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Europe hits highest weekly COVID-19 cases since pandemic began– WHO

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Almost two million cases of COVID-19 were reported in Europe last week, the most in a single week in that region since the pandemic started, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Almost 27,000 deaths were reported in the continent last week, more than half of all COVID-19 deaths globally.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, explained that the virus was not only surging in countries with lower vaccination rates in Eastern Europe, but also in nations with some of the world’s highest vaccination rates in Western Europe.

“It’s another reminder, as we have said again and again, that vaccines do not replace the need for other precautions.

“Vaccines reduce the risk of hospitalisation, severe disease and death, but they do not fully prevent transmission,” he said.

WHO continues to recommend the proportionate use of testing, masks, physical distancing, improved ventilation, and other measures.

“With the right mix of measures, it’s possible for countries to find the balance between keeping transmission down and keeping their societies and economies open.

“No country can simply vaccinate its way out of the pandemic,” Ghebreyesus said.

According to the WHO chief, “it makes no sense” to give boosters to healthy adults, or to vaccinate children, when health workers, older people and other high-risk groups around the world are still waiting for their first dose.

Every day, there are six times more boosters administered globally than primary doses in low-income countries, which he described as “a scandal that must stop now”.

The WHO chief also provided an update on COVAX, the UN-led worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to vaccines.

The tool has now shipped almost 500 million vaccines to 144 countries and territories. And with exception of Eritrea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, all States have begun vaccinating.

“The vast majority of countries are ready to get doses into arms, but they need the doses,” he said.

To reach the target of vaccinating 40 per cent of every country’s population by the end of this year, 550 million doses more are needed – about 10 days’ worth of production.

The pandemic has had effects on other vaccination campaigns, Ghebreyesus explained.

A report by WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released this week, shows that more than 22 million infants missed their first dose of measles vaccine last year – three million more than in 2019 – marking the largest increase in two decades.

A total of 24 measles vaccination campaigns in 23 countries were postponed because of the pandemic, leaving more than 93 million people at risk.

Compared with 2019, however, reported cases decreased by more than 80 per cent.

“But this decrease is cause for concern, not celebration,’’ he said, explaining that measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may have contributed, noting that lab specimens sent for testing were the lowest in a decade.

“The drop in vaccination, combined with weak monitoring, testing and reporting, create the ideal conditions for explosive outbreaks of measles,” he said.

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

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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

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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

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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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