By Emma Farge DAKAR (Reuters) - Health officials botched more than 20 Ebola blood tests in January and February which led to the release of at least four positive patients, two of whom later died, Guinea's anti-Ebola coordinator and other health officials told Reuters. Five health officials and experts familiar with the incidents said the mistakes occurred at two different treatment centres and resulted in as many as 52 botched tests, exposing many others to the virus and revealing weaknesses in Guinea's response to the crisis. Dr. Sakoba Keita, Guinea's anti-Ebola coordinator, confirmed the mistake had occurred but gave lower figures. He said in an emailed response to questions that 23 patients were affected, of whom four tested positive when they were retested and two died. "This error was detected and the order was immediately given to withdraw the tubes and to find the sick in order to test them again," Keita said. Health officials, some of whom asked not to be named because they were worried about embarrassing the Guinean government, said the mistakes took place in Coyah, where Cuban medics are supporting a government-run centre, and in Conakry, where medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres runs a centre at the Donka hospital complex, when staff placed blood samples in the wrong test tubes, damaging specimens. Patients were discharged from the centres in western Guinea, one of the biggest remaining Ebola hot spots in the region, after the test results came back negative from the laboratory at Donka, the health officials said. At least six patients were later found to be Ebola-positive when further tests were carried out, and two of them died, the officials said. "There were deficiencies from the moment the samples were taken right through to the test results," said one health official in Guinea, who requested anonymity. The incident involved many actors in the Ebola response in Guinea, where the current outbreak was first confirmed a year ago and officials are scrambling to meet a regional deadline to reduce the number of cases to zero within six weeks. The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed nearly 10,000 people across West Africa. Guinea has recorded 2,091 deaths - fewer than in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the other worst-hit nations - and cases have fallen sharply in the past month. Several officials said the blood test incident pointed to gaps in the country's response. "It's not that their staff didn't receive training. It's just a question of being rigid and organised and that seems to be hard for Guinea," said a Western health expert who spent months in the country. TEST TUBE MIX-UP MSF said it discovered on Feb. 6 that blood samples from 43 patients taken from its Donka centre had been placed in tubes containing the blood-thinning drug heparin. Heparin typically takes the form of an invisible coating inside a tube whereas Ebola tubes are either empty or contain a blood preservative called EDTA. It should have been easy to identify the correct tubes since the set containing heparin have green lids and the ones used for Ebola are red or purple. The World Health Organization (WHO) said staff taking samples had run out of the correct tubes and instead used the heparin tubes, without reporting it. "MSF took the incident very seriously and immediately replaced the tubes and opened an investigation," said Rosa Crestani, MSF's emergency programme coordinator. Three of those tested were later discovered to be Ebola positive and recovered, she said. No one who came in contact with the trio contracted the disease. At the Coyah centre, Guinea's busiest Ebola facility, which is also supported by staff from the African Union, the samples of nine people were accidentally placed in tubes also containing heparin, said another health official. The official said that after initially being found to be negative, three of the nine later tested positive, of whom two died. No further cases among contacts of the Ebola patients released from Coyah have been identified, he said. President Alpha Conde hopes to get to zero cases by mid-April as he seeks to lure back mining investment ahead of a presidential vote due later this year. But Guinea is still battling often violent resistance to its Ebola health campaign. One of the sources said that a similar mix-up had occurred in late 2014. The government did not respond to a question about whether it had happened before. Guinea has received less financial aid than other Ebola countries, with $266 million in commitments - about half that for Sierra Leone and a third of Liberia's total, according to the U.N. financial tracking service. France is providing technical support to its former colony, but it has not launched a military operation like Britain did for Sierra Leone and the United States did in Liberia. The WHO said the mistake was not detected in the Donka laboratory, which tested both sets of samples, where technicians had received a "huge amount of samples". The laboratory is run by Guinea and supported by the Institut Pasteur de Dakar – a foundation created in 2009 by a statute signed between Senegal and France's Institut Pasteur. Dr. Andre Spiegel, director of the Institut Pasteur Dakar, declined to comment, saying the information was sensitive and confidential. Guinea's Keita said the WHO had sent a supervisor to assist the laboratory. Another Western official in Guinea said partners in a Guinea anti-Ebola drug test were now nervous about extending it to other centres in Guinea such as Coyah. Dr. Dan Kelly, founder of the Wellbody Alliance providing healthcare in Sierra Leone, said it was not unusual for centres to run out of test tubes, but procedures existed. "Stock outs happen. What you are supposed to do is wait for the right coloured tubes to arrive," he said.
DUBAI (Reuters) - "No smoking gun," pro-government Saudi commentators concluded in response to a U.S. intelligence assessment that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the operation to capture or kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A few minutes after the report was released, many Saudis flooded Twitter with the hashtag saying, "We are all Mohammed bin Salman." Saudi Arabia, one of Washington's closest Arab allies, officially dismissed what it called the "negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the kingdom's leadership", according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Associated Press
Paul Stastny scored in the first minute of overtime to give Winnipeg a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night, extending the Jets’ winning streak to four games. Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for Winnipeg, which won the game despite being outshot 41-21. Connor Hellebuyck made 40 saves.
- The Independent
CPAC: Gaetz says media ‘biased’ over Ted Cruz’s Cancun trip and should have focused on ‘caravans’ of migrants instead
Outspoken GOP congressman complains ‘the left and the media’ were less concerned about ‘caravans going through Mexico’ than Texas senator visiting
- Associated Press
PGA champion Collin Morikawa went from feeling he could do no wrong to wondering if he could do anything right, and that was just over the final hour Saturday in the Workday Championship. What mattered at the end of the third round was he had a two-shot lead as he goes for his first World Golf Championship title, even knowing it could have been a lot bigger. Morikawa walked off the 12th hole with his seventh birdie in eight holes, stretching his lead to five shots with two par 5s still to play.
Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler approved an operation to capture or kill murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, according to U.S. intelligence released on Friday as the United States imposed sanctions on some of those involved but spared the crown prince himself in an effort to preserve relations with the kingdom. Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's policies, was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to the prince in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi government, which has denied any involvement by the crown prince, issued a statement rejecting the U.S. report's findings and repeating its previous statements that Khashoggi's killing was a heinous crime by a rogue group.
- The Independent
Republicans cite ‘public health emergency’ for skipping Covid relief votes while speaking at maskless CPAC
Lawmakers due to attend conservative conference where crowds booed hosts for asking guests to wear masks
- Associated Press
French Open champion Iga Swiatek beat Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-2 on Saturday to win the Adelaide International at Memorial Drive. Swiatek seized momentum midway through the first set. Leading 3-2, she broke Bencic’s serve when the Swiss player double-faulted three times.
- The Telegraph
Scottish Labour leadership hopefuls hit back against Tory claims of being soft on independence ahead of election result
Both Scottish Labour leadership hopefuls have hit back at the Tories for accusing them of being soft on independence as the party prepares to unveil its new leader on Saturday. During a speech announcing the Scottish Conservative Holyrood campaign message on Friday, party leader Douglas Ross accused both Anas Sarwar and Monica Lennon as being “fair weather” unionists and challenged them to rule out working with the SNP. Ms Lennon dismissed the comments as “desperate and attention-seeking nonsense”. “The Tories are experts in dividing our communities and forcing working class people into poverty,” she said. “People in Scotland are tired of the same old arguments from politicians who want to drag us back to 2014 rather than take responsibility for their own government records,” she added. Meanwhile, frontrunner Anas Sarwar accused the Scots Tory leader of engaging in “playground politics” at a time when “people are losing their lives and livelihoods.”
- Reuters Videos
Blinken did not address why the United States fell short of imposing sanctions on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the report said approved an operation to kill Khashoggi in 2018, but said that a number of steps were taken on Friday to prevent similar conduct by the kingdom in future.
- The Telegraph
'It's not as nice as Cancun': Ted Cruz jokes about controversial holiday in CPAC culture wars speech
Ted Cruz railed against "cancel culture" and mocked criticism of his trip to Mexico while his home state of Texas endured freezing conditions and power blackouts as he addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday. The Texas senator was widely criticised last week for taking a family trip to Cancun, Mexico while millions in his state went without heat or water after severe winter weather crippled power supplies. He cut his trip short and apologised for the trip after facing a public backlash. As he addressed CPAC attendees in Orlando, Florida, Mr Cruz began by referencing the controversy, joking: "Orlando is awesome. It's not as nice as Cancun - but it's nice." The comments were met with laughter from the audience.
President Joe Biden is still committed to raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15 after a key Senate referee ruled the provision could not be included in the COVID-19 relief bill, a top White House economic adviser said on Friday. White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, in an interview on MSNBC, said the administration was disappointed by the Senate parliamentarian's Thursday ruling and would consult with congressional leaders about the path forward.
- The Independent
Republican gathering began in 1974 and sees American conservatives debate social worries but has struggled with position on 'alt-right' in recent years
- Reuters Videos
New Zealand's endangered Maui dolphins swim just below the surface of a small stretch of ocean off the west coast of the North Island.They're being followed overhead by drones tracking their each and every movement, as part of a new government-backed project aimed at protecting the beloved sea creatures.The Maui Drone Project uses artificial intelligence to find and track down the elusive Maui dolphins.New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday she has high hopes for the new program."Really it's about making sure that where we have those protections, we've put them in the places that Maui dolphins really need them. You know, we have drawn basically geographical areas where we have restricted certain types of fishing, but this will help us understand where they are, their movements, where the extra protections are required."The project is a one-year collaboration between the Ministry for Primary Industries, non-profit organisation MAUI63 and WWF-New Zealand, with the support of local fisheries.Officials say the drone technology can collect detailed data on the habitats, population, distribution and behaviour of the dolphins, along with many other marine species such as seabirds and whales.The drone will also ensure dolphins remain undisturbed as they fly out of the water at an altitude of up to nearly 400 feet (120 meters).Current estimates suggest that only 63 dolphins age one year and older remain.
- The Independent
From ‘election integrity’ panels to outright falsehoods about a stolen election, how CPAC is relitigating the 2020 election as Republican lawmakers file legislation to restrict voting rights
- CBS News
"I just felt so incredibly helpless and frustrated," said Spoon by H owner and chef Yoonjin Hwang.
After the Daily Mail posted photos of a shirtless Jonah Hill, the actor clapped back at "public mockery of his body" and said it "doesn't phase" him.
The actor says his childhood insecurities were “exacerbated” by years of public mockery, and he doesn’t want kids to endure the same fate.
- USA TODAY
'We're done with that lifestyle': Jessica Watkins, Ohio woman charged in Capitol riot, renounces Oath Keepers
Jessica Watkins, 38, says she has disbanded her local armed group and is canceling her Oath Keeper membership after her arrest.
- USA TODAY
GOP congresswoman's husband, whose truck had Three Percenters decal, says he never heard of armed group before
Illinois state Rep. Chris Miller said he was given the sticker featuring the armed group's logo by a friend "who said that it represented patriotism."
- NBC News
"This case is every New Yorker's worst nightmare....to be attacked by a complete and total stranger with a large knife for no reason at all," an assistant D.A. said.