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New COVID Variant Of ‘Serious Concern’ Detected In South Africa

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A new variant of the coronavirus has been detected in South Africa.

The variant, B.1.1.529, is said to have a high number of mutations, which may be a source of concern in relation to immunity and transmissibility.

Confirming the discovery in a statement on Thursday, the NICD said 22 positive cases of the new variant have so far been detected in the country.

“The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, confirms that through collaborative efforts with private laboratories and the NGS-SA members, a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa,” the statement reads.

“Twenty-two positive cases of variant B.1.1.529 have been recorded in the country following genomic sequencing collaborations between the NICD and private laboratories. In addition, other NGS-SA laboratories are confirming more cases as sequencing results come out.”

According to the statement, Adrian Puren, NICD acting executive director, said it is “not surprising” that a new variant has been detected in South Africa.

“Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date,” Puren said.

The institute said Joe Phaahla, the country’s health minister, confirmed that the new variant has also been detected in Botswana and in Hong Kong.

He said the variant was of “serious concern” and behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it “a major threat”.

Michelle Groome, head of the division of public health surveillance and response at the NICD, also said provincial health authorities remain on high alert and are prioritizing the sequencing of COVID-19 positive samples.

“This means that individuals should get vaccinated, wear masks, practice healthy hand hygiene, maintain social distancing, and gather in well-ventilated spaces. Individual compliance to preventative measures can have a great collective impact in limiting the spread of the new variant,” she added.

As of September 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had identified five COVID variants — Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Mu.

While it is not unexpected that there will be more variants of the coronavirus, prior to the detection of the B.1.1. 529, the Delta variant had been linked to a high infection rate.

The Delta COVID variant was confirmed in Nigeria in July 2021, and is currently the most dominant strain in the country.

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UK Imposes Travel Restrictions On Six African Countries As New COVID-19 Variant Emerges

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The UK government has imposed temporary travel restrictions on six African countries following the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa.

A new variant of the coronavirus, B.1.1.529, was discovered in South Africa three days ago and 59 cases have been confirmed in South Africa, Hong Kong, and Botswana.

Although the variant is yet to be detected in the UK, it has gone ahead to announce that travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini, will not be allowed into their shores from 12:00 GMT Friday (1 p.m. Nigerian time).

According to Sajid Javid, the UK health secretary, “the UK Health Security Agency is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now.”

“From noon tomorrow, November 26, six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travellers must quarantine.”

Experts have said that the B.1.1.529 variant could be the most lethal and worrying yet. This is because of its “awful spike mutation profile”, which scientists fear could help it evade immunity. Early reports suggest it is capable of reducing vaccine efficiency to just 30 percent.

“The first indications we have of this variant are that it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and that the vaccines we currently have may be less effective,” Mr Javid said.

According to him, British scientists are “very concerned” by this variant.

“We will ask anyone arriving from these countries from 4 a.m. on Sunday to quarantine themselves in hotels,” Mr Javid said, adding that those arriving before that date will have to self-isolate and do two PCR tests on the second and eighth day of their confinement.

“And if someone has arrived from these countries in the last ten days, we will ask them to do PCR tests,” he added.

The WHO will hold a special meeting following the emergence of this new variant.

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Chidinma Sold Ataga’s Laptop To Me For N495,000 —– Computer Village Businessman

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A businessman, Mr Ifeoluwa Oluwo, has narrated how the laptop of the murdered Chief Executive Officer of Super TV, Michael Ataga, was sold to him for N495,000 by Chidinma Ojukwu two days after Ataga’s body was found.

Chidinma, a 300-level Mass Communication student of the University of Lagos, was accused of killing Ataga.

The undergraduate and two others, Adedapo Quadri and Chioma Egbuchu, are undergoing trial before Justice Yetunde Adesanya of the Lagos State High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos State.

At the resumed hearing on Thursday, Oluwo, the third prosecution witness, was led in evidence by the Lagos State prosecuting counsel, Mr Yusuf Sule.

Oluwo said he sells phones, laptops, and accessories at Computer Village, Ikeja, Lagos, and has been in the business for five years.

According to him, after seeing Chidinma on social media after the sale of the laptop, he immediately ensured that all her documents were kept handy.

The witness identified Chidinma as a customer who had purchased a phone on April 30 and also sold a laptop on June 18, at the same office.

Oluwo said, “On June 18, Chidinma sold me a MacBook Pro laptop for N495,000 after negotiations and market value comparison. In order to make a sale, you have to submit some documents and fill a form with your government identification card, driving license, international passport, voters’ card, and National Identification Number.

“You also have to fill a form which includes email, phone number, house address, and full name. It will also contain the full value of the item for that day, the name of the item, and the serial number of the item.

“This is what we do to contact a customer if there are any issues.

“I asked Chidinma to unlock the laptop and she did. So, I conducted my internal observation which included speed performance, the circle count of the battery, and general functionality.

“After that, I proceeded to ask questions, ‘Do you have a receipt for this laptop?’

“She stated that it was a gift from her boyfriend and that she had two laptops and needed to sell one to pay some bills.

“I conducted a check on a website for my market evaluation. I confirmed the value of the laptop. It was $1,000 to $1,200. The exchange rate of dollars at that time was N400 to N450 and she wanted to sell for N600,000. We were able to negotiate for N495,000, which I initiated from my UBA bank account to her Sterling bank account.”

When asked if Chidinma had produced the receipt of the laptop, Oluwo stated that she was not able to provide the receipt as she had insisted that it was a gift from her boyfriend.

“After the sale of the laptop, we saw her face on social media regarding a murder case. A few days later, the police from the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, invited my manager, Olutayo Abayomi.

“When I got to the police station, I discovered that it was in connection to the laptop we bought from Chidinma on June 18.

“We both made a statement detailing how we came about the laptop and how we made the purchase.

“We gave the police the documents of the former owner, which included a copy of her voters’ card, a copy of our form, and all receipts which already have her information regarding the laptop.

“There is no way we can detect that a phone or laptop was a stolen one,” Oluwo said.

During cross-examination, Chidinma’s counsel, Onwuka Egbu, asked if he was shown any documents, receipts, or proof of ownership to show that the laptop was not for the first defendant at Panti but the witness said he was not shown any.

Justice Adesanya adjourned the case till November 29, for the continuation of trial.

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Labour Rejects Proposed Petrol Price Hike By Govt

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Labour yesterday rejected the proposed hike in the pump price of fuel to N340 per litre next year.

It warned that an increase in the price of petrol will lead to hyper-inflation and an astronomical rise in the cost of goods and services.

Besides, the trade union said talks over petrol subsidy with the government was inconclusive.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), in a statement by its President Ayuba Wabba, restated its rejection of deregulation based on an import-driven model.

In a statement titled, ‘Nigerian workers refuse to take the bait,” the congress said, “The contemplation by the government to increase the price of petrol by more than 200 per cent is a perfect recipe for an aggravated pile of hyper-inflation and astronomical increase in the price of goods and services.

“This will open a wide door to unintended social consequences such as degeneration of the current insecurity crises and possibly citizens’ revolt. This is not an outcome that any sane Nigeria wishes for.”

Wabba said the discussion between the Federal Government and the World Bank is a monologue, adding that the NLC would continue to insist on its rejection of deregulation based on an import-driven model.

The NLC President said it was difficult to convince Nigerian workers why the country is the only nation among the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries that could not produce its own refined petroleum products and thus adopts the neo-liberal import production model of refined petroleum products.

He added, “We wish to reiterate our persuasion that the only benefit of deregulation based on the import-driven model is that Nigerian consumers will infinitely continue to pay high prices for refined petroleum products.

“This situation will definitely be compounded by the astronomical devaluation of the naira which currently goes for N560 to US dollars in the parallel market. Thus, any attempt to compare the price of petrol in Nigeria to other countries would be set on a faulty premise as it would be akin to comparing apples to mangoes.”

“We wish to warn that the bait by the government to pay 40 million Nigerians N5,000 as a palliative to cushion the effect of the astronomical increase in the price of petrol is comical, to say the least.

“The total amount involved in this queer initiative is far more than the money government claims to spend currently on fuel subsidy. Apart from our concerns on the transparency of the disbursement given previous experiences with such schemes, we are wondering if the government is not trying to rob Nigerians to pay Nigerians? Why pay me N5000 and then subject me to perpetual suffering

“Clearly, government thoughts on the so-called removal of fuel subsidy is cloudy and appears to be a “penny wise-pound foolish” gamble. It is clear that the palliative offered by the government will not cure the cancer that will befall the mass of our people who suffer the double jeopardy of hype-inflation while their salaries remain fixed.”

The Senate also faulted plans by the N5,000 to 40 million Nigerians as transportation expenses.

But the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senators Solomon Adeola, told journalists on Wednesday that there was no provision for N5,000 for the said monthly stipend for 40 million Nigerians, in the 2022 budget currently before the National Assembly.

He said the executive would have to bring the proposal to the parliament for approval before it could start its implementation.

He said there is no way the executive would take a unilateral decision on a programme that would gulp N2.4tn without getting the approval of the parliament

He also queried the criteria that the executive would use to determine the beneficiaries of the transportation allowance.

Health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union also cautioned the Federal Government over the proposed increase in fuel prices.

The spokesperson for JOHESU, Olumide Akintayo in an interview with journalists advised the Federal Government to look for other alternatives to solve the issues surrounding the fuel subsidy.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, has revealed that with zero remittance from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company to the federation, the Federal Government can no longer sustain petroleum subsidy costs which are currently about N250bn monthly.

Ahmed disclosed this while briefing State House Correspondents on Wednesday after the week’s Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by the President, Major General MuhammaduBuhari (retd.), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

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