Coronavirus round up: China racism, AU special envoys named,

Coronavirus round up: China racism, AU special envoys named, two prominent deaths etc.

By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban with DANIEL MUMBERE

(africanews)–The coronavirus pandemic has been confirmed in over 180 countries globally since it was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December 2019.

The World Health Organisation, WHO, has since declared it a pandemic due to its spread. All except three African countries have recorded cases as governments roll out measures to combat the spread.

In this article, we will share the latest developments as authorities implement measures to contain the spread of the virus, especially on the African continent. Major stats as at April 13:

  • Confirmed cases = 14,497
  • Number of deaths = 788
  • Recoveries = 2,823
  • Infected countries = 52
  • Virus-free countries = 2 (Lesotho, Comoros)
  • AU appoints four-member international liaison team
  • Two prominent deaths
  • AU protests Chinese mistreatment of Africans
  • Kenya gazettes coronavirus regulations
  • South Africa cases pass 2000
  • Chinese ejecting Africans in Guangzhou
  • African cases could spike
  • France announces aid to Africa
  • S. Africa suspends ‘lockdown lunch’ minister
  • Somalia testing boost, academic calendar suspended
  • Malawi records first death
  • Mothers in isolation deliver in Cameroon, Uganda
  • Ghana records case spike
  • African cases pass 10,000 mark
  • Sao Tome and Principe records index case
  • South Sudan records index case
  • More Jack Ma donations announced
  • Zimbabwe police reverse beer ban, AU leaders meet
  • DRC locks down expats zone, Malawi index cases

April 13: Africa round-up from the weekend

Coronavirus developments continue to unravel across the continent as governments continue efforts at arresting spread of the pandemic through national and continental efforts.

The weekend coughed up some major developments across Africa aside the rising number of cases, deaths and recoveries. South Africa remains the most impacted country even though the spike in cases have dropped and a bumper recovery was also recorded.

Across the ocean, mistreatment of Africans in China also gave rise to a raft of protests from different governments with the African Union ultimately inviting the Chinese envoy to Addis Ababa to demand concrete action on the part of Beijing.

In Nigeria, the Foreign Minister and Speaker of the lower house of parliament had cause to summon the Chinese ambassador to register their displeasure. Ghana’s Foreign Minister also did same whiles Congo Republic, Kenya and Sierra Leone issued strongly worded statements.

Still with the African Union, Chairperson and South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, appointed on Sunday a four-member team to help coordinate Africa’s international efforts at combating the pandemic.

The newly appointed envoys are tasked with mobilising international support for Africa’s efforts to address the economic challenges African countries will face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Special Envoys will be tasked with soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20, the European Union and other international financial institutions, a statement read.

  • Dr Okonjo-Iweala is an internationally respected economist and development expert and served two terms as Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She has also served as Managing Director of the World Bank.
  • Dr Kaberuka is an economist and former President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB). He is the former Finance Minister of Rwanda and in 2016 was appointed as a Special Envoy of the African Union on sustainable financing for the AU and funding for Peace in Africa.
  • Manuel was the longest-serving Minister of Finance in the Republic of South Africa and formerly headed the country’s National Planning Commission. In 2018 he was appointed as an Investment Envoy by President Ramaphosa to engage domestic and international investors as part of the country’s national investment drive.
  • Thiam is a banker and businessman. He is the former Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse and also served as Chief Financial Officer and CEO of Prudential. He also has a background in management consulting and worked for McKinsey and Company.

Two prominent deaths were also recorded across the continent in relation to COVID-19. Ghana confirmed on Saturday the death of a renowned physician, Professor Jacob Plange-Rhule.

The incident occurred in the early hours of Friday (April 10) in the capital Accra specifically at the University of Ghana Medical Centre, where he had been on a brief admission. An official close to the report said he had underlying health complications before contracting the virus.

In Somalia, the death was confirmed on Sunday of a regional official. The death of Khalif Mumin was the second in the Horn of Africa nation. He died at a hospital in the capital Mogadishu, the Maritini Hospital is Somalia’s only coronavirus treatment center.

April 11: Africa protests Chinese mistreatment with Nigeria in the lead
Reports of mistreatment meted out to Africans in the Chinese city of Guangzhou has drawn the ire of a number of people on social media. Nigerian government summoned the Chinese ambassador to express their protest.

After the meeting between the Foreign Minister and the ambassador, the Speaker of the lower house of parliament also piled more pressure when he chided the ambassador in a separate meeting on Thursday.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson insisted that relations between the country and Africa remained robust despite the latest round of friction.

“FM Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said: ‘China and African countries are united more than ever, demonstrating brotherhood in times of adversity. We treat all foreign nationals equally in China. We reject differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination’,” the embassy tweeted.

On Saturday, the African Union Commission Chairperson also tweeted that his office had summoned the Chinese envoy to the AU over the recent reports.

“My Office invited the Chinese Ambassador to the AU, Mr Liu Yuxi, to express our extreme concern at allegations of maltreatment of Africans in Guangzhou plus called for immediate remedial measures in line with our excellent relations. The African group in Beijing is also engaging with the govt,” AUC chair Moussa Faki Mahamat posted on Twitter.

April 10: South Africa cases pass 2000

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa have passed the 2000 mark. Figures released on April 10 put the figure at 2003 from 73,028 cases. The death toll has also hit 24 from 18 with 95 recoveries as of April 9.

The country is Africa’s most impacted and the big figures are credited to the rate of testing. Comparatively, most other African countries can only boast of below 10,000 tests as compared to South Africa’s 73,000 plus tests.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an extension to the 21-day lockdown announced last month. The two-week extension he says will be critical in containment efforts. The president and his cabinet agreed a salary slash to support the government’s solidarity fund.

The government has gazetted hefty penalties for Kenyans, including a fine of Sh20,000 or a six months’ imprisonment or both if found breaking directives issued in line with the Public Health Act, a top portal Standard Digital has reported.

A Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 41 signed by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe indicated that failure to wear a mask while using public or private transport and failure to maintain social distance are among the offences that will attract the penalties.

“Users of public or private transport and public transport operators shall wear a proper mask that must cover the person’s mouth and nose and also maintain a physical distance of not less than one metre.”

According to the new rules, organisations, business entities, traders whether in a market or enclosed premises are required to provide at their business location or entrance to their premises, a handwashing station with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitiser which is approved for use by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

Kenya report courtesy Standard Digital portal

April 10: South Africa cases hit 2000, Africa needs more testing

African officials objected Thursday to the global jostling to obtain medical equipment to combat the coronavirus, warning that if COVID-19 is left to spread on the continent the world will remain at risk.

“We cannot be neglected in this effort,” the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters. “The world will be terribly unsafe, and it will be completely naive, if countries think they can control COVID-19 in their countries but not in Africa.”

South Africa acknowledged the challenges as it extended its lockdown by two weeks, with President Cyril Ramaphosa saying, “This is a matter of survival, and we dare not fail.”

Equipment in Africa is scarce. The World Health Organization says fewer than 5,000 intensive care unit beds are available across 43 of the continent’s 54 countries: “This is about 5 beds per 1 million people in the reported countries compared to 4,000 beds per 1 million people in Europe.” Functional ventilators in public health services across 41 countries number less than 2,000, a severe shortage for patients in respiratory distress.

While Africa’s 1.3 billion people had a head start in preparing for the pandemic as the virus spread in China, Europe and the United States, Nkengasong warned that “the very future of the continent will depend on how this matter is handled” as cases, now over 11,000, quickly rise.

“The worst is still to come,” he said, and pointed to the global Spanish flu pandemic of a century ago when cases came in waves.

Africa is also competing with the developing world for testing kits that will help give a clear number of cases, as well as protective equipment that front-line health workers desperately require. Already, anxious workers have gone on strike or gone to court in places like Zimbabwe over the lack of gear.

“We may not actually know how big is the size of the problem” without scaling up testing, Nkengasong said.

While 48 of Africa’s 54 countries now have testing capability, that often is limited to countries’ capitals or other major cities, WHO officials told reporters in a separate briefing.

There is an “urgent need” to expand testing, the WHO Africa chief, Matshidiso Moeti, said, noting that clusters of community transmission have emerged in at least 16 countries. That means the virus has begun spreading beyond the initial cases imported from abroad.

“Some countries might face a huge peak very soon” in cases, said the WHO’s emergency program manager, Michel Yao.

Even if testing kits and other equipment are found, another challenge is delivering them amid the thicket of travel restrictions. Cargo space is rare because many airlines have stopped flights to African destinations, Yao said.

Close to 20 African countries have closed their borders, and several are now under lockdown to try to prevent the virus’ spread. Now millions of people are bracing for lockdown extensions after regional leader South Africa’s announcement Thursday night.

If the country’s lockdown ends too soon or too abruptly, “we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease,” Ramaphosa said.

In the two weeks before the lockdown began two weeks ago, the average daily increase in South Africa’s new cases was around 42%, but since the start of the lockdown the average daily increase has been around 4%, he said.

South Africa has the most confirmed cases in Africa with more than 1,900. “We are only at the beginning of a monumental struggle,” Ramaphosa says. “We cannot relax and we cannot be complacent.”

The economic toll, however, has been harsh. The World Bank in a new report said sub-Saharan Africa is expected to fall into recession for the first time in a quarter-century. Growth should fall this year from 2.4% to minus 2.1%, with countries that depend heavily on oil exports and mining hit especially hard.

Africa has had some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The World Bank said African nations will require a “debt service standstill” and other financial assistance as millions of people, many who survive day-to-day, can’t go out to work.

“I am aware that some of you have been saying, ’We would rather die from COVID-19 than from hunger,” Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu told the nation Thursday. “But I advise you to choose life. Please choose life.”

And, joining a growing number of African nations, he encouraged all Zambians to wear face masks at all times.

In Uganda, 75-year-old President Yoweri Museveni tried to boost morale after outdoor exercise was banned, releasing a homemade video of him running laps barefoot in his office and doing 30 push-ups — proof, he said, that one can stay fit indoors.

April 9: Cases expected to spike in Africa, China bans Africans

Some African countries could experience a spike in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, a top official of the World Health Organization, WHO, Africa region has noted.

According to Michel Yao, the WHO Africa programme manager for emergency response, countries should thus boost their testing and medical response capacities.

“During the last four days we can see that the numbers have already doubled,” he told a media teleconference on Thursday.

“If the trend continues, and also learning from what happened in China and in Europe, some countries may face a huge peak very soon,” he said, he however did not specify which countries could be on the radar.

Compared to continental tallies, Africa’s coronavirus figures as of April 9 are relatively lower even though the WHO has stressed that it could be as a result of undetected or underreported cases. Africa is inching towards the 12,000 confirmed cases mark with 578 deaths and 1,428 recoveries according to the John Hopkins university tracking system (valid as at 16:00 GMT).

The WHO’s Africa head, Matshidiso Moeti, reiterated that there is an “urgent need” to expand testing capacity beyond capital cities in Africa, as the virus spreads through countries.

“Without help and action now, poor countries and vulnerable communities could suffer massive devastation,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told diplomats in Geneva. “The infection numbers in Africa are relatively small now, but they are growing fast,” he said.

Meanwhile over in the Chinese business city of Guangzhou, have been left stranded for a second night after they were ejected by owners of hotels and apartment blocks.

The BBC reporter in Hong Kong, Danny Vincent reported the mass evictions on Tuesday confirming that two days on, the situation had yet to be resolved.

Online rumours that the coronavirus was spreading among the thousands of Africans in the city led to door-to-door testing, evictions and accusations of forced quarantine. “We have no house, no food, no hotel,” one student from Nigeria told the BBC.

“There are up to 100 people still on the streets. People want to go back to our countries. I don’t know what the problem is with China. Everywhere that Africans live they are pushing us away.”

Guangzhou is home to one of China’s largest African communities and has become a hub for African traders buying and selling goods to the continent.

In an open letter penned by the All African Association of Guangzhou, community leaders called on the authorities to end the “the inhuman treatment, hatred, and outright discrimination of Africans that is currently going on in Guangzhou”.

“About 10 African community leaders in Guangzhou are technically under house arrest using the term quarantine. These actions are difficult to comprehend when you consider the fact that these are people whose official test results came back negative just one or two days ago.”

With additional files from BBC Africa LIVE page

April 9: France announced aid to Africa, Seychelles lockdown kicks in

The French government has announced a financial package to support Africa in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, state-run Radio France International, RFI reported late Wednesday.

The announcement was made by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian who disclosed that Paris will grant aid of “nearly 1.2 billion” euros to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Africa.

Meanwhiles, the island nation of Seychelles started a 21-day lockdown from midnight on Wednesday. The move which forms part of COVID-19 containment has shut down non-essential services and restrict the movement.

Government instituted the measure a 26-year-old citizen who works at the airport as a grounds staff tested positive for coronavirus on Monday. The country has 11 confirmed cases with no death with two recoveries so far.

President Danny Faure who made the announcement said the airport will remain closed until the end of April while new maritime surveillance will be applied in the island nation.

The first Seychellois patient who tested positive for Covid-19 on 14 March, and a Dutch woman who tested positive the following day, have both recovered from the disease, the president said.

April 8: SA Minister suspended over lockdown lunch, Somalia testing boost

South African Minister suspended over lockdown lunch

A South African minister has been suspended by the president for breaking lockdown rules after she attended lunch at a former minister’s residence.

A statement from the president read: “President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave for two months – one month of which will be unpaid.

“As to allegations that the Minister violated the lockdown regulations, the law should take its course. This follows the revelation on social media that the Minister had recently visited the home of a friend who hosted a lunch, contrary to the lockdown regulations.

“The President summoned the Minister yesterday, Tuesday 07 April 2020. The President expressed his disapproval of the Minister’s actions, which undermine the requirement that all citizens stay at home and save South Africa from the spread of the coronavirus.”

FULL STATEMENT – President censures Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams for lockdown lunch

In Somalia, the health ministry yesterday (April 7) that the country is now able to test for coronavirus in the capital, Mogadishu. Previously samples were taken to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, for testing.

The ministry’s National Public Health Research Laboratory (NPHRL) has now been equipped to carry out the tests. Somalia has eight cases, one of the lowest in the Horn of Africa region. Government also announced that the academic calender has been suspended for the year due to the virus.

In next door Ethiopia, PM Abiy declared a state of emergency after a cabinet meeting today. The declaration is to be tabled before lawmakers for ratification.

Already, the northern Tigray Region had declared a state of emergency at a time they had recorded no cases. The region is also the first to get testing capacity outside of the national facilities in Addis Ababa.

April 7: Malawi records death, Infected mothers deliver in Cameroon, Uganda

Malawi’s coronavirus tally has reached eight with the Ministry of Health confirming the first casualty in the southern African nation.

The patient was a 51-year-old Malawian woman of Indian origin who had recently returned to the country from the UK. The ministry said she had an underlying heath condition.

Of the three new cases announced today, two of the patients are in the city of Blantyre and the other in Chikwawa town. Malawi was one of the African countries that recorded a case very late. So far only Comoros and Lesotho have yet to be infected.

Infected women deliver in Cameroon, Uganda

The BBC reports that a patient undergoing treatment for coronavirus in the Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, gave birth to a baby girl over the weekend, quoting a doctor at the hospital’s isolation ward.

The mother, 19-year-old Marie, gave birth normally but has since been separated from her newborn baby. The patient was connected to an oxygen supply when her contractions started, the report added.

“We just arranged the room and she delivered on her bed while on oxygen,” Dr Yaneu Ngaha Bondja Junie, a gynaecologist at the hospital, told the BBC.

The baby was born prematurely weighing 2.1kg (4.6lb) and is in the neonatal unit. It is not clear if the baby is infected as her tests are still being processed, but she is being fed with breast milk from her mother.

It is the second known birth of a child by a COVID-19 patient. Over the weekend, portals in Uganda confirmed the birth through Caesarean section of a healthy baby.

The Daily Monitor report gave the following details. The 22-year-old Ugandan mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl at Entebbe Grade B Hospital. She was reportedly infected by her husband who returned from Dubai recently.

“The patient gave birth very well this afternoon through a Caesarean Section and the mother and baby are in good health,” Dr Moses Muwonge, the director of the hospital is quoted to have said.

April 6 – 7: Ghana case spike, Sao Tome index case, cases pass 10,000

Cases in Ghana reached 287 as at Tuesday April 7, the health surveillance outfit reported in an update posted on its website. “Following measures for enhanced contact tracing and testing, Ghana has detected an increased number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“As at 6th April 2020, 23:30 hr, a total of 287 cases of COVID-19 with five (5) deaths have been recorded. The regional distribution of the cases are as follows: Greater Accra Region has most cases (258) followed by the Ashanti Region (18), Northern Region (10), Upper West Region (1), Eastern Region (1) and Upper East Region (1),” the update stated.

Ghana is West Africa’s third most impacted country by the development. The country is ranked behind Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast with 364 and 323 cases respectively.

Meanwhile, the continental tally has passed the 10,000 mark with close to 500 deaths and 1,000 deaths. South Africa is the continent’s most impacted with over 1,600 cases. Only two African countries are without cases – Lesotho and Comoros.

Meanwhile Sao Tome on Monday became the 52nd African country to record first cases of COVID-19. The Prime Minister confirmed that four persons had tested positive.

April 6: Sao Tome index case, Rwanda cabinet donates salary

Sao Tome and Principe became the 52nd African country to record cases of the COVID-19. The island nation confirmed its first four cases on Monday, April 6.

Prime Minister Jorge Bom Jesus disclosed that the confirmation came after test results returned from Gabon. The development leaves Lesotho and Comoros as Africa’s virus free countries as of April 6.

The continent’s confirmed COVID-19 cases is heading towards 10,000, with over 400 deaths. Another 900+ patients have recovered.

Rwandan ministers and top officials have joined the growing trend of public officials donating their salaries to the fight against COVID-19. Cabinet ministers and others have agreed ti donate their April salaries to aid the countries fight against the pandemic

A statement from the prime minister’s office confirmed that other officials who agreed to forgo their salaries are leaders of national institutions and top government officials. The country has 105 confirmed cases with four recoveries. It is East Africa’s third most impacted behind Mauritius and Kenya.

A strictly enforced lockdown remains in place having been extended last week by the cabinet. The government has since last week been distributing food to citizens who had been relying on receiving pay every day.

Lawmakers in Nigeria weeks back agreed to forgo their salaries as contributions towards the COVID-19 fight. Kenya’s president and top government officials also took salary cuts for the same reason.

Over in Malawi, President Peter Mutharika also announced taking a 10% salary cut along with his ministers. “The coronavirus attack has a huge negative impact on the economy and businesses everywhere.

“There are many business people and industry players who are uncertain about the situation as it is unfolding. I know that everyone is worried,” he said.

“Therefore, government will take measures to protect jobs and incomes, protect businesses and ensure continuity of the supply chain and the survival of the economy.”

Amongst other measures, the president directed the Reserve Bank of Malawi to allow banks to offer a three-month moratorium on interest payments on loans to small- and medium-sized businesses.

He also ordered the country’s Competition and Fair Trading Commission to put in place strict monitoring of price controls and punish anyone found increasing prices at the expense of Malawians.

April 5: South Sudan index case

South Sudan has announced its first case of COVID-19, making it the 51st of Africa’s 54 countries to report the disease.

A U.N. worker who arrived in the country from Netherlands on Feb. 28 is ill with the disease, confirmed First Vice President Riek Machar and the U.N. mission in South Sudan. The patient, a 29-year-old woman, first showed signs of the disease on April 2 and is recovering, said officials.

South Sudan, with 11 million people, currently has four ventilators and wants to increase that number, said Machar, who emphasized that people should stay three to six feet apart from others. “The only vaccine is social distancing,” said Machar.

The patient is under quarantine at U.N. premises and health workers are tracing the people who had been in contact with her, said David Shearer, head of the U.N. operations in South Sudan. He said he hoped the measures would contain the case.

To prevent the spread of the virus in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir last week imposed a curfew from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. for six weeks and closed borders, airports, schools, churches and mosques.

AP report

Meanwhile, Chinese e-commerce mogul Jack Ma has announced a new round of donation to Africa. Ma and his foundation is partnering with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed on this round too.

“Our second donation to 54 countries in Africa is on the way. That includes 500 ventilators, 200K suits & face shields, 2K thermometers, 1M swabs & extraction kits and 500K gloves,” Ma posted on Twitter on Monday.

Other partners include include Ethiopian Airlines which has been doing the continent-wide deliveries and the African Union’s Africa Center for Disease Control (Africa CDC) which is also headquartered in Addis Ababa.

Meanwhile as of Monday April 6, Africa’s reported cases was nearing the 10,000 mark according to data from Africa CDC and the John Hopkins University.

Major stats as at April 6

Confirmed cases = 9,393
Number of deaths = 445
Recoveries = 906
Infected countries = 51
Virus-free countries = 3 (Sao Tome and Principe, Lesotho, Comoros)

Reports surfaced on Friday that Zimbabwe police had issued a ban on sale of beer under lockdown rules to help contain the coronavirus pandemic. The move attracted lots of social media criticism.

But late Fiday, state-run Heral newspaper reported that police had reversed the earlier statement banning alcohol sales saying supermarkets and registered bottle stores can now continue selling beer on condition it is consumed off the premises.

In a statement, national police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi warned drinkers against gathering outside their homes.

Cameroon’s tally ‘boomed’ on Friday when Health Minister Manaouda Malachie confirmed that 203 new cases had been recorded taking the national tally to 503 as of March 3.

Meanwhile, African leaders have been holding virtual meetings to put together a continental response to the pandemic which has seen its statistics – cases, deaths, recoveries – growing in the last two weeks.

Rwandan president Paul Kagame called it a “productive conference call chaired by AU Chair President Cyril Ramaphosa,” according to him, the discussions centered on the need to speak with a common voice and seek Africa’s best interest.

“We discussed the need for Africa to stand together,speak with one voice and work through our institutions to mobilize resources and harmonize the support from international partners. Thank you to initiatives by African institutions such as African Development Bank and Africa Exim Bank for their support

“The meeting stressed the urgency & need to materialize all commitments swiftly and flexibly. Through coordinated action, we can succeed in mitigating the health and economic impact of COVID-19 on our population.

“The loss of and damage to life and economy globally and particularly in Africa is colossal….and so must be the amounts of energy and financial package(s) to bring things back to normal and beyond,” Kagame wrote on Twitter.

Some African leaders who participated included Senegal’s Macky Sall, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, DRC’s Felix Tshisekedi, Mali’s Ibrahim Boubakar Keita, Egypt’s Abdel Fatteh Al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat and WHO boss, Tedros Ghebereyesus were also part of the meeting. “We were joined later by President Emmanuel Macron, a good partner for Africa,” Kagame added.

The Namibian president on Friday disclosed that he had held talks with his Chinese counterpart as part of efforts to strengthen Africa’s response to COVID-19. “I also expressed gratitude to President XI for China’s support and care of over 500 Namibian students in Wuhan and China during this pandemic,” Hage Geingob added.

Meanwhile South Africa’s Health Minister says the country is formally going to seek assistance from Cuba and China on managing the pandemic. Nigeria also confirms that it is awaiting a medical team from China to support its response to the virus.