Africa’s confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 3.41 million: Africa CDC

By XINHUA

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent reached 3,421,147 as of Sunday, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

According to the continental disease control and prevention agency’s dashboard, the death toll related to the pandemic in Africa stood at 84,694 as of Sunday.

A total of 2,881,677 people infected with COVID-19 have recovered across the continent so far, the African Union (AU) Commission’s healthcare agency disclosed.

The Southern Africa region is the most affected area in Africa in terms of the number of confirmed positive cases, followed by the Northern Africa region, according to the agency.

The most affected African countries in terms of the number of positive cases include South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Ethiopia, said the African Union (AU) Commission’s specialized healthcare agency.

South Africa has reported the highest COVID-19-inflicted deaths in Africa, at 40,574 as of Sunday, according to the Africa CDC.

Meanwhile, John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC, on Friday stressed that the African continent is “in a critical phase of the pandemic.”

“As economies reopen and travels resume, we must pay attention to the prevention of transmission, prevention of deaths and prevention of harm by carefully and cautiously opening our borders,” an AU statement issued on Friday quoted the Africa CDC Director as saying.

AU allocates Zambia 8.7 mln doses of COVID-19 vaccines

By XINHUA

The African Union (AU) has allocated Zambia 8.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines under an initiative the African body was pioneering, a government official said on Sunday.

The COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) has been created by the continental body in August 2020 to ensure that the African continent will be able to secure sufficient vaccine doses to achieve herd immunity.

Zambia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the AU Emmanuel Mwamba said the country’s allocation may rise to 25 million doses by December 2021.

He said in a release that the initiative has been mandated to secure the necessary vaccines and blend financing resources for achieving Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy which targets vaccinating a minimum of 60 percent of Africa’s population.

Under the initiative, the vaccines were being sourced from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, he added.

According to him, a financing facility has been created under the AVATT, the Advance Procurement Commitment (APC) facility to be backed by the African Import and Export Bank.

The mechanism will also ensure a timely, equitable and cost-effective availability of COVID-19 vaccine supplies within the African continent and by so doing, mitigate the protracted financial and socio-economic costs of the pandemic.

The vaccine doses, which are in addition to the expected COVAX doses, will be distributed through the African Medical Supplies.

Zambia has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases during the second wave of the pandemic.

In the last 24 hours, the country recorded 745 new cases out of 7,903 tests done, according to health ministry figures.

This brings the cumulative cases to 45,337 while 1,667 passengers were discharged during the same period bringing the total recoveries to 35,960.

The country, however recorded 12 new deaths during the same period bringing the total deaths to 639 while active cases currently stand at 8,738.

New COVID-19 strain not yet detected in Rwanda:Health ministry

By XINHUA

Nursing students practice at the University of Rwanda in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda, on Oct. 28, 2020. (Xinhua/Cyril Ndegeya)

Rwandan Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije on Sunday said Rwanda has not detected the new strain of COVID-19 that was reported in Britain and other countries.

Ngamije, who made the remarks during a live talk show about the COVID-19 status in Rwanda at the national broadcaster Rwanda Television, also revealed that about 95 percent of the COVID-19 patients in the country are under home-based care.

He called on Rwandan citizens to strictly adhere to COVID-19 preventive guidelines in order to contain further spread of the virus, thus curbing the surge of new cases.

Rwanda on Sunday reported a single-day record of 328 new cases, including 246 in the capital city of Kigali. The rise brought the national tally to 12,975, with 8,429 recoveries and 174 deaths.

The east-central African nation has seen an “unprecedented rise in cases, deaths and transmission rates in the community” recently, while in Kigali a surge in new cases made the government reinstate a lockdown in the city from last Tuesday until a review by the cabinet at least after 15 days.

Police representatives in the same talk show said they had, during the last five days, arrested at least 2,630 people for breaking lockdown rules.

NWSL’s NC Courage signs Ghana national women’s captain Elizabeth Addo

By David Ochieng Mbewa

The captain of Ghana’s national women’s football team Elizabeth Addo joined United States’ National Women Soccer League (NWSL) side North Carolina Courage from Cypriot side Apollon Limassol on a one-year contract with the option of an additional year.

Ghana’s national women’s football team captain Elizabeth Addo joined North Carolina Courage of the National Women Soccer League (NWSL). /VCG Image

North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley welcomed the signing of Addo whom he described as a “skillful” and “clever” player who possesses game-changing ability.

“Her good soccer mind and fabulous feet make her a handful for opponents. She will revel in the challenges of our training environment and the fans will have another individual talent to admire,” Riley said.

Ryan also noted Addo’s previous experience in the league will be an added advantage as it will help her adapt to the team’s style of play.

Addo had featured for the OL Reign (formerly known as Seattle Reign) during the 2018 season.

Prior to joining Limassol, the 27-year-old had a successful stint with Chinese Women’s Super League champions Jiangsu Suning where she won three titles. She had also signed for former NWSL side Boston Breakers before the club was wound up.

The midfielder has made 36 appearances and 17 goals for the national team, also known as the Black Queens.

CAF bans Kenya FA chief executive in COVID-19 dispute in AFCON qualifier

By XINHUA

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has banned two Football Kenya Federation (FKF) officials for six months after they were found guilty of delaying COVID-19 testing during the country’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Comoros in November 2020.

Barry Otieno, the FKF chief executive officer, and Ronny Oyando, the national team manager, are now barred from any CAF activities with CAF further ordering FKF to pay 2.2 million shillings (20,000 U.S. dollars) in fines.

As a result of their actions on Nov. 11, 2020 when Kenya played Comoros in Nairobi, the continental governing body ruling revealed that four visiting players had tested positive for COVID-19 but they went on to feature in the game risking contamination of those involved in the match.

The game ended in a 1-1 draw with Kenya losing the return game four days later 2-1 to exit the competition.

CAF charged that on the day of the match, the General Secretary of the Comoros Football Federation came in early to take their PCR tests, and he was met with refusal from the Kenyan national team’s management.

They then delayed the process for three hours until they finally gave in. “The test results arrived just a few minutes before kick-off, during warm-up, due to the said delay,” CAF said.

According to CAF, the match commissioner did not get the chance to check the results himself as Otieno and Oyando disputed the results as soon as they became aware of them and snatched them from his hands and tore them apart.

“According to the PCR tests copies that were acquired after the match, four players have all tested positive before the match yet took part in the game and risked the contamination of the opposing team as well as their fellow teammates and all officials that were involved in match 94 of the Total African Cup of Nations Qualifiers,” CAF said.

In his response, Otieno said he was examining the options available to him following his ban while denying the accusations.

“I have just learnt about the allegations and will be consulting internally on the next steps,” he added.

“Nonetheless, I wish to state that everyone who was present during the incident, including the match commissioner, knows that what has been alleged is not true. That notwithstanding, CAF has made a decision and as a member we will comply with it,” the FKF CEO noted.

The incident is the latest blot in the current FKF administration that is coming out of a blanket local media ban after the officials, including Otieno, were accused of high-handedness in dealing with the press.

The International Sports Press Association (AIPS) criticized the decision to lock selected journalists out of a fixture in December 2020 between local champions Gor Mahia and Ulinzi Stars – apparently because of a contractual dispute between the Kenyan FA and league sponsors.

The ban, which lasted 32 days, was lifted on Jan. 16 when the FKF top brass led by President Nick Mwendwa and Otieno held a lengthy meeting with Sports Journalists Association of Kenya officials in Nairobi to iron out the dispute.

Africa’s confirmed COVID-19 cases near 3.4 million

By XINHUA

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent reached 3,393,591 as of Saturday evening, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

According to the agency’s data, the death toll related to the pandemic in Africa stood at 83,901 as of Saturday evening.

A total of 2,854,275 people infected with COVID-19 have recovered across the continent so far, the agency added.

Southern Africa is the hardest-hit in Africa in terms of the number of confirmed cases, followed by the Northern Africa region, according to the agency.

The most affected African countries include South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Ethiopia, data showed.

South Africa is also the most affected African country in terms of COVID-19-inflicted deaths, with 40,076 deaths so far.

Egypt to start COVID-19 vaccination campaign

By AFP

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Berlin, Germany November 19, 2019. (John MacDougall/Pool via REUTERS)

President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi announced Saturday that Egypt would start rolling out a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign from Sunday with the Chinese-made Sinopharm jab.

“We are starting a vaccination drive tomorrow beginning with healthcare workers followed by those suffering from chronic diseases and later the elderly,” Sisi said in brief comments after unveiling several development projects in Port Said.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, received its first batch of the Sinopharm vaccines in December.

The company says its vaccine is 79 per cent effective against the novel coronavirus.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Hala Zayed said Egypt would also receive 40 million doses, mostly of the AstraZeneca/Oxford jab, via the Gavi vaccine alliance, with the aim of inoculating 20 per cent of its more than 100 million strong population.

Egypt has registered over 160,000 novel coronavirus infections, including more than 8,850 deaths.

Health officials have warned that low testing rates mean the real number could be at least 10 times higher.

Satellite images to aid elephant conservation from space

By AFP

Elephants are pictured in Addo National Park, South Africa. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Conservationists have started using satellite imagery to count elephants from space, a technique that British experts hope will help protect threatened populations in Africa.

Researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Bath said the use of algorithms, machine learning and satellite technology could replace current techniques used to count elephants — a critical aspect of conservation.

“The population of African elephants has plummeted over the last century due to poaching, retaliatory killing from crop-raiding and habitat fragmentation,” Oxford said in a statement.

“To conserve them requires knowledge of where they are, and how many there are: accurate monitoring is vital.”

Currently, the most common technique for surveying elephant populations in savannah environments is aerial counts from manned aircraft.

The academics said aerial surveyors can get exhausted, and are sometimes hindered by poor visibility.

“Satellite monitoring is an unobtrusive technique requiring no ground presence, thus eliminating the risk of disturbing species, or of concern for human safety during data collection,” they added.

“A process that would formerly have taken months can be completed in a matter of hours.”

The scientists first developed the techniques at South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park.

The images, from a satellite orbiting 600 kilometers (some 370 miles) above the Earth, could survey upward of 5,000 square kilometers (nearly 2,000 square miles) of land in one pass, captured in a matter of minutes.

The scientists trained the algorithm to recognize only adults among a dataset of 1,000 elephants in the park and then found it was also able to identify calves.

They hope such conservation technologies will be embraced as a matter of urgency to protect the world’s biodiversity.

Zambia seeks additional COVID-19 health facilities amidst rise in cases

By XINHUA

The Zambian government says it is working with the private sector to create more hospital bedding space to accommodate the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases the country is experiencing.

Minister of Health Jonas Chanda said the private facilities will be added to the roster following a detailed assessment.

He said in a statement that the government was implementing a multisectoral approach to ensure that the efforts have the widest reach.

“We are collaborating with community development colleagues in order to incorporate response activities at the community level. Let me assure you that there will be no compromise on the quality of health care,” he said.

Meanwhile, the country recorded 1,264 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours bringing the cumulative cases to 42,213.

The health minister said 1,747 patients were discharged from health facilities and home-based management during the same period. The country recorded 12 deaths during the same period, bringing the total deaths to 597.

South African Minister Jackson Mthembu dies of COVID-19 complications

By Daniel Plafker

Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu at a media briefing held on Thursday, 4 June 2020. [Photo: Creative Commons / GCIS]

South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, died Thursday at the age of 62 from complications related to COVID-19. The country’s presidency revealed the news on Thursday via Twitter.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa described Mthembu as a “much-loved and greatly respected colleague and comrade, whose passing leaves our nation at a loss.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time of loss,” Ramaphosa said.

Mthembu revealed that he had become infected with the virus ten days ago, announcing at the time that he was “showing some symptoms.”

The late minister played a prominent role in South Africa’s coronavirus response, taking responsibility for communicating government messaging on the pandemic to the public.

Mthembu was the fourth cabinet-level official known to have contracted the deadly virus since it was first detected in country in March of last year.

South Africa is by far the coronavirus-stricken country on the continent, with nearly 1.4 million confirmed infections and almost 39,000 recorded COVID-19 deaths.