Tuesday, March 31, 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday that 10,000 health workers would be sent to people’s homes to test for the COVID-19.

Gauteng healthcare workers screening Alexandra residents for coronavirus (COVID-19) on 31 March 2020 following the roll out of massive community screenings and testing programmes by the provincial executive council. Picture: Ahmed Kajee/EWN.

Thando Kubheka & Veronica Mokhoali & Edwin Ntshidi
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - As the country kicked off a massive coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and screening programme, the Department of Health on Tuesday said over 5,000 field workers were already mobilised and would be spread out across the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday that 10,000 health workers would be sent to people’s homes to test for the COVID-19. The government would also use mobile technology to track and trace contacts of those infected with the virus.

The Health Department said it already began mobilising field workers and the number would reach 10,000 in the coming days.

Health Department deputy director general Dr Yogan Pillay said: “We have organised 5,400 field workers and over the next couple of days, we will get up to the 10,000 as the president had mentioned.”

Pillay said officials would be targeting communities where there were already infections such as Alexandra and Khayelitsha.

“So that we can then quickly prevent this infection from spreading in those communities,” he said.

Testing began in Alexandra on Tuesday where the area’s first COVID-19 patient had resided.


Meanwhile, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) urged South Africans to refrain from purchasing face masks if they are not infected with COVID-19 or working as healthcare practitioners.

The NICD echoed the World Health Organisation’s sentiments as medical professionals around the world faced a mass shortage of protective equipment.

The institute’s Dr Juno Thomas said there was no evidence that face masks were effective in preventing the general public from getting the coronavirus.

“If members of the public are wearing face masks indiscriminately, it means that there are going to be fewer face masks available for sick people and more importantly for healthcare workers, which will place that very important segment of the population in a very high risk of being infected,” she said.

Thomas suggested that masks could put users at risk if not used or disposed of properly.

“People that wear face masks and keep on touching them… they’re indirectly infecting themselves.”


At the same time, the Gauteng government will dispatch 4,000 community health workers to conduct COVID-19 tests across the province.

Premier David Makhura announced this at the Stjwetla informal settlement in Alexandra on Tuesday. That is where one person tested positive for the virus.

The man left Gauteng while waiting for his results and ignored instructions from officials. He was then arrested and put into isolation in Limpopo.

Makhura said tests across the province were the beginning of a mass testing drive of people.

“More than 4,000 community health workers involved in this intensive mass testing are spread throughout the five regions in our province. By Sunday, we had 69 testing sites throughout the province,” he said.

Community members welcomed the move, saying they wanted to know their status.
Economic and Social Effects of Coronavirus
Revealed global inequality or similarity? A natural observation on the economic and social effects of Coronavirus’s non-location boundedness in the 21st-century globalized earth

By Kujiek Ruot Kuajien

The most infamous name at least by global standards since its surfacing on the planet is the previously unknown virus (Covid-19). Newsrooms have become centre stage for global updates as well as social media with all sort of analysts passing their views on the web. The sports world has its curtains lowered, no beautiful game by The Arsenal, Barcelona, Gor Mahia or Riathin Nyuong FC to entertain football lovers, not to mention other sports being off their normal arenas. Comedians try to create fun only some time to realize they too might become a victim and the fun creations die down. Terms like lockdown and curfews becoming household bandwagon vocabularies that toddler aspiring to improve their language skills grapple with every day, wondering why their parents have all of a sudden switched to using such words and not others like go to sleep baby, I am tired from work I can’t play today et cetera.

According to WHO’s Country Office in China on 31 December 2019, pneumonia of unknown cause was deterred in Wuhan [1], which then accelerated to a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by 30th January 2020. From this point on, it has been a suffering and unfortunate loss of lives globally. The international community in an attempt to assist the most vulnerable in states with weaker health systems will appeal for about US$675 million to curb this deadly virus. The UN on 25th March 2020 appealed even for a higher amount as global humanitarian response, $2 billion to invest in humanity in the most vulnerable countries. The next big question for an ordinary human will be, how do we determine a vulnerable country? The virus seems to hit both in the developed and developing world. With the experience the UN and other humanitarian agencies have over the years, we surely should leave the answer to the question to them for they will have a way forward. Having experienced what, the UN can do first hand, there is no need to doubt its essential contributions during these global trying times.

Reveal inequality or similarity?

The so coined world, global and/or international inequality is broken into three international concepts; unweighted, weighted and "true" (Milanovic, 2011). I will not go into detail, as the reference to Branko Milanovic and other economists who have extensively covered the topic of inequality and poverty shall be of help. A key metric in measuring inequality globally is by use of GDP per capita income per country. Gini coefficient is widely used to indicate how unequal or equal a society is in terms of wealth or income distribution, both nationally or internationally. On what I term a natural observation, however, does the current outbreak of Coronavirus reveal inequality on a global scale? Estimates are countries with lower income and generally least developed in terms of health are projected to face it rough as the virus escalates. As regional inequality can be measured by nighttime light imagery; Wu, Yang, Dong, Zhang, and Xia (2018), can Covid-19 offer another metric for measuring world inequality? In this case, diseases that become pandemics can be used as an indicator of poverty and economic inequality. Perhaps this is already the case, the ethics behind this proposal are however subject to scrutiny.

The question on whether Coronavirus (’kolona Bairuth’, ’Croconola Baarus’-as the new virus poise difficulty of pronunciation due to its relative newness in the globe) has revealed global inequality perhaps has no straight forward answer-at least from my angle of view. This is because it has hit hard in both the developed and the developing world. But countries that do not receive frequent international travel, like business centres and so forth can be seen to have recorded both less death and cases. Looking at Europe, North America and Some Asian countries like China, South Korea, or an Oceanic nation like Australia, could deduce where the world economy is run daily. This view results when taking the spread of Coronavirus as an indicator of international business travels or work-related movements.

Continents like Africa have countries that have recorded less or close to no Coronavirus infections. The underlying reason could be countries that have not reported any case so far have either no testing devices and/or lack meaningful connection to the rest of the world except on minimal levels. This natural observation as I refer to it has revealed to us without spending a single coin in research how inequality is in the world. Covid-19 has revealed this with no doubt. Curious observers can go farther into analyzing regional inequalities and may find that even within the affected nations,

there is a sense in which the natural observation finds its ancient place. If the virus hit hard in the developing world which it might not have reached yet in greater magnitudes, then the natural observation will remain true, that inequality is high in the world and it leans towards them.

But is this one-way traffic or do we have an egg or the chicken first observation (Waithima, 2008)? The answer is no, the is an observed exception on other non-location bound globalization social trends that one is made to admit that Coronavirus has brought similarities in the globe acting as an equalizer of beings. The fact that there seem to be a higher spread of the virus in the developed world as opposed to nations that are classified as global South bring in some religious truths in "the first will be last and last will be first" kind of Matthew 19:30; 20:16, but the observation is not rightly a chicken-egg dilemma. On this trajectory, one can farther argue that the general fear and global suffering, through the experience of human lives lost as well as economic impacts can be seen as similarities globally. In one way or the other, the globe shall feel the economic pinch of the virus, for a while even after it vanishes. The lockdown means no work, working at home is minimal and nations with no proper infrastructure that can enable home working may face the economic wrath more.

Other social impacts

Some commentators have gone ahead to mention the "advantages" of Covid-19, for instance, religious and different believers have coined this the nearness to the return of Christ, God calls us to repent as we have sinned a lot as the globe for the Christians, perhaps the Muslims too and other believers think the same. The saddest thing on this view is churches, mosques and other places of worship are also closed down which leave less room for group intercessions. No wonder murmuring about the antichrist at work could be heard among the Christians for the virus has caught many by surprise. Some present-day prophets, however, claim predictions but we will not discuss such in detail on this piece. Children who never had enough time with their parents, couples who had some issues or avoided each other and all kinds of family gaps that existed before the lockdown or curfew depending on where one resides in the world, are being remedied at the time, in what can be seen as a naturally observed social positive. Other observations on such lines are education institutions embracing online learning forcing even those that had not used such platforms to use them due to schools’ closure. Many too have resulted in more online shopping or

at least less cash at hand, more use of cards systems, or mobile money transfers for payment to avoid contacts. Will this trend continue even after Covid-19 and for how long, and how many users? We wait to observe for ourselves perhaps a research opportunity to be followed up.

Most nations that have experienced curfews before had been due to political turmoil, caused by political disagreements that have been in recent history rampant in the continent of my birth (Africa). Theoretical proclamations as advanced by Tilly (1985) the state makes war and war makes the state have had not much impact in the diverse continent, as in most cases the state has made war and had continued to make it at the expense of the citizens. Woe unto world citizens who live in refugee camps now, for what awaits need the world to participate to help curve the situation. For instance, no lockdown can apply, neither can curfew help since the plastics (houses) displaced persons live in are no houses hence one single infection will lead to masses being affected, and may God have mercy for only that will save the grounded populations. Nyagoah Tut Pur[2] (24th March 2020), a human rights researcher and lawyer warned in the case of displaced South Sudanese at risk of Covid-19 either internally or externally.

Other globalization social issues on humans exposed vividly by this virus, like a painful wound are them that live in the slums of shanty settlements and dwelling resembling such, whose daily meal is a daily "hustle" of 1 dollar to consume a meal. What will curfew or a lockdown due to Coronavirus do to such humans? The running battles by the police in the "global South" with this section of the population has demonstrated no football is being played.

Finally, I applauded the globe (especially the medics and other players) for putting in place all possible measures to bring the ungrateful Covid-19 to an end. Way forward as I close, I hope human beings will take look, pause for a while and learn from the lenses brought forth by this pandemic! Could this be mother nature’s wrath? Word is, there is less pollution now. I wonder why a lot of disease-causing pathogens have been detected before and not Covid-19?

The author can be reached at kujiekruotkuajien@gmail.com for any feedback and/or comment on these observations
IGAD Leaders Agree to Establish Regional Response to Fight Coronavirus
Sudan's PM Hamdok chairs a meeting of the IGAD leaders in Addis Ababa on 9 Feb 2020 -IGAD photo)

March 31, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The IGAD leaders on Monday agreed to establish a strategy to fight pandemic diseases and an emergency fund for its implementation.

The heads of states and governments of the IGAD held a meeting on Monday chaired by the Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok who is also the Chair of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

The extraordinary meeting was dedicated to deliberate on an IGAD strategy to combat the spread of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) in the region.

Besides Hamdok, took part in the video conference discussions Djibouti’s President, Ismail Omar Guelleh, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed; South Sudan FVP Riek Machar and the IGAD Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu.

In a statement released after the meeting, the regional body agreed on the need for a joint approach to deal with the respiratory disease due to the strong interactivity and circulation of the population in the region.

The IGAD leaders decided to "Formulate an IGAD Regional Response Strategy to pandemic diseases particularly COVID-19. IGAD Ministers of Health and Finance shall meet virtually to inform the strategy," said the statement.

Further, they decided to "Establish an IGAD Emergency Fund for the control of pandemic diseases and the strengthening of health systems in the region".

The IGAD also agreed to strengthen national health systems and build local manufacturing capacity for medical equipment and supplies to fight pandemic diseases.

They also called on the international financial institutions to cancel the debts of IGAD countries to free up resources to fight the Coronavirus.

Sudan Reports Second Death from Coronavirus
March 30, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - A second patient in Sudan who tested positive for coronavirus has died, the Sudanese federal health confirmed on Monday.

The patient was a businessman in the sixties with diabetes and hypertension. He died in Khartoum after his return from the United Arab Emirates on 13 March.

On Sunday, Minister Akram Eltom said the number of coronavirus-infected patients has increased to six cases.

Medical sources said that doctors and medical workers at Fadhil Private Hospital in Khartoum decided to self-quarantine themselves. The family of the patient did not inform the practitioners of his travel to the UAE and other symptoms.

The Sudanese health authorities isolated his family members and started investigations to identify those who were recently in touch with him.

Among the six confirmed cases of coronavirus, four returned to the country from the UAE. The two others are from Spain and France.

Sudan Confirms Sixth Case of Infection with Coronavirus
March 29, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan has confirmed a sixth case of infection by the new coronavirus of a Sudanese who recently returned from the UAE, the federal health minister said on Sunday.

Akram Eltom (SUNA photo)"The sixth case is of a patient in the sixties who arrived in the country from the United Arab Emirates," said Akram Eltom.

All the patients have been infected with respiratory disease outside the country. Four of the six have been in the UAE.

Sudan, which declared a health emergency last week, had recorded one death from the virus.

The government, according to its spokesman Faisal Mohamed Saleh, has decided that the curfew will begin at 06.00 pm instead of 08.00 pm.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country the government imposed a curfew as of 24 March from 08.00 pm to 06.00 am.

Also, it decided to close international and domestic airports until 23 April, except for the humanitarian and cargo shipments.

Political and social events or gathering have been banned and schools, universities, and higher institutes have been closed for one month, starting from 14 March.

Sudan’s Judges Resume Work After Three-day Strike
March 29, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan judges have ended a three-day strike saying the Sovereign Council which oversee the army activities responded positively to their demands.

Sudan's Supreme Court (ST photo)On Wednesday 25 March, the judges went on strike to protest an attack by an army force against a judge in the Al-Faw area, in the Gedaref State, eastern Sudan.

The attack recalled the repeated attacks humiliation by the security forces on the judges during the former regime of Omer al-Bashir.

However, on Thursday, the army spokesman said the attack was an isolated case by junior officers and reiterated the army respect to the judges and the independence of judiciary authority in the country.

Further, the military official legal measures have been taken against the assailants.

"We direct the judges of all levels and locations, and employees of the judiciary and all departments to lift the strike as of Friday evening," said Neemat Abdallah the Chief Justice of Sudan in a statement on Friday.

She said that the reasons for the strike no longer exist, and revealed that meeting took place on Thursday 25 March with a delegation of the Sovereign Council sent by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

All the demands that the judges mentioned in the memorandum submitted by the judiciary to the Sovereign Council were answered, she stressed.

The judges’ strike was criticised by some activists considering that the judiciary is an independent authority that has the means to demand the executive to remove their immunity and to refer them to the military courts before to allow their trial before the judiciary.

However, the head of the judiciary justified the strike by asserting that it was a warning that aggression in all its forms and against the citizens is contrary to constitutional and legal principles.

"The strike aims to warn that we will no longer accept the violations that occurred against judges in the past," Abdallah said.

The Attorney-general issued a statement on Thursday to condemn the attack on the judge. He further called to review security laws to allow that law enforcement agents be sued for misconduct in civil cases.

Finding the Optimistic Within the Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has hit society, business and education at a speed that few could predict, and shaken foundations in ways that none could have anticipated. In the news, only a few items escape Covid-19 in the title. On social media it’s memes and fears about the virus. It’s hard for people to remain upbeat in the face of lockdowns, limited social contact and complex working conditions. Or is it?

“Whatever you focus the most on, that’s what you will get more of,” says Anna Collard, CEO, Popcorn Training, a subsidiary of KnowBe4. “Even before coronavirus there was enough bad news online and on social media to make most people want to sit in a dark room. At this time, when the entire world is shifting on its axis, it has never been more important to focus on the positive and the ways in which this change can benefit us.”

The digital lifestyle

Yes, digital working from home has been thrust upon us, but what stands out in the midst of all the bad news is how most companies could do just that – send their employees home. It highlights the true value of the internet and the IT teams that are working to make it happen and the potential that the digital lifestyle could offer South Africa in the future. From e-learning to working from home to building new businesses that will shine in the post-covid-19 era, society is rapidly advancing to becoming completely digital in an incredibly short period of time.

This digital evolution has also made a huge difference to people who are locked in alone or who crave human contact. Apps are bringing people together in new ways and giving people the chance to reconnect when times are tough. These same apps are being used in virtual conferencing and meetings so that teams can connect and businesses can keep moving into an uncertain future.

The wealth of information

There is immense value in information and coronavirus has brought that to millions of people who are now more aware about hand hygiene and health. This has meant that these people know more about washing their hands, distancing themselves from ill people and minimising the spread of disease than ever before. This will not only help in slowing the spread of coronavirus but the spread of other diseases today and in the future.

The security factor

Organisations are more aware of security than ever before because their employees are working from home and opening up new avenues of risk. This is the perfect time to secure Wi-Fi routers, train people to learn more about phishing and scams, and to protect people from fraud. Companies are investing more into security controls and training to help protect both their assets and their employees. KnowBe4 have created a lot of free content helping companies secure their home workers by making them more aware of the cyber threats and how to stay safe while working from home.

Harnessing creativity

A moment of stillness. An hour of boredom. While this may not be possible for those with families, these moments are invaluable when it comes to igniting creativity and innovative thought. This lockdown could inspire people to come up with new ideas and new businesses, give entrepreneurs the time they need to reshape their ideas, and result in unexpected disruption in unexpected spaces across the world. Creative solutions are definitely needed right now and this time of enforced solitude and thinking is an opportunity for people to find them.

Appreciation and empathy

In Cape Town a restaurant owner shut her doors firmly, more worried about those with HIV than her bottom line. In Johannesburg, the owner of a car repair shop spent his weekend buying supplies for the old age home about to enter lockdown so that the residents didn’t risk their health. Empathy is changing the way people engage with one another while appreciation of the little things and these moments are allowing us to see what’s really important.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of KnowBe4.
Africa's Biggest City Lagos Locks Down to Defend Against Coronavirus
Angela Ukomadu, Alexis Akwagyiram

LAGOS (Reuters) - Lagos, Africa’s largest city of at least 20 million people, ground to a halt on Tuesday as it and the Nigerian capital Abuja entered a two-week lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Lagos’ usual unending cacophony and interminable “go slows” or traffic jams were gone. Streets were virtually empty but for ambulances and police vehicles. Security forces manned frequent checkpoints where cars crawled through one by one.

Africa’s confirmed cases had climbed to at least 5,300 by Tuesday morning, with more than 170 recorded deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

In the little more than 24 hours since Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari had announced the lockdown, coronavirus had transformed one of the world’s biggest megacities, where many live in slums and eke out a living at the best of times.

However, the terms of the lockdown have created confusion. While Nigeria’s president said food retailers and health facilities could remain open, he did not say whether people could leave their homes to buy necessities or seek care. 

On Awolowo road, a normally busy street in the upmarket Ikoyi district, Andy Bankong, a bank security guard, had accepted his fate of a long trek home. No public transport meant walking more than 4 miles. Soldiers told him he could not return to the bank.

“If I lose the job, I can’t support my family. And it isn’t easy to find work now in Lagos,” said the father of two, who sends money to his wife in the southern state of Cross River to feed their children and pay for school fees.

Few were on the streets. Even health staff struggled to get to work.

“I am medical personnel,” said Onolapo Adebayo, speaking shortly before 9 a.m. at a bus stop. “They are calling me to start coming to the office but there is no vehicle.”

People who could not afford to stockpile for the 14-day lockdown were left dependent on government relief packages.

The Lagos state government has said it will distribute food to those in need to last the 14 days, targeting 200,000 households, or 1.2 million people, on Tuesday.

On Monday, the federal government in Abuja said it had begun cash transfers to Nigeria’s poorest households to sustain them through the crisis.

Across the continent, other countries have introduced their own relief programs for people, including South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Tuesday declared a State of Emergency following three confirmed coronavirus cases. The southern African country will enter a 28-day lockdown from midnight Thursday.

“This decision was by no means taken lightly,” said Masisi. “I am convinced that I make it in the best interest of our nation.”

South Africa, where a lockdown began on Friday, will be the continent’s first country to conduct large-scale screening, said President Cyril Ramaphosa, announcing the move late on Monday.

“Around 10,000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns and cities to screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms,” Ramaphosa said.

But in some countries, new restrictions on movement sparked new fears.

In Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, rights groups have frequently accused police of using excessive force, with complaints about brutality, corruption and extrajudicial executions.

Already, allegations have been made against security forces, empowered by movement bans to carry out abuses.

Videos of South African police beating people in public with sticks circulated on social media.

South African police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo said the videos need to be verified, but have been noted with “serious concern”, adding: “such alleged behavior by security forces is unacceptable, which can be neither tolerated nor condoned.”

In Kenya, the director of public prosecutions ordered an investigation into the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy in the slum of Mathare, the prosecutor’s office said on Twitter.

Media reports quoted a Nairobi official as saying the boy was hit by a stray bullet.

Reporting by Angela Ukomadu and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos, George Obulutsa and Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Brian Benza in Gaborone, Tim Cocks and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg and MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare; Writing by Paul Carsten, Editing by Alexandra Hudson
Lagos Lockdown Over Coronavirus: 'How Will My Children Survive?'
31 March 2020

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.”
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.
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

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.”


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.”
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
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
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.
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
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.”