France Announces School Closures, Defends COVID-19 Strategy

In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal's President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP
In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal’s President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP



French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced nationwide school closures and a limited lockdown while defending his controversial strategy to confront soaring COVID-19 infections.

The 43-year-old leader has been under fire from political opponents and many health experts in recent weeks as the rampant virus left hospitals in hotspots such as Paris overwhelmed.

At the end of January, Macron bucked the European trend and went against the recommendation of his scientific advisers by deciding that France would not enter a third lockdown.

In an address to the nation, he tightened restrictions significantly on Wednesday, ordering a school shutdown for three weeks, travel restrictions across France, and the closure of non-essential shops around the country.

But he stopped short of demanding people stay in their homes or avoid socialising completely, and authorised people to move between regions over the upcoming Easter weekend.

“We have adopted a strategy since the beginning of the year that aims to contain the epidemic without shutting ourselves in,” he said.

Not locking down in January meant “we gained precious weeks of liberty, weeks of learning for our children, we allowed hundreds of thousands of workers to keep their head above water, without losing control of the epidemic,” he argued.

The question in the coming days will be whether the new measures are enough to reverse the sharp rise in infections which have been running at more than 40,000 a day, double their level at the beginning of the month.

Exhausted intensive care doctors and hospital directors have pleaded for a strict lockdown to stem the influx of new patients.

With warm weather and sunshine on Wednesday, groups of young people could be seen congregating in public spaces around Paris, ignoring rules barring the consumption of alcohol outside.

The French Hospitals Federation (FHF) urged Macron to order “a strict lockdown immediately” on Wednesday.

– ‘Vaccinate, vaccinate!’ –
Macron said that the current efforts to limit the virus “were too limited at a time when the epidemic is accelerating” and warned that the spread of the more contagious British variant meant “we risk losing control”.

He said that schools would close from Monday for the next three weeks, but this would include two weeks of spring holiday.

From Saturday night and for the next four weeks, travel restrictions will be imposed across the whole country and non-essential shops will close in line with measures already implemented in coronavirus hotspots such as Paris, he said.

Intensive care capacity in French hospitals is also set to increase from 7,000 beds to 10,000, he said.

But striking a more optimistic tone for the medium term, he said some cultural venues and cafe terraces would reopen in mid-May “under strict rules”.

“Thanks to the vaccine, the way out of the crisis is emerging,” he said.

“We will do everything to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate! Without rest, without holidays. Saturday and Sunday just like in the week,” he said.

As well as the spiralling infections, he is also on the back foot over France’s vaccine rollout, which has been dogged by a chronic shortage of doses due in part to a centralised EU purchasing system which he championed.

He said France was sticking by its target to vaccinate all those above the age of 18 who want to be vaccinated by the end of the summer.

All those over 60 would be eligible from April 16 and those over 50 from May 15.

– Frontrunner –
At stake in France’s current crisis is above all the health of nearly 70 million people and the fate of the eurozone’s second-biggest economy, but also Macron’s political future one year from presidential elections.

His handling of the twin health and economic crises caused by the pandemic will be foremost in voters’ minds next April and May, analysts say.

Acknowledging criticism from opponents, Macron said: “At every stage of this epidemic, we could say to ourselves that we could have done better, that we made mistakes. That’s all true.”

Stephane Zumsteeg, head of public opinion surveys at the Ipsos pollster in France, said voters would ultimately judge Macron’s performance based on a comparison of France with its EU neighbours.

And he underlined that polls still show the pro-business centrist as the frontrunner.

“Of course lots of things can happen in the next year but at this point, the main favourite for next year’s election is Emmanuel Macron, not because he’s the best or the most loved but because there’s no credible alternative other than Marine Le Pen.”

New Wave Of Lockdowns, Curfews And Closures

Police patrol in Soho, in central London on September 24, 2020, on the first day of the new earlier closing times for pubs and bars in England and Wales, introduced to combat the spread of the coronavirus. – Britain has tightened restrictions to stem a surge of coronavirus cases, ordering pubs to close early and advising people to go back to working from home to prevent a second national lockdown. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)


France joined Ireland and Wales Wednesday as the third European country to go back into lockdown.

As governments struggle to cope with a second wave of the coronavirus, we look at the new measures being taken.

– Lockdowns –
Ireland became the first to lock down its citizens for a second time Thursday. Its almost five million people have been told to stay at home for six weeks.

Wales, its neighbour across the Irish Sea, followed suit on Friday, with a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown.

France goes back into a month-long shutdown Friday, but schools will stay open in all three countries this time.

Some 150,000 people scattered over three virus-hit districts in northern Portugal have also been locked down.

– ‘Saving Christmas’ –
Germany also imposed drastic new curbs Wednesday, closing its bars, cafes, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and sports facilities for a month from Monday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel also limited gatherings to 10 people from two households.

While stopping short of a lockdown, Germans were urged to stay at home to save Christmas.

– Double shutdowns –
Beyond Europe, Israel, Lebanon, New Zealand and large parts of the Philippines have also had to go into a second lockdown. Australia’s second city Melbourne finally exited its second confinement on Wednesday.

– Curfews –
While full-blown second lockdowns are still rare, curfews are shutting down great swathes of Europe at night.

Before ratcheting up its restrictions Wednesday, France imposed curfews on its biggest cities on October 17 before spreading them out to cover two-thirds of the country’s population a week later.

Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, Slovakia and Czech Republic have since declared national curfews, while Italy and Greece have declared regional and metropolitan ones.

Many countries and cities have also required mask-wearing in public, with bars forced to close and sports and cultural gatherings also restricted.

Brussels Airlines Lost 182 Million Euros In Six Months


Belgium’s biggest airline, Lufthansa subsidiary Brussels Airlines, said Thursday it had lost 182 million euros in the first six months of 2020 because of the coronavirus crisis.

First-half revenues fell to 252 million euros, 63 percent below the same period last year. Brussels Airlines transported two thirds fewer passengers between January and June as much of the world imposed anti-virus lockdowns.

Brussels Airlines suspended all scheduled flights from 21 March, running only special flights to repatriate Belgian and German citizens, transport medical equipment to Africa, and import medical masks from China.

Commercial flying resumed on June 15 as European countries began to ease their social and economic lockdowns, but the airline’s network remains limited.

“Due to the still volatile and highly unpredictable situation worldwide, it is not possible to make forecasts for 2020 as a whole,” the company warned.

Last month the Belgian state and the German flag-carrier Lufthansa struck a deal to rescue its struggling partner.

A Belgian government loan of 290 million euros ($337 million) and a capital injection of 170 million euros from Lufthansa will cover some of the airline’s losses.

But Brussels Airlines plans to use the money for restructuring that will see it shed around a quarter of its workforce — affecting around 1,000 people.

Lufthansa, the leading European transport group, was itself handed a nine billion euro bailout last month from the German government.




Taylor Swift Announces Surprise New Album

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 12, 2019, US singer/songwriter Taylor Swift arrives for Billboard’s 2019 Woman of the Year at the Holllywood Palladium in Los Angeles. – Swift delighted fans by announcing on social media that she would release a surprise new album at midnight on July 23, 2020. Swift tweeted that “Folklore,” her eighth studio album, would comprise 16 songs that “I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into.” (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP)



Pop icon, Taylor Swift, delighted fans by announcing on social media that she would release a surprise new album at midnight on Thursday.

Swift tweeted that “Folklore,” her eighth studio album, would comprise 16 songs that “I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into.”

“Most of the things I had planned this summer didn’t end up happening, but there is something I hadn’t planned on that DID happen,” said the 30 year-old.

“Before this year, I probably would’ve overthought when to release this music at the ‘perfect’ time, but the times we’re living in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed.

“My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world. That’s the side of uncertainty I can get on board with,” added the singer-songwriter.

Swift hasn’t released any tracks yet from the album, in which she collaborates with indie folk group Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner of rock band The National.

Dessner co-wrote or produced eleven of the songs on “Folklore,” Swift said.

The megastar’s last album, “Lover,” was released in August 2019.





The Battle For Bollywood: Virus, Streaming Apps Spark Fears For Cinemas

In this file photo taken on September 22, 2017 Sandeep Bacche, an Indian rickshaw driver and fan of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, poses for a picture in Mumbai.  PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP
(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 22, 2017 Sandeep Bacche, an Indian rickshaw driver and fan of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, poses for a picture in Mumbai. – A Bollywood actor’s face tattooed on his arm, Sandeep Bacche’s devotion shocks few in India where stars enjoy semi-divine status. But even here the hallowed silver screen may be losing its shine to streaming services and pandemic fears. With cinemas shut for months due to a coronavirus lockdown, and little prospect they will open soon, frustrated Bollywood producers have turned to the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar to release films online. (Photo by PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP)



A Bollywood actor’s face tattooed on his arm, Sandeep Bacche’s devotion shocks few in India where stars enjoy semi-divine status. But even here the hallowed silver screen may be losing its shine to streaming services and pandemic fears.

“Whenever things get better and theatres begin operations, I will watch three movies a day for sure just as a way to celebrate,” said the Mumbai rickshaw driver, who is recovering from the virus himself.

But others may not join the party.

With cinemas shut for months due to a coronavirus lockdown, and little prospect they will reopen soon, frustrated Bollywood producers have turned to the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar to release films online.

“Gulabo Sitabo”, starring Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, premiered on Amazon Prime last month. Other Hindi movies have followed a similar route, as have the huge Telugu-, Tamil- and Malayalam-language film industries.

This has sparked fury from cinema operators.

INOX Leisure Ltd, India’s second-largest multiplex operator, warned producers of possible “retributive measures”.

“Movie stars are not made on the small screen but on the silver screen,” Siddharth Jain, INOX executive director, told AFP.

But, noting the financial might of the competition, he said: “No business model in the world can compete with free money and Netflix is nothing but free money.”

Shoojit Sircar, who directed “Gulabo Sitabo”, told AFP that “a digital release was a tough decision” but financial constraints pushed him to do it.

“A lot of technicians are dependent on me,” Sircar said.

“Cinema magic cannot be replaced by TV, iPad or laptop experience. But I needed to move on.”

Affordable entertainment
India has the world’s most prolific film industry, churning out nearly 1,800 releases in 2018. Stars are worshipped like gods, with fans building temples and making pilgrimages to their homes.

Going to the cinema also remains a hugely popular and affordable pursuit, with 75 rupees ($1) buying three hours of entertainment in an air-conditioned movie theatre.

Some of the higher-end multiplex cinemas have menus that include biryani being delivered to your recliner, and blankets to snuggle under if the air conditioning is too cold.

But with more than half of India’s population under 30, and many of them consuming entertainment on mobile phones, the likes of Netflix were starting to make inroads even before the coronavirus.

Hotstar, the market leader now owned by Disney, boasted 300 million active monthly users in 2018 — offering some content for free and other shows only to subscribers.

The shutdown has only accelerated the shift.

For years Mumbai-based teacher Nigel D’Souza, 27, was one of the holdouts, preferring to watch films in cinemas.

But when India went into lockdown in late March, he bit the bullet and subscribed to both Amazon Prime — aggressively priced in India at just 129 rupees per month — and Netflix.

He is now hooked.

“It was very cheap… as we don’t spend money on expensive popcorn or travel”, he said.

Furthermore, he found he “could binge-watch any number of movies… without worrying about the virus”.

Virus measures 
Vijay Subramaniam, Amazon Prime’s director of content for India, insisted the company was not looking to put cinemas out of business.

“Theatres play an important role in film distribution and we aren’t looking to change that,” he told AFP.

But he added: “As technology continues to change that landscape, customers’ preferences of what to watch and where will continue to evolve.”

Cinemas meanwhile are getting ready for the end of lockdown, which will come with strict rules that will further eat away at their profit margins.

Some seats will have to be left empty and cinema halls will have to be thoroughly disinfected after every show. The lavish menus and blankets will probably have to go.

But it is not all doom and gloom.

“The cinema experience is ingrained in our blood… (it) will never go out of fashion,” Mumbai-based film trade analyst Girish Johar told AFP.

For diehard fans like Bacche, the heady pleasures of the silver screen are simply too irresistible.

Even in the coronavirus treatment facility, the 41-year-old still needed his daily fix of Bollywood, he said.

He found it on the YouTube app on his phone, which he still uses — a sign that the pandemic’s impact on viewing habits may linger for a while longer.




China Imposes Fresh Lockdown On Beijing As New COVID-19 Cases Emerge

Police officers carry food as they walk in the grounds of a closed bus station near the closed Xinfadi market in Beijing on June 13, 2020.  GREG BAKER / AFP
Police officers carry food as they walk in the grounds of a closed bus station near the closed Xinfadi market in Beijing on June 13, 2020. GREG BAKER / AFP


Lockdowns were imposed in parts of Beijing on Saturday to try to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus cluster, highlighting the challenges that lie ahead even for places where outbreaks are under control.

There are fears of a resurgence in local transmissions in China, where the outbreak curve has been months ahead of the rest of the world, and comes as many European nations are further lifting lockdowns.

The pandemic is still surging elsewhere, particularly in Latin America, with Brazil claiming the unenviable position of having the world’s second-highest death toll, behind the United States.

After the disease emerged late last year in central China,  authorities there largely eliminated transmission within their borders through hyper-strict lockdowns later emulated across the globe.

But on Thursday, Beijing announced its first infection in two months and then said 50 more cases had been linked to the large Xinfadi meat and vegetable market, which provides much of the capital’s food supply.

Authorities have forced residents in 11 nearby residential estates to stay home, ordered mass testing, established a “wartime mechanism” and deployed hundreds of police officers.

“Everyone’s very stressed,” an elderly driver told AFP outside a fenced-off neighbourhood in southwest Beijing.

“There are cases living in there. It’s real.”

More than 427,000 dead

Worldwide, the pandemic has killed more than 427,000 and infected more than 7.7 million, while wreaking widespread economic devastation.

The number of global infections has doubled in slightly over a month — with one million cases recorded in the last nine days — and the virus is spreading most rapidly in Latin America.

Mexico and Chile on Friday recorded their worst days yet during the pandemic, while Chilean health minister Jaime Manalich resigned Saturday amid a furor over the true disease toll there.

Brazil has recorded 41,828 deaths, surpassing Britain’s toll.

The WHO said this week the pandemic is accelerating in Africa. Botswana’s capital Gaborone was locked down Saturday after new cases were detected.

In the US, which has seen the most COVID-19 deaths with over 115,000, more than a dozen states — including populous Texas and Florida — reported their highest-ever daily case totals in recent days.

In Russia, with the world’s third-highest number of cases, authorities more than doubled the official death toll for April after changing how the country classifies fatalities.

There is still no treatment for COVID-19, but pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca said it has agreed to supply an alliance of European countries with up to 400 million doses of a possible vaccine.

German government sources told AFP a vaccine could be developed by year-end.

‘Ready to welcome tourists’

A number of European countries are preparing to reopen borders on Monday after the EU Commission urged a relaxation of restrictions.

Poland reopened its borders to fellow EU members on Saturday.

France said it would gradually reopen its borders to non-Schengen countries from July, and Germany said it would end land border checks on Monday.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis travelled to picturesque Santorini island on Saturday to open his country’s tourism season.

“Greece is ready to welcome tourists this summer by putting safety and health as our No. 1 priority,” he said in English.

Venice sprang back to life Saturday, as hundreds of tourists flocked to the city for the reopening of the iconic Doge’s Palace.

“It’s a very strong emotion, like the first day of school,” said Maria Cristina Gribaudi, who heads the city’s Civic Museums Foundation.

In several European countries, the focus has shifted to the courts and who might eventually be blamed for the pandemic.

In hard-hit Italy, prosecutors grilled Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte over his government’s response.

“I explained everything to prosecutors,” Conte said Saturday, adding he did not fear a possible judicial probe.

Anger is mounting in France, where some 60 complaints have been filed against members of the government.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II meanwhile celebrated her official birthday on Saturday, with the normal pageantry of the traditional ceremony vastly reduced.

The 94-year-old monarch watched a scaled-down version of the “Trooping the Colour” on the grounds of Windsor Castle, where she has been staying during the virus outbreak.

And live sport returned to New Zealand on Saturday, as 20,000 fans watched rugby’s Otago Highlanders edge the Waikato Chiefs, 28-27. The country has gone 22 days without new coronavirus cases.

Haaland Scores First Post-Lockdown Goal In Bundesliga

Dortmund's Norwegian forward Erling Braut Haaland celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the German first division Bundesliga football match BVB Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04 on May 16, 2020 in Dortmund, western Germany as the season resumed following a two-month absence due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Martin Meissner / POOL / AFP
Dortmund’s Norwegian forward Erling Braut Haaland celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the German first division Bundesliga football match BVB Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04 on May 16, 2020 in Dortmund, western Germany as the season resumed following a two-month absence due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Martin Meissner / POOL / AFP


The setting may be unfamiliar with the German Bundesliga returning behind closed doors after a two-month coronavirus shutdown, but the identity of the day’s first goal-scorer was entirely familiar as Erling Braut Haaland put Borussia Dortmund ahead against Schalke on Saturday.

Haaland diverted a low Thorgan Hazard cross into the far corner of the net in the 29th minute for the first goal of the five matches kicking off on Saturday afternoon on the long-awaited comeback of top-flight football in Europe.

It was the 10th goal in nine Bundesliga appearances for the prolific 19-year-old Norwegian striker, who moved to Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg in the winter.

Usually the scorer of the first goal in the Ruhr derby — one of the biggest fixtures in German football — could expect to be mobbed by his teammates.

On this occasion, though, Haaland’s colleagues respected social distancing recommendations and avoided getting too close as they applauded the smiling and dancing goal-scorer.

Haaland also had a hand in the second goal, forcing Schalke goalkeeper Markus Schubert into a poor clearance which led to Raphael Guerreiro making it 2-0 just before half-time.

A Dortmund win would leave them a point behind leaders Bayern Munich, who play on Sunday.

Proceedings: How Lagos Govt Reached Agreement To Pardon Naira Marley, Gbadamosi


The Lagos State Government on Wednesday agreed to withdraw charges against former governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in Lagos State, Babatunde Gbadamosi and his wife Folasade; and popular singer Naira Marley.

Below is the full proceedings and the conditions given to the defendants by the court.

Proceedings started at 11:20 a.m.

Naira Marley dressed in white shirt and black jeans was called into the dock.

Babatunde Gbadamosi dressed in brown native followed and third defendant, his wife, Folasade was dressed in blue top on black Jeans.

All three defendants had on facemasks.

The DPP Lagos, Yakub Oshoala led the Prosecution alongside Dr Babajide Martins a Director in the office of the DPP; Adetutu Osinusi, a Deputy Director in the office of the DPP; Jonathan Ogunsanya and Afolabi Solebo who are both assistant directors in the office of the DPP.

For the defence team, Olawale Akoni SAN alongside Dr Bayo Adaralegbe represented the second defendant, Babatunde Gbadamosi while Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN alongside O. Awonuga represented the third defendant Folasade Gbadamosi.

Naira Marley was represented by Damilola Ayinde-Marshall alongside Afeez Olabisi.

After announcement of appearance, the DPP told the court that even though the state has filed a charge before the court, a few minutes before the court sat, the AG & Comm for Justice, Moyo Onigbanjo SAN forwarded a directive to him that having considered the remorsefulness of the three defendants, the AG has considered diverting the case out of court based on the defendants fulfilling three conditions.

(1) They have to write a formal apology to the Government of Lagos State which will solidify the remorsefulness shown by them.

(2) They have to give an undertaking in writing that they will continue to comply with the directives of Mr President (Muhammadu Buhari) and Mr Governor (Babajide Sanwo-Olu) which is the subject matter of the case before the court.

(3) In view of the danger which the state believes they’ve put themselves by attending a gathering exceeding 20 persons, they must agree to go on 14 days isolation to protect other members of the public from any likely danger.

Mr Oshoala also submitted that this is absolutely necessary “in view of the fact that some individuals who travelled from countries with huge COVID-19 cases were present at the party.

He stressed that the state is not a persecutor but it is always ready to enforce the laws that benefit the interest of the public.

“If they agree to these conditions, the four counts will be withdrawn and that will be the end of the matter. We will keep it in abeyance. That’s our submission,” Oshoala said.

Akoni: On behalf of the second defendant, we wish to express our appreciation to the state, the DPP and to confirm to the court that we accept the three conditions.

Adegboruwa: On behalf of the third defendant, we express our appreciation to his excellency, Mr President and the Governor, the AG, The DPP & his team, the Police and most of all the court.

The third defendant is a law-abiding citizen and accepts all that three conditions as stipulated by the DPP.

Ayinde-Marshall: On behalf of the first defendant, we say a big thank you to the police, the President, Mr Governor and the DPP.

My client is a law-abiding citizen too and a strict supporter of government policies.

We undertake that we will fulfil the three conditions given to them.

DPP: Having agreed to these conditions and having already dealt with the principal defendants, Funke Akindele and her husband, we hereby withdraw the charge before the court.

However, for the purpose of clarity, I request the defendant to put their phones numbers so that the personnel from the Ministry of Health can get in touch with them, having agreed to go into self-isolation.

Also within today and tomorrow morning latest, the undertakings must reach the AG through their lawyers and the OC Legal to show their sincerity.We are grateful to the court.

Magistrate Aje-Afunwa: This honourable court has listened to the request of the learned DPP indicating that the state requests to withdraw the charge on the condition that they fulfill all the conditions as stipulated by the prosecution.

Since the defendants have all agreed to comply with the conditions, I wish to state that the procedure for the withdrawal of a criminal charge is that before the charge is withdrawn, the conditions must be met or be seen to be met.

In the circumstances of this case, the court will adjourn to enable the defence put its house in order and the prosecution will address the court in how the defendants have complied. If all the parties agree, the court will adjourn till tomorrow.

DPP: No objections

Akoni: No objections

Adegboruwa: No objections to adjournment till tomorrow

Ayinde-Marshall: No objections.

Court: Since it was agreed on 24 hours for compliance with the conditions, the court believes 12noon tomorrow is appropriate for withdrawal of the charge.

Case is adjourned to April 9, at 12noon for withdrawal or for taking of plea if conditions fail to be complied with.

In line with the regulations of the government, we all must continue to ensure that the regulations are strictly complied with in our homes and in all public places.

COVID-19: There Has Been No Need For The Military To Enforce Lockdown – DHQ

The Coordinator of Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, briefing reporters in Abuja on March 30, 2020.


The Defence Headquarters has said there has been no need for the Military to enforce the lockdown declared by President Muhammadu Buhari to contain COVID-19. 

The Coordinator of Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, said this on Tuesday when he appeared on Channels TV’s News at 10. 

According to him, while the Military has not had any reason to help in the enforcement of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun State and Abuja, they will come in to help when the first line enforcement agencies are having difficulties.

READ ALSO: Kaduna Govt Relaxes Movement Restriction

“As I speak with you, like I said the other time, we are fully available to support the first line enforcement agencies just like we had in Abuja today,” he said.

“If for any reason they have difficulties in enforcement, they can fall back to the Military but as it is, there has been no need for the Military to come and support them to enforce the lockdown. We are fully prepared.”

Also, he restated that media professionals and others who provide essential services will not be affected by the lockdown order.

“When you come and identify yourself in any of these categories,” he explained “they will allow to continue going to where you are supposed to go to perform your duties.

“And that is the instruction we have that is being implemented by the enforcement agencies out there; both Abuja, and Lagos.”




House Parties, Happy Hours Move Online Following Coronavirus Lockdown

A picture taken on March 19, 2020, shows a view of closed restaurants, bars and locations for adult entertainment on the “Grosse Freiheit” street in the red light district of the northern German city of Hamburg on March 19, 2020. PHOTO: MORRIS MAC MATZEN / AFP


Coronavirus lockdown or not, Amaya Howard plans to unwind after a hard day’s work by sharing a few glasses of wine with her friends.

But with bars closing across the United States, they have started meeting online via Houseparty — one of several group video apps doing a roaring trade during the pandemic.

“The idea came about of doing a happy hour — we just get on the app and just drink wine and talk,” she said. “Mostly it’s about a lot of randomness, but occasionally someone will say, ‘I just can’t believe how crazy what’s going on is.'”

She is not alone. Downloads of similar apps — where each person who logs in to a group chat appears in their own “window” on the screen of a phone, tablet or computer — have gone through the roof.

Cocktails are for sale to go at Dudley’s bar and restaurant in Manhattan as the Coronavirus, COVID19, outbreak continued unabated on March 19, 2020 in New York City. PHOTO: VICTOR J. BLUE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


Just this month downloads of Houseparty, which was highly popular with teens a couple of years ago, have surged tenfold to 210,000 per day, according to Apptopia.

Others such as Zoom, used mainly for remote working, and Google Hangouts, Skype and Rave have also seen upticks.

For Esmee Lavalette, a Dutch film student in Los Angeles, the lockdown has presented a chance to hang out with friends back in the Netherlands — although the time difference has necessitated some “daytime drinking.”

“They always have a weekly drinks nights, but now since everything’s canceled, they decided to do it on Houseparty,” she said.

“And now for the first time in like a year-and-a-half, I could join them. So I was drunk at like 2:00 pm.”

The call ended when the night grew too late in Europe — and Lavalette returned to her homework. Even drinks for her graduation, which was set to take place this week, are now being shifted to cyberspace.

“I still have a lot of beer leftover so that’s what I’m gonna drink,” Lavalette said. “And some vodka.”

‘Girl’s night’

As well as a chance to catch up and blow off some steam, users say the apps are good for their mental health in these anxious times.

Rachel Chadwick, a local government worker in Leeds, England, has struggled with anxiety and depression.

“I’m quite extroverted… so obviously this self-isolating is really difficult for me,” she said.

Chadwick and her friends usually meet for a “girls night” once a month, which is now being played out on the app.

“Tomorrow night we’re doing a little pub quiz where each of us has a category, but we all have drinks and snacks,” she said. “We can keep it lighthearted so you don’t feel like you’re losing the plot.”

One of the friends has “borrowed” a whiteboard from work to keep scores on.

The Houseparty app also features built-in games such as trivia, drawing and wordplay. This is a draw for Fiama Liaudat, a Spanish teacher from Argentina living in North Carolina.

She and fellow teachers dotted across the state would typically explore bars together, or meet at someone’s home to play board games before the virus.

“For us, the app means we can continue, but on our phones,” she said.

Up until four

“The weather is perfect here and the night is warm, so I can imagine being on the balcony with a beer playing with them,” she said. “But I have to make a new online shop now!”

The surge in video group chats has even presented the opportunity to make new friends.

Howard, now back home in Dallas, used to chat with strangers through travel meet-up apps while living in Philadelphia, where she worked with non-profits.

They recently logged into Houseparty where they all met for the first time face-to-face.

“We were probably on it until four in the morning, five in the morning… everybody had their own drinks,” she said.

“They definitely don’t feel like strangers to me now.”