A top government official has revealed that Russia could make available a vaccine for the treatment of the coronavirus disease as early as September. This announcement is coming after Russia had denied that hackers working for the country’s intelligence agency tried to steal sensitive data from researchers in the UK, US and Canada.
The head of the Russian wealth fund, while stating that a deal has been agreed with AstraZeneca to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the pharmaceutical giant and Oxford University, explained that there was no need for Russia to steal vaccine data.
According to the Chief Executive of government-backed Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Kirill Dmitriev, ‘’Russia may be one of the first to produce a vaccine against the backdrop of the billions that are being invested in the U.S. and all the pharma companies working on it. It’s a little bit of a shocking story.” The RDIF is financing one of the country’s efforts to develop a vaccine.’’
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has made finding a vaccine a top priority as the country has recorded more than 750,000 COVID-19 cases. This makes it the fourth-most affected country in the world.
The approach that is being employed by Russia in the race to be the first country to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 would be ignored in other countries. Moscow claims that it will know in just 3 months of trials if its leading candidate works.
Dmitriev’s comments is coming against the backdrop of accusations from U.K., U.S. and Canada, that hackers working with the group APT29, part of Russian military intelligence, had used malware to try to seize vaccine research.
The RDIF boss pointed out that Russia had no need to steal information from rival vaccine developers because it had already signed a deal with AstraZeneca Plc to manufacture the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine at R-Pharm, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Russia. R-Pharma is an RDIF portfolio company.
He said AstraZeneca is transferring the entire technological process and all ingredients for the full reproduction of the vaccine in Russia.
He said, ‘’Everything that is needed to produce the British vaccine has already been transferred to R-Pharm. AstraZeneca has already signed commitments to transfer all production of the British vaccine to R-Pharm.“
Dmitriev had said that Russia’s acquisition of the British developed vaccine was designed to complement and not replace its own home-grown vaccine, that is the one that Moscow is focused on developing. Their home-grown vaccine is set for regulatory approval by next month and will be administered to a large swath of the Russian population.
AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is not clear if they would transfer all the technology needed for Russia to produce the vaccine or if the agreement involves the British pharma giant sending the vaccine seed stock to manufacturers needed to start off production.
Some western countries are not convinced that Russia has the expertise to produce its own vaccine by September.
A pharmaceutical analyst at the research firm GlobalData, Peter Shapiro while sounding cautious said, ‘’We don’t think that’s realistic. Russia like other countries could approve the vaccine for political reasons. The regulatory hurdles in Russia are low.”
He also said that it is not likely that such a vaccine, if approved by Russia, would be accepted by the western countries. He also said that Russia does not have a history of innovative vaccines that can be approved in major markets like the US, Japan and Western Europe
Covid-19: WHO, partners to provide access to 15-minute tests in 133 countries
Some nonprofit organizations in collaboration with WHO are set to make 120 million antigen tests accessible to low and middle-income countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and some nonprofit organizations have agreed to help provide access to 120 million antigen tests to 133 low and middle-income countries that can provide results in 15-30 minutes rather than hours or days.
This will enable expansion of testing, particularly in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers to implement molecular polymerase chain reactions (PCR) tests.
Apart from the WHO, other organizations involved in this milestone agreement announced by the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator include the Bills & Melinda Foundation, the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the Global Fund, Unitaid.
The tests which are developed by Abbott Laboratories and SD Biosensor are highly portable, reliable, and easy to administer, making testing possible in near-person, decentralized healthcare settings.
Both companies’ tests are faster and cheaper than laboratory-based tests, enabling countries to increase the pace of testing, tracing and treating people for COVID-19 at the point of care particularly in areas with under-resourced health systems. The 2 firms are reserving a fifth of their production to countries most in need. The distribution will begin in October.
The agreements between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the test manufacturers, Abbott and SD Biosensor, make available innovative tests that will cost $5 each or less.
The Global Fund is also participating; though further funding is needed. They are committing an initial $50 million to enable countries to purchase the new tests, with the first orders expected to be placed this week.
The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “High-quality rapid tests show us where the virus is hiding, which is key to quickly tracing and isolating contacts and breaking the chains of transmission. The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods.’’
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He said the quicker the coronavirus disease is diagnosed, the faster action can be taken to isolate and treat those with the virus and trace their contacts. The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods.
COVID-19 Update in Nigeria
On the 28th of September 2020, 136 new confirmed cases and 3 deaths were recorded in Nigeria
The spread of novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) in Nigeria continues to record increases as the latest statistics provided by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reveal Nigeria now has 58,460 confirmed cases.
On the 28th of September 2020, 136 new confirmed cases and 3 deaths were recorded in Nigeria, having carried out a total daily test of 1,450 samples across the country.
To date, 58,460 cases have been confirmed, 49,895 cases have been discharged and 1,111 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. A total of 507,006 tests have been carried out as of September 28th, 2020 compared to 505,556 tests a day earlier.
COVID-19 Case Updates- 28th September 2020,
- Total Number of Cases – 58,460
- Total Number Discharged – 49,895
- Total Deaths – 1,111
- Total Tests Carried out – 507,006
According to the NCDC, the 136 new cases were reported from 13 states- Lagos (71), Rivers (23), Plateau (12), Adamawa (6), Oyo (6), Kaduna (5), Abia (3), FCT (3), Katsina (2), Kwara (2), Bauchi (1), Borno (1), Edo (1).
Meanwhile, the latest numbers bring Lagos state total confirmed cases to 19,310, followed by Abuja (5,677), Plateau (3,400), Oyo (3,260), Edo (2,625), Kaduna (2,402), Rivers (2,370), Ogun (1,836), Delta (1,802), Kano (1,737), Ondo (1,631), Enugu (1,289), Ebonyi (1,040), Kwara (1,034), Abia (894), Gombe (864). Katsina (859), Osun (827), Borno (742), and Bauchi (699).
Imo State has recorded 568 cases, Benue (481), Nasarawa (449), Bayelsa (398), Jigawa (325), Ekiti (321), Akwa Ibom (288), Niger (259), Adamawa (240), Anambra (237), Sokoto (162), Taraba (95), Kebbi (93), Cross River (87), Zamfara (78), Yobe (76), while Kogi state has recorded 5 cases only.
Lock Down and Curfew
In a move to combat the spread of the pandemic disease, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days, which took effect from 11 pm on Monday, 30th March 2020.
The movement restriction, which was extended by another two-weeks period, has been partially put on hold with some businesses commencing operations from May 4. On April 27th, 2020, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari declared an overnight curfew from 8 pm to 6 am across the country, as part of new measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19. This comes along with the phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos, and Ogun States, which took effect from Saturday, 2nd May 2020, at 9 am.
On Monday, 29th June 2020 the federal government extended the second phase of the eased lockdown by 4 weeks and approved interstate movement outside curfew hours with effect from July 1, 2020. Also, on Monday 27th July 2020, the federal government extended the second phase of eased lockdown by an additional one week.
On Thursday, 6th August 2020 the federal government through the secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 announced the extension of the second phase of eased lockdown by another four (4) weeks.
Lagos launches N5 billion support fund for 2,000 low-cost private schools
The Governor said the facility will benefit low-cost schools with amounts ranging from N500,000 to N5 million.
Lagos State government has launched a N5billion support fund to help reduce the impact of Coronavirus pandemic on low-cost private schools in the state.
This was disclosed by the Governor of the state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu via his Twitter handle on Friday.
According to him, the educational sector is one of those severely impacted by the pandemic, with schools and vocational learning-centres shut since March.
He said, “With access to funding for privately owned schools and vocational training centres in the state, we are confident that this programme, under the partnership between First Bank Nigeria and Lagos State Education Trust Fund (LSETF) will help accelerate a sustainable return to learning and skills acquisition.”
Today, I launched a N5bn support fund to help reduce the impact of #COVID19 on low-cost private schools in Lagos. The educational sector is one of those severely impacted by the pandemic, with schools and vocational learning-centres shut since March. #EducationMeetsFunding pic.twitter.com/PrKjLhxBXq
— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) September 25, 2020
He explained that the facility will benefit 2,000 low-cost schools with amounts ranging from N500,000 to N5 million.
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“As a responsible Government, we are obligated to provide interventions that would enable learners in schools study in line with the new normal,” the Governor Sanwo-Olu added.
The Chief Executive Officer, First Bank Nigeria, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, said “With this partnership, we are sure that registered educational institutions in Lagos State will have access to funds at subsidised interest rates to meet their needs as they reopen at this auspicious time.”