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Congo Ebola deaths surpass 1,000 as attacks on treatment centers go on

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By REUTERS
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The death toll from an Ebola outbreak in Congo rose above 1,000 on Friday, with attacks on treatment centers continuing to hamper efforts to control the “intense transmission” of the second-worst epidemic of the virus on record.

The World Health Organization said it expected the nine-month outbreak to continue spreading though the east of Democratic Republic of Congo, and announced plans to expand vaccinations in the coming weeks once a new treatment by Johnson & Johnson is approved.

The WHO is already using another experimental vaccine made by Merck.

Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said supplies were plentiful but hostility towards medical staff was making it hard to get to affected communities.

He told reporters in Geneva that 119 attacks had been documented since January, and as a result, “we are anticipating a scenario of continued intense transmission”.

More than 100,000 people have been vaccinated so far, and the treatment has been highly effective, the WHO says.

The Merck vaccine will still be used in “ring vaccination” of people exposed to the virus and their contacts, Ryan said, but the WHO is also studying use of a single dose to stretch supplies, an option experts would review on Monday.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be deployed outside the rings in surrounding areas to protect people from infection, “as a way of laying down a barrier to the virus”, Ryan said.

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Congo’s Health Ministry said on Friday that 14 new Ebola deaths had been recorded, taking the toll to 1,008 deaths from confirmed and probable cases.

Only the 2013-2016 outbreak in West Africa has been deadlier. More than 11,000 people died then out of 28,000 who were infected.

Despite significant medical advances since then, including the vaccine and experimental treatments, health officials have struggled to control the current outbreak because of the violence and community mistrust in eastern Congo, where dozens of militias are active.

Militiamen attacked a hospital treating Ebola patients two weeks ago, killing a senior WHO epidemiologist and wounding two others.

“The numbers are nothing short of terrifying,” said Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease specialist and director of the global health charity the Wellcome Trust.

“This epidemic will not be brought under control without a really significant shift in the response,” he said. “Community trust and safety, as well as community engagement and ownership of the response is critical.”

There was an attempted assault on an Ebola treatment facility in the city of Butembo on Thursday, but nobody was injured and the assailants were captured, the WHO’s Ryan said.

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KRU cancels entire 2019/2020 season – KBC

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The Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) has cancels the entire 2019/2020 season

The Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) has cancelled the entire 2019/2020 season with no promotion, relegation or league winners due to the effects of Coronavirus.

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In a statement, the Union said all leagues and championships will be annulled and there will be no winners as the season was on the play-off stage.

“We are in challenging times with the worldwide breakout of the Novel Corona Virus.  This has caused untold disruption and presented us with a very challenging environment. Sporting activities have not been spared from its debilitating impact,” said KRU.

With the cancellation, Kenya Rugby Union said that there will be no promotion or relegation in any of the leagues, with all teams remaining in their current division.

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“At the point of disruption, the leagues were at the playoff stages and none of the leagues had qualified winners.”

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The regular Kenya Cup season had been completed and the season was headed to the play-offs.

“This decision is not intended to in any way diminish the games that have already taken place or the efforts of everyone involved. A range of options was explored, as far as possible and a broad consensus was reached across the game as to the most appropriate outcome,” added KRU.

In the regular season, Kabras Sugar led the standings with holders KCB sitting second, with the two sides already qualified for the semi-finals.

In the Championship, Strathmore University were well on course for a top-flight return after one season in the second tier and were leading the standings by a margin.

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Kenya: Odinga Calls for Food Banks Before Total Lockdown

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The Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga has supported calls for a total lockdown in case the Covid-19 cases become adverse, but challenged the government to first plan on how to ensure sustainable food distribution to poor Kenyans.

Mr Odinga said there is need for the creation of food banks to help Kenyans especially the urban poor in case of a lockdown should the coronavirus cases persist.

“We have faith in the government and whatever action it has taken to deal with this pandemic. I however, call on plans to cushion the public against its effects by providing food especially in slum areas in case of a total lockdown as we battle the monster,” Mr Odinga said during a Friday morning interview on Citizen TV.

The former prime minister said Kenya’s sole aim at the moment is how to tackle the pandemic currently ravaging the globe and should not hesitate to make adverse decisions for the sake of Kenyans safety.

He pointed out that the government should pay keen attention on areas such as Kibra, Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Mathare, Kangemi among other slum areas in Nairobi as well as urban counties of Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu and Kakamega in terms of food supply.

Mr Odinga also challenged leaders not just to stay at homelike any other ordinary Kenyans but instead come out and offer a helping hand to the poor majority.

“Politicians must not keep quiet and just stay at home. Those fond of attending Church harambees during the weekends must now come out and spend such funds to offer help to Kenyans at this time of the pandemic,”Mr Odinga said.

Mr Odinga added that Kenyans, particularly legislators and politicians, must not shy away from declaring their status on coronavirus and taking necessary steps to avert its spread but warned Kenyans against spread of malicious propaganda of their status.

“To suffer from the virus is not a crime. Let nobody be ashamed of declaring his or her status and isolate. Let us be like those great leaders in Europe who have taken a bold step to declare their status and consequently go for isolation.”

He also condemned the originators of a fake list of legislators purportedly suffering from the virus in the Country.

“It is wrong to speculate on ones health. Let us not use the pandemic to play politics and to tarnish other people’s names,” added Mr Odinga.

He told Kenyans to cooperate and heed to the government’s demands to deal with the virus and cautioned police against extensive use of force to deal with Kenyans during curfew.

“Police must handle Kenyans with gentleness. They must not beat up Kenyans and Kenyans must also be disciplined and uphold the law. You must observe curfew hours and follow the law,” Mr Odinga said.

He also welcomed the government’s plans to import maize in its efforts to avert a food crisis as it battles the spread of Covid-19.

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“I support Peter Munya (Agriculture Cabinet Secretary) on this. The government is at liberty to import maize to address the shortage especially during this time of the Covid-19 spread” he said.

The government has authorised the importation of four million bags of maize to avert a food crisis as it fights the virus.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the government would import two million bags of white maize for human consumption and another two million bags of yellow maize to be processed as animal feed.

On the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), Mr Odinga regretted that its implementation timelines could be interrupted but was quick to add that process had not been stopped.”

“Reggae (BBI implementation process) has not stopped. Reggae is still on. We are just on half time,” the ODM leader stated.