, Paris, France, Jun 28 – Europe was bracing itself for a sweltering Saturday as a deadly heatwave across the continent has sparked record-breaking temperatures, large blazes and pollution peaks.
The Meteo-France weather service lifted its red warning but forecast a “very hot day” across a large central band of the country, with the mercury expected to rise to 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit) in some parts.
With France, Spain, Italy and parts of central Europe hard hit by all-time highest temperatures, officials pleaded with people to take precautions.
France’s new record temperature of 45.9 degrees C was registered on Friday in Gallargues-le-Montueux, a village in the southern department of Gard near Montpellier, breaking successive records set earlier in the day, Meteo-France told AFP.
This is the same area where the previous high of 44.1 degrees C was set in August 2003 since records began at the turn of the 20th century.
The weather service said the new high was comparable to August temperatures in California’s Death Valley.
Earlier Friday, the mercury rose above 44 degrees C in the southeastern French town of Carpentras. The town was deserted, with cafe owners contemplating empty terraces which would normally be packed.
“We have never seen this!” one exclaimed.
France is just the seventh European country to register a plus 45-degree temperature, along with Bulgaria, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece and North Macedonia, Meteo France said.
The hot spell has also sparked large blazes including in Spain, where fire fighters on Saturday fought fresh wildfires in strong winds and blistering heat just as they had managed to finally contain another inferno after nearly 72 hours.
Meteorologists blame a blast of hot air from northern Africa for the scorching early European summer, but the heat is due to die down from Sunday.
– ‘Avoidable deaths’ –
The heat has already claimed several lives, including a 17-year-old harvest worker in Spain and a 72-year-old homeless man in Italy.
Heat-related deaths have also been reported in Germany and France, mainly among the elderly.
France remains haunted by the memory of the devastating heatwave of August 2003 which exposed the shortcomings of emergency services at the height of the summer holidays and during which nearly 15,000 people were estimated to have died.
“I want to appeal to the sense of responsibility of citizens — there are avoidable deaths in every heatwave,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
Scientists warn that global warming linked to human fossil fuel use could make such scorchers more frequent.
In Germany — where four people have died so far in bathing accidents — the national weather service said temperatures were more than four degrees higher in June than the average.
– Public health warnings –
In France, where four people have also drowned in bathing accidents, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn lamented that despite a barrage of public health warnings, some parents were still leaving their children in hot cars and joggers were out exercising in the midday heat.
A Syrian child was seriously injured north of Paris Thursday after being catapulted into the air by water gushing from an open fire hydrant and then crashing to the ground.
The incident occurred in the multi-ethnic Saint-Denis neighbourhood where “uncapping” hydrants has long been used as a way to cool off.
– Spanish inferno –
In Spain, a fire that started Friday evening in the central town of Almorox has already burnt at least 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres), spilling over into the Madrid region and forcing the evacuation of a village, emergency services said.
However, a major blaze in the northeastern region of Catalonia had finally been contained and “was in the process of being stabilised,” the regional government said in a statement.
Catalonia’s forest service said the fire likely began when an “improperly managed” pile of manure at a chicken farm spontaneously combusted in the extreme heat.
Hundreds of firefighters backed by troops and aerial water bombers were hampered by roasting 44-degree temperatures and very low humidity.
Meanwhile, blazes have also ravaged more than 600 hectares of land and several homes in France.
The stifling temperatures have caused air quality to nosedive in some European cities, prompting local authorities to take anti-pollution measures.
In Paris, Lyon and Marseille, authorities have banned the most polluting cars from the roads in recent days.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.