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South Africa begins ‘unprecedented’ military-patrolled lockdown




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South Africa came under a nationwide military-patrolled lockdown on Friday, joining other African countries imposing strict curfews and shutdowns in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus across the continent.

Some 57 million people are to be restricted to their homes during South Africa’s three-week total lockdown which began at midnight.

Kenya, Rwanda and Mali are some of the African countries that have imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has been confirmed to have infected 3,203 people and killed 87.

Although Africa’s toll is far lower than in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, health experts say the world’s poorest continent is especially vulnerable and the figures likely fall far short of the reality.

Donning camouflage uniform complete with a cap, President Cyril Ramaphosa saw off soldiers before they deployed from a military base in Soweto township outside economic hub Johannesburg.

“I send you out to go and defend our people against coronavirus,” Ramaphosa said.



“This is unprecedented, not only in our democracy but also in the history of our country, that we will have a lockdown for 21 days to go out and wage war against an invisible enemy coronavirus,” he said.

During South Africa’s shutdown there will be no jogging, dog-walking or sale of alcohol across the country, which so far has the highest number of detected infections in sub-Saharan Africa at 927, with Ramaphosa projecting it could reach 1,500 “within a few days”.

Nigeria’s government warned Thursday that Africa’s most populous nation could soon see an “exponential” increase in infections unless contacts of confirmed cases are tracked down quicker.

Kenya, which has 31 cases, on Thursday recorded its first death — a 66-year-old Kenyan man who had travelled from South Africa on March 13.

The east African country will begin a night-time curfew on Friday to try curtail the spread.

In the Sahel, Burkina Faso, which last week recorded sub-Saharan Africa’s first death, announced that eight towns, including the capital Ouagadougou, would be “quarantined” from Friday.

“Quarantined means that nobody will enter or leave the towns involved,” communication minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou said, adding that the measure would be applied for “two weeks”.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities ordered a four-day “total confinement” in the capital Kinshasa, starting Saturday.


South Africans have generally embraced the lockdown.


“I think it’s a good idea because if we don’t go into lockdown we will lose many lives,” said Sihle Mthimkulu, a 22-year-old store manager who lives in Soweto.

He works in the eastern Mpumalanga province and did not get back to Soweto in time to buy groceries for himself and his heavily pregnant girlfriend.

Mthimkulu went to a petrol station to buy bread, but there was none left, so he opted for two packets of crisps.

Earlier, panicky Johannesburg residents stocked up on food, alcohol and other supplies with some large supermarkets running out of eggs and the staple maize meal powder.

Elsewhere, thousands of people crammed long-distance bus terminals to escape to the countryside to be with families, raising fears they would transmit the virus to the most vulnerable elderly people who normally reside or retire in farms and villages.

South Africa’s Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula warned that “if people are not complying, they (the military) may be forced to take extraordinary measures.”

Violation of any of the regulations will carry a six-month jail sentence or a fine.

Two men have already been charged with attempted murder for defying a quarantine order after they tested positive for the coronavirus, exposing others to the infection.

Ditebogo Koenaite, a 27-year-old pilot, said she doubted everyone would be able to follow the rules of the lockdown.

“I think the middle class to upper class will respect the lockdown, however I don’t believe that the lower class will be able to maintain social distancing,” she said.

“It’s harder in the more poverty stricken areas because they are sharing toilets and basic facilities.”

Moody’s Investors Service warned that the fallout from the border closures, commodity price declines and financial market volatility will have “severe macroeconomic and financial impact on African sovereigns”.

In one early indication of the likely impact of the pandemic on Africa’s economy, rubber processors in Ivory Coast — the continent’s largest producer — said they were bracing for losses of around $100 million a month as its biggest clients in Asia, Europe and America, shut down.

“The progressive impact of this will be a slowdown in rubber processing activity, even a closedown,” said Eugene Kremien, president of industry association Apromac.

“Our industry is already suffering, and it’s just the start.”



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




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.


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





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.


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.


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




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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