Ghanaian president announces further easing of COVID-19 restrictions

By Nyawira Mwangi –

A health worker checks the temperature of a traveller as part of the coronavirus screening procedure at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana. (Image Source: Reuters)

Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on late Sunday announced a further easing of coronavirus restrictions in the country.

Restrictions on the number of worshippers in churches and mosques will be lifted on August 1, with an extension of worship time to two hours, Akufo-Addo said during his 14th COVID-19 televised address.

He urged religious leaders to organize activities strictly in accordance with COVID-19 protocols, including those regarding face masks, hand washing and a one-meter social distance.

Akufo-Addo also announced the easing of restrictions on the number of passengers on public transport and domestic flights, lifting a ban on tourist centers and open-air drinking spots.

“Life cannot be put on hold indefinitely, and Ghana can not remain in a never-ending crisis management situation. That is why we have been putting measures in place to gradually restore some normalcy in our social and economic lives, as we learn to cope with the reality of the virus,” he said.

“Our borders, by air, land and sea, remain closed until further notice,” the president said, adding that “a special dispensation” will continue to be granted to Ghanaian nationals who want to return home from abroad, with a mandatory quarantine.

Ghana’s COVID-19 caseload reached 32,437 with 161 deaths on Sunday.

WHO: Pandemic is still accelerating

The coronavirus pandemic “continues to accelerate”, with a doubling of cases over the last six weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief said Monday.

with AP

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said nearly 16 million cases have now been reported to the UN health agency – with more than 640,000 deaths worldwide.

Tedros said he will convene WHO’s emergency committee on Thursday, a procedural requirement six months after the agency’s declaration of a public health emergency of international concern – made on January 30 for the coronavirus outbreak.

The panel will advise him on the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has changed our world”, he told reporters from WHO’s Geneva headquarters on Monday.

“It has brought people, communities and nations together – and driven them apart.”

But he added that political leadership, educating and listening with communicating, increased testing, and hygiene and physical distancing measures have proven effective in some countries that have followed such techniques carefully to fight the outbreak.

“We are not prisoners of the pandemic. Every single one of us can make a difference”, Tedros said.

“The future is in our hands.”

Zambia records highest daily rise in COVID-19 cases

Workers disinfect the Zambezi market in Lusaka, capital of Zambia, May 15, 2020. (Xinhua/Martin Mbangweta)

Zambia has recorded 472 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the highest daily increase recorded since the country recorded its first two cases in March, the health ministry said on Saturday.

Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said the cases were picked from 1,851 tests conducted, bringing the cumulative cases to 4,328.

The country also recorded three more deaths, bringing the total deaths to 139.

The Zambian health minister said the increased cases calls for a change of direction from everyone in response to the pandemic.

The government, he said, will embark on aggressive measures in communities to stem the rise in cases, adding that measures will include sensitization and screening.

“Zambians have relaxed a lot and the country has reached a dangerous point. There is need to ensure that this business as usual approach is stopped,” he said during a COVID-19 update.

MF, Liberia 1st lady respond to COVID

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother with H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother

Merck Foundation together with Liberia First Lady raced to respond to Coronavirus pandemic through community support, awareness and training doctors Merck Foundation partners with Liberia First Lady to support livelihood of casual workers and physically challenged community during Coronavirus lockdown Merck Foundation (Merck-Foundation.

com), the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany partnered with H.

E.

CLAR MARIE WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia to support livelihood of families of casual workers and persons living with disabilities, who are most affected by the lockdown of Coronavirus (COVID -19).

Dr.

Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and One of 100 Most Influential Africans (2019) explained, “The situation in Liberia and other countries is of grave concern and needs immediate action.

In this exceptionally difficult period, Merck Foundation decided to make community donations to those who are most affected; women, people living with disabilities and casual workers, making it difficult for them to survive.

Together with Liberia First Lady and Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother, we provided essential food and cleaning items; rice, cooking oil, soap and other items for over 1600 people in Liberia”.

H.

E.

CLAR MARIE WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia and Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother emphasized, “We appreciate the support being provided by our long-term partner Merck Foundation, during this difficult time.

It is critical for us to help those who have been severely affected by the lockdown imposed in the country to curb coronavirus.

The donations have been made in Kakata & Margibi counties of Liberia”.

It is critical for us to help those who have been severely affected by the lockdown imposed in the country to curb coronavirus Dr.

Rasha Kelej further elaborated, “We have also launched ‘Stay at Home’ Media Recognition Awards together to encourage media to raise awareness about coronavirus.

Moreover, Merck Foundation started to provide one-year online diploma and two- year master degree in Respiratory Medicines and Acute Medicines to help doctors in Liberia to better manage coronavirus patients.

Merck foundation also provides online one-year diploma and two-year master degree in diabetes, preventive cardiovascular medicines and endocrinology to enable healthcare providers to better manage patients who in coronavirus risk groups”.

Merck Foundation has also undertaken similar relief activity in Egypt as well as in Ghana, DR Congo, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger in partnership with their First Ladies to further support up to 1000 poor families in Each country.

Merck Foundation response to Coronavirus Pandemic; Merck Foundation has raced to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic in partnership with 18 African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information and Education focusing on four main areas: 1) Community donations to support livelihood of thousands of women and casual workers affected by Coronavirus lockdown; 2) Coronavirus Healthcare Capacity Building by providing online one-year diplomas and two-year master’s degree in Respiratory Medicines and Acute Medicines for African Doctors; 3) Community Awareness by announcing ‘Stay at Home’ Media Recognition Awards in Africa, Middle East, Asia & Latin America to raise awareness about Coronavirus and 4) Community awareness for Children and Youth by launching an inspiring storybook ‘Make the Right Choice’ to sensitize children and youth about Coronavirus.

The ‘Stay at Home’ Media Recognition Awards have been launched in Liberia in partnership with H.

E.

CLAR MARIE WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia.

The theme of the awards is ‘Raising Awareness on how to Stay Safe and keep Physically and Mentally Healthy during Coronavirus Lockdown with the aim to separate facts from myths and misconceptions’.

Liberian journalists from Print, Online, Radio and Multimedia Platforms are invited to apply for the awards by sending their entries to: info@merck-foundation.

com along with details including Name, Gender, Country, Media house, Email address & Mobile Number) and entry as an attachment, latest by 30th June 2020.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Merck Foundation.

South Africa has world’s 5th biggest virus caseload: 381,798 cases

South Africa has become a COVID-19 model for the continent in many ways since it confirmed its index case on 5th March, 2020. From the area of testing through to record number of recoveries, South Africa has been praised for pro-activeness in combating the virus.

The economic intervention measures rolled out by President Cyril Ramaphosa has also been classed as one of the most comprehensive across the continent. South Africa was one of the earliest to roll out such measures.

That President Ramaphosa is also the current Chairperson of the African Union, AU; means he has the delicate task of juggling national tasks withe the continental as Africa seeks global support to combat the pandemic.

Key statistics as at July 21

  • The total number of confirmed cases = 381,798
  • The total number of tests so far = 2,536,921
  • Total death toll = 5,568
  • Total recoveries = 208,144
  • Most impacted provinces = Guateng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwa Zulu-Natal

July 22: Concerns as cases continue to surge

There is growing concern that South Africa’s hospitals may not be able to cope with the numbers of COVID-19 patients expected in the next two months.

Neighboring Zimbabwe imposed a dusk to dawn curfew, banned large public gatherings and reduced business operating hours to try to slow the spread of the disease.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa continues to surge, accounting for more than 50% of cases in Africa and making it the country with the fifth-highest number of cumulative reported infections in the world.

South Africa has 373,628 confirmed cases, including 5,173 deaths, according to figures released by the health minister.

The rapid rise of the rate of infections in the country has raised concerns about whether South Africa’s hospitals will be able to cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients when the peak of cases is expected between August and September.

Many hospitals in Gauteng province, South Africa’s virus epicenter that includes the largest city of Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, are already feeling the pressure of increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize warned earlier this month that the country did not have enough hospital beds equipped to treat the expected numbers of COVID-19 patients. He appealed to citizens to wear face masks, now mandatory in all public places, and to keep a distance from others.

“We are extremely concerned that fatigue seems to have set in and South Africans are letting down their guard at a time when the spread of infection is surging,” said Mkhize, in an address to the nation last week.

Zimbabwe has reported 1,713 cases, up from about 50 two months ago, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday evening announced a night curfew, banned political, religious and social gatherings, and reduced business operating hours in order to try to slow the spread of the virus.

Mnangagwa said the “curtailing of freedoms we have always enjoyed, and had grown accustomed to” was necessary, although some claim the banning of political gatherings is aimed at suppressing an anti-government protest planned for July 31.

The accelerating spread of COVID-19 in South Africa could be a precursor to what will happen in the rest of Africa, said World Health Organization executive director of emergencies, Dr. Mike Ryan.

“I think this isn’t just a wake-up call for South Africa, We need to take what is happening in Africa very seriously,” said Ryan at the WHO weekly news conference in Geneva on Monday. “Many of those countries exist in the midst of fragility and conflict, many of them need external help support.”

AP

Uganda coronavirus: Museveni hails ‘scientific’ relaxation of restrictions

July 22: Museveni further relaxes restrictions

President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday evening delivered his 19th address on the COVID-19 situation and related matters. He touched on a raft of issues – lifting and easing restrictions in part and maintaining them on other issues.

“Our health workers have spent 4 months in the hospitals [some] without going home, they risk their lives to look after / treat people. When we are begging you to be careful it is also that we protect these selfless people,” the president said.

A key part of the address that has social media buzzing is the president’s reference to how scientific the latest decisions are. The president underlined the importance of scientific work and said it was why scientists needed to be paid well.

“We shall not accept anything that threatens life. That is why I involve our scientists in everything I do. We are fortunate to have good scientists. If you attack our scientists, I can tell you to go to hell,” he said.

He also reported to have said scientists will be involved in processes leading to reopening of places of worship. For people reacting on social media, they want to know who exactly are the president’s scientists.

The key takeaways included:

  • Reopen of some arcades / shopping centers provided they fulfil the following: have temperature monitors, ensure social distancing, hand washing, no traders in the corridors, verandas & roadsides.
  • Salons to be allowed to operate [with immediate effect] on condition that they ensure all [customers] wear face masks and operators wear face shields.
  • Public service motorcycles a.k.a boda bodas to begin operations effective 27th July 2020. They must register passengers, wear masks plus helmets, ensure passengers wear mask and operations end at 6pm.
  • The international airport, schools, places of worship will remain closed.
  • The president also reduced night-time curfew by two hours – it will now start at 9:00pm to 5:30 am.

On the closure of airspace to passenger traffic, the president said the measure will be in place “until the situation abroad settles down because there is so much chaos in foreign countries. I know we are losing a lot of money, but life is better than wealth,” the president stressed.

  • Confirmed cases = 1,072
  • Active cases = 114
  • Recoveries = 958
  • Number of deaths = 0

DR Congo president announces lifting of virus restrictions

The Democratic Republic of Congo has lifted the “state of health emergency” introduced on March 24 to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.

In a televised address on Tuesday, president Felix Tshisekedi announced that from July 22, shops, banks, restaurants, cafés, bars and businesses will resume in accordance with health measures.

Schools, universities and other educational establishments will reopen on 3 August, while places of worship, stadiums, airports and international borders will be reopened from 15 August.

He however sounded a note of caution that the end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of the Covid-19 pandemic in the DRC.

He urged Congolese to respect all health measures to limit the spread of covid-19 which include the wearing of masks in public places, hand washing and the checking of temperatures.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has recorded 8,534 cases since March 10, including 196 deaths and 4,528 recoveries.

WHO concerned over virus acceleration in Africa

The continued acceleration of the coronavirus pandemic in Africa is of concern to the World Health Organization. The UN health agency, which continues to intensify its effort, fears a rise in coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa.

The rising numbers in South Africa could, according to the WHO, be a “precursor” to further spread on the continent.

Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief echoed the concerns: “While South Africa is going through a very, very serious event, I think this is really a marker of what the continent could face if urgent steps are not taken to provide additional support.

“And we have seen it in other regions. Sometimes this disease can develop very rapidly, and sometimes in other situations it develops more slowly and then accelerates, and it is difficult to fully understand why this is so.

“But I am very concerned that we are beginning to see an acceleration of the disease in Africa,” he added.

According to WHO statistics, cases in South Africa have increased by 30% in the last week, Kenya by 31%, Madagascar by 50%, Zambia by 57% and Namibia by 69%. The WHO Africa region as of July 21, 2020; reported that Africa had recorded 736,214 cases with 15,426 deaths.

Zimbabwe returns to strict lockdown amid virus surge

Zimbabwe has reported 1,713 cases, up from about 50 two months ago, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday evening announced a night curfew, banned political, religious and social gatherings, and reduced business operating hours in order to try to slow the spread of the virus.

Mnangagwa said the “curtailing of freedoms we have always enjoyed, and had grown accustomed to” was necessary, although some claim the banning of political gatherings is aimed at suppressing an anti-government protest planned for July 31.

According to the president all business are to operate from 8 am – 3 pm local time, with only essential service providers exempted from the curfew. He added people will only be allowed to go out of their homes to buy food or get medical treatment.

Inter-city travel and gatherings of more than 50 people – whether festive, religious or political – remain prohibited. The curfew and stringent lockdown will be enforced by the country’s security forces.

In an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, President Mnangagwa initially introduced a 21-day lockdown on March 30, banning large gatherings and ordering the closure of most businesses, except food stores.

The accelerating spread of COVID-19 in South Africa could be a precursor to what will happen in the rest of Africa, said World Health Organization executive director of emergencies, Dr. Mike Ryan.

“I think this isn’t just a wake-up call for South Africa, We need to take what is happening in Africa very seriously,” said Ryan at the WHO weekly news conference in Geneva on Monday. “Many of those countries exist in the midst of fragility and conflict, many of them need external help support.”

West Congo ebola cases up to 60 -WHO

FILE – In this Tuesday, July 16, 2019 file photo, health workers dressed in protective gear begin their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Congo DRC. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

Ebola cases in western Democratic Republic of Congo have risen to 60, with funerals being a particular concern for disease spread, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan said another three cases were detected at the weekend, making a total of 56 confirmed and four probable infections in an outbreak announced last month in Congo’s Equateur province.

“The disease is active, not controlled,” Ryan told a virtual briefing from the U.N. agency’s headquarters in Geneva, noting burial practices as a worry.

Last week, the UN health agency while expressing concern, said it deployed over 70 experts in DR Congo to support it in the fight against the virus.

The WHO and the DR Congo government had declared the country free from the 10th outbreak on May 14.

The epidemic in August 2018 was the second largest outbreak in the world and challenging as it took place in an active conflict zone in North Kivu.

There were 3,470 cases, 2,287 deaths and 1,171 survivors, according to the WHO.

Ebola caused global alarm in 2014 when the world’s worst outbreak began in West Africa, killing more than 11,300 people, and infecting an estimated 28,600 as it swept through Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone