Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Lagos Lockdown Over Coronavirus: 'How Will My Children Survive?'
31 March 2020
BBC

As more than 25 million people are placed on a two-week lockdown in parts of Nigeria in a bid to curtail the spread of coronavirus, poor people in congested neighbourhoods are worried about how they will cope, writes the BBC's Nduka Orjinmo from the commercial capital Lagos.

"From where do we get the extra water to wash the hands you are talking about," asked Debby Ogunsola, 36, as she led me down a dark corridor towards her room in the Alapere area of Lagos state.

A lockdown in Lagos - the commercial hub of Nigeria, as well as the neighbouring state of Ogun and the capital Abuja - came into force on Monday night, following an announcement by President Muhammadu Buhari that the fight against the virus was a "matter of life and death".

For Ms Ogunsola it will be difficult to remain indoors. She and her family live in one room in a block of 20, locally called Face-me-I-face-you because of their close proximity to each other.

There is no electricity, and when I visited, light was coming in through where a door should have been standing. Outside there were two toilets and bathrooms shared by all the families living in the 20 rooms.

'Fearing hunger, not the virus'

There is no pipe-borne water either in Alapere, and Ms Ogunsola is forced to walk more than 50 metres to a broken public water pipe for her supply.

"It's my children I am worried about," she said.

All four of them were lying on the floor as it rained outside. A single window was the only source of air into the room and it could get very hot at night.

"If I am not able to go out and sell, how will they [children] survive?'' asked Ms Ogunsola, who earns money by selling fruit and vegetables by the roadside.

Her husband works at an oil rig in the southern city of Warri and is due to come home in a month. But several states - including Rivers, Delta, Kano and Bayelsa - have closed their borders, prohibiting inter-state movement. So if the lockdown is extended, it could be a while before she is reunited with her husband.

"It is hunger I am worried about, not a virus. I even heard it doesn't kill young people," Ms Ogunsola told the BBC.

Though there is a higher mortality rate among the old and those with underlying health conditions, young people are also dying of the virus - and they can transmit it if they do not act responsibly.

No money to stockpile

Across an open drain from Ms Ogunsola's residence are more rows of similar apartments. One has an expansive veranda where two old women were sitting and talking.

It is not uncommon for urban Nigerian families to live with older relatives, who also double up as nannies.

And the concern is that these old people could be at risk if the virus spreads.

"They are at home and they are still gathering in crowded conditions. If you were to have someone who has the virus there, the chances of spreading it is high," said Dr Oyewale Odubanjo, a public health expert.

In Italy, many multi-generational families also live together and this is one reason why it has seen more coronavirus deaths than any other country.

All non-essential travel has been banned in most states and many workers, including civil servants, have been told to work from home.

But with a lack of reliable electricity supplies and poor internet connections, it is hard to see how most people will get any work done.

There were long queues at supermarkets after President Buhari announced the lockdown, with people rushing to stock up on essentials.

But many Nigerians live hand-to-mouth, often on less than $1 (£0.80) and they cannot stock up on food or other essentials.

Many workers are also yet to be paid their wages for March so there are deep concerns about the financial implications of a lockdown.

Mr Buhari outlined some measures to ease the hardship, including a one-month advance payment of the monthly $13 given to the poorest of the poor, but most people feel that millions of self-employed Nigerians have been left without financial aid.

"It's only those who have money that can buy now. If you do not have what can you do?" said a taxi driver parked outside a supermarket.

There are also fears that if things get worse in the urban areas, people would ignore the ban on travel and start moving to rural areas - where they are guaranteed food from family farms but where there is a higher population of vulnerable older people and more limited health services.

"That would be bedlam, total madness, if people begin to move to their villages," said town planner Ayobami Bamidele.

"Whatever happens, people should remain where they are. We will survive this," he said.

Early March now seems like a long time ago, when the World Health Organization praised Nigeria for its handling of coronavirus after the first case was reported in the country.

Officials had swiftly identified, traced and quarantined contacts of the Italian man they referred to as the index case.

But now there is growing concern that Nigeria has not done enough to curb the spread of the virus, and its health system is ill-equipped to cope with a major outbreak.

'We shall survive'

Nigeria has few testing kits, but many asymptomatic government officials and music stars are being tested, raising questions about the fairness of the process.

Despite Mr Buhari's promise when he took office to put an end to medical tourism, he and other government officials still go abroad for treatment. However, this is unlikely to happen if any official gets Covid-19.

"Even if you are wealthy, you will have to use the same health facilities with others, whether good or bad - nobody is going to accept a patient from abroad to treat," Dr Odubanjo said.

Lagos and some other states introduced restrictions on large gatherings about a fortnight ago, but many people - including some pastors - are ignoring calls to adhere to social distancing.

Meanwhile, back at a crowded bus stop in Alapere, hawkers competed for every inch of available space to sell their wares, ignoring any thought of social distancing. Most were not concerned about the virus.

"All death is death," a woman selling smoked fish on a tray said in Pidgin, as she nipped between two yellow buses.

"If I stay home, I will die of hunger, if I come out to hustle you say I will die of coronavirus.

"There is nothing we have not seen and we are still here, we shall survive this one," she said, smacking her lips.
Wallace Roney Dead: Miles Davis’ Protege Dies from Covid-19 Complications
By Paul Farrell
Mar 31, 2020 at 3:33pm

Wallace Roney pictured in New York City in May 2013.

Wallace Roney, the legendary jazz trumpeter and protege of Miles Davis, has died at the age of 59. Roney’s cause of death was as a result of coronavirus complications. Roney is survived by his wife, Dawn, as well as three children from a previous marriage.

Rumors of Roney’s death first appeared through multiple posts on the Philadelphia-born legend’s Facebook page. At the time of his death, Roney was living in New Jersey.

Prior to studying with Miles Davis, Roney received his jazz education from Clark Terry and Duke Ellington. Roney studied with Davis from 1985 until the latter’s death in 1991. Roney began his career in the early 1980s and was a member of both Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and the Tony Williams Quintet.

According to publicist Lydia Liebman, Roney died just before noon on March 31. At the time of Roney’s death, the Tri-State Area had become the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Roney’s official website biography, he first became acquainted with Davis in 1983 after Roney performed at Carnegie Hall. That bio goes on to say that in the same year as Davis’ death, the pair performed together at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. In an interview with NAMM in 2018, Roney said that he first met Davis in 1983 following a performance at the Bottom Line Club, a famed jazz club in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Roney once said of the first meeting with Davis, “That was the beginning of a great chapter in my life.”

On his website profile, Roney says of his career, “My goal is to make the best music I can. I enjoy, listen and can play all types of music I filter my expression through the jazz experience.”

In an October 2017 interview with Jazz Online, Roney said that the musician’s style he most closely identified with was “clearly Miles Davis.” During the same interview, Roney said that Davis had given him his greatest piece of advice. The advice was, “Keep playing your horn and don’t let nobody tell you what to do, how to play and how to think or they will end up playing you…. instead of You playing your horn!”

When asked what the next months had in store for him, Roney said that he was still trying to “master” his instrument.

Roney was preceded in death by his wife, Geri Allen. They married in 1995. The couple had two daughters, Laila and Barbara, and a son, Wallace, together.

Allen passed away in 2017. Allen, a famed jazz pianist in her own right, died in June 2017 following a battle with cancer. The couple’s marriage had ended in divorce in 2008, according to Roney’s NPR tribute.

Roney performed on four of Allen’s albums, beginning with “Maroons” in 1992. The final collaboration came in 2006 with, “Timeless Portraits and Dreams.”

In the summer of 2019, Roney released what proved to be his final album, “Blue Dawn – Blue Nights.” Glide Magazine reported that the album was Roney’s 22nd album as a leader. The album did not feature new compositions from Roney.

Among those collaborating on the record was Roney’s 15-year-old nephew, Kojo Odu Roney, who played drums on one track.

Another young musician who contributed to the album, saxophonist Emilio Modeste, told Downbeat about his experiences working with Roney saying, “Wallace taught us how to trust the music. By submitting to the music and trusting it, it allowed everyone in the band to express themselves and contribute in more meaningful ways.”

Roney told Glide Magazine at the time:

My music is uncompromising, so I look for musicians who have an expansive understanding of what’s possible and who have the ability to play above that, but who are always cognizant of what’s going on around them.

I tell them ‘be true to who you are. Go all the way in, learn every part of what the masters have done, but let it come out of you’.

During his interview with Jazz Online, Roney was asked about his philosophy of “playing on the edge.” Roney said his philosophy meant, “To play beyond the moment- Taking chances, stretching the melody and choosing notes in the chord that most people wouldn’t hear. While at the same time stretching your technical ability beyond the limits.”

Roney said in an October 2019 interview with All About Jazz that due to the “beauty” of jazz music, you have to be an “accomplished musician” to perform it.

Roney continued saying, “However, there are other musics where you’re not accomplished, but music springs up out of you anyway. It’s not what I do, and it’s not what I prefer to listen to, but I’m not critical of it.”
DIRCO WORKING ON RESCUE PLAN FOR SOUTH AFRICANS STRANDED IN LOCKDOWNS ABROAD
South Africa is not the only country that implemented restrictions on people’s movements, travel, and trade among others - many other countries are also under lockdown.

FILE: International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor. Picture: @DIRCO_ZA/Twitter

Clement Manyathela
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Government on Monday said it was working with its ambassadors across the world to rescue South Africans stranded in other countries as a result of the lockdowns implemented by many nations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21 days lockdown in the country, which started on Friday as the country tried to contain the spread of the COVID-19.

The announcement was followed by the shutdown of operations by airlines in the country.

South Africa is not the only country that implemented restrictions on people’s movements, travel, and trade among others - many other countries are also under lockdown.

This led to airlines across many nations shutting down operations, leaving many stranded including eight South Africans in Qatar.

“There are eight of them there, the first 48-hours was really chaotic and they were sleeping on the floor and trying to make things happen. They didn’t have personal protective equipment,” said Clifford Hanks, the father of one of those South Africans.

Other citizens were trapped in the UK, Morocco, and Ghana amongst other countries.

The Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said government was aware.

“The minister has asked embassies to collect information to understand exactly how many South Africans across the world are stranded so that we can be able to make a decision,” he said.

Ngqengelele said Minister Naledi Pandor would announce how government would rescue these South Africans in due course.
South African Police Enforce Lock Down
Members of the SANDF conducted stop and search operations demanding essential service permits from individuals and motorists.

A South African policeman points his pump rifle to disperse a crowd of shoppers in Yeoville, Johannesburg, on 28 March 2020 while trying to enforce a safety distance outside a supermarket amid concern of the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. Picture: AFP

Edwin Ntshidi
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Police in Hillbrow are applying a no-nonsense approach to people who are not complying with the national lockdown regulations.

Members of the police and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) are on Monday patrolling the streets of Hillbrow after once again dispersing groups of people in the area.

On Friday, shops were closed and crowds dispersed after residents defied the call to stay at home.

Community members are defying the police who took action on Monday afternoon.

Members of the SANDF conducted stop and search operations demanding essential service permits from individuals and motorists.

Earlier, they fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds and a number of people have been arrested.

The SANDF is expected to remain in the area.
SOLIDARITY RELIEF FUND 'CAN'T PROVIDE RELIEF' FOR SMMES
President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announced government had set up the independent fund to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Picture: pixabay.com

Thando Kubheka
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The Solidarity Relief fund on Monday said its main focus was to provide the country with health and humanitarian support, adding it didn’t have the capacity to help struggling small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs).

President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announced government had set up the independent fund to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus and the 21 days nationwide lockdown to curb its spread.

The fund gave an update on its mandate and the donations received so far.

Ramaphosa established the Solidarity Relief Fund in an effort to mobilise and coordinate efforts and resources from South Africans and the global community to help alleviate the impact of COVID-19. It had so far raised R500 million.

The fund's Nicola Galombik said R100 million was already set aside to assist healthcare workers.

“To enable the urgent process of critically needed personal protective equipment to protect health workers,” she said.

The team appointed to head the relief fund stressed that its efforts were targeted at the healthcare sector and assisting the most vulnerable and that it could not provide soft loans to struggling SMMEs.

Monday, March 30, 2020

RAMAPHOSA: 3 COVID-19 DEATHS RECORDED IN SA, WITH 1,326 CASES
In his address to the nation on Monday night, the president said the decision to place the country under lockdown was a difficult but necessary one to fight the spread of the virus.

A screengrab of President Cyril Ramaphosa on 30 March 2020.

Winnie Theletsane

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa said as of Monday, the number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa were at 1,326 while the virus had claimed three lives so far.

In his address to the nation on Monday night, the president said the decision to place the country under lockdown was a difficult but necessary one to fight the spread of the virus.

"As a nation, we were deeply saddened to learn that, in the last few days, three South Africans have died from the disease. We convey our sympathies and condolences to their families and friends and to their communities."

He said the public mostly responded positively to the lockdown: "I would like to thank the people of South Africa for acting in a disciplined manner through this very difficult period. We are, however, concerned about those who have not yet appreciated the seriousness of this disease."

Ramaphosa warned those who didn't obey the rules of the lockdown that they were not only putting their own lives at risk, but the lives of others as well.

"It infects the rich and the poor, the young and the old, black and white, those who live in the cities and those in the villages. Let us not make the mistake of thinking this is somebody else’s problem.

He once again took the opportunity to remind the public about who is allowed to leave their homes and under what circumstance.

"The only people who can go to work are health workers, security and emergency personnel, those who work to keep our people supplied with food, medicine and basic goods and other providers of essential services as defined in the regulations. Leave your home only if you need to get food and essential provisions, collect a social grant, buy medicine or get urgent medical care."

He said while Moody’s had downgraded the country to junk status, that would not affect efforts to beat the coronavirus.

“We are working together with our social partners to identify further measures we can take to limit the damage on our economy, and to ensure that as we emerge from this pandemic we set our economy on a clear path of growth.”

NEW PHASE

Ramaphosa said 10,000 field workers would be deployed to screen, test and trace coronavirus patients at their homes countrywide.

“Around 10,000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns and cities to screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms. People with symptoms will be referred to local clinics or mobile clinics for testing. People who are infected with coronavirus, but who have no or moderate symptoms will remain in isolation at home or at a facility provided by government and those with severe symptoms will be transferred to hospitals.”

He said this plan was intense and unprecedented.

“Using mobile technology, an extensive tracing system will be rapidly deployed to trace those who have been in contact with confirmed coronavirus cases and to monitor the geographical location of new cases in real time.”

The president also thanked the Motsepe family and Naspers who have donated R1 billion and R1.5 billion respectively and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma for his donation of medical supplies.

“We are now entering a new phase in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In the coming days, government will be rolling out a screening, testing, tracing and medical management programme on a huge scale.”
1,108 PEOPLE ARRESTED IN 3 DAYS FOR CONTRAVENING LOCKDOWN RULES: CELE
Police Minister Bheki Cele said those arrested were linked to over 200 incidents.

FILE: Police Minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN.

Nkosikhona Duma
Eyewitness News

DURBAN - Police Minister Bheki Cele on Monday said over 1,000 people were arrested in the country since Friday for violating lockdown conditions.

Cele said those arrested were linked to over 200 incidents.

The minister gave an update while performing an oversight visit at KwaMashu, in KwaZulu-Natal, as the country marked its first day of social grants collection for April.

“In three days, we arrested 1,108 people. We will continue to nudge them towards compliance. We will push them when the need comes. The regulations that are there must be respected,” Cele said.

Cele said it was concerning that there were people who were still not complying with regulations under the national lockdown.

He said law enforcement officers would not hesitate to act against those who deliberately disregarded the law.
Sasol Making Alcohols for Sanitizers to Fight Coronavirus
By Roxanne Henderson
Bloomberg
March 29, 2020, 8:02 AM EDT

Sasol Ltd. is producing alcohols for hand sanitizers and disinfectants, and prioritizing local supply to help contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The oil and chemicals company has come up with a blend of alcohols that can be quickly produced as demand rises in South Africa, Sasol said in a statement. It is supplying government entities and essential services in the country ahead of other clients.

“Over the past few weeks, Sasol has experienced an increase in demand of nearly 400% for alcohol-based products,” said Chief Executive Officer Fleetwood Grobler. The company has delivered about 8 million liters (2.1 million gallons) to the South African market and its own laboratories in recent weeks, he said.

Africa’s most industrialized economy had 1,187 confirmed Covid-19 cases as of March 28. It is on the third day of a three-week lockdown.
Eritrea's Coronavirus Cases Double
By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
Africa News

March 29, 2020: Eritrea cases double

Six more passengers that came to Eritrea prior to the ban on flights, (enforced on March 25), were diagnosed positive for COVID-19 during tests carried out in the past three days.

Five of these are women while their age ranges from 32 to 60. Four of these patients were quarantined originally on arrival at Amara International Airport.

The two asymptomatic patients were not, however, quarantined on arrival as none of the passengers in that flight exhibited any symptom during screening at the Airport at the time.

The total number of confirmed cases in the country has now reached 12. All the patients are receiving necessary medical treatment.

March 26, 2020: Eritrea cases up to six

Two other passengers who returned home with Air Arabia Airlines on Monday 23 March tested positive, bringing the total number of patients in the country diagnosed with COVID-19 to six. All the patients are receiving necessary treatment and their condition remains satisfactory.

As underlined in previous weeks, the Government of Eritrea has been, and continues to take, several important measures to contain and fully stop the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. In this respect, the MoH issues the following additional guidelines today:

1. All institutions of learning – from Kindergarten to Colleges – will be closed starting tomorrow, 27 March 2020.

2. All public transport vehicles – buses, minibuses and taxis – in all the cities will stop services from 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, March 27th. Use of trucks for public transport is illicit and punishable by law.

3. With the exception of those who may be granted special permit by the competent authority in urgent circumstances, all public transport services from one Region to another, or from one city to another, will likewise be stopped from 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, 27 March 2020.

4. These guidelines will remain effective until further notice.

5. Although all Government institutions play a significant role in the effective implementation of the current and previous guidelines, it is nonetheless incumbent on every citizen to act with due diligence and responsibility to ensure his/her own good health and safety as well as those of his/her family.

6. The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor developments and trends regarding COVID-19 and issue, as necessary, further information and guidelines.

Source: Ministry of Information

March 25, 2020: Eritrea cases up to four, commercial flights banned

1. Three passengers who arrived in Asmara from Dubai with flight Air Arebi on Saturday 23 March at 5:00 a.m. LT, were diagnosed positive for COVID-19, today. All three passengers are Eritrean nationals resident in the country.

This puts the total number of infected individuals, to-date, to four. The passengers who were on the same flight with the patients and all those who came in physical contact with them have been quarantined.

All the patients are receiving necessary treatment at Villagio Hospital (Asmara) and remain in satisfactory condition.

2. In this connection, commercial passenger flights to and from Eritrea will not be allowed from midnight today, (25 March 2020). The ban will remain effective for two weeks until further review.

3. The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor developments and trends regarding COVID-19 and issue, as necessary, further information and guidelines.

March 23, 2020: Eritrea issues stricter guidelines

Eritrea’s Ministry of Health has issued its third in a series of coronavirus related Public Guidelines. The rules come in the wake of the index case of the pandemic in the county.

“… an Eritrean national resident in Norway who flew to Asmara last Saturday, March 21st, was confirmed positive for COVID-19. The patient is receiving all necessary treatment while passengers who travelled on the same Airline were subsequently quarantined,” a statement from the Ministry of information said.

The Ministry urged the entire populace to “take utmost precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic and to strictly implement Government guidelines for the safety of their own lives and the country.”

The additional guidelines include:
1. Every person should avoid non-essential movement within the city or village of residence as well as travel to other places inside the country. Every person should likewise avoid travel by bus, mini-bus and taxis unless in emergencies.

2. All public gatherings, sport and cultural events that assemble a crowd of more than 10 people are prohibited. Cinemas and night-clubs will remain closed until further notice. Social distancing must be heeded to in other commercial units and centers.

3. Aggregation of more than 10 people at social events (funerals, weddings, mourning, baptism and other gatherings) is banned.

4. Every citizen must observe, and same instruction is being given by religious leaders to the faithful, prayers and associated religious sermons in their homes.

5. All Eritrean nationals living abroad are urged to take all necessary precautionary measures for their own safety, the safety of their families as well as the Eritrean communities. They should also refrain from travelling to Eritrea.

6. Stringent legal measures will be taken on all individuals and commercial enterprises that engage in hoarding and speculative price hikes by misconstruing the precautionary measures that are being taken to safeguard the safety of the Eritrean people and the country.

7. The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor developments regarding COVID-19 and issue additional information and guidelines as necessary.

March 21, 2020: Eritrea records index case (Statement)

A 39-year old Eritrean national who has permanent residence in Norway arrived at Asmara International Airport at 7:00 a.m. today, March 21st, from Norway with Fly Dubai.

The patient exhibited symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) at the screening process in the airport. He was quarantined promptly and diagnosed positive for COVID-19 after subsequent tests at the National Health laboratory. The patient is receiving all necessary treatment.

March 18, 2020: Eritrea national exams underway

Eritrea like most countries across the continent is taking precautions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The country is however going on with academic activity relative to the National School Leaving Examination 2019/2020 which started on Wednesday 18 March across the country.

A statement from the Ministry of Education quoted Dr. Bisrat Gebru, Director of the National Testing Center, as confirming that “the examination will continue until the 23rd of this month, and will include 13 fields of studies.

“Dr. Bisrat also indicated that a total of 14,960 students including 7,149 females are sitting in the examination that is being conducted in 8 testing stations.”

The director further disclose that the parallel examination that was given in the International Eritrean Community Schools in Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has been halted due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Eritrea, South Sudan, Burundi and Uganda are the few countries in the East Africa / Horn of Africa region to have managed to keep out the COVID-19 pandemic so far.

March 17, 2020: Coronavirus-free Eritrea bans all internal, external travel

Eritrea’s Ministry of Health also issued additional guidelines to all nationals & expatriates residing in the country. They have not recorded any case yet even though neighbours Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea have one, one and six cases respectively – as at March 18. The Sudan case has resulted in death.

The guidelines basically bans all travels within and outside of the country.

1. Every person should refrain from internal & foreign travel unless this is for extremely urgent & unavoidable purposes;
2. Every person must avoid, in as much as this is possible, public gatherings;
3. Foreign travel from & to Eritrea has diminished significantly on the basis of the MoH guidelines issued last week. This will be bolstered further henceforth to fully restrict travel from, and to, Eritrea except in urgent & unavoidable circumstances

March 12, 2020: Eritrea’s coronavirus rules: Chinese, Italians, Iranians to be quarantined
Eritrea’s Health Ministry has issued guidelines relative to the recent coronavirus outbreak. The March 11 statement addresses local and international audiences in the areas of education and of entry into the Horn of Africa.

The statement says persons originating from or with recent travel history to four virus-impacted countries will be quarantined. The countries are China, Italy, South Korea and Iran.

Even though the government through the ministry has announced a quarantine, according to the Africa Disease Control Center based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Eritrea was among a handful African countries that do not have the capacity to test for the virus.

Eritrea is not the only country resorting to quarantining persons from or connected to particular countries. The Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC; announced similar measure for Germans, Italians, French and Chinese. Uganda has also announced quarantine for persons from 16 high-risk nations.

The Ministry confirmed that there was no case recorded in the country so far adding that since the country was “linked by land, air, and sea with several countries affected by the disease…. (it was) urgent and imperative for Eritrea to take precautionary measures to prevent the outbreak and spread of the disease as well as to prepare for all possible scenarios.

The closest neighbour of Eritrea to have recorded a case is Egypt, the first African country to record a case and a death. It currently has Africa’s highest infection rate with over 50 confirmed cases.

In view of these facts, the Ministry of Health issues the following guidelines:

1. Continuous sensitization campaigns will be disseminated through the various local media outlets in order to provide timely and full information to the general public. These announcements must be followed with due diligence.

2. In view of the potential gravity of the situation and for the sake of their own safety as well as the safety of the Eritrean people, the Ministry of Health urges all nationals and foreigners who may have plans to travel to, and from Eritrea, to postpone their plans on their own volition.

3. The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor developments earnestly to assess occurrence, rate and extent of contagion, and other vital parameters and symptoms of the epidemic. It will accordingly issue appropriate announcements and guidelines.

4. Visitors who originate directly from, or who have transited through, China, Italy, South Korea and Iran will be quarantined.
Africa Is Two to Three Weeks Away From Height of Virus Storm
By Prinesha Naidoo
Bloomberg
March 30, 2020, 1:37 AM EDT

$100 billion emergency stimulus needed to curb virus: UN panel
 Africa yet to experience a crisis on the scale of Covid-19

Africa is two to three weeks away from the worst of the coronavirus storm and needs an emergency economic stimulus of $100 billion to bolster preventative measures and support its fragile healthcare systems, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Almost half of the funds could come from waiving interest payments to multilateral institutions. That would give countries the fiscal space needed to impose social-distancing measures, widen social safety nets and equip hospitals to treat the sick ahead of an expected surge in infections, UNECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe said by phone from Washington.

“If we want to have a fighting chance, we need it immediately,” she said. “In the next two to three weeks, if we act really decisively, we may be able to flatten the curve and then when the storm comes it will be not be as brutal as we see in Europe.”

One measure that can provide some immediate relief is the creation of the special purpose vehicle requested by African finance ministers through which interest payments on sovereign bonds could be sequestered and provide all countries on the continent, regardless of income level, with support, she said.

A lack of resources and staff means authorities must work fast to limit the spread of the disease on a continent where hospitals have an average of just 1.8 beds per 1,000 people, UNECA data show. While Africa accounts for 1% of global health expenditure, it carries 23% of the disease burden, including hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.

“Our hospital systems are so weak and so stressed already that another stress on them is going to break them,” Songwe said.

There are more than 4,000 Covid-19 infections in 46 countries across the continent, according to the Addis Ababa-based Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The continent has never experienced a crisis of the scale and magnitude caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Songwe said. While its impact is likely to be felt for 12 to 18 months -- with a loss of lives, jobs and businesses as economies grind to a halt -- the potential loss of health care providers and schooling would also weigh on the continent’s health and education sectors for years to come, she said.

A coordinated global effort is required to assist countries and businesses, and support the recovery of economies across the world, she said.

“If there is one African country or one country anywhere in the world that still has the coronavirus, the whole world has it. We’ve seen the speed of contamination and how quickly it can re-spread,” Songwe said.

(Updates with latest number of infections in third paragraph after Stressed Systems subheadline)
South Africa’s Rand Hits Record Low After Debt Downgrade
Coronavirus inflicts further damage on country already hit by poor economic growth

South Africa has been put under a three-week lockdown by president Cyril Ramaphosa © AP

Joseph Cotterill in Johannesburg
Financial Times

The South African rand hit a record low against the US dollar after Moody’s removed the last investment-grade credit rating for Africa’s most industrialised economy, citing the hit to economic growth from the coronavirus pandemic.

The rand weakened as much as 2 per cent to move past 18 against the US dollar on Monday, following the rating agency’s downgrade of South African debt to junk on Friday. By mid-afternoon, the currency had regained a little ground to trade at 17.99.

The Moody’s downgrade completed South Africa’s descent into junk status after rivals S&P Global and Fitch Ratings removed their investment-grade ratings in 2017, highlighting mounting strains on public finances and persistently poor economic growth.

South African bonds will now be removed from indices used worldwide to track investment-grade debt, adding to pressure on the currency as some investors will be forced by their mandates to sell their holdings.

Moody’s kept the country’s debt on a negative outlook as it said that the shutdown of pandemic-struck economies around the world “will exacerbate” economic and fiscal challenges.

“South Africa is entering a period of much lower global growth in an economically vulnerable position,” the rating agency said. “The government's own capacity to limit the economic deterioration . . . is constrained.”

The country is under a three-week lockdown ordered by president Cyril Ramaphosa. Cases of coronavirus in South Africa have surged past 1,000.

Even before the crisis, government debts were expected to rise to more than two-thirds of economic output as a result of costly bailouts for struggling state companies and weak growth.

“To say we are not concerned and trembling in our boots about what might be in the coming weeks and months is an understatement,” said Tito Mboweni, the South African finance minister, at the weekend.

FTSE Russell, operator of the widely-used benchmark World Government Bond index, has postponed the removal of South African bonds until the end of April because of what it called “extremely stressed” markets.

South African bonds have a weighting of about 0.4 per cent in the index, which implies up to $10bn of forced selling, according to UBS analysts. They said part of this outflow was likely to have taken place, adding: “As a rough rule of thumb, we estimate that a $5bn portfolio outflow shock can be neutralised by a 5 to 10 per cent depreciation in the real exchange rate.”

The rand has lost more than a quarter of its value this year.

South African government debt has sharply sold off in recent weeks as investors pulled money out of emerging markets at a record pace.

The yield on South African 10-year bonds rose above 12 per cent last week before the country’s central bank announced it would begin buying government debt in secondary markets to calm the turmoil.
CORONAVRIUS TASK FORCE BRIEFING LIVE STREAM MONDAY: HOW TO WATCH WHITE HOUSE'S LATEST COVID-19 UPDATES
BY EMILY CZACHOR
Newsweek
3/30/20 AT 1:00 PM EDT

Members of the Coronavirus Task Force will convene again Monday afternoon for a press briefing to discuss the most recent developments surrounding COVID-19. The conference, scheduled for 5 p.m. EST, will be available to watch online via multiple platforms.

Both the White House's official website and YouTube page will stream the press conference live, allowing interested parties to tune in as it takes place in real time. The task force, formed in late January at the coronavirus pandemic's onset and chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, began holding televised daily briefings in response to COVID-19's accelerated impact across the United States.

President Donald Trump regularly participates in these televised updates. During Sunday's news conference, which broadcast from the White House's James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, Trump announced the administration's decision to extend social distancing regulations in the U.S. until April 30. The statement came less than one week after he expressed hopes to restore the country's status quo by Easter—April 12—and just days after the U.S. recorded more coronavirus cases than any nation worldwide, surpassing Italy, Spain and China.

According to the latest numbers reported by Johns Hopkins University, more than 143,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S. as of Monday morning. The diagnoses have led to 2,513 deaths and 4,865 recoveries, though experts have warned that the height of fatalities could still be ahead.

Speaking about the virus' projected influence, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is also a member of the Coronavirus Task Force, told CNN's State of The Union on Sunday that the U.S. could ultimately see between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths as a result of the disease.

"The peak for death rates is likely to hit in two weeks," Trump said during Sunday's task force briefing, adding that he anticipates the country will be "well on our way to recovery" by June 1. Regarding a lengthened timeline for social distance guidelines, which have limited physical gatherings across professional, educational and recreational spaces, he referenced the threat of further spread, adding, "Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before victory is won."

Over to 740,000 positive coronavirus cases have now been identified globally, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker. Since COVID-19's discovery last December, the illness has led to more than 35,000 deaths worldwide and appeared in residents of 177 countries. In total, more than 156,000 people have recovered after testing positive for the disease.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Coronavirus: Nigeria's Lagos State Locked Down by Federal Government
By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
Africa News

Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos is at the center of the country’s coronavirus combat. Lagos has the highest number of confirmed cases (as at March 29) and the state government has continued to roll out multiple measures to deal with the disease.

Lagos has in the past weeks suspended schools across the state – be they public or private, 70% of state government workers were asked to stay at home last week with the most recent move being a week’s closure of shops and markets.

The state, with a population of over 20 million, has also been a major beneficiary of coronavirus intervention funds. Governor Baba Jide Sawo-Olu late last week announced a stimulus package to benefit poor people.

Africanews will put a special spotlight on Lagos and major coronavirus developments coming from the state. Our main Nigeria COVID-19 updates page is also available.

Buhari imposes lockdown on Lagos State

The Federal Government on Sunday, March 29, imposed a lockdown on Lagos State as part of efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

The measure which also affects Ogun state and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, was announced by President Buhari in his first nationwide broadcast over the pandemic.

“Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11pm on Monday, 30th March 2020.

“This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States.

“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.

“The Governors of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Minister of the FCT have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed,” the president said in an address that touched on a range of issues around the pandemic.

On Saturday Macrh 28, Lagos State Government took delivery of a 110-bed isolation facility on the Lagos Island, where confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the State can be managed and treated.

The facility was conceived and built in collaboration with the management of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank). The bank said it was part of its social responsibility in helping combat the pandemic.

Governor Sanwo-Olu allayed the fear of the residents over the growing cases of the disease, saying the State was working assiduously to stem the rate of transmission, especially by those who returned from abroad.

The Governor hinted that there had been improvement in the recovery of some patients currently isolated at the State’s Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Yaba. He said the State would continue to build capacity to enhance its response strategy and actions towards containing the pandemic.

The bank’s CEO Segun Agbaje hailed the State Government for accepting the collaboration offer in building the structure, noting that half of the resources used to build the facility was donated by Africa Finance Corporation.

He expressed optimism that the effort would strengthen the capacity of Lagos to stop the spread of the virus. The isolation facility, which sits on an expansive area in the Mobolaji Olufunsho Johnson Stadium in Onikan.

It is divided into operational sections, including Intensive Care Unit (ICU), regular-bed wards, pharmacy department, doctors’ quarters and consulting rooms. The facility is also equipped with ventilators for the use of patients that may develop acute respiratory symptoms.
Africa’s Biggest City on Lockdown to Curb Virus in Nigeria
By Ruth Olurounbi and Elisha Bala-Gbogbo
Bloomberg
March 29, 2020, 3:01 PM EDT

Hakeem Odumosu, Lagos Commissioner of Police, center, squeezes through a crowded market to monitor compliance measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Lagos on March 26. Photographer: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

We're tracking the latest on the coronavirus outbreak and the global response. Sign up here for our daily newsletter on what you need to know.

Nigeria will restrict all movement of people and ordered businesses and offices closed in its two main cities, Lagos and Abuja, as well as Ogun state -- the three areas in Africa’s most populous nation that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus.

The lockdown will take effect Monday at 11 p.m. and last for an initial period of two weeks, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a speech on state TV Sunday. The first country in sub-Saharan Africa to identify a person who tested positive for the disease, Nigeria now has 97 cases. It’s already closed its borders and halted domestic flights.

Lagos, Africa’s biggest city Africa, is a sprawling metropolis of about 20 million people, and Abuja, the capital, has several million more. Ogun state neighbors Lagos and is an industrial hub.

“We are fully aware that such measures will cause much hardship and inconvenience to many citizens,” Buhari said. “But this is a matter of life and death.”

While travel to or from other states must be restricted, the seaports will remain open for cargo. Private jets will also be grounded and all federal government stadia will be converted into isolation centers and makeshift hospitals, he said.

Among other measures announced by Buhari are the suspension of repayments for credit given to low-income traders and farmers, as well as for manufacturers and agribusinesses that have received funding as part of Buhari’s policy to reduce Nigeria’s dependence on oil.

— With assistance by Dulue Mbachu
Enforcement of Coronavirus Lockdown Turns Violent in Parts of Africa
Africa News

Police fired tear gas at a crowd of Kenyan ferry commuters as the country’s first day of a coronavirus curfew slid into chaos. Elsewhere, officers were captured in mobile phone footage whacking people with batons.

Virus prevention measures have taken a violent turn in parts of Africa as countries impose lockdowns and curfews or seal off major cities. Health experts say the virus’ spread, though still at an early stage, resembles the arc seen in Europe, adding to widespread anxiety.

Cases across Africa were set to climb above 4,000 late Saturday. Abuses of the new measures by authorities are an immediate concern. Minutes after South Africa’s three-week lockdown began Friday, police screamed at homeless people in downtown Johannesburg and went after some with batons.

Some citizens reported the police use of rubber bullets. Fifty-five people across the country were arrested. The country leads Africa with more than 1,000 cases. In an apparent show of force on Saturday, South Africa’s military raided a large workers’ hostel in the Alexandra township where some residents had defied the lockdown.

In Rwanda, the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to impose a lockdown, police have denied that two civilians shot dead Monday were killed for defying the new measures, saying the men attacked an officer after being stopped.

And Zimbabwe, where police are widely criticized by human rights groups for deadly crackdowns, is set to enter a three-week lockdown on Monday. The country’s handful of virus cases already threatens to overwhelm one of the world’s most fragile health systems.

In Kenya, outrage over the the actions of police was swift.

“We were horrified by excessive use of police force” ahead of the curfew that began Friday night, Amnesty International Kenya and 19 other human rights groups said in a statement issued Saturday. “We continue to receive testimonies from victims, eyewitnesses and video footage showing police gleefully assaulting members of the public in other parts of the country.”

The tear gas caused hundreds of people trying to reach a ferry in the port city of Mombasa ahead of the overnight curfew to touch their faces as they vomited, spat and wiped away tears, increasing the chance of the virus’ spread, the rights groups said. Even some health workers reported being intimidated as they tried to provide services after the 7 p.m. curfew.

The police actions were unacceptable and “brutal,” the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission said in a separate statement.

“I am appealing to our people to make it very unnecessary for them to engage with police by staying at home,” Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for health, Mutahi Kagwe, said. “I am also urging the police that people must be treated humanely.” The country has 38 virus cases.

Kenya’s interior ministry on Saturday replied to criticism in a statement saying the curfew “is meant to guard against an apparent threat to public health. Breaking it is not only irresponsible but also puts others in harm’s way.”

Kenya’s government has not said how many people have been arrested. Because courts are also affected by virus prevention measures, all but serious cases will now be dealt with at police stations, the government has said. That means anyone detained for violating curfew faces time in crowded cells.

The Law Society of Kenya will go to court to challenge the curfew on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and has been abused by police, president Nelson Havi said in a statement. The penalty for breaking a curfew is not corporal punishment, he added.

“It is evident that COVID-19 will be spread more by actions of police than of those claimed to have contravened the curfew,” Havi said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

If Kenya goes further and imposes a lockdown, “there is bound to be violence,” said James Shikwati, an economist. People in poor neighborhoods of cities like the capital, Nairobi, will need a way to access food, water and sanitation.

“It will mean for the first day, maybe, they stay indoors,” he said. “Then the second day, when they are hungry, they will move out.”

AP
New Front: Worry Over COVID-19 Spreading in African Refugee Camps
A severe coronavirus outbreak in camps hosting vulnerable people across the continent will have disastrous consequences.

by Jillian Kestler-D'Amours

Scary, distressing, catastrophic: A bleak assessment by experts, humanitarians and epidemiologists on what a severe coronavirus outbreak would look like in countries across Africa sheltering millions of refugees and other vulnerable people.

The virus that swept across the globe has infected more than 660,000 people and killed some 30,000 since it was detected in China late last year. In Africa, the confirmed figures are still fairly low - but on the rise. As of Saturday, 3,924 infections and 117 deaths had been reported across 46 of the continent's 54 countries.

As the rapidly spreading virus gains ground, aid groups warn of the potentially disastrous consequences of a major outbreak of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, in places where healthcare systems are already strained and not easily accessible to large segments of the population.

Lack of funding and years of fighting have gutted critical infrastructure in several parts of the continent, which could leave many countries unable to respond to a surge in infections, said Crystal Ashley Wells, regional spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Nairobi.

For example, in South Sudan, where more than 1.6 million people are internally displaced, it often takes people hours, even days, to reach healthcare facilities, and the leading cause of death is "often preventable: treatable diseases like malaria and diarrhoea", Wells told Al Jazeera.

"We have surgical wards right now that are full of patients recovering from gunshot wounds," she said. "Then you have this healthcare system that has suffered from decades of under-investment and then conflict that has basically left people with little healthcare at best."

Some of the internally displaced in South Sudan have found refuge in overcrowded camps inside UN peacekeeping bases.

"They're literally living surrounded by walls and barbed wire" in tents that are only inches apart, Wells said.

So far, war-scarred South Sudan is one of the few African countries that has not had any confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the government has introduced drastic measures aimed at reducing the risk of spread, such as suspending all air travel and barring public gatherings.

But Wells said the risk is still there: "It's a pretty scary picture to think about - about what a disease like this could do to an already very fragile healthcare system."

In the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where 58 cases have been confirmed to date, COVID-19 has largely been contained in the capital, Kinshasa - unlike past outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola, which struck remote areas.

"Today, it's possible to handle sick patients because the number of patients has not yet exploded," said Jean Paul Katsuva, an epidemiologist working on the COVID-19 response in Kinshasa, a city of 12 million people.

But the general feeling is one of anxiety - especially as people watch countries better-equipped than the DRC struggle under the weight of the pandemic. Serious help is needed, Katsuva said, for "a population that is already in distress because of this situation in which the future is unclear".

'Global issue'

The contagious nature of the coronavirus, coupled with its ability to cause severe illness, has also sparked fears over what could happen if it reaches densely populated refugee camps.

A country that is of particular concern is Burkina Faso, which has registered the most confirmed cases in West Africa - 180 - and nine deaths. An impoverished country of some 20 million people, Burkina Faso has been gripped by an escalating and complex conflict that has caused "explosive displacement" over the past year, according to Wells.

"There are about 765,000 people displaced," she said. "It's up by more than 1,200 percent since 2019 … and it's expected to continue to rise. Security and access to these communities is also really challenging for humanitarian workers."

On the other side of the continent, Kenya has 38 confirmed cases to date - but none among refugees. "We would love to keep it that way," Eujin Byun, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Kenya, told Al Jazeera.

The East African country is home to two major camps: Dadaab, near the country's eastern border with Somalia, had a population of nearly 218,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of February, and Kakuma, in the northwest near the borders with South Sudan and Uganda, counts more than 190,000 refugees.

Byun said having so many people living in close proximity is one of the major risk factors for the spread of the virus, while ensuring that refugees have access to clean water and soap - two of the most effective weapons against it - is critical.

UNHCR has altered its operations in the camps to try to avoid gatherings, Byun said. For example, to reduce the contact between residents and humanitarian workers, it plans to distribute two months' worth of food rations at once, whereas in the past, they were distributed monthly or every two weeks.

The agency has already stopped sending outside missions into the camps to prevent a potential spread of the virus. Staff already in the camps will remain there to provide essential, life-saving services - and they have access to mental health support, Byun said.

Information is also being sent to residents via mobile phone apps such as WhatsApp, she added, to limit social gatherings and "to reduce fear and panic in the refugee camp and prevent any kind of misinformation".

Ninety beds are available inside the Dadaab camp itself to accommodate coronavirus patients, while 25 beds are set up in Kakuma, Byun said. COVID-19 isolation facilities are also set up in nearby Kenyan host communities, and both refugees and residents will have access to them.

"We're not doing this in a silo; we have to communicate and coordinate with the local authority," Byun said, adding that UNHCR welcomed the Kenyan government's decision to include refugees and asylum seekers in its national plan to combat COVID-19.

"This is a global issue, and we have to think [of it] like a global issue - not just like a refugee issue."

Refugees 'sidelined'

Indeed, UNHCR on Wednesday launched a global appeal for $255m to respond to the coronavirus in refugee camps and other vulnerable areas, as part of a wider humanitarian relief plan seeking $2bn.

"We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable - millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, calling for stronger coordination to ensure the more vulnerable countries get the support they need.

On Thursday, the Red Cross called for $823m "to help the world's most vulnerable communities" stop the spread of COVID-19 and recover from the pandemic. That includes migrants and displaced people, homeless people, and those living in disaster-prone areas, among others.

But just how much donor countries will be able to contribute to those funding drives remains an open question. Most governments are struggling to stave off an economic crisis within their own borders and to support their citizens, many of whom have lost their jobs, through the pandemic.

In that context, "governments are going to face some really difficult decisions between allocating scarce resources to their own population and the refugee camp", said Sally Hargreaves, assistant professor in global health at the Institute for Infection and Immunity at St George's University of London.

"Refugees will be the ones that are sidelined in all of this as the governments move towards supporting their own population as best [as] they can," she said.

Hargreaves told Al Jazeera that refugees and IDPs must be included in national COVID-19 plans because they are vulnerable and risk being disproportionately affected by the pandemic. She said it is going to take a significant international effort - and investment - to make sure these groups are not left behind.

"We can't forget about them. We can't leave them to fend for themselves," said Hargreaves. "We need to make sure governments prioritise them - not just their own populations - and [that] they're funded and supported in doing it."

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS
Africa Is Two to Three Weeks Away From Height of Virus Storm
By Prinesha Naidoo
Bloomberg
March 29, 2020, 2:00 AM EDT

 $100 billion emergency stimulus needed to curb virus: UN panel
 Africa yet to experience a crisis on the scale of Covid-19

A member of the South African Police Service (SAPS) enforces social distancing of shoppers outside a supermarket in Yeoville, Johannesburg, on March 28.

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Africa is two to three weeks away from the worst of the coronavirus storm and needs an emergency economic stimulus of $100 billion to bolster preventative measures and support its fragile healthcare systems, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Almost half of the funds could come from waiving interest payments to multilateral institutions. That would give countries the fiscal space needed to impose social-distancing measures, widen social safety nets and equip hospitals to treat the sick ahead of an expected surge in infections, UNECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe said by phone from Washington.

“If we want to have a fighting chance, we need it immediately,” she said. “In the next two to three weeks, if we act really decisively, we may be able to flatten the curve and then when the storm comes it will be not be as brutal as we see in Europe.”

One measure that can provide some immediate relief is the creation of the special purpose vehicle requested by African finance ministers through which interest payments on sovereign bonds could be sequestered and provide all countries on the continent, regardless of income level, with support, she said.

Stressed Systems

A lack of resources and staff means authorities must work fast to limit the spread of the disease on a continent where hospitals have an average of just 1.8 beds per 1,000 people, UNECA data show. While Africa accounts for 1% of global health expenditure, it carries 23% of the disease burden, including hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.

“Our hospital systems are so weak and so stressed already that another stress on them is going to break them,” Songwe said.

There are more than 3,000 Covid-19 infections in 46 countries across the continent, according to the Addis Ababa-based Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The continent has never experienced a crisis of the scale and magnitude caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Songwe said. While its impact is likely to be felt for 12 to 18 months -- with a loss of lives, jobs and businesses as economies grind to a halt -- the potential loss of health care providers and schooling would also weigh on the continent’s health and education sectors for years to come, she said.

A coordinated global effort is required to assist countries and businesses, and support the recovery of economies across the world, she said.

“If there is one African country or one country anywhere in the world that still has the coronavirus, the whole world has it. We’ve seen the speed of contamination and how quickly it can re-spread,” Songwe said.
Trump Says Keeping US Covid-19 Deaths to 100,000 Would Be a ‘Very Good Job’
President extends social distancing rules to 30 April, saying open for Easter plans were only ‘aspirational’

David Smith in Washington
@smithinamerica
Guardian
Sun 29 Mar 2020 21.52 EDT

Donald Trump has extended America’s national shutdown for a month, bowing to public health experts, and scientific reality, and warning that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to come.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, the US president claimed that, if his administration keeps the death toll to 100,000, it will have done “a very good job” – a startling shift from his optimistic predictions of a few days ago when he said he hoped to restart the economy by Easter.

Trump also undermined his plea for unity by uttering falsehoods, verbally abusing reporters and making incendiary allegations that implied health care workers were stealing masks, without providing evidence.

The extended deadline marked a humiliating retreat for the president who, having squandered six precious weeks at the start of the pandemic, more recently complained that the cure is worse than the problem and floated Easter Sunday as a “beautiful timeline” for reopening big swathes of the country.

On Sunday he claimed this had only been “aspirational” as his advisers urged him not to move too hastily. He announced the initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government, which was due to expire on Monday, would be extended to 30 April, and said he hoped normality might return by 1 June.

The guidelines recommend against big group gatherings and urge older people and anyone with existing health problems to stay at home. People were also urged to work at home when possible and avoid restaurants, bars, non-essential travel and shopping trips.

“The modelling estimates that the peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,” Trump told reporters, with the toll already at more than 2,400. “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won. That would be the greatest loss of all.”

He added: “We can expect by June 1st we will be well on our way to recovery.”

The shift came as the full horror of the pandemic appeared to dawn on a president who long downplayed it. Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said the US could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections. Fauci praised the extension as a “wise and prudent” decision.

Trump cited projection models that said potentially 2.2 million people or more could have died had the country tried to “wing it” and not put social distancing measures in place. “I kept asking and we did models,” he said. “These are 2.2 million people would have died.

“And so, if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 – it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 [thousand] and 200,000 – we altogether have done a very good job.”

Trump also appeared to have been rattled by scenes at Elmhurst Hospital where he grew up in Queens, New York. “I’ve been watching that for the last week on television,” he said. “Body bags all over, in hallways.”

“I’ve been watching them bring in trailer trucks, freezer trucks, they’re freezer trucks, because they can’t handle the bodies, there are so many of them. This is essentially in my community, in Queens; Queens, New York. I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before.”

Trump had minimised the threat of the coronavirus for weeks and ignored the pleas of his health secretary to investing in testing kits and breathing apparatus. The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, told CNN’s State of the Union this attitude had cost American lives. “The president, his denial at the beginning, was deadly,” she said.

Trump has long been criticised for refusing to own up to his own mistakes and shifting blame to others. In another lengthy, abrasive press conference, he pushed a conspiracy theory speculating that hospital staff may be stealing N95 masks and selling them on the black market.

The current demand does not square with what hospitals usually use, he told reporters. “It’s a New York hospital, very – it’s packed all the time. How do you go from 10 to 20 [thousand masks per week] to 300,000? Ten [thousand] to 20,000 masks, to 300,000 – even though this is different? Something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Are they going out the back door?”

He added: “How do you go from 10,000 to 300,000? And we have that in a lot of different places. So somebody should probably look into that, because I just don’t see from a practical standpoint how that’s possible to go from that to that.”

When a reporter asked the president to clarify, he asked for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to investigate, adding: “I don’t think it’s hoarding. I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding.”

The comments provoked widespread outrage. Joe Kennedy III, a Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts, tweeted: “We need supplies. We need masks. Our frontlines are suffering. Suggesting otherwise is disgusting.”

Joe Biden, the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said: “This is ridiculous and completely false. Today’s conspiracy mongering from our president is among the most reckless and ignorant moves he has made during this crisis, and there have been many. Lives hang in the balance.”

A White House aide attempts to take the microphone out of the hands of correspondent Yamiche Alcindor as she questions Donald Trump.

As in previous briefings all week, the president picked fights with individual reporters including Yamiche Alcindor, a reporter at PBS NewsHour who is a woman of colour.

When Alcindor questioned him about comments he made during an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity that suggested state governors were making exaggerated demands, Trump retorted: “Why don’t you act in a little more positive? ... It’s always get ya, get ya, get ya. You know what? That’s why nobody trusts the media anymore.”

He added: “Look, let me tell you something, be nice. Don’t be threatening. Be nice.”
Trump Extends Voluntary U.S. Shutdown to April 30 — Weeks Past Prior Goal of Easter
Associated Press
Erin Myers, John Fenoglio
Mar 29, 2020 / 07:15 PM PDT

Bracing the nation for a death toll that could exceed 100,000 people, President Donald Trump on Sunday extended restrictive social distancing guidelines through April, bowing to public-health experts who presented him with even more dire projections for the expanding coronavirus pandemic.

It was a stark shift in tone by the president, who only days ago mused about the country reopening in a few weeks. From the Rose Garden, he said his Easter revival hopes had only been “aspirational.”

The initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government expires Monday and Trump had expressed interest in relaxing the national guidelines at least in parts of the country less afflicted by the pandemic. He instead decided to extend them through April 30, a tacit acknowledgment he'd been too optimistic. Many states and local governments have stiffer controls in place on mobility and gatherings.

Trump's impulse to reopen the country met a sober reality check Sunday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, who said the U.S. could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the pandemic. That warning hardened a recognition in Washington that the struggle against the coronavirus will not be resolved quickly even as Trump expressed a longing for normalcy.

“I want our life back again,” the president told reporters.

Trump, who has largely avoided talk of potential death and infection rates, cited projection models that said potentially 2.2 million people or more could have died had social distancing measures not been put in place. And he said the country would be doing well if it "can hold" the number of deaths “down to 100,000." He said the best case for the country would be for the death rate to peak in about two weeks.

"It's a horrible number," Trump said, but added, “We all together have done a very good job.”

Brought forward by Trump at the outdoor briefing, Fauci said his projection of a potential 100,000 to 200,000 deaths is “entirely conceivable" if not enough is done to mitigate the crisis. He said that helped shape the extension of the guidelines, which he called “a wise and prudent decision.”

Americans are now being called on to prepare for another 30 days of severe economic and social disruption, as schools and businesses are closed and public life is upended. One in 3 Americans remain under state or local government orders to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus.

Trump acknowledged that he may be forced to extend the guidelines again at the end of April, but expressed hope that by June 1, "we should be well on our way to recovery.”

The federal guidelines recommend against group gatherings larger than 10 and urge older people and anyone with existing health problems to stay home. People are urged to work at home when possible and avoid restaurants, bars, non-essential travel and shopping trips.

For more than a week, Trump had been bombarded by calls from outside business leaders who urged him to begin re-opening the nation's economy and warned of catastrophic consequences that could damage his re-election chances if it remained shuttered for much longer.

“The president is right. The cure can't be worse than the disease, and we're going to have to make some difficult trade-offs," Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow had said last Monday, reflecting the thinking of his economic team.

That talk alarmed health experts, who urged Trump to keep encouraging people to stay home. The virus was still spreading, with the peak still weeks away, the experts warned.

In the end, Trump, in the face of dire projections and increasingly alarming images out of New York, sided with his health experts and backed off the idea of loosening recommended restrictions on less impacted parts of the country.

"They're the best in the profession and they didn't like that idea,” he said of Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force.

Trump was clearly moved by the scenes from New York, particularly hard-hit Elmhurst Hospital in his native Queens.

“I've been watching that for the last week on television," he said. ”Body bags all over, in hallways. I've been watching them bring in trailer trucks — freezer trucks, they're freezer trucks, because they can't handle the bodies, there are so many of them. This is essentially in my community, in Queens, Queens, New York," he continued. “I've seen things that I've never seen before.”

Phasing out the recommendations would have been a symbolic nod to business and an affront to public health experts, but may have had little practical impact. States across the country already have their own restrictions in place that, in many cases, are far stricter than the administration's, and those would have remained in place.

Birx and Fauci said even those areas yet to face a significant outbreak must prepare for the eventuality that they will.

“This can happen anywhere," Fauci said. "And that's really one of the issues that we're concerned about and why we were so reluctant to pull back at a time when we need to put our foot on the gas as opposed to on the brake.”

The U.S. had more than 139,000 COVID-19 cases reported by Sunday evening, with more than 2,400 deaths. During the course of the Rose Garden briefing, reported deaths grew by several dozen and the number of cases by several thousand.

Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. Hospitals in the most afflicted areas are straining to handle patients and some are short of critical supplies.

Fauci's prediction would take the death toll well past that of the average seasonal flu. Trump repeatedly cited the flu's comparatively much higher cost in lives in playing down the severity of this pandemic.

Trump's change in tone was previewed Saturday, when the president suggested then backed away from instituting an “enforceable” quarantine of hard-hit New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Instead, the White House task force recommended a travel advisory for residents of those states to limit non-essential travel to slow the spread of the virus to other parts of the U.S.

The quarantine notion was strongly opposed by the governors of those states, who argued it would cause panic.

Even as he opted against the quarantine, Trump on Sunday suggested without evidence that hospitals and hospital systems were “hoarding” ventilators and other medical supplies that were needed in other areas of the state. He also encouraged the Food and Drug Administration to streamline approvals for companies seeking to sanitize badly needed respirators so they can be reused.

For weeks, Trump minimized the gravity of the pandemic, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday accused Trump of “denial” in the crisis and called it “deadly."

Asked whether she believes that attitude cost American lives, Pelosi told CNN: “Yes, I am. I'm saying that."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, said he wouldn't go so far as to lay the blame for deaths on the president. “I think that's a little too harsh," he told NBC.
Trump Extends Social Distancing Guidelines Through April 30 to Keep US Coronavirus Death Toll Below 100,000
SUN, MAR 29 20206:14 PM EDT
Emma Newburger
@EMMA_NEWBURGER

KEY POINTS
President Donald Trump on Sunday extended the national social distancing guidelines to April 30, walking back his previous remarks that he wanted the country to reopen for business by Easter.
“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory has been won,” Trump said at an evening press briefing after suggesting that the coronavirus death rate would likely peak in two weeks.
Public health experts had warned that loosening restrictions by Easter, on April 12, would result in unnecessary death and economic damage.
Trump said the administration is working to keep the projected death toll below 100,000. 

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 29, 2020.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Sunday extended the national social distancing guidelines to April 30 in effort to keep the projected coronavirus death toll in the U.S. from reaching a catastrophic, worst-case scenario.

Trump’s announcement walked back his previous remarks that he wanted the country to reopen for business by Easter. Public health experts have warned that loosening restrictions by Easter, on April 12, would result in unnecessary death and economic damage.

“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory has been won,” Trump said at an evening press briefing after suggesting that the coronavirus death rate would likely peak in two weeks. The president claimed Sunday that Easter was just an “aspiration” and he hopes the country will “be well on our way to recovery” by June 1.

Trump said his administration was extending the guidelines in order to avoid a major death toll. The president pointed to modeling that forecast 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. if drastic measures weren’t taken to mitigate the outbreak. Trump said the administration is working to keep the projected death toll below 100,000. 

“So if we can hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000, it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job,” Trump said.

Earlier in the day, White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said the country could see up to 200,000 deaths and millions of infections, though he cautioned that the numbers are based on models and nothing is certain.

There are about 140,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., and at least 2,400 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

While Trump can issue federal guidelines, the president doesn’t have the power to decide if the country can reopen, since those decisions are being made by governors on a state-by-state basis. The Trump administration’s guidance advises people to stay mostly at home and avoid groups of more than 10.

States across the country have ordered residents to stay mostly indoors, and schools, restaurants and other businesses have shuttered. The CDC has urged New York, New Jersey and Connecticut residents to avoid non-essential travel for 14 days.

Trump also alleged on Sunday that hospitals and healthcare workers were hoarding ventilators, which are in scarce supply across the country. The president cited no evidence to back up the claim and it was not clear what facilities he was referring to.

City and state officials have consistently called for more medical supplies as hospitals see a major influx of patients. 
What Happens to People's Lungs When They Get Coronavirus?
Respiratory physician John Wilson explains the range of Covid-19 impacts, from no symptoms to severe illness featuring pneumonia

Graham Readfearn
@readfearn  Email
Sat 28 Mar 2020 04.26 EDT

Respiratory physician John Wilson explains the range of Covid-19 impacts. This image shows a CT scan from a man with Covid-19. Pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus can show up as distinctive hazy patches on the outer edges of the lungs, indicated by arrows.
 Respiratory physician John Wilson explains the range of Covid-19 impacts. This image shows a CT scan from a man with Covid-19. Pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus can show up as distinctive hazy patches on the outer edges of the lungs, indicated by arrows. Photograph: AP
What became known as Covid-19, or the coronavirus, started in late 2019 as a cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause. The cause of the pneumonia was found to be a new virus – severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or Sars-CoV-2. The illness caused by the virus is Covid-19.

Now declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the majority of people who contract Covid-19 suffer only mild, cold-like symptoms.

WHO says about 80% of people with Covid-19 recover without needing any specialist treatment. Only about one person in six becomes seriously ill “and develops difficulty breathing”.

So how can Covid-19 develop into a more serious illness featuring pneumonia, and what does that do to our lungs and the rest of our body?

How is the virus affecting people?

Guardian Australia spoke with Prof John Wilson, president-elect of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and a respiratory physician.

He says almost all serious consequences of Covid-19 feature pneumonia.

Wilson says people who catch Covid-19 can be placed into four broad categories.

The least serious are those people who are “sub-clinical” and who have the virus but have no symptoms.

Next are those who get an infection in the upper respiratory tract, which, Wilson says, “means a person has a fever and a cough and maybe milder symptoms like headache or conjunctivitis”.

He says: “Those people with minor symptoms are still able to transmit the virus but may not be aware of it.”

The largest group of those who would be positive for Covid-19, and the people most likely to present to hospitals and surgeries, are those who develop the same flu-like symptoms that would usually keep them off work.

A fourth group, Wilson says, will develop severe illness that features pneumonia.

He says: “In Wuhan, it worked out that from those who had tested positive and had sought medical help, roughly 6% had a severe illness.”

The WHO says the elderly and people with underlying problems like high blood pressure, heart and lung problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

How does the pneumonia develop?

When people with Covid-19 develop a cough and fever, Wilson says this is a result of the infection reaching the respiratory tree – the air passages that conduct air between the lungs and the outside.

He says: “The lining of the respiratory tree becomes injured, causing inflammation. This in turn irritates the nerves in the lining of the airway. Just a speck of dust can stimulate a cough.

“But if this gets worse, it goes past just the lining of the airway and goes to the gas exchange units, which are at the end of the air passages.

“If they become infected they respond by pouring out inflammatory material into the air sacs that are at the bottom of our lungs.”

If the air sacs then become inflamed, Wilson says this causes an “outpouring of inflammatory material [fluid and inflammatory cells] into the lungs and we end up with pneumonia.”

He says lungs that become filled with inflammatory material are unable to get enough oxygen to the bloodstream, reducing the body’s ability to take on oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide.

“That’s the usual cause of death with severe pneumonia,” he says.

How can the pneumonia be treated?

Prof Christine Jenkins, chair of Lung Foundation Australia and a leading respiratory physician, told Guardian Australia: “Unfortunately, so far we don’t have anything that can stop people getting Covid-19 pneumonia.

“People are already trialling all sorts of medications and we’re hopeful that we might discover that there are various combinations of viral and anti-viral medications that could be effective. At the moment there isn’t any established treatment apart from supportive treatment, which is what we give people in intensive care.

“We ventilate them and maintain high oxygen levels until their lungs are able to function in a normal way again as they recover.”

Wilson says patients with viral pneumonia are also at risk of developing secondary infections, so they would also be treated with anti-viral medication and antibiotics.

“In some situations that isn’t enough,” he says of the current outbreak. “The pneumonia went unabated and the patients did not survive.”

Is Covid-19 pneumonia different?

Jenkins says Covid-19 pneumonia is different from the most common cases that people are admitted to hospitals for.

“Most types of pneumonia that we know of and that we admit people to hospital for are bacterial and they respond to an antibiotic.

Wilson says there is evidence that pneumonia caused by Covid-19 may be particularly severe. Wilson says cases of coronavirus pneumonia tend to affect all of the lungs, instead of just small parts.

He says: “Once we have an infection in the lung and, if it involves the air sacs, then the body’s response is first to try and destroy [the virus] and limit its replication.”

But Wilson says this “first responder mechanism” can be impaired in some groups, including people with underlying heart and lung conditions, diabetes and the elderly.

Jenkins says that, generally, people aged 65 and over are at risk of getting pneumonia, as well as people with medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer or a chronic disease affecting the lungs, heart, kidney or liver, smokers, Indigenous Australians, and infants aged 12 months and under.

“Age is the major predictor of risk of death from pneumonia. Pneumonia is always serious for an older person and in fact it used to be one of the main causes of death in the elderly. Now we have very good treatments for pneumonia.

“It’s important to remember that no matter how healthy and active you are, your risk for getting pneumonia increases with age. This is because our immune system naturally weakens with age, making it harder for our bodies to fight off infections and diseases.”