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Nigeria votes: Polls open amid security fears in northern states | Elections 2018 News

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Abuja, Nigeria – Explosions have rocked Maiduguri, the capital of northeast Borno state, two hours before polls were to open in presidential and legislative elections after a week-long delay.

The explosions, which occurred at 05:00 GMT on Saturday, sent residents of Maiduguri scampering for safety, witnesses told Al Jazeera.

“Shortly after prayers, we heard seven blasts. Nobody knows what is going on. This is really unfortunate because it will make some people not go out today to vote,” Jubril Abdulrahman said. “We are all in our homes and waiting to find out what exactly is going on,” Abdulrahman said.

About 120,000 polling stations opened at 07:00 GMT across Africa’s most populous nation and leading oil producer for four years. Results are expected from early next week.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from a polling station in Maiduguri, said armed group Boko Haram had vowed to disrupt the elections.

“This is what foreign embassies in Nigeria warned their citizens about long before this election. This morning we woke up to the sound of explosions here in Maiduguri, some are talking about at least a dozen explosions.

“The fighting, or the explosions we have heard so far, has not deterred some of the voters who are eager to cast their ballots in the election,” Idris added.

“Since the break of dawn, people were on the road, trying to access polling stations, trying to exercise their rights as citizens of this country. But of course the delay has discouraged at least some people who had to travel long distances.”





 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last Saturday announced a one-week delay to the election, just hours before it was due to get under way.

That angered voters who had already travelled to their home towns and villages to participate, and saw the main parties accuse the other of conspiring with INEC to rig the result.

While the INEC has promised safety for voters in Saturday’s polls, many in the restive north have said they would not venture out of their homes to vote.

“I will remain indoor with my children. I don’t think I will go out to vote because anything can happen,” Hadiza Idris, another Maiduguri resident, told Al Jazeera.

Suspected members of Boko Haram on Saturday have also attacked Geidam city in neighboring Yobe state, where residents were forced to flee their homes and hide in the bush.

The attacks in the northeast come on the back of an ambush against a convoy of Borno state governor Kashim Shetima, on his way to a campaign rally in Gamboru Ngala.

The attack left scores dead and several people abducted by suspected Boko Haram fighters.

Northeast Nigeria has been hit by the decade-long Boko Haram campaign with attacks in recent months carried out by the offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in West Africa Province. More than 20,000 people have been killed by the group.

In a crowded field of 73 presidential hopefuls, the two frontrunners – incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, 76, and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, 72 – are expected to vote in their home towns.

Electors are also choosing 360 members of the House of Representatives and 109 senators from a choice of 6,500 candidates.

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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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