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Mount Etna: New 4.8-magnitude earthquake hits Sicily

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A 4.8-magnitude earthquake has hit Sicily around Europe’s most active volcano Mount Etna, injuring at least two people, Italian media report.

Some buildings were reportedly damaged in what was the latest in dozens of tremors since Etna erupted on Monday.

Volcanic ash had earlier covered nearby villages, and flights to and from Catania airport had to be halted temporarily.

People on the mountainside were told to escape quickly.

The earthquake struck at 03:19 local time (02:19 GMT) on Wednesday near the municipality of Viagrande.

Pictures of damaged buildings have been posted on social media.

Italian media report panic among local residents, many of whom run out into the streets.

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There were also reports of buildings shaking in Catania, a city of more than 300,000 people.

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3 pastors fighting ban over coronavirus get court date

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MAUREEN KAKAH

By MAUREEN KAKAH
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The High Court has certified as urgent a case in which three pastors want the ban on congregating lifted with measures put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Justice James Makau issued the directive on Friday after Pastors Don Mutugi Majau, Joan Miriti and Alex Gichunge sued the Interior, Health and ICT Cabinet Secretaries, the Attorney-General together and the Inspector-General of Police.

Justice Makau set the hearing for April 16 and ordered the pastors to give copies of the case documents to the sued parties before close of business on April 14.

In the suit, the pastors acknowledge measures put in place by the government to stop the spread but argue that as the pandemic worsens, Kenyans will look to churches for solace.

They are protesting the directive against social gatherings that saw closure of churches, saying it was reached without consultations with relevant stakeholders.

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They also say the State imposed the curfew and the restriction on gatherings without consulting the church.

Had consultations taken place, the petitioners say, the public would have been sufficiently educated on social distancing and proper hygiene, peace and unity would have been promoted and food drives would have been held for the sake of the less fortunate.

“The petitioners [and] other believers are in no way approaching this court in efforts to spread the coronavirus. Their sole wish is to congregate whilst adhering to the directive issued,” said their lawyer John Swaka.

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He added, “The church’s role in such times is to give hope amid the crisis not only in this country but also in the world at large. They humbly seek the intervention of the court since their rights and freedoms are being infringed.”

The pastors further note that judges, doctors and journalists are risking their lives to serve Kenyans and that pastors should be added to the list of essential service providers.

While admitting that religious activities cannot continue as usual, the trio said clergymen, as essential service providers, cannot remain locked up yet they are required to serve the people and rally the nation, on their knees, in the fight against the deadly disease.

The religious leaders note that their services can go on with those in attendance wearing masks and gloves and using hand sanitisers.

They want churches allowed to conduct services with leaders compelled to ensure members adhere to guidelines for curbing spread of the virus.

The alternative, they say, is for the government to allow the broadcasting of services on specific days.

The case will be mentioned on April 16.

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Kenya: Suspected COVID-19 Patient Fights Lonely Battles

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“I cannot wait for my quarantine days to be over so that I can mourn my mother; I will start wailing at the door.”

These were the painful words of Brenda Akinyi, 42, whose mother, Ursula Buluma, a Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) employee, passed away at a Mombasa hospital on April 2 and was buried the same day at Mbaraki cemetery.

Ms Buluma was the Coast region’s first Covid-19 fatality.

Speaking to the Nation on phone from her isolation bed at Coast General Hospital (CPGH) in Mombasa, Ms Akinyi, who is the late Buluma’s first born daughter, said her mother’s death was as a result of “carelessness and negligence” by the hospital’s management.

“I am yet to grieve. I didn’t see her body, nor attend her burial,” she said, adding: “My mother has been having health complications which she has lived with for years, so when she called me on Wednesday, March 25, to go to her house in Jomvu to take her to hospital, I did not find it strange because it was not the first time I was doing it.”

PNEUMONIA TREATMENT

They went to Bandari Clinic – which is usually the first stop for KPA employees – where her mother was diagnosed with pneumonia and referred to the Mombasa hospital.

“We went to Mombasa hospital on a KPA ambulance, where my mother was first taken to the emergency section and put on oxygen. However, she was removed from the intensive care unit and taken for what the hospital staff told me was screening, the same day,” she said from her Rahamtulla isolation ward at CPGH.

She was later told that her mother will have to be taken to an isolation ward as they suspected that she had Covid-19 disease.

She visited her mother on Friday and Saturday, staying next to her on both days and chatting as usual. But when she returned on Sunday, March 29, she was asked to stay away because her mother had tested positive.

“I was devastated. I also demanded to know why my mother was not put on pneumonia treatment at Mombasa hospital as was directed by doctors at Bandari Clinic, but no one gave me an answer.”

According Ms Akinyi, doctors visited her home on Monday, March 30, did some tests and left. They returned on Tuesday, March 31, to pick her.

TESTS TURN NEGATIVE

She was first taken to the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) isolation centre in Mombasa before being moved to the Coast General Hospital on Tuesday, April 1.

“I have been in quarantine for 10 days today and I have not exhibited any symptoms. I have been in touch with my children and none of them has exhibited any signs, which leaves me very confused as to why exactly I am here,” she said.

“I have not been given any results from the tests they did before they took me to KMTC and thereafter in this isolation ward. It is very frustrating because I am not aware of my condition. Am I on forced quarantine or under treatment?” she wondered.

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Ms Akinyi’s children are under quarantine at the KMTC, Mombasa campus. But given the poor condition of the facilities, the family transferred them to Mombasa Beach Hotel, one of the quarantine centres at the Coast.

According to her, life in isolation is tough because she is cut off physically from the rest of the world, depending on her mobile phone and internet connectivity to keep abreast with what is going on in the country and beyond.

“I am in a self-contained room staring at the walls the whole day, without anyone to talk to or even an opportunity to bask in the sun,” she said.

ROUTINE

Ms Akinyi said she wakes up as early as 4am to browse the internet and check on friends on social media until 7am, when her breakfast is served by hospital staff.

At 10am, she is served with tea, and thereafter lunch at noon. Four hours later, an evening cup of tea is wheeled into her room, before her dinner closes the daily meal routine at 7pm.

“They have made sure that we have our meals on time. That is all we get here, mostly because one is rarely visited by a medical doctor,” Ms Akinyi said, adding that the medics talk to her on phone mainly to ask if she is exhibiting any symptoms.