UK to Commence Visa Applications from Nigerians on July 28
The British High Commission in Nigeria has said it will reopen visa application centres in Abuja, Ikeja and Victoria Island on July 28.
The Commission also said the International Language Testing System will commence as well.
In a tweet put out by the embassy, it said “Visa Application Centres are resuming services in Nigeria from 28 July.
“You must have an appointment to visit a VAC and will not be admitted without one.
“For new applications, we aim to assess within our normal service standards, but there may be some delay.
“Staff and customer safety remains our top priority with COVID-19 preventative measures in place.
“Our focus now is to deliver our services safely and effectively together.”
Expert Panel Endorses Protocol for COVID-19 Herbal Medicine Clinical Trials in Africa
The Regional Expert Committee on Traditional Medicine for COVID-19 formed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union Commission for Social Affairs has endorsed a protocol for phase III clinical trials of herbal medicine for COVID-19 as well as a charter and terms of reference for the establishment of a data and safety monitoring board for herbal medicine clinical trials.
“Just like other areas of medicine, sound science is the sole basis for safe and effective traditional medicine therapies,” said Dr Prosper Tumusiime, Director of Universal Health Coverage and Life Course Cluster at WHO Regional Office for Africa.
“The onset of COVID-19, like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, has highlighted the need for strengthened health systems and accelerated research and development programmes, including on traditional medicines,” said Dr Tumusiime.
The endorsed technical documents are aimed at empowering and developing a critical mass of technical capacity of scientists in Africa to conduct proper clinical trials to ensure quality, safety and efficacy of traditional medicines in line with international standards. Phase III clinical trials are pivotal in fully assessing the safety and efficacy of a new medical product. The data safety and monitoring board will ensure that the accumulated studies data are reviewed periodically against participants’ safety. It will also make recommendations on the continuation, modification or termination of a trial based on evaluation of data at predetermined periods during the study.
If a traditional medicine product is found to be safe, efficacious and quality-assured, WHO will recommend for a fast-tracked, large-scale local manufacturing, Dr Tumusiime explained, noting that through the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum, there is now a benchmark upon which clinical trials of medicines and vaccines in the region can be assessed and approved in fewer than 60 days.
“The adoption of the technical documents will ensure that universally acceptable clinical evidence of the efficacy of herbal medicines for the treatment of COVID-19 are generated without compromising the safety of participants,” said Professor Motlalepula Gilbert Matsabisa, the Expert Committee Chairman. He voiced hope that that the generic clinical trial protocol will be immediately used by scientists in the region to ensure that people can benefit from the potential of traditional medicine in dealing with the ongoing pandemic.
The 25-members of the Regional Expert Advisory Committee on Traditional Medicine for COVID-19 are tasked with supporting countries to enhance research and development of traditional medicine-based therapies against the virus and provide guidance on the implementation of the approved protocols to generate scientific evidence on the quality, safety and efficacy of herbal medicines for COVID-19.
The Committee members are from research institutions, national regulatory authorities, traditional medicine programmes, public health departments, academia, medical and pharmacy professions and civil society organizations of Member States.
Sanofi, GSK Commence Clinical Trial of COVID-19 Vaccine
Sanofi and GSK have announced the commencement of Phase 1/2 clinical trial for their adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine candidate that was developed by both firms uses the same recombinant protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines with GSK’s established pandemic adjuvant technology.
The companies in a statement said that the Phase 1/2 clinical trial is a randomised, double blind and placebo-controlled trial.
It is designed to evaluate the safety, reactogenicity and immunogenicity of the vaccine candidate.
They added that a total of 440 healthy adults are being enrolled in the trial across 11 investigational sites in the United States.
The companies anticipate first results in early December 2020, to support the initiation of a Phase 3 trial in December 2020.
“If these data are sufficient for licensure application, we are planning to request regulatory approval in the first half of 2021,” the statement said.
Speaking on the development, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Sanofi Pasteur, Thomas Triomphe, said, “Sanofi and GSK bring proven science and technology to the fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic, with the shared objective of delivering a safe and effective vaccine.
“The initiation of our clinical study is an important step and brings us closer to a potential vaccine which could help defeat COVID-19. Our dedicated teams and partner continue to work around the clock as we aim to deliver the first results in early December. Positive data will enable a prompt start of the pivotal phase 3 trial by the end of this year.”
Also speaking, President of GSK Vaccines, Roger Connor, said, “Moving this vaccine candidate into clinical development is an important moment in the progress towards addressing the global pandemic we are all facing.
“This builds on the confidence shown by governments already in the potential of this protein- based adjuvanted vaccine candidate, which utilises established technology from both companies, and can be produced at scale by two of the leading vaccine manufacturers globally.
“We now look forward to the data from the study, and if positive, beginning a Phase 3 trial by the end of the year.”
Sanofi is leading the clinical development and registration of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Pre-clinical data showed an acceptable reactogenicity profile and data based on two injections of the adjuvanted recombinant vaccine showed high levels of neutralising antibodies that are comparable to levels in humans who recovered from the COVID-19 infection.
Pre-clinical results will be published later this year. In parallel, Sanofi and GSK are scaling up manufacturing of the antigen and adjuvant with the target of producing up to one billion doses in 2021.
Africa Needs Urgent Action to Avert Famine in Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Others Says FAO
Conflict and COVID-19 are also worsening food insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan
FAO Director-Genaral QU Dongyu, today warned the United Nations Security Council that Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen were at risk of a looming famine and appealed for an urgent and united humanitarian response to save lives and livelihoods.
“Tragically, there are many more situations where conflict and instability, now also exacerbated by COVID 19, are drivers for more serious hunger and acute food insecurity. This is particularly visible in areas where conflict and other factors such as economic turbulence, and extreme weather, are already driving people into poverty and hunger,” he said.
In a virtual briefing to the Security Council on conflict and hunger, Qu also underscored the dire situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.
The Security Council invited FAO’s Director-General, the United Nations’ Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, and David Beasley, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, to provide an update on the food security situation in a number of countries around the world experiencing food insecurity.
“Worldwide, those hardest hit include the urban poor, informal workers and pastoral communities as well as people who are already particularly vulnerable – children, women, the elderly, the sick and people with disabilities,” the FAO Director-General said.
“We need first and fast aid to stop hunger, we need prevention and production locally, we need political willingness and we need collective actions, as the forecasts for food security in 2020 continue to worsen,” he added.
This is the second time this year that Qu has been asked to brief the Security Council on situations of conflict induced food insecurity. Together with Lowcock and Beasley he last addressed the UN body in April.
COVID-19, Desert Locust are factors exacerbating acute food insecurity
Qu expressed deep concern about the latest data on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which shows that some 21.8 million people are unable to get enough food on a daily basis. Qu said this was “the highest number of people experiencing crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity ever recorded in a single country”.
In Yemen, Qu pointed out that Desert Locusts have further threatened food availability. “FAO urges all those concerned to work towards granting access for control operations to prevent the pest from further worsening the deteriorating situation in Yemen and beyond,” he said.
He also expressed “great alarm” about the worsening situation in Burkina Faso, where the number of people experiencing crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity has almost tripled.
In northern Nigeria, between June and August 2020, the number of people in crisis or facing emergency levels of acute food insecurity increased by 73 percent compared to the 2019 peak figure and reached almost 8.7 million, Qu said.
He noted that in Somalia, 3.5 million people face crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity between July and September 2020. This increase of 67 percent compared to the 2019 peak is due to the triple shocks experienced this year – COVID-19, floods and the desert locust upsurge. “While much progress has been made in controlling the locusts, FAO is making every effort to sustain control operations,” the Director-General said.
In Sudan, the number of people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance has risen by 64 percent, between June and September 2020, reaching around 9.6 million people, the highest level ever recorded in the country, with serious floods further exacerbating the situation.
Combating acute food insecurity, harnessing the power of investments and innovation
In his address to the Security Council, the FAO Director-General called for a “package of solutions” to be put in place in order to combat acute food insecurity effectively. He said humanitarian-development-peace actions must be well coordinated and complementary and that they need to be mutually reinforcing across global, regional, national and local levels.
“Humanitarian actors can provide first aid. Agri-food systems can play a more sustainable function for better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life,” Qu said.
He noted that there was “good news” with FAO forecasting in 2020 a bumper harvest globally in major crops – an all-time high year, with 58 million tonnes above the 2019 outturn.
Qu stressed that such an achievement was being reached thanks to enabling policies, investment and “the hard work by millions of famers”.
“Lasting peace and harmony can be achieved, through good policies and investment in agriculture infrastructure and capacity building in the rural development, especially in conflict areas,” he said.
Qu said the Security Council can play a pivotal role in addressing the threat of conflict induced acute food insecurity by promoting dialogue and seeking solutions to conflict and violence. This would allow for urgent life-saving and livelihood-saving operations to be scaled up and better integrated humanitarian and development responses to be delivered that address the multiple drivers of food insecurity.
“Once again let me assure the Council of FAO’s continued support through policy advice, technical assistance, our Big Data platform and concrete services on the ground,” the Director-General concluded.
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