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FG travel restrictions on 13 countries: A little too late?

As part of efforts in mitigating the spread of the COVID-19, policymakers across the globe are increasingly taking more stringent measures.

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Vaccine, COVID-19: How the tables turned on Europe, FG travel restrictions on 13 countries: A little too late?, Slack founder takes a swipe at Microsoft, says Teams is not a threat https://www.marketwatch.com/story/slack-ceo-the-week-of-march-9-was-the-most-productive-in-our-companys-history-2020-04-13?mod=investing The founder of Slack, Stewart Butterfield, has taken a swipe at rival, Microsoft after Slack gained 2 million in about two weeks, increasing its connected users to 12.5 million in March 2020. Butterfield said Microsoft is no threat to Slack in the team-messaging app market, citing its performance and customer base. Butterfield said Microsoft has been pushing its rival, Teams, with free service for three years, despite this, no Slack enterprise customer has switched to Teams, “Microsoft has made a huge push the past three years with a free service, but can you find a single Slack enterprise customer who has switched to Teams?” “If Microsoft is such a competitive threat to Slack as it says, we would not have grown in sales and $1 million customers,” Butterfield told MarketWatch. He asserted that Slack's wide breadth, with up to 25,000 channels and security features give it a competitive advantage in the market. It took Slack about four years to move from 1 million simultaneously connected users on its platform to reach 10 million on March 10. The team-messaging app later hit 12.5 million on March 25, “The week of March 9 was the most productive in our company’s history,” he said. How both firms performed in March: Both Teams and Slack have both been having an impressive performance in March following the lockdown. The work-from-home caused by the Coronavirus outbreak has fueled the rise in Teams and Slack usage. Microsoft announced that teams recorded 2.7 billion meeting minutes on March 31, a 200 per cent increase from the 900 million recorded mid-March. Meanwhile, its Total video calls saw a 1000 per cent rise in same March. Before March ending, Teams accounted for 32 million on March 11 2020, but now clocks 44 million people on daily basis; a significant growth from the 20 million in November 2019. One of the biggest feat for Teams is Pentagon, which launched a Microsoft-based teleworking service for 4 million employees. Meanwhile, the cumulative number of minutes of active use of Slack during weekdays by all users globally now exceeds 1 billion. It was revealed that the company added 9,000 new paid customers from February 1 to March 25, an 80% increase over the full quarterly total the preceding two quarters. Slack also saw paid subscribers, which includes the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, KPMG and TD Ameritrade AMTD, -4.99 per cent, have climbed to 110,000. Slack experienced a surge in customers that spent more than $1 million annually on its product - the number climbed from 39 year-ago quarter to 70. This reflected in Slack's share, which gained 10 per cent this year, as its fiscal fourth-quarter revenue hit $181.9 million from $122 million a year ago; this is a 49 per cent surged. Scolding Microsoft further, Butterfield said, “I mean, 44 million is an impressive number, but that is out of 200 million Office 365 customers. That’s about a 20% adoption rate.” He added that, “The smaller startup has an advantage against the large, established company because its focus is narrowed on doing one thing better,” Butterfield said.

As part of efforts in mitigating the spread of the COVID-19, policymakers across the globe are increasingly taking more stringent measures, ranging from imposing travel restrictions, shutting down airports as well as closure of borders.

Notably, world powers such as the United States, Russia, China, Germany, United Kingdom and France have all imposed travel restrictions. In Africa, Egypt, South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana and Algeria are amongst the list of countries that have also followed suit with travel ban.

For Nigeria, the Federal Government announced on Wednesday it had restricted entry into the country for travellers from 13 countries (China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the US, Norway, the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands). The restriction is expected to take effect on March 21 and will be in place until further notice. The Federal government also suspended the issuance of visa on arrival to travellers from these countries.

While we applaud the decision of the government, we think it could have been put in place earlier as we understand that travellers from high-risk countries have been coming into the country, which poses a great risk to widespread contamination.

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As of March 19, the country’s National Centre for Disease Control announced that four new cases of the virus had been discovered in the country, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to twelve. Notably, many of the new cases involved nationals who arrived from the USA and the UK.

[READ MORE: Reduction in PMS: A nod to the deregulation of the downstream sector?)

In a related development, we highlight that the National Youth Service Corps on Wednesday also announced the suspension of the ongoing orientation for the 2020 Batch A corps members.

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The Lagos and Ogun state governments have also announced an immediate ban of all high-density gatherings that would bring together 50 or more persons such as social clubs, halls, cinemas, night clubs, restaurants, cafes, and sport arenas. Furthermore, schools in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja have suspended activities for now while several businesses have begun to work from home.

To effectively contain the spread of the virus and prevent a nationwide outbreak, we think the government needs to enhance the capacity of the health workers to detect cases promptly, improve health care facilities at the quarantine centres and work on techniques to better track all persons who have come in contact with those that have tested positive. We understand that about 3,000 persons are being tracked.

Furthermore, we believe the government should take a cue from experiences of other countries by shutting non-essential economic activities for a reasonable period to curtail avenues for sustained spread of the virus. Along with the ban, relief packages should be made available for poor households whose income stream would be affected by the shut down.

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CSL STOCKBROKERS LIMITED CSL Stockbrokers,

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Member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange,

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First City Plaza, 44 Marina,

PO Box 9117,

Lagos State,

NIGERIA.

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Business News

Covid-19: Moscow commences mass vaccination of Sputnik V shot

Moscow has commenced the distribution of Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, through 70 clinics on Saturday, December 5, 2020,

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COVID-19 vaccine from Russia

Moscow has commenced the distribution of Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, through 70 clinics on Saturday, December 5, 2020, marking Russia’s first mass inoculation against the disease that has infected over 2.4 million people in the country.

According to a report from Reuters, while making the disclosure, Moscow city’s coronavirus task force said that the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers because they have the highest risk of exposure to the disease.

The Russian capital, Moscow, which is the epicentre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, reported 7,993 new cases overnight, a sharp increase from 6,868 that was recorded a day earlier and well above the reported daily infection rate of around 700 that was recorded in early September.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, on his personal website, wrote, “Over the first five hours, 5,000 people signed up for the jab – teachers, doctors, social workers, those who are today risking their health and lives the most.”

The age limit for those expected to receive the vaccine is capped at 60 years. It, however, bars people with certain underlying health conditions, pregnant women and those who have had respiratory illnesses for the past two weeks from being vaccinated.

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What you should know

It can be recalled that the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in a televised government meeting, announced the registration of its first Covid-19 vaccine in what was described as a step ahead of any other vaccine development.

The Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, which was developed by Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, in collaboration with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), was certified to be 92% effective in protecting people from the virus infection.

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Russia has developed 2 Covid-19 vaccines namely, Sputnik V which is backed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, and another by Siberia’s Vector Institute, with final trials for both yet to be completed.

Scientists have raised concerns about the safety and speed at which Russia had registered and approved its vaccine, giving the regulatory go-ahead for it and launching mass vaccinations before full trials to test its safety and efficacy had been completed.

The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two injections, with the second dose expected to be given 21 days after the first.

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US House passes reform bill to decriminalize marijuana

US Congress has passed a sweeping legislation that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

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The 116th US Congress passed a reform legislation to decriminalize marijuana and expunge non-violent marijuana-related convictions and prosecution.

The bill, however, moves to legislate H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, under a closed rule.

According to a statement made by the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, the MORE Act is a commonsense bill that will make a tangible difference in the lives of millions of Americans, as it is tied around ideals of racial, economic, and moral justice.

However, the bill still has to pass through the US Senate, but it is likely that the Senate would pass it, given the uncertainties around it and owing to the non-inclusion of a cost estimate in the committee report, according to Clause 3(d) of rule XIII.

However, US representative for the eastern part of Bronx in New York, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, tweeted that 68% of Americans support marijuana legalization.

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This year, South Dakota, Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey joined 11 other states in legalizing it. Yet, the federal government still classifies pot as a dangerous drug. The Senate must listen to the American people and vote on this bill.

Why this matters

The bill, if finally passed by the senate would decriminalize cannabis, and also provide for reinvestment in certain persons adversely impacted by the war on drugs, through the expungement of certain cannabis offenses and for other purposes.

Thus, leading to the delisting of marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and expunge some marijuana convictions for nonviolent criminals.

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The bill would also ban the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions.

What they are saying

The House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, representing parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn said:

There is no reason for cannabis to be classified as a federally scheduled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The MORE Act deschedules cannabis, allowing states to establish their own marijuana regulations and providing medical marijuana access to veterans in need.”

“The MORE Act is a common-sense bill that will make a tangible, real difference in the lives of millions of Americans. I’m proud of this bill centered around ideals of racial, economic, and moral justice.”

“I’m so proud that the MORE Act passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 228 to 164. I introduced this bill to provide restorative justice, modernize America’s cannabis laws, and deliver meaningful investments to America’s communities & small businesses.”

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Co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Earl Blumenauer, representing Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District, while speaking at Capitol Hill during the House session on Friday said:

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We are here because we have failed three generations of Black and Brown young people, whose lives can be ruined or lost, by selective enforcement of these laws.

This Legislation will end that disaster. It’s time for the Congress to step up and do its part”

What you should know

  • Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 15 states and Washington DC, while Medical marijuana is legal in 34 states of the 50 States of the USA.
  • The MORE Act has seen a lot of criticisms by people who believe the bill is an unserious bill, as there is zero interest in moving this bill in the Senate and zero interest in supporting it in either the current administration or the incoming one.
  • Earlier this week, Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, criticized the House for passing the cannabis bill, instead of focusing on a COVID-19 stimulus bill that both parties reportedly have agreed upon.

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Business

US Government removes visa reciprocity fees for Nigerians from December 3

The US government has removed all visa reciprocity fees for Nigerian citizens seeking visas to the US.

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The United States government has announced the removal of all visa reciprocity fees for Nigerian citizens seeking visas to the US with effect from December 3.

This disclosure was made through a statement titled, ‘Update on removal of visa fees for Nigerian citizens by the US Government,’ by the Federal Ministry of Finance on Saturday, December 4, 2020, and signed by the ministry’s Spokesperson, Ferdinand Nwonye.

The Federal Government revealed that this positive development follows the removal of excess visa application, processing and biometric fees for United States citizens applying for Nigerian visas by the Nigerian Government.

The statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry reads, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to inform that the United States Government has removed all visa reciprocity fees for Nigerian citizens seeking visas to the United States.

“The positive development is in line with the removal of excess visa application, processing and biometric fees for the United States citizens applying for Nigerian visas by the Nigerian Government. The United States Government has therefore eliminated reciprocity fees for Nigerian citizens with effect from December 3, 2020.”

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The foreign affairs ministry, in the statement, also advised prospective travellers to the United States to visit www.travel.state.gov for details.

What you should know

  • It can be recalled that in 2019, the Donald Trump administration had imposed the reciprocity fee for all approved non-immigrant visa applications by Nigerians. This fee was charged in addition to visa application fees for only applicants who were issued visas.
  • While imposing the additional reciprocity fees, which ranged from $80 to $303 depending on the class of visa, the US Embassy in Nigeria disclosed that the reciprocity fees were a fallout of unsuccessful talks with the Nigerian government over the reduction of visa fees it charged United States citizens.

 

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