The World Health Organisation reported more than 230,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday — the world’s largest daily increase during the pandemic. The surge has forced governments in many places across the world to order new lockdowns.
This includes Melbourne, which is back in a six-week lockdown after a second wave of new cases exceeded the city’s first peak in late March.
But Melbourne’s not the only city to suffer a second wave of the pandemic. Cities including Beijing and Leicester had lifted COVID-19 restrictions, only to re-enforce them when new outbreaks occurred.
So how have other cities gone about their second lockdown, and have the measures been effective in tackling the COVID-19 resurgence? Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Though there’s no strict definition of a lockdown, it describes the controls imposed by governments to restrict the movement of people in their communities. It’s often achieved through a combination of police presence and applying public health regulations.
It can be implemented partially, progressively or fully. The latter is called “hard lockdown” when the freedom of entry to, and exit from, either an entire building or geographic area is prohibited or limited.
The Segrià region in Catalonia, Spain re-entered an indefinite partial lockdown on July 4 following a significant spike in cases and COVID-19 hospitalisations.
The city of Leicester in the United Kingdom has gone into a second lockdown after it accounted for 10% of all positive COVID-19 cases in the country at the end of June. The city has been in lockdown for the past two weeks and despite this, the latest data show an increase in the numbers of cases.
Alongside this was extensive and widespread testing, with a peak capacity of 300,000 tests per day. This approach proved successful – the city reported zero new COVID-19 cases on July 7.
While there are increasing examples of a return to some lockdown measures, there are no examples demonstrating the success of a second lockdown — other than in Beijing — because it’s too early to tell.
Clear public health messaging is key
When entering a second lockdown, it’s useful to consider the lessons learnt from the first. Initial lockdowns in both Italy and India provide cautionary tales on what happens when public messaging and enforcement is flawed.
Italian media published information about internal movement restrictions a day before the Italian prime minister officially announced it and signed the decree. At the time, only northern Italy was heavily affected by COVID-19.
After the news spread, workers and students, many of whom carried the virus, rushed back home across the country, flooding the train stations. Even though the goal was to reduce the spread of the virus, the effects were the opposite. Soon after, it was discovered that new COVID-19 cases in southern Italy were families from students who came home from the north.
Similar panic among migrant workers occurred in India when the prime minister gave the public only a few hours notice before the start of the lockdown. This is just one reason why India’s lockdown has been labelled as “a spectacular failure”.
Lockdown, relax, lockdown, relax
After a lockdown, the majority of the population remains at risk of infection without a vaccine. So as restrictions ease, cases are likely to increase again, leading to a pattern of lockdowns, relaxation and renewed lockdowns
So why can’t governments just aim to eliminate the virus? An elimination strategy requires strict, intensive lockdowns and closing external and internal borders to eradicate local transmission and prevent the virus being imported.
Elimination strategies have worked in only a few countries and regions, such as New Zealand which imposed an early and strict lockdown.
The effectiveness of lockdowns can be diminished by increasing population fatigue in response to reimposed restrictions.
Locking down a given country can cost up to 3% of GDP per month, according to UBS Global Wealth Management.
Lockdowns can work if we use masks
It’s clear that lockdowns cannot be maintained indefinitely. That’s why the rapid development of a vaccine to achieve herd immunity, without extensive infection, is critical – along with the development of drugs to relieve the symptoms of COVID-19.
So how long should Melbourne’s lockdown last? The Grattan Institute has argued it should continue until there are no more active COVID-19 cases in the community to eliminate the virus – and after that, should remain in place for another two weeks.
We argue that the duration of the lockdown could be halved if paired with mandatory universal use of face masks. Wearing masks lowers the risk of spreading and contracting the disease.
The venue is booked. The invites are sent. You’ve found The Dress. And then the pandemic happened.
The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have left many couples unsure what lies in store for their 2020 weddings.
Weddings have been able to restart since July 4, with up to 30 people able to attend under social distancing rules. However, only two households will be permitted to attend a reception held at an indoor hospitality venue.
With these conditions in place, some couples might be uncertain about going through with their wedding this year.
We have spoken to wedding industry experts to find out what a socially distanced celebration might look like, and whether you should postpone your wedding for the foreseeable future.
Are weddings back on in Nigeria?
Yes – but not as you know them. The Government announced that there will be gathering of not more than 20 people – this is including the couple, guests, suppliers (such as the photographer), and registrar or celebrant. This is provided they comply with social distancing rules. Guests will have to stand or sit at least one metre apart, as well as take other safety precautions – such as wearing a face mask.
For those who were originally planning a big bash, this means seriously downsizing if your venue is still able to accommodate you safely; although the measures may come as a blessing for couples already grappling with a spiralling guestlist.
What are the new safety measures?
Wedding ceremonies in England should be kept “as short as reasonably possible” and limited to just what is legally binding, according to the new guidelines for gathering. Religious ceremonies which would usually take a number of hours or days will need to adapt to a very short and limited number of people.
As mentioned above, no more than 20 people should be in attendance and only two households should be present.
Wedding receptions which typically follow the ceremony are “strongly advised not to take place at this time”. If you do want a wedding reception, government guidelines state only two households can attend an indoor venue or six guests from different households can attend an outdoor celebration.
Should I postpone my summer wedding?
If you have a wedding booked for this year, should you postpone it? It depends on whether you are comfortable with having a socially-distanced celebration of only 20 people, with only two households allowed in an indoor reception venue.
“All my couples up until October have postponed because they want the weddings that they dreamed of, and have spent months, if not years, planning,” she says. “These days, weddings involve so much more than just a legally binding ceremony; they’re a celebration of friendship and families, and this is something that the current guidelines don’t allow.” While many of her clients remain “optimistic” about their weddings next year, she said that whether future ceremonies will be able to operate at full capacity remains uncertain – particularly if there’s a second wave.
Another popular option is to press on with a small ceremony with a handful of guests this year, and postpone the big celebration until we can party properly again
Some might opt to have a small ceremony in the summer, with a handful of guests, and postpone the big party to next year. “I can see an increase in couples having a simple ceremony this year when allowed for just them, the registrar and witnesses,” says Chapman. “And in 2021 they will plan a larger wedding for all their guests but opting for a celebrant ceremony.”
Will my wedding next year be OK?
It’s all a matter of “speculation”, Otter says, and the situation could change so rapidly. “At this present time, no, I do not see 2021 being an issue,” she explains, “but have this conversation with me in two weeks’ time and I might be saying something totally different.”
If you do postpone your wedding to next year, you might face another challenge: finding an available date. Given that most weddings this year will be postponed to 2021, on top of the weddings that were already planned to go ahead next year, suppliers and venues might have limited dates available. As such, a lot of couple are having mid-week weddings, according to Otter, “so they can keep their suppliers”.
She tells me that one couple wanted to move their wedding, which was supposed to take place this September, to any Saturday between the beginning of April and end of October 2021. There was only one date that the suppliers could do.
When restrictions are lifted, what might the weddings look like?
“I feel like we will need have to look at bigger venue options,” he says. “For instance, if you’re working with a couple that are inviting 150 guests, instead of looking for venues that hold exactly 150 people, we’re going to have to look for venue options that are larger.”
This would be to allow guests to socially distance – which, he thinks, will still be our mentality after lockdown is over. “After this whole situation is finished, people are still going to have that in their way of life – of ‘I don’t want to be close to you,’” he says, adding that venues and suppliers might be more “protective” about their contact with guests.
Other wedding venues have also found creative solutions. Bijou Wedding Venues, which specialises in country house weddings, will use “airport quality” temperature reading cameras to test all staff and guest temperatures on arrival, and will live-stream the ceremony to different areas of the venue, so the mandatory witnesses can be present at the ceremony and the other guests can view it from a safe distance.
The wedding venues company also plans to replace buffet queues with table service, install marquees and gazebos to maximise time outdoors, and hold ceremonies outdoors where possible.
Otter does not see the need for such changes. “I think when we are allowed to get back to weddings as they used to be, weddings will go back to how they used to be,” she says, adding that “if social distancing rules are relaxed, things will very quickly get back to normal”.
Some couples might opt for “alternative” ceremonies on Zoom, even when the restrictions are lifted, but this won’t work for everyone. “It’s going to work for some couples,” Otter says. “It’s definitely not going to work for the majority.”
What about international weddings?
Whilst travel restrictions are slowly starting to lift, Oliver does not imagine there will be any international weddings this year because “people are scared”.
If weddings are able to go ahead in the coming months, he says they “might be smaller weddings, they might just be elopements”.
Most of his clients have postponed to next year, or cancelled altogether. Usually, he takes on between 15 to 20 weddings this year, but says next year he will have double the number due to the postponed weddings from this year.
He’s still getting new bookings for 2021, as “people are looking past this whole situation,” he says.
Have you postponed your summer wedding? Share your experience in the comments section below.
The Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has tested positive for coronavirus. Governor Akeredolu had last week submitted himself for COVID-19 test after denying going for self-isolation.
The governor said he is already in self-isolation as required by the case management guidelines of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for someone who is asymptomatic.
“Earlier today, I got confirmation of a positive result for Covid-19. I am asymptomatic and not displaying any symptoms,” he said.
“I am currently self-isolating and supervised home management will be administered by the wonderful team at our Infectious Disease Hospital. I ask that we all stay safe and be well.”
Akeredolu joins a growing list of top public officers who have tested positive for the disease. They include Abba Kyari, the late chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari; Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna; Bala Mohammed, governor of Bauchi, and Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo.
The federal government has lifted the ban on interstate travel and also approved the reopening of schools for graduating classes.
Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation, broke the news at the presidential task force briefing on Monday.
He said students in primary six, Junior Secondary School 3 and Senior Secondary School 3 will be allowed to return to school.
Mustapha, who is the chairman of the task force, said President Muhammadu Buhari gave the approval when his team met with him earlier in the day.
“I am pleased to inform you that Mr. President has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase Two of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020 through Midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020,” he said.
”Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect:
“Maintaining the current phase of the national response, for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the National Coordinator;
“Permission of movement across State borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July, 2020;
“Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by States, in particular, the use of face masks in public places;
“Safe re-opening of schools to allow students in graduating classes resume in-person in preparation for examinations.”
After months of slow burn, recorded coronavirus cases are beginning to rise sharply in Africa.
On Sunday night, Africa passed the 300,000 case mark with an overall death toll of around 8,000, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
While these cases amount to just three per cent of the world’s total, experts have warned that the pandemic is now accelerating in many parts of Africa, where poor health services make the virus an acute threat.
It took almost 100 days for Africa to record its first 100,000 coronavirus cases. It took another 18 days for Africa to reach 200,000 cases and a further 11 days to hit 300,000.
John N. Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned that the continent could be the next ‘epicentre’ of the pandemic as cases begin to overwhelm fragile health systems.
Covid-19 has spread more slowly across Africa than many thought it would. This is mainly because most African governments took quick and robust steps to limit the spread of the virus early on, while officials in the UK and US dithered.
As early as January 2, Ivory Coast started screening passengers who had visited China recently. Many other countries followed suit soon after.
When the pandemic began to take Spain and Italy by storm in March, Africa sealed itself off from international travel. Some form of lockdown was implemented in almost every country on the continent when there were still relatively few cases. Many African governments doubled down on preventing these cases from spreading with contact tracing teams.
Experts at the World Health Organization say that Africa’s real caseload is probably far higher than the official tally. Many African countries have struggled to do more than a few hundred tests a day, as wealthier countries buy up kits and lab materials en masse.
Earlier this month, the WHO warned that coronavirus was spreading out of cities and towns into rural areas, where healthcare services are limited.
One medical worker in Eastern Congo told The Telegraph that they feared a ‘wave was about to hit’ the troubled region and that the official figures did not show what was happening on the ground.
According to official statistics, South Africa is the continent’s coronavirus epicentre. Since Africa’s most industrialised economy relaxed its draconian lockdown several weeks ago, recorded cases have soared to about 100,000 — one third of Africa’s total case load.
However, South Africa may be disproportionately represented in Africa’s Covid statistics due to it effective testing. South Africa has conducted more than 1.3m tests for a population of about 58m, this is ten times what Nigeria, with its giant population of more than 200m, has managed.
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO emergencies programme, said that the picture was mixed across the African continent.
“We’ve seen increases of the disease in some countries in excess of 50 per cent in the last week, and we’ve seen other countries with very very stable numbers.”
But while numbers are on the rise in general – with substantial jumps in places like South Africa, Benin, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Burundi – the continent is yet to report a large rise in the number of deaths, he said.
Dr Ryan added that there are caveats to these numbers – while hospitals do not appear to be overwhelmed, “testing is not as frequent in Africa so there could be under reporting of cases”.
He warned that there is “no room for complacency on the African continent.”
“Will Africa be the next epicentre for this? I certainly hope not,” Dr Ryansaid. “The health systems in Africa is, in general, weaker than elsewhere in the world.
“While they have the benefit of an age profile that’s much older, there are still many elderly people and many with underlying health issues.”
Determined to blunt the economic trauma of COVID-19 and minimise its impact on poverty, unemployment, insecurity and violence, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari announced the establishment of an inter-ministerial Economic Sustainability Committee. He gave it the remit to recommend measures that would prevent further economic collapse. Headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the committee submitted its report to the President in mid-June.
There are two main pillars to the economic sustainability plan. The first is job creation and the second an infusion of cash. These will be achieved through targeted investments in agriculture and agro-processing, manufacturing, renewable energy, housing, information technology. The proposal also included cash transfers as well as “survival funds” for medium and small scale enterprises. The plan is remarkable by its emphasis on the use of local contents to support its initiatives.
But most of what’s in the plan is neither novel nor ground-breaking. It includes projects that had been bandied around by previous administrations, with little success.
The difference appears to be the scale and intensity with which the projects are to be undertaken.
In fact the plan sounds very much like the doomed Vision 2020, which was a long-term strategic intent launched by the Nigerian government in 2009 to promote economic growth, socio-economic development and structural transformation. The overarching goal was to enable Nigeria to become one of the top 20 economies in the world, as well as achieve an annual GDP of at least $900 billion and a GDP per capital of $4000. These goals are far from being achieved.
Post COVID-19, what Nigeria urgently needs are initiatives and projects that instantaneously infuse massive cash into the coffers of severely cash-strapped individuals, households, traders, small enterprises and corporations.
Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of the report is that it delegates implementation to government ministers, each of whom is expected to set up an implementation committee. This is very reminiscent of previous government efforts.
It is no secret that the wheels of the Nigerian bureaucracy grind excruciatingly slowly. The economic recovery plan should have set up a special implementation taskforce outside of the bureaucracy.
History may offer a useful lesson here. During the post-World War II when European economies were devastated, the US led its allies to launch the Marshall Plan for Europe’s economic reconstruction. Rather than delegate implementation to government bureaucracies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were specifically created to undertake the task.
In times of unprecedented crisis, your worst enemy is the bureaucracy.
Unfortunately, Buhari’s Economic Sustainability Plan has fallen into the same trap as its antecedents: it is likely to gather dust in government ministries and agencies.
Apart from the lack of novelty, the report is vague and speculative about how initiatives would be accomplished.
For instance, the plan proposes the creation of 5 million jobs within 12 months by bringing 20,000 – 100,000 hectares of land per state into cultivation. The private sector is expected to drive the process. But it’s unclear what mechanisms would incentivise profit-maximising enterprises to employ this number of farm workers.
And how might state governments be encouraged to provide land for farming, when many of them vehemently refused to provide land for the Federal Government’s botched Rural Grazing Areas scheme?
Some of the key provisions in the plan are not implementable without the cooperation of state governments. The frosty relationship between the Buhari administration and states controlled by the opposition People’s Democratic Party, which now stands at 16 out of 36 states of the Nigerian federation, suggests this could be a bottleneck.
More intriguing, however, is the fact that most of the projects proposed in the report may not be completed before the end of the Buhari administration. One such example is the solar energy project. The plan proposes supplying 5 million Nigerian households (or about 25 million individuals) with solar energy. The report requires that solar power equipment be produced in Nigeria.
Another proposal that has a very murky implementation plan is the goal of creating 1.8 million jobs through the construction of 300,000 homes (400 in each local government area). The Ministry of Works and Housing is tasked with its implementation. But the report concedes that the ministry is yet to figure out the “design and template” for the houses. This is a manifestation of the lack of preparation for this project.
The report recommends an increase in the number of cash transfer recipients. But it doesn’t say how big the cash transfers should be and what mechanisms will be used to transfer cash to the new recipients, many of whom are expected to be rural dwellers.
Furthermore, the funding of the plan is nebulous. Recognising that the Nigerian economy would contract by 4.40% if no measures were taken, the recovery plan opted for a Naira 2.3 trillion stimulus package. This, it’s been estimated, will ensure that the economy doesn’t decline by more than 0.59%.
But the report is evasive about how the proposed projects will be financed. While about 70% of the estimated cost of the plan is expected to come from “Special Accounts” and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s “structured lending,” the source of the rest is not clearly defined.
The plan calls for local sourcing of most of the inputs to be used in the various projects. But it does not discuss in detail the foreign exchange implications, especially in light of uncertainties in the global oil market.
To hedge against foreign exchange risks and avoid inflation from high cost of imported goods, the plan should have specified a forward exchange rate at which participants in the plan can purchase foreign exchange.
The plan should have been divided into phases, starting with one devoted to initiatives that would immediately pump cash into the economy.
Without an instantaneous infusion of massive cash, the Nigerian economy risks an inexorable slide into stagflation, which is a lethal combination of a recession and hyperinflation.
Pandemic life is tough on everyone. But for a single person, the prospect of dating and sex — while social distancing to avoid a potentially life-threatening respiratory illness — feels impossible.
How do you date without touching or kissing? How do you have sex without breathing on your partner and putting each other at risk?
“I’ve gone at least two months without sex or other physical connection, and even in my 50s, that’s a long time,” said one man from Austin, who asked not to be named to protect his privacy. “My only venture outside has been to walk the dogs and run a very rare errand, for Pete’s sake. Dating seems even a more remote possibility.”
When the man, who is gay, raised the issue with his online therapy group, he was surprised by the compassionate response. “Over all, folks were supportive, knowing that we need connection, dating and sex,” he said. The fact that the topic hadn’t come up sooner “spoke in some ways to how inhumane the pandemic is.”
A number of public health agencies have offered tips for dating and sex during the pandemic, but the New York City health department has recently updated its Safer Sex and Covid-19 fact sheet with more-detailed and descriptive advice. The new guidelines still say “you are your safest sex partner,” and that the “next safest partner” is someone in your household.
However, the guidance also acknowledges that not everyone has access to an exclusive sex partner at home. People who are dating or “hooking up” should still try to minimize close contacts. Safer sex during Covid-19 also means wearing a mask and avoiding kissing. “Heavy breathing and panting can spread the virus further,” it says. A recent commentary from Harvard University researchers also recommended that people wear a mask during sex with someone from outside their household.
The New York City guidelines discourage group sex, but give advice for those who do “decide to find a crowd.” “Pick larger, more open, ventilated spaces,” it states, among other things.
Individuals can try to find creative alternatives to traditional sex, such as sex toys, masturbating together and sexy Zoom parties, or they could try to “make it a little kinky,” the guidelines state, suggesting, among other things, people can avoid close contact by having sex through holes in walls or other barriers. “Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face-to-face contact,” the guidelines state.
If the language seems surprisingly direct, it’s supposed to be, said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“Our health department has a really strong record of being very sex positive,” said Dr. Daskalakis. “Abstinence for the duration of the pandemic is not going to work. We tend not to shy away from giving people realistic recommendations. There’s no reason for Covid-19 to be different.”
Dr. Daskalakis said the updated guidelines are in addition to existing guidelines for safer sex to lower risk for sexually transmitted disease, and they are a response to hundreds of questions New Yorkers are asking. The new rules also advise people who decide to hook up to get tested monthly for coronavirus, or within five to seven days of a hookup. They caution that a confirmed case of Covid-19 or a positive antibody test isn’t definitive proof that you are immune from re-infection. Dr. Daskalakis said the tone of the updated guidelines was inspired by a 1983 pamphlet, written during the start of the AIDS crisis, called “How to Have Sex During an Epidemic,” which pioneered the public health strategy of harm reduction and safer sex.
“You can’t tell people to stop being human,” said David Lauterstein, founder of the Nasty Pig men’s clothing brand in New York and an L.G.B.T. community leader who helped with the concept of the guidelines. “People are going to have sex. When they’re not educated, they’re going to make bad choices.”
While the new guidelines give people detailed advice about safer sex, many single people say it’s tough to imagine even getting to the point of having sex because of the limits imposed by social distancing and the challenges of trusting other people to take needed precautions.
Wendy Worthington, 45, who lives in St. George, Utah, had hoped to stay connected through online dating during the pandemic. She was excited after meeting someone on a dating app, but after some promising “witty banter” from him, she expressed wariness about meeting in person during the early stages of the crisis. The man immediately blocked her.
“When that happened, it was the tip off that not everyone was going to view what’s going on the way I do or take it as seriously as I was taking it,” she said. “Most people were too nonchalant about it. I realized it was going to be an exercise in futility to try dating.”
Ms. Worthington says she does not expect to go back to dating any time soon. “Now we’re not even worried about S.T.D.s so much as, I just hope you weren’t around someone who coughed on you,” she said. “Dating is already so hard as it is, and then you don’t think people are taking the necessary precautions. I’m putting all of my energy into D.I.Y. projects instead.”
Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor in the department of population medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the guidance for single people who want to date is much the same as for people who have partners: Practice social distancing, socialize and dine outdoors, and keep your overall number of contacts low to reduce risk.
But single people have the added challenge of minimizing risk while trying to date. While there’s no formula to tell you how many dates with different people are safe, try to reduce your other contacts — like shopping or work events — if you want to expand your circle to include dates. Anyone who is dating should be mindful of their personal risk of coronavirus and the risk of others in their circle, like parents and grandparents.
“The more dates you go on, the higher your risk,” Dr. Marcus said.
If you meet someone who is worthy of mask-free time, talk about how they live their daily life. How many contacts do they have? Do they live with multiple roommates? Or do they have a grandparent they see regularly, which would require you to take extra precautions if you become intimate?
“Now you have to have those conversations before you even make out with someone,” said Dr. Marcus. “You basically have to have the safe sex conversation before kissing.”
In the Netherlands, public health officials advised that locked-down singles find a “seksbuddy” — a trusted person with whom to have an exclusive sexual relationship even if it wasn’t a potential long-term partnership.
A 47-year-old woman from Fayetteville, Ark., who asked that her name not be used, said she does have occasional sex with a trusted friend, although she has continued to try to date during the pandemic. “I have physical contact and sex with someone. We care about each other, but it’s not love,” she said. “It’s harder to date because everything is closed. The drive to date is not as intense because it’s less convenient.”
Some relationship experts say that in addition to the obvious challenges, the pandemic poses a unique opportunity to foster deeper connections with others because we are forced to slow down the dating process.
“It takes people out of that swipe circuity, the hookup circuity, and it makes people rethink what they’re looking for,” said Ken Page, a psychotherapist and co-founder of DeeperDating.com. “This is the time to build new muscles and skills of intimacy that so many of us desperately needed but didn’t have time for.”
Despite the challenges, including uncomfortable conversations and the need to wear a mask, starting a new relationship during a pandemic is possible. Sam Goldman, 28, a finance director for a Boston media company, was resigned to giving up dating for at least the rest of the year. But he happened to connect on the dating app Hinge with a woman who had relocated to the city to live with her parents during the pandemic. The couple texted, spoke on FaceTime and then decided to meet for a picnic. They wore masks walking to the park, stayed on opposite sides of the blanket and talked for five hours, and agreed that a hug goodbye would be safest.
“I don’t think I would have asked to go for a picnic for a first date,” Mr. Goldman said, but it “ended up being such a fun time. She mentioned she loved playing tennis, so I asked her to play tennis for the second date. I definitely would not have done that before.”
Mr. Goldman lives alone, while his date lives with her parents, so he has tried to be more careful, taking precautions like social distancing, staying six feet apart and limiting contacts to protect both the woman and her family. He said he hopes his experience gives other people hope that it’s possible to explore new relationships despite the pandemic.
“I’ve had friends who are struggling with dating during coronavirus time,” he said. “And now I’m in the midst of what seems to be a new relationship that’s blooming and working out.”
The daily fatality toll in Nigeria increased on Tuesday as 31 persons were confirmed to have died of COVID-19 complications.
A total of 455 COVID-19 deaths have now been recorded in the country.
According to the update by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for June 16, 2020, the 31 deaths included 25 fatalities which occurred in Lagos between Friday and Monday, but were announced on Tuesday.
In the data released at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, the agency also confirmed 490 new COVID-19 cases in 15 states and the federal capital territory (FCT).
While Lagos had 142 new cases and FCT recorded 60 cases, Bayelsa confirmed its highest daily toll with 54 cases, increasing the state’s figures from 32 to 86.
Bayelsa has now moved 11 spots upwards from being the fourth state with the least number of cases; it is now the 22nd state with the most COVID-19 cases in the country.
However, a record total of 274 persons were discharged on Tuesday, increasing the number of recoveries from 5,349 to 5,623.
A total of 17,148 cases have now been confirmed in 35 states and the FCT.
Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest jihadist groups, has long threatened the security of the vast swathes of West and Central Africa. But now the coronavirus pandemic is adding a new dimension of danger.
Boko Haram – whose name means ‘Western education is forbidden’ – reached the height of its power five years ago, soon after it kidnapped 276 of mainly Christian schoolgirls from their school in the town of Chibok, northeastern Nigeria in 2014.
In 2015, the jihadists controlled an area of Nigeria equivalent to the size of Belgium. The fighters sought to turn themselves from insurgents to rulers and impose their ruthless interpretation of Islam over a so-called ‘caliphate’.
Since then, national governments helped by their Western partners have beaten the group back, shrunk its territory and forced it into a gruesome guerrilla war.
Just before the pandemic struck, many political actors around the Lake Chad Basin in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad were discussing how to consolidate these gains and ultimately, defeat Boko Haram.
But now, local governments are scrambling to shore up their healthcare systems and redeploying precious resources away from fighting the jihadists. At the same time, Western nations are turning in on themselves, fretting about post-virus austerity and retrenchment.
The fight against Boko Haram has cost thousands of lives and displaced millions. But now there is a real risk that the group could make up lost ground and make the coronavirus pandemic worse.
Escape from Boko Haram | ‘If you gave me a gun, I would finish them all’
The terror group horrified the world when it kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria in 2014. But what happened to those who survived? In Maiduguri, photographer Simon Townsley meets those who escaped. Words by Will Brown. Read more
I was born in Borno State and grew up in Yobe State, the group’s epicentre and have family members who still live in the region. I have received three death threats from Boko Haram’s leaders for my work analysing the conflict. But now the joint threat of Boko Haram and Covid-19 terrifies me.
Boko Haram’s attacks are a significant distraction for those trying to stop the virus from spreading.
Take Chad. The nation of around 15 million people confirmed its first case of coronavirus on March 19. The pandemic is bringing some of the most advanced health care systems in the world to their knees and Chad only has ten intensive care beds.
But the jihadists are making things far worse. Four days after Chad confirmed coronavirus had come to the country, Boko Haram launched a huge attack killing nearly 100 local soldiers, in one of the deadliest incidents in the country’s history.
The damage was so significant that Idriss Déby, Chad’s dictator of thirty years, was forced to leave the capital and his country’s Covid-19 response behind and rush to Lake Chad with his troops to direct a military intervention.
On the same day in March, at least 47 Nigerian soldiers were killed in a Boko Haram ambush, as the country recorded a sharp rise in confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The head of Nigeria’s army had been preparing his troops to enforce lockdowns, transfer patients to hospitals and prepare for mass burials. But he was forced to leave the army headquarters and mount an offensive against the group.
It is clear that both attacks drew attention away from efforts to fight the virus and forced governments to fight on two fronts with stretched resources.
There is no doubt that Boko Haram recognises the opportunity that Covid-19 offers them. Boko Haram’s breakaway group, Islamic State West Africa Province, recently boasted that the pandemic is an opportunity to step up efforts and expand activities.
In an editorial in Isil central’s bi-weekly Arabic language magazine, it celebrated recent attacks in the Lake Chad region. It said the virus and subsequent economic downturn would divert government attention, weaken capacity and increase fragility, giving its fighters more inroads.
The jihadists have a long history of targeting health and aid workers which will certainly imperil coronavirus testing and treatment efforts in remote areas.
The group has attacked polio immunisation campaigners, executed workers from Action Against Hunger and the International Committee of the Red Cross. If a vaccine were developed, Boko Haram would almost undoubtedly slow distribution in the areas they operate in.
The preachings may also damage the local people’s compliance with health measures and feed into widespread misconceptions about Covid-19.
The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has released recordings claiming non-Muslims and their Muslim puppets are using Covid-19 to attack Islam by stopping Muslims from practising their faith. He has encouraged people to keep taking part in group prayers and other religious activities.
In the most recent death threat I received from them last month, the 24-minute audio also mocked the government’s Covid-19 efforts.
So far there have only been just over 20,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and fewer than 700 reported deaths in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad put together.
However, we must not be complacent. There have been reports of hundreds of unexplained deaths across northern Nigeria and testimonies from health care workers point towards a major outbreak of the virus.
West Africa has many of the same characteristics that made Afghanistan a hotbed for extremist violence. If there is anywhere Isil can replicate its territorial achievements in Iraq and Syria, it is there.
While Western governments have their own struggles with the pandemic, they must recognise that the virus will only exacerbate the security situation in West Africa. They must keep up their support for the fight against extremist violence in the region.
The UK should proceed with the proposed deployment of an additional 250 British troops to the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali, which is another crucial part of the fight against jihadi groups that are becoming more and more connected. The US should also reconsider its reported move to withdraw its forces from West Africa.
Meanwhile, in my part of the world, families and governments alike face an unholy alliance between brutal militias claiming to fight for God and a deadly new enemy in the form of the coronavirus.
Bulama Bukarti is Africa Analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
Coronavirus cases are beginning to soar in South Africa three weeks after the country eased one of the most draconian lockdowns on earth.
Over the weekend, Africa’s most industrialised nation recorded more than 8,100 new cases of Covid-19 bringing its total up to 70,000.
In late March, South Africa imposed sudden and sweeping lockdown measures to limit the spread of the virus bringing life to an almost complete stop. South Africans were only allowed to go out to buy food or visit the doctors, while the sale of alcohol and cigarettes was banned entirely.
The South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis says that cases will continue to rise until they peak between early July and August and that a total of 35,000 to 50,000 South Africans could die from the virus.
However, these statistics must be treated with caution. South Africa has carried out over 1.1 million tests since the crisis began, fifty times more than Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad have done combined.
The news of the surge in cases in South Africa follows warnings from the World Health Organisation a few days ago saying that Covid-19 was now spreading rapidly out of Africa’s urban areas into rural areas where health services are often limited or non-existent.
Africa accounts for only about 3 per cent of the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases. However, the pandemic is now accelerating rapidly. It took three months for Africa to reach 100,000 confirmed cases, but it took less than three weeks to get to the 200,000 cases.
To combat what the World Health Organization has called an “infodemic” around Covid-19, BBC News Africa has launched a searchable library of fact-checks debunking popular myths and misinformation about coronavirus in Africa.
A Kenyan politician made this false claim to explain why cognac was included in relief packages for some Nairobi residents.
No evidence coronavirus lasts up to a month on surfaces
There is no evidence that coronavirus can survive on surfaces for up to one month if they are not cleaned properly.
Claim rating: NO EVIDENCE
This South Sudanese minister did NOT die from coronavirus
South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs came out to deny he had died from coronavirus
Claim rating: FALSE
Inhaling steam does NOT cure coronavirus
Inhaling very hot steam does not cure Covid-19 and could be harmful, according to health experts.
Claim rating: FALSE
Putting disinfectant into your body will NOT protect you from Covid-19 and can be dangerous
President Trump’s suggestion this might help treat Covid-19 is false and has been widely denounced by medical experts.
Claim rating: FALSE
Applying menthol gel to the nostrils or drinking hot water do NOT prevent coronavirus9 April 2020
This is what Guinea’s President Alpha Condé recommended but it is not backed by any scientific evidence.
Claim rating: FALSE
Home-made hand sanitisers made with vodka do NOT prevent Covid-19
Home-made hand sanitiser recipes using vodka do not contain enough alcohol to kill the virus.
Claim rating: FALSE
There’s NO evidence the BCG vaccine protects against coronavirus
The World Health Organization
Blue facemasks are NOT contaminated
Social posts urging Africans not to wear blue masks contain fabricated quotes from public figures and are false.
The weather is finally turning and you’re ready for that cherished summer tradition: spending the day lounging by the outdoor pool or splashing through a water park.
But is the pandemic going to dash your watery summer dreams?
If you’re safe and understand the risks, not necessarily.
First, the growing consensus among experts is that the possibility of catching the coronavirus outdoors is much lower than indoors. But it is not zero.
Second, for those who want to enjoy pools and water parks during this extraordinary time, the guidelines are the same as for any other outdoor activity: Practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, disinfect surfaces and wear a mask when possible to keep that risk low.
However, pools and water parks present unique challenges for following those guidelines. Wearing a mask is all but impossible while swimming, and social distancing may be difficult at crowded locations.
The danger, experts say, isn’t in the water.
“There’s nothing inherent about ocean water or especially pool water that is risky. The bug isn’t transmitted via a waterborne route,” said Dr. Ebb Lautenbach, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “Chlorine and bromine that are in pools inactivate the virus and makes it even lower risk in terms of catching it from the water.”
“There probably is a theoretical possibility you could get infected by coronavirus from the pool water itself, but it’s so negligible it’s probably effectively zero,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
The risk of catching the virus at a pool or water park, rather, comes from the other people there.
The current consensus among experts is that the primary way coronavirus spreads is person to person, when an uninfected individual breathes in droplets expelled from an infected person through coughing, sneezing or talking. While it is possible to contract the disease from touching a surface with active virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
So worry less about the water and the surface on that lounge-chair, and more about the person standing next to you at the water-park entrance or wading in the shallow end as you swim by. Remember, you are more at risk indoors, like in a crowded locker room or indoor cafe.
“You can imagine waiting in a long line to go down a water slide, or hanging out in a pool like a pool party the way we saw in the Lake of the Ozarks, those types of environments are probably higher risk,” Dr. Rasmussen said.
Dr. Lautenbach added that the nature of public pools offers far less space to spread out than other activities, like a picnic in the park, but you should still try to practice the same safety measures.
“The challenge with a pool is really that the same rules apply,” he said. “We can say that if you’re at a picnic, it’s easier to wear a mask outside in that context, but you can’t really wear a mask in the pool. We don’t want people to drown either. So that’s the real challenge.”
Still, Dr. Lautenbach said that if you’re able to stay at least six feet away from people and wear a mask when possible, you’re doing about the best you can do. He also suggested minimizing activities in the water that would bring you physically closer to other people.
It is almost a law of nature. Just as the female praying mantis eats her mate after copulation, so too can borrowers and lenders fall swiftly out of love. One minute they are sweetly wooing each other to consummate a deal. Then, the moment it is done, they are at each other’s throats.
So it is odd that African governments and their creditors have not yet fallen out. They have plenty to quarrel about. Africa’s debt crisis has been simmering for some time. Two years ago the imf was already anxious about a growing number of African countries in “debt distress” or at high risk of it. This crisis was brought to the boil by covid-19, which has caused economies to shrink and tax revenues to plunge. Governments have ramped up spending to fight the virus. Investors are scared. In recent weeks the bonds of nine countries have traded at prices indicating that they might not be repaid.
The imf and World Bank have lent emergency cash, but a financing gap of at least $44bn remains. Various bigwigs have called for debt relief, including Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, and Larry Summers, a former American treasury secretary. Yet neither borrowers nor lenders seem enthusiastic.
The g20 club of countries has agreed to suspend bilateral debt-service payments for the rest of this year for the world’s 73 poorest countries, if they ask. Yet uptake has been low. In seven weeks fewer than half of eligible countries have requested assistance. Only seven have been given it.
Struggling governments are not asking for help because they fear being seen as deadbeats. “We need to make sure we are protecting our hard-earned access to international capital markets,” says Amadou Hott, Senegal’s minister of economy. “The best way to do it is, at any cost, to protect our commitments with private creditors.” This, he adds, is the view of all the African finance ministers to whom he has spoken.
Most of the 21 African countries that have sold bonds abroad have done so for the first time only in the past decade. Long-term borrowing is even more recent, but in 2018 eight African countries successfully issued 30-year bonds. This borrowing is expensive. Interest rates on foreign-currency government bonds sold by African countries are roughly seven percentage points higher than those sold by rich countries, because investors see them as riskier.
Asking for help could confirm that view. Romuald Wadagni, Benin’s finance minister, writes that taking advantage of the g20 offer could be treated as a default by private creditors, even though they are not directly involved. Moody’s, a credit-rating agency, says it may downgrade its assessment of Cameroon, Pakistan and Ethiopia because they went for it. To avoid this fate, Senegal plans to shun the offer. Kenya says it will do likewise, because the small print would restrict its ability to borrow commercially.
Even if African countries were to take up the offer of help from bilateral creditors (these are usually governments or their export-finance arms), including the biggest of them all, China, they would still have other worries. Roughly a third of sub-Saharan Africa’s government debt is owed to private investors. Bondholders alone are owed $115bn. The mere act of asking private creditors for leniency would probably lead to a credit downgrade. And actually renegotiating repayment terms would probably be classed as a default, say rating agencies.
For the most troubled countries, such as Zambia, the point is moot. In 2012 it was able to borrow more cheaply than Spain. Now it is priced right out of the market and has hired Lazard, a financial advisory firm, to help it restructure its debt. Angola, which needs to hand over $500m to private bondholders this year and almost certainly more to China, has also begun talks.
But for countries such as Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal, which owe private creditors as well as g20 governments, the judgments are tougher. Stopping payments for a while would free up funds to fight the coronavirus. But after the crisis they will need cash from investors.
Under pressure from the g20 to offer debt relief, private creditors have come up with a grudging proposal. The Institute of International Finance, an industry group, has proposed allowing struggling governments to take a payment holiday. Afterwards, they would have to pay back everything they owe, including extra interest. This resolves little, since it would simply store up trouble, leaving weary countries with an even bigger mountain of debt to climb. And even in the short run it locks African governments into a catch-22. To have even a slim chance of avoiding being deemed in default, they will have to agree to new repayment terms that leave creditors no worse off than now. But if they ask, they risk a downgrade with no guarantee that private creditors will agree.
Vera Songwe of the un Economic Commission for Africa hopes to find another solution. She favours creating a new body that would borrow cheaply and then lend money to governments. However, it would need backers with deep pockets willing to guarantee that private lenders would not take a loss. It has found few volunteers.
There is not much time to act. African bond issuers face a wall of payments starting in 2022 (see chart). Many hope they are just experiencing a short-term cash crunch. But unless their economies rebound quickly—or they get more help from the rich world—a wave of defaults seems inevitable. If so, it may be better to take the hit and restructure debt now, while hoping that credit markets have short memories. Ken Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s finance minister, pointed out in a webinar hosted by Harvard University that rich countries were taking extraordinary measures to protect their economies, while telling Africans to stick to the rules. “You really feel like shouting: ‘I can’t breathe,’” he said. ■
This article appeared in the Middle East & Africa section of the print edition under the headline “Thanks, but no”
For months, one enduring mystery of the coronavirus was why some of the world’s most populous countries, with rickety health systems and crowded slums, had managed to avoid the brunt of an outbreak that was burning through relatively affluent societies in Europe and the United States.
Now some of those countries are tumbling into the maw of the pandemic, and they are grappling with the likelihood that their troubles are only beginning.
Globally, known cases of the virus are growing faster than ever with more than 100,000 new ones a day. The surge is concentrated in densely populated, low- and middle-income countries across the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and South Asia.
Not only has it filled hospitals and cemeteries there, it has frustrated the hopes of leaders who thought they were doing everything right, or who believed they might somehow escape the pandemic’s worst ravages.
“We haven’t seen any evidence that certain populations will be spared,” said Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida. For those not yet affected, she said, “it’s a matter of when, not if.”
Several of the newly hit countries are led by strongmen and populists now facing a foe that cannot be neutralized with arrests or swaggering speeches. In Egypt, where the rate of new confirmed infections doubled last week, the pandemic has created friction between President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and doctors who have revolted over a lack of protective equipment and training.
In Brazil, the total death toll surpassed 32,000 on Thursday, with 1,349 deaths in a single day, dealing a further blow to the populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has continued to minimize the threat.
“We are sorry for all the dead, but that’s everyone’s destiny,” he said Tuesday.
In Bangladesh, natural disaster helped spread the disease. Cyclone Amphan, a deadly storm that tore through communities under lockdown there last month, helped drive cases up to 55,000.
This week Bangladeshi authorities reported the first death from Covid-19 in a refugee camp, a 71-year-old Rohingya man from Myanmar — an ominous sign for wider worries about the plight of vulnerable people huddled in hundreds of such camps in the world’s most fragile countries.
The upswing marks a new stage in the trajectory of the virus, away from Western countries that have settled into a grinding battle against an increasingly familiar adversary, toward corners of the globe where many hoped that hot weather, youthful populations or some unknown epidemiological factor might shield them from a scourge that has infected 6.5 million people and killed almost 400,000, over a quarter of them in the United States.
Some countries now being overrun by the virus seemed to be doing the right thing. In Peru, where President Martín Vizcarra ordered one of the first national lockdowns in South America, over 170,000 cases have been confirmed and 14,000 more deaths than average were recorded in May, suggesting there were many more virus fatalities than the official count of about 5,000.
South Africa, Africa’s economic powerhouse, banned sales of tobacco and alcohol as part of a strict lockdown in March, yet now has 35,000 confirmed infections, the highest on the continent. Even so, President Cyril Ramaphosa eased the restrictions last week, citing economic concerns.
The pandemic’s new direction is bad news for the strongmen and populist leaders in some of those countries who, in its early stage, reaped political points by vaunting low infection rates as evidence of the virtues of iron-fisted rule.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whose delivery of a planeload of medical aid to the United States in March was seen as a cocky snub, is grappling with the world’s third-largest outbreak, with 440,000 cases that have enraged the public and depressed his approval ratings to their lowest in two decades.
For Mr. el-Sisi of Egypt, the outbreak has posed a rare challenge to his preferred narrative of absolute control.
Although Egypt’s 30,000 cases are far fewer than those of several other Arab countries — Saudi Arabia has three times as many — it has by far the highest death toll in the region and its infection rate is soaring.
Last Sunday the government recorded 1,500 new cases, up from about 700 just six days earlier. The next day the minister for higher education and scientific research warned that Egypt’s true number of cases could be over 117,000.
Some hospitals are overflowing and doctors are up in arms over shortages of protective equipment that, they say, has resulted in the deaths of at least 30 doctors. Outrage crystallized last week around the death of Dr. Walid Yehia, 32, who had been denied emergency treatment at the overwhelmed Monira general hospital where he worked.
Fellow doctors at the hospital went on strike for a week to protest his death. The main doctors union issued a statement accusing the government of “criminal misconduct” and warning that Egypt was veering toward “catastrophe” — strong words in a country where Mr. el-Sisi has jailed tens of thousands of opponents.
Last week, Mr. el-Sisi railed on Twitter against unspecified “enemies of the state” who attacked government efforts to combat the virus. Earlier, Egypt’s public prosecutor warned that anyone spreading “false news” about the coronavirus faced up to five years imprisonment.
Doctors at several hospitals said they had been threatened by Mr. el-Sisi’s feared security apparatus for daring to complain. The doctors interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal or arrest.
When doctors at the Mansheyat el Bakry hospital threatened to strike last month to protest the lack of training and protective equipment, they received a warning from a hospital senior manager: Anyone who failed to turn up for work the following day would be reported to the National Security Agency, which human rights groups have accused of torture and other abuses.
Reached by phone, the manager, Dr. Hanan el-Banna said the message was part of “normal disciplinary measures.” Then she denied that she had sent it.
A spokesman for Egypt’s Health Ministry did not respond to questions about the message, or other complaints from doctors.
The power of the virus was brought home to Mr. el-Sisi in the early stages of the pandemic, when two senior generals died from Covid-19. Yet his government has frequently seemed determined to put a Panglossian spin on how well it is being handled.
Frequently Asked Questions and AdviceUpdated June 5, 2020
How does blood type influence coronavirus?A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.
How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.
My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How can I protect myself while flying?If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
Should I wear a mask?The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
Last week the Health Ministry published a promotional video that showed coronavirus patients in a hospital praising their care and hailing Mr. el-Sisi. “I can’t believe this, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,” says one masked patient. “I can’t believe what he’s doing for our sake.”
A very different picture emerges on Facebook, where desperate patients or their relatives have posted videos pleading for help.
In one widely circulated recording, a weeping woman says that her ailing father was refused treatment at several hospitals. In another, a man with coronavirus symptoms remonstrates with hospital security guards who turn him away. “Take your complaint to the police,” they tell him.
Even if Egypt’s doctors were not muzzled by their government, Western-style social distancing would be nearly impossible in a chaotic, densely populated city of 20 million people like Cairo where many families survive on day jobs. Mosques, churches and airports remained closed, but the decision to relax a night curfew during the holy month of Ramadan — ostensibly to allow people to break their daily fast together — may have accelerated the spread of the virus, experts say.
Many low- and middle-income countries, now grappling with surging cases, are also struggling to balance public health against the realities of poverty-stricken societies, said Ashish Jha, professor of global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“At some point the lockdown becomes intolerable,” he said. “The human cost to day laborers, many of whom are already barely surviving, is enormous.”
The hopes of some countries that they could somehow avoid the pandemic are likely to be dashed, he added.
“In the early days, people were seeing patterns that were not really there,” he said. “They were saying that Africa would be spared. But this is a highly idiosyncratic virus, and over time the idiosyncrasy goes away. There is no natural immunity. We are all, humanity-wise, equally susceptible to the virus.”
Experts say that Mr. el-Sisi’s obsession with showing that he is beating the pandemic may have encouraged some Egyptians to drop their guard — a phenomenon similar to that in the United States, where some Americans have taken comfort in President Trump’s breezy reassurances.
Unfortunately, such heedlessness can have dire consequences.
In March, Mohammed Nady, 30, an employee at the Sheraton hotel in central Cairo, posted a video to Facebook dismissing the virus as an American-engineered conspiracy to humiliate China.
A few weeks later, he posted a second video from the hospital announcing that he had contracted the coronavirus.
A third clip showed him in bed, struggling to breath. “I am dying,” he said. “I am dying.”
He died in April, three days before his father also died from the disease.
Reporting was contributed by Nada Rashwan in Cairo, Michael Cooper in New York, Manuela Andreoni in Rio de Janeiro, and Mitra Taj in Lima, Peru.
Declan Walsh is the Cairo bureau chief, covering Egypt and the Middle East. He joined The Times in 2011 as Pakistan bureau chief, and previously worked at The Guardian. @declanwalsh
Okezie Ikpeazu, governor of Abia state, has tested positive for COVID-19.
John Okiyi Kalu, commissioner of information in the state, announced the case in a statement on Monday.
He said the governor had gone into isolation before his result returned positive, and that he has directed the deputy governor to act on his behalf pending the time he resumes duty.
”Recall that on Saturday, 30th May, 2020, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu volunteered his sample for COVID-19 test and subsequently directed members of the state Executive Council (EXCO) and those of the inter ministerial committee on COVID-19 to submit themselves for the same test. On Tuesday, 2nd June, 2020. Tthe result of Governor Ikpeazu’s test returned negative,” he said.
”On Thursday, 4th June, 2020, the Governor submitted another sample at NCDC laboratory for confirmation and the result returned positive.
”As a result, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has gone into isolation, as required by relevant NCDC protocols, and he is being managed by a competent team of medical practitioners with a view to nursing him back to good health.
”Consequent on the above, the Governor has directed his Deputy, Rt Hon Ude Oko Chukwu, to act on his behalf pending his full resumption of duties.
”We wish to urge all Abians to take the fight against COVID-19 serious as the disease is real but not a death sentence. Our state has the resources to manage patients back to good health.”
Ikpeazu is the fourth governor to contract the coronavirus – after Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna, Seyi Makinde of Oyo, and Bala Mohammed of Bauchi.
In March, the governor said COVID-19 would not afflict Abia because the state is mentioned in the Bible.
“Abia is the only state that is mentioned in the Bible. We have a promise from God that none of these diseases will touch God’s people. And I hold on to God’s promise,” he said.
“We saw Ebola, it did not get to us. We saw monkey pox, it didn’t get to us. Even this one (coronavirus) will also pass us by.”
The commissioner of environment in the state had died, though it was not confirmed he died of COVID-19. But some members of the immediate family of the deceased commissioner tested positive for the disease.
The World Health Organisation has warned that COVID-19 infection rates are likely to remain for a long time. There is therefore a need for countries to plan one step ahead of the epidemic curve.
Nigeria is no exception. In Africa, it is among the countries with the highest number of cases. While the numbers remain low compared with many other countries in the world, it continues to rise gradually. Worryingly, the mortality rate stands at 3.1%. This is higher than some of its neighbours. For example, Ghana, which has a similar age demography and socioeconomic characteristics, is reporting a mortality rate of 0.5%.
For Nigeria, the decision to ease the lockdown on 4 May was a compromise between the heavy economic costs – including the hardship on citizens who depend on daily earnings – and the choice to contain a public health emergency.
The decision on ‘if’ or ‘when’ to ease the lockdown in any country due to the COVID-19 pandemic will always be a difficult one.
Now that Nigeria is gradually easing restrictions, the main question is what realistic public health measures can be taken to ensure infection, and fatality rates, remain at the low end of the spectrum?
To answer this question, the need for reliable data cannot be over-emphasised.
Planning without data
Accurate data should be the basis for any decision making. But this is proving difficult in Nigeria. This is for a number of reasons.
The first thing that needs to change is Nigeria’s disjointed coordination of data for evidence-based decision making. For example, the time lapse between sample collection and test results received for suspected cases sometimes exceeds the approximately two week recovery period for mild cases of the disease, instead of the 48 hours benchmark.
Although shortages of materials, especially reagents, was the reason given, such delays make it difficult to monitor the spread and intensity of the disease in Nigeria. And suspected cases not under strict isolation are able to continue to spread the virus while awaiting their results.
Secondly, Nigeria has very low testing numbers. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, 60,825 tests had been conducted as at the end of May 2020, in a population of over 200 million people. In comparison, Ghana, whose population is about 30 million, has conducted over 200,000 tests.
This suggests there could be a gross underestimation of the number of positive cases at any given point in time when the high proportion of asymptomatic and mild cases is put into the equation.
There is also the possibility of double testing and counting – where people visit more than one test centre due to delays in receiving test results. In the United Kingdom, public health officials admitted to double counting the nasal and saliva samples of the same patient.
An underestimation or overestimation of positive cases allows for a false infection fatality rate which is calculated as the number of deaths (numerator) divided by the number of people infected (denominator) x 100. The fatality rate being presented depends largely on number of tests done and counting of positive tests.
Nigeria is at a stage of ongoing community transmission. This means that densely populated local government areas and states are at higher risks of transmission.
What to do next
There are some immediate steps that the country should take on top of reminding citizens about physical distancing, good hand and respiratory hygiene.
Firstly, efforts to reduce the spread need to be decentralised. This includes increased testing and setting up more isolation centres within the local government areas.
Also, risk communication, continuous surveillance, monitoring and evaluation must be scaled up. Cascading these interventions to the community level will increase effectiveness and efficiency.
Other recommendations given the country’s peculiarities include:
Making mobile sample collection vehicles and points available. These vehicles are three-wheeler kiosks that can navigate through the community without difficulty. This method fast-tracks sample collection for COVID-19 tests within wards and local government areas.
Increasing capacity of testing sites in the various states so that there is at least one laboratory in each of the 36 states of the federation. Currently, there are 28 functional laboratories for COVID-19 testing in the country and only three states have more than one.
Giving clients the results of their tests within 48 hours at the maximum. This will be attainable with an uninterrupted supply chain of medical supplies such as reagents, consumables and the provision of technical support and continuous training for adequate manpower.
Isolating confirmed positives, triaging to mild, moderate and severe cases – a process of sorting people based on their need for immediate medical treatment. This will ensure that the treatment centres are not overwhelmed.
Ensuring continuous training of health personnel to operate isolation centres, training of private health care facilities on high index of suspicion of cases, and well disseminated protocol on referral of suspects.
Coordinating sample and test result triangulation in all testing centres to avoid double counting.
Tailoring lockdown approaches to suit affected local government areas and communities.
Flexibility in the adaptation of general best practices and funding of research for home grown solutions.
An opportunity to raise the bar
COVID-19 presents Nigeria with an opportunity to properly invest in strengthening its primary health care system. The health centres need to be properly equipped while health workers should be armed with adequate personal protective equipment. This will enable them to discharge their duties without the fear of being at risk of contracting the virus.
Within the context of a strengthened primary health care system, a rapid process of sample collection, result verification and contact tracing can be developed for the management of COVID-19 in post-lockdown Nigeria.
Overall, Nigeria should embark on a health sector reform and concentrate on the core values of equity, efficiency, quality, financing and sustainability in the provision of health care.
We don’t really know when the novel coronavirus first began infecting people. But as we turn a page on our calendars into June, it is fair to say that coronavirus has been with us now for a full six months.
In that time, many reporters and editors on the health and science desk at The Bloomgist have shifted our journalistic focus as we have sought to tell the story of the coronavirus pandemic. While much remains unknown and mysterious after six months, there are some things we’re pretty sure of. These are some of those insights.
We’ll have to live with this for a long time.
Rainy season is almost here, states are reopening and new coronavirus cases are declining or, at least, holding steady in many parts of Nigeria. At least 100 scientific teams around the world are racing to develop a vaccine.
That’s about it for the good news.
The virus has shown no sign of going away: We will be in this pandemic era for the long haul, likely a year or more. The masks, the social distancing, the fretful hand-washing, the aching withdrawal from friends and family — those steps are still the best hope of staying well, and will be for some time to come.
“This virus just may become another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, warned last month. Some scientists think that the longer we live with the virus, the milder its effects will become, but that remains to be seen.
Predictions that millions of doses of a vaccine may be available by the end of this year may be too rosy. No vaccine has ever been created that fast.
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The disease would be less frightening if there were a treatment that could cure it or, at least, prevent severe illness. But there is not. Remdesivir, the eagerly awaited antiviral drug? “Modest” benefit is the highest mark experts give it.
Which brings us back to masks and social distancing, which have come to feel quite antisocial. If only we could go back to life the way it used to be.
The bottom line: Wear a mask, keep your distance. When the time comes in the fall, get a flu shot, to protect yourself from one respiratory disease you can avoid and to help keep emergency rooms and urgent care from being overwhelmed. Hope for a treatment, a cure, a vaccine. Be patient. We have to pace ourselves. If there’s such a thing as a disease marathon, this is it.
You should be wearing a mask.
By Knvul Sheikh
The debate over whether people should wear face masks to control coronavirus transmission has been settled. Although public health authorities gave confusing and often contradictory advice in the early months of the pandemic, most experts now agree that if everyone wears a mask, individuals protect one another.
Researchers know that even simple masks can effectively stop droplets spewing from an infected wearer’s nose or mouth. In a study published in April in Nature, scientists showed that when people who are infected with influenza, rhinovirus or a mild cold-causing coronavirus wore a mask, it blocked nearly 100 percent of the viral droplets they exhaled, as well as some tiny aerosol particles.
Still, mask wearing remains uneven in many parts of Africa. But governments and businesses are beginning to require, or at least recommend, that masks be worn in many public settings.
Though the Nigeria government as well as African governments are recommending face masks, but The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) have outlined who should wear face masks. Though they don’t discourage face masks made out of clothing materials, but they advice people to wear MEDICAL face masks.
Donning a face covering is also likely to prevent you from touching your face, which is another way the coronavirus can be transmitted from contaminated surfaces to unsuspecting individuals. And when combined with hand washing and other protective measures, such as social distancing, masks help reduce the transmission of disease, Dr. Atmar said.
Nigerian public health infrastructure need to be upgraded.
By Mike Ikenwa
When it comes fighting disease outbreak, Nigeria has come out to be one of the countries with the best strategies in fighting and and containing it. Its strategies in kicking Ebola out of the country — almost immediately it arrived — has been a course of study and has been replicated by other countries including the US t fight the disease. But that strategies seem not to be working in the fight against the coronavirus.
Almost all the front-line troops — the contact tracers, the laboratory technicians, the epidemiologists, the staff in state and federeal hospitals — are paid by state and local health departments whose budgets have shriveled for years. These soldiers are led by 36 commanders, in the form of governors, and with that many in charge, it is amazing that any response moves forward.
The rest of the response is in the hands of over 150 million citizens who have been urged to report any suspected case of the virus and call the NCDC as soon as they suspect someone or feel any of the symptoms. This system has not real been working — at least as expected, as many people are afraid of the process and submitting themselves to what they refer to as inhumane treatment of patience by the officials who ‘abandon’ them at the isolation centers. In fact, there are confirmed cases where patience run away from hospitals after testing positive for the disease.
As war does to defeated nations, pandemics expose the weaknesses of Nigerian medical systems. Our patchwork and uncoordinated response has produced more than 200 deaths; surely we can do better.
Responding to the virus is extraordinarily expensive.
By Reed Abelson
The federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars and promised to spend more than $2 trillion to address the coronavirus pandemic.
On April 2, Nigeria is requested $6.9bn from multilateral lenders to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Africa’s biggest economy, the finance minister said.
Nigeria, whose revenues have tumbled with the fall in oil prices, asked for $3.4bn from the International Monetary Fund, $2.5bn from the World Bank and $1bn from the African Development Bank, said Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning Zainab Ahmed.
The vast majority of this funds has been spent on purchasing ventilators, testing kits, paying health workers and some of the funds has also been budgeted to implementing the insurance of healthcare workers who are working at the front line to contain the disease.
Lagos State government, an epicenter of the outbreak in Nigeria said on May 21 it had so far spent of N40,000 to N50,000 for each of the 16,000 COVID-19 tests conducted by the state. It, therefore, said it had spent averagely about N800 million on testing alone.
The state’s Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, stated this while giving updates on state government’s efforts to curb and manage Coronavirus, ignoring the question on how much the state government is spending averagely to treat a COVID-19 patient.
Many experts say more funding is needed, but there is ample controversy over how the money already allocated is being spent and which entities are getting funds.
We have a long way to go to fix virus testing.
By Katie Thomas
The landscape for testing looks far better than it did in the early days of the outbreak, when Nigeria was faced with the challenges of getting testing kits and ventilators, which led to the reason the Federal government ’emberrassingly’ sent a tweet to Elun Musk, asking for ventilators.
Today, a data from NCDC shows that Nigeria has conducted only 71,336, a very poor number for a very busy and populated country as Nigeria.
The range of tests available is also expanding across African countries. Tests that once required a health care worker to insert a swab through the nose to the back of the throat can now be done with a swipe inside the nose, or by spitting into a cup.
But despite this progress, the Nigeria and the rest of Africa still has a long way to go. Public health experts say that anywhere from 900,000 tests to millions a day will be needed to screen hospital patients, nursing home residents and employees returning to work.
We can’t count on herd immunity to keep us healthy.
By Mike Ikenwa
The idea is simplicity itself: If enough of the population has antibodies to the novel coronavirus, the virus will hit too many dead ends to continue infecting people. That is herd immunity.
That is the great hope for a vaccine. But it may not happen, even if a vaccine becomes available, as experience with flu vaccines shows.
Malaria and Lassa fever have spread, even after enough people in a community have been vaccinated with more residence having access to over-the-counter malaria drugs, it still has not prevented the spread of both the diseases. That’s because the antibodies that protect people against viruses infecting mucosal surfaces like the lining of the nose tend to be short-lived.
Vaccines against respiratory diseases are, at best, modestly effective, agreed Dr. Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan,
Since the coronavirus usually starts by infecting the respiratory system, Dr. Monto suspects that a Covid-19 vaccine would have a similar effect to a flu vaccine — it will reduce the incidence of the disease and make it less severe on average, but it will not make Covid-19 go away.
He would like the virus to disappear, of course, but a vaccine that reduces the disease’s spread and severity is a lot better than nothing.
“As an older person, what I want is not to end up on a respirator,” Dr. Monto said.
The virus produces more symptoms than expected.
By Roni Caryn Rabin
Covid-19 is a viral respiratory illness. Many early descriptions of symptoms focused on patients being short of breath and eventually being placed on ventilators. But the virus does not confine its assault to the lungs, and doctors have identified a number of symptoms and syndromes associated with it.
In some patients, the virus propels the immune system into overdrive, causing the lungs to fill with fluid and damaging multiple organs, including the brain, heart, kidneys and liver.
The first symptoms of an infection are usually a cough and shortness of breath. But in April the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed.
Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on the fingers and toes, but few other serious symptoms.
Severe disease leads to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. The blood oxygen levels plummet, and patients may get supplemental oxygen or be placed on a machine, called a ventilator, to help them breathe.
But even without lung impairment, the disease can cause injury to the kidneys, heart or liver. Critically ill patients are prone to developing dangerous blood clots in the legs and the lungs. In rare cases, the disease triggers ischemic strokes that block the arteries supplying blood to the brain, or brain impairments, such as altered mental status or encephalopathy.
Death can result from heart failure, kidney failure, multiple organ failure, respiratory distress or shock.
We can worry a bit less about infection from surfaces.
By Apoorva Mandavilli
The news, when it was reported, added a frightening twist to the threat from the coronavirus: A study in March in The New England Journal of Medicine found that under laboratory conditions, the virus can survive for up to three days on some surfaces, such as plastic and steel, and on cardboard for up to 24 hours.
Many people grew worried that by touching a surface that had been covered in droplets by an infected person, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes, they then would contract the virus.
You should still wear a mask, avoid touching your face in public and keep washing your hands. But none of these studies tested for live virus, only for traces of its genetic material. Other scientists commenting on these studies said virus on these surfaces might degrade more quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said since March that contaminated surfaces are “not thought to be the main way” the virus spreads.
The main driver of infection is thought to be directly inhaling droplets released when an infected person sneezes, coughs, sings or talks.
We can’t count on hot weather to defeat the virus.
By James Gorman
The hot and humid weather will not stop the pandemic. More sunlight and humidity may slow down its spread, but we probably won’t know by how much. Other factors, like reduced travel, increased personal distance, closed schools, canceled gatherings and mask-wearing, have effects that would outweigh the influence of the weather.
A few things are known about conditions that do or do not favor the virus. The ultraviolet rays in sunlight help destroy the virus on surfaces and some studies have shown a small effect from humidity. It seems to last longest on hard surfaces like plastic and metal. It won’t survive in pool or lake or seawater. Wind disperses it. Risk of transmission is lower outdoors than indoors.
A wooden bench under a bright sun at a breezy beach is a better bet than a metal and plastic recliner on the shady side of the pool. But if someone infected sits near you and coughs, or talks a lot or sings, it doesn’t really matter where you’re sitting and how nice a day it is.
“The virus doesn’t need favorable conditions,” said Peter Juni, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto. It has a world population with no immunity waiting to be infected. Bring on the sun; the novel coronavirus will survive.
Air conditioning may blow the virus right to your restaurant table.
Andry Rajoelina, the island nation’s populist leader, launched ‘Covid-Organics’ last month. The remedy was developed by the Madagascar Institute of Applied Research and contains a cocktail of traditional herbs, including Artemisia, anti-malaria wormwood.
‘Covid-Organics’ was tested on less than 20 patients before it started being shipped out to the population. Some school children who have refused to drink the tea have reportedly been disciplined or expelled.
Madagascar’s National Academy of Medicine was quick to point out that the remedy was untested and potentially dangerous. “It is a drug whose scientific evidence has not yet been established, and which risks damaging the health of the population, in particular, that of children,” it said in a statement last month.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also issued a warning in early May, saying that untested traditional products were dangerous and that the cure could give people a dangerous false sense of security.
Mr Rajoelina has fought back, dubbing the widespread international criticism of his cure as Eurocentric. “If it was a European country that had actually discovered this remedy, would there be so much doubt?” he said on French TV earlier this month.
His government has launched a major international marketing push. It has now donated or sold crates of Covid-Organics to over 20 African and Caribbean nations, including Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania and Haiti.
According to Mr Rajoelina, Madagascar is now finalising discussions with the WHO for “large-scale” clinical trials of the tea.
The news follows an announcement from the Malagasy that it was sending soldiers and doctors to Toamasina, the country’s second-largest city, after a significant outbreak of virus there.
Madagascar has a population of 26m people and has officially recorded 586 cases and two deaths of Covid-19. However, the real number of cases could be far higher. According to local media reports, the country has only conducted about 9,000 tests in two months.
Namibia’s president has admitted that he breached his country’s coronavirus regulations when he hosted a party to mark his political party’s 60th anniversary.
He has now fined all those who attended the illegal birthday bash.
Namibia’s ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), held a celebration on April 19th, when the sparsely populated southern African nation was under lockdown and gatherings were banned.
Hage Geingob, the president, said that less than ten people attended but those included the vice-president, the prime minister and party’s secretary-general.
All of the guests have been fined 2,000 Namibian dollars, the equivalent of about £110.
“We had a very important occasion of the 60th anniversary of SWAPO,” Mr Geingob said in a press conference yesterday. “We were found not on the right side of the regulations and law. We had to admit guilt and we were punished, we paid.”
From official data, Namibia seems to have been extraordinarily successful in its efforts to keep the coronavirus pandemic under control.
The Namibian government was quick to react when it recorded its first cases of coronavirus on the 13th of March. Soon after, it closed its borders to international travel.
The vast nation is roughly the same size as France and England combined has just 2.5m people. So far it has recorded 23 cases of coronavirus and no deaths.
However, this is not the first time the president has attracted controversy. He invited several Africa presidents to his swearing-in ceremony in March, prompting them to breach their own travel bans. Botswana’s president was forced to self-isolate for 14 days upon his return.
The governor also said 69 persons were on home isolation while two others were at the state’s quarantine facility.
Obiano who disclosed this in a special broadcast to the state on Tuesday in Awka, said his administration was making efforts to enhance the testing capacity of the state for coronavirus.
He said he had signed the COVID-19 Bill, which made not wearing face mask a punishable offence with fine and community service.
“As it stands now, we have eight patients in our Protective Care Centers, we also have 69 individuals on home quarantine and two individuals in the quarantine facility.
“We are ramping up our testing capacity to ensure that we slow down the spread of this pandemic in our dear state.
“The COVID-19 Committees that we have set up in Wards and Local Government Areas across Anambra are helping us in driving the campaign to every nook and cranny of the state.
“I will like to assure you that we have made adequate arrangements to handle the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As you are probably aware, on Thursday last week, I signed the COVID-19 Bill into law. Under this law, it is an offence to be seen in public without a face mask.
“The offence attracts a fine of N10, 000 or some hours of community service, I will like to re-emphasise that my administration is determined to enforce this law,” he said.
Obiano urged traders and religious leaders not to relax in ensuring that their members continued to adhere to the COVID-19 safety protocols while noting that it had been observed that most of them had jettisoned the safety measures.
He urged healthcare institutions to set up holding centres to keep patients who exhibited symptoms of the virus to check the possibility of spreading it in Anambra.
“I want to warn that we may consider shutting down the markets if this trend is not halted with immediate effect, I have also received similar reports from churches and other religious groups in the state, most of whom have discarded wearing of face masks.
“Every hospital in Anambra must set up a mini holding ward where patients whose samples have been taken for COVID-19 test can be kept while the result of the test is awaited.
“This approach will minimise the chances of patients spreading the virus through multiple contacts.
“All members of the Nigerian Medical Association practicing in Anambra are expected to inform the Ministry of Health once they collect samples of suspected COVID-19 patients for testing.
“A situation where some members collect samples and send to testing centres on their own is no longer allowed,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari had locked down Abuja, Lagos and Ogun for five weeks following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
On May 4, the federal government eased the lockdown and put some measures in place such as imposing a curfew from 8pm to 6am, use of face masks and social distancing, among others.
So far, Nigeria has recorded 10,162 cases of COVID-19. While 3,007 have recovered from the disease, 287 people have died.
Speaking at the daily press conference of the presidential task force on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu, national coordinator of the task force, said the curfew has further been relaxed to between 10pm and 4am.
Below are other guidelines reeled out by Aliyu:
There would be full opening for the financial sector with banks now allowed to operate with more working hours five days a week.
The mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of a work place or places of worship remain prohibited.
There would be controlled access to markets and locations of places of economic activities but local authorities will continue to provide guidance on opening times.
Restrictive opening of places of worship will be based on state governments protocols and strict guidelines on physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions and just to clarify this would apply to the regular church and mosque services only.
Mandatory supervised isolation of person of persons arriving the country will continue to be for 14 days until a new policy comes into play.
There would be no further evacuation of Nigerians until a new policy currently developed with the private sector comes into place.
Ban of gatherings of more than 20 people outside of a workplace;
When President Muhammadu Buhari announced that a nationwide curfew would replace lockdown in more states beyond Lagos, Ogun and the federal capital territory (FCT), there were concerns that the country would experience an upward surge in its COVID-19 case rate.
And so it came to be. With the eased lockdown came tightly-packed queues in banks, complete disregard for physical distancing in places of worship, markets, commercial vehicles, among others. And with the open flouting of guidelines issued on social distancing, ban on large gatherings, and compulsory use of face masks, while many may have expected an increase, not many people would have expected a rise beyond 150 percent.
However, in four weeks since the phased lockdown relaxation began on May 4, 2020, Nigeria recorded 7,604 cases.
The five-week lockdown, which took effect at midnight on March 29, was part of efforts to ensure efficient contact tracing and limit spread of the coronavirus, especially with what was considered a high rate of infections at the time.
Between February 27, 2020, when the index case was confirmed and May 3, 2020, out of 18,536 samples tested, a total of 2,558 cases were confirmed in 35 states and the federal capital territory (FCT) At the time, 87 deaths were recorded, while 400 patients had been discharged.
FROM 2,558 TO 10,162 IN FOUR WEEKS
On May 4, the total lockdown declared in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT was relaxed for an initial two weeks and the federal government announced the nationwide curfew. Kano was, however, placed on a total lockdown as a result of the unusual increase in COVID-19 cases.
By May 18 when the initial two-week relaxation ended, Nigeria moved from less than 3,000 cases to 6,175 confirmed cases, out of which 1,644 persons had recovered and 191 deaths occurred. This was an almost 250 percent increase from the previous figure before the lockdown was lifted.
In that time, Kogi joined the list of affected states with two index COVID-19 cases announced by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on May 27, 2020.
As of May 31, samples tested have more than tripled the previous figure to over 60,000, just as the toll of confirmed cases have also increased to 10,162 cases.
On a positive note, the recovery rate has almost doubled as well, moving from 1,644 to 3,007 patients in the two-week period. In that time, 96 deaths have been recorded, increasing the number of fatalities from 191 to 287.
Lagos, which currently has the highest cases, also moved from 1,107 to 4,943 confirmed COVID-19 cases within the four-week eased lockdown period.
Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), had said while the agency’s sights are set on increased testing capacity, Nigerians should expect a corresponding increase in the positive cases as well.
A set of guidelines for the next phase is expected to be announced by the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19 during this week.
The African Continental Free Trade Area was launched two years ago at an African Union (AU) summit in Kigali. It was scheduled to be implemented from 1 July 2020. But this has been pushed out until 2021 because of the impact of COVID-19 and the need for leaders to focus on saving lives.
Studies by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and others state that the free trade area has the potential to increase growth, raise welfare and stimulate industrial development on the continent. But there are concerns. Some countries, particularly smaller and more vulnerable states, could be hurt. For example, they could suffer revenue losses and other negative effects from premature liberalisation.
The impact of COVID-19 will only worsen these structural weaknesses. The Economic Commission for Africa has reported that between 300,000 and 3.3 million people could lose their lives if appropriate measures are not taken. There are several reasons for this level of high risk. These include the fact that 56% of urban dwellings are in overcrowded slums, 71% of Africa’s workforce is informally employed and cannot work from home and 40% of children on the continent are undernourished.
Africa is also more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 because it is highly dependent on imports for its medicinal and pharmaceutical products and on commodity exports. The latter include oil, which has suffered a severe collapse in price.
Other contributing factors are high public debt due to higher interest rate payments than Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, a weak fiscal tax base, and the negative impact on Africa’s currencies due to huge stimulus measures taken by OECD countries.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought these weaknesses into sharp relief. But it also provides an opportunity for African countries to address them. For example, they could accelerate intra-regional trade by focusing on the products of greatest need during the health crisis. Countries could also start building regional value chains to advance industrialisation, improve infrastructure and strengthen good governance and ethical leadership.
These are all vital to guiding African countries through the current crisis.
These goals can be achieved if African states adopt a “developmental regionalism” approach to trade integration. This would include fair trade, building regional value chains, cross-border investment in infrastructure and strengthening democratic governance.
A number of conditions need to be met for a free trade area to succeed.
Firstly, African states vary widely in size and economic development. As a result some may warrant special attention and specific treatment. In particular, among Africa’s 55 states 34 are classified by the United Nations as least developed countries. These are low income countries that have severe structural problems impeding their development.
Building trade agreements in favour of small and less developed economies will contribute to fairer outcomes of the free trade deal.
Secondly, African governments should include their stakeholders – businesses (both big and small), trade unions and civil society organisations – in the national consultation process. This will require effective institutions that enable the fullest participation.
Additional steps countries should take to cope with the fallout from COVID-19:
Reduce tariffs on vital pharmaceutical products (such as ventilators), personal protective equipment and food products;
Stimulate intra-regional trade by prioritising these products for an immediate or early phase down in the free trade area.
Building regional value chains
African countries are increasingly connected to the global economy, but tend to operate at the lowest rung of the ladder. They are mainly supplying raw materials and other low-value manufactured outputs.
Cooperation is needed between Africa’s emerging entrepreneurs and industries to improve their competitiveness in global markets. This would have a number of positive outcomes including:
triggering industrialisation, which will transform economies
helping African countries obtain a fairer share of the value derived from African commodities and labour, and
improving the lives of people on the continent.
The current crisis creates an opportunity for African countries to build value chains on medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment.
As more countries lock down their economies and apply movement controls, agricultural and processed food supply chains are disrupted. This creates opportunities to build regional supply chains and partner with retailers.
There are also opportunities to build infrastructure to support the health response: hospitals, water and sanitation, schools, low-cost housing and alternative energy.
African countries can also benefit from the growing interest in environmental tourism.
Cross-border infrastructure investment
Since most African countries are less developed, and many are small, intra-regional trade will require them to cooperate to improve their infrastructure. This includes physical ports, roads and railways as well as customs procedures, port efficiency and reduction of roadblocks.
Progress is already being made. Examples include the Mombasa-Nairobi Corridor; the Addis to Djibouti road, rail and port connection; and the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor, which handles more than two-thirds of West African trade.
Increased investment in these types of cross-border infrastructure projects will benefit regional integration.
Democracy and governance
Most African states have started accepting multi-party systems of governance. Many have also embraced a culture of constitutionalism, rule of law and human rights.
Democratic governance supported by active citizenship will create an environment of transparency and predictability that encourages domestic and foreign investment. Both are vital for growth and industrialisation. The process is also essential for the sustainability of regional economic integration and democracy in Africa.
Countries are becoming better at fulfilling their democratic obligations. For example, 40 African countries, including the Seychelles and Zimbabwe, voluntarily joined the African Peer Review Mechanism. The mechanism is a remarkable achievement that the free trade area agreement must build on.
The way forward
The free trade area could become a landmark in Africa’s journey towards peace, prosperity and integration. The COVID-19 pandemic, notwithstanding its devastating impact on the health and economies of Africa, could be an opportunity to advance the free trade area in a more developmental, inclusive and mutually beneficial way for African countries.
Featuring Simi, Terri, Adekunle Gold, Omah Lay, Davido, Dremo and many more the coronavirus pandemic has gotten everyone worked up and it hasn’t gotten any better with the increase in the number of cases daily.
As the global pandemic continue to affect the way we live and keeps limits to what we could do, we have selected songs we feel would lighten up the tense mood. Here’s our round-up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks
Unless your living under a rock, there’s no way you wouldn’t have heard Simi’s melodious voice on “Duduke” produced by Oscar. The song being the number one song in the country at the moment seemed like a unique love song at the time of its release, turned out to something much deeper. It’s accompanying visuals gave listeners a deep understanding of the message Simi is trying to pass across.
The song which has beautifully written lyrics speaks about the bond between a mother and her unborn child; it shows that a mother’s love is unconditional and unwavering. Notwithstanding, the song can also be enjoyed by everyone including lovers so you don’t have to be a preggo or a mother to vibe to the song.
Adekunle Gold “Something Different”
Everyone’s baby, Adekunle Gold switched genres again with the release of “Something Different” which was produced by Blaize Beats. The track sees Adekunle woo his lover in a more gentle and sexy manner. The tune is a blend of highlife and Afropop with a dash of highlife and jazz. The beat accompanied by trumpets and Saxophones is one sound that the eastern folks can relate to and can also be enjoyed by all.
Starboy Terri – “Ojoro”
The Starboy act dropped his first single “Ojoro” off his “Afroseries” album as well as the accompanying visuals for the addictive afrobeat track. In the video, we see an innocent and bashful Terri fall victim to his lover’s shady schemes. She absconds with his cash on serval occasions and leaves him to find any means to pay bills for their dates. The video’s superb storytelling makes it exciting to watch without ever getting bored. The young star proves to be a force to be reckoned with and it is evident that he is taking steps to be the next big thing after his boss, Wizkid.
DMW – “Mafa Mafa” featuring Davido, The Flowolf, Peruzzi and Dremo
Davido Music Worldwide recently dropped the visuals to this trending street pop anthem and it’s back to been the sound of the Town once again. “Mafa Mafa” is the perfect song that would give you both the street and posh vibe. A record that would bring out hidden dancing style and that leg work you have been playing in your head. The DMW/30BG guyz did justice to this one here, A must listen for self turn ups.
Dremo – “Mabel” featuring Davido
DMW rapper, Dremo took this track from his newly released project, ‘Codename Vol.2’. The track ‘Mabel’ which had the Boss – Davido on it is most fans favourite off the album. With high demand for the visuals Dremo Drizzy served us with the official music video just last week. The crispy video directed by Director Q brought the Afropop / Rap record into the heart of so many.
SOURCE: List compiled and first Published by TooXcusive. Read original publication here
At a time when official coronavirus updates were scarce in the country, the US embassy’s advisory triggered huge interest from the public, reports the BBC’s Sammy Awami.
It also stirred some controversy, as it did not provide evidence for its claims.
In a meeting on Tuesday, the permanent secretary to the foreign affairs ministry, Wilbert Ibuge, told US diplomat Inmi Patterson, that the embassy’s advisory contained false information and risked causing panic among Tanzanians and visitors.
Mr Ibuge also reminded the American about the importance of issuing verified information, a statement from the ministry in Swahili said.
Policymakers globally have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with tough measures. As a result of the risk and uncertainty caused by the virus, economic activity has contracted, hitting firms and workers whose activities rely on face-to-face contacts the hardest. Low-income countries with lower state capacities, including weaker health infrastructure and less data to inform policy, face an even more difficult balance between public health policy measures and their economic costs.
That balance has been discussed a great deal. But an equally important aspect to think through is the potentially longer lasting impact of policies being used to tackle the pandemic. While the immediate costs of the crisis are large and visible, long-run consequences are less visible but potentially larger.
In this article, we consider what we might learn based on our earlier research from the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. This was the “longest, largest, deadliest, and … most complex [Ebola outbreak] in history.”
We consider, in particular, the impact on young women of the closure of all primary and secondary schools through the 2014-2015 academic year. Using the findings from our own study we highlight the consequences of the closures and propose interventions to counter these adverse impacts.
During the COVID-19 pandemic schools have been closed in over 180 countries, affecting close to 1.6 billion children, accounting for over 90% of enrolled learners.
Our data collection exercise in Sierra Leone was originally planned to evaluate an intervention to empower young women. The programme provided clubs in which young women could meet, offering them a package of vocational skills training, financial literacy, and information on health and reproductive issues.
Most importantly, the clubs offered women a safe space to meet. From June 2014 onwards, we opened 150 clubs in four districts of Sierra Leone. Participation rates were high, with over 70% of girls aged 12 to 24 attending, corresponding to some 4,500 girls and young women overall.
Fieldwork for our baseline was completed a week prior to the first cases of Ebola being reported in May 2014. In our follow up survey in early 2016, we were able to track 4,800 girls in 200 villages across four districts. We used this survey data to measure how the Ebola shock affected their lives, assessing the lasting impacts post-epidemic, when lockdown policies had ended and markets and schools had reopened.
We exploited the randomised rollout of the programme to understand whether the safe spaces established as part of the intervention prior to the epidemic mitigated any of these impacts.
Our analysis shows that over the course of the Ebola epidemic, out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates for girls aged 12-17 at the onset of the crisis increased by 7.2 percentage points. But this was entirely reversed for those who had access, prior to the epidemic, to the safe space of one of the clubs in the most highly disrupted treated villages.
The changes in pregnancy are closely associated with changes in school enrolment after the crisis. So they have important implications for the ability of these young girls to raise their skills in the long run. By not returning to school after the epidemic when schools reopened, the girls are unlikely to return to schooling ever again. School closures during the epidemic can thus have permanent impacts on the future lives of these girls, as they are forced to transition into work or home chores more quickly than they would have chosen to if there hadn’t been an epidemic.
In control villages, school enrolment rates fell by 16 percentage points over the crisis. That fall was halved in the most disrupted treated villages. This was largely a result of young girls not becoming pregnant during the crisis and thus being able to enrol again when schools reopened.
Using further data from our surveys, we are able to pinpoint some of the key changes in the lives of young women. We find that girls with prior access to clubs reported spending much less time with men, and were able to retain more of their social ties to others post-epidemic.
Temporary school closures and the lack of economic opportunities drove those who did not have access to the clubs to spend time with men. This resulted in increased early childbearing and permanently dropping out of education. This had long term implications for the girls.
Policy responses to COVID-19 need to adhere to social distancing. This means that alternative safe space provisions need to be thought through. For example, interventions could include supporting young women through virtual mentoring or phone-based group chats, or any form of feasible group activities that take time that might otherwise be spent with men.
These might help in making sure that a short-lived epidemic shock does not damage lives in the long run. Such activities could also help girls build and maintain their social networks, enabling them to be more resilient during the crisis.
Our evaluation also suggests that equipping young women with a minimal set of competencies in reproductive health – such as using contraceptives or practising safe sex – during the crisis might protect their welfare in the longer term.
The importance of addressing these challenges is clear: many countries through sub-Saharan Africa have relatively young populations – the majority of the population is aged below 25 – and school closures could leave many adolescent girls vulnerable.
Acting now and with thought for the dynamic effects of policies can positively affect lives now and in the future.
Nigeria’s COVID-19 toll exceeded 8,000 on Monday, with more than 3,000 cases recorded within two weeks.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 229 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the country’s total to 8,068 cases across 34 states and the federal capital territory (FCT).
The agency made the announcement via its Twitter handle at 11:34 pm on Monday.
The number of recoveries also increased from 2,263 to 2,311, while fatalities rose from 226 to 233.
Lagos confirmed the highest figure for Monday with 90 new cases.
The number of cases over the last few weeks have increased significantly. As of May 11, 2020, a total of 4,641 were confirmed positive out of 28,418 samples tested, but by May 18, the figure increased to 6,175 confirmed cases out of 36,899 samples tested.
As of May 24, a total of 7,839 COVID-19 cases were recorded out of 45,683 samples tested.
However, while less than 100 fatalities were recorded in the past two weeks, the number of recoveries increased significantly.
As of May 11, a total of 902 patients had been discharged, while 152 deaths had occurred, but by May 18, recoveries had increased to 1,644, with 191 deaths recorded.
The numbers are expected to rise as the NCDC increases testing capacity, but according to Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, nine out of ten patients will recover from COVID-19.
The chairs were placed at least 1m (3ft) apart – family sat on one side, church officials on the other. Everyone wore a mask.
Everyone knew of the strict instructions that the Kenyan government had laid down for funerals during the coronavirus pandemic.
Only 15 people could gather for the burial of my cousin, Chris, and everything had to be done by 09:00 local time.
By 07:00 the rest of us had gathered, in front of our phones and computers, watching the burial unfold as a friend live-streamed it on Facebook.
There were hundreds of us to pay our last respects to Chris. He was a people’s person – the life and soul of family parties.
His deep laugh reached you even before he set foot in the house – in fact, you could hear it 200m away at the gate.
And Chris used to show up for people, be it at funerals or weddings. He was a great mobiliser, rallying people for all occasions.
So, on this day, we showed up for him too. But not being there meant it was not the same.
‘We couldn’t play his favourite songs’
Chris was my immediate cousin, but we were raised in the same house and he was more than a brother to me.
He died in Kisumu in western Kenya on Easter Sunday, after being unwell for a few weeks with liver cirrhosis.
The government gave us the guidelines for his burial. He had to be buried within three days.
But with many of his family and friends under lockdown in the capital, Nairobi, not everyone could attend the burial.
The sermon was short. The speeches were restricted. And there was very little singing.
Chris loved music – he played the drum kit in the Salvation Army church band. So it was painful that nobody could be there to play his favourite songs.
I watched as live comments from his friends and colleagues rolled in on Facebook.
In digital solace, people left messages of condolence and talked of how great a man Chris was.
And I thought, maybe I should take screenshots and print this out because this was essentially our condolences book.
Everything felt so different. We could not hug, touch or see each other’s tears. We could not throw fistfuls of dirt on the coffin as it was lowered into the grave.
The Facebook Live failed so I could not watch Chris’ final journey to the very end”
Mercy Juma BBC reporter
When a loved one dies we seek to grieve, we look for comfort and closure. But how do you do that when you are confined?
I was upset. I never imagined I would have to bury a loved one through social media. I never thought I would crave human contact that much. It was like a movie, except that I was part of the cast.
And sadly, the Facebook Live failed, due to a poor network connection. So I could not even watch Chris’ final journey to the very end. I did not see his coffin being covered.
In many African societies death and life are intricately tied. Many traditions see death as a rite of passage – a transition to another form.
Hence the importance of ancestors – they are the people who have died but continue to “live” in the community.
This, in turn, means that when people die they must receive a perfect burial – complete with rituals that have been observed for generations.
For the communities in western Kenya where I come from, like the Luo and Luhya, a person’s death and their burial are incredibly important events.
Elaborate funeral with 10 different rites
A dead person is treated with utmost respect and there are death and burial rites to be followed, to ensure a faultless send-off.
First of all burials are not hurried, especially for the elderly. A person’s death is a call for celebration, even amidst the mourning and grieving.
Coronavirus: Key facts
Spreadswhen an infected person coughs droplets into the air
Virus-packeddroplets can be breathed in
Dropletscan also land on a surface
Touchingsurface and then eyes, nose or mouth creates risk
Washing of hands is therefore recommended after touching surfaces
It takes at least a week for an adult to be buried. There is loud mourning and weeping, for days on end. People huddle together and help the bereaved to mourn.
Bonfires are lit in the homestead and people gather around them, embracing, crying, reliving the life of the departed.
There is the ritualistic slaughter of animals, and the preparation and serving of food and drinks to console mourners. It is a show of unity amongst neighbours and family.
The dead are brought home a day or two before the burial. They lie in the compound, to show that they are accepted and loved, even in death.
The Luo, a Nilotic people from western Kenya, have among the most elaborate burial customs in Kenya.
There are at least 10 rites involved from the announcement of death, to the removal of the shadow or spirit of the dead from the homestead, to the shaving of family members’ hair, and finally the remembrance ceremonies for the dead.
All these occasions require people to congregate and interact in huge numbers.
But during this pandemic, most of these rituals are simply off-limits, whether a person died of Covid-19 or not.
‘I have only partially grieved’
During the two days between Chris’ death and his burial, people at home were forbidden from singing loudly at night, lest they attract the neighbours who may want to come and grieve with the family.
There were no bonfires to sit around. And during the burial, even at the grave site, there was no hugging, or touching, no handshakes or kisses.
Government representatives were there to ensure all rules of social distancing were followed.
Forty days after one is buried, a memorial service is supposed to be held – the final celebration of their life. We, again, will not be able to do this for Chris.
I have this feeling that I have only partially grieved for Chris. This is not how he deserves to be mourned.
Maybe when all this is over – when we can hug again, and cry in each other’s arms – we will mourn him like we should.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Africa’s biggest economy following stringent measures imposed to contain coronavirus outbreak.
In the capital Abuja, and the commercial hub Lagos, businesses were closed for more than four weeks before restrictions were eased from 4 May. Inter-state passenger travel is still banned across the country, while school and restaurants are closed.
President Buhari has said the country has no money to import food and urged farmers to get back to work to produce enough food for the country.
Mr Buhari said the increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the country was frightening.
The International Monetary Fund predicts that Africa’s economy will contract by 1.5% points in 2020.
Nigeria was to proceed to a second phase of easing restrictions last week, but the task force in charge of fighting the pandemic said the country was not yet ready for full reopening of the economy.
Mr Buhari opted for private Eid prayers in State House as opposed to the usual large celebrations he holds every year.
He urged Nigerians to follow the ministry of health’s guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Nigeria’s Channel TV shared a video of the president speaking after Eid prayers at State House:
Let me start with a caveat. I am not exactly religious. I could attend church like 4 times a year and no one could compel me to. I also cannot be intimidated by some of the scare tactics employed by those who want to lure me. I believe one can have a relationship with God on his own. I am not arrogant enough to call myself an atheist, and though I could engage anyone on the subject, I am aware that there are grey areas in life that even the most ardent atheist or agnostic has to leave in the realm of some superior being. Science has not explained a lot of things about life no matter how it tried. I therefore respect anyone’s belief systems.
One of my issues with religion is the proselytization bit. The constantly jostling for souls among the Abrahamic religions. It reminds me of Nigerian banks seeking endlessly for customers that they don’t intend to assist but take from. I don’t like the idea of some people trying to convince others that their own ways are right and others are wrong. I detest even more some of the tactics and languages employed against the other side by the born again or ‘izala’ (true muslim) members of each side.
Well, we are in very odd times. I was a bit surprised at how easily many religious people folded and took it on the lam the moment Covid-19 was announced. Most of them did not even try to exercise their faiths. Some smart ones have been trying to justify behind their laptops on many a Zoom-talk how their steps were logical and how the church is not the building and so on, but clearly, many of the miracle claims have been revealed to be pure shams. We cannot compare 2020 with 1918. Churches were closed 1918, but they laid no claim to curing the lame, the blind, the deaf, or even raising dead people to live again. These new churches especially, have done just that. Anyhow, they shut their doors, and but for a few whimpers here and there, the monstrosities they built have remained symbols of helplessness, and a departing era.
Then Donald Trump, the POTUS, spoke a few days ago, announcing that in his view, churches, mosques and synagogues are essential services, and that got the world thinking again. It also got a certain section of the liberal press into a flap. Trump accused some state governors for categorizing abortion clinics and liquor stores as essential services, while locking down firmly on these religious houses. For me, the argument is water tight, even as many people believe that Trump is as usual, playing to the gallery and trying to win some November votes. Add to the liquor stores and abortion clinics, large malls where hundreds have congregated, touching trolleys and items on the racks for the past 4 months, have remained open as ESSENTIAL SERVICES, while religious houses are closed. Yet, no word had been said as to how the religious houses can begin to resume howbeit gradually. Liquor stores are there for people to stock up on their booze. There is a new culture among those who prefer to remain at home, to get drunk by 10am. This has increased incidences of child abuse and domestic violence. Idle ‘Uncles’ are preying on kids. Small crimes are climbing due to hunger and idleness. Marriages are crashing the more, and the alcohol is only weakening the immunity of hundreds of millions of people around the world. I would have put this down to some deliberate desire for some powerful people to reap more cadavers, but I think the strategy so far – especially after data has emerged – is down to simple stupidity. Those who say they are smart are just not so smart anyway – Michelle Obama said as much that she had been in many top-level thinktank meetings and been disappointed at the level of thinking of those who run the world.
I am interested in one question and one question only; why do people think religious houses are NOT ESSENTIAL while these other centres of mass gathering (markets, malls etc) are essential for a time like this? Do we really understand what people get when they visit their religious houses and how important they see these contacts? Are we being merely elitist and dismissive, from a public policy angle, seeing issues only from our ivy league perspective? Is there any representation from the really vulnerable or are we shutting down their voices from afar?
Abortion clinics sometimes provide essential services, but also their prioritization could encourage promiscuity among the young who know that there is a place to terminate pregnancies around the block, round the clock. It seems the world is working hard at devaluing the worth of humans by the choices we have taken. Is this deliberate? Again, real data has emerged, enough time has elapsed, and it should have since been time to recalibrate our strategy. What is going on? People love to bash Trump naturally, but I try not to follow the herd; the herd is usually wrong. Thinking about the goings-on again, I think there is a need to point out to the world, using some short points, that indeed religious houses may be essential services. Recall that I am no religious fanatic. I however believe that subject to limits, religion has played and continues to play a good role in organizing society, offering succor to billions around the world, and indeed, religion has been central to the evolution of science and innovation the way we know them today. The end of religion has not arrived, and may not in a while to come. We can reform religion, but we must not hold religion in disdain because we have the power of bureaucracy or the mob on social media. I personally like the fact that people head to churches and mosques and billions actually get calmed down by doing so. Perhaps it is the best that humanity can manage. Let us see just how essential religion is, especially from a Nigerian perspective:
PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES: In a country like Nigeria where visiting the ‘shrink’ is not as popular as it is elsewhere, only our religious houses offer such services. There is a spike in mental cases presently. People trust their pastors and imams more than they do the odd psychiatric doctor or psychologist. Many churches I know serve as rehab centres for poor drug addicts where governments have no provisions. Okay, why are these religious leaders not being actively pressed into service to assist the medical doctors in a world going into total mental meltdown at this time? Why are they shut out and told they don’t matter?
MARRIAGE COUNSELLING (OF COLLAPSING MARRIAGES, SPIKE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE): There is a spike in domestic violence lately, including serious strains on many marriages. Many men in our clime, are wired to be on the road – hunters and foragers. Now they are at home, dissecting the behaviors of madam and the children in microscopic fashion and also being dissected and cheapened. Well, mostly the religious houses offer this service in our country. Yes, you could say the pastors are still otherwise available at home or via the internet. But with the fear around this disease, they are discouraged from seeing anyone – except if their services are rightly recognized as essential and their counselling considered as value-adding. There should be a way of continuing this service. And no, Zoom cannot help very well in many bad situations. Perhaps the goings-on at this time is meant to damage the family institution. The liberals seem more in favour of same sex marriages, no marriages at all or any arrangement that do not product children.
SUICIDES AND DEPRESSION: This is part of the mental issues mentioned above but these two needs to be specially emphasized. You see, the promises of the hereafter is what gets billions of people hopeful around the world. Atheism cannot explain what happens hereafter. Atheists are unsure of the hereafter but religion offers some ideas, even if one can pick holes in them. More people believe in the explanations of religion and this saves many from suicide and depression around the world. Already there is a spike in suicides and depression because of COVID19. Many people ‘offed’ themselves and still do, because of the fear sold with the disease. In Bangladesh, USA, India, peasants, ordinary folks and medical doctors have been killing themselves while medical doctors are mainly focused on COVID. The medical personnel could use the help of religious bodies.
FOOD AND SHELTER FOR MILLIONS: Many religious houses provide food for millions of hungry people, and shelter for millions of homeless. Yes, they could still provide cooked food, but they are just mostly now dismissed as charlatans, not people who provided a service even if in the recent past. Some of them have provided these services on a large scale in the past but now find this difficult to do because of strict lockdown rules. Their staff cannot make it to work, and even markets open only a few times in a week. To make matters worse, this is the time that more Nigerians are going hungry and in need of such services. Some religious organizations have been dismissed as mere criminals and this is not encouraging to them to continue the work they have been used to. I think as much as we want them to be more responsible and we want to weed out charlatans we are often being very unfair to these people.
EXTRA-MEDICAL ISSUES (AND WHERE HOSPITALS REJECT PATIENTS): In the USA and elsewhere (including Nigeria), hospitals were told to cancel elective surgeries and people were told not to go to hospital except they had emergency the moment this covid thing showed up. Most people even elected not to go near hospitals anyway, especially given the fear with which the disease was enveloped no thanks to mainstream media. Religious houses have always been a half-way house; somewhere people in our kind of country go for pre-medical services, succor and advise. Many go to their pastors for some encouragement before embarking on surgeries for example. The jab in the arm often offers the hope that sees them through. Even medical doctors agree that a bit of hope helps in the healing process. Many doctors tell patients to put their faiths in God when they are about to go through a difficult and risky procedure. So, even though covid is a dangerous disease and no Pastor, Imam or Rabbi should interfere or expose themselves, we should at least acknowledge that they had a great role to play in the medical value chain in peace time. No, religious houses are not useless; they are essential.
FIRST LINE OF SUCCOUR: Religious houses are the first lines of succor for hundreds of millions of people especially in Africa. They are where our people find peace, succor and calm, away from the maddening crowd. They offer an escape, some offer tranquility. Others, a spiritual connection. Yes, our people need to visit churches and mosques less frequently but the succor that weary souls get in these places, is simply priceless, and often helps to save society from more trouble.
INCOME REDISTRIBUTION: Some of the religious houses offer a great income redistribution service. Some of the leaders are modest people who understand that they need to constantly lift up the vulnerable with the resources they get from the more affluent. That service seems to be in abeyance presently. Millions of Nigerians are able to meet some of their obligations through what they get in the religious houses. A certain Pareto principle plays out. Only the top 10% provides the resources which sustains the churches and the bottom 30% who give next to nothing also benefit from the largesse of the 10% especially in the good religious places.
SOME RELIGIOUS HOUSES MORE EFFICIENT THAN GOVT: That is a fact. Some of the religious houses have a better handle on resources compared to government. Some have created whole, efficient communities out of the resources they get, and some are far better focused than government could ever be. They operate like private-sector enterprises. They are not all useless. The resources given to them go a lot further than it could ever go if given to government. That is why millions of our people don’t miss their obligations to these religious houses. Whereas this is odd, but our governments must do better in resource management in order to reverse the distrust of the people.
CRADLE TO GRAVE SERVICES: We disparage religion as being useless and religious houses as being a bore, but whether we like it or not, life’s most important events have been colonized by them. They offer cradle to grave services. One of the sadder episodes of this covid disease is that many have died in the epicentres of America and Europe, without the normal consecration of their souls to God by their religious leaders, who have been kept out of reach and rendered into nothingness. Many of the sick and infirm who later died in the hospitals have been treated no better than experimental lab rats by the medical ‘experts’. A number of them died frightened, confused and disappointed because they couldn’t get those final assurances from their religious leaders, about a better hereafter. Life’s most important events are the forte of religious houses – childbirth and christening, coming of age, marriages, death. No secular institution can replace these roles except we want to turn human beings to mere machines.
SOME OTHER POINTS
BETTER CROWD MANAGEMENT IN RELIGIOUS HOUSES
I aver that there is better crowd management in religious houses, more than there could ever be at malls. So why the continuous victimization? I was at Abuja’s NEXT supermarket today (23rd May, 2020) and it was filled to capacity, with everyone roiling around the alleys, touching goods, replacing them and shopping. Why are malls more important than churches, mosques and synagogues? Is this more than the business of stopping covid in its tracks? Can one catch the disease in a church but not in a mall? A scientific explanation is urgently required please. I believe if we cannot manage more than a hundred per church, per service, or 200, now is the time to start.
EVEN THE BUILDINGS ARE IMPORTANT
Many have said the people are the church and not the building. Top pastors have also said it. They are only half-correct. The building is also important. I personally like the tranquility of a Catholic Church when I attend. People are usually very nice to each other inside churches (except in a few I have been in times past where they get all rude and aggressive when trying to collect offerings and tithes). I personally like the history that stares down on me in the more traditional and orthodox churches. Whereas in Europe they have turned most of the old churches into bars and pubs, I don’t believe it is the way for us to go here, even though I detest the competition for whose cathedral is largest in a country whose people are dying of hunger. Europeans, Americans and others, are generally more depressed than we are here, in spite of their stratospheric GDP per capita. They are not happy. For pastors who think internet or TV services are just as good, they should remember that the poorest amongst us cannot find electricity or internet data money and so have remained cut-off. We must not boil down religious services to mere elitism.
MEN OF LITTLE FAITH
I grew up listening to sermons about a day that will come when Christians will have to worship in secret lest they be killed or arrested. I didn’t see most pastors referencing the possibility of this when the covid lockdown started. They aren’t even writing now. Many have shown up to be total cowards. Why are they not engaging the governments very logically on this matter? Why me, a non-church goer? Some are busy talking up a storm on the internet, devising ways of optimizing tithes and offerings using internet banking in the ‘new normal’. For those ones, it is still all about the Benjamins. The danger is that even if this present lockdown is justified, can the same strategy be deployed in the future; announce a big disease and lock religion down? If COVID does not clear early, do we lock down religious houses forever? Does it also count for anything that yesterday May 23rd, 2020 Nigeria lost nobody to COVID? Or that our fatalities in Africa are so few? Are we locking down in solidarity or subservience to the West counties?
THE EXCESSES OF RELIGION IN NIGERIA
Some believe it is a good time to punish religion for its excesses, especially in Nigeria. The flash, the bling, the boasts, the conjobs. The proliferation of religious houses as if they were mamaput joints. Chances are religious houses are more ubiquitous than mamaputs in Nigeria. The Abrahamic religions are often in a mortal combat. As the Christians vow that they heard from God himself that there should be a church in every Nigerian building – and don’t forget the hotels – the Muslims (especially up north) don’t joke with building their mosques. Most of the palliative monies sent up north end up being used to build mosques. Political leaders embezzle, but ensure they put these buildings in place to mesmerize their people. What do we do about the pastors who acquire fleets of Rolls Royces and pay no tax because ‘thou shall not touch my anointed’? What do we do with the private jets? What do we do with regulating false claims of miracles on TV? Don’t we now need a Charity Commission as proposed earlier but shut down by the same pastors who have since gone limp? What do we do with proliferation of sects up north? Or the fact that many religious bodies just spring up spontaneously in Nigeria, with no registration at the CAC or anywhere, leading to non-traceability of their prime movers when trouble starts? Can we direct the attention of the rich churches back to Nigeria’s futile economic diversification quest? Can churches lead the next industrial push for Nigeria? It will not be odd. Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the past have been majorly catalytic to the opening of new epochs in development, science, the arts, knowledge at different periods of history. Perhaps they can try again
It is a new day. Let us refrain from punishing and lampooning religious houses. If they aren’t useful to us now, they surely were in the past. And they would usually be there when we finally close our eyes and depart the world. Yes, I support Trump on this. Religious houses are essential services. In Nigeria at the peak of the lockdown, essential services became a political matter. Those of us left at home couldn’t help but feel useless while a few ran the nation. It was a classic case of ‘if you are not seated around the dinner table, then you are most likely on the menu’. Thank God we can now go to work. Let’s get the religious houses off the menu. They are literally being carved and made ready for gastric digestion presently. Religious houses are very essential services; they save a few million lives yearly.
Movie star Idris Elba will on Monday evening host a star-studded virtual concert to mark Africa Day and raise funds to feed the continent’s hungry.
The MTV Base Africa Day Benefit Concert at Home will host the continent’s top music stars including Angélique Kidjo, Burna Boy, Salif Keita, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Diamond Platnumz and Sauti Sol.
It will be streamed on YouTube and ViacomCBS Networks.
Idris Elba told the BBC’s Newsday programme:
The priority is to try and get as many real-time meals into people’s mouths. At the moment hunger is the main fear as opposed to actual Covid-19
So trying to get people something to eat, at least some ways of getting food, is really the number [priority]… In terms of money you can’t put a number on it.
As far as donations are concerned, we’re really expecting that people – if they can give , they give… We are asking people to really dig deep into their hearts even just to attend this concert, even just to show there is solidarity amongst Africans at this point, that’s among the things we’re looking for.”
The actor, whose late father grew up in Sierra Leone and whose mother is from Ghana, tested positive for coronavirus in March and has since recovered.
Africa Day is an annual commemoration of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963. The organisation transformed into the African Union on 9 July 2002.
A court in South Africa recently passed a judgment that berated the country’s military and police for their conduct in enforcing the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.
The case involved the death of a man, Collins Khosa, after he was brutally assaulted by members of the South African National Defence Force, in Alexandra, outside Johannesburg. The military was deployed to help the police enforce the lockdown.
In his judgment in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, the country’s administrative capital, Judge Hans Fabricius highlighted the “social compact” between a government and its people, set out in the country’s constitution. He referred, in particular, to the founding values in section 1, including human dignity, equality, the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.
The court was asked for a declaratory order on the rules applicable to the military and the police. It was also asked to order them to conduct proper investigations of the incident, and suspend those involved until the investigations were over. It granted all that it was asked, and added that the police and military have to report back on their progress.
According to the court, people need to be able to trust the government to abide by the rule of law, make rational regulations, and not intrude on the rights of those subject to the law.
The judgment was remarkable for how limited it seemed to be: it didn’t find that the military or police were responsible for Khosa’s death; it didn’t convict anybody of a crime; and it didn’t award damages to his family. All it seemed to do was to tell the defence force and the police to obey the law.
At first glance this may appear inadequate. But it is in fact highly significant and important. To find out why, we need to explore the meaning of one of the founding values referred to by the court: the rule of law.
The rule of law is a popular term among politicians, and most people have an intuitive sense that it protects the people from arbitrary government action. But it’s more than that: it’s the very thing that makes law “work”.
That’s why it deserves a closer look.
The rule of law
The rule of law sets requirements both for the content of law and for the process of its application. It has eight specific aspects, on which most legal theorists agree.
A society complies with the rule of law if
(1) there are generally applicable rules, and
(2) the rules are publicised,
(3) understandable, and
(4) not retroactive.
(5) The rules do not contradict each other,
(6) they are relatively consistent over time,
(7) compliance with them is not physically impossible, and
(8) the administration of law reflects the rules as announced. This means that the government is bound to give effect to the rules that have been publicised.
The problem with the lockdown is not just that it violates the eighth requirement, although this particular violation is the most obvious in cases of government brutality. As the Khosa case shows, the soldiers acted beyond the powers conferred on them by law, and committed the crimes of assault and homicide. (This evidence, put before the court by eye witnesses, was not contradicted by the police or the military in the case.)
But most of the other requirements of the rule of law are not being met, either. Many new lockdown regulations and directives have been promulgated since April, from several different government departments, and are published online in government gazettes. They have been appearing at such a rapid rate that even lawyers with expertise in this area are battling to keep track of the details.
While a professional law site and an NGO now offer free overviews and summaries of the lockdown rules, the government website is a dead end. It purports to set out “consolidated” sets of the four main regulations from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the department coordinating the lockdown regime.
But it omits the other departments, which are authorised by the main regulations to issue directives in addition to the regulations. Furthermore, the links to the regulations lead nowhere for three of these sets.
This means that the gazettes are not readily available to a majority of the public who must obey them. As a result, they are not properly publicised. They are so complicated and extensive that not even expert lawyers can keep up with them (so they are not understandable).
Finally, they appear to be demanding the impossible from citizens. This is in part because they expect conduct – such as not leaving one’s residence and maintaining distance from other people – which is impossible in some areas, particularly informal settlements.
Even without the government acting brutally, this system of rules would lack legitimacy. In the view of one legal philosopher, Lon L. Fuller, the system would not be “law” at all. He challenged the widely held view that law was a separate matter from morality by identifying the central moral quality of law: it recognises, honours and depends on the agency of people subject to it.
If the eight requirements set out above are met sufficiently, then the people have a stable basis for planning their own conduct. Through law, people can make choices about their own lives. This, in Fuller’s view, generates “fidelity” to the law – what we might also call “buy-in” or “legitimacy”.
The government appears to be aware that it does not have the buy-in of the public, because it justifies so many of its arbitrary rules as measures designed to facilitate enforcement by police. And it had soldiers on the streets before the lockdown even started on 27 March.
In his judgment, Judge Fabricius notes that the soldiers were briefed in military terms, as though they were setting out on a battle with lawbreakers. This won’t work. If you have to enforce compliance like this, you don’t have “buy-in”. You don’t have law. The fact that these officials have brutalised the people they were meant to protect has merely worsened the situation.
The confusion, resistance and violence accompanying the current lockdown are an object lesson on the value and necessity of the rule of law. If the country doesn’t get this right, it’s not going to win the fight against COVID-19.
Every minute or so, the police would stop their van, jump out and – as people around them began to shout and run away – start to chase citizens more or less at random, it seemed to me, before shoving one or two of them into the back of their vehicle.
One woman wasn’t wearing a mask, an officer explained.
Another might have been selling contraband cigarettes.
Several people had, perhaps, been standing too close together, although it was hard to tell in the dark. And so on.
Lack of trust in the state
The whole process felt arbitrary and alarming – a clear abuse of authority.
But in the days since then I’ve begun to think of that night in Alexandra in a different way; to consider not the police’s behaviour, but rather the hard-learned reactions of the citizens of the township.
To run. And then, if caught, to submit meekly.
It was, I think, a very clear expression of vulnerability – the behaviour of people who feel, instinctively, powerless to challenge the might of the state.
I’ve seen it often, both here in South Africa and – to a far greater extent – in other parts of the continent.
Something similar applies to hospitals too.
I’ve heard – first and second hand – too many anecdotes about people whose relatives were admitted to underfunded public hospital with “a stomach ache” or “just a cold” and who were abruptly pronounced dead within days.
In other words, many people have learned to look towards the police and the medical profession not for salvation, but for something more nuanced.
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It strikes me that an acute sense of vulnerability – not unique to Africa, of course – has characterised this continent’s response to the pandemic too.
Yes, there was some bluster in the early days about Africa perhaps being spared – and we still hear populists like Tanzania’s President John Magufuli trying to play down the threat.
But most people I’ve spoken to, particularly in poorer neighbourhoods, have shown an increasingly intense and proactive determination to do all they can to protect themselves and their families, and – importantly – not to expect, or rely on, the state to do it for them.
In a sense, that same vulnerable mindset applies to most African governments too.
Africa acted fast and decisively
After all, this is a continent where tuberculosis (TB), HIV, malaria and dysentery still kill – despite impressive recent improvements in public health – millions of people each year.
Six main causes of death in Africa
1) Lower respiratory infections (10.4% of deaths):916,851
2) HIV/Aids (8.1%):718,800
3) Diarrhoeal diseases (7.4%):652,791
4) Ischaemic heart disease (5.8%):511,916
5) Malaria (4.6%)408,125
6) TB (4.6%):405,496
Source: WHO – figures from 2016
And so, governments across the continent are already hard-wired to respond to new public health challenges like Ebola or Covid-19.
That is why they didn’t dither in the early stages of the outbreak.
As other countries dabbled with herd immunity, kept their airports wide open, or merely encouraged their citizens to avoid the pub, African states were busy implementing strict lockdowns and re-training their vast standing armies of community health workers.
Delayed but not contained?
But the question now – for South Africa and for the rest of the continent – is whether that sense of vulnerability can help to sustain a much longer and effective fight against the virus because the evidence – from Nigeria to South Sudan and beyond – now appears to show that Africa’s early successes may simply (and usefully) have delayed, rather than contained, Covid-19.
At the same time, the severe economic damage caused by the early lockdowns is beginning to test the patience and the coping mechanisms of communities and governments which lack the deep pockets of Western nations.
Some excruciatingly difficult choices and battles lie ahead.
This is not to “catastrophise” Africa.
The continent’s early response – fuelled by a well-honed sense of vulnerability – has been world-class”
Andrew Harding Africa correspondent, BBC News
The outside world sometimes seems to have flip-flopped – when it has even taken the time to notice – between seeing this continent as a slow-motion disaster that will eclipse all others with its coronavirus horrors, or a place where humidity, sunshine, a young population, widespread TB vaccines, or other less benign tropes, will somehow produce a miracle.
The truth is surely more mundane.
Africa is busy adapting to yet another deadly disease.
Like other parts of the world, it will struggle, and it will eventually prevail, or at least find some sustainable long-term accommodation with the virus.
The continent’s early response – fuelled by a well-honed sense of vulnerability – has been world-class.
But its healthcare systems have been weakened, many would argue, not just by poverty and corruption, but by the systematic luring of African medical staff to Western nations over decades, by the short-termism at the heart of much international aid, and by the power-imbalances at the heart of the global economy and its key institutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic could be the catalyst for action to address the consequences of inequalities in South Africa’s education system. This is because measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are unearthing a wide range of systemic problems right across the education landscape – from water shortages to bad sanitation and overcrowding.
Over the past two and a half decades the legacies of apartheid have slowly emerged. But never at the scale – or with the impact – inflicted by COVID-19.
These gross inadequacies have hit the headlines from time to time. One example was the death of six-year-old Michael Komape in 2014 after he fell into a pit latrine at a school in the Limpopo province. The tragedy led to an outcry, but that didn’t last. Many people were disturbed and saddened, but nothing changed substantially.
By October 2019, over 26 years after apartheid and more than five years after Michael Komape’s passing, projects to refurbish pit latrines were still under way.
But COVID-19 could be the shock that changes this. The country closed all schools in March as part of lockdown measures designed to curb the pandemic. This week the government announced a plan for the gradual opening of schools.
The announcement has brought home the fact that many schools are not in a condition to welcome pupils back in a way that ensures their health and safety. For many this will mean that they can’t return to their classrooms, with long term consequences for the country. These would include having to shift the school-going age for children and losing an entire cohort of university entrants.
The impact of the changes being forced by COVID-19 were best summed up by the minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, when she said:
The virus has forced us to re-engineer the basic education system.
This week Motshekga announced that grade 7 and 12 learners would be going back to school on 1 June 2020.
The announcement followed weeks of uncertainty during which the minister set various dates for opening, pointing to the government’s decision to take a staggered approach.
The country’s trade unions were clear from the beginning that they opposed goverment’s plans. For example, the country’s biggest teacher union, South African Democratic Teachers Union, issued a media statement which ended with the words:
We stand firm that no schools shall open until our concerns are met.
The union’s concerns were laid out in 14 points. These included:
proper school infrastructure in the form of proper toilet facilities and classrooms,
observance of social distancing inside the classroom and in courtyards,
reduction of class sizes,
the provision of soap, sanitisers and masks,
the screening of learners, teachers and support personnel.
Another union, the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, asserted that the proposed dates were incomprehensible.
The government’s most recent statement was met with a more muted response from the unions. This suggests that government had begun to address many of the concerns raised initially.
The events of the past six weeks have systematically exposed the scale of the problems facing South African schools. Many are so severe that they stand in the way of the country being able to send its pupils safely back into the classroom.
They also point to the fact that there was never a full overhaul of the education system after apartheid.
The consequence is that the Department of Basic Education is being forced to prioritise the basics. This was made clear by Motshekga when she pointed out that:
We have had to focus on water sanitation. The question of water and sanitation is part of the plans.
It’s quite likely that at no point in the post-apartheid era has there been more urgent and decisive action taken to address inequalities related to basic water and sanitary infrastructure than at present in the education system.
Urbanisation remains a big challenge for city managers in low- and middle-income countries. This includes Nigeria, where the proportion of the urban population increased from 17.5% in 1969 to 51.2% in 2019. An estimated 18% of the urban population live in poverty.
A 2018 UN report has projected that 55% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030. It says half of the 130 million people living in cities lack access to adequate housing, water, sanitation, durable dwellings, adequate space, and secure tenure.
This makes it imperative for governments to apply social assistance programme for the poor and vulnerable . These can include income or material support such as retirement pensions or health care schemes, as well as feeding programmes for school age children and food handouts.
According to the World Bank, per capita spending on social assistance programmes is lower in low- and middle-income countries (less than $1,000) than in high-income countries ($4,000-$5,000). It reports that Nigeria’s total spending on social assistance programmes is 0.28% of GDP and covers only 7% of the population. This is low compared with South Africa (3.31%), Benin (2.95%), Rwanda (1.5%) and Ghana (0.58%).
There is ample evidence that social assistance programmes are failing to improve housing, access to health care and basic services. They are also failing to integrate the informal economy and improve local economic development in Nigeria.
Poor and vulnerable people live below the poverty line of $1.90. They bear the brunt of disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
My research shows that a host of factors – such as social and economic exclusion – stand in the way of safe and liveable cities.
In a separate paper, I identified the need for proactive measures to create stronger institutions and policies in Africa. This will lead to wealth creation and reduce poverty, social injustices and inequality.
I also found out that this requires a bottom-up participatory approach. This makes for better understanding of issues at the local level. It also ensures that location-specific methods of assistance are designed and that local resources are harnessed.
The Nigerian government introduced a lockdown strategy to contain the spread of the virus. At the same time it initiated various palliative measures. But these have not reached their intended beneficiaries, and have been plagued with difficulties.
The first problem is that the government has adopted a top-down distribution system which has been poorly coordinated and highly exclusive.
In addition, the requirements for accessing the relief packages were unclear, fraught with secrecy or too restrictive. In the case of unconditional cash transfer, grain distribution and credit loan scheme for households and businesses, selection methods were also vague.
The poor and vulnerable could not fulfil some of the bank related requirements for accessing the credit facility by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Social assistance programmes in Nigeria include national cash transfers. This is aimed at financial support for the poor and vulnerable whose incomes or livelihoods are at risk due to natural, human or economic crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown.
Others include youth employment and community social development projects, like the home-grown school feeding programmes to address poverty and hunger.
Some of these programmes are being reactivated to address the consequences of COVID-19 lockdown on the poor and vulnerable.
The Nigerian government could take a number of steps to improve the situation.
Firstly, it should apply the principle of accessibility as well as diversity. Interventions should be made accessible to the poor irrespective of age, class, ethnicity, gender or education, or residence or disability.
Secondly, the principle of social participation and human rights should be applied. This requires collaboration and partnership with pro-poor organisations and grassroot networks such as civil society or non-governmental organisations, religious groups, trade associations, and community development associations.
Thirdly, planning and implementation should be done in an open and transparent way. This could include using technology and social media for tracking and monitoring of beneficiaries and outcomes.
Fourthly, every available channel and language of communication must be used.
Lastly, there needs to be a bottom-up approach through the identification and use of local groups, resources and champions to create investment opportunities, increase incomes and build resilience of the poor and vulnerable.
Effective social assistance programmes will produce multiplier effects. They will help poor people escape poverty by enhancing their socio-economic status. They can also boost purchasing power, build resilience and catalyse local and regional economic development.
I’m in my apartment in New York, and I’m trying to focus on the positive side of being in isolation, which is forced introspection. I just released my album, and so I would have been forced to be introspective regardless, because after you release a body of work and it starts getting critiqued by the general public, that creates a whole lot of dysphoria about yourself. But isolation has further forced me to process it: what have I just created? I’ve also been able to practice and flex my cooking – I’ve been making a lot of stews; I roasted a big old snapper for the first time last week. It’s a lot of African and Caribbean dishes and styles: a lot of yuca.
One of the songs I’ve been listening to on repeat all year, but especially now, is Pi, off Kate Bush’s Aerial album. It’s this dance back and forth between a 6/8 post-bop almost-swing groove, and then the typical Kate Bush sound that we know: medieval pop in the 80s. She’s singing about this guy who’s obsessed with numbers, and as someone who has been diagnosed with non-neurotypical things like ADHD and depression, something about the way she’s speaking, the franticness and the rushed sense in the lyrics, really remind me of when I’m in a moment of mania or mental hyperactivity. It sounds like what it feels like when my brain is just going.
A lot of music I’ve been listening to is impressionist music, being able to capture things through sonics and not necessarily lyrics – I’ve been enthralling myself with composers and arrangers who are able to do that. This is a sonic commentary on police brutality, black children that are being murdered and hate crimes in general. The alliteration alone, to describe human life in that way, I thought was incredibly poignant. It’s 13 minutes of pain and beauty and sorrow, but also hope. The hope for black people in America lies where it always has, in the art and the work we make, and the conversations that we have, and the spirit that we embody every day.
It’s been beautiful to see Angel Bat Dawid, an artist out of Chicago, getting her reverence, because she’s an incredible artist and composer, and so is the whole post-AACM jazz community there. This resonates with me because it reminds me of my childhood in Chicago, and a sound that is so specific to the avant-garde jazz scene there. Jazz instrumentation, but with a lot of singing, and the sound of the bass clarinet and tuba: sounds that you don’t necessarily hear in more modern jazz. Not a lot of intense, lush, chordal big band landscapes – it’s a little more broken down, more spiritual, more ritualistic. I’m in New York in isolation, and I need something that reminds me of my past – this music just sounds so much like home to me.
It’s a rollercoaster thrill-ride of sounds and sonics; I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times and I still discover new things. I don’t know if it’s specific to America, but I think that only certain people in certain packages are allowed to be deemed incredibly profound and intellectual, but also connect on a mass level. I feel like only certain black artists are given that, and they have to play jazz, instrumental or electronic music. We associate folks like Brandy [and her producers] Timbaland and Darkchild in black American hip-hop culture, but don’t necessarily always associate that culture with the intellectual. I think we’re seeing more women getting that, but there’s still proximity to whiteness and white maleness and desirability that’s involved too. It’s a long road before the Brandys and the Jazmine Sullivans of this world get the same deal.
The Wayne Shorter album Night Dreamer is a favourite of mine, and the waltzing title track is so beautiful. I’m up all the time at night – I play a lot of Animal Crossing – and so it’s a beautiful and relevant sonic allegory on playing in the darkness. At least that’s the way I interpret it.
This rapper from New York named Maassai, a friend of mine and a creative collaborator, does a music series called Construction, which alludes to black Americans as the original construction workers of the country because of the institutions we literally built. She talks a lot about claiming and taking up space, and her identity as a black artist and a black woman, and so I really love her work. She doesn’t really sound like anything else – she is a lyrically dense and very skilled MC, first and foremost, but she raps over more experimental sounding music, and dance music. It’s definitely hip-hop, but modern and super forward. She’s incredible.
Lockdown has also revealed some darker things that I’m grateful to have revealed to me because it gives me stuff to work on. One of those is understanding how lonely I feel each day – even though I have friends and community I didn’t realise that I write a lot about loneliness and habits of self-isolation. I think it stems probably from experiences when I was a child. I started understanding what it meant to be poor, and that there was a social hierarchy, when I started doing after-school music programmes and was confronted with kids of different classes and races – and that was when I started to understand loneliness. I believe you can carry all types of things generationally too – I think it’s something that’s in my blood. But to be able to see how many people all over the world are able to resonate with my lyrics, which I think are just my thoughts that I’m pulling out of my ass, it helps me to understand that if there is an inevitable loneliness to our human existence, there’s an inevitable togetherness too.
The number of COVID-19 recoveries in Nigeria exceeded 2,000 on Friday.
This is just as 245 new cases were confirmed in 21 states and the federal capital territory (FCT).
In an announcement on its Twitter handle at 11:35pm on Friday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) also confirmed 10 more deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 221 – the highest in the West African region.
However, 100 more COVID-19 patients were discharged and a total of 2,007 patients have now been discharged.
A total of 7,261 COVID-19 cases have now been confirmed in 34 states and the FCT.
The current figures show a marked upsurge in the number of new cases, as well as deaths and recoveries, between April and May 2020.
As of April 22, 2020, Nigeria had confirmed 873 COVID-19 cases in 25 states and the FCT, out of which 28 deaths and 197 recoveries were recorded.
However, according to Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of the NCDC, the agency is working on increasing its testing capacity, and as a result, the country will record more COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, Kogi and Cross River are yet to record any positive case of COVID-19
In a strange twist, a pandemic birthday party might actually be the easiest party you ever throw.
A birthday party under normal circumstances takes hours of preparation: cooking and cleaning, decorating and primping. This year, you only have to get dressed from the waist up and tidy the corner of your home that people can see on video chat. Honestly, bonus.
You can also take advantage of the new format to include far-flung family and friends who might not have been able to join in-person gathering.
A socially distant birthday does, however, call for a dash of corniness and a pinch of magical thinking (and remember, if you are not up for it, it’s fine to sit this one out). But you can, for sure, make it feel real.
“Is this thing on?” video conferencing logistics
This is the least fun but the most important part: Make sure people have clear instructions on how they can attend.
Zoom works, but you’ll be limited to a 40-minute trial if you do it for free. You could also try a Google Hangout, which is free and unlimited, although maybe slightly glitchier. If you download an extension from the Chrome website you can make your screen into a grid of everyone’s face.
On the invitation, put the start time (with your time zone, if you’re inviting people from different regions), as well as detailed instructions for how to join the call.
If you’re inviting relatives who are not so savvy with tech, you could try to set up a call beforehand, so they have a trial run. Review steps like muting and un-muting. It will take a few minutes, but it will help with connecting during the party.
Also, make it easy for guests to gracefully and honestly decline your invitation, as some people just may not be in the party mood.
At the end, take a picture, even if it’s a screen grab.
Spotlight individual guests
As host, call on people. It admittedly might feel a little forced. But organic group conversation over video chat is almost impossible, and everyone will be glad to have a chance to speak.
One strategy is to ask everyone to prepare a memory, a roast or their Dad-est joke. You could also ask everyone to say something they’re thankful for, or looking forward to. Helping your friends find joy in their lives right now might be the best gift you can give back to them.
You could, also, ask them to get dressed .
“If you don’t tell them, they’re going to show up in their pajamas,” said Seri Kertzner, the owner and founder of Little Miss Party Planner, a New York City event planning, styling and content creation company. “It just gives a reason to celebrate. It makes it more fun.”
If your friends have a flair for the dramatic, try a theme. It’ll be entertaining, if nothing else, to see how people make do with what they have in their homes. For adults, a decade theme or maybe a color palette. For children, maybe trot out their Halloween costumes. Why not? This is a pandemic. There are no rules.
Or, ask people to spend some time primping, maybe even put on their fanciest clothing. It might feel silly sitting in front of a laptop in a ball gown or bow tie, but it might also give everyone an opportunity to play dress-up.
You *could* try for a socially distant hang
If you are comfortable, and if your local government permits it, you could get together while staying apart. Some suburban revelers have been doing drive-by gatherings, a procession of SUVs there to wave.
You could, also, ask your friends to tailgate at a distance. Have everyone bring a lawn chair, a snack and a drink. Set up outside — either in your own driveway or backyard, or in a parking lot or park. Be extra, extra careful. But if you stay far apart, you should not endanger each other.
Make it feel like a party at home
Even though you might be looking at the screen, you do still have a body and you do still exist in a three-dimensional space. (This can be tough to remember right now.)
So make sure there’s something sweet. A whole birthday cake might be depressing, but desserts can be good for one person, too.
If you want to relax, call a local small bakery. They could use a boost and will appreciate the business.
If you want to make something, you easily can. Margaux Laskey adapted a recipe for a delicious Chocolate Mug Cake, which is one of the quickest and simplest things to make on NYT Cooking. There’s also Tejal Rao’s Blender Chocolate Mousse, which tastes better than most restaurant offerings. If you’re hosting a children’s party, you could try to make something with your kids. Editors at NYT Cooking have compiled 53 recipes you could do as a family.
You could also ask all your guests to make the same thing. Send out a recipe at least a week in advance, so they can stock up on their grocery run. If you’re of age, you could add a cocktail to your snack.
You should try to set up a party, even if you’re the only one in the room. Clean up a corner of your space, and pull out some colorful decorations for yourself.
If you are a guest, maybe give decorations as a present. Ms. Kertzner has an online shop , Little Miss Party in a Box, which ships curated party boxes and supplies in various themes.Parents are buying baby shower boxes for their children. Children are buying birthday party boxes for their parents. The boxes start at $39, plus tax and shipping and Ms. Kertzner donates 10 percent of her profits to the Food Bank for NYC. . “This has exploded,” she said. “I can’t keep inventory in stock.”
If you are feeling a little more extravagant (or have deeper pockets), The Kiki Kit, a virtual party-planning service, has a birthday option for $75, which includes party supplies for two, or a customizable box that starts at $250. (The company donates 10 percent of its profits to Feeding America.)
If it’s an adult’s birthday …
Take the initiative and set up the party for them. Work out the logistics, so they do not have to think about it.
As for presents, for an older relative, you could record a virtual scrapbook. Ask family and friends to record videos of themselves in advance, so you can compile a series of greetings for them to play a few times during the day.
You could also throw them a surprise birthday party. Ask them to video conference with you, and then surprise them with a gallery view that includes the whole family.
Milestones matter. They’re what makes life feel sweet, and life could use some extra sugar these days.
If it’s a child’s birthday …
Start by talking to them about how this year is going to be different. This can be an adventure, something to look forward to, even if they can’t see their friends in person. You can build a fort at home together, or try for an ambitious craft project. Try some funky baking project, or give them “magic powers” for the day.
For the party, keep it short and sweet. One hour is probably the maximum amount of time, so make sure you give your guests both a start time and end time. The other parents on the call will appreciate it.
Consider hiring entertainment. There are still music classes and faerie entertainers, magicians and clowns, and they offer virtual shows. (The website Mommy Poppins has a good list.) A Connecticut-based music school, Jumpin’ Jams, has started livestreaming birthday parties for babies and toddlers from the owners’ living room. The wheels on the bus can, in fact, go ’round and ’round.
Or, send every house a kit for a craft project. Be kind to other parents — think of age-appropriate and not messy endeavors. Maybe try for a Lego kit, or have everyone draw their favorite animal. After a few minutes, ask the children to show their projects.
“You’re inside the other person,” said Chad White, 2018 nominee for Best Three-Way Sex Scene at the Adult Video News awards. “You’re plugged in.”
White has been in the industry for years. For someone who spends at least part of a typical workday “plugged in” to colleagues, you’d think that a pandemic would be terrible news for performers.
But that’s not necessarily the case.
COVID-19 has apparently created a massive demand for porn. Traffic to Pornhub spiked nearly 25% in March, and OnlyFans, a site for independent porn producers, says they’re getting 200,000 new signups each day. But large studio shoots have completely stopped — meaning that independent producers have a unique opportunity to capture the attention of a world looking for sexual content.
White, who started producing his own content at home years ago, says he’s seen an uptick in sales of his content since people started sheltering in place. The same goes for models whose pages he manages.
“Even though people’s money is running out, they’re still buying porn,” he said.
Evelin Stone, a performer who lives in Miami, has also seen similar increases in activity on her paid subscription sites. She also has experience in traditional porn shoots, but she stepped away, partially because of creative control, and partially so that she could be her own boss financially.
“I did big productions for about a year and a half,” she said in an interview. “At the end of the day… it’s all for them. They own you. They own what you do.”
Going independent also meant she didn’t have to worry about studios pressuring her to do things on camera she wasn’t comfortable with. “I can have fun, controlling what my body goes through, what my body does,” she said. “I control everything.”
Now that the large studios are shut down, Stone says she’s even more convinced that she made the right move.
“I wouldn’t be sitting here in a pandemic able to work,” she said.
We spoke to porn-industry professionals to see how the industry is changing – and what might be next.
Cover:Evelin Stone, an adult performer based in Miami.
For parents, one of the most reassuring aspects of the coronavirus has been that it largely spares children, only causing mild symptoms. But recent reports of a new life-threatening pediatric inflammatory syndrome are worrying many families. Children in Europe, Britain, and now the United States are being hospitalized for this mysterious illness, which can harm kids’ hearts and other organs, often requiring intensive care.
According to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, as of May 12, New York was investigating 102 cases of this syndrome and three deaths, and cases have been reported in 14 other states so far as well. Thankfully, this new syndrome is still quite rare and it is treatable, and most kids who develop it fully recover. Here’s what parents need to know and what they should do if they’re concerned about their children’s health.
Doctors suspect Covid-19 is involved, but they aren’t certain.
No one knows for sure whether this new syndrome, which is now being called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or P.M.I.S., is linked to the coronavirus, but many doctors think so. “I do think that this is related to Covid,” said Dr. Eva Cheung, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist and critical care specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, which has treated more than 35 patients so far with the syndrome.
The vast majority of children who’ve fallen ill in New York have either tested positive for active Covid-19 infection or have had antibodies suggesting that they were exposed to the virus at some point. A few kids have tested negative for both active infection and antibodies, and it’s unclear what that means. It’s possible that these negative tests were inaccurate, Dr. Cheung said, because many coronavirus antibody tests are unreliable.
What’s interesting, though, is that most of the children who’ve gotten sick — even those whose tests indicated prior coronavirus exposure — did not report having a recent respiratory illness. This suggests that these children were either exposed to the coronavirus but didn’t get sick, or that they had very mild symptoms, said Dr. George Ofori-Amanfo, M.D., the division chief of pediatric critical care medicine at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital.
Even if Covid-19 is involved, it’s unclear what happens to make these children so sick.
Dr. Ofori-Amanfo suspects that children who develop this syndrome were exposed to the coronavirus, and that their bodies for some reason mounted an exaggerated — and ultimately dangerous — immune response, much like the “cytokine storms” that have caused some adults to fall quite ill in the later stages of infection.
They may “have an abnormal and aggressive immune response to Covid — and that immune response is so aggressive that it affects other organ function and affects their ability to maintain their blood pressure,” Dr. Ofori-Amanfo said. This may then cause their bodies to go into rapidly progressive shock, requiring medications and, in rare cases, the use of life support to take over the job of their heart and lungs.
Still, doctors stress that no one yet knows for sure what is going on. “We don’t even exactly know what this disease is,” said Dr. Rebecca Pellett Madan, M.D., an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine.
The syndrome has been compared to several known conditions, but it’s probably new.
When it first arose, many doctors noticed that this new syndrome had features similar to Kawasaki disease, a rare condition that typically afflicts children under 5, causing their blood vessels to become inflamed. But although its symptoms are similar, and both are conditions marked by widespread inflammation, most doctors do not think this current syndrome is the same thing as Kawasaki. “They may share features,” Dr. Cheung said, but “I truly do think that this is its own syndrome.”
The pediatric inflammatory syndrome also looks a lot like toxic shock syndrome, which occurs when the body goes into shock because it has been exposed to toxins released during bacterial infections. But Dr. Ofori-Amanfo said that none of Mount Sinai’s patients had evidence of a bacterial infection in their body, so it was likely that the pediatric inflammatory syndrome, again, looked similar to toxic shock syndrome but was not actually the same thing.
The symptoms are noticeable and serious.
The good news is the new pediatric inflammatory syndrome is easy to spot — its symptoms are serious enough that parents should be able to notice them. All patients developed a fever of 101 or higher that didn’t go away, said Dr. James Schneider, M.D., a pediatric critical care specialist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, which has treated more than 40 patients so far with the syndrome. Dr. Cheung agreed, adding that kids with temperatures of 99 or 100 probably aren’t at risk. “That is not what we’ve seen here. The patients that we’ve seen that have needed admission to the hospital have had pretty moderate to high fevers,” she said.
Most kids also develop serious abdominal pain that get progressively worse over time. It’s not a garden-variety kids’ stomach ache; it’s serious pain that is often accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea and is “severe enough for the parent to be worried,” said Dr. Ofori-Amanfo. For some kids, the pain has been so bad that parents and doctors assumed the child had appendicitis and needed surgery, said Dr. Nadine Choueiter, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx.
Many kids with the syndrome — but not all — develop rashes, too. The rashes are red and often appear on the hands, forearms and chest, Dr. Ofori-Amanfo said, although they can appear anywhere. They typically turn white when you press on them, and then turn red again when you stop. They also usually cover a large area — a child’s entire face, for instance, or a substantial part of their arms or legs. “It’s not like a tiny speck of a rash. It’s pretty diffuse,” Dr. Cheung said.
Kids with the syndrome sometimes also have red eyes, cracked lips, a sore tongue, swollen hands and feet and they might complain of muscle soreness and not want to walk. But these symptoms are not as common as the fever and abdominal pain, doctors said, and some of the symptoms may come and go. “Sometimes the skin and the eye findings kind of wax and wane to the point that one doctor will go in the room and say ‘I saw a rash,’ and then another doctor goes in the room three hours later and the rash is entirely different,” Dr. Choueiter said.
Doctors haven’t identified any conditions or medical histories that put children at risk for the syndrome — except for coronavirus exposure.
“All our patients have been previously healthy patients, with no underlying illnesses,” Dr. Ofori-Amanfo said. Some of the kids who developed the syndrome even had multiple siblings who remained perfectly healthy.
Doctors are also seeing the syndrome in both sexes, but “we are seeing it in slightly more boys than girls — like 60 percent boys, 40 percent girls,” Dr. Choueiter said. The age range is wide, too; the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore has seen the syndrome in kids from 5 months to 20-years-old. It has not been observed in adults.
The one thing that clearly puts children at risk is living in an area with a lot of Covid-19 cases. But again, because kids who get sick with the syndrome didn’t necessarily have any Covid-19 symptoms, it can be hard for parents to know if their children might be at risk.
If your child develops a fever and seems unwell, contact your pediatrician.
If you child has a persistent fever above 101 — and especially if they develop other symptoms consistent with the syndrome, like a bad stomach ache — contact your pediatrician. “Ask to speak to them over the phone or do a telemedicine visit and have your pediatrician walk through the steps of what to look for,” Dr. Pellett Madan suggested. Dr. Cheung agreed, noting that in geographical areas where this syndrome has appeared, hospitals are making sure that local pediatricians know what to look for and what to do.
If your child has a fever but is in good spirits and is eating and drinking and not complaining about pain, you don’t need to rush them to the emergency room, but again, stay in touch with your doctor. On the other hand, if your child really seems unwell — isn’t eating or drinking, doesn’t want to move much and especially if they develop a rash or red eyes along with a high fever — it’s not a bad idea to go directly to the E.R., Dr. Pellett Madan said.
Remember that this syndrome is rare, and that most kids recover.
It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of children around the country have contracted the coronavirus, and the vast majority only have very mild symptoms. This serious syndrome is “still a very rare occurrence,” Dr. Schneider said. Your child is probably going to be fine.
Even the few kids who do go on to develop this inflammatory syndrome usually get better. “Some of them don’t even go to the intensive care unit. They’re with us for a few days, less than a week and they go home,” Dr. Choueiter said. They’re typically treated with what’s called “supportive care” to ease their symptoms: They might get fever reducers to lower their temperature, IV fluids to keep them hydrated, medications to increase blood pressure if it drops, and steroids or other drugs to quell the inflammation. Ultimately, “most of these children do fine,” Dr. Choueiter said.
Director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu says some COVID-19 patients dance in isolation centres because the disease may not weaken some people’s body system as badly as others.
Speaking during a Channels TV programme on Thursday, Ihekweazu said their confinement is not only because of their sickness but to prevent them from spreading the virus.
He, however, added that most of the patients at isolation centres are complying with the guidelines at the centres.
He said: “I think people really need to understand why people are being put in these centres. Normally, you only go into a hospital when you’re ill, get a diagnosis, and then you are sometimes admitted if you’re very ill.
“But in this case, following the experience from other countries, we made a decision as a country to also put people in isolation centres not just because they are ill on their own but in order to stop them from transmitting this virus to others.”
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He recalled that some persons being quarantined when he visited China “could exercise and dance because it is not easy to be somewhere, in isolation for three to four weeks when you are not physically ill”.
“So, these are things we have to use to reassess our decisions. It is very difficult to make decisions based on one viral video. One Whatsapp video does not represent the experience of people across the country,” the NCDC DG added.
“It is very important that as leaders we are not pushed down a decision path because one video happened to go viral. Many people in these centres around the country are complying.”
It was not what fishermen usually mean by a good catch. Last month a worker at a fish factory in Tema, a port city in Ghana, infected 533 people with the virus behind covid-19. President Nana Akufo-Addo linked the “super-spreader” to about 10% of the country’s 5,408 cases.
That Ghana could identify the person is a tribute to its response. It has tested more than 155,000 people, the fourth-highest per-person rate in Africa, according to data from cdc Africa, a public-health body. Elsewhere a lack of testing makes it harder to assess the true course of the disease. But what data there are, and new analysis by the World Health Organisation (who), suggest the virus is spreading more slowly in Africa than elsewhere—and that its path will vary across the continent.
Africa, which contains about 17% of the world’s population, has less than 2% of its confirmed cases of covid-19. By May 13th cdc Africa had counted 69,947 cases and 2,410 deaths. Over the past month reported cases have doubled roughly every two weeks. Until recently American cases were doubling about every three days.
This may partly reflect insufficient testing. Africa has checked just over 1m people—a day’s work for officials in Wuhan. South Africa and Ghana account for nearly half. The Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to Covid-19, a public-health consortium, notes that “the true number of infections is likely to be much greater than currently known.” Its rough estimate suggests a tally eight times higher.
Another sign of undercounting is the share of covid-19 tests coming back positive. The “test-positivity-rate” is an imperfect guide. But assuming those being tested have covid-like symptoms, a rate above 5-10% suggests there are many uncounted cases, says Jason Andrews of Stanford University. At least 22 African countries have rates above 10%, including Algeria (91%), Sudan (87%) and Tanzania (78%).
John Magufuli, Tanzania’s president, does not believe his country’s results. “We only see them releasing positive, positive, positive results,” he said. He claims that the national laboratory was sent papaya, goat and sheep samples that tested positive. (The lab denies this.) No new official data have been released since April 29th.
Opposition activists and ngos say that there have been dozens of burials of covid-19 victims in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. On May 12th the American embassy said that hospitals there were “overwhelmed”. “It is a cover-up,” says Zitto Kabwe, an opposition leader.
There are similar reports of undocumented surges in other countries. In Kano, in northern Nigeria, hundreds of unexplained deaths have been alleged by gravediggers. In Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, medics claim that the deaths they are seeing do not chime with official totals.
Nevertheless there are few signs that these “ghost hotspots” are ubiquitous. Some countries, including Mauritius, Namibia and the Seychelles, have not reported a new case for two weeks. Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda have fewer than 700 cases between them and positive-test rates below 1%. Nor are there reports of surges. “In a society like ours there’s simply no way this could be kept secret,” says Berhanu Nega, an Ethiopian opposition leader.
Crucial in slowing the early spread of covid-19 was the swift introduction of containment measures. Most African countries implemented lockdowns far earlier than rich countries did. By the end of April at least 42 African countries had done so; 38 of these were in place for at least 21 days.
So despite undercounting, official data are still a rough reflection of reality in many countries, say those leading the response. “While covid-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots,” says Matshidiso Moeti, the director for the who in Africa.
Her view of a slower, longer pandemic is explained in a paper by who colleagues, published by bmj Global Health on May 14th. Unlike other models, which tend to apply patterns seen elsewhere in the world to Africa, theirs claims to make assumptions based on the continent’s “unique socio-ecological context”. For example, it takes into account the fact that Africans travel less, thanks to sparse road networks.
The authors reckon that without containment measures 16-26% of those in the who Africa region would be infected in the first year, with higher shares in well-connected countries like South Africa. About 29m-44m people would be symptomatic. This is a lower estimate than other models yield. The who also calculates that there would be 83,000–190,000 deaths without mitigating steps—implying a lower rate of infected people dying than in rich countries, mostly because Africans are younger. However, Africa does not have rich countries’ hospitals. Surges in cases would overwhelm health systems.
Because the model assumes no mitigating measures such as lockdowns, the actual tallies should be lower. Yet many African governments are in the midst of loosening restrictions, as they try to balance the harm of covid-19 with that to their economies and public health more broadly. Researchers at Imperial College London reckon that in some countries the knock-on effects on treatment for hiv, tb and malaria could be of the same order of magnitude, in terms of years of life lost, as that of covid-19.
Many rich countries are easing lockdowns after reaching, in theory, peaks in new cases. African countries may be doing so while case-rates accelerate. Africa seems to be suffering a slower pandemic, but the risks are still immense. ■
Significant disruptions to major events in the luxury calendar, store closures and market freefall have reinforced the setbacks the industry is facing due to coronavirus, or Covid-19. Over 3,083,445 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with 212,494 deaths and 935,137 confirmed recoveries.
As the UK observes lockdown alongside many countries worldwide, a number of luxury brands have announced major donations and initiatives to help fight coronavirus.
Swiss watch brands continue to support the fight against Covid-19. Hot on the heels of independent Urwerk’s charity auction lot, comes news that Breitling has made a special edition timepiece in aid of global healthcare charities.
On 14 May, via an online auction, Urwerk sold No.1 of its 25-piece UR-100 Gold watch inscribed ‘Fight C19’. The watch fetched CHF96,500 (approx. £81,200), which was donated to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK – a charity chosen by the winning bidder, which provides expertise to the NHS, Public Health England and the WHO.
Breitling’s rainbow-dial Superocean Heritage ’57, a huge success when it was launched online in April this year, was aptly chosen as the model for the brand’s latest charitable initiative launched today. The overwhelming response to the initial white-faced watch, has led to a second edition of 1,000 pieces being produced, this time with blue dials.
A proportion of the profit from each watch sold will be donated to healthcare charities in some of the areas of the world most heavily impacted by coronavirus. In total Breitling will give CHF500,000 (approx. £420,000), which will be shared between six organisations, including the UK’s ‘NHS Charities Together’.
Breitling UK has added to the initiative by agreeing to give a further £1,000 for each watch sold on its website and has also given official retailers the chance to do the same – so far, all those asked have agreed to donate.
Italian fashion duo Dolce & Gabbana has announced it’s strengthening its efforts to support Humanitas University in the fight against Covid-19. A new campaign for the brand’s iconic Devotion bag, which features a Sacred Heart, has been released, and a portion of its online sales proceeds will be donated to the university to help fund vaccine research.
“The whole world and all of our lives will never be the same again,” the duo wrote in a co-signed statement. “We truly hope that all of this will lead to a rebirth, and want to do our part so that all of us, especially future generations, can one day benefit from these fundamental scientific discoveries.”
Although Dolce & Gabbana has already worked with Humanitas University on a scholarship project, this is their second installment of aid directly relating to the coronavirus. Back on February 17, the duo announced a sizable unspecified donation to Humanitas University, in support of a study aiming to understand the responses of the immune system to coronavirus.
“We felt we had to do something to fight this devastating virus,” Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana said at the time. “Even a very small gesture can have enormous significance. Supporting scientific research is a moral duty for us, we hope our contribution will help to solve this dramatic problem.”
Roberto Cagliero, Director Fundraising of Humanitas said, “Dolce & Gabbana has been proactive since the very beginning in support of scientific research to fight against the coronavirus, even before it was a global emergency. We stand with scientists and researchers who are dedicated to studying the largely unexplored role of the immune system in fighting against this deadly virus.
“Thanks to their donation, a dedicated team lead by Professor Alberto Mantovani at Humanitas University, in collaboration with the virologists of Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, is working on an expansive research project studying the responses of our natural defenses to coronavirus, in an effort to lay the basis for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Together we are working towards a resolution to this global problem.”
On April 23, Luxury Italian jewellery house Bulgari announced it has ramped up its efforts to support the fight against Covid-19. The brand is donating over 160,000 units of medical-grade hand sanitising gel to the UK, which will be supplied to the NHS at the beginning of May in 75ml recycled plastic bottles. This mini format will allow medical staff to carry the protective gel in their pockets at all times.
A statement read, “frontline medical staff are facing unprecedented challenges, particularly as the UK is now one of the worst affected countries in Europe, and Bulgari is proud to support invaluable efforts to treat affected communities whilst also keeping them as safe as possible from infection. The UK has always been a major market for Bulgari and the company feels it is time to give back during this critical situation, in return for what the UK has given and contributed to Bulgari’s international fame.”
Of the donation, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said, “Tackling coronavirus is a global effort. I’m grateful to Bulgari, which has turned its capability to making vital protective hand gel. It is playing its part, helping people stay safe in these challenging times, and no doubt saving lives. I salute the brand’s generosity and the part it is playing in winning the battle against this virus.”
Bulgari had already boosted its support to its home country, Italy, on March 26, with the announcement that it would produce hundreds of thousands of bottles of hand gel in collaboration with its fragrances partner, ICR (Industrie Cosmetiche Riunite, Lodi). These have been supplied to all medical facilities through the Protezione Civile (Italian Civil Protection Department).
Both of these efforts come in addition to an initiative announced over one month earlier – a major donation to the Research Department of the Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital in Rome. On March 6, the CEO of Bulgari, Jean-Christophe Babin and Lelio Gavazza, Executive Vice President Sales and Retail, visited the Research Department of the Spallanzani Hospital where they met the virology team and delivered the 3D microscope, purchased through the donation, which they hope will lead to the prevention and treatment of the virus.
Babin said, “We are conscious that the donation is a first small drop in the ocean of research which has to be conducted but thanks to the wonderful people who are working on it day and night with incredible optimism we are sure that in the weeks to come we will make giant steps towards containing and then eradicating coronavirus, not only from Italy, but from the rest of the world.”
On 20 April, luxury fashion brand Loewe announced that it is working to ensure a better future for children in socially vulnerable groups by donating €40 for every product of the Paula’s Ibiza collection sold between May and August 2020 in Loewe stores and on loewe.com. The brand has kicked this off with an initial donation of €500,000.
The brand will be collaborating with Plataforma de Infancia – a Spanish alliance of social organizations that works to protect children and adolescents’ rights – to launch a series of educational programs this summer in Spain which aims to reduce inequality and school dropouts. “Joy, in these troubled times, means to maintain a positive outlook on things. Children are joy and deserve joy,” read the statement.
Loewe is also donating 100.000 surgical masks to the Spanish Red Cross and producing non-surgical masks in its Getafe factory. The masks are to be distributed to volunteer workers, Loewe employees and their families.
Earlier this month, luxury handbag brand Demellier pivoted production in its Spanish factory to produce face masks and protective screens to donate for local hospitals.
Hermès Group has promised to maintain the full basic salary of its 15,500 employees worldwide without having to resort to any additional government support provided by various countries, notably in France.
The French luxury brand will donate €20m to public hospitals in Paris, as well as donating over 30 tonnes of hand sanitiser produced by its fragrance manufacturing site in Vaudreuil and more than 31,000 masks.
On April 16, Ralph Lauren ramped up its support with a UK donation and fundraising initiative in support of The Royal Marsden Hospital and other programs in support of NHS frontline workers. This donation to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity that will enable The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to purchase a specialist machine to test for Covid-19.
Professor Mitch Dowsett, Head of the Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research at The Royal Marsden Hospital, said, “thanks to The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, we can bring Covid-19 testing in-house, increasing the volume of NHS staff and cancer patients across London, that can be tested and significantly speeding up the turnaround of results.”
The brand had already responded on its American home turf on March 26, allocating $10m to provide financial grants through the Emergency Assistance Foundation. This will be divided up between Ralph Lauren colleagues facing special circumstances, a contribution to the World Health Organization Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund and go towards the brand’s Pink Pony cancer charity, supporting those who are vulnerable at this time.
The house will also give an inaugural donation to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) / Vogue Fashion Fund for Covid-19 relief to support the American fashion community impacted by the pandemic.
The American brand is also producing 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns with its U.S. manufacturing partners.
On April 6, Tod’s announced that The Della Valle Family has allocated €5 million to support the family members of health personnel who have lost their lives in the fight against Covid-19. “Their selflessness and courage will forever be an example to all of us,” read a statement.
Brooks Brothers announced last week that it was to commence manufacturing up to 150,000 surgical masks per day at its U.S. factories. America’s oldest retailer, which usually crafts ties, shirts and suits, is switching brief to masks and gowns to help increase access to protective gear for health care workers and others battling the spread of Covid-19 at American hospitals and medical facilities.
“We consider this a duty, and part of our DNA at Brooks Brothers,” said Claudio Del Vecchio, Chief Executive Officer. “These are challenging times that are impacting us all. We are deeply grateful to the medical personnel at the frontlines who are fighting the pandemic, and we are honored to do our part and join our peers in retail to provide protective masks that our healthcare system critically needs.”
LVMH has updated its already staggering pledge of support with the news that Louis Vuitton has started producing gowns in its ready-to-wear atelier located on rue du Pont Neuf in Paris. These gowns will be provided to frontline workers in six Parisian hospitals of the “Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris”, also known as AP-HP, which is taking care of patients suffering from Covid-19.
Last month, LVMH, which owns brands such as Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, and beauty labels such as Guerlain, Acqua di Parma and Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, was one of the first to make a move to help the fight against coronavirus. It announced that it was going to use its French perfume factories to produce mass quantities of hand sanitiser gel from Monday 16 March.
The statement read, “Given the risk of a shortage of hydroalcoholic gel in France, Bernard Arnault has instructed the LVMH Perfumes & Cosmetics business to prepare its production sites to manufacture substantial quantities of hydroalcoholic gel to be provided to public authorities.”
It went on, “LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands to produce large quantities of the gel from Monday. It will be delivered free of charge to the health authorities and as a priority from this Monday to the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris. LVMH will continue to honour this commitment for as long as necessary, in connection with the French health authorities.”
The Canali Group has donated €200,000 to the San Gerardo Hospital in Monza through the brand’s nonprofit foundation Fondazione Canali Onlus, to help the fight against coronavirus in Italy. Founded by the Canali family in 2013, the foundation takes in the family’s own human and social values.
The Michael Kors brand is donating $1 million to support local relief efforts in New York City. In addition, founder Michael Kors and John Idol will make personal contributions of an additional $1 million towards these efforts.
Of this $2 million packet, two of New York City’s largest hospital systems, NYU Langone Health and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, will each receive $750,000 to support emergency patient care, financial relief to frontline medical staff, and related clinical and diagnostic research.
God’s Love We Deliver will receive $250,000 to fund meals to be delivered to the city’s most vulnerable individuals living with serious illness across all five boroughs. The Vogue Fashion Fund for Covid-19 Relief will receive $250,000 to provide financial relief for small businesses in the fashion community affected by the pandemic.
In Milan, Versace is donating a total of $500,000 to support local efforts in response to the pandemic; this is in addition to the ¥1 million that Versace donated in February to support the Chinese Red Cross Foundation. These additional funds will support the San Raffaele Hospital and Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana’s initiative to donate ventilators and medical equipment to the country’s hospitals.
This is the second donation from the brand. Friday March 13, Italian fashion house Versace announced that Donatella Versace and her daughter Allegra personally donated €200,000 to the intensive care department of San Raffaele hospital in Milan to support the fight against coronavirus.
A statement from Versace herself read, “In times like this, it is important to be united and support those who are on the front lines, fighting every day to save hundreds of lives. This is why Allegra and I have decided to make a personal donation of €200,000 to the intensive care department of San Raffaele hospital. This is when we, as a society, need to stand together and care for one another.”
In London, Jimmy Choo will donate $500,000 to support relief efforts both in the brand’s home country of the United Kingdom and globally.The National Health Service Covid-19 Urgent Appeal by NHS Charities Together will receive $250,000 to support hospital staff, volunteers and others on the front line caring for Covid-19 patients.
The World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund will receive $250,000, enabling countries to prepare for and respond to the crisis, and supporting medical professionals and patients worldwide by providing critical aid and supplies.
From April 1, Acqua di Parma is donating 100% of its revenues from the online sales of all home products, such as candles and diffusers, and personal care items, such as shaving creams, to help the situation in Italy. This is part of the brand’s new #StayHome campaign, encouraging buyers to spruce up their living spaces with fragrant products and raise money to fight the coronavirus at the same time.
“In these difficult times of suffering and strife that grip Italy so severely, it is natural and right to make a strong gesture of solidarity. With the #StayHome campaign, we can do our part and demonstrate the love that the Maison has for our mother country,” said Laura Burdese, President and CEO of Acqua di Parma.
On March 28, Burberry announced the dedication of its resources to support those impacted by the disease and prevent further infection. By leveraging its global supply chain, the brand will support world-leading research and provide funding to increase food supplies, help to meet the most immediate medical and community needs, and support the development of a longer-term solution to the global pandemic.
The brand will utilise its global supply chain network to fast-track the delivery of over 100,000 surgical masks to the NHS, for use by medical staff, and retool its trench coat factory in Castleford, Yorkshire, to make non-surgical gowns and masks for patients. It will also fund research into a single-dose vaccine developed by the University of Oxford that is on course to begin human trials next month and donate to charities including FareShare and The Felix Project, dedicated to tackling food poverty across the UK.
“In challenging times, we must pull together,” said Marco Gobbetti, CEO, Burberry. “The whole team is very proud to be able to support those who are working tirelessly to combat Covid-19. The pandemic has fundamentally changed our everyday lives, but we hope that the support we provide will go some way towards saving more lives, bringing the virus under control and helping our world recover from this devastating pandemic. Together, we will get through this.”
On March 27 the Zegna Group pledged to donate €3 million to the Civil Protection in Italy, to support the nurses, doctors, scientists and volunteers across Italy who have been working tirelessly to fight the epidemic. The Group will also convert part of its production facilities in Italy and Switzerland to the manufacturing of medical masks, that will provide critical supplies to both Zegna’s employees and to the wider needs in Italy and Switzerland. It has also made a direct financial contribution to provide several hospitals with ventilators and medical masks.
Hugo Boss announced on March 26 that it will dedicate the clothing production site at its global headquarters in Metzingen to the manufacture of face masks, which will be donated to public facilities. In the coming weeks, it will manufacture 180,000 masks. They will be crafted in a cotton-blend material that can be washed and reused at least 50 times. These masks are not for clinical use. However, they can be used in other settings, such as in nursing homes, fire departments, and by police.
Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti also announced that, through their Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti Foundation, they are donating €1 million to support the fight against the Coronavirus. The donation will benefit the new Columbus Covid 2 Hospital, a new area fully dedicated to the Covid-19 cases at Rome’s Agostino Gemelli University Policlinic. The Columbus Covid 2 Hospital was officially inaugurated on March 21.
“In such a dramatic moment for the whole world,” said Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti. “We wanted to give our contribution to win this crucial battle against this invisible, but terrible enemy. Our deepest gratitude goes to those women and men who are fighting night and day to save human lives in our hospitals. We will never be thankful enough for the love and dedication they are demonstrating in such a dramatic moment.”
On the same day, Giorgio Armani announced increased support in the fight against Covid-19. All of its Italian production plants have now switched to manufacturing single use medical overalls, to be used for the individual protection of healthcare workers engaged in the fight against coronavirus. Armani had already made a donation of €2 million to four Italian hospitals and the national Civil Protection Agency.
Canada Goose announced on March 25 that the company will leverage its manufacturing facilities to begin production of medical gear for frontline healthcare workers and patients across Canada. The company will begin making scrubs and patient gowns, which are in short supply across the country, and will begin distributing them to hospitals on the week beginning March 30.
“Across Canada, there are people risking their lives every day on the frontlines of Covid-19 in healthcare facilities, and they need help. Now is the time to put our manufacturing resources and capabilities to work for the greater good,” said Dani Reiss, President and CEO. “Our employees are ready, willing and able to help, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s the Canadian thing to do.”
Earlier in March, Luxury fashion brand Moncler announced a huge contribution of €10 million to go towards the construction of a hospital with 400 intensive care units in Milan. The new site will be dedicated to patients testing positive for Covid-19 and is being constructed in the former fairgrounds of the Italian city.
“Milan is a city that has given us all an extraordinary time,” said CEO Remo Ruffini. “We cannot and must not abandon it. It is everyone’s duty to give back to the city that has given us so much.”
Prada announced its donation of two entire intensive care units to each of Milan’s three biggest hospitals: San Raffaele, Sacco and Vittore Buzzi. Luxury shoe brand Sergio Rossi pledged to give 100% of proceeds from online sales to ASST Fate Bene Fratelli Sacco hospital in Milan. Alongside hoping to inspire shoppers to part with their money for a vital cause, the company also made a donation of €100,000.
On the same day, Giuseppe Santoni, CEO and namesake of the luxury shoe brand Santoni, launched a fundraiser to assist hospitals in the Marche region, kicking it off with a personal donation of €50,000. Marche is one of Italy’s high-end shoemaking hubs and has been harshly affected by coronavirus.
Santoni said, “Marche is the region I belong to, the region where my family, my company, my people are grounded. It’s a beautiful territory that is suffering and that has to prepare to face the even more difficult emergencies that are expected in the next few days. Now I want to give to this region that has always given so much to me.”
Earlier that week, Italian influencer and businesswoman Chiara Ferragni crowdsourced €3.8 million for Milan’s San Raffaele hospital. Currently on lockdown with her husband, Italian rapper Fedez, and their son in the family’s Milanese home, Ferragni has been extremely vocal online over the past few weeks about the devastating effect of coronavirus in Italy.
In one of her diary-style posts she wrote, “every day at 6pm, you’ll find us at the window singing Inno d’Italia. It has probably become my favourite time of the day: a moment that brings us Italians together and makes us feel like one great community. I’ll try to give back all the love that I have in me to this world in this moment of need.”
Governor of Cross River, Ben Ayade has lifted the ban on religious gaherings in the state.
This was contained in a statement issued by the governor on Wednesday.
According to the statement, the governor acknowledged the efforts and cooperation of religious leaders in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ayade said he was “conscious of the spiritual economy”, and that his action was as a result of appeals by religious leaders in the state.
He, however, said worshippers must ensure that they comply with the directive on the use of face masks, and that such gatherings must not exceed the building capacity.
The governor also added that the state COVID-19 task force will be monitoring such gatherings to ensure compliance.
According to the situation report of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for May 18, 2020, Cross River has recorded the second lowest number of tests in Nigeria, with seven samples tested so far in the state.
The state is also yet to record any positive case of COVID-19.
It is 7am and hundreds of children have come out on this chilly morning to queue for a plate of porridge.
With makeshift masks covering their faces, the children wait for SamanthaMurozoki to start dishing up the warm food into whatever plastic tub, plate, tin cup – or even ripped-off corner of a cardboard box – is presented to her.
The winding queue is a sign of the desperation that has gripped the populous township of Chitungwiza, on the outskirts of Harare, since Zimbabwe enforced national lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which has seen 46 cases and four deaths.
The queues have become a common sight in Seke Unit A, where Murozoki prepares porridge in the mornings for children and supper later in the day for hungry families.
With a makeshift stove, a couple of large pots and a few cooking utensils, the mother of two has been winning the respect of thousands who pass by her kitchen daily and is gathering volunteers who help her keep track of the children. A team of women serve and wash up the utensils.
None of the children have been turned away.
The feeding programme that began about a week into the national lockdown has become essential for the Chitungwiza community.
“I started with a 2kg packet of rice and 500g of beans. The number of people needing food has doubled since then. It’s not something that I had planned for,” Murozoki told the Guardian.
When food supplies were getting low soon after she started, she sold some of her personal possessions to get more.
“When my money ran out I started bartering food supplies with my jeans and sneakers,” she said.
Murozoki said her feeding programme was driven by compassion after a neighbour told how her family had gone to bed hungry as work and informal trade has dried up under the lockdown.Advertisementhttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
An immigration lawyer, Murozoki has won the support of Zimbabweans on social media.
“After I posted pictures of what I was doing on WhatsApp my friends and family chipped in to help out. A colleague also decided to put my story on Twitter and Facebook, that is how the Zimbabwean community started helping out. They have been donating groceries and some are even wiring money from overseas,” she said.
She said beneficiaries of the programme are required to register before receiving food aid.
“We just get people coming in to register their families, so we do not segregate. The lockdown is affecting everyone. We cannot turn people away because everyone wants food,” Murozoki said.
Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has partially opened up the economy to the manufacturing and mining sectors. But millions of informal workers remain on lockdown and food stocks continue to run low.
This lockdown has not spared us at all, so people are suffering
Anastencia Hove, volunteer
With a baby strapped on her back, Anastencia Hove, 35, came to Murozoki’s kitchen for breakfast and has stayed to volunteer as a cook.
“I was moved by her love. It is rare to find people who think about others. So I said as a token of my appreciation for her support, I should volunteer. This lockdown has not spared us at all, so people are suffering. The number of people I see here shows that many are hungry,” Hove said.
Gracious Mango, 39, clutches a plastic food container as she waits for her name to be called out. She explains how life has worsened during the lockdown.
“There is no food at home. It is becoming difficult every day,” Mango told the Guardian. “My husband and I have not managed to make any meaningful money because the economy had literally shut down.”
Mango’s friend, Michelle Makuvise, 30, a street vendor, said Murozoki needed everyone’s support. “I think this is good work which should not go unnoticed. The community is literally feeding on her generosity so support is needed.”
Zimbabwe experienced yet another poor harvest this year, leaving almost half the population in need of urgent food aid, with the most vulnerable people in rural areas already on the verge of starvation, according to humanitarian organisations.
In urban areas, 2.2 million people are in urgent need of food aid as many struggle to put enough on the table.
Government lockdown relief of US$4 per family is yet to be distributed at a time vulnerable families are failing to earn a living amid skyrocketing inflation.
As more urban Zimbabweans go hungry every day, Murozoki sees herself feeding more people, especially during lockdown.
“Even if the lockdown is lifted, I might continue for a month or so until everyone gets back on their feet. As long as Zimbabweans help me, I will be able to continue with my work,” she said.