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HSBC’s profits slump 65% amid pandemic downturn




HSBC’s profits for the first half of this year have plunged 65% as it battles the coronavirus downturn.

The UK’s biggest bank posted pre-tax profits of $4.3bn (£3.3bn), compared to $12.4bn for the same period last year.

The fall was much larger than analysts had forecast as HSBC was hit by loans turning bad and interest rates remaining low.

While HSBC is headquartered in London, more than half of its profits come from the Asian financial hub of Hong Kong.

HSBC said it has set aside $8bn to $13bn this year for bad loans as it expects more people and businesses to default on their repayments.

This is higher than previously budgeted for, taking into account the effects of the economic downturn.

The bank said it has given more than 700,000 payment holidays on loans, credit cards and mortgages, providing more than $27bn in customer relief.

HSBC has also been hit by the low interest rate environment, which squeeze a bank’s profit margins on the loans it provides. The lower the interest rate, the less a bank makes on its lending.

The bank is dealing with a number of challenges, not just the financial downturn caused by the coronavirus.

It is currently embroiled in a political battle over its support of China’s national security law in Hong Kong while pushing ahead with a major restructuring of its global banking operations.

“We will face any political challenges that arise with a focus on the long-term needs of our customers and the best interests of our investors,” HSBC’s group chief chief executive Noel Quinn said on Monday.

“Current tensions between China and the US inevitably create challenging situations for an organisation with HSBC’s footprint. However, the need for a bank capable of bridging the economies of east and west is acute, and we are well placed to fulfil this role.”

In June, the UK’s largest bank, said it will push ahead with its plan to cut 35,000 jobs from a global workforce of 235,000 as part of a major restructuring announced in February.

HSBC chairman Mark Tucker is overseeing the programme to shrink the bank’s operations in Europe and the US.

On Monday, Mr Quinn said that the bank will “accelerate implementation of the plans we announced in February” adding that “our operating environment has changed significantly since the start of the year.”

“We will also therefore look at what additional actions we need to take in light of the new economic environment to make HSBC a stronger and more sustainable business.”



COVID-19: FG vaccinates 1.2m Nigerians, says hesitancy still strong




…Warns against fake vaccines circulation

…Set to reopen Enugu, Port Harcourt airports

By Abdullahi Mohammed, Abuja
The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 said Monday that 1,173,869 Nigerians have been vaccinated with the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccines.

This was disclosed by the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr Boss Mustapha at a briefing in Abuja.
He said the Presidential Steering Committee is concerned that vaccine hesitancy was still strong in the country.

“The vaccination programme is still progressing but we still have reasons to intensify our campaign against hesitancy. As at date records show that we have vaccinated 1,173,869 representing 58.3% of the eligible persons targeted in the current phase have received the first dose of Astra Zeneca vaccine. This is low in our estimation,” he said.

He said Nigeria and the United Arab Emirate (UAE) have reached amicable resolutions on travel requirements.
“For some time now, the situation between Nigeria and the UAE over travel requirements have been under management. I am pleased to inform you that we have reached a comfortable position acceptable to both parties.

“You will recall that we also informed Nigerians that three international points of entry (Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu) would be reopened. Kano has reopened while Port Harcourt and Enugu are almost ready. The key concern of the PSC is the availability of infrastructure for Port Health Services,” he said.

Also speaking, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said fake COVID-19 vaccines are now in circulation in the country.He said government would not accept vaccines certificates from private and unverified sources.

He said although the number of cases is still low compared to other parts of the world, Nigeria is careful not to declare success “because experience in other countries warns us of the unpredictable pattern of COVID-19 resurgence.

“Study of developments in places like Turkey, India, Thailand and Brazil, with severe disease and high fatality ratios, helps us to recalibrate our response.“Due to warnings by international police organizations of the high rate of fake COVID-19 vaccines said to be  in circulation, and reports of risks of adverse events reported after vaccination, Nigeria will not accept vaccines from private and unverified sources. However, NAFDAC is pursuing initiatives to test and authorize more vaccines for use in Nigeria.“In addition to scaling up vaccination, we scaled up surveillance at our points of entry, to reduce the risk of importation of coronavirus variants said to be more contagious and virulent.
“These variants are suspected to be behind the surging COVID-19 cases in Asia and the Americas. In this connection, citizens are strongly advised to defer all non-vital travel to known high burden countries, until their epidemiological situations improve.“Once again, our best efforts at preemption are to improve vigilance at points on entry, adhere to non-pharmaceutical measures, increase testing and tracing, along with vaccination deployment surge. We are also considering other measures and testing strategies tailored to mitigate risks of importation of virulent strains,” he said.
The minister said government would continue to improve strategies for case management to ensure better survival outcomes for infected persons by continuing training of health workers, stocking up on PPEs, commodities and medication, and working with state and federal hospital case managers, to streamline treatment protocol at Isolation Centers or in home-based care.“Many more COVID-19 positive persons present voluntarily for treatment now, which is a good sign because it allows easier medical intervention. In the past two weeks only one patient in our Isolation centres had need for oxygen treatment.
“This development has reduced pressure on oxygen need, making it more available for other conditions such as pneumonia, asthma etc. Plans by the Federal Government to build new oxygen plants in all States are well on track, as well as plans by Global Fund to repair or update existing, faulty plants,” he said.

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First batch of COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccines expire June 28, July 9 – PSC




 By Abdullahi Mohammed, Abuja 

The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 has said that the first  batch of AstraZeneca vaccine received will expire  on June 28, 2021 and July 9, 2021.

Chief executive officer of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib said this at a media briefing in Abuja.

“The batches of AstraZeneca we received have expiring dates of June 28 and July 9. We have not taken delivery of any MTN vaccines in Nigeria.

“The vaccination against COVID-19 is currently ongoing in all States of the Federation. Our collaboration with health officials and other stakeholders at the National, State, LGA and community levels in the vaccination exercise has yielded substantial results.

“I am pleased to inform you that as at April 26th 2021, 1,173, 869 Nigerians, representing 58.3 % of the eligible persons targeted in this current phase, have received their first dose of the Astrazeneca vaccine. 

“Notwithstanding the above successes, we are aware of the global scarcity of COVID-19 vaccines due to high demand, especially in countries where the vaccines are being produced. We, therefore, anticipate a delay in vaccine supply to Nigeria which may also affect and impact the remaining phases of the vaccination campaign.

“However, in response to the anticipated delay, the Federal Government has rationalized the vaccination exercise by preserving 50% of available doses of the vaccine for administration of the second doses.

“Each State of the Federation, including FCT, are currently administering only 50% of their allocated doses of vaccines. The remaining 50% will be administered to clients who had earlier received the first dose and this would be scheduled between 8 – 12 weeks from the date of their first dose. “Data from this exercise are being uploaded and updated by States on the Electronic Management Platform. Furthermore, the Federal Government has signed off to receive up to 29.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine through the African Union (AU).

 “We are also expecting deliveries of vaccines through the Covax facility by the end of May or early June 2021. By this time, we would have completed the process of administering the second doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine to those who got the first dose.
“In the meantime, NAFDAC is continuing discussions with manufacturers and examining their vaccines, in anticipation of Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization. We hope that these will mitigate the negative concerns about the delayed deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines, thereby ensuring the sustained supply of vaccines for smooth continuation of our vaccination exercise.“To further strengthen vaccine security and accountability, we are deepening our collaboration with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Our partnership in this regard is also aimed at further curbing cases of vaccine mismanagement and other anticipated sharp practices at the vaccination sites. 

“The Agency has taken delivery of 2,250 tablets as donation from CACOVID, to help health facilities with the registration process and making it less cumbersome for data capture in our electronic data register. We therefore encourage all eligible residents of Nigeria to continue to register for vaccination through the NPHCDA website, and we guarantee that every registered person will be scheduled and vaccinated in the coming phases of the exercise accordingly,” he said.

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COVID-19: Why states were directed to halt vaccination halfway – FG…Says GL 12 and below to continue to work from home




‘AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson vaccines can’t be combined

By Abdullahi Mohammed, Abuja
The federal government said Tuesday that state governments administering COVID-19 vaccines have been asked to stop the exercise if they use half of the doses allocated to them because the country is not sure when it will receive the second batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

This was disclosed by the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, at the media briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.

“In a situation where, we still cannot specifically determine when the next batch of AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive, then I think wisdom dictates that, it’s better for us to vaccinate people fully. And so that we can say that we have a pool of citizens that have been fully vaccinated, since this vaccination comes in two doses.“That’s what gave rise to that directive, rather than just going ahead with just single dose when the full dose should be two doses of the same. So we felt that it was proper for us in the circumstance to ensure that those who have been vaccinated have been fully vaccinated”.

In his remarks, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and chairman of the Presidential Task Force, Mr Boss Mustapha, said civil servants on Grade Level 12 and below would continue to work from home because there are certain red flags that need to be interrogated further.

“There are certain interrogations we want to investigate further because there are few red signals that we must deal with before we can communicate to Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, as to when is the appropriate time for them to return.
“Before we take a decision as to when they will return to work, we will have clarity as to where we are in terms of control and vaccinations so that we do not blow the level of successes that we have achieved,” he said.

Also speaking, the Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said government was investigating the reported blood clotting in some individuals that have taken the first jab of AstraZeneca vaccine.“There’s been ongoing investigations that we’ve all be following on the suspected link between the AstraZeneca vaccines to certain rear experience of blood clotting in individuals in Europe. Those investigations are still ongoing, right. Not all European countries are adopting the vaccines for their populations.

“In Nigeria with every vaccine, we have a parallel system to measure and to monitor any side effects. That is ongoing and is being managed by the National Agency for Food Drugs (NAFDAC) in collaboration with National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and we will continue to monitor patients in Nigeria.

“Every demographic is different, the demographic in taking vaccines in every country is different, the interaction between different drugs people are taking. So there are many circumstances that need to be fully evaluated, we will look at the data ourselves here in Nigeria and, I will take action as needed.

“I think the critical thing to always remember, when you talk about medicines, vaccines and side effects is, never as simple as it might look, they always have to weigh the risk versus the benefits. And once you do that, it becomes immediately obvious that the benefits of these vaccines by far outweigh small risks in individuals.

“The argument against that is always if one person is at risk, the risk in that person is 100%, whether the rest of the population gets it or not, which is true. So which is why we’re obliged to investigate every case that we see and do the best that we can to understand what’s going on,” he said.

Aldo speaking, the Executive Secretary of Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, clarified that the AstraZeneca vaccines and Johnson and Johnson vaccines cannot be taken by the same individual.
“You cannot take the AstraZeneca on your left and Johnson and Johnson on the right. Yeah, so it has to be both doses of AstraZeneca and a single shot of the Johnson and Johnson,” he said.
On the reported side effects of the AstraZeneca, he said: “We have said it here, that there are side effects of these vaccines, side effects of vaccines are not unique to the COVID-19 vaccine. And it is not uncommon for people who take the vaccine to experience mild side effects.

“Once they experience these side effects, the correct thing to do is to report the side effects to the health facility where you got the vaccine. There’s also the safety app that you can download on your phone and report these side effects. The data goes directly to NAFDAC , and we’re following up on these side effects. Anywhere there’s a serious side effect this is investigated to try and establish any causal link between the vaccine and whatever symptoms or sign the client has shown.

“So one thing that we continue to tell vaccinators is that even before people take the vaccines, they should be educated on the potential side effects. For those of you who have kids, when you take your kids to the health facility for vaccination, I’m sure you’re familiar with the fact that on that day, the kids usually have a mild fever, they might not be able to raise that limb. You know, and they are usually very irritable. These are evidences that the vaccine is actually working. So there is an immune response to the vaccine that has been introduced into the body.”

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