Prime Minister Theresa May spent Tuesday locked in crisis talks with her ministers to try to resolve the months-long Brexit crisis, as EU leaders warned Britain risked crashing out of the bloc next week.
In a meeting lasting more than seven hours, the divided cabinet sought to find a way forward after MPs again rejected May’s withdrawal deal and stepped up their own efforts to force a new approach.
Brussels has set Britain an April 12 deadline to either pass the divorce deal, settle on an alternative, or crash out of the European Union risking huge economic disruption.
In reality, the deadline is even closer as the EU has called an emergency leaders summit for April 10.
May’s deal has been rejected by the House of Commons three times but she says MPs’ failure to agree anything else means it is the only option, and she could bring it back for a fourth vote this week.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said an orderly exit was still possible but was becoming less likely.
“If the UK still wants to leave the EU in an orderly manner, this agreement, this treaty is and will be the only one,” he told a think tank in Brussels.
“No deal was never my intended scenario, but the EU 27 is now prepared,” he said referring to the bloc’s remaining member states. “It becomes day after day more likely.” Need more time .
May’s deal aims to smooth Britain’s EU exit by settling its financial affairs, guaranteeing the rights of expatriate citizens and setting up a transition period until December 2021 in which new trade terms can be agreed.
But its proposals to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland by keeping Britain temporarily in a customs union with the EU are strongly opposed by many MPs.
Pro-European MPs fear that May’s refusal to change course is putting Britain at risk of a “no-deal” exit, and they seized the initiative by holding two rounds of votes on possible alternatives.
Both the first and second rounds of ballots failed to secure a majority for any single option, but lawmakers are expected to try for a third round next Monday.
In case that fails, two senior MPs have put forward a bill that could force May to delay Brexit rather than take Britain out of the EU on April 12 with no deal.
Conservative former minister Oliver Letwin and opposition Labour MP Yvette Cooper will try to get their bill through the House of Commons in a single day on Wednesday, but it must still then pass the upper House of Lords.
“Whatever agreement the government or parliament does or doesn’t reach over the next few days, the UK will need more time after 12 April if it is to avoid no deal at that point,” they said.
The political chaos has already forced May to ask the EU to postpone Britain’s exit from the original date of March 29.
But European leaders have warned they will not delay Brexit indefinitely.
In Paris on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that while he was “open” to a lengthy delay on certain conditions, it was “neither a certainty nor automatic”.
Britain voted by 52 to 48 percent to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, but the exit process has only exacerbated divisions among the public, MPs and ministers.
Some members of May’s cabinet are now pushing for Britain to leave on April 12 whatever happens, but others fear the economic and legal disruption caused by exiting with no deal.
A government analysis leaked to the Daily Mail suggests a “no deal” scenario would undermine Britain’s security capabilities, cause a recession, and increase the cost of food by up to 10 percent.
May says it would be “unacceptable” to ask British voters to take part in European Parliament elections in May, almost three years after they voted to leave the bloc.
And she is expected to try to push her deal to a fourth vote, possibly as soon as Wednesday.
But Barnier warned: “If the UK parliament does not vote in favour of the withdrawal agreement in the coming days, then only two options would remain: leaving without an agreement or requesting a longer extension.”
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.