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Doctors’ strike leaves COVID-19 patients ‘without care’ in Sierra Leone

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A doctors’ strike in Sierra Leone has left Covid-19 patients in some of the main treatment centres without care.

The doctors say they were promised hazard pay for their work during the outbreak, which has not yet been paid.

The strike marks an escalation in a row between doctors and government over what doctors say is a misuse of funds for the coronavirus response and a lack of protection and compensation for health workers.

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“No patient showing Covid-like symptoms will be treated by any doctor until we have the support we need,” said S K Jusu, the head doctor at Fourah Bay College, a school whose dormitories have been transformed into the country’s largest Covid-19 treatment centre on a hill overlooking the capital Freetown.

Sierra Leone, which is among the world’s poorest countries, has recorded nearly 1,500 coronavirus cases with 60 deaths. Of the virus cases, 160 have been health workers.

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The former British colony was hard hit by the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, during which nearly 4,000 people, including 250 medical workers died.

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COVID-19: Price of hydroxychloroquine skyrockets in Nigeria

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The price of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine has skyrocketed in Nigeria, according to the government’s consumer protection body.

There’s been widespread interest in hydroxychloroquine as both a preventative measure and for treating patients with coronavirus but the World Health Organization (WHO) says the drug doesn’t reduce death rates in patients with coronavirus.

Despite the lack of evidence, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s audit of prices across the country has observed an astonishing rise in the drug’s price in the last four months.

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It found that – a packet of 60 tablets selling for N3,000 ($8; £6) four months ago – could be on sale in pharmacies for as much as N75,000 ($194;£ 147) now.

In a letter published on their Twitter account, the body described “excessive and unconscionable pricing”.

It added that “unreasonable, unjust and irrational prices or margins are a criminal offence” in Nigeria.

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Promotion by leading political figures such as US President Donald Trump has led to both hydroxychloroquine, and the related drug chloroquine, becoming the subject of widespread speculation online about their potential benefits and harmful effects.

This has led to high demand for the drugs and global supply shortages.

But despite some early studies raising hopes, one subsequent larger-scale trial has shown it’s not effective as a treatment and the WHO has halted its trials.

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Fayemi orders random COVID-19 test for teachers, students

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Kayode Fayemi

Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has directed a random sampling test for COVID-19 infection of students and teachers to assess their risk level ahead of resumption.

The Governor expressed optimism that COVID-19 protocols would be strictly adhered to as SS3 class preparing for West African Examinations Council (WAEC) will resume August 10, while resumption date for JSS 3 students and Primary 6 pupils would be announced later.

Fayemi, in a state wide broadcast on Wednesday, disclosed that parents of the resuming students are to provide their wards with at least two face masks each as a prerequisite for admittance into their school premises.

The governor who expressed concern over an increase in the rate of infection in the last one month in the state with 109 fresh cases, advised the people of the state to learn from his COVID-19 infection and accept the reality of the pandemic.

The Governor recalled that Ekiti State had 43 positive cases with 28 treated and discharged while only 13 were active cases at the beginning of July but the state now has a total number of 152 cases at last count, an increase of 109 cases in one month.

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Fayemi attributed increase in cases to the random community testing exercise which was made possible with facilities at the state-owned laboratory and the proximity to States with high incidences of confirmed infections; noting that lessons have been learnt from his experience with his own infection and isolation for ten days.

He said:

“The fact that I could contract the virus in spite of the conscious effort to protect myself and people around me underscores my consistent warnings that we should never take things for granted. It also proves that indeed the virus is real and here, and that it is a respecter of no persons.

“That is why I have always maintained that we cannot be vigilant enough until we have collectively come to the end of this pandemic. I therefore implore you, dear compatriots, to take extra measures to ensure that you keep yourself safe.

“The second lesson to learn from my experience is that the virus is not a death sentence. The key weapons is early detection (through testing), isolation and treatment. From our experience, we have successfully treated and discharged 67 cases in Ekiti today while we still have about 83 active cases.”

On reopening of worship centres, Fayemi said:

“The Task Force leadership have told me that many religious worship centres are now ready and should be able to reopen for service according to the established protocols from August 14, 2020.

“I want to appeal to religious centres as moral agents and institutions reputed for discipline. They must ensure the jointly agreed protocols are adhered to, to protect lives of worshipers as they go about their activities from August 14, 2020.

“Key aspects of the protocols include but are not limited to the following: fumigation of the worship centres and their surroundings, maintenance of social distancing of six-feet apart during worship, provision of infrared thermometer, provision of hand sanitizers and ensuring the windows and doors are wide open.

“The protocols also implicate that there should be no multiple services, and services must be concluded within two hours while children below 12 years of age and elderly people above 65 are not allowed to attend services or Salat until further notice. An attendance register must be provided by each worship centre to record attendance.

“For the avoidance of doubt, only Friday Jumat for Muslims, Saturday Sabbath for Adventists and Sunday Services for other Christian denominations are allowed. Weekly and vigil services are not to hold in the meanwhile. Similarly all traditional worships of festivals that demand large gathering of devotees are suspended until further notice.”

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Virgin Atlantic files for bankruptcy

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Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd is seeking protection from creditors in the United States under Chapter 15 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which allows a foreign debtor to shield assets in this country, according to a court filing on Tuesday.

Virgin Atlantic’s filing in U.S. bankruptcy court in the southern district of New York said it has negotiated a deal with stakeholders “for a consensual recapitalization” that will get debt off its balance sheet and “immediately position it for sustainable long-term growth.”

In July, Virgin Atlantic said it has agreed a rescue deal with shareholders and creditors worth 1.2 billion pounds ($1.57 billion) to secure its future beyond the coronavirus crisis.

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The U.S. filing is an ancillary proceeding tied to a separate action filed in a British court, where Virgin Atlantic obtained approval Tuesday to convene meetings of affected creditors to vote on the plan on Aug. 25.

An airline spokeswoman said the restructuring plan was before a British court “to secure approval from all relevant creditors before implementation.” She added the “process is proceeding with the support of the majority of our creditors.”

Bloomberg reported Virgin Atlantic told a London court it could run of money in September if a restructuring deal is not approved.

Non-U.S.-companies use Chapter 15 to block creditors who want to file lawsuits or tie up assets in the United States.

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In July, the airline said its private deal with stakeholders eliminates the need for support from the British government that billionaire founder Richard Branson had sought. The reorganization is expected to be completed towards the end of this summer and be spread across the next 18 months.

The airline, 51% owned by Branson’s Virgin Group and 49% by U.S. airline Delta, closed its Gatwick base and cut more than 3,500 jobs to contend with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has grounded planes and hammered demand for air travel.

“Delta said it supported the plan and was “optimistic” that it would help Virgin Atlantic “maintain its position” in the travel market.

Virgin Atlantic said it needed to recapitalize “to not only survive the exigent threats posed by the COVID-19 global pandemic but to thrive once the immediate global health crisis passes.”

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It added in a court filing reservations are down 89% from a year ago and current demand for the second half of 2020 is at approximately 25% of 2019 levels. Virgin Atlantic also owns Virgin Atlantic Holidays, a tour operator business and Virgin Atlantic Cargo.

The high-profile Branson had attracted criticism after calling for government help for Virgin Atlantic to survive the downturn.

Reuters

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