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Coronavirus crisis

Coronavirus is spreading at a faster rate in Somalia

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The novel coronavirus is spreading quickly in Somalia, with almost 50 percent of tests done turning to be positive.

On Saturday, April 18, 25 people were tested, 19 were found to be positive, accounting to 76 percent of the tests. Total cases now stands at 135 and 7 fatalities.

The virus is now transmitted locally, meaning people with no history of travel or contact with those who have been abroad are contracting the virus, and could be spreading it.

The government closed schools and mosques more than two weeks ago, but some worshippers are defying authorities and attend prayers in mosques. On Friday, local officials in Puntland state in northeast of the country ordered the closure of mosques for fear of the virus spreading.

There could also be undetected cases, patients with coronavirus-like symptoms visiting hospitals, and not getting tested and getting treatment for other diseases.

Somalia recorded its first case on March 16, 2020. There is great concern about the possibility of a large-scale outbreak due to lack of healthcare infrastructure, and should there be an breakout, it would be difficult for medics and humanitarian agencies to reach areas under al Shabab, which has a history of disrupting humanitarian work.

Somalia’s healthcare infrastructure is weak; it ranks 194th out of 195 in the Global Health Security Index. The country has less than 29 ICU beds available, but no single ventilator.

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Coronavirus crisis

Four Kenya presidential aides catch Covid-19 weeks after 100 lawmakers gathered at State House

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President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing Kenyans from State House. Photo: PSCU.
   

Four presidential staff have tested positive for Covid-19, becoming the first Kenyan government officials to have been infected with the deadly virus.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and members of the First Family are safe, according to State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena.

“As part of proactive measures being implemented to contain the spread of Covid-19, State House staff are regularly tested for the disease. The tests are conducted on all staff including His Excellency the President and members of his family,” Ms Dena said in a statement on Monday, June 15.

The four, who were tested for coronavirus during a mass screening on 11 June at State House, are undergoing treatment at Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital outside Nairobi, and their families and contacts are being monitored.

Extra measures have now been put in place for staff residing outside State House to contain the spread of the virus.

It is still unclear how the four staff members were infected with coronavirus. However, State House has seen a beehive of activity in the last two weeks, with the president holding two parliamentary group meetings for Jubilee, the ruling party, attended by more than 100 lawmakers, and on June 1, the compound hosted Madaraka Day celebrations to mark Kenya’s 57th independence anniversary.

Kenya has so far recorded 3,727 Coid-19 cases and 104 deaths while 1,286 people have recovered from the disease. The country just tested 118,701 people out of 47 million.

Kenya, East and Central Africa’s biggest and most advanced economy, is struggling to contain the spread of coronavirus as latest figures show surge in daily positive cases. The country is in a dusk-to-dawn curfew since March 27 and movement in and out of some towns including the capital Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa have been banned. Despite the government saying the curfew and the secession of movement has helped in reducing the spread of the coronavirus, the economy has taken a beating, with 342,000 people losing their jobs.

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Coronavirus crisis

Somalis observed Eid at home. But in al Shabab-held towns, they gathered in their thousands

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Somalis across the country celebrated Eid-ul-fitr on Saturday, May 23, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

And as Covid-19 sweeps across the Horn of Africa nation, the government urged citizens to perform the Eid prayer at their homes. But it was a different scenario in areas under the control of al Shabab militants.

Despite the al Qaeda-linked group acknowledging the danger posed by Covid19, the disease caused by the novel Coronavirus, thousands of people gathered at public grounds in areas under its control  to celebrate the end of Ramadan, risking their lives and increasing the likelyhood of the spread of Coronavirus at a time when people across the world practice social distancing.

In Kunya Barrow, one of al Shabab-held towns in Lower Shabelle province, hundreds of worshippers gathered at Sayid Mohamed Hassan Square for celebrations.

And in Jilib, al Shabab headquarters in Middle Jubba province, thousands congregated and marked Eid-ul-fitr. Other towns under al Shabab control in central and Southern Somalia observed Eid in the public.

Worshippers during Eid prayers in Saakow, an al Shabab-held town in southern Somalia. 

After months in denial, on May 13, al Shabab held an extraordinary summit to discuss Covid-19 and the impact it has on the community, and established a seven-member task force to deal with a possible outbreak of the virus in areas under its control.

The task force, comprising of doctors, religious leaders and intellectuals, will coordinate the group’s preparedness, prevention and response to the threat of the disease and advise the al Shabab leadership.

“Considering the fact that Somalis are communal society, frequently visiting one another, and are connected, there is possibility that Covid-19 may reach areas that have not been affected,” read part of a press release from al Shabab political office.
Somalia has more than 1,600 Covid-19 cases, and 61 deaths. The first case was reported on March 16 when a Somali citizen who was returning home from China tested positive for the virus.
Somalia lacks essential equipment for the intensive care that Covid-19 patients need. However, Turkey has donated medical supplies to help the government deal with the pandemic.
If the virus spreads across the country, it would be hard to treat everyone, especially, those in rural areas where al Shabab controls and may prevent health workers from reaching those areas.

The al Qaeda-linked group controls swathes of land in central and Southern Somalia, and is fighting to overthrow the Somali government and wants to implement its own version of a strict Islamic law.

Al Shabab is known to bar aid and health workers from entering areas it controls, but considering its acknowledgment of the dangers of the pandemic, it may allow a few health workers in.

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Coronavirus crisis

Al Shabab has been ignoring Coronavirus threats, now it is determined to fight it

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Somali workers in protective suits and civilians carry the body of a man suspected to have died of the coronavirus disease, for burial in Madina district outside of Mogadishu. REUTERS
   

For months, Somalia’s al Shabab group has been ignoring the threats posed by the novel coronavirus as the virus continued to spread across the Horn of Africa nation.

In March, the group held its first meeting on Covid-19, but didn’t take the disease seriously. In the meeting hall, attendees, hundreds of them, didn’t consider the global standard of practicing social-distancing where people keep at least two meters apart from each other to limit the spread of the virus.

It said the coronavirus crisis was a ‘blessing in disguise’ for the group.

The Coronavirus could limit military operations, especially the US drone attacks on al Shabab targets and anti-terror summits around the world allowing al Shabab to regroup, accordimg to a report by Somali Memo, a mouth-piece for al Shabab.

However, the US has stepped up its air campaign against al Shabab in the first three months of this year, targeting the group 33 times in 2020.

In the March meeting, al Shabab termed the coronavirus as ‘God’ s wrath to punish non-Muslims.

But on Wednesday, May 13, al Shabab held an extraordinary summit to discuss Covid-19 and the impact it has on the community, and established a seven-member task force to deal with a possible outbreak of the virus in areas under its control.

The task force, comprising of doctors, religious leaders and intellectuals, will coordinate the group’s preparedness, prevention and response to the threat of the disease and advise the al Shabab leadership.

“Considering the fact that Somalis are communal society, frequently visiting one another, and are connected, there is possibility that Covid-19 may reach areas that have not been affected,” read part of a press release from al Shabab political office.

Somalia has more than 1,219 Covid-19 cases, and 52 deaths. The first case was reported on March 16 when a Somali citizen who was returning home from China tested positive for the virus. Somalia lacks essential equipment for the intensive care that Covid-19 patients need. However, Turkey has donated medical supplies to help the government deal with the pandemic.

If the virus spreads across the country, it would be hard to treat everyone, especially, those in rural areas where al Shabab controls and may prevent health workers from reaching those areas.

The al Qaeda-linked group controls swathes of land in central and Southern Somalia, and is fighting to overthrow the Somali government and wants to implement its own version of a strict Islamic law.

Al Shabab is known to bar aid and health workers from entering areas it controls, but considering its acknowledgment of the dangers of the pandemic, it may allow a few health workers in.

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