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Map of African countries with COVID-19 cases (28 March 2020 – 5pm EAT)

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Science & Technology

Google announces another addition’Plus Codes in Google Maps

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Google on Friday, announced a new addition in Google Maps ‘Plus Codes’ to help locate difficult or no fixed address.

Mr Kola-Ogunlade, Communication Officer, Google, West Africa, said in a statement that the Plus Codes helps to locate people without a fixed address or difficult locations in rural areas to be located in emergency

Kola-Ogunlade said while most people take having a fixed, physical address for granted, 2 billion people across the globe either do not have an address, or have an address that was hard to locate.

He said that this made it difficult for people to find them, particularly in an emergency.

According to him, this is the reason Google has developed Plus Codes, and is rolling them out for Google Maps on Android.

‘’Plus Codes can be especially helpful for people and organisations in emergency and crisis response scenarios.

‘’If you have ever been in an emergency, you know that being able to share your location for help to easily find you is critical.

‘’Yet,in many places in the world, organisations struggle with this challenge on a daily basis.

‘’Digital addressing through Plus Codes means that everywhere now has an easily identifiable location, saving time and getting resources there when it really matters,’’ he said.

Açcording to him, not having an address should no longer be a barrier to easily sharing location with service providers from online retailers to emergency services.

He said that the Plus Codes would guide people to one when you most need them.

Kola-Ogunlade said Plus Codes were simple, easy to use digital addresses derived from latitude and longitude coordinates.

He said it could be used to uniquely identify any location, from a rural home in a remote area, to a hidden shop on a nameless street.

“ To share location, simply tap the blue dot in Google Maps that represents your location, and get a Plus Code, which could be shared the same way a phone number is shared,” the Communication Officer said.

He said a Plus Code was a simple alphanumeric code which can be combined with a locality, and looked like a regular address, but with a short code where a street name or number would be.

”Beyond using the blue dot, one could also find the Plus Code for a location.

He said that Plus Codes were searchable on Google Maps and even Google Search, meaning everywhere on the planet can now be uniquely identified.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the digital addresses were free to use, available offline, and could be printed on paper, posters and signs.

The technology to generate Plus Codes is also an open source, which means anyone can see how it works and develop their own applications for any use case.

 

Edited By: Modupe Adeloye (NAN)

 

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Foreign

Finland’s health authority releases COVID-19 symptom map application

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Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) released the COVID-19 symptom map application on Tuesday to help people know the latest situation of the disease.

The symptom map application utilizes information contributed to the Omaolo service, which allows people to submit their symptoms if they suspect they have contracted the disease. Omaolo also provides users suggestions on how to treat their symptoms. Omaolo is a Finnish national digital service that helps people assess their need for health care or service.

People who suspect they may have had COVID-19, or others who are just curious about how many in their nationhood may have been infected with the disease, can check the symptom map application to obtain information about the situation of the virus in their district.

With the application, the overall picture of the COVID-19 situation compiled by THL will be supplemented by symptom information reported by people themselves, said the health authority in a press release issued on Tuesday.

“Symptoms reported by citizens themselves increase our understanding of the progress of the epidemic. Alerts based on symptom assessments can predict the future number of COVID-19 cases and the need for treatment,” said Sanna Isosomppi, specialist physician at THL, in the press release.

The symptom map shows the number of symptom assessments per 100,000 inhabitants by hospital district and municipality. In addition, the age group distribution of symptom assessments and the daily total number of symptom assessments for the last 14 days can be viewed for the whole country or a single hospital district.

The application is available in Finnish, Swedish and English. The information provided by the symptom map is updated daily at 12:00 noon, said THL.

The information content and features of the symptom map application are being developed. So far, about 500,000 people in Finland have already contributed to the data-gathering site behind the map, said THL.

According to THL, as of Tuesday afternoon, Finland has confirmed a total of 6,628 COVID-19 cases, of which the number of new cases was 29. The death toll reached 312, four more than on the previous day. According to a preliminary estimate, at least 5,100 people have recovered from the disease.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Solutions to Africa’s problems reside within Africa itself: Ramaphosa

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as African Union (AU) chairperson, on Monday stressed the role of African countries in resolving African problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement marking the Africa Day, Ramaphosa said this event reminds Africans once again that “the solutions to Africa’s problems, be they overcoming disease or eradicating poverty and underdevelopment, reside within Africa itself.”

“Although the coronavirus pandemic is not an African problem alone, we have shown ourselves capable of agility and ingenuity,” Ramaphosa said.

This year’s Africa Day, the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity, now known as the AU, was overshadowed by the wide spread of COVID-19 across the African continent.

It has been a little over three months since the first case of coronavirus on the continent was confirmed.

“This pandemic has been a stark reminder that regardless of whether we are born into wealth or indigence, we are all mortal, and can succumb to disease,” Ramaphosa said.

As countries around the world battle to turn the tide against the pandemic, Africa has taken firm control of its destiny, by developing a clear strategy and raising financial resources from its member states, he said.

The African response to the coronavirus pandemic has received widespread praise. Despite the multitude of resource challenges they face, African countries have come together in remarkable ways, united by a common purpose, Ramaphosa said.

The countries of the Global South are more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 because of low levels of development, insufficient resources and weak health systems, he said.

Although many African countries are ranking low on human development indices thus less capable to manage the fallout of a global health emergency of this kind on their own, “yet at the same time, some of the very health challenges African countries have wrestled with for decades have given us a clear understanding of what needs to be done, and how to do it,” said Ramaphosa.

African countries have been able to use their experience in managing outbreaks of malaria, cholera, HIV, tuberculosis and hemorrhagic viruses like Ebola and Lassa.

“Our understanding of communicable diseases and how to manage them has put us in good stead when it comes to coronavirus,” Ramaphosa said.

African governments have been swift and proactive in implementing measures to flatten the coronavirus curve, he said.

By early May, 43 African countries had full border closures, 53 had closed institutions of learning, 54 had limited public gatherings, 26 had instituted the compulsory use of face masks, 32 had instituted night-time curfews and 18 had imposed nation-wide lockdowns.

The AU has developed a comprehensive Joint Continental Strategy to guide cooperation among member states and set up a COVID-19 Response Fund.

A number of countries, including South Africa, have rolled out massive food relief and social assistance measures to support the vulnerable during this time.

African countries have scaled up their respective capacities for screening, testing and isolating. In April, the AU and the African Centers for Disease Control launched the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing to strengthen testing capacity in vulnerable countries, with the aim of testing 10 million people over the next six months.

Through this partnership, warehousing and distribution hubs are being set up across the continent to distribute medical supplies with the aim of pooling the procurement of diagnostics and other medical commodities.

Although there have been severe shortcomings and constraints, such as the shortage of personal protective equipment, testing kits and ventilators, there have also been stories of excellence and intercontinental collaboration, Ramaphosa said.

“Although it is clear we will continue to rely on the support of the international community and international financial institutions to bolster the existing continental effort and build economic resilience, African countries are holding their own,” Ramaphosa said.

The work being done to defeat the coronavirus is evidence of a continent determined to leverage its strengths and capabilities to resolve its own challenges, he said.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

5.5-magnitude quake hits 125km SW of Mapastepec, Mexico — USGS

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An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.5 jolted 125km SW of Mapastepec, Mexico at 03:52:22 GMT on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 15.79 km, was initially determined to be at 14.6838 degrees north latitude and 93.7728 degrees west longitude.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

5.3-magnitude quake hits 122km SW of Mapastepec, Mexico — USGS

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An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 jolted 122km SW of Mapastepec, Mexico at 03:52:24 GMT on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 35.0 km, was initially determined to be at 14.6969 degrees north latitude and 93.7532 degrees west longitude.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Landmark roadmap for emissions reduction released by Australian gov’t

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The Australian government has released its roadmap for investment in emissions reduction technology.

Angus Taylor, the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, released the long-awaited Technology Investment Road Map on Thursday, setting out Australia’s energy priorities.

The paper considered more than 140 low-carbon technologies and identified priorities for short, medium and long-term objectives.

“We will back technologies that will strengthen the economy and not get ideological about where emission reductions come from,” Taylor told News Corp Australia.

“The goal of this road map is to bring a strategic and system-wide view to future investments in low-emissions technologies.”

“At its core, this is about technology, not taxes. It means reducing emissions, not reducing jobs and the economy. It is an approach based on rigour, discipline and optimism, not ideology.”

Among the technologies considered were carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen and biofuels.

According to the document, the development of a hydrogen industry in Australia would create 7,600 jobs by 2050.

It acknowledged the potential of nuclear power but warned of the cost and environmental factors.

The paper said that while renewables were the cheapest option questions remained over their reliability. It said that liquefied natural gas (LNG) would play an important role “balancing” renewable energy sources.

“Flexible gas capacity will continue to play a crucial role in supporting variable renewable energy, alongside continuing growth in energy storage, demand management and innovative grid technologies as alternatives,” the document said.

“As the world‘s largest LNG exporter, all of these factors will have implications for Australia’s domestic gas market and export opportunities over the long term.”

Taylor said he would outline the roadmap’s long-term goals by the end of September and release a emissions reduction strategy soon after.

(XINHUA)

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Entertainment

Ali Baba, other stakeholders, give roadmap for Lagos tourism post COVID-19

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Veteran Comedian Atunyota Akpobome, popularly known as “Ali Baba” and other stakeholders on Wednesday enumerated the way forward for tourism growth in Lagos State post COVID-19.

 The stakeholders spoke during a virtual zoom meeting organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, with the theme: “Resetting the Tourism Sector in Lagos State”.

The comedian said that for the state to be properly positioned for growth, there was need to put in place the needed infrastructure that would drive tourism.

He also advised on organising competitions around entertainment, tourism and culture to attract tourists into the state which would also drive the entertainment economy.

“Lagos is a cosmopolitan state already, with capture of people across the world meaning we have a representation of those to look into Lagos tourism.

“What to be done is to ensure that the needed infrastructure are put in place to drive tourism, like building high-rise sites where people can view some segments of the state.

“We need more art galleries; when President Macron of France visited Lagos, he asked for where local fabrics are sold, we should have places where our local fabrics, arts and crafts are constantly exhibited,” he said.

Also, a Hotel Consultant, Mr Dayo Adesugba, advised the state government to create tourism lottery and special funds for tourism stakeholders as a way to revitalise the industry postCOVID-19.

He said the state government must also think of upgrading tourism sites within the state which were not attractive enough to woo tourists.

Adesugba said that security had been an issue of concern to most tourism practitioners, adding that the state government needed to work on beefing up security to rekindle the confidence of tourists.

“We need to rekindle that sense of security in every intending tourist just by making sure we have effective tourism security personnel in place.

“There should be training and retraining of tourism practitioners and also creation of tourism fund to assist those engaged in small and medium scale tourism businesses to remain in business postCOVID-19,” he said.

Mr Bankole Bernard, former President,  National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), drew the attention of the state to untapped potential of religious tourism dominant in the state.

He also called for proper tourism education for Lagos residents to understand what tourism means as most people lacked tourism knowledge.

“We have a market for religious tourism growing on a daily basis and we seem not to identify with it.

“Along the whole of Lagos-Ibadan expressway are religious organisations with different programmes held on a daily basis, this is a form of religious tourism we are not grooming.

“Lagos State government need to educate residents on what tourism means and areas they could invest,” he said.

Another tourism practitioner, Mrs Tayo Oladaisi, called for the resuscitation of traditional storytelling culture which was capable of preserving nation’s culture and indigenous languages, among others.

She urged the youths to embrace business ideas in tourism value chain as the industry remained fertile.

Mrs Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, Lagos State Commissioner of Tourism, Arts and Culture, appreciated the participants for their brilliant contributions toward the success of the meeting.

She said the state would continue to ensure the security of Lagos residents and visitors relating to tourism.

Akinbike-Yusuf encouraged the stakeholders to work together with the ministry to ensure a common goal of boosting the tourism industry was achieved in due course.

“We will continue to ensure the security of the state. We can together create wealth and employment with tourism. When  tourism and entertainment activities are heightened, crime rate will be reduced.

“I appreciate you all for taking out time for this, let’s continue to stay safe and be hopeful that the final ease of the lockdown will start soon,” she said.

Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Foreign

Experts decode genetic map of SARS-CoV-2 virus in Romania

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Romanian experts managed to decode the genetic map of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their country, which is closer to those identified in different countries in Europe, India and the United States, the state television station TVR reported on Wednesday.

The virus in Romania is 99.95 percent identical to the reference strain in Wuhan of China, and in an even higher proportion, namely 99.96-99.97 percent, identical with strains identified in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Britain, Spain and the United States, according to the genetic map decoded by renowned biologist Mihaela Lazar and her team from the Cantacuzino Institute in Bucharest.

The genetic map is crucial for understanding the peculiarities of this virus, for making a guide to future and possible treatments and for assessing the impact of medical interventions with a role in improving health, the Romanian biologist was quoted as saying.

The data has already been transmitted to the World Health Organization and will be used by scientists around the world, the Cantacuzino Institute stated.

The Cantacuzino Institute, a subordinate to the Ministry of Defense, has been the National Reference Center for Influenza since 1969. It collaborates with all medical institutions across the country and transmits to WHO important information for public health.

Romania reported its first COVID-19 case on Feb. 26, which involved a 20-year-old Romanian national infected by an Italian visitor. The country announced 196 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 17,387, with 1,147 fatalities.

(XINHUA)

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Economy

COVID-19: CISLAC designs roadmap to help FG on efficient public finance management

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Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), says it has designed a roadmap to help Nigeria in the management of funds received so far in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

CISLAC’s Executive Director, Auwal Rafsanjani made this known while presenting the report in Abuja on Wednesday.

According to him,  the roadmap has becaoe imperative as there is the need for government at all levels to improve on financial management in the wake of the economic challenges caused by COVID-19.

Rafsanjani said that the issues had become even more complicated with the crash in oil prices affecting the 2020 Appropriation Act and stimulating borrowing and loans from external and internal sources.

The roadmap recommended that to achieve serious development, there was also the need for government both at national and sub-national to imbibe a progressive expenditure pattern by allocating more resources to capital expenditure.

This according to him is in consideration of the important role capital expenditure plays in engendering socio-economic development in the country.

“There is need to increase budgetary allocation to key sectors of the economy such as education, health, infrastructure, and food sufficiency.

“The principle behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires government spending to be inclusive, far-reaching and all-encompassing.

“Government spending should focus majorly on improving the quality of universal public education and this can be achieved by allocating at least 20 per cent of the public budget to improve access to quality education.

“There is a need to strengthen the public health sector by increasing resource allocation to the tune of 15  per cent of the annual budget.

“The imperativeness of this can be seen in the current need to improve public health services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the roadmap, the ability of a country to address such challenges in the future depends on its present spending to develop the health sector.

It said that government needed to ensure the transparency of the public procurement system by providing a timely and adequate degree of transparency in each phase of the public procurement circle.

It also suggested that government should ensure transparency of the flow of public funds, from the beginning of the budgeting process throughout the public procurement cycle to allow stakeholders and the citizens to understand government spending priority.

It said that government at all levels should develop an inclusive public finance framework with a clear resource mobilisation plan that looked beyond oil revenue.

According  to the recommendations,  the framework should make provision for the diversification of oil revenue beyond sales of crude oil and other accruable rent.

“More importantly, there is the need for Nigeria crude products to be refined locally, and that entails ensuring holistic overhaul of the nation’s four refineries to function in full capacity and possible building of new ones.

“This will prevent the loss of huge resources due to crude swapping,” it said

According  to the roadmap,  the Federal  Government should ensure the efficient management of the oil sector through the passage, assent, and functioning of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, as well as other components, particularly the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill.

It said this would bring an end to the porous resource mobilisation and management regime that dominated the oil sector.

It further said there was also the need to review all the MoU governing Nigeria oil sector relationships and tax agreements in order to do away with obsolete laws for Nigeria to harness the potential of its oil tax revenue.

The roadmap also recommended the  adoption of a participatory budgeting systems that allowed for the needs and aspirations of the citizens to be captured in the budgeting process.

This, it said was because active citizens’ participation at all stages of budgeting ensured open budgeting and allows for effective budget implementation.

It said that government at all levels should as a matter of policy increase public spending to develop infrastructure in education, health, and other critical sectors.

Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Ese E. Ekama (NAN)

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Contact US: editor @nnn.com.ng, nnnnews247 @gmail.com

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