Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said Friday that President John Magufuli was “strong and working hard as usual”, dismissing fears he was ill after an extended public absence.
Magufuli has not been seen in public since February 27 and has failed to make an appearance even to appease days of rumours he is gravely ill with Covid-19, which have caused panic on social media.
“I want to assure Tanzanians that your president is strong and working hard as usual. You should not worry,” Majaliwa told a mosque in the southern region of Njombe, in a video posted online.
“I even talked with him this morning about my trip in Njombe and he told me to greet you on his behalf. I talked with him on phone from Dar es Salaam and I was in Dodoma,” said Majaliwa.
The comments are the first direct rebuttal of rumours that Magufuli is ill.
Tanzania’s information minister and justice minister have this week only threatened those spreading rumours with jail time, without directly addressing the concerns.
The main opposition party Chadema on Friday again called for an explanation on where the president is.
“We are forced to ask this since the president appeared in public some two weeks ago and no official statement has been issued after media reports that he was hospitalised. We have the right to know this,” said Chadema secretary-general John Mnyika at a press briefing.
Chadema’s opposition candidate in presidential elections last year, Tundu Lissu, wrote on Twitter earlier this week that “the president’s wellbeing is a matter of grave public concern”.
He says his sources indicate Magufuli has been flown to India for health reasons, while a newspaper in Kenya said he was hospitalised in Nairobi.
None of these reports have been confirmed.
Magufuli insisted for months that Covid-19 had been fended off by prayer, refusing measures such as masks and lockdowns. But last month he conceded it was still circulating after the vice-president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar was revealed to have died of the virus.
Several Tanzanian officials have died recently, while the finance minister appeared last month coughing and gasping at a press conference outside a hospital to dispel rumours he had died of Covid-19.
Tanzania stopped releasing data on Covid-19 in April 2020 and in January Magufuli said vaccines for the disease were “dangerous”.
The Nigerian Government Saturday said the reports claiming it budgeted N10.6 billion to transport COVID-19 vaccine to the 36 states and the 774 local government areas as well as the Federal Capital Territory are not true.
Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, dismissed the reports after a ceremony, where President Muhammadu Buhari joined by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Saturday in Abuja received the first doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
President Buhari and Prof Osinbajo received the jab publicly, a day after the COVID-19 national vaccine programme commenced with the vaccination of healthcare and frontline workers at the National Hospital, Abuja.
Shuaib explained that Private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), have already undertaken to distribute the vaccines to states at no cost the government.
“I mean, I’m hearing this from you for the first time. It doesn’t make any sense that on the one hand, we’ve communicated very clearly to Nigerians that the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), a private sector initiative, has provided a cargo plane that will help deliver the vaccines from Abuja to all states that have functional airports.
“For those that do not have functional airports, there is a delivery van that will convey the vaccines from those airports to the states without functionality.
“I do not see how that is going to cost N10 billion. So there is no truth in that information.
“The truth is what I have told you, which is that CACOVID has taken up the responsibility of delivering the vaccines from Abuja to the states. The only cost we’re going to incur is the cost of delivering the vaccines from any airport to nearby states that don’t have functional airports. Clearly that cannot be N10.6 billion.”
Asked to reveal the actual cost, he said “you can do the math on the back of an envelope and you know that it cannot be anything close to a billion naira right.
“So I believe that CACOVID has already identified that cost as something they are going to take off. I do not know how much it’s going to cost them, but that is something that they have already identified as a cost they will bear and we’re working together with them.
“So it is not correct to say that the federal government is going to be expending N10.6 billion to transport vaccines to the state. That is incredulous.”
Concerning the latest development on the 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines, the NPHCDA boss said, “what happened was that there was a committee that met at global level, and took the decision that it made more sense for Nigeria to get 16 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines rather than 100,000 doses of Pfizer.
“Hundred thousand doses of Pfizer is a drop in the ocean and given that the AstraZeneca vaccine is more suited to our cold chain environments; from +2 to +8 °C. Not only do we have the necessary coldchain equipment, but also our health workers have the capacity to manage vaccines of that temperature. So it just makes sense that we should get vaccines that are more suited to Nigeria.”
The Federal Government of Nigeria has insisted that the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccines currently in the country have not been allotted to rich Nigerians.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this while featuring on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ programme on Wednesday.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari has made it clear that the COVID-19 vaccines are meant for all Nigerians.
Nigeria, on Tuesday, received 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and shipped via the COVAX facility.
According to Shuaib, “We’re protecting the vaccines very closely. We have increased security around the vaccines to make sure that unauthorised access is not possible.
“So, we are waiting for NAFDAC. We feel that they’re going to do all of the checks that are necessary, and once they give us the green light, we will be ready to roll out the vaccines.”
When asked if the vaccines have been shared among influential people in the country, Shuaib added, “I will tell you categorically that we haven’t allotted these vaccines to the rich people or to the people in the urban areas, absolutely not. Mr President (Buhari) has been very clear.
“Mr Vice President (Osinbajo) has also added his voice, and the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (Boss Mustapha) has communicated this at the Presidential Task Force media briefings.”
The Zimbabwean has government refuted media reports that it had barred the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF from participating in the country’s COVID-19 programs.
In a statement issued through the Ministry of Health and Child Care late Friday, the government dismissed the report carried out in a local weekly newspaper on Friday as malicious and intended to cause alarm among citizens.
“In addition, the ministry wishes to put it on record that no communication suspending either or both WHO and UNICEF, nor any other partners from participating in the national effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19 was ever made,” the government said.
It also came at the same time a blog whose contents have since been fact-checked as mere fabrication had said that WHO sources had warned Zimbabwe against the use of the vaccine.
In separate interviews with state media, the two United Nations agencies also dismissed the report and said they enjoyed cordial relations with the government. WHO country representative Alex Gasasira told The Herald newspaper on Friday that Zimbabwe was one of the leading countries in following science and the prescribed guidelines in response to the pandemic.
“Our relationship with the Government of Zimbabwe is a very professional relationship. As you may recall at different stages of this response, even before COVID-19 in all areas of health, the Government has really closely followed the guidance that WHO has been providing to member States.
UNICEF Zimbabwe representative Laylee Moshiri also denied that her organization had been suspended from participating in COVID-19 programs.
The management of Osun State University, UNIOSUN teaching hospital has denied a report that hoodlums invaded the hospital last week to retrieve the corpse of a patient who died of COVID-19.
The report said the family of a deceased COVID-19 patient invited hoodlums to carry their corpses from the hospital without obeying NCDC guidelines.
There were reports on Tuesday that hoodlums attacked the hospital and allegedly unplugged the life-support machines of some patients in the Accident and Emergency Unit.
A statement by the Public Relations Officer, Ayodele Adeyemo, on Sunday confirmed that two patients who were admitted to the Holding Bay died before the result of their COVID-19 test was released.
The result which came after their death confirmed that the patients died of Coronavirus.
Speaking on the incident, Adeyemo said, “The relations of the patients wanted to collect the corpses immediately but were told that the NCDC protocols guiding the release of COVID-19 dead victims must be followed.
“This did not go well with the victim’s relations and friends who became restive and destructive. Security agents later intervened and the situation was eventually brought under control with the relations agreeing with the guidelines.”
While condemning the actions of the relations, he denounced the rumour peddled by “ill-informed miscreants”, saying “it was not true that life-support machines of some patients in the Accident and Emergency section of the hospital were removed.”
Adeyemo further noted that patients who die from COVID infection must be buried by the COVID team to avoid spread and infection of other members of the public.
He implored Osun citizens and residents to remain safe and take responsibility for their wellbeing by complying with all COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
“The management of UNIOSUN TEACHING HOSPITAL Osogbo wishes to assure the general public and all our patients that the hospital will strictly adhere to all COVID-19 protocols in accepting and managing its patients,” he added.
The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulomboo, made the clarification during a joint press conference with the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, on Saturday.
According to WHO, Nigeria has received the largest allocation with 16 million doses out of the 88 million AstraZeneca doses allocated to Africa for the first phase.
Mulomboo said, “WHO has not disqualified any country in Africa from accessing COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, but rather is supporting all countries to access vaccines as quickly as possible.
“Currently, all countries on the continent are expected to start accessing the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines by the end of February. The vaccine is under review by WHO for Emergency Use Listing and the outcome is expected soon. Of the 88 million AstraZeneca doses allocated to African countries for the first phase, Nigeria has received by far the largest allocation, with 16 million doses.
“In addition to the Astra Zeneca doses, there is an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine available through COVAX. Demand for the initial allocation of 1.2 million Pfizer doses was exceptionally high. COVAX received interest from 72 countries around the world, of which 51 countries were considered by the review committee as “ready” (Nigeria was among these countries) and 18 countries in total were finally chosen to receive initial Pfizer doses.
“On the Africa continent, as of the 18 January deadline, COVAX received 13 submissions and a multi-agency committee evaluated the proposals of which 9 were recommended as ready to deploy the Pfizer vaccine including Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, it was not feasible to provide each of these 51 countries with Pfizer doses, due to a number of factors including the limited capacity for Pfizer to handle many countries at once. Therefore, spreading the limited doses across all the 51 countries deemed ‘ready’ could have not achieved the intended public health benefit.
“After epidemiological data was taken into account, the decision was taken to proportionally balance the number of self-financing and AMC Participants as well as Participants across all 6 WHO regions.”
The Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Kaduna State Command, has said there is no COVID-19 infection in Kaduna Custodial Centre.
The Command’s Public Relations Officer (CPRO), Mr Daniel Wadai, disclosed this in a statement made available on Saturday in Abuja by the Service Public Relations Officer (SPRO), Mr Francis Enobore.
Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Shiites, had on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, asked the Federal Government to immediately release, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky from custody, after his wife, Zeenah, was reported to have tested positive to COVID-19.
Wadai, however, said there was no report of such incident in any of the facilities, saying that all the inmates were safe and highly protected from the virus.
“The attention of the NCoS, Kaduna State Command, has been drawn to a news item being circulated by some mischief makers alleging that an inmate in one of the custodial centres in the State has contracted COVID-19.”
“This is not true. None of the inmates has contracted the virus,” Wadai said.
He said a visit to any of the correctional facilities in Kaduna State would confirm the strict compliance to COVID-19 preventive measures.
Wadai praised the public for their understanding and support in ensuring that the virus did not spread to the correctional facilities.
He said that the command would continue to maintain absolute adherence to safety measures in other to safeguard the inmates and staff, including visitors to the facilities.
Following the announcement of a N10billion support for local production of COVID-19 vaccine by the Federal Government (FG), the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) said it is yet to receive funding to this effect.
The research institute had last week attributed the slow rate of progress in the local research effort aimed at developing anti-COVID-19 vaccines on poor funding.
NIPRD Director-General of NIPRD, Dr Obi Adigwe, while addressing newsmen had stated that efforts to get funding support to this effect was also futile as organizations who could have funded such were unresponsive.
But on Monday, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire announced the release of N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production.
He said the country was exploring options for licensed production in collaboration with recognized institutions, while also considering an option of local production of the vaccines in the country.
However, when the Senior Special Assistant to the NIPRD DG, Dr Abubakar Danraka was contacted to react on the development, he reiterated the DG’s position on funding constraints.
He instead said: “This question is what should be directed to the Federal Ministry of Health.”
According to him, the institute heard of the release on the media.
On his part, the Director of Press, Ministry of Health, Olujimi Oyetomi said he is not allowed to comment on issues bothering on vaccines but directed this reporter to the minister’s aide special for clarification.
Nigeria hopes to get 42 million COVID-19 vaccines to cover one-fifth of its population through the global COVAX scheme.
The batch of vaccines would come as part of Nigeria’s plan to inoculate 40% of the population this year, with another 30% in 2022.
By the end of January, 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected to arrive in Nigeria.
Dr Innocent Vakkai, the Taraba commissioner for Health, on Tuesday, denied local media reports that he embezzled the sum of N1.2 billion COVID-19 funds given to the state by the Federal Government to tackle the virus.
Vakkai, who is also the Chairman, Taraba Technical Committee On COVID -19, refuted the allegations at a media briefing, in Jalingo, saying that the publication was the imagination of the publisher and thus false, with no iota of truth.
He explained that all the monies sent to the state for support and management of COVID-19 were paid directly into the state government’s account and not to the committee or individuals.
“I want to state here categorically that the state technical committee can only apply for funds through the Taraba government account section, we don’t have an account where support funds can be paid into for me to divert.
“If one is to apply for funds, one will first of all state reasons and items, why you need such funds, you also report back to the state government with receipts of your expenditure on how the funds were expended.
“The newspaper accused me of building a gigantic hospital in Abuja and Yola with COVID-19 funds, I want to tell the whole world that it is not true.
“I have no single health care center to my name anywhere in Nigeria, let a alone a big hospital, I will be happy if he can go and point at these structures to anybody or even to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),” Vakkai said.
Vakkai, however, said: “I also want to disclose that we collected a sum of N1 billion from the FG and the money was used to provide Personal Protection equipment for our frontline workers.
”We also used part of it to provide equipment for our two treatment centers at the Specialist Hospital, Jalingo, and General Hospital, Takum.
“We are a 30-man COVID-19 Technical Committee and how can I possibly manipulate these men and bypass the state government account section and divert even more than we have been supported with in the first place,” he said.
In his reaction, Mr Danjuma Adamu, the state Commissioner for information and Orientation, who is also a member of the technical committee, described the news as fake, urging the public to disregard it.
The National Youth Services Corps (NYSC) has denied an allegation in the media that corps members in Jigawa State who tested positive for COVID-19 have been abandoned at the state’s isolation centre.
In a statement, yesterday, the NYSC said: “Management wishes to state emphatically that the story is inaccurate, and does not in any way represent the true position of things concerning either the corps members in reference, or prospective corps members earlier quarantined in other isolation centres for testing positive for COVID-19.
“To put the issues raised in proper perspective, some corps members of the 2020 Batch “A” deployed to Jigawa State, who had to return to the orientation camp to conclude the programme earlier truncated in March this year, arising from the coronavirus pandemic, tested positive for the dreaded virus upon being tested at the camp.
“It is pertinent to state that before admission into any NYSC camp, both the prospective corps members or corps members as the case may be, and camp officials must undergo COVID-19 test.
“Those that tested negative were allowed into the camps, while cases of those that tested positive are handled by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)”.
The scheme noted that Jigawa corps members that tested positive for the virus were taken into the state’s isolation centre for treatment and care.
“It is important to disclose that the NYSC, Jigawa secretariat, Jigawa State government and NCDC have been in constant touch with the corps members on their welfare and care.
“However, there have been agitations from some of them that want to leave the isolation centre to reunite with their families because of the festivities but were turned down until they are certified okay by the NCDC.”
The management appealed to the concerned to be patient, saying all that the NCDC is doing is for their interest and that of other Nigerians.
“For the promotion of balanced and fair reportage, management appeals to the media to always cross check issues of this nature with NYSC management, Jigawa State government and the NCDC.,” the statement said.