Revellers welcomed 2019 on Tuesday with fireworks displays and festivities as a celebratory wave swept westward across the globe from Asia to Europe and the Americas, putting to bed a tumultuous 2018.
In Rio de Janeiro, the city’s famed hilltop Christ the Redeemer statue briefly came to colourful 3D life through light projections as it peered over Copacabana Beach, where pyrotechnics lit up more than two million white-clad Brazilians dancing to free concerts.
The beach was lit up with hundreds of thousands of mobile phone screens as the massive crowd recorded the fireworks spectacle.
New York was to follow with its iconic Times Square Ball drop, the highly mediatized epicentre of US jubilation.
The global partying had kicked off on Sydney’s waterfront with the Australian city’s biggest-ever fireworks display, thrilling 1.5 million people.
It then moved on to Hong Kong, where hundreds of thousands packed streets along Victoria Harbour for a spectacular 10-minute show that illuminated the night.
In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, more than 500 couples tied the knot in a free, mass wedding organized by the government to mark the arrival of a new year.
Fireworks shows, however, were cancelled out of respect for victims of a December 22 tsunami that killed more than 400 people.
In Japan, locals flocked to temples to ring in 2019, as US boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather came out of retirement to beat Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in a multi-million-dollar “exhibition” bout outside Tokyo.
In Dubai, fireworks lit up the sky over the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, to the delight of onlookers, while nearby Ras al-Khaima sought to enter the Guinness Book of Records with the world’s longest fireworks show.
Almost eight years into Syria’s civil war, people in Damascus celebrated their first New Year’s Eve since regime forces expelled the last rebels and jihadists from the capital’s suburbs earlier this year.
Dozens of families headed to restaurants and bars in the Old City. Among them, Kinda Haddad, a university student, had decided to leave home to celebrate for the first time in years.
“This is the first time we chose the Bab Touma area to go out,” the 24-year-old said, referring to an area in the Old City filled with restaurants and bars.
“This area was really dangerous in previous years. A mortar round could have fallen on the area at any moment,” said Haddad, alluding to possible rebel fire on the capital.
Russia saw in the new year over several time zones. Concerts and light shows featured in Moscow city parks, and more than 1,000 ice rinks opened for merrymakers.
But a tower block gas explosion that killed at least four people cast a shadow over festivities.
In his New Year’s address, President Vladimir Putin urged people to work together “so that all citizens of Russia… feel changes for the better in the coming year.”
In Paris, “fraternity”-themed fireworks and a light show were held on the Champs-Elysees, with a few “yellow vest” anti-government protesters mingling joyfully with the 300,000-strong crowd.
French President Emmanuel Macron, in a televised address, acknowledged his government “can do better” but said “I believe in us.”
In Berlin, music lovers partied at the Brandenburg Gate.
London ushered in the new year by celebrating its relationship with Europe, despite Britain’s impending departure from the European Union.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said the capital would remain “outward looking” after Brexit.
In some African countries, election considerations shadowed New Year revelry.
Election officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo were eschewing the partying to count votes from a presidential election that was held Sunday.
In Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari promised a free and fair election in 2019.
Ivory Coast leader Alassane Ouattara vowed to create a new, independent, electoral commission for polls planned for 2020.
As the world celebrates, many are wondering whether the turmoil witnessed in 2018 will spill over into the next year.
The political wrangling in Westminster over Brexit was one of the key stories of this year, with a resolution yet to be reached ahead of Britain’s scheduled March 29 departure.
US President Donald Trump dominated headlines in 2018, ramping up a trade war with China, quitting the Iran nuclear deal, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and meeting his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un.
North Korea’s commitment to denuclearisation will remain a major political and security issue this year, as will Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s reassertion of control after Trump’s shock announcement of a US troop withdrawal from the country.
The war in Yemen, which has killed about 10,000 people since 2014 and left some 20 million at risk of starvation, could take a crucial turn in 2019 after a ceasefire went into effect in mid-December.
Numerous countries go to the polls in the coming year, including Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa.
Major sporting events on the calendar include the Rugby World Cup in Japan, the cricket one-day international World Cup in England, and the athletics World Championships in Qatar.
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.
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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.
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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.