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Nigerian Government Screening 19 Local Firms For COVID-19 Drugs Production, Ask Companies To Submit Samples To NAFDAC

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The Federal Ministry of Health is screening 19 local firms for the production of herbal drugs that can possibly treat or cure COVID-19.

The firms, it was learnt, made many claims ranging from the outright cure for COVID-19 to the treatment of the symptoms.

It was learnt that the 19 firms had met with the leadership of the ministry and the Department of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The firms have, however, been asked to submit their samples to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control out of which three would be picked and recommended for funding.

The Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, confirmed this during a chat with The PUNCH on Monday.

He said a meeting was held with the leadership of NAFDAC, the National Institute for Medical Research, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, and other relevant stakeholders.

Mamora said the ministry asked interested herbal manufacturers to tell the government what their challenges were.

The minister said some of them complained about funding as well as possible theft of their patent. Mamora said concerns over how to identify patients for the trial were also discussed.

He said, “We met with about 19 of them to know what remedies they have in place and to know how we can put them through the processes from listing the medicine to clinical trial and then we wanted to know the challenges they were having.

“They said those challenges essentially were funding and they needed assurances that their intellectual property would be protected and their product or remedy would not be stolen or repackaged by someone else.

“The other challenge is how to go about the clinical trial. Part of that is how they source for patients because they will need patients who are volunteers. These patients have to be volunteers since it is a new product that will be put out there.

“So, we are now in the process of screening the 19 of them and we will shortlist some of them. About three will be shortlisted for further assessment and we will recommend support for them in order to fast track the process of determining their efficacy.”

When asked if the drugs were for the outright cure of COVID-19 or just for the treatment, Mamora said it was too soon to say as discussions were still on.

He said NAFDAC would test the herbal solutions to see if they are safe for human consumption.

WHO suspends chloroquine trial, says Africa’s cases, deaths appear unreal

The World Health Organisation on Monday announced the suspension of clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

The organization’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, disclosed this in his opening remarks at a virtual press conference.

Ghebreyesus attributed the suspension to a recent report on the effect of the drug on patients.

He said, “As part of our continued response to the pandemic globally, WHO continues to work aggressively on research and development.

“As you know, more than two months ago, we initiated the solidarity trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations against COVID-19.

“Over 400 hospitals in 35 countries are actively recruiting patients and nearly 3,500 patients have been enrolled from 17 countries.

“On Friday, the Lancet published an observational study on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalized.

“The authors reported that among patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate.

“The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries, met on Saturday and has agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally.

“The review will consider data collected so far in the solidarity trial and in particular robust randomized available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug.

“The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the solidarity trial, while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board. The other arms of the trial are continuing.”

The WHO chief stated the concern relating to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19, reiterating that the drugs were accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.

He promised that the organization would provide further updates when there were more developments.

Ghebreyesus noted that the figures of confirmed cases and deaths as a result of the pandemic in Africa did not appear real.

He said, “So far, although around half of the countries in the region have community transmission, concentrated mainly in major cities, Africa is the least affected region globally in terms of the number of cases and deaths reported to WHO.

“Africa has just 1.5 percent of the world’s reported cases of COVID-19, and less than 0.1 percent of the world’s deaths. Of course, these numbers don’t paint the full picture.

“Testing capacity in Africa is still being ramped up and there is a likelihood that some cases may be missed.

“But even so, Africa appears to have so far been spared the scale of outbreaks we have seen in other regions.”

The WHO chief said the early set-up of a leaders coalition led by the African Union, under the chairmanship of President Ramaphosa of South Africa, was key to rapidly accelerate preparedness efforts and issuing comprehensive control measures.

He noted that countries across Africa had garnered a great deal of experience from tackling infectious diseases such as polio, measles, Ebola, yellow fever, influenza, and many more.

He added, “Africa’s knowledge and experience of suppressing infectious diseases have been critical to rapidly scale up an agile response to COVID-19.

“There have been solidarity across the continent. Labs in Senegal and South Africa were some of the first in the world to implement COVID-19 diagnostic testing.

“And beyond that, they worked together with Africa CDC and WHO to extend training for laboratory technicians for detection of COVID-19 and to build up the national capacity across the region.

“Furthermore, health clinicians, scientists, researchers, and academics from across Africa are collectively contributing to the worldwide understanding of COVID-19 disease.

“For many years and from the outset of this pandemic, WHO has been working through our country offices to support nations in health emergency preparedness and developing comprehensive national action plans to prevent, detect and respond to the virus.”

Meanwhile, the Ogun State Government on Monday, said COVID-19 had spread to 16 out of 20 local government areas of the state.

The Commissioner for Health in the state, Dr Tomi Coker, who disclosed in an interview with one of our correspondents, said only four local governments were free of COVID-19 in the state as of Monday afternoon.

The Commissioner, who mentioned three out of four councils that were free of the virus, said she did not remember the fourth one. She said she could not access her diary where the detailed report of the geography was recorded.

The commissioner said, “There are four local government areas that are free of these cases. Both Egbado North and South, Ijebu-Ode, there is one more that I cannot remember now, but, they are four.”

BIG STORY

JUST IN: Ebonyi Governor Tests Positive For COVID-19

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Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus disease.

This was contained in a statement personally signed by him on Saturday.

Details later…

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BIG STORY

Heritage Bank Shuts Branch For Disinfection Over Suspected Coronavirus Case

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Heritage Bank Plc said it has closed down an Experience Centre- EC (branch) at Allen Avenue; Ikeja over the “unconfirmed case” of Coronavirus for deep hygiene clean up after an employee took ill last week.

The bank in a statement made available to the press and customers noted: “in line with our emergency response plan and following regulatory practices, we have taken immediate steps to close down Allen Avenue, Ikeja Experience Centers- EC (branch) for thorough disinfection of the affected location.”

Contrary to rumour, the bank disclosed that whilst the suspected staff awaits her medical test from the Covid-19 Test Centre in Yaba, she had not exhibited any symptoms related to the virus.

“Neither of the suspected person or others in the EC had exhibited any symptoms,” the bank said in the statement.

Specifically, the bank stated that staff were advised to self-isolate for 14days forthwith which was in consonance with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The bank stated that the EC will undergo “thorough disinfection,” further affirmed, “Customers and staff safety remains paramount; hence we will recommence business with a new set of relief employees, as the current staff self-isolate.”

In the interim, the bank advised customers, “please visit other ECs or branches in Ikeja where you can conduct your daily transactions. Otherwise, you can use our alternate e-channels for seamless service deliveries.

“Heritage Bank remains resolute to continually serve you seamlessly despite prohibitions imposed on physical contact through our bouquet of electronic products which have been made available on notable mobile stores and our website (www.hbng.com).”

The bank noted that it would continue to intensify ongoing efforts via its intranet and other channels to keep staff and customers up-to-date with the latest COVID-19 information and provide clear direction and guidance expected of workers and customers.

“We have set up a COVID-19 Support Centre to offer COVID-19 safety tips to all our customers during this period, in support of the efforts of the Government and relevant bodies. Please send any information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic via these channels: E-mail: [email protected] and contact number: 01-2369099,” the bank stated.

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BIG STORY

Hushpuppi Conspired To Defraud Premier League Club Of $124 Million

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United States authorities on Friday said an English Premier League club was among the victims the suspected Nigerian fraudster Igbalode Ramoni Abbas, also known as Hushpuppi, conspired to defraud.

US Department of Justice said Hushpuppi will face criminal charges, alleging he conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams, including schemes targeting a U.S. law firm, a foreign bank and an unnamed English Premier League soccer club.

“Abbas and others further conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from other fraudulent schemes and computer intrusions, including one scheme to steal £100 million (approximately $124 million) from an English Premier League soccer club, the complaint alleges,” the Department of Justice said in a statement on Friday.

Abbas, popularly known as Huspuppi was arrested earlier in June along with Olalekan Jacob Ponle, also known as Woodberry and 10 others.

The 12 suspects were arrested in six simultaneous raids carried out by the e-police unit of the Dubai Police.

The gang was responsible for Dh1.6 billion (about N169 billion) fraud involving over 1.9 million victims. Items worth N15.845 billion (Dh 150 million) were also seized.

13 luxury cars worth N2. 640 billion (Dh 25 million), 21 laptops, 47 smartphones, 15 memory storage devices, 5 external hard drives, and 800, 000 emails of potential victims were also recovered from the gang.

Their arrest in an operation codenamed Fox Hunt 2 came after about four months of painstaking investigations into their activities., during which their social media activities were monitored by the highly trained police unit.

The video posted by the Dubai Media Office said their police were able to track the locations of the suspected fraudsters using their social media activities.

The Dubai Police said the Hushpuppi and his gang specialized in hacking corporate emails and then send fictitious messages to the clients of the companies whose email accounts they have hacked to redirect financial transactions and bank details to their own accounts.

“This was a challenging case, one that spanned international boundaries, traditional financial systems and the digital sphere,” said Jesse Baker, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Los Angles Field Office.

The DoJ affidavit alleges that Abbas and others committed a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019.

DoJ said Abbas and co-conspirators allegedly tricked one of the law firm’s paralegals into wiring money intended for the client’s real estate refinancing to a bank account that was controlled by Abbas and the co-conspirators.

The Dubai Police said he and Woodberry were extradited to the United States this week to face charges of money laundering. If convicted, Hushpuppi would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

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