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Madagascar joins COVAX after vaccine u-turn

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Madagascar’s health minister on Thursday announced the country had joined the COVAX vaccine-sharing programme, following through with a recent pledge to roll out jabs after months of resistance from the president.

Vaccination has yet to begin on the Indian Ocean island nation, where President Andry Rajoelina took a hard-line stance against jabs that most other governments scrambled to secure.

Instead, Rajoelina relentlessly stood by a locally-made herbal infusion he claims is a coronavirus “cure”, saying last month that he was in no hurry to launch mass inoculations for his citizens nor get a jab himself.

But heavy criticism forced him to make a U-turn last week when his office said the government would “seek” and “use” vaccines against Covid-19.

Health Minister Jean Louis Hanitrala Rakotovao on Thursday said Madagascar had successfully signed up for vaccine procurement through the Covax facility.

“There are still many stages to go through but we have made the first step,” Rakotovao announced on a video posted online by the health ministry.

Also Read: US welcomes Iran meeting, says ready for ‘mutual steps’

The presidency has not yet disclosed which jabs would be procured.

Madagascar is struggling to curb the second wave of coronavirus infections, likely due to the presence of a highly transmissible variant first detected in South Africa.

Rakotovao told local media on Thursday that the number of severe cases had risen and warned that hospitals were running out of oxygen.

Long queues of people have been forming outside pharmacies in the capital Antananarivo, according to an AFP reporter.

The government has meanwhile continued to promote the herbal infusion, which is based on the anti-malarial plant artemisia.

Dubbed Covid-Organics or CVO, it is sold in drink and capsule form and has been widely distributed to citizens.

Experts have cautioned against the brew, which has not been scientifically tested.

Madagascar, an island of around 27 million inhabitants, has recorded more than 24,600 coronavirus cases, including at least 433 deaths.

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COVID-19

It’s foolishness to have faith when God provides vaccine – Ighodalo

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It’s foolishness to have faith when God provides vaccine - Ighodalo

Amidst the Covid-19 vaccination exercise, which is on-going in various parts of the world, the Senior Pastor of Trinity House, Ituah Ighodalo, has criticised those who believe that their faith is enough to protect them from the virus, when God has given a Vaccine as alleged by him.

This is stemmed from the arguments raised by some clerics against the vaccines, which was developed for the treatment of the novel Coronavirus disease.

Recall, that we had reported that Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy slammed other clerics who wanted to become ministers of the vaccine, rather than concentrating on the healing power of God.

The General Overseer of the Omega Fire Ministries International, Apostle Johnson Suleman, has also expressed lack of confidence in the vaccine.

However, the Senior Pastor of Trinity House, Ituah Ighodalo who spoke to ARISE TV advised his fellow pastors “to do their research, get the knowledge and stop misinforming and improperly educating people on guesswork, instincts and mere suppositions.”

He said that he has taken a jab of the vaccine and claimed he was directed by God after he prayed.

Ighodalo said, “It is foolishness to keep having faith that God will protect you from an infection He has made provision for, vaccines that can provide a high percentage of protection.”

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Furthermore, the Cleric added, “I have taken the jab. I prayed about it, and I got a clear direction from God to go and receive it, and I have explained to my people in church that God provides knowledge. I will like to appeal to my brother pastors to do their research, get the knowledge and stop misinforming and improperly educating people on guesswork, instincts and mere suppositions. Coronavirus is real, and you need the vaccination.

“The Bible says my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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He said that there is a need to correct the wrong notion that people have about the vaccine by showing them that it doesn’t tally with science.

“Some people think the COVID-19 vaccine is a deliberate effort to wipe out the human population

“We need to address the fears and prove it is not so. Other persons think it is the sign of the anti-christ (666) and we need to prove this is not also true.

“Other people believe the vaccines have long term effect and if you take it today, in 20 years’ time, it would affect them. We also need to address such fears and prove scientifically this is not so,” he said.

“The problem is a lot of these questions about the vaccine are not being properly addressed and there is too much rumour flying all over the place. Some churches believe in divine health but if they study further, they would also know that God provided knowledge for healing,” Ighodalo added.

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Georgia PM tests positive as Covid cases spike

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Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said Tuesday he tested positive for coronavirus amid a fresh spike in cases in the Caucasus nation despite the start of a vaccine rollout.

“I am feeling well,” Garibashvili, 38, said on Facebook. “I am in self-isolation and continuing to work remotely.”

On Tuesday, Georgia registered 897 new coronavirus cases — three times the average number of daily infections recorded over the past months.

Overall, the Black Sea nation of some four million people has registered more than 275,000 coronavirus cases and 3,832 deaths, the health ministry said.

In mid-March, Georgia began a national vaccination campaign by inoculating medical workers with AstraZeneca’s jab.

Also Read: BREAKING: Polytechnic lecturers begin indefinite strike

In addition to some 43,000 doses of AstraZeneca provided through the Covax vaccine-sharing programme, Georgia also received enough doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine to inoculate some 14,000 people.

More than 11,600 people have been vaccinated so far, director of Georgia’s National Centre for Disease Control, Amiran Gamkrelidze, told journalists on Monday.

He said the rollout “needs to be accelerated”.

The authorities in Georgia have so far ruled out any further anti-virus curbs.

Deputy Health Minister Tamar Gabunia said on Monday there was “no need at this point” for further anti-pandemic restrictions.

In May last year, Georgia lifted its coronavirus lockdown and allowed shops to reopen, but a night-time curfew has remained in place.

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COVID-19: Portugal reopens museums, schools, others

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Portugal on Monday reopened museums, cafe terraces and secondary schools nearly two months after tightening Covid-19 curbs following a wave of cases early this year.

There was an explosion of cases following Christmas and New Year festivities which led to overstretched hospitals and the government imposed a general lockdown in the middle of January and closed schools a week later.

There have been nearly 16,900 coronavirus deaths and 823,335 cases so far, according to an official tally on Sunday.

Primary schools reopened on March 15.

Monday’s easing comes with some guidelines. Only four people will be able to sit together at a table in cafe terraces while museums can change their opening hours.

Group training sessions at gyms and sports venues remain banned.

“We are expecting very few visitors” due to the paucity of foreign tourists, Antonio Nunes Pereira, director of the Palace of Pena in Sintra, outside Lisbon, told AFP.

Read Also: UK to announce new international travel rules

“We expect a return to normal next summer… when the vaccination process advances in Europe,” he said.

The museum is one of Portugal’s most visited sites and drew over two million visitors in 2019. Eighty-five percent of them were foreigners.

The government has launched mass Covid tests and started vaccinating teachers.

It plans to start reopening high schools, universities and auditoriums and concert halls later this month and restaurants in May.

The situation is being reviewed every two weeks and the government can tighten restrictions in municipalities with a high number of cases.

Portugal has suspended flights with Brazil and the Britain to ward off the new variants that emerged in those countries and tightened controls on the land border with Spain.

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