COVID-19: Task Force briefs President Buhari on National Response Plan

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President Muhammadu Buhari will address the nation today on new procedures in the national response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

PTF Chairman, who doubles as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, gave the hint after his team’s visit to the President in Abuja.

Members of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control briefed the President on Sunday at the State House.

Mr Mustapha said the President expressed satisfaction with the progress recorded in Nigeria’s campaign against COVID-19, given available resources and facilities.

#PTF #COVID19 #Lockdown #BossMustapha

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Coronavirus live updates: U.S. death toll nears 55,000

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The U.S. coronavirus death toll neared 55,000 early Monday, with more than 972,000 confirmed cases, according to NBC News’ tally.

The grim milestone comes as the White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx warned that many of the social distancing measures that have upended American life will be a fixture through the summer.

To get a more accurate picture of the virus’ spread, the U.S. needs a “breakthrough” on coronavirus testing, she said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday.

Meanwhile in Italy, Europe’s hardest hit country, the prime minister laid out plans for a phased end to restrictions, including the opening of restaurants and libraries in mid-May.

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

45m ago / 12:13 PM UTC

British Grand Prix could take place behind closed doors, French race cancelled

The British Grand Prix and French Grand Prix are the latest global sporting events to be affected by coronavirus.

France has called off its event altogether, while Britain’s race might take place without fans this year as the U.K. government continues to ban large gatherings to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Silverstone, the track that has hosted the race since 1952, said it was discussing with the government a plan to show the event on TV for free instead. Silverstone said it would give health care workers tickets for the 2021 event.

✍️An update from our Managing Director, Stuart Pringle about the Formula 1 Pirelli British Grand Prix 2020. pic.twitter.com/APIXq8F2OS

— Silverstone (@SilverstoneUK)

Nursing home industry pushes for immunity from lawsuits during coronavirus emergency

As the COVID-19 death toll at nursing homes climbs to nearly 12,000, the nursing home industry is pushing states to provide immunity from lawsuits to the owners and employees of the nation’s 15,600 nursing homes.

So far at least six states have provided explicit immunity from coronavirus lawsuits for nursing homes, and six more have granted some form of immunity to health care providers, which legal experts say could likely be interpreted to include nursing homes.

Patient advocates worry that nursing homes accused of extreme neglect could avoid liability.

“I can’t even believe this is a topic of discussion,” said Anny Figueroa, whose 55-year-old mother was a resident at Andover Subacute & Rehab Center in New Jersey, where law enforcement discovered 17 bodies in a makeshift morgue this month.

1h ago / 11:52 AM UTC

Italian expat in Sweden shows off country’s lack of restrictions

An Italian PhD candidate living in Sweden has documented the “parallel universe” of daily life in Sweden, a country where the government has not enforced strict social distancing measures amid Covid-19.

Alessandra Palusco, 28, who is studying at the University of Orebro, posted several videos on social media showing life in Sweden and the difference with countries living under lockdown. Palusco told NBC News via text message that she lied to her family back in Italy to reassure them that locals are wearing masks in public,”otherwise they would go crazy.”

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Anne Linde denied in a news conference on April 17 that “life goes on as normal in Sweden,” but Palusco believes that the Swedish government has not taken firm enough action on the virus. “I really don’t understand, if they implement certain measures, it means that they basically know that the situation is dangerous,” Palusco told NBC News.

“Masks do very little, if anything at all”. We wont forget the way you misinformed people, and this is the result 👏👏👏 @Folkhalsomynd #COVID19 #COVID19sverige #covid19swed pic.twitter.com/BaUEDro1J4

— Alessandra • 桑德拉 (@alex_paiusco)

1h ago / 11:37 AM UTC

Salons, florists and garden centers allowed to reopen in Switzerland

Hospitals in Switzerland reopened for outpatient and non-urgent procedures on Monday as the country began easing measures put in place to contain the coronavirus outbreak. 

Beauty salons, DIY stores, garden centers and florists were also permitted to reopen, the government announced as it laid out its staged plans to lift the lockdown. On May 11th, elementary schools and other shops will be allowed to reopen “if the situation allows,” the government said in a statement. Then in June, high schools, zoos and libraries will be allowed to open their doors.

Switzerland has nearly 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,600 deaths since the pandemic began.

2h ago / 11:19 AM UTC

Two funeral home workers in Harlem, N.Y. said they are turning away families whose loved ones have died because there are more bodies than they can handle.

“We want to be able to help everyone,” manager Alisha Narvaez told “Kasie DC” Sunday evening, adding that they often have to tell families to call back because they have no room. Both women, who work at International Funeral and Cremation Services, said the emotional toll of helping the families weighs heavily on them.

“Just today I had a family call because they’re pretty much at the cut-off time for the hospital to hold their loved one. And out of desperation, she cried to us and she begged,” said funeral director Nicole Warring, adding the woman was fearful her father would end up buried in an unmarked grave. “It’s tough when we just don’t have the capacity.”

Iran to open mosques in areas with few coronavirus cases

Iran plans to loosen restrictions in some parts of the country by classifying regions as either white, yellow or red based on the spread of the coronavirus, President Hassan Rouhani has said.

Iran has been one of the Middle East’s worst hit countries with more than 91,000 cases of coronavirus recorded as of Monday, as well as around 5,800 deaths.

2h ago / 10:37 AM UTC

Nearly 2 million people download Australia tracking app

More than 1.8 million people downloaded a new tracking app released by the Australian Government that claims to “speed up contacting people exposed to coronavirus,” according to the country’s Health Department.

COVIDSafe is available to all Australian residents, though participation is not mandatory. It tracks the movement and interaction of residents with the aim of quickly locating and informing anyone that may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If a user tests positive, the other users of the app that have been in close proximity to that initial user will be informed so they can get tested and isolate themselves. Health officials will not name the person who was infected.

Officials have said 40 percent of the population will need to download the app for it to work effectively. Australia has been one of the most successful countries in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, recording just 83 deaths and 6,700 cases.

3h ago / 9:53 AM UTC

Italy’s prime minister lays out plan to slowly reopen in May

Construction workers and factories will restart in Italy on May 4, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said as he laid out plans for a phased end to the country’s strict nationwide lockdown. 

Public parks will reopen then as will restaurant takeout and delivery services. “We will live with the virus and we will have to adopt every precaution possible,” Conte said Sunday evening. Shops, museums, exhibitions and public libraries will reopen on May 18, and hairdressers, bars and restaurants will be open from June 1. Schools however, will remain closed until September.

The announcement comes a week after the country reported its first decline in the number of people sick with coronavirus since the virus hit. The country has recorded 26,384 coronavirus deaths and 195,351 confirmed cases.

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Las Cruces Tasing leads to death on 3 Crosses Avenue

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Las Cruces man fleeing police dies after being Tased

Damien Willis
Las Cruces Sun-News
Published 12:02 PM EST Mar 1, 2020

LAS CRUCES – Police say a man who fled from officers following a traffic stop died after being Tased by officers. 

The New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau, with the assistance of the Doña Ana County Officer-Involved Incident Task Force, was called to investigate an officer-involved incident involving a male and the Las Cruces Police Department

State Police agents learned that on Feb. 29, at approximately 2:32 a.m., an LCPD officer conducted a traffic stop on a blue GMC pickup for expired insurance at 240 3 Crosses Ave. in Las Cruces. During the traffic stop, the LCPD officer observed two females inside the vehicle and a man sitting in the back seat not wearing a seatbelt.

The man was identified as Antonio Valenzuela, 40, of Las Cruces. During an inquiry through the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority, the officer learned Valenzuela had a valid bench warrant for his arrest from New Mexico Probation and Parole. The officer asked Valenzuela to exit the vehicle, at which time he fled on foot and a foot pursuit ensued.

Police conduct an investigation near the Seventh-day Adventist Church at 240 3 Crosses Ave. on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.
Nathan J Fish/Sun-News

Two LCPD officers who were assisting on the traffic stop also assisted in the foot pursuit. During the foot pursuit, one officer deployed his department-issued Taser. Officers were able to gain control and handcuff Valenzuela, who police say was “being combative.”

For local news that matters, subscribe to the Las Cruces Sun-News today.

After Valenzuela was handcuffed, officers noticed he was unresponsive.

Officers immediately called for emergency medical services. Valenzuela was pronounced dead at the scene by the New Mexico Office of Medical Investigator.

The case is still under investigation by the NMSP Investigations Bureau, according to an agency news release. The cause and manner of Valenzuela’s death are under investigation by the Office of the Medical Investigator.

The names of the officers involved will not be released by NMSP until interviews have been conducted, the agency said.

Following a thorough investigation, the case will be sent to the District Attorney’s Office for review. 

Damien Willis is a Lead Reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at 575-541-5443, dwillis@lcsun-news.com or @DamienWillis on Twitter.

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Red tide concentrations appear to be declining off south Lee, Collier

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Red tide appears to be declining off south Lee, Collier counties


Chad Gillis


Fort Myers News-Press
Published 5:11 PM EST Nov 29, 2019

A red tide bloom that’s lingered along the coast for several weeks may be waning as counts in south Lee and parts of Collier County have improved in the past week. 

Reports from the Sanibel area south to Marco Island show that the outbreak appears to be subsiding, which would be a welcome reprieve from an area that’s seen red tide in all but seven months out of the last two-plus years. 

“Counts appear to still be elevated, but patchy, varying from beach to beach,” said Rhonda Watkins, an environmental specialist with Collier County. “However, it appears on the most recent satellite imagery that the entire bloom has dissipated, so fingers crossed, that trend continues.”

Fish kills and breathing irritation can start once levels reach 10,000 cells per liter, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state agency that monitors red tide. 

More: Water School groundbreaking stirs energy at Florida Gulf Coast University

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FWC’s Friday report was not available at press time. 

“We had quite a few dead fish at our north Naples beaches and some on Marco (Monday),” Watkins said. “We are getting respiratory irritation reports whenever the wind is blowing onshore.”

Levels this year have upwards of 15 million cells per liter and higher, according to samples taken by local water quality scientists. 

The bloom is strong enough to show up on satellite imagery from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. 

Recent satellite images have shown clearer patches of water along the Southwest Florida coast, although there are areas where red tide levels are still high. 

Red tide is caused by the organism Karenia brevis and is naturally occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, although many water quality scientists say it can be fed by human-sourced nutrients when the blooms get close to shore. 

Relatively small fish kills have been reported in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties for several weeks.  

Rick Bartleson, a chemist with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, said samples he’s taken this week have improved and that some waters off Sanibel are actually clear and blue. 

“It looks like the big patch that’s been hanging off the south end of the Sanibel for weeks is about gone, and from our samples since Monday we haven’t seen any high levels,” Bartleson said. 

This outbreak is more of a “normal” bloom than the one that devastated the region between October 2017 and earlier this year. 

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That bloom killed millions of pounds of marine life and shut down the local tourism, real estate and recreational fishing industries. 

“This year continues to be a fairly normal year when you look at the cell numbers and where we’re seeing the high concentrations,” said Mike Parsons, Florida Gulf Coast University professor and Blue-Green Algae Task Force member. “They’re at about the same frequency we usually see.” 

Water quality scientists at the University of Miami say red tide blooms are more frequent, stronger and longer in duration than they were before modern development, farming and urbanization of coastal areas. 

Onshore winds push red tide blooms toward the coast, and offshore winds push any outbreak further into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Winds have been blowing out of the east, or offshore, in recent days, and that trend is expected to continue much of this week, according to the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

The bloom seems to have started south of the Naples area in late summer/early fall and is now centered around Lee waters. 

Strong counts of 1 million cells per liter and higher have been recorded in the northern reaches of Pine Island Sound for several weeks. 

“The (daily incoming) tide will be moving the water in, and we don’t necessarily have the outflow because we don’t have a lot of freshwater discharge (from the Peace River and its watershed),” Parsons said. “So once it gets into Pine Island Sound the wind can’t push it around.”

The University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science predicts that the bloom will drift southwest and away from the coast over the next three days. 

Connect with this reporter: @ChadGillisNP on Twitter. 

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Military truck crushes undergraduate to death – The Nation Newspaper

A military armoured gun truck on Sunday crushed a Keke NAPEP in Damaturu, killing two passengers, including a female Pre-ND student of the Federal Polytechnic Damaturu.

Findings revealed that the accident occurred at the traffic junction at the Gwange along Gashua road where the military vehicle collided with the Keke NAPEP in an attempt to move into opposite directions.

The accident has drawn reaction from residents and the Civil Society in the State.

The Executive Director of CSOs in Yobe State Abubakar Baba Shehu said the position of the CSO will be made public after investigation.

In an attempt to douse the tension in the town, the State Government quickly met with the family to condole with them over the demise of their daughter.

In a statement signed by the Director General Press Affairs to Gov. Mai Mala Buni,Abdullahi Bego disclosed that the Brigade Commander 27 Task Force Brigade of Nigeria Army and the Commanding Officer 233 Tank Battalion with officials of Yobe state Government have already visited the deceased family.

The statement also informed that Gov. Buni has ordered the acting Secretary to the State Government to liaise with the military and commence a  full investigation into the matter.

Buni also ordered for free medical access to those wounded and receiving treatment at the hospital.

The statement reads in full:

“His Excellency Governor Mai Mala Buni has been briefed about an incident in Damaturu yesterday in which a KEKE NAPEP rider with passengers was crushed by a military vehicle in an accident which claimed the lives of two persons.

“Already, the Brigade Commander 27 Task Force Brigade, the Commanding Officer 233 Tank Battalion and officials of the State Government have visited and commiserated with the families of the victims.

“His Excellency has learnt that one of the victims, Hussaina Baffa Bello was a pre-ND student of the Federal polytechnic Damaturu while the other fatality was a toddler.

“Governor Buni’s thoughts, sympathies and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives and with the victims who sustained injuries.

“The governor prays Almighty Allah (SWT) to grant repose to the souls of those who died, fast recovery to those who sustained injuries and fortitude to bear the loss for families of the victims.

“His Excellency Governor Buni has directed the office of the acting Secretary to the State Government to liaise with the military in order to have a full investigation and ascertain how the accident happened and how such could be avoided in the future.

“The governor has also directed the State Ministry of Health and the Hospitals Management Board to ensure that those who sustained injuries are given access to free medical care”.

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Reprieve on the way for 119 Nigerians on death row in Malaysia | P.M. News

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Malaysia execution for drug trafficking

The 119 Nigerians on death row in Malaysia may be saved from the executioner if the country’s legislature passed a bill to abolish the death penalty as being proposed by the country’s law minister Liew Vui Keong.

The minister plans to table the bill in the March 2020 sitting of Dewan Rakyat, Malaysia’s Lower House of Parliament.

According to Amnesty’s latest report, Fatally Flawed: Why Malaysia must abolish the Death Penalty, 1,281 people are on death row as of February 2019.

Foreigners make up a significant 44 percent, 568 people, with Nigerians accounting for 119. They were sentenced to death for drug trafficking.

“Nationals from Nigeria made up 21 per cent of this group, with those from Indonesia (16%), Iran (15%), India (10%), Philippines (8%) and Thailand (6%) following suit”, Amnesty said.

Amnesty International latest report: Nigerians on death row may get some reprieve soon

“A significant 73 per cent of all those under sentence of death have been convicted of drug trafficking under Section 39(b) of the Dangerous of Drugs Act, 1952 — an extremely high figure for an offence that does not even meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’ under international law and standards and for which the death penalty must not be imposed,” AI said in the report.

The Nigerians have not been executed because of a moratorium on executions in place since October 2018 as the government mulls law reform.

A special task force led by immediate past chief justice Richard Malanjum has also been set up to study alternative penalties for laws carrying mandatory capital punishment.

Amnesty report points at various flaws in the Malaysian legal system, including denial of complete legal aid to foreigners.

Amnesty also said that insufficient funding of legal aid also hinders Malaysians from accessing proper representation, especially those who live in rural areas and who are not able to afford a lawyer.

“It is further concerning that because of how legal aid is structured in the different schemes that provide no free legal representatives until the trial is due to start, many defendants are left awaiting trial without any legal assistance for significant periods that have extended from months to, in most cases, two to five years,” the report read.

For foreign nationals, the report noted delays of more than 24 hours to several days before their respective embassies were informed of their arrests. This is despite international law which states that prompt communication is necessary.

Amnesty, which campaigns to end to capital punishment worldwide, called for competent legal representation be made available to all defendants.

It also called upon the police to inform all detainees of their right to legal aid.

‘Secretive’ pardons, executions

Aside from the pre and post-trial stages, gaps in legal aid also affected the ability of inmates to acquire assistance when filing their pardon petitions, noted Amnesty.

When it was available, the report cited a lawyer’s testimony about how prison officials pre-selected inmates who would be able to receive legal aid, all of whom were Malaysians.

“The decision on who gets that support is not transparent and creates an additional degree of arbitrariness and discrimination in the death penalty system,” it said.

The NGO further urged the government to solve the delays and lack of transparency in clemency proceedings.

Pardons can only be granted by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and the state rulers after consulting the Pardons Board. However, clear procedures for them are not laid out in Malaysian law except for some guidelines in the Prison Regulations 2000.

In practice, the report noted that inmates are often informed of their right to clemency but not the criteria for pardon consideration.

Inmates and their families are often left without any news from the authorities for a long period after submitting their petition.

The report also noted instances of delays by prison authorities in communicating the result of a pardon petition to an inmate’s family.

In the case of rejected clemency petitions, Amnesty noted that families were not informed of the date and time of impending executions except that they would happen “soon”.

“Some of the letters handed over to the families were dated two weeks earlier, suggesting that the prison authorities had held on to this information until only days before the scheduled date of the hangings,” it said.

Amnesty urged Pardon Boards to disclose all relevant information to inmates to allow them to prepare adequately for the pardon petitions.

It also wanted the boards to promptly update inmates, their families and their lawyers on the progress of their applications.

Following objections to abolishing the death penalty in total, the Pakatan Harapan government is now looking at replacing the mandatory death penalty for 11 serious criminal offences to allow for judicial discretion.

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