Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday introduced a raft of new measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, saying the surge of the infections has continued for the past three weeks and in some areas accelerated sharply.
Kenyatta, who addressed the nation after meeting the country's 47 governors, banned the sale of alcoholic drinks in all restaurants in the country and directed that all bars remain closed indefinitely to slow down the rising rate of COVID-19 transmission in the country.
"Contact tracing of the recent surge of infections indicates that our socializing without regard for protective behavior, particularly in environments serving alcohol, is becoming a high-risk factor," he added.
"We are fortunate that our case fatality rate, at 1.6 percent, is much lower than the global average. Perhaps it is this relatively low rate that is giving some Kenyans false comfort that this is not a serious health risk to them and their families," said Kenyatta.
He directed the police chief to withdraw all licenses for bars found operating, adding that the withdrawals shall be permanent.
Kenyatta extended the nationwide curfew for a further 30 days and directed the police to strictly enforce ministry of health protocols on public gatherings, and particularly funerals.
He warned that strict personal sanction will ensue to all police and administration officers in whose areas of jurisdiction there is a breach of the set guidelines.
The president said the ministry of health will develop a protocol to temporarily retain retired anesthetists and ICU staff to support the medical staff assigned to dealing with serious COVID-19 cases.
He said any government institutions, including sporting facilities, educational institutions and other government facilities, upon designation by the cabinet secretary for health as a public health facility, shall be availed to the health ministry for isolation and quarantine purposes.
The president's address comes as the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 17,975 on Monday after 440 new cases were confirmed after testing of 3,197 samples.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement that from the cases, 437 are Kenyans while three are foreigners, with 286 males and 154 females. The youngest case is a one-year-old infant, while the oldest is 84.
The ministry said that during the period 90 patients were discharged from various health facilities, bringing the total number of recoveries to 7,833.
The ministry said five patients died from the disease, bringing the total number of fatalities to 285.
A group of doctors in Sri Lanka has successfully performed the country's first-ever pediatric liver transplant on a 9-year-old girl at the North Colombo Teaching Hospital (NCTH) in Ragama in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo, local media reports said here Monday.
The surgery was performed by a group of specialist surgeons from across the country led by Professor Rohan Siriwardana.
Deputy Director of the NCTH, Dr. Sarath Premasiri told local journalists that the surgery was performed last week while the hospital had performed about 50 human liver transplants, and this surgery was the first pediatric surgery performed.
Professor Rohan Siriwardana, quoted in the local Daily News said the 9-year-old girl had been detected with cirrhosis of the liver, which needs to be transplanted among children.
The donor was the girl's mother, and both the mother and child are doing well under a smooth recovery.
Complex operations were carried out on the child and the mother over a period of 12 hours with the help of the expert doctors after which the child was transferred to the ICU. She is now warded at the NCTH and is preparing to go home in a few days, Dr. Siriwardana said.
"The mother has also recovered and is enjoying the company of her daughter who received a new life from her," the professor said.
Some doctors have urged Nigeria and other Commonwealth countries to prioritise saving of lives and use the opportunity of COVID-19 to prepare for future global pandemics or outbreak.
The doctors also warned the countries to stop politicising COVID-19 pandemic in order to reduce its mortality rate.
They made the assertions on Wednesday at the first in series of Webinar lined up by the Commonwealth Medical Association ( CMA).
Its theme was: “Regional Perspectives on Clinical Case Management of COVID-19; Current Realities, Best Practices, and Challenges.”
The webinar, aimed at addressing critical issues on the COVID-19 pandemic, had no fewer than 1,420 participants from over 42 countries of the world.
It was chaired by a former Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Akin Osibogun.
The Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA) is an NGO with main objective to assist and strengthen the capacities of national medical associations (NMAs) of countries within the Commonwealth.
It is to improve the health, well-being and human rights of their countries and communities.
The Director-General of World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, represented by Executive Director, Emergency Programme, Dr Mike Ryain, said it was saddening that COVID-19 was being politicised by some countries.
According to Ghebreyesus, countries must focus on research to provide vaccines, which will be vital to preventing and treating COVID-19 as there is much the world can do to save lives.
The director-general said: “We can do so much right now to reduce mortality, empower our communities and provide better, clearer and more consistent governance and coordination to drive a well-coordinated, managed multi-sectoral and political leadership to respond to the pandemic.’’
He, however, acknowledged that the challenge with any emerging disease was lack of proven counter-measures, such as therapeutic drugs.
“Accelerating research is essential to finding those life-saving antiviral drugs and treatment for this pandemic,” Ghebreyesus said.
He said complications of the disease could be very difficult to manage, hence, the need for early detection of patient whether moderate or developing complications.
“Early application of intervention to reduce mortality, coping with the interventions and other forms of care interventions in the ICU to reduce second re-complication in terms of care are very essential,’’ he said.
Ghebreyesus encouraged international collaboration among medical associations during the pandemic.
The Secretary-General of the World Medical Association, WMA, Otmar Kloiber, urged physicians not to limit themselves with the containment of the virus, but take advantage of the era to prepare for the next global outbreak.
According to him, it is time for medical doctors around the world to bring the loose threads of their clinical learning for the first six months of the pandemic.
He also urged scientists to work together and take the opportunity to improve, get better, get new clinical insight to learn the path of physiology as a team.
“Ranging from the Biologist to the epidemiologist, the public health specialist, the critical care specialist and the family physician.
“As comity of physicians, we have to address some very difficult questions; this has not been the hour of international solidarity.
“Despite the efforts of the WHO, which we all have to praise, this has been a time of political egoism, nationalism.
“The virus has shown us that the borders do not matter; actually it has been more international than we have been and that should give us now the task to be better prepared to learn, not only for COVID-19.
“This world cannot survive if everyone thinks more about themselves and their countryies,’’ he said.
The Convener of the webinar and President CMA, Dr Osahon Enabulele, acknowledged that global community was facing one of the greatest afflictions in the last 100 years.
According to Enabulele, the Commonwealth accounts for over 15 per cent of the world’s confirmed cases of COVID-19, saying that CMA had made several interventions along the various pillars of the containment efforts.
Osahon explained that the webinar series was part of the interventional efforts, particularly, as it concerns patients care, safety, protection and motivation of healthcare workers across the region.
“We are aware that some countries have been devising several approaches, but we believe that as Commonwealth that it is time to connect and engage people, share experiences and knowledge and hopefully develop a consensus framework going forward.
“Apart from patient care, we have also paid due attention to the very issue of welfare and the wellbeing of our toiling health workers who are working very hard for patients all over the world and ensuring those affected are treated,’’ he said.
Also, Mrs Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General, Commonwealth Nations, commended WHO for its efforts so far in addressing the pandemic.
“Sacrifices of health workers and that of those who loved them have been great, but the debt the society owes them, must never be forgotten.
“We need approaches to help our wellbeing.
“We need goodwill, mutual support, knowledge and sharing of resources, so the input of ideas of those represented and convened by the CMA, is critical if we are to understand or fully respond more effectively to the disease,”
She urged scientists to make their voices heard as their experiences from day to day interaction with patients and challenges would shape policies and planning interventions.
Contributing, a Professor of Paediatrics, University of Toronto, Prof. Upton Allen, in his presentation on COVID-19 in Canada, stressed the need for appropriate messaging to restore public trust.
Allen said there was need for education for adequate coverage of the disease.
He regretted that communities were very sceptical about the messaging from the scientists and the politicians.
Edited By: Vivian Ihechu/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)
Florida recorded more than 12,600 new coronavirus cases on Monday, its second-highest daily tally since the outbreak began.
This coincides with the United States state’s attempt to revive tourism and attract visitors to the recently reopened Disney World.
Florida along with Arizona, California and Texas have emerged as the new United States epicentres of the pandemic.
Infections have risen rapidly in about 40 of the 50 states over the last two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis.
Linda Stuart, 70, a lifelong resident of Orlando, Florida, said she and her family members were staying at home except to go to the grocery and were “painfully aware” how quickly cases are rising.
“But sadly, too many people aren’t listening,” she said.
“This should be terrifying them, but it isn’t. Not enough people are even wearing masks.”
The latest rise in Florida cases emerged hours after President Donald Trump took swipes at health experts in his government leading the United States response to the pandemic, and his relationship further frayed with top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci.
In the early morning, Trump retweeted accusations by a former game show host that “everyone is lying,” including the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the lead agency in the pandemic response.
“The most outrageous lies are the ones about COVID-19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, media, Democrats, our doctors – not all but most – that we are told to trust,” Chuck Woolery wrote Sunday night, without providing evidence.
On Sunday, Florida reported a record increase of more than 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours.
If Florida were a country, that would rank it fourth in the world for the most new cases in a day, behind the United States, Brazil and India, according to a Reuters analysis.
Walt Disney Co faces a starkly different response in Hong Kong where the government has ordered the Disneyland theme park to close due to rising coronavirus cases.
Hong Kong recorded 52 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing total cases to 1,522.
In Florida’s Orange County, where Disney World is located, cases rose by 623 to a total of 18,624, the fifth highest outbreak in the state’s counties.
With over 7.5 million residents, Hong Kong has more than five times the population of Orange County.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has called the state’s rise in cases “a blip” and told residents not to be alarmed.
Florida recorded more than 500 deaths this past week, compared with over 300 the prior week.
It is one of about two dozen states where deaths have risen in the last seven days compared with the prior seven days, according to a Reuters analysis.
Florida’s Disney World welcomed the public on Saturday for the first time since March, with guests required to wear masks, undergo temperature checks and keep physically apart.
The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalised in Florida is quickly rising, with over 500 new patients in the past 24 hours raising to 8,000 the number in hospitals, according to a state agency.
Across Florida, 47 hospitals reported their intensive care units (ICUs) were completely full, including eight hospitals in the Miami-Dade County hot spot.
Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are calling on Trump, a Republican, to invoke the Defense Production Act to expand the capacity of labs to process tests for the novel coronavirus, citing processing delays and shortages of chemical reagents and other supplies.
In some hard-hit states, residents are waiting up to 10 days to get their test results, according to numerous posts on social media.
The law, which dates to the Korean War of the 1950s, grants the president broad authority to “expedite and expand the supply of resources from the United States industrial base” in emergencies.
Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed the government's gratitude on Wednesday to donors for their continuing support to the National Health System in the war against COVID-19, at an event here on the occasion of a new donation made by Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).
Greece won the first battle so far against the novel coronavirus as the state, private initiative, donors and citizens joined forces to address the challenge, but continues to strengthen its national health system welcoming more donations in order to be prepared for a possible second COVID-19 wave and other future challenges, Mitsotakis said in a speech in front of "Sotiria" hospital.
"Sotiria" is one of the 15 public hospitals across Greece which will share 174 intensive care unit (ICU) beds in new units to be constructed in the next six months, according to the timetable.
The donation is estimated at about 15 million euros (16.9 million United States dollars) and is only part of the multi-million donation the foundation will make in Greece and worldwide in the context of its Global Relief Initiative for the COVID-19 Pandemic announced in April.
"I would like to thank all those who stood by the side of the National Health System providing medical supplies, equipment which will be used in ICUs, important donations which reached 90 million euros," Mitsotakis said.
The Health Ministry announced in May that the Greek state received donations worth about this sum for the battle against COVID-19 from at least 865 organizations, entities, companies, and individuals, but also countries like China.
The first significant load of medical supplies weighing some 18 tons arrived in Athens in March from China. They were donated by the Chinese government, enterprises and organizations.
Addressing Wednesday's event, the prime minister stressed that the aid from donors was critical to fill gaps and secure the means to prevent the further spread of the virus and provide the best possible help to those infected.
"We knew at the beginning of the crisis that we had a very small number of beds in ICUs," Mitsotakis said.
In January, Greece had 5.5 ICU beds per 100,000 people while the European Union (EU) average is 12 ICU beds per 100,000 people, he noted. Currently, Greece has 7 ICU beds per 100,000 people and by 2021, thanks to the new donation, will reach the EU average.
"(The coronavirus crisis) is an opportunity beyond the tragedy to unveil chronic shortcomings of the National Health System and correct them as soon as possible," Mitsotakis added.
SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos said: "The Foundation responds to the need to ease and face the impact of COVID-19."
In addition to the donations for the upgrade of infrastructure, the foundation allocated 7.2 million euros for an extra bonus to 4,700 medical, nursing and cleaning staff at hospitals for their front-line services during the first battle against the virus.
"A big thank you to all those who contributed to turning Greece into a global model today on how to handle this unprecedented pandemic successfully. I think that witnessing what has happened in other countries, you all have every reason to be proud because you saved many lives," Mitsotakis stressed.
Greek authorities announced on Wednesday that 23 new COVID-19 cases have been registered since Tuesday nationwide, and no fatalities.
Greece has now 3,432 confirmed infections, including 192 deaths, since the first case was diagnosed on Feb. 26 in the country.
Nine patients were currently hospitalized in ICUs, while 119 people have been discharged from ICUs so far. (1 euro = 1.13 United States dollars)
The Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, announced all of its beaches and other outdoor facilities must be closed this weekend during Independence Day celebrations amid rising concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic would be out of control.
"Even though this is a holiday weekend and we know that you want to celebrate with those closest to you, gatherings with people not from your household are not permitted and put everyone at risk of COVID-19," the county's health department tweeted Tuesday.
According to an order issued by the county in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent crowding that can result in more people becoming infected, all LA beaches, piers, beach parking lots, and beach bike paths will be closed from local time 12:01 a.m. (1901 GMT) on July 3 to 5:00 a.m. (1200 GMT) on July 6.
Meanwhile, traditional fireworks displays during this important summer holiday weekend were prohibited, the department said, adding it is a difficult decision.
The county saw steep increases in community spread. On Monday, officials announced more than 2,900 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic started.
California State and local officials are closely watching the latest figures of Los Angeles as they weigh when and how to reopen. One metric is that the county has to keep the number of new cases over the last 14 days under 25 per 100,000 residents.
The county currently fails that test. Over the last two weeks by Tuesday, officials saw 27,126 confirmed new cases, or 269 per 100,000.
Projections by the department also show a marked increase in hospitalizations in the coming weeks, which could strain the county's healthcare system, as the data showed that in the past two weeks hospitalizations increased by 27 percent.
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that officials predicted the county could run out of hospital beds in two to three weeks, and ICU beds sometime in July.
Anthony Fauci, the United States government's top infectious-diseases expert, said on Tuesday the country is "not in total control" of the coronavirus pandemic, giving a dire warning that COVID-19 cases in the United States could go up to 100,000 per day if the current trend "does not turn around."
"I can't make an accurate prediction, but it's going to be very disturbing," Fauci told senators in a hearing held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the country is "going in the wrong direction" as the number of COVID-19 cases increases across the nation.
"We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so I am very concerned," he said.
Fauci stressed that he could not make an estimation on deaths as those would need to be modeled.
His comments came as the number of new cases reported each day in the United States is outpacing that of April, when the pandemic rocked Washington state and other parts of the country, especially the New York City area.
More than 2.6 million COVID-19 cases have been reported in the country with the fatalities surpassing 127,000 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Fauci warned that some states are "skipping over" checkpoints in the federal reopening guidelines and that this is leading to new hotspots in states like Texas, Florida and Arizona.
According to Fauci, about 50 percent of all new cases are coming from four states: Florida, California, Texas and Arizona.
The outbreaks in various parts of the country put "the entire country at risk" and "clearly we don't have this under control," Fauci added.
He said that even states and localities that "did it right" regarding reopening still have individuals who engaged in an "all or none phenomenon", disregarding social-distancing measures and face mask usage while out socially.
"In this viral surge we are seeing more tests being done but we are also seeing a higher percentage of those tests be positive. This indicates more infection is the issue - not more testing," Robert Schooley, a professor of medicine with the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, told Xinhua in an interview.
"As the epidemic surges, hospitals and ICUs are, nonetheless, being stretched to capacity in Arizona, Texas, Alabama and elsewhere. The number of deaths will rise if the epidemic is not brought into check," Schooley said.
"Behavior in real time is what drives the future," he noted.
A total of 142 people got infected by the new coronavirus over the past 24 hours, compared to 126 new infections on Monday, the Italian Ministry of Health said Tuesday in its daily report.
However, total active cases decreased to 15,563, against 16,496 on Monday.
Of the active cases, 1,090 people were hospitalized with symptoms (down from 1,120 on Monday) and 14,380 were quarantined at home because they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. A total of 93 patients are in the ICU, down from 96 on Monday.
Another 23 COVID-19 patients died over the past day, bringing the overall death toll in the country to 34,767. Meanwhile, a total of 190,248 patients have recovered, up from 189,196 on Monday.
The overall number of COVID-19 cases combining infections, fatalities and recoveries rose by 142 to 240,578 nationwide over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.
The northern, densely populated Lombardy region whose capital is Milan, still led among Italy's 20 regions in terms of caseload, with 10,060 active infections, 16,644 deaths, and 67,197 recoveries.
The Health Ministry also said 5,390,110 swabs to test for the virus have been carried out so far, up by 48,273 compared to Monday.
Kuwait on Tuesday reported 671 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 46,195 and the death toll to 354, the health ministry said in a statement.
Currently, 8,811 patients are receiving treatment, including 139 in ICU, the statement added.
The ministry also announced the recovery of 717 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 37,030.
Kuwait started on Tuesday the second phase of restoring normal life, which will last three weeks.
In the second phase, public and private sectors will resume work with less than 30 percent capacity, in addition to the resumption of operation in shopping malls, financial sector, construction sector, retail shops, parks, and pick-ups from restaurants and cafes.
Kuwait and China have been supporting each other and cooperating closely in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kuwait donated medical supplies worth 3 million United States dollars to China at the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, while China has been facilitating the procurement of medical supplies by Kuwait.
On April 27, a team of Chinese medical experts visited Kuwait to assist the Gulf country's anti-coronavirus fight, through sharing with Kuwaiti counterparts their experience and expertise in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
United States state of Texas added nearly 4,300 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, and officials of Houston, the state's largest city and the epicenter of the pandemic, put three businesses on the "Wall of Shame".
According to Texas Health and Human Services, as of Monday there are 153,011 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, 4,283 more cases than that of Sunday. The death toll reached 2,403.
As the pandemic continues to spread in the state, Houston has reported over 20,000 confirmed cases as of Monday.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that three businesses had been put on the "Wall of Shame" as they refused to close according to the governor's order.
Turner made the announcement during the Monday afternoon news conference. Last Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to shut down due to their link with recent rise in the state's positive COVID-19 cases.
"I want to thank those bars who adhered to Governor Abbott's order to shut down," said Turner. "Unfortunately, not all businesses complied. I don't want to put any businesses on the wall of shame but I will be placing three of them up on there."
Local media reported that the city's positivity rate jumped from 3 percent to 11 percent last week, with the hospitalization rates and ICU numbers both increased.
During the news conference, Houston Police Department also announced there are 190 officers in quarantine at this time after 140 tested positive for the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Houston Independent School District (HISD), the largest school district in Texas, is closing all its schools as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to spike.
HISD released a statement on Monday, announcing it is restricting access to all district schools and facilities, starting July 3 until Sunday, July 19. All student athletics workouts and practices are also canceled.
"These new measures are imperative for the health and safety of our students and staff," HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. "Every decision we make has them in mind. I urge you all to please be safe in the coming weeks - stay home when you can, wash your hands, and wear a mask if you must go out."
The district continues to operate virtually and will continue to provide educational and related services, according to the release.
HISD students will be allowed to keep its district-issued laptops until the fall rather than bringing them back to campus, which the district says eliminates the need to bring additional staff and families on site.
Employees reporting to a location as a part of their jobs will continue to practice social distancing and wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
The district said most HISD employees have been working from home since the district announced its building closures in March, but some staff have been allowed to re-enter and complete necessary duties.