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WHO predicts COVID-19 will end in 2022

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World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, has expressed optimism that COVID-19 pandemic will end in 2022.

Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Wednesday that it was two years ago, as people gathered for New Year’s Eve celebrations, that a new global threat emerged.

Since then, 1.8 million deaths were recorded in 2020 and 3.5 million in 2021, but the actual number is much higher. There are also millions of people dealing with long-term consequences from the virus.

Right now, Delta and Omicron are driving up cases to record numbers, leading to spikes in hospitalisation and deaths.

Ghebreyesus said he was “highly concerned” that the more transmissible Omicron, circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to “a tsunami of cases.”

Earlier in 2020, during meetings of the world’s biggest economies – the G7 and G20 – WHO challenged leaders to vaccinate 40 per cent of their populations by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the middle of 2022.

With only a couple of days left in the year, 92 out of 194 Member States missed the target.

He attributed this to low-income countries receiving a limited supply for most of the year and then subsequent vaccines arriving close to expiry, without key parts, like syringes.

“Forty per cent was doable. It’s not only a moral shame, it cost lives and provided the virus with opportunities to circulate unchecked and mutate,” he said.

WHO chief warned that boosters in rich countries could cause low-income countries to again fall short and called on leaders of wealthy countries and manufacturers to work together to reach the 70 per cent goal by July.

“This is the time to rise above short-term nationalism and protect populations and economies against future variants by ending global vaccine inequity.

“We have 185 days to the finish line of achieving 70 per cent by the start of July 2022. And the clock starts now,” he said

Early on, the director-general acknowledged that beating the new health threat would require science, solutions, and solidarity.

While elaborating on some successes, such as the development of new vaccines, which he said “represent a scientific masterclass”, the WHO official lamented that politics too often triumphed over solidarity.

“Populism, narrow nationalism and hoarding of health tools, including masks, therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines, by a small number of countries undermined equity, and created the ideal conditions for the emergence of new variants,” he said.

Moreover, misinformation and disinformation, have also been “a constant distraction, undermining science and trust in lifesaving health tools”.

He highlighted as a case in point that huge waves of infections have swept Europe and many other countries causing the unvaccinated to die disproportionally.

The unvaccinated are many times more at risk of dying from either variant.

As the pandemic drags on, new variants could become fully resistant to current vaccines or past infection, necessitating vaccine adaptations.

For Ghebreyesus, as any new vaccine update could mean a new supply shortage, it is important to build up local manufacturing supply.

One way to increase production of life-saving tools, he said, is to pool technology, as in the new WHO Bio Hub System, a mechanism to voluntarily share novel biological materials.

He also pointed to the new WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, based in Berlin, Gerrmany.

The WHO chief called for the development of a new accord between nations, saying it would be “a key pillar” of a world better prepared to deal with the next disease.

“I hope to see negotiations move swiftly and leaders to act with ambition,” he said.

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Photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger involved in car crash

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Hollywood actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been involved in a car accident, his spokesman has confirmed.

The four-vehicle crash, which occurred on Friday afternoon, January 21 in Los Angeles left one person with injuries, Los Angeles Police said.

Photos from the scene published by TMZ show a large SUV on top of at least two vehicles at an intersection in Brentwood while the ‘Terminator’ actor can be seen standing nearby.

Police said that no arrest has been made and ruled out the involvement of drugs and alcohol.

Officers did not identify those involved but the actor and former California governor’s spokesman confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that he was driving the SUV when the incident occurred.

A report by police, seen by CBS Los Angeles, said that the SUV driver was “near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Allenford Avenue, when a collision occurred with a red Prius making a u-turn as he continued through a ‘red arrow’ signal to turn left.”

It added that the SUV rolled on top of the Prius and ended up hitting two other vehicles.

One person was taken to hospital by ambulance, but the injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

Schwarzenegger’s spokesman said that the actor was uninjured and had spoken with emergency services and the injured person.

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Governors have no business with removal of fuel subsidy, says Fayemi

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Kayode Fayemi, chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, stated on Thursday that state governors had no say in whether or not to keep the fuel subsidy.

During a news conference following a meeting of the Governors, Mr Fayemi made the remark.

The group “concluded to engage the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress on how best to address this issue without causing any dissension but with a view to recovering the Nigerian economy for the Nigerian people,” according to the Ekiti State Governor.

However, he argued that the decision wasn’t one for the Governors to make.

“For us at the forum, it is a matter that is a going concern. We don’t have a definite issue on it because it is left to the Petroleum Industry Act. It is not for us. NNPC is now a private company and the company should decide what it wants to do with the price of its products. It shouldn’t really be the business of Governors.

“It is not up to sub-nationals to decide on what happens to PMS pricing. It is an entirely exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government.

“However, we are critical stakeholders and we are members of the National Economic Council, so we contribute to debates in the Council.”

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Fuel subsidy removal will cause more hardship for Nigerians, says Abdulsalami

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Former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd.) has warned that the proposed fuel subsidy removal will cause further harm to Nigerians.

Abdulsalami spoke on Thursday at the 19th Daily Trust Summit in Abuja, pointing out that the country is already facing challenges on multiple fronts.

The Buhari administration has made public its plan to stop the payment of fuel subsidy by June 2022.

However, many stakeholders, including the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, feel the move is insensitive and wrongly timed as the citizens are already going through untold hardship.

“Unemployment or underemployment remain at record levels,” General Abdulsalami said, adding “and over 80 million Nigerians are still caught up in needless poverty.

“All of these tend to have negative effects on security.

“In fact, Nigeria now faces a food security crisis that is compounded by the COVID-19 global pandemic and the banditry in many States in Northern Nigeria.

“All of these have disrupted the fragile value chains across the country, and negatively impacted the ability of Nigerians to produce, process and distribute food.

“The result is a continued rise in the prices of food items, beyond the reach of many Nigerian families.

“On top of all these, fuel prices are expected to rise significantly in the coming months as announced last November by the NNPC.

“We all know when this happens, as the government has planned, it will push many millions deeper into poverty.”

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