Sunday, August 02, 2020

US-based Group Mourns Shiri
 02 AUG, 2020 - 00:08  
Sunday Mail Reporter

A United States-based black human rights organisation, the December 12th Movement, has sent a condolence message to the people of Zimbabwe following the death of national hero and Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri (Rtd) on Wednesday.

The movement’s chairperson, Cde Viola Plummer, said the late hero’s devotion to the struggle and leadership, especially as a Cabinet minister, “were exemplary”.

“The leadership and cadre of the December 12th Movement extend our deepest condolences on the passing of national hero, Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri (Rtd). Many of us were privileged to meet with him and his passing touches us deeply,” she said.

“Comrade Shiri’s devotion to the struggle for self-determination for Zimbabwe and Africans and his leadership in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement were exemplary.”

Cde Plummer described Cde Shiri’s passing as a “tremendous loss” to Zimbabwe, ZANU PF and the people of Zimbabwe, including the December 12th Movement.

The New York-based organisation, she added, will always be indebted to his legacy as a national hero.
BURKINA FASO BLAST KILLS SIX, MOSTLY CHILDREN
The IED, which exploded as the group's cart was passing late Saturday, also injured four others, they said.

AFP 

OUAGADOUGOU - At least six people, mostly children, died when an improvised explosive device went off in northern Burkina Faso, security sources and local officials said Sunday.

The IED, which exploded as the group's cart was passing late Saturday, also injured four others, they said.

Northern Burkina Faso is notorious for jihadist attacks which have killed more than 1,000 people there and displaced about a million more since 2015.

The victims were "nearly all children who were returning from grazing their livestock", a local in Ouahigouya said. "The cart which carried some of them rolled over a mine."

IED attacks have multiplied since 2018, killing nearly 200 military personnel and civilians, according to an AFP tally. Such attacks are often combined with an ambush.

Jihadist violence, which is often accompanied by inter-community strife, has killed more than 4,000 people in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, according to United Nations figures. 
CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO LET DOWN OUR GUARD
Cyril Ramaphosa 
FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT

As of today, South Africa has recorded more than half a million confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Of the cumulative total of 503,290 cases, 342,461 people have already recovered and 152,676 cases are currently active.

The global coronavirus pandemic is the most serious public health crisis that the world has faced in over a century. On every continent, nations have struggled to contain the spread of the virus and to contend with its effects.

In our own country, 8,153 people are known to have lost their lives, and the actual number of deaths due to the virus is likely to exceed this figure. We deeply mourn this loss and offer our sympathies to the families and friends who are in grief.

Promising signs in rate of transmission

After a rapid rise in infections over the last two months, the daily increase in infections appears to be stabilising, particularly in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape. While it may be too soon to draw firm conclusions, this suggests that the prevention measures that South Africans have implemented are having an effect.

Our recovery rate is currently around 68%. Our case fatality rate – which is the number of deaths as a proportion of confirmed cases – remains at 1.6%, significantly lower than the global average.

While South Africa has the fifth highest number of total COVID-19 cases globally, we have only the 36th highest number of deaths as a proportion of the population. For this, we are grateful to the work of our health professionals and the innovative treatments they have pioneered.

Before the advent of the epidemic in South Africa, government set in motion a strategy to respond swiftly and comprehensively to protect as many lives as possible.

The national lockdown succeeded in delaying the spread of the virus by more than two months, preventing a sudden and uncontrolled increase in infections in late March. Had South Africans not acted together to prevent this outcome, our health system would have been overwhelmed in every province. This would have resulted in a dramatic loss of life.

Preparing for peak in infections

Over the past few months, we have undertaken an unprecedented mobilisation of resources to prepare our country for the inevitable increase in cases.

In every province, hospitals were reorganised and readied to manage an influx of patients. Government provided training for health personnel, distributed large quantities of personal protective equipment and put in place systems to monitor outbreaks and respond quickly.

Field hospitals have been constructed across the country, including in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Pietermaritzburg. These facilities continue to be essential in providing adequate care to those who need it.

In certain cases, these efforts were not enough. Several public hospitals in the Eastern Cape were overwhelmed as infections rose in the province, and a specialist team has been deployed to address this challenge.

In other provinces hard-hit by the epidemic, including the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, the health system has so far had sufficient capacity to cope with the number of admissions. This is a testament to the efforts of doctors, nurses, public health specialists and others who have worked hard to prepare for this moment. We need, however, to continue with these efforts to further increase the capacity of our health facilities.

Additional facilities, equipment and personnel are being deployed in provinces still experiencing an increase in infections.

Innovative use of South African skills and capabilities

During this month, the National Ventilator Project will deliver 20,000 locally-produced, non-invasive ventilators to where they are most needed. A dedicated team drawn from several institutions, led by the Biovac Institute, is preparing to manufacture doses of a successful vaccine locally.

We are working hard to fix the logistical and other problems that have led to a shortage of personal protective equipment for health workers and other frontline staff in several parts of the country. We understand the concerns and the frustrations of these essential workers and are committed to resolving this issue with the greatest urgency.

We have empowered our law enforcement to investigate all reports of alleged corruption and irregularities in the procurement of medical and other supplies. It is unconscionable that there are people who may be using this health crisis to unlawfully enrich themselves.

We should be proud of the many hospitals that are providing a high quality of care to patients; the determined adherence of most South Africans to basic precautions; and the extraordinary commitment of individuals and organisations throughout society to combat the virus together.

Prevention through individual and collective action

While there are promising signs, now is not the time to let down our guard. We have to continue to work together to reduce the number of new infections.

As with many other countries across the world, we need to continually adjust the measures we take to prevent new outbreaks or to safeguard our health system. We have already seen, for example, that the suspension of alcohol sales has significantly reduced the trauma cases in our health facilities. While these changes can be disruptive to people’s lives and to the economy, it is necessary that we adapt to the changing path of the disease.

We must maintain our vigilance until we have no more coronavirus cases in our country. If we do not do so, there is the risk of a resurgence in those areas where the virus has now begun to stabilise.

Above all, we need to continue to follow prevention measures to reduce the rate of infection and flatten the curve. By wearing a mask correctly, keeping a distance of two metres from other people, and washing our hands regularly, we can protect ourselves, our families, friends, co-workers, fellow commuters and neighbours.

If we all continue to act together, we can eradicate coronavirus in our country.

I call on every South African to remain strong and steadfast in these most difficult times.

Stay safe and protect South Africa.
Rwanda Allows Resumption of International Flights
CGTN
Photo courtesy: RwandAir

Rwanda has resumed international passenger flights, more than four months after the central African nation suspended commercial passenger flights to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak.

The suspension didn't affect cargo and emergency flights. Tourists travelling by charter flights had been allowed to enter the country that is famous for mountain gorilla tracking since June 17.

Rwandan national flag carrier RwandAir, which flew to 29 destinations across 24 countries throughout Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia before it suspended passenger flights on March 20, on Saturday resumed with a flight from Kigali International Airport to Dubai, while Kenyan and Ethiopian Airways made flights to Kigali, Rwandan Minister of Infrastructure Claver Gatete told Xinhua.

Gatete reiterated that to ensure the safety of passengers, all travellers are required to adhere to the health guidelines issued by the health ministry.

The fast-growing airline has been "greatly impacted" by the pandemic, which in April said it had resolved to reduce employees' salaries as part of measures to reduce expenditure.

It will restart services with selected African routes where travel restrictions have been eased and borders have reopened, and with one long-haul route to Dubai, while other routes will gradually resume.

The company's CEO Yvonne Makolo told reporters earlier on Friday that airline will ensure social distancing measures during boarding, deeply clean the planes after each flight, and enforce the policy that every passenger is only allowed to take one piece of cabin luggage on board to avoid congestion and too many physical contacts between passengers and luggage.

Precautionary measures also have been implemented throughout the Kigali International Airport, Rwanda's main airport, to maintain the health and safety of customers and staff, according to Rwanda Airports Company, the airports' operator of Rwanda.

The measures include using protective plexiglass at check-in and immigration counters, thermal and temperature screening, social distancing markers and increased levels of sanitization in compliance with international standards set out by the relevant authorities, it said.

The government guidelines for arrivals require them to be tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before departure and receive a second test upon entry into the country.

Seventeen hotels have been designated by the government for travellers to stay while awaiting the result of the second test.

Tourism operators, which have been hit hard by the pandemic, are expecting to bounce back following the resumption of passenger flights in Rwanda and across the world.

"We expect tourists to come to Rwanda since airlines have resumed and countries have started opening up borders," Lise Tuyisenge, Managing Director of Phoenix Tour and Travel Agency, told Xinhua.

However, G-Step, a leading customized tours company in Rwanda, said its expectations are not high, although the resumption of flights is a very good sign for the improvement of business.

The situation of bookings remains dismal and tourists may still not come to the country immediately after airports open, G-Step owner Andrew Gatera told Xinhua in late July.

Tourism is one of Rwanda's economic pillars. Endangered mountain gorillas living in Volcanoes National Park contribute about 90 percent of tourism revenues from Rwanda national parks.

Currently, land borders of Rwanda remain closed, except for goods and cargo, as well as returning Rwandan citizens and legal residents.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency
Hard-hit Massachusetts Worries COVID-19 Respite is Fleeting
By PHILIP MARCELO
July 31, 2020

A house party attended by restaurant workers in a picturesque beach town in Massachusetts has led to more than a dozen new coronavirus infections.

On the western side of the state, a Springfield hospital is dealing with an outbreak of at least 40 cases traced to a hospital staffer who recently returned from an out-of-state vacation.

Less than a month after Massachusetts allowed gyms, movie theaters, museums and other public venues to reopen on July 6, there’s an increasing sense of dread that the hard-hit state’s summertime respite from the pandemic is waning just as families are looking ahead to the start of school.

“Pay attention #Massachusetts — #COVID19 is on the rise. The numbers show it. The anecdotes show it,” Dr. David Rosman, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said in a series of widely shared tweets Sunday.

Rosman, who is also the associate chair of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a followup interview Wednesday that the recent uptick should be a clarion call to redouble virus prevention efforts in Massachusetts. The state has more than 8,300 deaths from COVID-19, among the highest in the nation.

He and others have also urged Republican Gov. Charlie Baker to consider rolling back his decision to move the state into the third phase of his reopening plan if case numbers don’t improve.

In the Boston suburb of Somerville, home to Tufts University, Mayor Joseph Curtatone has voiced similar concerns for weeks.

The Democratic mayor, who this month opted to hold fast to the state’s previous, stricter coronavirus guidelines, said Friday his city will hold off on enacting Phase 3 of the governor’s reopening plan for another two weeks.

“Pressing pause on this next phase is painful, but necessary,” Curtatone said in a written statement. “We are watching as the virus rages and businesses are shut back down in states that ignored clear warnings that they were opening too quickly. We are also watching state and local data head in the wrong direction.”

Worries about a summertime resurgence extend into neighboring Rhode Island, which mobilized National Guard troops in the earlier days of the pandemic to go door to door tracking down visitors from New York — then the pandemic’s epicenter — to ensure quarantines.

The tiny state has been relatively spared from the pandemic, but saw a spike of more than 100 newly confirmed cases Tuesday — Rhode Island’s highest single-day total in months.

In response, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday delayed the next phase in the state’s reopening plan by another month. She also cut back the maximum size of house parties and other social gatherings from 25 to 15 people, citing infections linked to parties, particularly among young adults.

“We’re partying too much,” Raimondo said. “It’s clear we’re not ready to move forward.”

She also imposed stricter limits at the Ocean State’s increasingly crowded beaches in recent weeks, and has threatened to impose tougher measures on bars and restaurants after some owners continue to flout the state’s virus regulations.

Baker on Friday similarly threatened to cut the number of people allowed at private gatherings, but hasn’t publicly entertained the idea of rolling back other parts of the economic reopening in Massachusetts, which had the highest unemployment rate in the nation in June, at more than 17%.

He maintains that much of the state’s recent uptick can be attributed to individuals “letting down their guard” and not practicing proper virus safety etiquette — rather than to reopening the state economy too soon or too widely.

At the same time, Baker has announced stricter travel restrictions on people coming into the state starting Aug. 1, in recognition of soaring caseloads elsewhere.

Baker and other state officials stress Massachusetts’ key virus measures remain far below those in other states, and below where Massachusetts stood when he began the phased reopening in mid-May. The state’s seven-day positive test rate was nearly 10% back then; it’s now around 2%.

Rosman and other leading physicians counter that Massachusetts has averaged roughly 300 daily cases in recent days, a roughly 30% increase from prior weeks. They also point to anecdotal evidence that the public has grown too lax in the virus fight.

Besides the outbreaks tied to the Chatham house party and the Baystate Medical Center, state officials are investigating COVID-19 clusters from a lifeguard party in Falmouth, a high school graduation party in Chelmsford and an unauthorized football camp in Weymouth, among other large gatherings, Baker said Friday.

“We think we’re winding down on COVID-19, but we’re not,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said earlier this week after an image of a seemingly packed harbor cruise ship went viral last weekend. “If we’re in a sporting event, we’re probably at halftime right now.”

Rosman, the medical society president, said a return to virus safety fundamentals is even more crucial as local communities prepare to reopen schools and tens of thousands of college students arrive on campuses in the coming weeks.

“If the goal is to get back to school, we have to do the actions needed to get there,” he said. “It’s like trying to lose 20 pounds. You don’t get there by eating McDonald’s. You do it by exercising and eating right.”
Georgia Camp with COVID-19 Outbreak Didn’t Require Masks
By MIKE STOBBE
July 31, 2020

This 2020 electron microscope made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention image shows the spherical coronavirus particles from the first U.S. case of COVID-19. Released by the CDC on Friday, July 31, 2020, a Georgia summer camp hit by a coronavirus outbreak took many precautions, but didn’t make campers wear masks and put too many children in the same cabin, according to a government report released Friday. (C.S. Goldsmith, A. Tamin/CDC via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — A Georgia overnight camp hit by a coronavirus outbreak took many precautions, but didn’t make campers wear masks or have proper ventilation in buildings, according to a government report released Friday.

The camp followed disinfecting rules and required staff to wear masks, but campers didn’t have to wear face coverings. Health officials said “relatively large” groups of kids slept in the same cabin where they regularly sang and cheered, likely leading to spread.

Nearly 600 people were at the overnight camp, which was not named in the report by Georgia health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Media outlets reported a large outbreak occurred at the time at a YMCA camp at Lake Burton in Rabun County, near the state’s northern border with North Carolina.

Campers ranged in age from 6 to 19, and many of the staffers were teenagers. Cabins had between 16 to 26 people. The report said this was “relatively large” but doesn’t clearly say if it was too many. Health investigators did fault the camp for not opening enough windows and doors to increase circulation in buildings.

The report said a teenage staff member developed chills on the evening of June 22 and left the camp the following day.

The camp began sending campers home two days later when the staffer got a positive test result for coronavirus. The camp notified state health officials and closed the camp on June 27.

Test results were available for 344 people and 260 of them — about three-quarters — were positive.

The percentage of campers infected was higher among younger kids than older kids, the report found. It also was higher in kids who were at the camp for longer periods of time.

Officials recorded information about symptoms for only 136 kids. Of those, 100 reported symptoms — mostly fever, headache and sore throat.
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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
New Mexico Reports 226 More Coronavirus Cases, 3 More Deaths
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Mexico has increased by 226 with three additional deaths also reported Sunday.

That raises the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases to 21,016 with 654 known deaths.

Health officials report 61 of the new cases were residents of Bernalillo County, the state’s largest county that includes Albuquerque.

Lea, McKinley and Luna counties had the highest numbers of coronavirus cases per capita in New Mexico over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis of data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

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De Baca county is the only one of the state’s 33 counties without a confirmed COVID-19 case, according to the AP analysis.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.

But for some people who contract the virus, especially those who are older or have underlying health conditions, it can cause more severe illness and death.

The vast majority of people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 recover.
Head of China CDC Gets Injected with Experimental Vaccine
By DAKE KANG
July 28, 2020

Gao Fu, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), speaks to journalists after a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing on Jan. 26, 2020. Gao has revealed Tuesday, July 28, 2020 he has been injected with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in what he said is an attempt to persuade the public to follow suit when one is approved. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

BEIJING (AP) — The head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention says he has been injected with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in an attempt to persuade the public to follow suit when one is approved.

“I’m going to reveal something undercover: I am injected with one of the vaccines,” Gao Fu said in a webinar Sunday hosted by Alibaba Health, an arm of the Chinese e-commerce giant, and Cell Press, an American publisher of scientific journals. “I hope it will work.”

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that a state-owned Chinese company injected employees with experimental shots in March, even before the government-approved testing in people — a move that raised ethical concerns among some experts.

Gao did not say when or how he took the vaccine candidate, leaving it unclear whether he was injected as part of a government-approved human trial. He did not respond to requests for comment.

The claim underscores the enormous stakes as China competes with U.S. and British companies to be the first with a vaccine to help end the pandemic — a feat that would be both a scientific and political triumph.

China has positioned itself to be a strong contender. Eight of the nearly two dozen potential vaccines in various stages of human testing worldwide are from China, the most of any country.

Gao declined to say which of the vaccines he was injected with, saying he didn’t want to be seen as “doing some kind of propaganda” for a particular company.

Last month, Gao was a coauthor on a paper introducing one candidate, an “inactivated” vaccine made by growing the whole virus in a lab and then killing it. That candidate is being developed by an affiliate of state-owned SinoPharm.

The company previously said in an online post that 30 employees, including top executives, helped “pre-test” its vaccine in March, before it was approved for its initial human study. Scientists vehemently debate such self-experimentation, because what happens to one or a few people outside a well-designed study is not usable evidence of safety or effectiveness.

Chinese state media have also reported that employees of state-owned companies going abroad are being offered injections of the vaccine.

Gao said he took the injection to instill public confidence in vaccines, especially amid a tide of rising mistrust that has fueled conspiracy theories and attacks on scientists.

“Everybody has suspicions about the new coronavirus vaccine,” Gao said. “As a scientist, you’ve got to be brave. … If even we didn’t do it, how can we persuade the whole world — all the people, the public — to be vaccinated?”

Andrew Rennekamp, an editor at Cell and one of the moderators of Gao’s webinar, said, “This is a brave thing to do, and it shows his faith in what he believes is the safety of the vaccine and his commitment to the science and to public health.”

Even as China is among the leaders in the global race for a vaccine, it is also striving to overcome years of drug scandals — the latest coming in 2018 when authorities recalled a rabies vaccine and later announced that batches of children’s DPT vaccines, for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, were ineffective.

Gao himself had also been under heavy scrutiny for the China CDC’s initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, both at home and abroad. He largely vanished from public view for months, resurfacing again in an interview with state media in late April.

Recently, Gao has been involved in research on the coronavirus.

As vaccine research continues, China’s CDC is now looking into potential immunization programs, trying to figure out whether to prioritize children, the elderly or healthcare workers, he said.

Gao’s revelations come at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions fueled by the outbreak. Beijing’s delays in warning the public and releasing data at the beginning of the outbreak contributed significantly to the coronavirus’s spread, while President Donald Trump and other American politicians have made unsubstantiated claims that the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where it was first detected.

Tensions have flared to the point where it’s now disrupting research, leading to frustration among scientists who work with Chinese collaborators. The Trump administration has moved to withdraw the U.S. from the World Health Organization, and has cut funding to research initiatives studying coronaviruses in China.

Gao said repeatedly in his lecture that he wanted more cooperation between the U.S. and China, pleading for unity even as relations between Beijing and Washington plummet to new lows.

“We don’t want to have China and the U.S. separated scientifically,” Gao said. “We’ve got to work together.”
Debate Begins for Who’s First in Line for COVID-19 Vaccine

By LAURAN NEERGAARD
FILE - In this Monday, July 27, 2020 file photo, a nurse prepares a shot as a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway in Binghamton, N.Y. Who gets to be first in line for a COVID-19 vaccine? U.S. health authorities hope by late next month to have some draft guidance on how to ration initial doses, but it’s a vexing decision. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Who gets to be first in line for a COVID-19 vaccine? U.S. health authorities hope by late next month to have some draft guidance on how to ration initial doses, but it’s a vexing decision.

“Not everybody’s going to like the answer,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently told one of the advisory groups the government asked to help decide. “There will be many people who feel that they should have been at the top of the list.”

Traditionally, first in line for a scarce vaccine are health workers and the people most vulnerable to the targeted infection.

But Collins tossed new ideas into the mix: Consider geography and give priority to people where an outbreak is hitting hardest.

And don’t forget volunteers in the final stage of vaccine testing who get dummy shots, the comparison group needed to tell if the real shots truly work.

“We owe them ... some special priority,” Collins said.

Huge studies this summer aim to prove which of several experimental COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. began tests last week that eventually will include 30,000 volunteers each; in the next few months, equally large calls for volunteers will go out to test shots made by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. And some vaccines made in China are in smaller late-stage studies in other countries.

For all the promises of the U.S. stockpiling millions of doses, the hard truth: Even if a vaccine is declared safe and effective by year’s end, there won’t be enough for everyone who wants it right away -- especially as most potential vaccines require two doses.

It’s a global dilemma. The World Health Organization is grappling with the same who-goes-first question as it tries to ensure vaccines are fairly distributed to poor countries -- decisions made even harder as wealthy nations corner the market for the first doses.

In the U.S., the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is supposed to recommend who to vaccinate and when -- advice that the government almost always follows.

But a COVID-19 vaccine decision is so tricky that this time around, ethicists and vaccine experts from the National Academy of Medicine, chartered by Congress to advise the government, are being asked to weigh in, too.

Setting priorities will require “creative, moral common sense,” said Bill Foege, who devised the vaccination strategy that led to global eradication of smallpox. Foege is co-leading the academy’s deliberations, calling it “both this opportunity and this burden.”

With vaccine misinformation abounding and fears that politics might intrude, CDC Director Robert Redfield said the public must see vaccine allocation as “equitable, fair and transparent.”

How to decide? The CDC’s opening suggestion: First vaccinate 12 million of the most critical health, national security and other essential workers. Next would be 110 million people at high risk from the coronavirus -- those over 65 who live in long-term care facilities, or those of any age who are in poor health -- or who also are deemed essential workers. The general population would come later.

CDC’s vaccine advisers wanted to know who’s really essential. “I wouldn’t consider myself a critical health care worker,” admitted Dr. Peter Szilagyi, a pediatrician at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Indeed, the risks for health workers today are far different than in the pandemic’s early days. Now, health workers in COVID-19 treatment units often are the best protected; others may be more at risk, committee members noted.

Beyond the health and security fields, does “essential” mean poultry plant workers or schoolteachers? And what if the vaccine doesn’t work as well among vulnerable populations as among younger, healthier people? It’s a real worry, given that older people’s immune systems don’t rev up as well to flu vaccine.

With Black, Latino and Native American populations disproportionately hit by the coronavirus, failing to address that diversity means “whatever comes out of our group will be looked at very suspiciously,” said ACIP chairman Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas’ interim health secretary.

Consider the urban poor who live in crowded conditions, have less access to health care and can’t work from home like more privileged Americans, added Dr. Sharon Frey of St. Louis University.

And it may be worth vaccinating entire families rather than trying to single out just one high-risk person in a household, said Dr. Henry Bernstein of Northwell Health.

Whoever gets to go first, a mass vaccination campaign while people are supposed to be keeping their distance is a tall order. During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, families waited in long lines in parking lots and at health departments when their turn came up, crowding that authorities know they must avoid this time around.

Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to speed vaccine manufacturing and distribution, is working out how to rapidly transport the right number of doses to wherever vaccinations are set to occur.

Drive-through vaccinations, pop-up clinics and other innovative ideas are all on the table, said CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier.

As soon as a vaccine is declared effective, “we want to be able the next day, frankly, to start these programs,” Messonnier said. “It’s a long road.”
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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
George Floyd’s Brother, Eric Garner’s Mother Visit N.J. for Painting of BLM Mural
Aug 02, 2020; Posted Aug 01, 2020
By Josh Axelrod | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Joined by a slate of guests including George Floyd’s brother, Terrence Floyd, and Eric Garner’s mother, Gwendolyn Carr, New Jersey’s fourth-largest city painted and dedicated a Black Lives Matter mural across the street from its City Hall.

Community groups in Elizabeth received permission from the city to paint the words, Black Lives Matter, on Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza in bold letters, emblematic of a national movement which gained exponential traction in the wake of Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minnesota in May. The activists worked with city and local police officials to put on the event, which was attended by the police director and other officers who interacted with the crowd.

“We have to come out and we must protest,” Carr said to the crowd. “We can’t only say Black Lives Matter when there is a police killing. Black lives are supposed to always matter. Black lives are supposed to matter when the school system is failing us, when the job market is not giving us a fair living wage… That’s when Black lives matter also and this is what we should be screaming about.”

The two spoke to the crowd of more than 100, almost all Black residents, many wearing shirts that read “I know Black Lives Matter, do you?” urging them to apply the mural’s message beyond the realm of police violence.

“I just want to thank everyone for coming out, showing love to the cause, being down for change, because it’s needed,” Terrence Floyd said during brief comments to the crowd. “Especially in our communities and in our culture, it’s needed.”

He told NJ Advance Media Carr’s presence prompted him to come to the event.

“I decided to come out here to support Mama Carr. She’s been in this movement for some years and now that I’m in it, I’m helping her like she’s helping me,” Floyd told NJ Advance Media. “It’s a movement, it’s not a moment.”

That was the message that underlaid the 2-hour ceremony sponsored by the New Jersey Legacy Foundation and the Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble, which included speeches, prayers and painting. Some, however, felt that the mural’s dedication rang hollow without a commitment of action from the city, which has grappled with policing issues in a city whose population is about 19% Black and 65% Hispanic.

Last year, Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove resigned after an inquiry found he used racist and sexist slurs against his staff and Mayor Chris Bollwage earned criticism for his staunch defense of Cosgrove. Elizabeth’s police force is now helmed by Earl Graves, its first Black director.

Protesters held signs that read, “If Black Lives Matter, defund EPD,” and “How about accountability?” and activist Kason Little declined to attend the event, accusing the mayor of using the mural for political cover. Bollwage was not in attendance, according to an event organizer, and the city did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

Other speakers said the mural was a positive step in the right direction that needs to be followed up with more action.

“Black Lives Matter is not a trend,” Janay Martinez, a poet with the Elizabeth Youth Ensemble, told the crowd. “Towns all over are simply slapping Black Lives Matter on the ground and calling it change. Making it such a big thing, when they aren’t doing anything else to help my people. That is not change, this is not change, let this be the stepping stone to implementing change.”

Reverend George E. Britt, who delivered the closing prayer, echoed Martinez’s sentiment, calling for renewed investment in the community.

“It’s not about a painting, it’s beyond a painting,” Britt told NJ Advance Media. This is a symbol of affirmation, of consent — we gotta build on that now and bring about the change that really makes this live.”

Elizabethan Bree Maejor, 19, was selected to paint the letters, which have appeared on streets across the nation in cities like Newark and Washington D.C. She began on Friday, working from 4 to 10 p.m. and continued at 5 a.m. on Saturday until the ceremony at noon, with the help of volunteers.

The yellow letters are accompanied by a fist and six lines representing “The Big Six” of civil rights leaders: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Congressman John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young.

Blocks were left unpainted in the letters, where designated community members like Donna Alexander, President of the Urban League of Union County, and Rev. Leonard Grayson, the Acting President of Elizabeth NAACP, were asked to fill them in.

Also in attendance were Al Michaels, the nephew of transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson, Assemblyman Jamel C. Holley, the first Black lawmaker to represent New Jersey’s 20th district and organizer Lawrence Hamm, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate this year.

Johnson, an Elizabeth native, was a central figure in the Stonewall riots, viewed as one of the seminal moments in the gay liberation movement. Recently, a petition gained more than 165,000 signatures calling for the replacement of a Christopher Columbus statue in Elizabeth with one of Johnson. On Tuesday, the Elizabeth City Council issued a commendation to Johnson “for her pioneering work in trans rights and revolutionary LGBTQIA+ activism.”

“Martha P. Johnson was about civil rights — not just gay rights, LGBTQ+ rights — Martha was about rights, and she fought for everyone,” Michals said to the crowd. “And she would be honored that her hometown, her city, Elizabeth, New Jersey is recognizing her today.”

Prior to the ceremony, a white man stormed onto the scene of the mural, shouting “All Lives Matter.” Event organizer Kim Nesbitt Good approached him, offering a handshake and then a hug, and moving him away from the mural.

After telling the story during the ceremony, Good left attendees with her message: “Let’s just love one another.”

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Josh Axelrod may be reached at jaxelrod@njadvancemedia.com. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Zimbabwe President Reaches Out to Health Workers
01 AUG, 2020 - 00:08  
Herald Reporter

Health workers should put the nation first in the fight to contain Covid-19, President Mnangagwa said yesterday when assuring them that Government was attending to their grievances.

In a moving speech at the burial of the late national hero Cde Perrance Shiri, who succumbed to Covid-19 on Wednesday at the age of 65, the President said Zimbabweans should draw lessons from the late liberation war commander who selflessly served his country with distinction until the very end.

This comes as some health workers have been withdrawing their labour, seeking higher salaries and better personal protective equipment, although this is now flowing in. However, the President, who acknowledged their grievances, said amid a global pandemic, saving lives was paramount and should come first.
 
“We must stop the scourge of Covid-19, itself a global pandemic. It spares no one, great or small. All nations of the world are suffering from its impact, with figures of infections and deaths rising daily. In unity and through discipline, we stand a chance to save our nation from its menace.

“I call on our medical staff to act in the national interest and exhibit a great sense of responsibility. My Government hears your cries, listens to your concerns. But the time to serve is now. Your grievances, which we acknowledge and continue to address, cannot be enjoyed at the expense of loss of life. When the pandemic spreads and the death toll rises, there are no winners, none at all. Tinopera tese kufa,” the President said.

He called upon Zimbabweans to stay at home, wear masks, maintain good hygiene and practice social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19 that has infected close to 20 million people globally.

Zimbabwe has recorded more than 3 000 positive cases with 53 deaths by Thursday night.
 
At a time when opportunists are seeking to ride on the medical staff grievances to push their regime change agendas through unsanctioned demonstrations, the President said Zimbabweans should shun acts of violence because they were detrimental to the peace that the country’s brave sons and daughters like the late Shiri fought for.

“Let us draw lessons from the illustrious life of our national hero Cde Shiri. We need peace, peace, perfect peace, for national development. Let us shun strife, violence and disunity. Proponents of such divisive and ruinous acts must be rejected and exposed”.

The President said for the country to achieve its set goals, that include devolution and decentralisation, there is a need for unity of purpose in “harmony and love”.

“Along many who lie interred here at our National Shrine, Cde Shiri and those of us who are survivors and from our armed struggle, know the meaning of war and strife, indeed know the priceless value of national peace and unity,” he said.

In war and in conflict, people die and suffer; in peace and in unity, nations and peoples prosper. Both from our history, and from the numerous examples of contemporary African experiences, we must, as Zimbabweans, continue on the path of peace, entrenching peace, choosing peace and national unity, over war, divisions and instability,” he said.

Cde Shiri, who was born Bigboy Benjamin Samson Chikerema, joined the liberation struggle in 1973, the late national hero led from the front in the war against settler subjugation.
 
He was attested to the Zimbabwe National Army after independence before a lateral transfer to the Air Force of Zimbabwe, where he was to become the Air Marshal for over 20 years before he was appointed the Minister of Lands Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, a position that endeared him to many in the crucial sector as he was a man of action who led from the front, just like during the liberation war.

“Once the Second Republic defined its vision, Cde Shiri pursued it with utmost vigour. He knew that Zimbabwe needed to shake off food insecurity, and implemented strategic Government programmes under the Agriculture Recovery Plan such as the Pfumvudza Concept, mechanisation, modernisation, irrigation development, climate proofing of agriculture. These strategies would ensure that our Nation becomes food-secure both in lean and stout years.

“He was ‘Mutumwa zvepedo’, he understood that strategy without execution is no strategy. He has left us that value and work ethic. The lasting tribute we should give him is to carry on from where he left,” said the President.

President Mnangagwa said in honour to the late national hero, who negotiated and secured agricultural equipment from across the globe, Government would build more dams, equip farmers and see to it that production was ramped as per his vision.
Zambia Courts Chinese Investment
30 JUL, 2020 - 00:07 
Winnie Chibesakunda

Photo: Zambia’s ambassador to China

LUSAKA. — Zambia’s Ambassador to China Winnie Chibesakunda has met with Cheng Qiuyan, director general for Guangdong Provincial Foreign Affairs Office to discuss investment in Zambia’s priority sectors.

During a reception hosted by the Foreign Affairs Office, Ambassador Chibesakunda and the director general agreed to work together to attract Chinese investment from the province in Zambia’s wood and wood sub-sector.

Mrs Chibesakunda said Zambia is well endowed with forestry resources that play an important role in the development of the national economy and in improving the living standards of the people.

She stated that China imports raw materials for making furniture from Zambia and that most Africans travel to Guangdong Province to buy furniture, hence the need to set up a factory in Zambia.

Ambassador Chibesakunda observed that Zambia is centrally located and has access to wider regional markets such as COMESA and SADC. 

— Lusaka Times.
Steering the SADC Ship Through Turbulent Waters
By Southern Times Writer 
Jul 31, 2020 

Windhoek - When President Hage Geingob assumed the Chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community in 2018, he took on the enormous task of leading a region battling with various political, security and economic challenges.

And when he handed over the Chairmanship a year later, he was roundly lauded for his decisive, intuitive and visionary leadership.

Namibia’s President Geingob became Chairperson of the regional bloc on August 17, 2018 during the 38th SADC Summit of Heads of States and Government that was held in Windhoek.

This was at a time that the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho and Mozambique were all experiencing some form of political turbulence.

Economic crises in several member states were also quite high, with Tanzania essentially the only country in the region that was experiencing growth in the region of the seven percent range targeted by SADC.

As part of his quest to nurture democratic values and constitutionality in the region, President Geingob oversaw peaceful elections in six member states during his tenure.

These were in the Comoros, the DRC, Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi and South Africa.

“For the first time since independence, we have witnessed a peaceful transfer of power in the DRC, marking a new era for socio-economic prosperity, peace, and political stability for the country. Indeed, democracy has continued to mature in our region,” President Geingob said in 2019 as he rounded up his Chairmanship.

The DRC elections were quite a milestone, considering that in 60 years there had not been a peaceful transfer of power.

In addition to this achievement, under President Geingob’s tenure SADC witnessed the signing of the Peace Accord Mozambique, which brought an end to a war between insurgents and government forces.

On the economic and social fronts, President Geingob had to steer the SADC ship at a time of global uncertainties as regards commodity markets, trade tensions, food insecurity and natural calamities.

Contingency funds amounting to US$500,000 were released towards emergency relief efforts for Tropical Cyclone Idai to complement the humanitarian and disaster management initiatives of individual member states’ and other international partners.

Post-disaster needs assessments were conducted in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe for reconstruction and rebuilding following Tropical Cyclone Idai.

Despite the achievements, President Geingob did not sit back and bask in the glory, and instead chose to focus on the many things that still needed doing for the region to holistically implement its Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Plan and Strategic Indicative Plan.

“It is, therefore, incumbent upon all SADC member states, to fully take advantage of low hanging fruit and leverage the capacity of the private sector, women and youth, in order to tap into their potential to support our developmental agenda,” he said as he rallied the region to build on its potential and grow from strength to strength.
Leadership Means Juggling Multiple Emergencies
By Editor
Southern Times
Jul 31, 2020 

Updating legislators in Botswana about the threat posed by Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ), Lieutenant-General Placid Segokgo warned that the insurgency in Mozambique was a threat to the entire Southern African region.

In the same week, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo, who is himself a retired lieutenant-general, said: “As a region we are currently considering our response to the growing and again externally sponsored insurgency in northern Mozambique which has echoes elsewhere in our sub-region. 

“A region rich in mineral, agriculture and other resources, all of it (is) tempting booty for, perhaps, foreign predators angling for influence or control or manoeuvring to install more malleable, more complaint regimes in place.”

And prior to that, Mozambique National Defence and Security Council member and former Security Minister Jacinto Veloso, also a former soldier, said, “We are confronted with a mega-operation of destabilisation very probably directed by a competent and powerful hub located somewhere outside the country.

"We are dealing with a mega-operation conceived, directed, and executed from outside the country to, at least, slow the natural gas projects, because they are considered a serious commercial threat to the giant economic interests of big companies involved in identical projects in the region which are competing for the same markets."

Some analysts have tried to confine the terrorism going on in northern Mozambique to that country alone.

Their contention is that young people being recruited by ASWJ are vulnerable to such conscription into terror groups because the government of Mozambique has been derelict in its developmental responsibilities to its citizens.

We will leave it to the people of Mozambique to run the rule on the calibre of governance they voted for.

What we can do is proffer a qualified agreement that yes, politicians all too often create grounds for dissent by focusing more on power retention than on delivering on their promises.

However, that is no justification for the kind of terror being perpetrated against civilians by ASWJ. There can never be any rationalisation around terrorism.

But that does not mean Southern African leaders should not work towards improving the social and economic conditions that terrorists exploit to sow their seeds of hatred and violence.

The cliché holds true for COVID-19 inasmuch as it does for terrorism: prevention is better than cure.

The reality, in the particular case of ASWJ, is that the problem is already here and needs to be dealt with.

The Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community need to show more urgency than they have done thus far in responding to the threat.

Already, 2,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. That is 2,000 deaths too many.

It is good that SADC leaders have said the matter will be discussed at their Ordinary Summit this August.

But surely the situation demands more urgency than that.

People are dying in Mozambique, and the ASWJ has made it clear that it has no qualms with attacking other countries.

Even more, the ASWJ says it is building a Central African Caliphate.

This is not a threat to Mozambique alone: this is a threat to the entire SADC region and indeed the whole of Africa.

An Extraordinary Summit of SADC is in order, and it is needed now. The region’s leadership must craft an urgent and robust response.

Yes, all SADC members are grappling with COVID-19 and other issues of a pressing nature.

The fact that COVID-19 is an emergency does not mean there are no other emergencies that have to be dealt with.

As Lt-Gen Segokgo of the Botswana Defence Forces noted, countries cannot afford to get lax about security.

“Mozambique is caught in a situation where previously they were told they were (enjoying) dividends of peace (and) they needed not invest in security,” the good soldier pointed out.

And that is the burden of national leadership - dexterously juggling the varying and sometimes competing matters demanding the attention of the people you lead.

Governments must find ways of budgeting for the competing needs of their people. It can be done. Simple things like reducing the spending on luxurious executive vehicles for political elites and showering them with other trinkets will immediately free up millions of dollars across Southern Africa.

Further, the terrorists are probably aware that regional leaders are (we hope) spending sleepless nights because of COVID-19 and they are taking advantage of this to advance their murderous agenda.

The region’s leadership cannot allow one emergency to distract it from other emergencies.

And still on distractions, the Heads of State and Government of SADC must remain alive to the reality that external interests such as the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) have a long-harboured desire to get a foothold in Southern Africa.

America and rapacious military its allies have for decades used the excuse of instability in one country to gain entry into entire regions.

They created the terrorist threat of Osama bin Laden in the late 1970s and 1980s to grow their footprint in the oil-rich Middle East.

Today, that region is still upside-down because of those schemes, while American and European corporate interests make their blood money.

The West has always followed the oil.

Consider the Niger Delta, consider Libya, consider South Sudan, consider the Equatorial Guinea coup attempt in 2004.

Now Mozambique says it has oil, and suddenly there is an insurgency in that country.

By any assessment, SADC leaders must act now on what is happening in Mozambique.
Trouble in Paradise
By David Muchagoneyi & Thando Mnkandhla 
Southern Times
Jul 31, 2020

Islamist threats and border disputes threaten region’s stability

The continent’s bastion of political stability and security – the Southern African Development Community – is witnessing an increase in armed conflict.

Analysts say in addition to the threat to human life, livelihoods and infrastructure, the growing instability provides interest groups like the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) with a glimmer of hope to achieve a long-cherished dream to set up shop in Southern Africa.

The possibility, analysts say, of external interests capitalising on local discontent and escalating it into general instability is real.

According to the AFRICOM spokesperson John Manley, the US has 27 military’s bases in 15 countries/territories in East, West and North Africa. Southern Africa remains the last region where the US military does not have a physical footprint, though around 2009 the Seychelles provided facilities for America to launch Reaper drone attacks on Somalia.

In all the areas where the US military has established itself, it has entered on the premise of either “assisting” governments to quell insurgencies, or to protect international economic interest – a euphemism for American interests.

Control of the vast natural resources in Southern Africa, particularly the DRC’s untapped mineral value worth an estimated US$20 trillion and Mozambique’s recently discovered oil and gas fields, remain plum prizes.

Internal instability in the DRC - as well as on the borders with Rwanda and more recently with Zambia - mean SADC’s largest country is a massive hotbed of unrest.

Compounding matters for the region is a growing insurgency in Mozambique that has been linked to Islamic State and has claimed an estimated 2,000 lives and displaced countless others.

In addition, the self-proclaimed Islamist militants say they will “open a fighting front inside South African borders” if Tshwane deploys troops to assist Maputo quell the terror threat.

Instability in Mozambique

Insiders tell The Southern Times that the Mozambique issue is particularly worrying for regional leaders as authorities in Maputo believe at least one other SADC member is indirectly abetting the insurgency by opting not to clamp down on rebel supply lines through its territory.

In July, Mozambique National Defence and Security Council member and former Security Minister Jacinto Veloso said the insurgents, who are mainly based in Cabo Delgado, were being backed by an outside power to frustrate development of gas fields.

Prior to that, Veloso had said: “I am convinced that we are facing a major operation whose objective is to block the natural gas projects of Cabo Delgado. We are confronted with a mega-operation of destabilisation very probably directed by a competent and powerful hub located somewhere outside the country.

"We are dealing with a mega-operation conceived, directed, and executed from outside the country to, at least, slow the natural gas projects, because they are considered a serious commercial threat to the giant economic interests of big companies involved in identical projects in the region which are competing for the same markets."

Jacinto likened what was happening in Mozambique to the manner in which the US used Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan from 1979 against Russia. 

President Felipe Nyusi has also said the insurgency was partly attributable to the activities of unnamed “external elites”.

After the attacks in Macomia and Mocimboa da Praia in early July, the terrorists inscribed graffiti in which they identified themselves as “Mujaahid of Mozambique”, “Islamic State” and “Al Shabab”.

Analysts noted that most of the graffiti was in English, a language that is very rarely used in Cabo Delgado.

However, opinion largely remains divided between two extremes – the insurgency being a home-grown affair caused by discontent with the government, or the insurgency being a foreign-sponsored project.

Some analysts believe the truth, as if often the case, lies somewhere between the two: external interest groups taking advantage of internal dissent, meaning Southern African leaders must not only work to end the conflict, but must also do more to prevent domestic conditions from deteriorating to such exploitable levels.

And Southern African leaders are scrambling to respond to a level of threat the region has not seen before.

In May, the Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, told fellow regional leaders that the situation in Mozambique was deteriorating. 

“The threat is now becoming increasingly complex, blurring boundaries between political, religious and ideological extremism and crime. In addition, the modus operandi of the terrorist groups are intricate and elaborate.

“The possible impact that these developments have on the peace and security of the people of Mozambique and the entire region are indeed dire," he said.

Researchers at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project say Mozambique will be a big test for Southern Africa.

“It may not be long until the power of the ISIS threat toward other countries in the region is tested,” ACLED said.

The roots of the insurgency were planted more than a decade ago, and researchers such as Eric Morier-Genoud in the Journal of Eastern African Studies (July 6, 2020) say it can be traced to the activities of extreme Islamists in Cabo Delgado in 2007.

Analysts indicate Mozambique may have been slow to come alive to the magnitude of the problem, and now SADC is responding just as slowly as countries also have to contend with their own internal issues as well as those occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zambia- DRC Dispute

While SADC ponders what to do about Mozambique, regional leaders also have their work cut-out in trying to resolve an on and off dispute between the DRC and Zambia over control of a 13km stretch of land.

Since the 1960s, the DRC has not known any prolonged period of peace and stability as internal and external interest groups tussle for control of its vast mineral wealth.

Among the stability issues it has faced has been control of a small territory on the border with Zambia, which recently saw the two countries make offensive troop movements, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of people.

Pweto falls in the mineral-rich Haut-Katanga Province.

In March this year, the DRC accused Zambian soldiers of invading the village of Kibanwa on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in addition to allegedly moving to occupy its territories in Petwo and Moba.

Reports indicate the Congolese military may have shot dead two Zambian soldiers who had allegedly taken control of the village on March 15. The following day, the Zambian Air Force reportedly retaliated by killing an undisclosed number of Congolese soldiers.

Both countries then very quickly moved troops to the border, though Zambia’s Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji has Lusaka has no interest in annexing any DRC territory.

Minister Malanji went on to say uniformed men who may or may not have been Congolese soldiers had entered Zambian territory, attacking villages and looting food.

SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation Chair President Mnangagwa has since tasked the bloc’s Secretariat to assemble a team of experts to deal with the issue.

The Technical Experts Border Issue team was dispatched on July 23 and is led by Ambassador Raphael Faranisi from Zimbabwe, with other members drawn from Botswana, the DRC and Zambia.

The team will be deployed to Chibanga and Kibanga, Kalubamba, Musosa, Luchinda and Pweto - areas that are in both the DRC and Zambia.

According to a report released by Zimbabwe's Foreign Affairs Ministry, “The mission is expected to end on July 29, 2020, and a detailed report will be submitted to President Mnangagwa …”

The dispute dates back to the colonial era when state boundaries were arbitrarily drawn at the whim of European powers.

There was an attempt to settle the issue in 1989 when a treaty was signed between then Zambia President Kenneth Kaunda and DRC's Mobutu Sese Seko, and beacons were placed along the border as markers.

However, border clashes continue and the situation threatens to become a donnybrook where the most powerful local forces have their way in what could easily feed into a larger attempt to balkanise the DRC.

Reporting by David Muchagoneyi in Harare and Thando Mnkandhla in Windhoek
Green Legacy: Ethiopia Planted 4.1 Billion Trees So Far
Borkena
July 30, 2020 

Ethiopia’s ministry of agriculture said on Thursday that about 4.1 billion trees are planted so far as part of the Green Legacy, a flagship policy of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, campaign for this year. 

In a report to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Agriculture, Omar Hussein, said 83 percent of the targeted number is already achieved. 

The projected number of trees to be planted nationwide for this year is five billion.  

The Minister said that Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR), and Benishangul Gumuz region have managed to plant more trees than the targeted number. 

Abiy Ahmed has expressed his government’s intent to link tree planting with the job creation agenda. He also wants it to be a key part of the Ethiopian culture to ensure “agricultural and urban development,” as reported by Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).

He also urged the minister of Agriculture to continue tree planting in the remaining months of the Ethiopian year (it is 2012) to achieve the target number.
Nile Dam Row: Egypt Fumes as Ethiopia Celebrates
By Magdi Abdelhadi
Egypt analyst
BBC World Service
30 July 2020

The Nile is seen as Egypt's lifeblood - without its waters the country fears for its survival
As Ethiopia celebrated rains which began filling a controversial dam on a tributary of the River Nile, Egypt was fuming.

The North African nation had long been opposed to any development on the Nile upstream that could reduce the amount of water it receives from the river and has regarded the Ethiopian project as an existential threat.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd), which has been in construction since 2011, is now holding back water - and contains 4.9 billion cubic metres (bcm) of the Blue Nile's water after this season's rains.

This is despite Egypt's insistence that no filling should take place without a legally binding agreement about how the process will be managed.

In another four to six years the reservoir, which sits behind what will be Africa's largest hydroelectric plant when it comes into operation, is expected to reach 74bcm.

Egypt and Ethiopia, along with Sudan through which the Blue Nile also flows, have been negotiating for the best part of a decade, but all the while the dam has been built.

They signed a declaration of principles in 2015 which spoke about the "spirit of co-operation", but Egypt feels that has been missing.

In the past year, it has invested time and political capital by lobbying at the highest international level and seeking help from the US and the UN, but to no avail.

The US tried, but failed, to get Egypt and Ethiopia to sign up to an agreement
Egypt appears to have lost that battle.

It has failed to force Ethiopia to abide by the 1997 UN Watercourses Convention requiring upstream countries to consult the downstream states before embarking on projects of this magnitude.

At this point it is hard to imagine what else Egypt could possibly do today other than acquiesce and do as much damage limitation as possible. However, a military option has never been explicitly ruled out.

The Egyptian leadership has repeatedly said it remains committed to resolution through negotiation. But it usually adds the caveat that "all options remain on the table" - a phrase that often alludes to possible conflict.

The government has repeatedly described the issue of the Gerd project as a matter of life and death. This will be especially true if there is a substantial reduction of the amount of the water that reaches Egypt as a result of the dam.

Alastair Leithead and his team travelled in 2018 from the Blue Nile's source to the sea - through Ethiopia and Sudan into Egypt.

But now, with the filling a reality the Egyptian government has tried to put a brave face on things.

Officially, it said that Egypt remained committed to the current diplomatic process which is being handled by the African Union, and repeated its old mantra that it will not accept unilateral action from Ethiopia.

Water poverty

It has also insisted that any future agreement must endorse what it sees as its established Nile rights to 55bcm of water from the river.

On average 49bcm of water flows through the Blue Nile tributary a year and Ethiopia has consistently refused to concede to giving Egypt a commitment to a specific amount that it will allow to flow through the dam. It sees Egypt's demands as a legacy of agreements that were made without its involvement.

Egypt's official response betrayed powerlessness rather than resolve.

Media captionRos Atkins on...why can’t Egypt and Ethiopia agree on the Nile dam?
The stakes have never been higher for the country.

Describing the Gerd as an existential threat is not hyperbole. Egypt is an arid country and is seen as very water-poor.

The World Bank classifies water scarcity as when there is less than 1,000 cubic metres of fresh water per person a year. In Egypt, the figure is 550 cubic metre per person annually, according to the government.

Just take a look at the map, where 90% of its 100 million population are squeezed into the narrow Nile valley, 6% of the country's total area, beset by vast deserts on both sides.

'Outmanoeuvred'

The Nile provides Egyptians with their primary source of water, for both drinking and agriculture.

Its current annual share of the Nile waters, the now endangered 55bcm, already falls far short of its needs.

This explains that while on an official level Egypt has so far exercised verbal restraint, the media and commentators have not held back.

To them, Ethiopia had used the drawn out negotiations to blindside the Egyptians while creating facts on the ground to exercise total control over the river.

A triumphalist tweet celebrating the first year's filling of the Gerd by Ethiopia Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew - which read in part "the river became a lake... the Nile is ours" - particularly inflamed passions.

It confirmed what Egyptians had long feared and some replied with all sorts of threats.

An Egyptian columnist begrudgingly acknowledged that Ethiopia had outmanoeuvred his country, but it is not over yet, Imad-al-Din Husayn wrote in the daily Shorouq newspaper, in an effort to reassure his readers.

"The Ethiopians refuse to believe that without the Nile we would die, literally. They have many rivers and receive around 950bcm of rain water annually. We receive a paltry 55bcm, half of what we actually need, which is also half of what their livestock consumes annually," he added in exasperation and summing up the imbalance that many Egyptians feel.

Diplomatic wrangle

On its part Egypt has launched several water management schemes, which include the recycling of waste water in agriculture, desalination plants, and an ambitious program to change traditional forms of irrigation to the more water saving method of drip-irrigation.

But the argument about Egypt's water poverty is perhaps its strongest card in the diplomatic wrangle, if it can be used to galvanise international support.

Apart from a short advert made in several languages, the Egyptian administration has so far failed to launch a concerted information campaign to win over global backing.

Both in sub-Saharan Africa and even in the US, the Ethiopians appear to have fared much better.

The current chairperson of the African Union is South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Many Egyptians believe that South Africa is biased in favour of Ethiopia, which does not augur well for the talks.

If these fail to produce a satisfactory result, Egypt believes it can take the issue back to the UN Security Council for a resolution that ties the hands of Ethiopia.

But it is far from certain that it can secure the support of all the five permanent members.

Recent reports have suggested that both China and Russia will oppose such a move, because they do not want to set a precedent as they both have their own river disputes with downstream neighbours.

Failure to bridge the gap between Egypt and Ethiopia could spell disaster for both.

Turmoil in Egypt as a result of drought and potential mass displacement could have far reaching consequences across the whole of North Africa and Europe. And an armed conflict between two of Africa's largest and greatest nations should be a scary prospect not just for the Africans, but for the whole world.
Coronavirus: How Fast Is It Spreading in Africa?

By Peter Mwai and Christopher Giles
BBC Reality Check
30 July 2020

Passengers boarding a bus in Lagos being given hand sanitiser
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Africa might be headed for a much larger outbreak than current numbers are suggesting.

We've looked at the situation across the continent, and examined which countries are of most concern.

How fast is coronavirus spreading?

Michael Ryan, who leads the WHO's emergencies programme, has said: "I am very concerned right now that we are beginning to see an acceleration of [the] disease in Africa."

The global humanitarian relief body, the International Rescue Committee, says it believes the true scale of the pandemic may be hidden because of a lack of testing and issues with data.

In terms of confirmed cases, Africa currently accounts for only a small proportion of the global total, but the acceleration in rates of infection in some countries is of increasing concern.

The proportion of cases that are from Africa rose from 2.8% in early June to 5% of all cases reported globally by mid-July.

The upward trend is starting to resemble other parts of the world that have been badly hit by the coronavirus.

Where are Africa's hotspots?

The two countries with the highest numbers of cases are South Africa and Egypt. They accounted for 75% of all the new cases reported by mid-July.

South Africa has the highest recorded number of total cases and reported deaths, and accounts for more than half of all the cases in Africa.

It has the fifth highest number of confirmed cases worldwide, although reported deaths appear lower compared with other countries badly hit by coronavirus.

Could South Africa's fatality rate be misleading?

Research from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) indicates the number of people who have died from the virus could be much higher than officially reported.

It says excess deaths, which is the difference between deaths reported over a particular period and the historical average, rose by 17,000 - that's a 59% increase compared with previous years.

Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, has seen a steady increase in cases and accounts for more than a third of the total cases. But Western Cape province (where Cape Town is located) accounts for more than half of the deaths.

Egypt has seen case numbers rising rapidly since mid-May, but there are indications that this may now have reached a peak with recorded new infections levelling off slightly in early July.

There is also concern about what is happening in Nigeria, which is third in terms of total cases recorded so far on the continent.

Circles show number of confirmed coronavirus cases per country.
Source: Johns Hopkins University, national public health agencies

Figures last updated 1 August 2020, 10:26 BST

It's worth stressing that some parts of the continent have seen relatively few cases, such as some areas of central and East Africa.

The Africa CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) says that five countries account for more than 75% of all the reported cases on the continent.

How many people are dying in Africa?

The reported death rate per capita has been low compared to other parts of the world, despite the poor health infrastructure in many African countries.

Total Cases

South Africa 8,005 13.9 493,183
24 JAN
31 JUL
Egypt 4,805 4.9 94,078
Algeria 1,210 2.9 30,394
Nigeria 879 0.4 43,151
Sudan 746 1.8 11,644
Cameroon 391 1.6 17,255
Morocco 353 1.0 24,322
Kenya 341 0.7 20,636
Ethiopia 274 0.3 17,530
DR Congo 215 0.3 9,070
Senegal 205 1.3 10,232
Ghana 182 0.6 35,501
Mauritania 157 3.6 6,310
Zambia 151 0.9 5,963
Mali 124 0.6 2,535
Malawi 114 0.6 4,078
Madagascar 106 0.4 10,868
Ivory Coast 102 0.4 16,047
Somalia 93 0.6 3,212
Equatorial Guinea 83 6.3 4,821
Liberia 75 1.6 1,186
Chad 75 0.5 936
Libya 74 1.1 3,621
Niger 69 0.3 1,134
Zimbabwe 67 0.5 3,169
Sierra Leone 67 0.9 1,823
Central African Republic 59 1.3 4,608
Djibouti 58 6.0 5,084
Congo 54 1.0 3,200
Burkina Faso 53 0.3 1,106
Angola 52 0.2 1,148
Tunisia 50 0.4 1,535
Gabon 49 2.3 7,352
Guinea 46 0.4 7,308
South Sudan 46 0.4 2,322
Eswatini 41 3.6 2,648
Mayotte 39 15.0 2,962
Benin 36 0.3 1,805
Guinea-Bissau 26 1.4 1,981
Cape Verde 23 4.2 2,451
Tanzania 21 0.0 509
Togo 19 0.2 941
Sao Tome and Principe 15 7.1 871
Lesotho 13 0.6 604
Mozambique 11 0.0 1,864
Namibia 10 0.4 2,129
Mauritius 10 0.8 344
Gambia 9 0.4 498
Comoros 7 0.8 378
Rwanda 5 0.0 2,022
Réunion 4 0.5 660
Uganda 3 0.0 1,154
Botswana 2 0.1 804
Burundi 1 0.0 387
Western Sahara 1 0.2 10
Eritrea 0 0.0 279
Seychelles 0 0.0 114

This information is regularly updated but may not reflect the latest totals for each country.

** The past data for new cases is a three day rolling average. Due to revisions in the number of cases, an average cannot be calculated for this date.

Source: Johns Hopkins University, national public health agencies and UN population data

Figures last updated: 1 August 2020, 10:26 BST

The WHO says this could be partly because of the relatively young population in Africa - more than 60% under the age of 25. Covid-19 is known to have a higher mortality rate for older age groups.

In terms of what proportion of people who get Covid-19 go on to die, there are ten countries with rates comparable with or higher than the most recent global average rate of 4%.

The top five are:

Chad (8.1%)
Sudan (6.3%)
Liberia (6.1%)
Niger (6.1%)
Sao Tome and Principe (5.6%)

But Githinji Gitahi, the head of Amref Health Africa, an NGO which specialises in health matters, says the higher fatality rates could be an indication of much higher infection levels not being captured because of low levels of testing.

The fewer tests you carry out, the fewer cases you find, and so the number of deaths appears relatively high.

Different methods of recording deaths attributed to Covid-19 may also affect the number.

How much testing is done in Africa?

Ten countries account for about 80% of the total tests conducted - South Africa, Morocco, Ghana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, Mauritius, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda.

There are wide variations in testing rates, with South Africa doing the most and Nigeria doing relatively few, according to Our World in Data, a UK-based project which collates Covid-19 information.

By 28 July, South Africa had done nearly 48 tests per 1,000 people, compared with 134 in the UK and 162 in the US.

Nigeria had achieved 1.3 tests per 1,000 people by 28 July, and Kenya 5.2. Ghana had done 12.3 tests per 1,000 people by 26 July.

"There is still a lot of work to do to scale up the testing and appreciate the true situation," Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's Africa director, says.

It's also worth pointing out that for some African countries, it is impossible to know what exactly is happening due to a lack of any data or data being incomplete.

In Tanzania, President John Magufuli has voiced doubts about the validity of virus testing results at the national laboratory, and has allowed only limited data on infection rates and testing to be made public.

Equatorial Guinea had a row with the WHO after accusing its country representative of inflating the number of Covid-19 cases. For a while it held back its data, but has now started sharing it again.

Note: The graphics in this page use a different source for figures for France from that used by Johns Hopkins University, which results in a slightly lower overall total. US figures do not include Puerto Rico, Guam or the US Virgin Islands.