UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has announced a new national lockdown until at least mid-February to combat a fast-spreading new variant of the coronavirus.
According to Johnson the move was necessary to aid the containing of the disease variant, even as Britain ramped up its vaccination program by becoming the first nation to start using the vaccine developed by Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca.
Johnson on Monday, January 4, said people must stay at home again, as they were ordered to do so in the first wave of the pandemic in March.
“As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic,” he said.
Johnson said there were “tough, tough” weeks to come in the fight against COVID-19.
Under the new rules, which are set to come into effect now, primary and secondary schools and colleges will be closed for face to face learning except for the children of key workers. University students will not be returning until at least mid-February.
All nonessential shops and personal care services like hairdressers will be closed, and restaurants can only operate takeout services.
As of Monday, there were 26,626 COVID patients in hospitals in England, an increase of more than 30% from a week ago. That is 40% above the highest level of the first wave in the spring.
On Monday, they reported 407 virus-related deaths in the UK to push the confirmed death toll total to 75,431, one of the worst in Europe.
The U.K.’s chief medical officers warned that without further action, “there is a material risk of the National Health Service in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.”
Today also,, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon also imposed a lockdown until the end of January.
Beginning Tuesday, people in Scotland will be required to stay at home except for essential reasons, to help ease the pressure on hospitals and intensive care units, Sturgeon said.
NPHCDA to address infrastructural gaps in COVID-19 vaccine supply
The Minister disclosed that the NPHCDA is currently assessing gaps related to challenges in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine.
The Federal Government stated that the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) with its partners, is working to fix healthcare value chain roadblocks that may affect the fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.
This was disclosed on Tuesday in Abuja by the Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, at the daily Presidential Task Force briefing on Covid-19.
The Minister disclosed that the agency is currently assessing gaps related to distribution challenges. He said,
- “In terms of vaccines, the lead agency, NPHCDA, working with partners, is currently assessing the infrastructural gaps in terms of logistics for cold chain maintenance, storage, supply and distribution. We are also working with the Aviation Ministry to ensure strict enforcement of COVID-19 protocols at the local and international wings of airports across the country, taking cognisance of the high transmissibility of the new strain of the virus already confirmed in many countries.
- “Particular attention in this regard is therefore being focused on passengers arriving from the UK and South Africa. We appeal to all states to increase testing to enable us to know exactly where we are. This will enable us to put in place measures to check transmission and provide treatment for patients.”
The Minister added that the FG is also working to ensure the availability of oxygen tanks in hospitals.
- “The Federal Government has been making spirited efforts at ensuring availability of oxygen on a short term basis through collaboration with CACOVID, while pursuing the process for nationwide equitable and sustainable oxygen availability at federal tertiary hospitals as well as state-owned hospitals.
- “It is important to state that the ultimate plan in terms of medical oxygen supply is based on systematic oxygen assessment and gaps identification in the country, bordering on severe disequilibrium, uneven storage/demand ratio, distribution logistics challenges and equipment and plant dilapidation.
- “Our oxygen availability intervention plan is targeted at immediate, medium and long-term plans with special attention to COVID-19 high burden areas such as FCT, Lagos and Kaduna.”
What you should know
- It was reported last month that the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) disclosed that the Health Sector Next Level Agenda will boost primary healthcare in Nigeria and also catch up with healthcare-related gaps by as much as 60% through the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, also stated that Nigeria is ready for its Covid-19 vaccination strategy, revealing that the FG plans to acquire vaccines valued at N400 billion.
Second Wave: 1,354 new cases of Coronavirus recorded in Nigeria
Nigeria records 1,354 new cases of covid-19 on Tuesday, 5th January 2021
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Tuesday January 5, announced that 1,354 new cases of Coronavirus were recorded in Nigeria.
The health agency gave a breakdown of the new cases as follows; Lagos-712, FCT-145, Plateau-117, Kwara-81, Kaduna-54, Sokoto-39, Oyo-38, Rivers-37, Gombe-21, Enugu-20, Akwa Ibom-16, Bauchi-14, Delta-14, Ebonyi-13, Anambra-9, Taraba-8, Edo-8, Kano-3, Osun-2, Ekiti-2, Ogun-1.
There are now 92,705 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the country and 1,319 deaths have been recorded. 76,396 patients who recovered from the disease have also been discharged.
Since December 2020, Nigeria has continued to record significant increases in the number of new cases of the pandemic, which has pushed Nigeria into the second wave of the pandemic.
- So far in January, the average monthly cases jumped by 59% from an average of 645 cases recorded in December 2020 to 1,025 average cases in January.
- It also represents 553.7% increase compared to the average of 157 cases recorded in November 2020.
- According to data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, a total of 21,135 tests were carried out on Tuesday, bringing the total tests to-date to 980,046. The number of recorded cases today represents a 6.4% rate of positivity tests.
UK scientists worry vaccines may not work on South African Covid-19 strain
Scientists in the UK are worried that newly developed Covid-19 vaccines may not be able to protect against new strain of the virus.
UK scientists are worried that the Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out in Britain may not be able to protect against a new strain of the coronavirus that emerged in South Africa and has spread to other parts of the globe, according to Reuters.
The British Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, while citing a conversation he had with his South African counterpart, said he was very worried about the variant discovered in South Africa as he believes that it is more of a problem than the UK variant.
The new strain of the coronavirus in South Africa is driving a surge in Covid-19 cases in the country, and just like the strain in the UK, it appears to be more infectious than the previous mutations.
What the Scientists are saying
Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said that while both variants had some new features in common, the one found in South Africa has a number of additional mutations, which are concerning.
Going further, he said, ‘’These included more extensive alterations to a key part of the virus known as the spike protein – which the virus uses to infect human cells – and may make the virus less susceptible to the immune response triggered by the vaccines.’’
Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at Warwick University, also noted that the South African variant has “multiple spike mutations”.
He said, “The accumulation of more spike mutations in the South African variant are more of a concern and could lead to some escape from immune protection.’’
However, the South African Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, said last month that there is no evidence that the South African variant is more transmissible or causes more severe disease than the U.K. variant. He pointed out that 2 variants developed independently, and there’s evidence that the U.K. strain predates the South African one.
Scientists including BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin and John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said they are testing the vaccines against the new variants and could possibly make any required changes in around six weeks.
Public Health England said there was currently little or no evidence to suggest Covid-19 vaccines would not protect against the mutated virus variants.
The world’s richest countries have started vaccinating their populations to safeguard against a disease that has killed 1.8 million people and crushed the global economy.
What you should know
- It can be recalled that a new strain of the coronavirus disease which spreads faster was detected in the UK and South Africa, spreading to other countries.
- The UK government also announced new travel restrictions on passengers coming from South Africa with effect from December 24, to protect public health due to a reported outbreak of Covid-19, with a variant strain spreading in some provinces.
- The easing of restrictions in South Africa, several months ago, has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in the country, and a second wave is now coinciding with the summer holidays.
- Scientists say both the South African and UK variants are associated with a higher viral load, meaning a greater concentration of virus particles in patients’ bodies, possibly contributing to increased transmission.