South Africa Records First 2 Coronavirus Deaths, Cases Top 1,000

A man walks in the streets wearing a face mask as a preventive measure agaisnt the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus on March 23, 2020, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP
A man walks in the streets wearing a face mask as a preventive measure agaisnt the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus on March 23, 2020, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP

 

South Africa on Friday reported its first two deaths from the novel coronavirus outbreak as the number of confirmed cases breached the 1,000 mark, the government said.

“This morning we wake South Africans up with sad news that we now have our first deaths resulting from COVID-19,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

He said the two people died in the Western Cape province, as the country went under a nationwide 21-day lockdown that took effect at midnight.

The minister promised to release more details later “when we announce the latest confirmed COVID-19 cases, which have increased from yesterday’s number and have tipped the 1,000 mark”.

On Friday, the country reported 927 confirmed cases, a more than 30 percent jump from the previous day.

In a bid to halt the spread, some 57 million people have been ordered to stay at home during the three-week total lockdown.

But many people defied the order — going about business as usual while some lined up outside food stores or queing up for transport at bus terminals on Friday morning.

 

-AFP

64 Migrants Found Dead In Container In Mozambique

A police officer watches a group of illegal immigrants protesting on the roof of the Aluche Immigration Detention Center
A police officer watches a group of illegal immigrants protesting on the roof of the Aluche Immigration Detention Center (CIE) during a riot on March 17, 2020, in Madrid. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

More than 60 suspected undocumented migrants from Ethiopia were found dead on Tuesday in a cargo container in Mozambique’s northwest Tete province, a hospital official said.

“A truck transporting illegal immigrants from Malawi, suspected to be Ethiopians, was stopped at the Mussacana weight bridge in Tete, and 64 people were found dead. Only 14 survived,” the senior official, who asked not be named, told AFP.

-AFP

 

Country Music Legend Kenny Rogers Dies At 81

 

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 19, 2017 shows US singer Kenny Rogers performing in concert on his ‘Farewell Tour’ during Rodeo Austin at the Travis County Expo Center in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP)

 

Country music legend Kenny Rogers, whose career spanned six decades, has died at the age of 81, his family said late Friday.

“Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” they said in a statement.

The family said they were planning a small private service “out of concern for the national COVID-19 emergency.”

Kenny Rogers left an indelible mark on the history of American music.

READ ALSO: Nollywood Actress Nse Ikpe-Etim Self-Quarantines

“His songs have endeared music lovers and touched the lives of millions around the world,” said the statement posted by his representative Keith Hagan.

A three-time Grammy winner who sold tens of millions of records, Rogers was known for a string of huge hits including “The Gambler,” “Lucille” and “Islands in the Stream.”

“I’ve never considered myself a great singer, but I do have a certain way as a storyteller,” he told the Irish Examiner in 2013.

“I’ve been very lucky in finding many great songs that have had a staying power, and have lingered longer in the heart.”

Released in 1978, his album “The Gambler” was a huge international hit, going multi-platinum and the title track became his signature song.

“I do two kinds of songs,” he told NPR in 2015.

“There are story songs that have social significance, or they’re ballads that say what every man would like to say and every woman would like to hear.”

– ‘I don’t gamble’ –
Rogers also starred the film “The Gambler,” which was based on the song, but he liked to joke that he wasn’t much of a gambler himself.

“I learned a long time ago, I can’t win enough money to excite me, but I can lose enough to depress me,” he told NPR. “So I don’t gamble.”

He played his final concert at Nashville in October 2017, where he was joined by his long-time friend and collaborator Dolly Parton for a last performance of “Islands in the Stream.”

In April 2018 Rogers scrapped the final dates of his farewell tour due to health concerns.

“I didn’t want to take forever to retire,” the singer said.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to say farewell to fans over the course of the past two years,” he said, adding that he could “never properly thank them for the encouragement and support they’ve given me throughout my career.”

Born in a housing project in Houston, Texas, Rogers started his career in the late 1950s and quickly became active in rockabilly, jazz and other genres that he brought into his country style.

He went on to have 24 number one hits and was a six-time Country Music Association Awards winner.

In 2013 Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which said he had “parlayed a distinctive, husky voice and laid-back sex appeal into durable superstardom.”

His easygoing ballads and constant touring won him mainstream pop appeal, as have his popular takes on Christmas standards.

Rogers also came to prominence through his collaboration with Parton and appearances on films and television programs including “The Muppet Show.

In 2012 he published a memoir recounting the ups and downs of his long career: “Luck or Something Like It.”

Married five times, he is survived by his wife Wanda and five children, including twin boys.

 

-AFP

UK Closes Schools As Coronavirus Deaths Rise

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at a news conference addressing the government’s response to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, at 10 Downing Street in London on March 12, 2020. Britain on Thursday said up to 10,000 people in the UK could be infected with the novel coronavirus COVID-19, as it announced new measures to slow the spread of the pandemic.
SIMON DAWSON / POOL / AFP

 

Britain announced Wednesday it would be closing schools in the coming days to stem the spread of coronavirus, as the death toll topped 100 and Londoners braced for tougher measures to tackle the outbreak.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had held off following the lead of other European countries in shutting schools, because of the impact it would have on the workforce.

But as the outbreak spreads and the death toll reached 104, up from 71 in a day, he said schools would be closed indefinitely later this week.

“After schools shut their gates from Friday afternoon, they will remain closed,” he told his daily news conference, without giving a date for their re-opening.

Exceptions will be made for key workers — including healthcare staff, police and delivery drivers — and for the most vulnerable children.

Johnson earlier this week advised people to work from home and avoid unnecessary social contact and travel, warning the infection rate was starting to spike.

On Wednesday he said this was having an effect but repeated advice for people with symptoms to self-isolate for between one and two weeks, depending on circumstances.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: More than 850 Million Students Shut Out of School – UNESCO

“Everyone must follow the advice to protect themselves and their families, but also, more importantly to protect the wider public,” he said.

Johnson added that “we will not hesitate to bring forward further and faster measures.”

Speculation is rife that London in particular could soon be subject to more draconian measures, as the capital records the most number of cases.

“We know London is ahead of the rest of us so we may see more stringent measures than even those that we have announced so far being taken,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in Edinburgh earlier.

The government will on Thursday introduce legislation giving it emergency powers to deal with the outbreak, including to close premises and restrict gatherings.

– Parliamentary hotspot –

Lawmakers were earlier told to stay away from Johnson’s weekly question time in parliament amid warnings that Westminster is a particularly infectious area.

Some 25 MPs, including a cabinet minister, are already thought to have isolated themselves.

“There’s a lot of COVID-19 in Westminster,” tweeted epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson, a government adviser, as he announced that he had also developed symptoms.

MPs will gather on Thursday however to debate new emergency legislation to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, which ministers hope to push through within days.

The government says its powers will only be used when “absolutely necessary” and the bill has support from opposition parties.

But some MPs voiced concern at the sweeping nature and duration of the proposals, and the effect on civil liberties.

– Rent support –

Johnson’s government has come under pressure to do more to tackle the outbreak of COVID-19, given the tough lockdowns imposed in other European countries.

But he insisted all action was driven by the science, adding: “We’re going to do the right measures at the right time.”

So far Britain has around 2,600 cases, but chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance this week warned that 55,000 Britons could have the virus at a “reasonable” estimate.

The new social distancing advice sparked warnings that many businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry, could go bust.

The FTSE 100 slumped again Wednesday, dropping as much as 5.0 percent in morning trade, while the pound hit its lowest level since 1985 against the dollar, touching $1.1828.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday announced a package of support for businesses, including government-backed loans of at least £330 billion ($395 billion, 360 billion euros).

On Wednesday, Johnson also promised legislation to protect individuals unable to pay their rent because of job losses caused by the crisis to avoid evictions.

In other developments:

– the government said it was working to increase the number of people in hospital being tested for COVID-19 to 25,000 a day and ensure frontline health workers get the protective kit they need.

– Johnson said there was a “massive effort” to build enough ventilators to treat the worst-hit patients, after concern about a shortage.

– Supermarkets, whose supplies have been hit by panic-buying, said they would safeguard supplies for the elderly and most vulnerable, including dedicated opening times only for older customers.

– the 50th Glastonbury music festival became the latest casualty of the outbreak, with this year’s event pushed back to next year.

AFP

Coronavirus Death Toll In Greece Rises To Three

Tourists leave the Acropolis archaeological site on March 13, 2020, in Athens. AFP

 

Greece announced two more coronavirus deaths on Saturday bringing the toll to three, as an unprecedented lockdown takes effect.

A 67-year-old man died on Zakynthos island early on Saturday and a 90-year-old man died in the northern city of Ptolemaida, the health ministry said.

Both men had health problems.

The man in Zakinthos was believed to have contracted the virus after visiting a hospital in western Greece where the first fatality was confirmed, Athens News Agency reported.

Greece closed shops, bars and restaurants on Friday as well as tourist sites such as the Acropolis as coronavirus cases jumped from 117 to 190.

Only supermarkets, pharmacies and medical facilities have been allowed to stay open.

The government had already shut down schools and universities, courts, cinemas, gyms and other indoor public gathering areas for two weeks in an effort to curb the outbreak.

A torch relay for the Tokyo 2020 Games has been cancelled after Hollywood actor Gerard Butler, who starred as the ancient Spartan King Leonidas in the 2007 epic “300”, was mobbed as he lit a cauldron in the city of Sparta.

The Greek Olympic Committee said crowds had ignored “repeated warnings” not to gather at stopovers in the torch relay.

The flame for the 2020 Tokyo Games was lit in ancient Olympia on Thursday without spectators after dozens of people tested positive for COVID-19 in the region.

Meanwhile, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said his wife had tested positive for the coronavirus and he would self-isolate for two weeks as a precaution.

AFP

Eight Killed in US Tornadoes

Damaged utility poles and lines hang above Underwood St. on March 3, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee.  Brett Carlsen/Getty Images/AFP

 

At least eight people have died after tornadoes ripped across Tennessee early Tuesday, destroying buildings and toppling powerlines in the capital of Nashville hours before the southern US state was to vote in Super Tuesday primaries, officials said.

Melisa Hucks of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reported that the statewide death toll was “eight at this time” and that fatalities had occurred across four counties.

The Nashville Fire Department said that it was responding to reports of approximately 40 structure collapses around the city.

Smashed buildings, downed power lines and debris could be seen across the city, where a tornado tore through shortly after midnight.

“A line of severe storms passed through Tennessee and has caused major damage to buildings, roads, bridges, utilities and businesses in several counties,” TEMA said.

“Nashville is hurting, and our community has been devastated,” Mayor John Cooper wrote on Twitter, urging people to lend a helping hand.

Tennessee is one of 14 states voting in the crucial Super Tuesday primaries, which will help determine the Democratic nominee for November’s presidential election.

Voting was to start an hour late in Nashville and Wilson County due to the tornado damage, with several alternate polling sites set up, local newspaper The Tennessean reported.

Governor Bill Lee said he and his wife were sending “prayers across Tennessee this morning as our state suffers from last night’s storms.”

Nashville is best known as the epicenter of the United States’ country music scene.

AFP

Bus Crash Kills 25 In South Africa

SA Minister Assures Foreign Nationals Of Halted Attacks

 

Twenty-five people died Monday when a bus rolled down a steep embankment in South Africa’s coastal Eastern Cape province, the country’s transport minister said.

“Reports indicate that the driver lost control of the bus, which subsequently rolled down a steep embankment, leaving 25 dead and approximately 62 injured,” Fikile Mbalula said in a statement.

“To lose so many lives in a single accident is devastating and shocking.”

The bus was carrying over 80 mainly elderly people to the town centre in Butterworth, the provincial transport department spokesman, Unathi Binqose, said.

It was travelling on a gravel road when it overturned.

“The driver lost control of the vehicle and it rolled down a very steep embankment,” Binqose said, adding that the driver figured among the dead.

The crash was the deadliest accident in the province since 2015 when 35 people lost their lives.

Binqose said checks would be carried out if the bus had been roadworthy as “it may be a contributing factor”.

Despite having one of the most developed road networks on the continent, South Africa has among the highest rates of road accidents in the region owing to speeding and poor maintenance of some vehicles and roads.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) data shows over 14,000 people died in road crashes on South African roads in 2017.

AFP

Germany’s Coronavirus Cases Jump From 66 To 129

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.   AFP

 

The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus in Germany jumped sharply to 129 on Sunday, official data showed, as the interior minister said he expected a vaccine by the end of the year.

The latest tally given by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s centre for disease control and prevention, showed that the number of cases had almost doubled from 66 on Saturday morning.

Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia has emerged as a hotspot after an infected couple attended carnival celebrations there, infecting dozens of people.

The deadly virus has now reached nine of Germany’s 16 states, with Frankfurt, Hamburg and Bremen among the cities reporting their first COVID-19 cases.

Speaking to the mass-daily Bild am Sonntag, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said he did not see a swift end to the virus’s spread but was optimistic a cure could be found.

“I estimate that a vaccine will be available by the end of the year,” he said, adding that he himself had stopped shaking people’s hands.

Asked whether Germany would go so far as to close off access to cities or regions, he said: “such a scenario would be the last resort”.

In Bavaria, machine tool manufacturer DMG Mori asked some 1,600 employees not to come to work on Monday after a worker contracted the virus.

Several hundred people meanwhile were released from quarantine in the district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia, allowing them to leave their homes again.

The cluster there has been linked to a carnival gathering on February 15.

Four kindergarten children in Heinsberg also tested positive for the new coronavirus at the weekend, apparently contracted through a member of staff.

Germany has cancelled several major gatherings in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, including this week’s ITB travel trade fair in Berlin.

The Michelin Guide restaurant star rating awards slated to take place in Hamburg on Tuesday have also been called off.

Organisers of the Leipzig book fair, however, said the event, which attracted over 280,000 people last year, would go ahead as planned from March 12-15.

As the coronavirus continues to disrupt air travel and supply chains around the world, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the government stood ready to stimulate Germany’s export-driven economy if the impact worsened.

“If the situation calls for it, we have the means to launch a fiscal stimulus package,” he told Die Welt newspaper.

AFP

Coronavirus: France Records First Death, Says Victim Is A Teacher

Medical staff from the IHU (Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire) Mediterranee Infection Institute are at work in the laboratory to analyse samples on the possible presence of the COVID-19 on 26 February 26, 2020 in Marseille.  GERARD JULIEN / AFP

 

A 60-year-old teacher has become the first French casualty of the coronavirus, the health ministry announced on Wednesday.

The man died overnight in a Paris hospital, bringing the coronavirus death toll in the country to two, said the ministry’s deputy head Jerome Salomon.

The first victim was an 80-year-old Chinese tourist who died in hospital in mid-February.

The latest victim, who worked at a junior-high school in the town of Crepy-en-Valois, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Paris, is not believed to have travelled to an area affected by the global coronavirus outbreak, the education ministry said.

Le Parisien newspaper quoted the mayor of the teacher’s hometown of Vaumoise as saying he had “begun to feel ill at the start of the (mid-term) holidays and had been quickly hospitalised.”

Classes are due to resume in northern France on Monday.

France has reported four other new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours — two in people returning from hard-hit Italy — bringing the total number of infections to 17.

Eleven other people have recovered in France from the disease which has killed more than 2,600 people worldwide and infected almost 80,000 others, mainly in China.

One of the four people still being treated in hospital, a 55-year-old man, is in a critical condition in the northern city of Amiens.

Two of the four had recently returned from the Lombardy region of Italy, which is at the centre of Europe’s biggest outbreak of the disease, the health ministry said.

The French government has asked citizens returning from Lombardy and the neighbouring Veneto region to avoid “all non-essential outings” and keep their children home from school.

The same recommendations have been issued for people returning from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and South Korea.

 Death of Hong Kong tourist probed 

Meanwhile, 30 tourists have been confined to their hotel in the Burgundy town of Beaune after the as-yet unexplained death of a tourist from Hong Kong, the regional health department said.

The department said a tour group, which had been due to travel to Paris Wednesday, was being kept at the Ibis hotel while tests are carried out “to banish all suspicion of a case of coronavirus”.

The agency did not say where the other members of the group were from.

The Beaune town hall said the dead man had a heart condition.

Other guests who had not been in contact with the group were allowed to leave.

AFP

Report Says 3,188 Nigerians Were Atrociously Killed In 2019

 

3,188 Nigerians were reportedly atrociously killed in 2019.

This is according to a report by Global Rights, an international non-governmental organisation championing human rights capacity building.

The report shows that 3,188 Nigerians, including 2,707 civilians and 481 security operatives were killed.

The report, presented to journalists by a former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu and a co-convener of the Bring-Back-Our-Girls campaigner, Aisha Yesufu, said this was due to violent incidents in the country.

The reports showed Borno State topping the casualty figure list with 728; while Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina and Taraba recorded 450, 280, 254 and 181 respectively.

An in-depth analysis of the report showed that violence-related deaths were recorded in every state in Nigeria with Abia notably the least impacted, with one death recorded.

World Scientists Meet To Fight Coronavirus

Scientists are at work in the VirPath university laboratory, classified as “P3” level of safety, on February 5, 2020 as they try to find an effective treatment against the new SARS-like coronavirus, which has already caused more than 560 deaths. JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

 

Scientists from around the world are reviewing how the novel coronavirus is transmitted and possible vaccines at a World Health Organization conference that kicked off on Tuesday.

“What matters most is stopping the outbreak and saving lives. With your support, that’s what we can do together,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the two-day Geneva gathering.

WHO said some 400 scientists were taking part.

The virus, first identified in China on December 31, has killed more than 1,000 people, infected over 42,000 and reached some 25 countries.

Participants will also discuss the source of the virus, which is thought to have originated in bats and reached humans via another animal such as snakes or pangolins.

There is no specific treatment or vaccine against the virus, which can cause respiratory failure.

Tedros, who has repeatedly urged countries affected to share their data, called for global “solidarity”.

“That is especially true in relation to the sharing of samples and sequences. To defeat this outbreak, we need open and equitable sharing, according to the principles of fairness and equity,” he said.

“We hope that one of the outcomes of this meeting will be an agreed roadmap for research around which researchers and donors will align,” Tedros said.

Several companies and institutes in Australia, China, France, Germany and the United States are racing to develop a vaccine — a process that normally takes years.

Asked whether scientists from Taiwan would be allowed to take part in this week’s Geneva conference, WHO officials said that they would do so but only online — along with colleagues from other parts of China.

While the WHO does not deal with Taiwan directly and only recognises Beijing, Taiwan was often allowed to attend annual assemblies and sideline meetings as an observer.

But in recent years it has been frozen out as Beijing takes an increasingly combative stance towards democratic Taiwan, which it considers its own territory.

AFP

Coronavirus: Deaths Reach Over 800, Overtaking SARS Toll

This photo taken on February 6, 2020, shows a laboratory technician working on samples from people to be tested for the new coronavirus at “Fire Eye” laboratory in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province.
STR / AFP

 

The death toll from the novel coronavirus surged past 800 in mainland China on Sunday, overtaking global fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, even as the World Health Organization said the outbreak appeared to be stabilising.

With 89 more people dying – most in Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak – the toll is now higher than the 774 killed worldwide by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to official figures.

The latest data came after the WHO said the last four days had seen “some stabilising” in Hubei, but warned the figures can still “shoot up”.

Almost 37,200 people in China have now been infected by the virus, believed to have emerged late last year in Hubei’s capital Wuhan, where residents are struggling to get daily supplies.

The epidemic has prompted the government to lock down whole cities as anger mounts over its handling of the crisis — especially after a whistleblowing doctor fell victim to the virus.

Read Also: ECOWAS Mobilising Own Resources To Combat Terrorism, Says Buhari

With much of the country still not back at work after an extended Lunar New Year holiday, cities including financial hub Shanghai ordered residents to wear masks in public.

Michael Ryan, head of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said the “stable period” of the outbreak “may reflect the impact of the control measures.”

While the death toll has climbed steadily, new cases have declined since Wednesday’s single-day peak of nearly 3,900 people nationwide.

On Sunday, the number of new cases was just over 2,600.

Public anger

Millions of people are under lockdown in Hubei in a bid to stop the virus spreading.

“The local government asked people to stay at home as much as possible, but there is not enough goods in shops each time we get there, so we have to go out frequently,” a woman surnamed Wei in Wuhan told AFP.

Wang Bin, from the ministry of commerce, said challenges included poor logistics, price increases and labour shortages.

“It is difficult for the market supply to reach normal levels,” he admitted at a press conference Sunday.

In Hubei, there’s a five day supply of pork and eggs, and a three day supply of vegetables, he said.

China’s central bank said from Monday it would offer up a 300 billion yuan ($43 billion) boost to help businesses involved in fighting the epidemic.

Melissa Santos, a student from the Dominican Republic living in Wuhan, said she “worried” about going out to buy food for the first time in a week.

“I have read that the virus can be transmitted very fast, in a few seconds,” she said.

China drew international condemnation for covering up cases during the SARS outbreak, whereas the measures it has taken this time have been praised by the WHO.

But anger erupted after the death of a Wuhan doctor who police silenced when he flagged the emerging virus in December.

The doctor, 34, died early Friday, after contracting the virus from a patient.

Chinese academics were among those angered by his death, with at least two open letters posted on social media demanding more freedoms.

“Put an end to the restrictions on freedom of speech,” one letter demanded.

‘Percolating along’

Beijing responded by sending its anti-graft body to launch an investigation, attempting to ease the anger.

But Ian Lipkin – a professor at Columbia University who worked with China on the SARS outbreak – said earlier intervention could have made a key difference.

“This virus was percolating along without anyone realising it was there,” he said.

If the quarantine measures have been effective, the epidemic should peak within the next fortnight, Lipkin added — but he warned there is also the risk of a “bump” in numbers when people return to work.

“If, in fact, the methods for containment have been adequate or effective at all… I think we will start to see some dramatic reduction in China around the third week of February,” he said.

Lipkin also said warmer weather would help to slow the number of cases.

Global Fears

Wuhan has converted public buildings into makeshift medical centres, and built two new field hospitals.

But Wuhan resident Chen Yiping told AFP her 61-year-old mother has severe symptoms and is still waiting for a hospital bed because “there are too many people in need of treatment”.

The first foreign victim in China was confirmed this week when an American diagnosed with the virus died in Wuhan.

The only fatalities outside the mainland have been a Chinese man in the Philippines and a 39-year-old man in Hong Kong.

Seventy people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan’s coast have tested positive, with all passengers told to stay inside their cabins to prevent further infection.

Several countries have banned arrivals from China while major airlines have suspended flights, and Air China cancelled some of its flights to the US.