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Expert advises pregnant women on immunity building against COVID-19

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A Maternal Health Expert, Mrs Olajumoke Adebayo, has advised pregnant women and new mothers to build their immunity by eating well and engage in mild exercise to limit their exposure and reduce risk of contracting COVID-19.

Adebayo, also the Programmes Officer, Motherhood Cell Groups, Lagos, gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Lagos.

She explained that due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, pregnant women and new mothers should endeavour to learn and limit their exposure.

“They should practice good hand hygiene, cough hygiene and avoid having contact with those that have travel history to countries prone to COVID-19.

“Washing of hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after eating, and using toilet should be constant.

“During this time, pregnant women should continue to use their routine medications, and also keep in touch with their doctors or midwives on phone, if they have medical or checkup appointments,” Adebayo said.

She urged pregnant women and nursing mothers to ask their employers on update of health guidelines to protect workers in the workplace before resuming work.

“They should continue to check online for a professional pre and postpartum support group for pregnant and new mothers, where they can learn and share experiences that meet a need because such groups are good for sanity and networking,” she said.

Adebayo also called on governments to collaborate with a midwifery focussed organisation to provide support for advocating water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in maternity settings.

“Midwives cannot do their jobs without the enabling environment in place which include basic hygiene and WASH.

“Midwives are very critical in ending maternal and child mortality in Nigeria and significantly improving the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls in the country.

“According to UNFPA, midwives can carry out 85 per cent of reproductive health services and care, because they provide care before, during and after pregnancy,” she said.

Adebayo said that the most pressing issues of sexual and reproductive health in Nigeria could be done by midwives.

“We should begin to embrace the work of midwives and develop innovative ways to ensure retention and capacity building to provide quality care.

“It is important that governments understand the work and importance of midwives in reducing maternal and child morality, and register trained traditional birth attendants as support to the system,” she said.

Edited By: Abiemwense Moru/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

Oladipo Grace: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Science & Technology

STEM education will prepare students for post-COVID-19 era – Expert

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Mr Raj Kapoor, Co-founder of Discovery Education, on Wednesday said that Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education would prepare students for the Post-COVID 19 era.

Kapoor made the statement in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos on the sidelines of a Forum hosted by Codefest International in Lagos.

He said that STEM encourages students to develop and apply solutions to real challenges facing the world.

He said that STEM was built on four principles which were Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical thinking.

Kapoor, also Co-founder, India STEM Alliance (ISA), said that the 4Cs targeted and developed 21st century skills and the sub-skills of students.

Açcording to him, it gives students the opportunity to creatively think, develop and apply solutions, encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“Sixty per cent of jobs in 2030 will be freelance and 70 per cent of jobs in the next 15 years will be STEM-based.

“Communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking are the real skills our kids will need especially in postCOVID 19 era.

“When jobs will be hard to come by, STEM jobs will come straight to the fore. So now we can equip our kids to tackle not just today but the future, ’’ he said.

According to him, our entire programme is inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering.

NAN reports that Discovery Education is in partnership with ISA and Codefest International to provide free access for students to use the Discovery Education coding platform.

Edited By: Edith Bolokor/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)

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Environment

Expert tasks landscape architects on appropriate horticultural practice

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An Environmental expert, Mr Amos Alao, has cautioned landscape architect on the need for planting the right trees and flowers in a building structure to prevent structural defects.

Alao, an architect and a climate change enthusiast, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Lagos.

He said that lack of knowledge on horticultural best practices on the part of most landscape architects had resulted in a lot of structural defect in buildings across the country.

Alao said this was what prompted him to publish a literature on “Plant Photo Book for Greenhorns” to educate the public on impact of inappropriate planting trees or flowers in most building structures.

“Knowing the characteristics of plant helps you to know where best to plant, so as not to cause an environmental disaster, and in recent times structural defects in buildings.

“The size of the crown of most trees is the size of its root under the ground and if planted too close to a building may likely cause structural defects with the extension of its roots.

“So, if a tree is planted less than three meters from the foundation of a building, there is a likelihood of the roots growing to break the foundation footing of a building.

“The plants begin to cause cracks on the walls and even fences; a lot of Nigerian roads are also grossly affected by wrongly planted trees and flowers.

“Wrong tree selection and cultivation along most highways in the country have caused a lot of roads and drainage collapse,” the expert said.

Alao said that with the establishment of Landscape Architecture Departments, there was need for a literature that would be a valuable tool for Landscape Architects and other professionals in the building environment.

He said: “Landscape Architecture is the art and science of creating outdoor spaces for sustainable habitation and human enjoyment.

“Knowing the name of a plant helps you research better on the benefits and importance of the plant online.

“Some plants and flowers are pungent and are not good for children with respiratory diseases like asthma, and also the colours of most plants impact the mood of individuals.

“Plants and flowers also reduce the effect of global warming and climate change.

“They reduce the impact of air pollution and gives out fresh air, thereby reducing artificial cooling gadgets in spaces.

“The major component of Landscape Architecture is ‘Green’ and what the profession is concerned about is preserving nature and creating macro-climatic conditions that are habitable for human and animal comfort,” Alao said.

Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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Health

Expert advocates establishment of health bank

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Prof. Innocent Ujah, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Jos University Teaching Hospital, has advocated for establishment of health bankf to provide funds for investments in the sector.

Ujah, also a Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Presidential candidate, spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Jos.

The former Director-General,  Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) said that the bank should be established like Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture.

He stated that the bank would help in setting up standard and well equipped facilities in the country to reduce medical tourism overseas.

“In places like India where we go for medical treatment, almost all the hospitals are privately-owned.

The Bank of Health like Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture will help doctors and other health workers to access loans at reduced rates  to put up state-of-the-art hospitals.

“The hospitals will be well equipped,  with adequate staff that is well paid to do the work that they travel to America, Europe and India to do,’” the expert said.

He noted that it would enhance the quality of healthcare delivery and also reverse brain drain and medical tourism.

“Because they are going there because of the facilities and the need to continue to train.

“People will get loans and there will be consortium or consortia that will be put together by health workers including non health workers,” he said.

According to him, patients were suffering and some have died due to lack of quality healthcare system.

He said it was regrettable that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the weakness in Nigeria healthcare system.

Ujah expressed worry over the poor status of healthcare system but assured he would use his over 40-years experience in the profession to work with government to ensure improvement.

“I believe that working with government and other partners should be able to improve health status.

“In doing so, we will ensure that the welfare of the doctors is preserved.

“For the young ones who are in training, there should be conducive environment for them to train as residents,” he said.

On the NMA election, Ujah assured his colleagues that if given  mandate he would serve with an unflinching commitment and an abiding passion.

NAN reports that the NMA election is slated for May 31

—————

Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Foreign

Interview: Economic measures proposed at “two sessions” bold, wise: expert

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A series of measures and policies proposed at the ongoing annual gatherings of China‘s national legislature and political advisory body, known as the “two sessions,” will boost confidence in China‘s economic and social development, an expert has said.

Carl Fey, professor of international business at Finland’s Aalto University School of Business, told Xinhua that China‘s decision not to set a specific economic growth target for 2020, as is unveiled in the government work report, is bold and sensible and will give the government more flexibility in its future work at a time when it is difficult to predict economic development amid uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the work report, China will give priority to stabilizing employment and living standards this year, with an aim to keep urban unemployment at around 6 percent — a wise move, said Fey, also the former dean of Nottingham University Business School China.

Measures mentioned at the “two sessions,” including tax reduction for enterprises, job creation, and increasing investment in “new infrastructure,” will be effective tools to promote employment, he added.

Describing China‘s plan to augment investment in “new infrastructure” projects as another wise move, Fey said that the strategy will not merely help create additional jobs but also facilitate structural reforms of the Chinese economy.

China is investing in the world‘s most advanced new infrastructure, and 5G networks are a good example of this,” said Fey, adding that China‘s speed in pulling off plans is a competitive advantage, citing the fast response of some Chinese cities and regions to the “new infrastructure” plan as an example.

The plan to further cut taxes and fees for enterprises also caught Fey’s attention, who believes this move will benefit China‘s economic development both in the short and long term and help cope with risks.

Additionally, as the work report indicates, China plans to set its fiscal deficit above 3.6 percent of GDP this year. “Some people think this is quite high. In fact, it is very moderate and reasonable by international comparison,” Fey said, noting that the International Monetary Fund has predicted the world average deficit-to-GDP ratio will rise to 9.9 percent in 2020 from 3.7 percent in 2019.

As most of the world is still fighting against the pandemic, China has placed high priority on finding a cure for COVID-19, and promised that once a vaccine is successfully developed, it will be shared globally.

Fey was deeply encouraged by this, saying “indeed, helping to find a cure is the most important thing that any country can do to help get not only its own economy but also the world economy back on track. China is working hard in this regard.”

“There is no question that how to stimulate the economy to recovery is a complex problem with no easy answer, and the Chinese economy seems to be doing pretty well and recovering rather quickly compared to most,” Fey said.

“The COVID-19 crisis has created a difficult time for all countries. However, how a country responds to the crisis can make a large difference in its future fortunes. So far, I am quite impressed with how the Chinese government has dealt with the economic impact from the crisis overall,” he added.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Australia faces more waves of patients amid pandemic: experts

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Australia is facing the second and third waves of patients between now and Christmas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey of 1,000 local medical General Practices (GP) revealed.

Data from the survey suggests that there will be a second wave of COVID-19 infections and hospital admissions in Australia between mid-June to mid-July due to the loosening of social distancing restrictions.

Study lead-author, Associate Professor Christopher Pearce from Monash University told Xinhua on Tuesday evening that in addition to a second wave of COVID-19 cases, there could be a third wave of patients with other illnesses, who have put off seeking treatment due to the pandemic.

“GP data shows significant numbers of patients with chronic diseases are not interacting with their practices and not having regular pathology of radiology testing that goes with proper management of their condition,” Pearce said.

As Australia continued to ease COVID-19 restrictions this week, including reopening schools and increasing limits on public gatherings, already a number of worrying COVID-19 cases have emerged.

In the state of New South Wales (NSW), just one day after public schools across the state reopened to students, two Sydney schools were forced to shut again after registering infections.

While in the neighboring state of Victoria, a teacher from a Melbourne school was found to have COVID-19, as students in that state also returned to classrooms.

However, Pearce said that those cases didn’t necessarily mean the second wave of COVID-19 infections had arrived earlier than expected.

“Maybe in a week (the second wave will arrive). You can see the model predicts a rise starting in June (next week) and peaking later, as the social distancing restrictions ease,” Pearce said.

Pearce warned that during the second wave, an increased number of people seeking medical care for other illnesses which they had neglected, could compound pressure on hospitals, especially when coupled with the peak of the influenza season.

In addition, because normal medical screening, such as for diabetes or cervical cancer was interrupted due to the pandemic, there could be a third wave of patients to be admitted to hospitals between August and January next year.

Experts warn that may have an even bigger impact on society than COVID-19 itself.

“In essence, what we are saying is that there is over the next few months several waves of: a rise in mental illness, a rise in worsening of chronic disease, and a wave of COVID cases,” Pearce said.

“Given we have been successful in flattening the curve, we are concerned that the effects on the other diseases will effectively outweigh the consequences of COVID.”

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Feature: Pandemic-hit Ecuador faces uncertain economic future, say experts

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Ecuador faces an uncertain economic future marked by growing unemployment and slow recovery in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, analysts agree.

Ecuador, which had seen a total of 37,355 cases of infection and 3,203 deaths from the disease by Monday, is one of the hardest hit countries in Latin America, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned is the “new epicenter” of COVID-19.

In an interview with Xinhua, the former economy minister, Fausto Ortiz, said the country is in a “very complicated” situation that is likely to see the economy shrink between 6 percent and 10 percent this year, far more than the official government estimate of 4 percent.

“What might happen following this great depression that we will have in 2020 is that it produces a rebound effect in the economy,” said Ortiz.

The South American country started the year with an accumulated fiscal deficit of 4 billion U.S. dollars that was then compounded by the lockdown and ensuing economic losses.

In addition, the country’s foreign debt has ballooned to 65 billion U.S. dollars and the price of oil, its main export product, tumbled from 60 U.S. dollars a barrel at the beginning of the year to 24 U.S. dollars per barrel.

“Ecuador is going through a critical situation. Before the pandemic, it was already in an economic depression, and the pandemic is making that depression deeper and larger,” said Ortiz.

The economic and financial consultant predicts a slow recovery for Ecuador, with unemployment looming as the key “adjustment variable.”

Since March alone, the lockdown has wiped out 150,000 jobs, meaning a total of 500,000 to 700,000 jobs could be lost by the end of the year, said Ortiz.

“Little by little people are going to be feeling the impact. We have to start getting used to having a little less income and stretching our money as far as it can go,” Ortiz said.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno has acknowledged the situation is dire, with the total fiscal deficit expected to reach 12 billion U.S. dollars: 8 billion in losses from the pandemic and 4 billion from the accumulated deficit.

In a televised interview on May 22, Moreno said “a little more than a third of the projected total income that Ecuador presumed it would have to finance its budget has been lost. Never in the history of Ecuador has there been such a tough situation.”

The lockdown brought 70 percent of Ecuador’s productive sector to a standstill. As recently as May 4, the sector began to resume activity under the “new normal” conditions of maintaining social distancing.

Ecuador, which according to government estimates saw sales losses of nearly 12 billion U.S. dollars, has received a loan of some 1.4 billion U.S. dollars from multilateral lending agencies, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to deal with th health crisis.

Moreno, whose final year in office began on Sunday, unveiled a series of economic measures to overcome the crisis, which have been rejected by unions and sparked social unrest.

The measures include cutting the budget and wages, and introducing labor and financial reforms.

According to political observer Fernando Casado, “the government’s shock measures and counter-measures to tackle the crisis have not been enough.”

“They have protected the business owners instead of the workers, instead of the poor. That leads many people, who lost their jobs and have no chance to survive, to flout the lockdown,” said Casado.

Formal employment, which accounts for about 38 percent of the work force, will fall notably, as underemployment and unemployment rise, he said.

As of January, 5.1 million of the country’s 8.3 million economically active workers had no adequate employment, according to the National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC).

“It is a return to normality with fewer jobs and less money. We are going to be entering a situation of greater instability in the country that I’m not sure is socially sustainable,” said Casado.

President Moreno seems more optimistic.

“I am hopeful, because after a crisis there always comes a time of recovery and reactivation. That is what the movement of the economic curve says,” Moreno said.

However, Moreno warned that in the absence of a recovery, Ecuador “will undergo bigger problems than we are now undergoing,” and he urged the industrial sector to resume production in the postpandemic new normal.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Huge potential for Singapore firms to enter China despite COVID-19 crisis: business experts

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Despite the economic fall-out from COVID-19, enormous business opportunities lie ahead for Singapore companies to venture into China – from the food tech space, transport and logistics to medical services, said Singaporean economists and business leaders on Tuesday’s webinar.

The “Beyond COVID-19: Mitigating the Impacts and Preparing for New Business Opportunities in China” webinar was organised by the Singapore Business Federation.

The panellists included Alex Capri, visiting senior fellow at the National University of Singapore (NUS); Bert Hofman, director of East Asian Institute at NUS; and Eugene Wong, chairman of Singaporean tech company CrimsonLogic.

With regards to China‘s economic outlook over a period of the next two months to the next two years, Hofman said that initial growth of 2 to 3 percent is “possible” and will be largely driven by domestic demand. If nothing “disastrous” happens in the next year, there may be 6 to 7 percent growth for China to be “back on track,” he said.

Amid the restructuring of the global supply chain, Singapore will be an attractive destination for supply chains to relocate to, said Capri.

For instance, it has a high-tech semiconductor sector, is building its own 5G infrastructure as well as new capabilities in artificial intelligence and drones, said Capri.

On emerging business opportunities in China, Wong of CrimsonLogic said Singapore companies can look at sectors like technology, seek to raise the efficiency of China‘s transport and logistics industry, work with Chinese companies to improve healthcare services and develop food technology solutions for sustainability, and offer e-financing services.

“These are the few areas which are bright spots in the post-COVID period,” said Wong.

Post-COVID, the rise of telecommuting and e-commerce will also change the way Chinese and Singapore firms do business, said Wong.

Singapore firms should also tap on intergovernmental projects such as Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, and work with more private sector enterprises instead of state-owned enterprises, he added.

Capri reminded that Singapore companies have to think about an “In China, For China” strategy to better cater to the Chinese market.

(XINHUA)

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Economy

Expert urges govt to simplify port processes to reduce cost

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Mr Bolaji Akinola, Spokesperson for Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) on Tuesday, called for the simplification of port processes to reduce cost.

Akinola made the call on an Instagram Live programme organised by Mrs Ezinne Azunnah of the Maritime TvNews.

The programme was themed: “Port Economics: Are Nigerian Ports Expensive’’?

According to him, there is no disputing the fact that the Nigerian ports are expensive but the point is what are the components of these expenses.

He pointed out that studies had shown that the cause of high cost of operations at the ports could be attributed to three major issues, cost of shipping, customs duty and trucking.

“Cost of shipping into Nigeria is one of the highest in the world. If it is compared to cost of shipment from China to Ghana, it is cheaper than from China to Nigeria using same vessel.

“Secondly is the Customs duty. Study indicates that 70 per cent of cost associated with our ports is charged by the Nigeria Customs Service and coupled with other ancillary agencies that post additional costs.

“Thirdly, it has to do with trucking. This is expensive in Nigeria and it is cheaper to bring container from China to Nigeria than to move that same container from Lagos to Kano.

“Trucking fee has gone up like five times by more than 500 per cent within the past two years and it is attributed to the function of the dilapidated infrastructure around the ports,” he said.

Akinola noted that as regards offloading processes, there were issues when the border was closed which was unplanned and resulted to surges in cargo and backlogs but that had been addressed.

He added that there was no shortage of handling equipment as terminal operators within that period had to bring in new equipment to tackle the situation.

He pointed out that the 100 per cent physical examination instead of the use of scanners by the Customs created backlogs and added cost to cargo owners.

“There were like three levels of manual inspection being carried out by Customs and this slowed the flow of trade and created backlogs which added cost to cargo owners.

“Eighty per cent of cargo coming into the ports are manually inspected right inside the ports. At the gate which is less than a kilometre, another set of Customs officials are there for inspection and immediately few kilometres away, another group is seen there.

“This manual inspection does not augur well for the ease of doing business being pushed by the government,” Akinola said.

He called for synergy between stakeholders, saying that in the entire system, only terminal operators’ charges were regulated by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), saying that the charges had not been reviewed for over 10 years.

He noted that as regards terminal operators, it was only the storage charges that was high and that was to make cargo owners to stop using the ports for storage.

Akinola said that for truckers, it was difficult to regulate them considering the difficulties they experienced due to the dilapidated road network.

He urged the Federal Government to fix the roads as it generated enough revenue from the maritime industry through Customs and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

He also urged government to develop means for cargo evacuation, saying that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) should do the needful by connecting rail lines.

Akinola said that as regards empty containers, the NPA had come up with a policy urging shipping companies to develop holding bay outside the port area and ensure that containers were sent to those places.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)

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Foreign

Spotlight: Cambodian official, expert urge not to politicize COVID-19 pandemic

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A Cambodian official and an expert have urged not to politicize the COVID-19 pandemic, as some countries are playing the blame game over it.

“One should not politicize COVID-19; instead, they should do their best to safeguard their citizens,” Cambodian government chief spokesman Phay Siphan told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

“Some countries have spent time blaming this or that country. This is an irresponsible act for their own citizens,” Siphan said.

Instead of blaming each other, countries should try their best to protect their people’s lives, he said.

“We don’t want to see any sides put the blame on each other; we want to see them stay united against COVID-19,” he added.

Cambodia highly commends China for taking strict measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 and for helping other countries, including Cambodia, to fight against the virus, he said.

The efforts and role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the global battle against the pandemic are praiseworthy, Siphan said, adding that countries should work closely with the respectable organization to defeat the virus.

Chheang Vannarith, president of the think tank Asian Vision Institute in Phnom Penh, said politicizing the pandemic is counterproductive, and hinders the international cooperation and collective response to fight, contain and mitigate the pandemic.

China has done a commendable job in curbing the spread (of the virus) and providing critical assistance to countries in need,” Vannarith told Xinhua. “Now, China is taking measures to recover its economy from the slowdown.”

The WHO has been playing a very important role in helping countries stem the spread of the coronavirus, he said.

“The WHO is the hub of the international system in this global war against the virus,” he said, calling for the international community to support the international body.

(XINHUA)

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