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Africa steps up Omicron variant detection as COVID-19 cases rise



African countries are stepping up measures to detect and control the spread of the Omicron variant.

This became necessary as weekly new COVID-19 cases in the continent rose by 54 per cent due to an upsurge in southern Africa, said the World Health Organisation in a statement released on Thursday.

According to WHO, the Omicron variant has now been detected in four African countries, namely Botswana, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria, while more than 20 countries have detected the variant to date.

Botswana and South Africa account for 62 per cent of cases reported globally, said the WHO Regional Office for Africa based in Brazzaville, the Congolese capital.

That Omicron variant is expected to be detected in more countries as national authorities step up surveillance and sequencing operations

WHO said this, adding that the detection of the Omicron variant is coinciding with a 54 per cent surge in COVID-19 infections in Africa, mainly due to an uptick in southern Africa.

“The detection and timely reporting of the new variant by Botswana and South Africa has bought the world time. We have a window of opportunity but must act quickly and ramp up detection and prevention measures,’’ warned Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, calling on African nations to adjust their COVID-19 response so as to stop a surge in cases from sweeping across Africa.

Omicron has a high number of mutations (32) in its spike protein, and preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection, when compared with other variants of concern, according to the WHO.

In Africa, vaccination rates remain low, only 102 million people, or 7.5 per cent of the population, were fully vaccinated.

More than 80 per cent of the population still need to receive the first dose, warned WHO, noting that only five African nations have reached the WHO global target for countries to fully vaccinate 40 per cent of their population by the end of 2021.

“The combination of low vaccination rates, the continued spread of the virus, and mutations are a toxic mix.

The Omicron variant is a wake-up call that the COVID-19 threat is real.

However, with improved supplies of vaccines, African countries should widen vaccination coverage to provide greater protection to the population,’’ Moeti said.

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No president will say there won’t be banditry next year — Lai Mohammed



The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has said that no president will say banditry will next year.

Lai Mohammed said this while responding to a question on whether the current security challenges would end before President Muhammadu Buhari leaves office in 2023.

Responding to the question at a press conference on Wednesday December 15, Lai Mohammed said;

“Nobody, I’m not sure any president will say by next year there will be no banditry. It is just like saying by next year, there will be no thief.

“But what is important is that they should judge us by our achievement. We’ve not thrown our hands in the air. There was a time they asked us to hire mercenaries, but our soldiers are doing their best in these circumstances.”

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Buhari jets out Turkey for summit



President Muhammadu Buhari will on Thursday leave Abuja for Istanbul, Turkey, to attend the third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit, hosted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Republic of Turkey.

According to the organisers, the theme of the Summit is ‘‘Enhanced Partnership for Common Development and Prosperity’’ and the agenda includes reviewing the cooperation between African countries and Turkey since the last Summit in 2014.

This was disclosed in a statement by Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, on Thursday morning.

The third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit is coming on the heels of President Erdogan’s recent State visit to Nigeria during which several agreements in the fields of energy, defence industry, mining and hydrocarbons were signed to expand existing bilateral ties.

The Turkish leader had during the visit to Nigeria, affirmed his commitment to immediately expand the volume of trade between the two countries to 5 billion dollars and the Nigerian delegation will seize the opportunity of the gathering in Istanbul to enhance cooperation with other partners for more trade and investment opportunities in the country.

It is expected that the Summit would provide guidelines and direction for cooperation with African countries for the next five years.

President Buhari will be accompanied on the trip by his wife, Aisha Buhari; the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Defence, Maj-Gen. Bashir Magashi (Rtd); FCT, Mohammed Bello; Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Agriculture, Mohammed Abubakar; Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo; the National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd); and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.

The President is expected back in Abuja on Sunday, December 19.

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2023 presidency: I’m not going to turn it down – Tinubu



The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has said he will not turn down the calls of those asking him to contest for president in 2023.

Tinubu stated this after a meeting with leaders of the Northern Alliance Committee in Abuja on Tuesday.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, the former Governor of Lagos said he would, however, make consultations before officially announcing a decision on the matter.

“I’m not going to turn them down but I will still effectively and widely consult, particularly brainstorm with my friends and find a date to come out openly to tell Nigerians.

“But the president is still in office. I don’t want to distract him from all the challenges that he might face today.

“So, don’t muddle the political water. Consult, make our programme known to the people later,” Tinubu said.

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