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Britain’s Johnson tests positive for virus as Spain sees record deaths » Capital News

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Spain reported its death toll was nearly 5,000 © AFP/File / BALDESCA SAMPER

Madrid, Spain, Mar 27 – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first major world leader to test positive for the coronavirus on Friday as Spain saw a record number of deaths from the pandemic that is threatening millions around the world.

In a grim milestone, the United States overtook China as the country with the most coronavirus cases, while seeing an unprecedented amount of newly unemployed amid fears of a global economic meltdown.

And Africa’s economic powerhouse South Africa on Friday became the latest nation on the continent to start life under lockdown as it reported its first COVID-19 deaths.

Johnson, whose country has seen more than 11,600 declared coronavirus cases and 578 deaths, said he had developed mild symptoms over the previous 24 hours and was self-isolating after testing positive.

Graphic on the science behind the main methods of testing for the current corronavirus outbreak. © AFP / John SAEKI

Spain reported that its death toll had hit 4,858 after 769 people died in 24 hours, a record one-day figure for fatalities and far higher than in Italy, which counted 662 deaths in its last daily update on Thursday night.

Europe has suffered the brunt of the coronavirus crisis in recent weeks, with millions across the continent on lockdown and the streets of Paris, Rome and Madrid eerily empty.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned that France — reeling from the deaths of more than 1,600 people including a 16-year-old girl — was facing difficult days ahead.

“We find ourselves in a crisis that will last, in a health situation that will not improve any time soon,” Philippe said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is suffering mild symptoms © POOL/AFP/File / Richard Pohle

But focus is turning from Europe to the United States, where the number of known infections reached almost 86,000 on Friday, higher than both China and hard-hit Italy.

– ‘By themselves on a ventilator’ –

In New York City, health workers are battling a surging toll of dead and infected at the US epicentre of the crisis, including an increasing number of younger patients.

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“Now it’s 50-year-olds, 40-year-olds, 30-year-olds,” said one respiratory therapist at the Jewish Medical Center in Queens.

They “didn’t listen about not going out or protecting themselves and washing their hands”, he said.

“To watch somebody in their 30s die, it’s hard. You can’t have visitors. They’re in the room by themselves on a ventilator. It’s very depressing.”

US President Donald Trump, who has been accused of downplaying the enormous scale of the crisis, spoke by telephone with China’s Xi Jinping who said the two countries needed to “unite to fight” the pandemic.

France has suffered more than 1,600 deaths from COVID-19 © AFP / DENIS CHARLET

“China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!” Trump tweeted after the call.

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The warm words were in contrast to weeks of finger pointing between the two countries, especially the White House’s repeated references to “the Chinese virus”.

The coronavirus first emerged in China late last year before spreading globally, with 539,360 declared cases registered in 183 countries and territories.

Beijing managed to contain its spread with lockdowns and quarantines and its epicentre Wuhan is in the process of easing severe movement restrictions in place for two months.

China was also readying to bar entry to foreigners out of concern over a surge of imported cases, highlighting the difficulty of containing a virus in a globalised world.

Three billion people around the world have been told to stay indoors, as health care systems even in the most developed nations are stretched to breaking point.

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Travellers arrive in Termini central station in Rome during Italy’s lockdown © AFP / Filippo MONTEFORTE

Medical workers have been having to make difficult choices.

“If I’ve got five patients and only one bed, I have to choose who gets it,” Sara Chinchilla, a paediatrician at a hospital near Madrid, told AFP.

“People are dying who could be saved but there’s no space in intensive care.”

– Bracing for downturn –

Even with lockdowns implemented around the world, researchers at Imperial College London said Thursday the global death toll could be staggering.

Their model shows 1.86 million people could die, with nearly 470 million infected this year.

Failure to act swiftly in imposing lockdowns and strict social distancing could make those numbers far higher, they warned.

The lockdowns and other measures are wreaking havoc on the global economy, with fears of a downturn worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

COVID-19: world toll © AFP

Leaders from the Group of 20 major economies held crisis talks by video link on Thursday, announcing a $5 trillion financial rescue package “to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic”.

Announcements of unprecedented stimulus measures have helped markets bounce back after a brutal month, but people around the world are bracing for economic hardship.

The United States reported that 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week — by far the highest number ever recorded.

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Retail workers in particular have suffered as many countries shutter non-essential business, while airlines and the global tourism industry have been dealt devastating blows.

The World Tourism Organization said Friday it expected tourist arrivals to fall by 20-30 percent this year, with losses of $300 billion-450 billion in international tourism receipts.

– Armies of volunteers –

For countries already battered by war, the virus has come as another shock.

On the deserted streets of the Old City in Damascus, 59-year-old textiles vendor Ahmad was finally closing up shop after staying open through nearly 10 years of conflict.

“We’ve lived through some tough times during the war,” he said. But “never in my life have I seen the markets and shops close for days on end like now.”

But there have been rays of hope in the midst of the crisis.

Armed groups in Cameroon, the Philippines and Yemen have moved in recent days to reduce violence after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued an appeal for ceasefires.

And armies of volunteers have emerged in many countries to bring help to the needy, with food deliveries for the elderly, free taxi rides, accommodation for health workers, and even home-sewn face masks.

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“We delivered urgent diabetes medicines today to Claudia, who is 70 and lives with her 90-year-old mother. We passed them through the window,” said Lorenzo Mastrocesare, a volunteer in Rome.

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Amend law to give counties more money, Ottichilo urges: The Standard

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Governor Wilber Ottichilo (centre), his deputy Patrick Saisi (left) and county officials dance in honour of the late John Nzenze during the Madaraka Day press briefing in Vihiga. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

WesternGovernor proposes increasing funding to counties from the current 15 per cent to at least 40 per cent.

Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo has called for constitutional amendments that will see county governments get an increase in revenue allocation to spur economic growth within the devolved units.

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Dr Ottichilo, who was speaking in Mbale town yesterday, asked the committee working on the harmonisation of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report to include the proposal of increasing funding to counties from the current 15 per cent to at least 40 per cent.
Ottichilo said that the increased funding will ensure counties have enough money to spur economic growth as well their development agenda since they will be managing their own IFMIS system.
“I am hopeful that Kenyans will support the amendment of the constitution for a better Kenya,” the governor said.
SEE ALSO: Kenyans divided on call for law changes
Ghost workers
Ottichilo also revealed that he was undertaking a fresh audit of the county staff in order to get rid of ghost workers who have led to a bloated wage bill.
The county boss further told healthcare workers that they will be getting their pay on time to avert the now commonplace downing of tools.
“Issues of delayed salaries will be a thing of the past. Their promotions are being worked on by the County Public Service Board (CPSB) in the 2020/2021 financial year. I urge them to continue with the good job they are doing since the deadly virus is yet to be contained in the country,” said Ottichilo.
He has also expressed his sincere gratitude to the forefront health workers in the county for their exemplary efforts in helping residents prepare for the novel coronavirus despite the challenges they are facing. 
SEE ALSO: Uhuru: Why I can’t wait to change the law
“We shall forever be indebted for your kindness, hard work and resilience.”

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Low number of the coronavirus cases in Africa baffles scientists

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By BERNADINE MUTANU

Like most African countries, Kenya has recorded few coronavirus deaths and infections.

With 71 fatalities and slightly more than 2,000 cases, Kenya may be lucky even as the pandemic ravages Europe, the United States, South America and other parts of the world.

Except for North Africa, where 1,900 deaths have been reported, the other regions – East, West, Central and Southern Africa – had registered 2,394 combined by yesterday.

Africa has about 152,500 Covid-19 cases, with 4,344 deaths and 64,047 recoveries.

Compared with other parts of the world and initial disease models, Africa is doing well in terms of the number of infections and deaths.

And now, researchers say Africa is a unique case.

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A youthful population and warmer weather are reducing the transmission of the deadly virus, according to a study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The research by a team of Kenyan scientists says a combination of the two factors “is likely to contribute even more to the low transmission and reduced disease severity in Africa”.

The researchers reviewed recent studies conducted elsewhere and analysed and compared disease patterns and trends in Italy, the United States, Nigeria and Kenya.

“The contrasting trends of the pandemic in countries presented and the studies cited make the combined effects of warmer weather and youthful population a compelling explanation of the low Covid-19 transmission and severity in Africa,” the report says.

The study adds that the premise that Africans are not getting the coronavirus or dying from it because of pre-existing immunity from exposure to cross-reacting coronaviruses “is intriguing but requires further studies”.

The researchers argue that due to the high transmissibility of Covid-19 in vulnerable populations, the few cases introduced in Africa could have triggered a full-blown local epidemic.

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But the rate of transmission is still low in Africa, months after the first cases were reported.

African countries’ mitigation measures seem less stringent compared with Europe and the US.

Social distancing is almost non-existent in Africa while lockdowns were not practicable “because of poverty and reliance on the informal economy”.

It means that while measures taken by governments to control the spread of the virus may have worked, they may not have been effective in controlling a spiral infection.

The continent is poor and it was expected that increased Covid-19 infections would overwhelm its health systems.

A team of researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine did a mathematical modelling in April, which projected that Africa would have 450,000 coronavirus cases by the second week of May.

The researchers projected that every country in East Africa would have at least 10,000 cases by May 10.

At the beginning of May, WHO predicted that 183,000 to 190,000 people could die of Covid-19 and 29 million to 44 million could get infected in the first year of the pandemic “if containment measures fail”.

The lower transmission rate of Covid-19 in Africa, says the UN agency, suggests “a more prolonged outbreak over a few years”.

But it appears Africa is resilient, and many countries are considering reopening their economies.

A recent study showed that Africans are four times less likely to die from Covid-19 compared with Europeans and North Americans.

They are two times less likely to die from the disease compared with Asians and South Americans.

The researchers, however, said if the WHO prediction comes to pass, where Africa could still record increased cases and deaths in the coming months as demonstrated in Brazil, the progression may dispel the hypotheses the study deemed compelling.

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MCAs blame Atwoli, Oparanya for Wetang’ula woes and Luhya division: The Standard

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Kakamega County Assembly ward reps address the press at a Kakamega hotel, June 2. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

WesternReps says anyone seeking support of the Luhya must go through Mudavadi and Wetang’ula

Political temperatures in Western Kenya have heightened following the staged coup to oust Senator Moses Wetang’ula from Ford Kenya party leadership position.

Local leaders led by over 15 ANC Kakamega County Assembly ward reps yesterday pointed an accusing finger at the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu-K) Secretary General Francis Atwoli and ODM leader Raila Odinga over the Wetang’ula party woes. 
The MCAs led by the Assembly’s Minority leader, David Ndakwa, accused Raila of using Mr Atwoli and Governor Wycliffe Oparanya to destabilise the leadership of Ford Kenya and ANC parties so as to benefit from the Luhya vote in the 2022 elections.
Four days ago, a coup in Ford Kenya saw Wetang’ula replaced by Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi as the acting party leader.
SEE ALSO: Nairobi’s new cycle lanes, walkways prompt ‘Uhuru and Raila’ night visit
The ward reps have vowed that anyone seeking the support of the Luhya community must first go through Musalia Mudavadi and Wetang’ula and not Atwoli or Governor Oparanya.
“Some people have taken our previous kindness for our weakness. We have helped them achieve their political ambitions using our innocent support in times of need at the ballot. They are now having illegal gatherings at Atwoli’s home in Kajiado to fight our own sons,” said Ndakwa.
He added: “Some of our leaders have succumbed to the political machinations and intimidations by our adversaries by accepting to participate in illegal gatherings serving the interests of other people. We therefore say no to these levels of deceit and conmanship.”
Ndakwa said ANC was solidly standing with Wetang’ula at a time when ‘dark forces’ attempted to stage a premature coup against him, adding that an enemy or the problem of Ford Kenya is also an enemy of ANC party.
“Any individual, community, parties or organisations willing to support or work with the Mulembe nation must channel such negotiations through Mudavadi and Wetang’ula our undisputed leaders,” said Ndakwa.
SEE ALSO: Msajili wa vyama asema Wetangula angali kinara wa Ford Kenya
Butsotso South MCA Walter Andati said other groupings led by Atwoli have no mandate of the community and therefore cannot speak on behalf of the community.
“They are telling us that they are strategising to be in the 2022 government but for us we want to form the next government and not to join others. Time for political auction is over. Other tribes have their kingpins and are always respected. We demand respect for Mudavadi and Wetang’ula,” said Mr. Andati.
“We are not cohabiting with the government or forming a coalition with them as we are not part of them. We are only cooperating with the President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government over national issues like Covid-19, revival of economy and floods,” said Farouk Machanje, the Isukha South Ward Rep.
Kholera ward MCA Godliver Omondi and Kakamega ANC Youth leader Emmanuel Buchichi asked ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna to stop insulting Mudavadi since they are not equals. The two reminded him to stick to ODM party affairs.
Mr Sifuna on Sunday castigated Mudavadi for linking Raila to the woes facing Wetang’ula, terming Mudavadi as a perennially programmed leader, a professional mourner, fence sitter and one who sees the ghosts of ODM everywhere.
SEE ALSO: Kamar succeeds Kindiki as Senate deputy speaker
At the same time, Bishop George Mechumo has called on Atwoli to stop creating divisions in the Luhya community but instead unite them.
Bishop Mechumo of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Diocese of Bungoma faulted a move by Atwoli to take a section of Luhya leaders to his home in Kajiado where they planned matters affecting the community without the input of other leaders.
Mechumo said Atwoli should involve all and sundry stakeholders in Western Kenya to drive the common agenda of the community in clinching the Presidency which has been elusive from Independence.
“If he did proper consultations with other respected leaders we would have told him that from 1963 we have not lead the country and its high time to lead,” said Mechumo.

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