COVID-19 updates-Countries scramble to halt transmission and spread, worldwide cases now 90,937 with 3117 deaths, Pope infected, countries consider work-from-home

    President Xi Jinping inspects COVID-19 scientific research at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing, March 2, 2020. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

    …Global aviation is taking a huge hit

    … Nigeria, identified by Lancet to have enough capacity

    … Cities across China have announced new travel restrictions

    …US President Donald Trump calls for ‘’big interest rate cut’’ after sixth death in the country

    TUE, MARCH 03 2020-theG&BJournal-The virus is pillaging everything, shaking up world leaders and causing widespread panic across board. Twitter today told its employees to work from home to help stop the spread. Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church tested negative for COVID-19, according to a report in the news paper, il Messaggero. Jurisdictions with confirmed cases as of 3 March 2020 are now over 60 countries.

    In the US, six deaths have been confirmed and total cases now stand at 105. Italy, the epicentre of the disease in Europe, has exported 24 cases of the coronavirus to 14 countries according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

    China still leads in respect to cases per country with 80, 151 cases in Mainland China alone. There are now 4,812 confirmed cases in South Korea and another 2, 036 in Italy. Iran is the biggest source of concern in the Middle East with more than 2,300 cases. It’s minister of Health recently succumbed to the disease after he and the country’s leadership downplayed the risk from the deadly virus.

    In Africa, four countries have report 1 case each, all imported-Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and now Senegal, a French man who recently travelled from France. Each passing day a country announces a new case.

    The WHO director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom has sent out a strong but reassuring message to underscore the mounting global concerns.

    ‘’Our message to all countries: this is not a one-way street. We can push this coronavirus back. Your actions now will determine the course of the COVID-19 outbreak in your country. There’s no choice but to act now.’’

    Recent findings by Lancet echo Adhanom’s message: ‘’In most scenarios, highly effective contact tracing and case isolation is enough to control a new outbreak of COVID-19 within 3 months. The probability of control decreases with long delays from symptom onset to isolation, fewer cases ascertained by contact tracing, and increasing transmission before symptoms,’’ Lancet said.

    Nigeria, the only country identified by Lancet to have enough capacity to deal with the case, has stepped up its control and preparedness response, apparently borrowing from Lancet’s findings.

    Nigeria Centre for Disease Control now publishes a daily national situation report for COVID-19. The first report traces the steps taken by the NCDC, Lagos state and Ogun States government respectively in response to the first confirmed case in Ogun State and the major response activities it has put in place to prepare for potential spread of the disease in the country.

    In the UK, health officials have announced new proactive steps to contain the spread. The British government has unveiled its ‘’battle plan’’ which may include working from home, school closures and cancellation of large gatherings.

    In the US, testing for cases have risen since the first case was reported. Health officials are speeding up the delivery of testing kits, hoping to deliver more than a million by the end of the week. The US President, Donald Trump, shaken after backlash on his handling of the case in the country, today on his twitter called for ‘’a big interest rate cut to make up for China’s coronavirus situation and slowdown.’’

    Global aviation is taking a huge hit too. Monday, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it is contacting aviation regulators worldwide to request that the rules governing use of airport slots be suspended immediately and for the 2020 season, due to the impact of COVID-19 (the Coronavirus).

    Around 43% of all passengers depart from over 200 slot coordinated airports worldwide. At present, the rules for slot allocation mean that airlines must operate at least 80% of their allocated slots under normal circumstances. Failure to comply with this means the airline loses its right to the slot the next equivalent season. In exceptional circumstances, regulators can relax this requirement. The COVID-19 crisis has had a severe impact on air traffic.  Airlines are experiencing serious declines in demand. Including, a carrier experiencing a 26% reduction across their entire operation in comparison to last year, a hub carrier reporting bookings to Italy down 108% as bookings collapse to zero and refunds grow and many carriers reporting 50% no-shows across several markets. Future bookings are softening and carriers are reacting with measures such as crew being given unpaid leave, freezing of pay increases, and plans for aircraft to be grounded.

    ‘’Given these extraordinary circumstances as a result of the public health emergency, the collective view of the airline industry is that the application of the 80% rule during the upcoming season is inappropriate. Flexibility is needed for airlines to adjust their schedules according to extraordinary demand developments,’’ IATA said.

    Meanwhile, major cities across China have announced new travel restrictions on people who have recently visited countries where coronavirus infections are on the rise.

    Shanghai has put measures in place to quarantine for 14 days travellers entering the city who have visited countries with significant outbreaks within the last two weeks. Authorities there they will have to undergo the quarantine at home or at an approved isolation centre. Some cities including Qingtian are urging overseas residents to reconsider any plans to return home.

    Chinese leader President Xi Jinping has called for international cooperation in scientific research in response to the COVID-19.

    ‘’Public health security is a common challenge faced by humanity, and all countries should join hands to cope with it,’’ Xi said in Beijing Monday.