A congested festive fixture list can often prove decisive in determining the destination of the Premier League title, but an action-packed Boxing Day also marked the halfway point of the league season with Liverpool surging into a six-point lead at the top.
Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal have also shone at different stages of the season so far, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment as caretaker manager has even offered some hope for Manchester United after the dismal final days of Jose Mourinho’s reign.
Here, AFP Sport looks at how the Premier League’s top six have fared so far this season and what they can aspire to come May.
Despite manager Jurgen Klopp’s demands for Liverpool fans to remember it is still only December, the anticipation that their time has come after nearly three decades without a title is growing with every game.
Still unbeaten with their only dropped points coming in creditable draws with City and away to Chelsea and Arsenal, it is an incredible defensive record — conceding just seven goals in 19 games — that has turned Klopp’s side from entertainers into title contenders.
“What we wanted to do all the time (was) create a situation, a basis for the rest of the season and now the first part of the season is over,” said Klopp after thrashing Newcastle 4-0 on Boxing Day.
“What we said as well is that we want to create our own history. We are the first Liverpool team in the Premier League to be unbeaten in 19 matches.”
More history beckons for Klopp if he can be the first Liverpool manager since Kenny Dalglish in 1989-90 to win the league.
No new stadium, no new signings but so far no problem as Mauricio Pochettino’s burgeoning reputation as one of the world’s top coaches continues at Tottenham.
The question remains whether Spurs’ squad has the stamina to keep going with the demands of four competitions in the new year.
But they show no sign of slowing down having scored 11 goals in their last two games to thrash Everton and Bournemouth.
“Over the last six months we haven’t complained about anything,” said Pochettino. “The one thing we have kept is the belief and being positive and we have created a bubble. We are in this position because we have worked a lot and the players really believe.”
Until mid-December, City seemed the same side that steamrollered all before them to win the title with a record 100 points last season.
But a shock run of three defeats in four games has left the champions desperately needing to beat Liverpool at home on January 3 to haul themselves back into the title race.
However, Pep Guardiola believes matching their points tally from the first half of the season will still give City a fighting chance at becoming the first team to retain the Premier League in a decade.
“In a normal situation we are fighting to be champions,” said Guardiola. “If we make the same number of points in the second part of the season we are fighting to win the Premier League.
“But the reality is there are another two teams and they are better.”
Maurizio Sarri’s revolution of Chelsea’s style brought immediate results as the Blues kept pace with Liverpool and City in the early weeks of the season before three defeats in six games by Spurs, Wolves and Leicester.
Chelsea do remain well-placed to at least return to the Champions League next season in fourth, but with Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata failing to win Sarri’s trust, they could do with another striker in the January window to ease the goalscoring burden on Eden Hazard.
Unai Emery could not have asked for a tougher start to the task of replacing Arsene Wenger after 22 years in charge of the Gunners with defeats by City and Chelsea in his first two games in charge.
However, the Spaniard quickly won the confidence of the Arsenal fans as a 22-game unbeaten run in all competitions followed to propel them back into the fight for a top-four finish.
There remain some defensive deficiencies for Emery to iron out as defeat at Southampton and a 1-1 draw at Brighton on Boxing Day illustrated, but Lucas Torreira looks like the sort of tough-tackling midfielder Arsenal have been lacking for some time and they also boast the league’s top-scorer in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
From the moment Mourinho started lashing out at the quality of his squad and his superiors in pre-season it seemed like he was again set to implode in his third season in charge of a big club.
By the time the axe finally fell, United were already 19 points off the top and 11 behind fourth place.
Solskjaer’s appointment was one made with the aim of making everyone, not least their own players, remember what Manchester United once were and so far it has worked.
Far tougher tests lie ahead for the Norwegian than Cardiff and Huddersfield, but there is at long last an air of optimism around Old Trafford.
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.
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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.