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Mar 26, 2020
The U.S. coronavirus death toll surpassed 1,000 on Wednesday. Statistics showed that 247 people died in 24 hours and 13,355 new cases recorded.
 
Recovery rate remains poor: 384 out of 68,211 cases.
 
With U.S. tailing Italy’s 74,386 cases of coronavirus, there are fears that the world’s biggest economy may soon become the new epicentre of the virus in the entire world.
 
There are fears that the U.S. could also surpass Italy and China’s 81,218 case records.
 
New York remains the most hit state with 30,000 confirmed cases, almost 50 per cent of the national total and 10 times the cases recorded in nearby New Jersey..
 
New York City has more than half of the cases in New York state. It has 17,000 cases, while Westchester County has 4,000 and Nassau County 3,000 .
 
Governor Andrew Cuomo has begged the Trump government to send down medical supplies, especially ventilators to take care of the people afflicted by the virus.
Mar 26, 2020

Customs officials at Zimbabwe's biggest airport stopped reporting for work on Wednesday, fearing exposure to coronavirus and a lack of measures to prevent its spread, their union said.

Zimbabwe has recorded one death from three confirmed cases of coronavirus, but the opposition and critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa accuse his government of under-reporting the number of cases. The government denies this.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority Trade Union said its members at the main airport in the capital Harare came into contact while dealing with the man who died from coronavirus, but they were not tested or put into mandatory isolation.

"There is very high exposure of all staff at the referred airport due to lack of proper stop-gap facilities to mitigate the possible spread of the deadly virus," said Lovemore Ngwarati, the union's secretary-general.

"The workers shall not report for duty until proper measures are taken to substantially mitigate the danger."

Faith Mazani, commissioner-general of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, did not respond to calls for comment.

Facing its worst economic crisis in a decade, Zimbabwe is grappling with soaring inflation and shortages of foreign currency and medicines that has crippled its hospitals.

Doctors at state hospitals who ended a three-month strike in January say the medical facilities still face a critical shortage of equipment and medicine.

The Zimbabwe Doctors Hospital Association (ZDHA) said its members at Harare Central Hospital had on Wednesday withdrawn their services due to lack of protective clothing to handle coronavirus patients.

"This is not a strike. We will go back once they make available personal protective equipment," Tawanda Zvakada, the ZHDA secretary-general, told Reuters. He declined to say how many doctors were absent from work. 

 

- Reuters

Mar 26, 2020

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has announced a $3-billion facility, named Pandemic Trade Impact Mitigation Facility (PATIMFA), to help African countries deal with the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PATIMFA, approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors during its sitting on 20 March, will provide financing to assist Afreximbank member countries to adjust in an orderly manner to the financial, economic and health services shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to information released by the Bank.

It will support member country central banks, and other financial institutions to meet trade debt payments that fall due and to avert trade payment defaults, said Afreximbank. It will also be available to support and stabilize the foreign exchange resources of central banks of member countries, enabling them to support critical imports under emergency conditions. 

In addition, PATIMFA will assist member countries whose fiscal revenues are tied to specific export revenues, such as mineral royalties, to manage any sudden fiscal revenue declines as a result of reduced export earnings. It will also provide emergency trade finance facilities for import of urgent needs to combat the pandemic, including medicine, medical equipment, hospital refitting, etc.

The facility will be available through direct funding, lines of credit, guarantees, cross-currency swaps and other similar instruments, according to Afreximbank.

Explaining the rationale for the facility, Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it considerable suffering and major economic disruptions. 

“Besides its worrying effect on human life, the pandemic is projected to cost the global economy up to $1 trillion and to result in a significant 0.4 per cent decline in global GDP growth, which is expected to drop from 2.9 per cent in 2019 to 2.5 per cent in 2020,” he said.

“A rapid and impactful financial response is required to avert a major crisis in Africa,” he said, pointing out that “Africa is exposed in many fronts, including significant declines in tourism earnings, migrant remittances, commodity prices and disruption of manufacturing supply chains.” 

Afreximbank had already seen sharp pandemic-induced declines in commodity prices, a sudden significant drop in tourism earnings, disruptions in supply chains, and closure of export manufacturing facilities, said the President. The impact on medical supplies and medical systems in many markets had also been unprecedented.

He said that Afreximbank would work with multilateral development banks that had put in place financial assistance programmes in order to secure support to help African countries deal with adverse external shocks and crises arising from the pandemic.

Afreximbank has a history of providing support to African economies in times of economic crisis.

During the 2015 economic crisis, it introduced a Counter-Cyclical Trade Liquidity Facility under which it disbursed more than $10 billion on a revolving basis to enable member countries adjust to the adverse economic shocks. That facility helped key African economies to manage that crisis and recover swiftly.

Mar 25, 2020
Spain, like Italy, has surpassed China to record the world’s second-highest death toll from coronavirus.

Spanish officials reported 738 new deaths today, the country’s biggest daily jump so far, taking the total from 2,696 to 3,434.

The figure is now higher than the 3,285 people who have died in mainland China, where the outbreak began in late 2019.

Italy has the world’s highest death toll, with 6,820. Total infections are 69,176.

Spain’s total number of infections also rose by 20 per cent today, with 7,937 new cases bringing the total from 39,673 to 47,610.

Mar 25, 2020
Aero Contractors on Tuesday suspended all their flights for two weeks, beginning from 26 March.
 
The Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Captain Ado Sanusi announced the decision in Lagos
 
Sanusi said the suspension is meant to support the effort of the Federal Government to stop the Coronavirus pandemic from spreading further.
 
“This is also in line with the decision of the Lagos State Government, which has prohibited any gathering that is more than 20 persons.
 
“Coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is a global threat to our humanity and considering its devastating effect on many countries where it has led to the death of thousands of people.
 
“We, therefore, crave the understanding of our esteemed customers to recognise our decision as a responsible corporate citizen and our support for full government effort to protect our citizens.
 
Sanusi said the management of the airline would review the progress to contain the virus at the expiration of the two weeks before resuming operations.
 
 
Mar 25, 2020

64 Ethiopians suffocated to death in a container that carried them illegally across the border between Malawi and the western Mozambican province of Tete, the independent television station STV reported on Tuesday.

According to the Tete provincial health authorities, a further 14 Ethiopians survived.

Provincial health director Carla Mosse said the immigration services stopped the truck carrying the container in the district of Moatize early on Tuesday morning. . When the container was opened, the 64 bodies were found.

"It is assumed that death was by asphyxiation, but we are still working on the matter", said Mosse.

The immigration services gave a different figure for the death toll, claiming that 78 Ethiopians had died in the container.

Immigration officer Amelia Direiro told STV that her colleagues ordered the truck to stop "but the driver didn't want to stop. My colleagues hear a noise in the truck. They checked and found 14 citizens who had entered illegally and 78 who had already suffocated".

The driver of the truck is a Mozambican from Beira. The truck is from Malawi, and crossed the border illegally.

The driver and the driver's mate are both under arrest. The case is being handled by a team with representatives from the provincial health and justice directorates, the police, the criminal investigation service (SERNIC) and the immigration service.

Mosse said the 14 surviving Ethiopians will be screened for the new coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease Covid-19.

It is not known what the final destination of the Ethiopians was, but it is likely they were making their way to South Africa, where there is a large Ethiopian community.

Mar 25, 2020

No, your eyesight hasn't suddenly deteriorated. 

Starting today, YouTube began shifting the default play settings on all its videos to standard definition. The decision, confirmed to Mashable over email, is in response to possible bandwidth strain as more and more people self-isolate to slow the spread of the coronavirus

The move follows a similar announcement late last week focused solely on Europe. As was the case then, this change does not prevent people from watching YouTube videos in higher definition, but rather simply alters the setting on which they autoplay. 

"We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation," a Google spokesperson told Mashable over email.

Notably, you may not notice the change immediately. YouTube is rolling it out over the next few days, so there's a chance your Sterling Grade A Content is still autoplaying in hi-def. 

On Friday of last week, Apple TV+ hopped on the definition-reduction bandwagon — joining Netflix in reducing streaming quality in Europe. 

While YouTube's change may be slightly annoying to some people (and if you're one of those people, please find something else to stress about), no one will have to be put out by the indignity of manually changing playback settings to a higher quality for long. Google confirmed that, for now, this will only last around 30 days. 

So sit back, hit play, and chill.   

 

Source: Mashable.com

Mar 25, 2020

German customs officials are attempting to track down about 6 million face masks ordered to protect health workers from the coronavirus which went missing at an airport in Kenya.

“The authorities are trying to find out what happened,” said a defence ministry spokeswoman, confirming a report first published by Spiegel Online.

The FFP2 masks, which filter out more than 90% of particles, were ordered by German customs authorities. They and the armed forces procurement office have been helping the health ministry to get hold of urgently needed protective gear.

The shipment was due in Germany on March 20 but never arrived after disappearing at the end of last week at an airport in Kenya. It was unclear why the masks, produced by a German firm, had been in Kenya.

“What exactly happened, whether this a matter of theft or a provider who isn’t serious, is being cleared up by customs,” said a government source.

Kenya’s health ministry declined to comment and a Kenyan Airports Authority (KAA) spokeswoman said the company was still assessing the situation.

Spiegel Online reported that Germany has placed orders worth 241 million euros with suppliers for protective and sanitary equipment to fight the coronavirus.

The defence ministry spokeswoman said there was no financial impact from the loss of the masks as no money had been paid.

Germany is preparing its hospitals and health workers for a big increase in admissions of patients with the virus. It has 27,436 confirmed coronavirus cases and 114 people have died, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said.

 

- Reuters

Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV pose a significant burden on South Africa’s health system. There’s a close relationship between the two. About 60% of TB patients are also HIV-positive. The novel coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2) is likely to be of particular concern for communities with high rates of TB and HIV. Sars-CoV-2 and its resulting disease (COVID-19) haven’t been fully researched and understood yet. But speculation based on the behaviour of other viruses and chronic illnesses raises concerns that HIV and TB patients may have a higher risk of developing severe disease. Emily Wong answers some questions.


Are people with TB more susceptible to infection with SARS-COV-2?

SARS-COV-2’s primary target is the lungs where it causes inflammation in the delicate tissues that usually allow oxygen to transfer into blood. In mild cases, COVID-19 can just cause a cough, but in severe cases the lungs can fill with inflammation and fluid making it very difficult for them to provide adequate oxygen to the rest of the body. In people who are otherwise healthy, most cases of COVID-19 are mild or moderate.

At this time, I’m not aware of any data that directly address whether TB makes people more susceptible to COVID-19. But from the Chinese experience, we have seen that people with chronic lung disease are more likely to have increased severity of COVID-19. On that basis, we are concerned that people with undiagnosed active TB, or people currently undergoing treatment for TB, may have increased risk of developing more severe COVID-19 disease if they become infected with SARS-COV-2.

There is also increasing recognition that post-TB chronic lung disease can be an important long-term consequence of TB. We are concerned that this could also affect COVID-19 severity. After TB, people can get bronchiectasis – chronic damage to the airways of the lung. This can predispose them to other lung infections. Another lung condition – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – can be caused by tobacco use or by the changes left in the lung after TB.

Even though there’s no data about the effect of post-TB lung disease on COVID-19 at this point, we are concerned that people who have had TB in the past – and have been left with some lung damage – may have a more difficult and severe time with COVID-19.

What about people infected with HIV?

There is also very little data to guide us here. But we know that in general HIV infection has profound effects on lung health and immunity. This is why HIV infection increases susceptibility to both Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (Mtb) – the bacterium that causes TB – infection and TB disease. We are therefore concerned that HIV infection may also affect SARS-COV-2 infection and COVID-19 severity.

But most experts think that people who are on antiretroviral therapy and whose viral loads are suppressed will probably have a better time with COVID-19 than people who aren’t. It is very important that people keep taking their HIV medications throughout any disruptions caused by the current COVID-19 epidemic.

What will the impact of the SARS-COV-2 epidemic be on TB and HIV services in South Africa?

This is a major concern. Even countries with better resourced national health systems have rapidly become overwhelmed as the COVID-19 epidemic hits.

South Africa has the world’s largest antiretroviral programme. Huge progress has been made. Even in KwaZulu-Natal, the epicentre of the HIV epidemic in South Africa, new HIV infection rates have been dropping. This is because of tremendous efforts to test people and to put people on antiretroviral treatment in a sustained way. Other factors have included national programmes like voluntary medical male circumcision.

The country has also started to see a decline in TB rates. We think this is related to improvements in the HIV treatment coverage. This is good news. But it’s the result of massive public health programmes that have taken a huge amount of time and effort to set up and optimise. And they’re still challenged by shortages of human and system resources.

We are very concerned about the impact that COVID-19 epidemic could have on HIV and TB services.

Thought is already going into how to try to maintain these critical HIV and TB services. In light of an impending health crisis, attention is on how to maintain sustained access to HIV and TB care. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the South African HIV Clinicians Society are trying to address this. For example, they are urging the health system to make six months of antiretrovirals available to people to save them from having to visit their clinics every month.

Are there extra precautions that individuals with TB and TB/HIV can take?

It’s very important that people ensure a supply of their HIV and TB medications and take them regularly.

At this point all South Africans should be heeding the call made by the President to focus on the basic hygiene interventions such as frequent hand-washing as well as implementing social distancing to the maximum extent. That means avoiding contact with groups of people outside of households, and staying home strictly.

All of these measures are extremely important, whether someone is personally at higher risk of severe infection, or for people who may not personally be at risk of more severe disease but may have a family member who’s older or HIV-positive or a neighbour who falls into any of those categories.

At this point the national recommendations apply to everyone. All South Africans need to take them very, very seriously because millions of people are immuno-supressed due to HIV or have some lung compromise due to prior TB infection.

Will any of the research on vaccines in South Africa be useful in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine?

The fact that South Africa has robust vaccine trial infrastructure for both TB and HIV is undoubtedly to its advantage when it comes to thinking about COVID-19 vaccine development. There are already candidate COVID-19 vaccines in human testing. The company Moderna in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US have started clinical trials of an mRNA vaccine candidate. Other candidates are also under development. When these are ready for larger scale human testing, the global scientific community will almost certainly use existing vaccine trial networks to do this testing. Because of both HIV and TB research efforts to date, South Africa is very well represented.The Conversation

 

Emily Wong, Faculty Member, Africa Health Research Institute, University of KwaZulu-Natal

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Mar 24, 2020
Statistics released on Sunday by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) reflects that it sold around 21.51 billion litres of petrol estimated at N2.64 trillion, indicating the aggravating pressure of energy needs on the disposable income of the populace.
 
Inflation in Africa’s largest economy is currently at a 22-month high of 12.20%, having been on a steady rise for six months on end.
 
From December 2018 to December 2019, Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the state-owned corporation sold 21.861 billion litres of white products such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), gasoline, kerosene, diesel and residual fuel oil.
 
Of this range, gasoline accounted for 98.41 per cent.
 
The average price per litre of kerosene, the energy source a great majority of Nigeria’s ordinary population is known for, rose “1.01% month on month and by 7.04% year on year to N326.93 in February 2020 from N323.66 in January 2020,” the statistics office said last week.
 
Revenue amassed by the Nigerian Government from petroleum products sales in the period under review came to N2.71 trillion out of which petrol made up 97.56%.
 
The incidence of pipeline vandalisation at the NNPC recorded moderate improvement last December with 40 vandalised points recorded relative to the 68 posted a month before, a 41% improvement as a matter of fact.
 
10 vandalised spots could not be welded out of the total figure and no rupture case was observed, the NNPC said.
 
Of all the breach cases, 30% and 35% were recorded by Mosimi-Ibadan and Atlas Cove-Mosimi axes respectively, leaving the remaining routes with 35%.
 
The firm confirmed it had intensified its synergy with the local communities and stakeholders to help curb the threat.
 
The data reveal the PPMC’s distribution figure ballooned from 0.841 billion litres in November to 2.775 billion in December 2020.
 
This was made up 2.76 billion litres of petrol, 0.013 billion litres of diesel and 0.003 billion litres of Low Pour Fuel Oil.
 
Income realised from petroleum products distribution totalled N337.63 billion compared to the N105.62 billion reported in November.
 
In the month under review, the NNPC posted a trade surplus of N5.28 billion up from the N3.95 billion in November.
 
Improved results from the NNPC’s upstream and downstream operations were largely for the 34% performance growth, the corporation said.
 
It cited reduction in the shortfall recorded by its corporate headquarters and modification to the earlier inaccurate figure of Integrated Data Services and Duke Oil as parts of the grounds for the improved performance.
 
Cuts in pipeline repair/Right of Way Maintenance spending by Nigerian Pipeline and Storage Company as well as reduction in the cost of gas purchases by the Nigeria Gas Marketing Company also accounted for the revenue improvement.
 
148.32 billion cubic feet of supplied gas out of the 239.29bcf of gas supplied in December was commercialised with 34.7bcf and 113.54bcf apportioned to the domestic and the export markets in that order.
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