Kenya’s President Kenyatta lifts coronavirus curfew

By Reuters

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. /VCG

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday lifted a nationwide curfew, which has been in place since March last year to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with immediate effect.

Speaking during the celebration of a national public holiday, Kenyatta said infections had fallen, with the daily positivity rate dropping below 5% in the past two weeks.

He also increased the number of people who can attend a religious service to two thirds of a congregation, from just a third previously.

Senegal logs zero new COVID-19 cases for first time since pandemic began

By Reuters

A health worker administers a dose of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson in the Medina neighborhood in Dakar, Senegal. /AP

Senegal recorded zero new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday for the first time since the pandemic began, the health ministry said.

The West African country had its worst wave of coronavirus in July when it was recording more than 1,000 new cases a day. The health ministry has registered 73,875 cases and 1,873 deaths since the outbreak began.

Sixteen patients are still under treatment, the ministry said.

Senegal has been seen as a positive example of a country managing COVID-19 well despite limited resources. The state began contact tracing and isolating cases early on. Mask mandates and curfews were enforced in the capital, Dakar.

The vaccination rate remains low, with 1.3 million doses administered to the roughly 17 million population.

Dakar’s bustling markets and beachside bars have long ago returned to pre-pandemic levels of activity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 Travel Health Notice for Senegal, indicating the lowest level of COVID-19.

Namibian mobile service provider launches COVID-19 vaccination campaign


Namibian mobile service provider, MTC in collaboration with the country’s health ministry on Tuesday launched a vaccination campaign dubbed, 081VAX campaign, aimed at encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The 12 million Namibian dollars (about 822,000 U.S. dollars) campaign will provide incentives for those that get vaccinated and interested and willing people can register through a digital mobile platform.

According to MTC’s Chief Commercial Officer, Melvin Angula, the digital platform will reduce the burden of queuing up or arriving at a venue to find that the desired vaccine is unavailable.

The campaign is set to commence on Thursday and will be rolled out across the country and will allow people to access information on the available vaccines and allow them to make a vaccination booking from wherever they are located.

Unvaccinated staff blocked from accessing Ugandan Ministry of Health premises

By CGTN Africa

A nurse draws a vaccine dose at a health center in Kampala, Uganda. /Getty Images

Authorities at the Ugandan Ministry of Health have blocked staff who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from accessing the premises.

According to a notice by Director-General of Health Services, Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the position was reached in a special meeting with the aim of promoting vaccination as the country races to inoculate 21.9 million people to fully reopen the economy.

“During the COVID-19 strategic committee meeting, it was resolved that staff who are not fully vaccinated must not access the Ministry premises,” the notice reads in part. “Accordingly, all staff must get vaccinated and shall show results whenever coming to work.  This takes immediate effect.”

The move comes about six days after the National Medical Stores (NMS) announced that it had banned all staff and visitors who are not vaccinated from accessing their offices to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Although the unvaccinated staff at NMS and the Ministry of Health have not come out to complain, legal experts say the directive violates their right to access, specifically for visitors.

Dan Wandera Ogaloo, a constitutional lawyer told Daily Monitor last week that such directives [of barring unvaccinated people] would have been possible if it had been among the Ministry of Health standard operating procedures.

“Anyone can challenge them in court because the directive is not respecting the right to access public places and it is not constitutional. This would only work maybe if NMS had vaccinated all their staff and some had adamantly refused to comply. It shouldn’t apply to visitors,” he said.

Original article published by the Uganda Daily Monitor

Uganda receives second batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China


A healthcare professional is vaccinated against COVID-19 in Kampala, Uganda. /Getty Images

Uganda on Tuesday received a second batch of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese government.

Margaret Muhanga, the minister of state for primary health care, received the vaccines at the National Medical Stores in Entebbe, 40 km south of the capital Kampala.

She hailed the donation as her country is scaling up its vaccination campaign to save lives and open up the economy.

“It is really an exciting day for us because we are receiving more doses of Sinovac, which will help us vaccinate a bigger population so that we can open our economy fully,” the minister said.

Zhang Lizhong, Chinese ambassador to Uganda, said the donation came at a time when the two countries marked the 59th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between them and is part of China’s commitment to build a global community of health for all.

In addition to donating 100 million U.S. dollars to the global COVID-19 vaccine program COVAX, China has pledged to donate 100 million additional vaccine doses to other developing countries this year.

Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organization (WHO) country representative to Uganda, also hailed the donation, saying, “Every dose coming to Africa saves life and if we save life and we vaccinate as many people as we can and ensure vaccine equity, we can defeat the pandemic.”

Uganda received the first batch of the Sinovac vaccines at the end of July this year.

As of Sunday, about 2.6 million doses have been administered in the country, according to figures from the ministry of health.

Since March last year, Uganda has reported a total of 125,283 COVID-19 cases with 96,397 recoveries and 3,187 deaths.

Chinese martial arts flourish in Ethiopia


Image courtesy: Getty Creative

In a sports center located at the heart of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, a burst of shouts come out from trainees practicing Chinese martial arts.

The trainees, aged from 7 to 65 years, practice the Chinese martial arts, Kung Fu and kickboxing at the Dave Dan Wushu and Kickboxing Training Center.

“Martial arts are not to harm other people but to teach respect, humanity, sincerity, self-defense, and search for inner peace,” said master Dawit Terefe who works as a coach in the training center.

“Impressed by unbelievable fighting techniques of the popular Chinese film actors such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, I started learning Chinese martial arts at the age of 12 in 1993,” said Terefe in a recent interview with Xinhua.

“Chinese martial arts teach an excellent way of life,” said Terefe, adding that the sport helps people become strong, healthy, stay in good shape and develop excellent concentration.

In Ethiopia, children aged from 7 to 16 years have a real passion for martial arts while adults prefer kickboxing.

Terefe stressed that the Chinese martial arts are lifetime physical exercises and are performed with balanced movements between legs and hands, making them preferable to other exercises.

Terefe’s career as a Chinese martial arts instructor began 20 years ago but he became more popular after returning from Henan province of China where he attended nearly four months of intensive martial arts training.

“I was one of the four Ethiopians who were awarded a scholarship by Ethiopia’s Culture and Sports Minister in 2013 and acquired a rank of Master in Chinese martial arts from the Shaolin temple in China,” Terefe said.

“I first learned Shaolin Wushu, and then started learning other forms of martial arts with special emphasis on Sanda or Kickboxing,” the master recalled.

After he returned home, Terefe has participated in 25 martial arts competitions, majority of which were in Chinese kickboxing and he managed to win all of them.

Representing his country, Terefe also participated in the Afro-Asian martial arts competitions held in Egypt and won a bronze medal in kickboxing, the first medal the Horn of Africa nation earned in a martial arts contest.

According to a recent report by the Ethiopian Martial Arts Federation, there are over 800 martial arts training centers across Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation.

Among them, 60 are found in Addis Ababa and each appears to offer martial arts training for about 70 students in each season and at least a Wushu club exists in every small town of Ethiopia, the report indicated.

Haleluya Dawit, 16, is one of the over 70 students of master Dawit, striving to acquire higher martial arts belts, standards that are given for students to encourage them for the next level of training.

“I enjoy learning Wushu because it combines different techniques and gives me enlightenment,” said Dawit, who was practicing Chinese martial arts and a range of physical activities including splits, upward bow pose, high knees, horse stance and kicking along with her fellow classmates.

“Since I began attending the martial arts training, I have built up my confidence and defensive capability,” said Dawit, as she aspires to become a world champion in martial arts competitions.

Matiyas Belete, another student in the Dave Dan Wushu and Kickboxing Training Center, said that learning Chinese martial arts helped him promote self-discipline and quit bad habits.

“After I started attending the martial arts classes, I have enjoyed better strength, speed, power and flexibility,” said Belete.

Known for health and other benefits, Chinese martial arts are gaining popularity across Ethiopia as parents are willing to let their children learn the Chinese martial arts, Terefe said.

Terefe stressed that the Chinese martial arts are winning the hearts and souls of the Ethiopian youth and have become popular over time.

The government needs to consider sending more numbers of Ethiopian students to China to follow martial arts training to further promote the martial arts at the national level, the Chinese trained master said.

Achieving his long-time dream of becoming a martial artist, Terefe has participated in nine locally produced action films including as a lead actor.

Prior to his return, Terefe played an actor in one of the action films produced in China. He also performed a role in locally produced romance and documentary films as well as TV drama series.

“The Chinese martial arts is a philosophy through which one can understand the world,” Terefe added.

Tanzania releases 2.4 mln USD to support poor households affected by COVID-19


FILE PHOTO: Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa is vaccinated against COVID-19 in Dodoma, Tanzania, Wednesday, July 28 2021. (Photo by Domasa Sylivester via CFP)

The government of Tanzania announced on Monday that it has released 5.5 billion Tanzanian shillings (about 2.4 million U.S. dollars) to support 40,740 poor households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government has released the funds through the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF) to support the affected poor households, mostly in cities and urban areas.

The released funds are part of 567.25 million U.S. dollars approved recently by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support the east African nation’s efforts in responding to the pandemic by addressing the urgent health, humanitarian and economic costs.

Ladislaus Mwamanga, TASAF director general, told a press conference in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam that the COVID-19 pandemic forced majority of poor households, especially in urban areas, to use all their savings, sold what they had, including cattle, goats and other poultry products which were the source of their income.

He said the funds will help support TASAF’s public works program in which the poor households will benefit by engaging in various projects within their areas and earn income.

“The households will also get direct grants in monthly payments which will be paid to them after every two months,” said Mwamanga.

South Africa rejects Russian Sputnik vaccine over HIV fears


ANKARA, TURKEY – DECEMBER 24: In this photo illustration taken in Ankara, Turkey on December 24, 2020 Sputnik V, (Gam-COVID-Vac), COVID-19 vaccine logo is displayed on a screen with a syringe and a flacon in the front. (Photo by Hakan Nural/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

South Africa’s health products regulator on Monday said it would not approve Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine due to concerns it could increase the risk of HIV infection among men.

The decision was based on earlier studies testing the safety of a modified form of adenovirus, a type of virus that causes respiratory infections, known as the Ad5 and contained in the Russian jab.

“Use of the Sputnik V vaccine in South Africa, a setting of a high HIV prevalence and incidence, may increase the risk of vaccinated males acquiring HIV,” the South African Health Product Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) said in a statement.

It noted that the company behind the application for the use of Sputnik V in South Africa had no proof the formula would be safe “in settings of high HIV prevalence.”

“The rolling review of the Sputnik V vaccine will, however, remain open for submission of relevant safety data in support of the application,” it added.

Russia’s Gamaleya Center, which developed Sputnik V, said it would produce information to show that SAHPRA’s concerns were “completely unfounded.”

“Speculation regarding the association between adenovirus type-5 vectored vaccines and HIV transmission in high-risk groups has been based on small-scale studies,” it said in a statement.

The institute pointed to several clinical studies on over 7,000 participants that showed “there was no statistically significant increase of HIV-1 infection among adenovirus type-5 vectored vaccine recipients when all study participants and follow-up time were considered.”

South Africa, the country worst hit by the pandemic in Africa, also has the world’s highest number of people living with HIV.

It has been struggling with vaccine hesitancy.

Just over a quarter of 40 million targeted for vaccination by early 2022 are fully jabbed to date.

South Africa is this week set to begin vaccinating children as young as 12 and offering booster shots to certain immuno-compromised citizens.

It is currently offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson — which also contains an adenovirus but of a different type — and the rMNA Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

Burundi starts COVID-19 jabs


Boxes of Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine at an event to mark the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines to the country, in Bujumbura, Burundi, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. /AP

One of the world’s last three countries to administer COVID-19 vaccines started giving out doses on Monday as the East African nation of Burundi launched its national campaign.

The vaccinations started in the commercial capital, Bujumbura, though health workers told The Associated Press that barely more than a dozen people had received doses by mid-afternoon.

Recipients included the ministers of health and security.

Only North Korea and the Horn of Africa nation of Eritrea have not administered any COVID-19 vaccines, according to the World Health Organization.

The vaccination campaign began after Burundi received a half-million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.

Targeted groups for the doses are health workers, the elderly and people with incurable diseases, Health Minister Thaddee Ndikumana said last week.

Angola’s COVID-19 infections reach 62,789 as deaths hit 1,662

By Jerry Omondi

FILE PHOTO: A health professional administers an Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine to a nurse at the Central Vaccine depot in Luanda, Angola on March 2, 2021. /Photo by Osvaldo Silva via CFP)

Angola on Sunday reported 183 new COVID-19 infections, taking the country’s total number of cases to 62,789.

Of the new infections, 81 were males while 102 were females. The youngest patient was two years old while the oldest was 88 years old.

According to figures published by the health ministry, the number of active cases currently stands at 10,510. Of these, 29 are critical, 26 are experiencing severe symptoms, 101 have moderate symptoms, 76 have mild symptoms while 10,278 are asymptomatic.

The health ministry also reported two new deaths, taking the Southern African country’s virus-related fatalities to 1,662.

In efforts to contain further spread of COVID-19, Angola has rolled out a mass vaccination drive. This has been supplemented by various containment measures, including the closure of public-gathering facilities.