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Trump sees ‘light at end of tunnel’ in fight against Coronavirus

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President Donald Trump has expressed hope coronavirus cases were “levelling off” in US hotspots, saying he saw “light at the end of the tunnel”.

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On Sunday, New York, the epicentre of the US outbreak, reported a drop in the number of new infections and deaths.

Mr Trump described the dip as a “good sign”, but warned of more deaths as the pandemic neared its “peak” in the US.

“In the days ahead, America will endure the peak of this pandemic,” Mr Trump said at his daily coronavirus briefing.

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He said more medical personnel and supplies, including masks and ventilators, would be sent to the states that are most in need of assistance.

Deborah Birx, a member of the president’s coronavirus task force, said the situation in Italy and Spain, where infections and deaths have fallen in recent days, was “giving us hope on what our future could be”.

“We’re hopeful over the next week that we’ll see a stabilisation of cases in these metropolitan areas where the outbreak began several weeks ago,” Dr Birx said at the same news conference.

Optimism from Dr Birx and Mr Trump contrasted with other leading US experts, including top advisor Dr Anthony Fauci, who earlier said the short-term outlook was “really bad”.

The US surgeon general, meanwhile, warned that this will be “the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives”.

“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Fox News on Sunday.

The US has reported 337,274 confirmed infections and 9,619 deaths from Covid-19, by far the highest tally in the world.

What’s the latest in New York?

On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported 594 new deaths giving an overall total of 4,159 deaths in New York, the state hit hardest by the coronavirus so far.

He said there were now 122,000 New York residents who had been infected. But he added that nearly 75% of patients who have required hospitalisation had now been discharged.

Patients requiring hospital are down for the first time in a week, and deaths are down from the previous day, he said.

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There were 630 deaths reported in the previous 24 hours.

“The coronavirus is truly vicious and effective at what the virus does,” he told reporters in Albany, the state capital.

“It’s an effective killer.”

It’s too early to know if New York is currently experiencing its apex – the highest rate of infection that graphics behind Mr Cuomo referred to as “the Battle on the Mountain Top”.

He also said it was too early to know if cases would drop off quickly after the apex, or if they would decline slowly – and at a rate that would still overwhelm hospitals.

“The statisticians will not give you a straight answer on anything,” he said about the so-called “curve” – the chart that tracks the rate of infections.

“At first it was straight up and straight down, or a total ‘V’. Or maybe it’s up with a plateau and we’re somewhere on the plateau. They don’t know.”

In other developments around the world:

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital, 10 days after he tested positive for coronavirus. He was expected to remain there overnight for what Downing Street described as “routine tests”
  • The Queen has said the UK “will succeed” in its fight against the pandemic,in a rallying message to the nation
  • In the UK’s daily coronavirus briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he “cannot rule out further steps” being introduced in terms of social distancing – but that none are imminent
  • Hours later, Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, resigned after it emerged she had visited her second home, despite the lockdown measures
  • Italy reported that 525 people had died in the previous 24 hours – the lowest daily figure since 19 March
  • Another 674 people died in Spain – the lowest daily death toll in over a week
  • Millions of Indians have turned off their lights for a nationwide candle-lit vigil, heeding a call for unity as the country battles coronavirus

 

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KenGen Soars In New Ranking Of Top 250 Companies In Africa

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The Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) has found some even more good news after improving by 41 positions in this years Africa’s Top 250 companies.

The power-producing company has been ranked at position 193 improving its position from 231 last year. This year’s Top 250 Companies survey highlights the overall carnage in African share valuations in the last few years and even more so in March 2020. The survey ranks African or Africa-focused companies listed on public securities exchanges according to their market valuation, also known as “market capitalisation”.

KenGen is the largest power producing company in Kenya, producing about 69% of the electricity consumed in the country. It relies on various sources to generate electricity ranging from hydro, geothermal, thermal and wind.

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The state-owned firm produces 85% of Kenya’s Geothermal power used in the country. The firm has an installed capacity of 823 MW having grown by 165MW since last year. According to the KenGen’s MD and CEO Ms.Rebecca Miano, Kenya has an estimated potential of more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity from geothermal sources.

To view the full ranking of the Top 250 Companies, click here.

 

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Equity withdraws proposed Kshs 9.5b dividend payout to shareholders

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The Board of Directors of Equity Group Holdings Plc has withdrawn its recommendation of a Ksh. 9.5 billion dividend payout to its shareholders.

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In a statement Tuesday, the board says by withdrawing the recommendation for a dividend payout it is exercising financial prudence so as to conserve cash to enable the Group to respond appropriately to the unfolding crisis in terms of supporting its customers, and to be able to direct cash resources to potential opportunities that may arise as economies in which Equity Group Holdings operates begin to recover.

” With this approach, the Group leadership and management can focus on strategically positioning the business, in order to protect and preserve its customer base through loan accommodations and rescheduling/restructuring to enable them to go through the prevailing turbulence while at the same time preserving cash to shore up the financial revival and growth of its customers’ businesses post the COVID-19 crisis. The Board continues to evaluate the potential impact of the pandemic on the Group and to formulate and implement strategic plans to mitigate any effects, and will, in the usual manner ensure that it keeps the shareholders and other stakeholders informed.” Said the statement.

The statement noted that the COVID-19 global health pandemic has led to a great lockdown which has induced a complex and multi-faceted global crisis of health, economic, and social challenges of an unprecedented magnitude.

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“The pandemic’s effects have created a significant drop in the global GDP, and a substantial loss of employment leading to an economic recession which economists are projecting will evolve into a global depression worse than the Great Depression of the 1930’s.“ Said the statement

Noting that the global economic outlook has worsened considerably since the beginning of the year.

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“The United Kingdom has entered a severe recession last experienced in the 17th Century, while the United States unemployment rate is expected to reach 25% by the end of 2020 with 39.6 million people already unemployed. The most recent global growth projections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have revised the global economic outlook to below the 2.9% achieved in 2019 from an initial projection of 3.3% to -3.0% (negative 3.0%) of GDP growth rate, which they feel is optimistic.” Added the statement.

They said that they are exercising caution after the IMF also projected that if the pandemic fades in the second half of 2020 and if policy actions taken around the world are effective in preventing widespread bankruptcies, extended job losses, and system-wide financial strains, global growth could rebound to 5.8% in 2021.

“The Equity Group Holdings Board took a conservative approach that recognizes the emerging unquantified risk of the pandemic and opted to preserve capital in the face of the prevailing uncertainty,” said Dr. James Mwangi, the Group CEO and Managing Director. He added that, “A strong capital and liquidity position gives us the strength and capacity to cushion our business and accommodate and walk with our customers during these challenging times”.

The board is encouraging its customers to seek opportunities to innovate amid the pandemic, and to keep looking for growth possibilities in order to preserve cash and capital.

“If the economic crisis mutates into a financial crisis, Equity Group will be well placed to weather the challenge with a strong capital base, strong liquidity and an agile balance sheet that improves its leverage, and would allow the financial services group to shield and accommodate its customers throughout this period of uncertainty,“ said Dr. Mwangi.

He added, “However, should the crisis not play out as anticipated, the Board will explore various options and make suitable recommendations that will enhance shareholder value.”

 

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WHO stops hydroxychloroquine trials over safety concerns » Capital News

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Geneva, Switzerland, May 26 – The WHO suspended trials of the drug that Donald Trump has promoted as a coronavirus defence, fuelling concerns about the US president’s handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans.

Trump has led the push for hydroxychloroquine as a potential shield or treatment for the virus, which has infected nearly 5.5 million people and killed 345,000 around the world, saying he took a course of the drug as a preventative measure.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also heavily promoted hydroxychloroquine while the virus has exploded across nation, which this week became the second most infected in the world after the United States.

© AFP
Timeline on what the experts have said about the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine in the COVID-19 pandemic.
© AFP John SAEKI

But the World Health Organization said Monday it was halting testing of the drug for COVID-19 after studies questioned its safety, including one published Friday that found it actually increased the risk of death.

The WHO “has implemented a temporary pause… while the safety data is reviewed”, its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, referring to the hydroxychloroquine arm of a global trial of various possible treatments.

Trump announced last week he was taking the drug, explaining he had decided to take after receiving letters from a doctor and other people advocating it.

“I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories,” Trump told reporters then, as he declared it safe. 

© AFP
Spanish healthcare workers call for a reinforced healthcare system outside the Gregorio Maranon hospital in Madrid
© AFP PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

Trump dismissed the opinions then of his own government’s experts who had warned of the serious risks associated with hydroxychloroquine, with the Food and Drug Administration highlighting reported poisonings and heart problems.

Trump has been heavily criticised for his handling of the virus, after initially downplaying the threat and then repeatedly rejecting scientific analysis.

The United States has by far the world’s highest coronavirus death toll, reaching 98,218 on Monday, with more than 1.6 million confirmed infections.

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Despite the WHO suspension, Brazil’s health ministry said Monday it would keep recommending hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.

“We’re remaining calm and there will be no change,” health ministry official Mayra Pinheiro told a news conference.

© AFP
Children wear face masks at a primary school in Abidjan on the first day day after the resumption of classes after a COVID-19 lockdown
© AFP ISSOUF SANOGO

Bolsonaro is a staunch opponent of lockdown measures and like Trump has played down the threat of the virus, even as Latin America has emerged as the new global virus hotspot.

Brazil has reported nearly 375,000 cases, widely considered to be far fewer than the real number because of a lack of testing, and more than 23,000 deaths.

Chile also is in the grip of a virus surge, with a record of nearly 5,000 infections in 24 hours on Monday.

© AFP
Crowds flock to a beach in Bournemouth, England, following the easing of some lockdown restrictions
© AFP Glyn KIRK

– ‘Thrilled to break the isolation’ –

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While South America and parts of Africa and Asia are only just beginning to feel the full force of the pandemic, many European nations are easing lockdowns as their outbreaks are brought under control.

In hard-hit Spain, Madrid and Barcelona on Monday emerged from one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, with parks and cafe terraces open for the first time in more than two months.

Elsewhere, gyms and swimming pools reopened in Germany, Iceland, Italy and Spain.

© AFP
Health workers sanitize private vehicles and taxis to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Escobedo, Mexico
© AFP Julio Cesar AGUILAR

And slowing infection rates in Greece allowed restaurants to resume business a week ahead of schedule — but only for outdoor service.

“I’m thrilled to break the isolation of recent months and reconnect with friends,” said pensioner Giorgos Karavatsanis. 

“The cafe in Greece has a social dimension, it’s where the heart of the district beats.”

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Despite the encouraging numbers, experts have warned that the virus could hit back with a devastating second wave if governments and citizens are careless, especially in the absence of a vaccine.

© AFP
Flight attendants walk out of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad as domestic flights resume after the government eased some of its virus lockdown restrictions
© AFP SAM PANTHAKY

The latest reminder of the threat came from Sweden, where the COVID-19 death toll crossed 4,000 — a much higher figure than its neighbours.

The Scandinavian nation has gained international attention — and criticism — for not enforcing stay-at-home measures like other European countries.

– ‘What will happen if I die’ –

The extended lockdowns, however, have started to bite globally, with businesses and citizens wearying of confinement and suffering immense economic pain.

© AFP
Thais are continuing to return to work following the lifting of restrictions to halt the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus
© AFP Mladen ANTONOV

Unprecedented emergency stimulus measures have been introduced, as governments try to provide relief to their economies,  with the airline and hospitality sectors hit particularly hard because of travel bans.

Lufthansa became the latest major global company to be rescued, as the German government agreed a 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) bailout for one of the world’s biggest airlines.

But analysts have warned that the pandemic’s economic toll will be even more painful for countries far poorer than Western nations.

In the Maldives, a dream destination for well-heeled honeymooners, tens of thousands of impoverished foreign labourers have been left stranded, jobless and ostracised as the tiny nation shut all resorts to stop the virus.

“We need money to survive. We need our work,” said Zakir Hossain, who managed to send about 80 percent of his $180 a month wage to his wife and four children in Bangladesh before the outbreak.

“I heard that if a Bangladeshi worker dies here, they don’t send his body back and he is buried here,” he said. “I am worried what will happen if I die.”

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