday Lopez Obrador said that he had tested negative for Covid-19 and was awaiting the results of further testing to confirm he no longer had the virus.

According to the government’s brief updates on his condition, he had experienced brief episodes of low-grade fever and a slight headache.

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The Mexican leader has been criticized for refusing to wear a mask except on rare occasions and accused by critics of downplaying the risks of the virus early in the pandemic.

Mexico has officially registered around 1.9 million coronavirus cases and more than 166,000 deaths, one of the world’s highest fatality tolls.

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#Newsworthy

Tragedy as 11 burnt to ashes in Abuja tanker blast.

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Eight men and two women who sustained burns have been rushed to the hospital for further treatment.

About eleven people, including three Almajiris, have been killed in an oil tanker explosion.

The explosion happened in the Gawu area of Abaji Local Government Area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The incident happened on Sunday when a tanker was trying to avoid colliding with a truck.

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After noticing that the oil was leaking, some residents of the area came out with jerry cans and buckets to loot.

The leaking fuel caught fire and killed three Almajirai and eight others, including a woman.”

The Federal Road Safety Commission’s (FRSC) commandant in Abuja, Wobin Gora, confirmed the incident.

He confirmed that 11 people were burnt to death, while 10 others sustained injuries.

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” Eight men and two women who sustained burns have been rushed to the hospital for further treatment.

Eleven were burnt to death due to the explosion,” Gora said.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: EU asks for donation of vaccines to Ukraine.

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Ukraine’s 43-year-old leader, who experienced mild symptoms of the coronavirus last year, said he was ready to get inoculated to encourage others to do the same.

The European Commission chief said on Monday she had called on EU member states to donate some of their coronavirus jabs to Ukraine, which is trying to launch a vaccination campaign.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has faced criticism at home for failing to source Western-made jabs and has called on the EU to help Ukraine source vaccines.

Zelensky said on Monday that Ukraine, one of the poorest countries in Europe, would begin the first phase of the vaccination campaign later this month.

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The country of some 40 million is awaiting delivery of eight million doses promised under the United Nations Covax programme and up to five million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac jab.

“On top of Covax, I have also asked our member states to donate part of their doses to Ukraine,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a video address at a conference held in Ukraine’s capital Kiev.

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“Thanks to Covax, Ukraine’s doctors and nurses will receive the first vaccines already this month,” she said, adding that “millions of other doses will reach Ukraine by the summer”.

Ukraine has not registered any vaccine so far and Zelensky has rejected calls from pro-Moscow politicians to approve Russia’s Sputnik V jab.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 12, 2019 President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen arrives for a European Union Summit at the Europa building in Brussels. – The EU commission chief has defended the slower Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the bloc as a “good decision”, saying the European Union would not put the safety of citizens at risk, in an interview published on February 2, 2021. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

Last week, the post-Soviet country said it had also secured 12 million doses of vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Novavax.

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The total amount of the already secured doses is not enough to meet the needs of the country, however.

Speaking at the same conference on Monday, Zelensky also pointed to Ukrainians’ “mistrust” of vaccines, saying a “large part of the population” did not want to get vaccinated.

According to a recent poll conducted by the non-government Rating Group, more than half of Ukrainians said they were not ready to get inoculated, even for free.

Ukraine’s 43-year-old leader, who experienced mild symptoms of the coronavirus last year, said he was ready to get inoculated to encourage others to do the same.

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“As a majority of world leaders, I am ready to show people by personal example that vaccination is important, it is safe, it is needed,” said Zelensky.

With its run-down health system, Ukraine has recorded over 1.2 million cases and more than 23,000 deaths.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: WHO discuss AstraZeneca vaccine.

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The four-and-a-half-hour meeting was due to wrap up with a presentation of the remaining draft recommendations.

The World Health Organization’s vaccine experts were deciding Monday on their usage recommendations for the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine — including for older adults.

The 15-member Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) was spending the day in a virtual extraordinary meeting discussing the two-shot vaccine.

The WHO said the recommendations on who it should and should not be used for would be made public later this week.

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The regulatory authorities in several European nations have not authorised the vaccine for use among the over-65s — by far the most vulnerable age group for serious Covid-19 disease.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. – President Donald Trump said May 29, 2020, he was breaking off US ties with the World Health Organization, which he says failed to do enough to combat the initial spread of the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

According to the SAGE meeting’s agenda, “assessment of the critical evidence, including data and draft recommendations related to vaccine use in older adults” will form a key part of Monday’s talks.

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The meeting will also discuss recent evidence on new coronavirus variants of concern.

South Africa said Sunday it would suspend the start of its Covid-19 vaccinations with the AstraZeneca jab after a study showed the drug failed to prevent mild and moderate cases of the virus variant that has appeared in the country.

AstraZeneca to present findings
During Monday’s SAGE meeting, AstraZeneca was due to make a 25-minute presentation about the safety and efficacy data on the jab, also known as AZD1222, plus results from the three phases of human testing, from the first jabs to mass trials.

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The UK-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant was also to discuss risk management plans and other implementation considerations, before facing questions.

The meeting was also to get an outline of ongoing and planned studies.

The SAGE working group was then to present evidence including data and draft recommendations relating to the vaccine’s use in older adults.

The four-and-a-half-hour meeting was due to wrap up with a presentation of the remaining draft recommendations.

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In a separate process, the UN health agency is also set to decide on February 15 whether to give the vaccine emergency use listing for the versions produced in India and South Korea.

If granted, doses from those sites could start to be distributed to some of the world’s poorest countries via Covax, the global vaccine procurement and distribution pool.

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Many low-income countries are relying entirely on the AstraZeneca jab to start immunising their most vulnerable populations, but cannot receive their first doses until the WHO grants emergency authorisation.

SAGE advice
SAGE advises the WHO on overall global policies and strategies, ranging from vaccines and technology, research and development, to delivery of immunisation and its links with other health interventions.

Chaired by Mexican doctor Alejandro Cravioto, the group is comprised of 15 experts from around the world representing a broad range of expertise.

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SAGE has already issued advice on the usage of the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines.

So far, the WHO has only given emergency use listing to the Pfizer jab, though several other manufacturers have started the evaluation process, including AstraZeneca and Moderna.

Covax is almost entirely dependent on the AstraZeneca jab in its first wave of distribution.

Some 145 countries are set to receive 337.2 million doses — enough to immunise 3.3 percent of their collective population by mid-2021. Of those, 336 million are AstraZeneca vials.

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The first Covax deliveries are expected to take place in late February.

However, the AstraZeneca vaccines cannot start being shipped until the WHO signs them off.

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#Newsworthy

Anxiety, Depression befall US youngsters amid pandemic toll.

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Nineteen students have taken their own lives there since March, more than double the number for the same period the previous year.

Anxiety, depression, self-harm and even suicide: a growing number of children in the United States are struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, doctors, teachers, parents and the government are all warning.

Millions of students have been attending school virtually since March last year, spending hours in front of computers, without playing games or chatting with friends in person and missing out on sports and face-to-face art or music classes.

“There’s a lot of loneliness for me and other teens,” said Sarah Frank, an 18-year-old from Florida, who has not left home since March because she lives with relatives considered high-risk if they contract Covid-19.

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“I have days I feel really sad, and a bit hopeless. It feels like a never-ending nightmare,” she told AFP.

Frank co-founded the State of Mind Project in July, a website with mental and physical health tips for teenagers.

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“I missed a lot of a high school experiences that I’ll never get back. I never went to a football game, I never got to go to prom,” she said.

Deanna Caputo is a psychologist and mother of two children who says she sees signs of depression in her 10-year-old son since his class in Arlington, Virginia became virtual in March.

“He’d wake up in the morning and go back to sleep until noon. He was moody. He started saying things like ‘I am not smart, I’m not good at anything,’” said Caputo.

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She says knows of other children even worse off.

“All I hear is about medication starting. They (parents) can’t find therapists,” because of high demand, said Caputo.

Caputo, who is a member of the Arlington Parents for Education association that is actively lobbying for schools to reopen in Arlington County, says schools are being held hostage by teachers’ unions.

A recent CDC report said that schools are safe if proper precautions are taken, such as wearing a mask and social distancing.

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But many teachers’ unions resist going back to classrooms. In Chicago, the mayor ordered elementary schools to reopen but unions refused, demanding vaccinations for all teachers and threatening a strike.

Teenage suicides have been on the rise in the United States for a decade.

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There is no data for 2020 yet but numbers from Clark County in Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, are causing alarm.

Nineteen students have taken their own lives there since March, more than double the number for the same period the previous year.

‘Very worrisome’
Although they cannot be directly linked to the pandemic, authorities were quick to announce that schools would reopen.

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“There’s almost no motivation into wanting to do online school,” said Brandon, a 13-year-old student in Arlington who has had remote-only classes for more than 300 days.

File Photo: Incite | Noble Reporters Media | Adigun Michael Olamide | NoRM News

Susan Duffy, a professor of paediatrics and emergency medicine at Brown University in Rhode Island, said that while coronavirus has been a “medical crisis” for adults it has been a “mental health crisis” for children.

The United States is the only industrialized country that does not have universal health care. In times of national health crisis, the economic fate of those who lack health care is grim at best.

Between March and October last year, hospital visits for mental health emergencies by children aged 12 to 17 increased by 31 percent compared to the same period in 2019, according to the government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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For children aged five to 11, visits increased by 24 percent, the CDC found.

Duffy said she and colleagues at other hospitals around the country are noticing a higher number of suicide attempts among youngsters.

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“We’re seeing more kids with intent to hurt themselves. It’s more associated with actually carrying out suicide attempts, which is very, very worrisome,” she told AFP.

School reopenings vary from district to district. Some 38 percent of schools are remote-learning only compared to 62 percent in September, according to the website Burbio which tracks school calendars.

“Kids have been removed from teachers and caring adults who are outside of their family who often pick up on subtle signs of crisis, and depression and anxiety,” said Duffy.

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The pandemic has killed almost 450,000 people in the United States, the country hit hardest by the outbreak.

Duffy notes that there’s fear of the virus, pain if a family member dies, and economic, food and housing insecurity generated by the pandemic all contributing to children’s trauma.

Stress generated by the pandemic, school closings, unemployment and isolation are increasing the risk of child abuse, the CDC warned.

“When parents lose hope they go into abuse behavior, drinking and physical abuse and emotional abuse,” said Caputo.

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Pediatrician Duffy said some children being bullied would have enjoyed learning via Zoom but that online learning doesn’t fix the underlying cause of their social anxiety.

“Anxiety and depression are still there — and then they’re manifesting themselves in different ways,” she said.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: Canada sees first strain of ‘detected’ Brazilian virus.

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Canada, with a population of more than 38 million, has recorded more than 800,000 coronavirus cases and more than 20,000 deaths.

Health authorities in Toronto announced Sunday that a resident had been diagnosed with the Brazilian variant of Covid-19, marking Canada’s first known case of the mutated virus.

The patient has been hospitalized, Toronto Public Health (TPH) said in a statement. He had recently traveled from Brazil.

TPH also said it had found the first case of the South African coronavirus variant in Canada’s largest city, though the strain had previously been detected elsewhere in the country.

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“Scientists and medical professionals are concerned that these variants are more transmissible than the original coronavirus,” TPH said.

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 29, 2020 shows an engineer holding a plastic model of the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Quality Control Laboratory at the Sinovac Biotech facilities in Beijing. – Sinovac Biotech is conducting one of the five clinical trials of potential vaccines that have been authorised in China. China would make any coronavirus vaccine it developed a “global public good” once it was put into use, President Xi Jinping told the World Health Assembly on May 18, 2020. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP)

The resident with the South African strain had no recent travel history and no known contact with any recently returned travellers, TPH added.

The Brazilian variant has been blamed for a disastrous surge in infections in the Brazilian city of Manaus.

It has already been spotted in Europe, as well as Colombia and the United States.

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Toronto health authorities have now detected 27 confirmed “variant of concern” cases in the city of about 3 million people.

Canada, with a population of more than 38 million, has recorded more than 800,000 coronavirus cases and more than 20,000 deaths.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Nigeria registers 506 new cases.

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The NCDC said that a multi-sectoral national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), activated at Level 3, is coordinating response activities nationwide.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has recorded 506 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 139,748.

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The NCDC disclosed this on its official Twitter handle on Sunday.

Noble Reporters Media reports that Nigeria recorded a sharp drop in COVID-19 cases against 1,588 on Feb. 6

The health agency said that 20 deaths were, however, recorded, pushing the casualty figure from 1,647 to 1,667, in the last 24 hours in the country.

It said that the 506 new infections were reported from 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

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NCDC stated that Ondo state led the chart with 90 new infections on Sunday, followed by Kwara 89 and River 53.

It said that 968 COVID-19 patients successfully treated were discharged from isolation centres across the country.

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Other people discharged included 360 community recoveries in Lagos State, 138 in Osun State, 121 in Plateau State, 89 in Imo State and 38 in Kano State managed in line with its guidelines.

The NCDC said that a multi-sectoral national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), activated at Level 3, is coordinating response activities nationwide.

Meanwhile, the agency has recommended the following precautions to avoid infection with the COVID-19 virus:

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“Avoid close contact. This means avoiding close contact within about six feet, or two meters with anyone who is sick or has symptoms. Also, keep a distance between yourself and others. This is especially important if you have a higher risk of serious illness.

“Wear cloth face coverings in public places. Cloth face coverings offer extra protection in places such as the grocery store, where it is difficult to avoid close contact with others. Surgical masks may be used if available. N95 respirators should be reserved for health care providers.

“Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.

”Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily.

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“Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick unless you’re going to get medical care. Avoid public transportation, taxis and ride-sharing if you’re sick.

If you have a chronic medical condition and may have a higher risk of serious illness, check with your doctor about other ways to protect yourself,” it advised.

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#Newsworthy

DR Congo announces Ebola resurgence.

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We have another episode of the Ebola virus in the east,” in the North Kivu province..

Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday announced a “resurgence” of Ebola in the country’s troubled east after a woman died of the disease, just three months after authorities declared the end of a previous epidemic.

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“We have another episode of the Ebola virus in the east,” in the North Kivu province, Health Minister Eteni Longondo told state television RTNC.

“It was a farmer, the wife of a survivor of Ebola, who showed typical signs of the disease on February 1,” he said, adding that she died on February 3.

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#Newsworthy