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Third Covid wave hits Brazil as deaths surpass 500,000

Demonstrators protest against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Manaus, Brazil on June 19, 2021. Brazil has passed the milestone of 500,000 Covid-19 deaths.

By AFP
Rio de Janeiro

Brazil on Saturday became the second country after the United States to surpass 500,000 Covid-19 deaths as the South American giant grapples with a third wave of the pandemic.

“500,000 lives lost due to the pandemic that affects our Brazil and the world,” Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga tweeted.

The Health Ministry reported 500,800 deaths, including 2,301 in the last 24 hours, a toll that many experts say underestimate the real toll from the health crisis.

This week the average number of daily deaths surpassed 2,000 for the first time since May 10.

“The third wave is arriving, there’s already in a change in the case and death curves,” Ethel Maciel, an epidemiologist from Espirito Santo University, told AFP.

Vaccination slow

“Our vaccination (programme), which could make a difference, is slow and there are no signs of restrictive measures, quite the contrary.”

In large cities, life seems almost back to normal with restaurants, bars and shops open and many people in the streets not wearing face masks.

And yet the situation is critical in 19 of Brazil’s 27 states with more than 80 percent occupancy of intensive care beds — in nine of those states it’s over 90 percent.

‘Marathon runner’

The “second wave,” from January to April this year, was particularly deadly.

The number of deaths increased exponentially with the arrival of the Gamma virus variant that originated in Manaus, in the north of Brazil.

It gradually began to fall in May thanks in part to the closure of businesses when the pandemic was at its worst.

Too soon

But many epidemiologists believe lockdown restrictions were lifted too soon at a time when daily deaths were still up around the 2,000 mark.

Contrary to what has been seen in Europe, there’s been no real trough between the different waves in Brazil.

“I don’t know if it’s a third wave … it seems we never got out of the first one,” said Alexandre da Silva, a specialist in public health at the University of Sao Paulo.

“It seems the pandemic has now turned into a marathon runner who is pacing his race. It’s not a sprinter who does his sprint but then loses power.”

Brazil has recently received several batches of vaccines, including from US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, but the country has only managed to fully vaccinate 11 percent of the population, with 29 percent receiving one dose.

The vaccination drive began late in mid-January using the AstraZeneca and Coronavac jabs.

Immunize all

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who previously hit out at vaccines, has promised to immunize the entire population by the end of the year — something specialists consider unlikely.

Bolsonaro has been criticized for downplaying the pandemic from the outset, opposing lockdown measures and plugging unproven medical treatments for Covid, and on Saturday thousands of Brazilians again took to the streets in protest against him.

In rallies in Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and elsewhere, people carried banners with slogans like “Bolsonaro must go” or simply “500,000.”

Abandoned reality

“His position on Covid and his denialism are absurd. He has abandoned reality and common sense. There is no explaining this, it is surreal,” said Robert Almeida, a 50-year-old photographer marching in Rio.

“500,000 deaths from a disease for which there is now a vaccine, in a country that has been a world leader in vaccination. There is a word for that: genocide,” leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tweeted. “Solidarity with the people of Brazil.”

Copa Covid

It was all the more surprising, then, that Brazil agreed at the 11th hour to host the Copa America football tournament, seeing global stars such as Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez of Uruguay and the hosts’ own Neymar arrive from their European clubs.

The matches are being played behind closed doors but Bolsonaro has come under fire for giving his blessing to host the tournament in the midst of a pandemic when both Argentina and Colombia had to pull out.

Many Brazilians have voiced their opposition to the tournament.

Beyond the football tournament, Maciel says the government’s pandemic management is responsible for thousands of extra deaths.

“If we had acted in a different and coordinated way, giving concrete information to the people on public health measures… none of this would have happened,” she said.

Confusing the people

She accused the government of “confusing the people” by advising against health measures backed by science, such as social distancing and the use of face masks.

Bolsonaro shows no signs of changing tack, though, and last week announced he would ask the health minister to lift the requirement to wear masks outdoors.

He has already been hit with several fines by local authorities for holding rallies without wearing a mask.

And Bolsonaro is also under investigation by the Senate over his chaotic pandemic management.

To emigrate to the US, UK, or Canada? Find out more here

Every year, thousands of Kenyans look for ways to migrate abroad. The countries that have many targets are the United States and the United Kingdom with Canada also emerging as a choice destination for many. These three countries have unlimited opportunities. However, migrating, finding jobs, and earning adequately is not a walk in the park. This is why you must know your way around their immigration systems if you are looking to migrate.

United States Immigration US DV Lottery

Popularly known as the Green Card, the DV Lottery program is the most popular way of legally migrating to the United States. This is a lottery program where applications are made from October. The results are available for checking from May the following year. According to Ralph Kilondu, a Kenyan living in the US, the Green Card is the safest way to ensure you can live and work freely in the US, and enjoy benefits accessible to US citizens.

US Fiancé(e) K-1

This is a nonimmigrant visa program for the foreign fiancé or fiancée of a citizen of the US. This program allows the foreign-citizen fiancé to travel to the US and marry their US citizen partner within 90 days. After marriage, the foreign citizen is allowed to apply to have their status adjusted to permanent resident. To qualify, the two partners are required to have met in person within the last two years, of which evidence may be required.

Investment Green Card

This is a program that is mainly used by migrating investors. The program is little-known and includes the EB-5 route. For example, in 2018, an American firm known as Atlantic American Partners invited Kenyans with a capital of up to Sh50 million to invest in the US and gain citizenship. The process of citizenship takes about two years. Interested Kenyans are also required to pay an additional Sh2 million in legal fees, and an extra Sh4.8 million in investment management fees.

Canada Immigration

Canada Express Entry merit-based program

The Express Entry route is the most popular program for immigrating to Canada. The program manages skilled worker’s applications for permanent residence under federal and provincial economic programs. According to the Canadian immigration website, it has four categories: Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canada Experience Class, and Select Provincial Nominee Programs. You are required to submit your profile which is then scored based on factors such as age, education, work experience, and language proficiency.

The scores for Express Entry could be as high as 400. If you are successful, you will receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence. Normally, you will get three months to submit your application under the express entry four categories. The processing will take about six months.

Most agents in Kenya charge between Sh500,000 and Sh800,000 to help with the processing. Find out what is included in the package of the agent you choose, and whether they are licensed. Some agents might be capable of organising job offers and offering you settlement assistance for a month or two.

United Kingdom Immigration

UK merit-based system:
Like Canada, the United Kingdom is now using a merit-based application system. To qualify for a UK work visa, you will need to achieve 70 points as follows:

· 40 points if you have a job offer from an approved employer

· 10 points if you can prove the ability to speak English

· 20 points if you will be paid at least Sh3.79 million per year (316,000 per month).

· 20 points if you get a job offer in a category the UK has a shortage in.

You will need to register and sit for an IELTS examination which will gauge your ability to communicate in the English language. This test will cost you Sh29,800. You will also need to get tested for TB.

United States

Jobs such as home caregiver, foster parents, and truck driving may very well in the United States. However, according to Betty Az, a Kenyan who lives and works in Arizona, Phoenix, US, you must be prepared to do at least two to three jobs to earn enough for your bills, savings, and investments. “The bills in the US can on average be as high as USD 3,000 (Sh324,000),” she said.

Houses are also quite expensive. For example, a simple two-bedroom house in Arizona will currently cost you up to USD 400,000 (Sh43 million). If you are a nurse, for example, you can take a double shift and work for 16 hours instead of eight.

Canada

Some jobs and skills are in demand while others aren’t. This means that if you are planning to move to Canada, you must be aware that the job you hold in Kenya may not be the same job you’ll do while there. Also, some jobs will require you to get a practicing license after arriving and staying in Canada. For example, if you are a nurse in Kenya, you cannot practice in Canada as a nurse without a license.

To migrate, you can start with something like a waitress and later revert to nursing after you acquire your practicing license. According to Loise Githiga, a licensed immigration expert in Canada, the type of jobs people perform abroad will not necessarily tell you how much money they make. “If the office pays 60,000 Canadian dollars a year (Sh420,000 per month), some end up making an additional equal amount from their side waitress jobs,” said Ms. Githiga in a Canadian Immigration Vlog.

She adds that residential cleaners who clean up to four houses can easily make 500 Canadian dollars (Sh42,000) per day. Before you select a provincial program, you should know the minimum wage allowed as it is different across the Canadian provinces.

The minimum wage also indicates the cost of living in each province. It ranges from CAD 11.45 per hour (Sh1,000) in the Saskatchewan province to CAD 16 per hour (Sh1,400) in the Nunavut territory. Prices of homes in Canada range from $183,000 (Sh16 million) in New Brunswick to $1,036,000 (Sh91 million) in Vancouver, British Columbia.

United Kingdom

The cost of living in the UK is quite high. According to UK Immigration, an online platform that tracks the cost of living in the United Kingdom, the average cost of living is around £2000 (Sh302,000). This is inclusive of rent of about £870 (Sh131,370), bills of £900 (Sh135,900), and groceries of about £275 (Sh41,525).

The UK House Price Index estimates the average cost of buying a house in Manchester to be £234204 (Sh35.3 million) and in London £496,066 (Sh74.9 million). – nation.co.ke

Covid-19: Uganda goes into total lockdown as infections rise

A Ugandan prison officer receives the first injection of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Mulago Referral Hospital in Kampala on March 10, 2021.

Badru Katumba – AFP

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday tightened restrictions in the country following a worrying rise in Covid-19 infections and deaths.

On a day when 42 people were reported dead, and 1,000 new infections, the Ugandan leader vowed to “stop the joke” of the public violating the public health guidelines, known locally as the Standard Operating Procedures [SOP].

He stopped the movement of public and private transport vehicles. Only security, emergency and other essential service providers, including the police, firefighters and the military have been exempted.

The new move tightened restrictions imposed a week ago, when cross-district travel was banned, schools closed and other public gatherings restricted yet the deaths continued to rise.

At the Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, a ‘technical fault’ on Wednesday cut off oxygen supply to Covid-19 patients at the facility, leading to the death of several patients. The new highest death toll would arrive two days later when the country reported 42 deaths, raising the number of those killed by the virus to 542.

“When I hear these people who have died…I am getting telephone calls from all over the place…they are telling me so and so is dying…and yet we told you from March last year, this joke must stop,” President Museveni said in his address to the nation on Friday.

The country had been operating under a tight set of restrictions, including a curfew that starts at 9pm to 5am, compulsory wearing of masks and social distance in public places.

The Ugandan leader lampooned schools and other learning institutions which he accused of sitting on evidence of possible infections in schools. He had said the same thing last week when he ordered schools closed. They will remain shut for the next 42 days.

“It is observed that some sections of the public are not adhering to the curfew hours. As such, curfew throughout the country is pulled back to 7pm to 5.30am,” he said.

The new move means Uganda, initially seen as winning the war on Covid-19 and reporting fewer cases compared to neighbouring Kenya, is now paying after its citizens dropped their guard.

The measures also included restricted cross-border movement, with vehicles only being admitted into the country if transporting cargo, moving essential personnel, dealing with emergencies or carrying Ugandans returning to the country. They all will have to abide by Covid-19 measures including providing proof of a negative test.

“Entebbe International Airport will remain open, but we shall ensure that no virus, or new variants enter Uganda. Uganda is a land locked country. All cargo movements to and out of Uganda will be allowed without any disruption,” he said.

“Burials to be restricted to the core family as applied in the military. My uncle died and was buried in Rwakitura but I did not attend the burial, I was not going to add any value, I was not going to resurrect him,” President Museveni said.

Accused of brutality in the past with illegal detentions, Uganda’s security agencies were also directed to impose spot fines on errant public to reduce congestion and infection conditions in cells.

Stop sharing rooms

Public officers dealing with non-core functions will be reduced further to ten per cent while factory workers will be asked to stay at work to reduce movement, based on arrangements with their employers.

Police and military in camps were advised to stop sharing rooms, although a special taskforce led by the Prime Minister [Ms Robinah Nabbanja] will determine the actual implementation.

Churches and worship centres and sports venues will suspend their physical operations. Clerics were advised to shift their ministries online. The Ugandan leader hopes that after 42 days, the country should be able to tame the infection rates.

China-built tallest skyscraper in Africa topped out in Egypt’s new capital

This photo taken on June 17, 2021 shows the Iconic Tower being topped out at the construction site of the central business district (CBD) project in new administrative capital, Egypt.

By Xinhua Xinhua News Agency

With a commanding view of the modern buildings sprouting up in the central business district (CBD) of Egypt’s new administrative capital, guests from China and Egypt on Thursday held a topping-out ceremony for the 385-meter-high Iconic Tower, which will be the tallest building in Africa upon completion.

“This is the most important building in modern Egypt, which marks the latest achievement of our country,” Egyptian Minister of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities Essam el-Gazzar said at the ceremony.

The Iconic Tower, whose construction started on May 2, 2018, is a composite high-rise building integrating office, hotel, business, sightseeing and other functions. It covers a total area of 65,000 square meters, with two floors underground and 78 floors above ground.

Iconic Tower Egypt

The Iconic Tower is topped out at the construction site of the central business district (CBD) project in a new administrative capital in Egypt on June 17, 2021.

Sui Xiankai | Xinhua

Being built some 50 km east of the Egyptian capital Cairo, the Iconic Tower is the most striking skyscraper of the CBD project being built by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC). With a total area of around 505,000 square meters, the CBD project includes 20 new high-rise buildings and some municipal projects.

Egyptian and Chinese guests, including workers, engineers, owners and officials, joyfully took selfies with the landmark building during the ceremony.

“Since the construction of the tower’s core tube started in April 2019, workers and engineers have been working around the clock to finish the project,” Hossam Berry, structural manager of the DAR Supervision Company in Egypt, expressed deep gratitude to the CSCEC.

The tower’s core tube “has been constructed at the fastest speed of one floor every four days, and finally climbed to the top today,” Wei Jianxun, general manager of the Iconic Tower project, told Xinhua.

In late February, the Iconic Tower’s base, built with about 18,500 cubic meters of concrete and 5,000 tons of reinforced iron bars, was completed with a 38-hour non-stop operation, which was hailed by Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly as “a miracle by all means.”

“We have joined hands with Egypt to maintain the work momentum amid Covid-19,” said Chang Weicai, general manager of CSCEC Egypt, explaining that the construction of the project has been continuing without any disruption despite the raging COVID-19 pandemic since early last year.

“Our employees will take the capping as a new start, and continue to build the most beautiful urban skyline in the Middle East under strict precautionary measures,” Chang said.

Read: World’s second tallest building tops out in China

Also read: China skyscraper wobbles, spreading panic in downtown Shenzhen

The Iconic Tower is emblematic of the friendship between Egypt and China, as it has provided opportunities to Chinese and Egyptian engineers for exchanging their experiences on modern construction methods, he said.

Egypt’s new administrative capital is designed to relocate major governmental institutions from the increasingly congested and overpopulated capital of Cairo, which is home to about one-fifth of the country’s 100 million population.

Iconic Tower Egypt

The Iconic Tower is topped out at the construction site of the central business district (CBD) project in a new administrative capital in Egypt on June 17, 2021.

Sui Xiankai | Xinhua

The Egyptian government also expects the new capital, whose inauguration is expected to be held at the end of this year, to create around 2 million job opportunities.

In early June, Madbouly paid his second visit to the construction site of the Iconic Tower, which he said would be a new Egyptian landmark on a par with the pyramids in the future.

El-Gazzar said that the construction of Egypt’s new capital “has ushered in a new era of Egypt-China cooperation,” which provides an important reference for our country to stabilize employment, restore the economy, and balance national construction.

You are on your own, CMA tells Cytonn investors

Capital Markets Authority confirmed Wyckliffe Shamiah as CEO on November 19, 2020.

The Capital Markets Regulator (CMA) on Thursday distanced itself from a product being offered by cash-strapped firm Cytonn.

The CMA, in response to an investor’s video clip that went viral on social media, said it was cautioning investors against investing in unlicensed and unapproved entities.

The investor had gone online to lay bare her frustrations, and cautioned others against investing in unlicensed and unapproved investment products.

Ms Lynn Ngugi, who is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, alleged that the company was frustrating her after making an initial investment in 2019 and asking for her money back in 2020.

“Cytonn has been frustrating myself and my friends. We invested with them a while back,” she said.

The CMA chief executive, Mr Wycliffe Shamiah, is now advising investors to only put their money in licensed and approved entities that offer regulated products, to enable them get protection offered by the Authority through the capital market’s legal and regulatory framework.

CMA says it has licensed Cytonn Asset Management Limited, which is licensed as a Fund Manager with regulated funds including the Cytonn Money Market Fund, Cytonn Balanced Fund, Cytonn Equity Fund, Cytonn Africa Financial Services Fund, Cytonn Money Market Fund (USD), and Cytonn High Yield Fund.

“The Authority confirms that Cytonn Investments is not a licensed and approved entity,” Mr Shamiah said.

“Investors who are affected by investing in unregulated products should report to the Capital Markets Fraud Investigation Unit (CMFIU), which is the Police Unit attached to the Capital Markets Authority. CMFIU is currently investigating the issue for criminal violations for investors in the Cytonn High Yield Solutions (CHYS),” he added.

Created confusion

Confusion for investors came about after the investment company set up two products with similar names to dupe investors who may not have been able to differentiate the products. For instance, the Cytonn High Yield Fund (CHYF) is regulated by CMA, while another known as the Cytonn High Yield Solutions (CHYS), was not, meaning that there was no recourse for action in case anything went wrong.

The CMA, in its statement, noted that complaints regarding Cytonn mostly touched on the unregulated products.

“So far CMA has not received any complaints on these regulated products,” it said. – nation.co.ke

Zambia’s former President Kenneth Kaunda dies at 97

Zambia’s first President Kenneth Kaunda.

By AFP

Zambia’s former President Kenneth Kaunda has passed away. His death was announced by his son, Kambarage Kaunda, on Thursday. It was also confirmed by President Edgar Lungu.

“You have gone at a time we least expected but we are comforted that you are now with Our Father, God Almighty in heaven,” President Lungu said.

Kaunda, who ruled the country since independence in 1964 until 1991, was 97-years-old

This comes after news from his office Monday that he was admitted to the Maina Soko Military Hospital in Lusaka. He was being treated for pneumonia, his office had said.

President Edgar Lungu had urged Zambians to pray for his recovery.

Kaunda was among the few African liberation heroes still left, and is one of the leaders who fought white minority rule and agitated for liberation of southern Africa.

Ceded power

After ruling Zambia for 27 years, he ceded power in the first multi-party election in 1991.

While he had started out as a popular leader, he was criticised for becoming more authoritarian when he banned all opposition parties. However, later amended the Constitution to end one-party politics and returned the country to being a multiparty State.

He then called for elections in 1991, which was he lost to Frederick Chiluba, effectively ending Kaunda’s rule.

He attempted to once again run for the presidency in 1996, five years after leaving office, but his ambition was thwarted when the Chiluba government amended the Constitution, introducing stiffer conditions for one to qualify as a candidate.

Amendment Act No. 18 of 1996 of the Zambian Constitution, in Article 34(3)(b), states: “A person shall be qualified to be a candidate for election as President if … both his parents are Zambians by birth or descent…”

This provision was widely considered to have targeted Dr Kaunda, as it was common knowledge that he was born of parents who originally came from the neighbouring eastern country of Malawi .

They migrated to and settled in northern Zambia’s Chinsali District, where his father was a missionary.

State declares 13 Lake Region counties Covid-19 hotspots

A nurse attends to Covid-19 patient recuperating at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu County on June 10, 2021.

The government has imposed strict Covid-19 control measures in 13 Lake Region counties. It has also banned movement into the counties in western Kenya and Nyanza regions.

In a review of Covid-19 containment measures announced on Thursday by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, Busia, Vihiga, Kisii, Nyamira, Kakamega, Kericho, Bomet, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay and Migori counties have been declared Covid-19 hotspots.

Save for essential and emergency service providers, the CS discouraged movement into and out of the area covered by the counties, which the government has declared a Covid-19 red zone.

In the review, which was done in consultation with the Council of Governors and with the concurrence of the National Emergency Response Committee on Covid-19, the night curfew in the 13 counties will start at 7pm and end at 4am.

Public and private sector employees in the said counties have been advised to work from home, apart from those offering critical services. Churches have been closed for a period of 30 days.

Market days have also been suspended for 30 days under the recommendations that will take effect today.

Attendance of funeral and burial services has been restricted to a maximum of 50 persons until further notice. All funerals and interment ceremonies must be conducted within 72 hours of confirmation of death while night vigils and overnight processions prior to funerals are prohibited until further notice.

“All cross-border cargo drivers are required to possess a valid certificate indicating a negative Covid-19 result and the test must have been conducted no more than 48 hours before commencing their journey. Cargo trucks shall be limited to only two persons per vehicle,” says the directive.

However, the directive did not say whether bars and restaurants in the said counties would remain operational, apart from banning public gatherings including house parties and sporting activities.

The lake region has been accounting for at least 50 per cent of total Covid-19 infections in the country, with a positivity rate higher than 25 per cent.

The surge in infections is higher than in Nairobi and Mombasa, which have been the epicentres of Covid-19 since the first case was announced in Kenya in March last year.

Last week, the Lake region recorded 1,320 new cases, with Kisumu taking the lead with 368 cases, followed closely by Siaya (197) and Busia (196). Homa Bay registered 167 new cases, Kericho (102), Kisii (100), Migori (44), Bomet (55), Kakamega (47), Vihiga (27) and Nyamira (17).

Kisumu has emerged as Kenya’s new Covid-19 hotspot, overtaking Nairobi, which, due to its huge population, had naturally assumed this position since last year.

The lakeside city recently hosted Madaraka Day celebrations that are feared to have been a super spreader. – nation.co.ke

Why Your Chama Might Be a Waste of Time

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COVID-19: UK reports 9,055 new cases – the highest daily total since February

The UK has reported 9,055 new COVID cases, the highest daily total since February.

There were also a further nine coronavirus-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period, according to the latest government data.

The figures compare with 7,673 cases and 10 deaths announced on Tuesday, while 7,540 infections and six fatalities were recorded this time last week.

Today’s number of cases is the highest since 25 February, when 9,985 new infections were reported.

It comes as another 190,033 people had their first dose of a COVID vaccine on Tuesday, taking the total to 42,021,089.

Also 230,666 had their second jab, meaning 30,440,373 have now been fully vaccinated in the UK. Yesterday marked a key milestone when the government announced more than 30 million adults had received both shots as the country grapples with the spread of the Delta variant, first detected in India.

Around one million people aged 21 and 22 are now eligible to book their coronavirus vaccination.

Some 972,000 text messages are being sent out, inviting them to schedule appointments for both doses via the national booking system.

And those aged 18 to 20 are expected to be invited to book their appointments by the end of this week.

There had been fears that younger people, who face a far lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19, might be reluctant to get inoculated.

But Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said that the response had seen these fears “blown out of the water”.

A person receives a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at a vaccination centre for those aged over 18 years old at the Belmont Health Centre in Harrow, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, June 6, 2021

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also confirmed coronavirus vaccinations will be made compulsory for care home staff, and the government is consulting on implementing the same policy for NHS workers.

Meanwhile, Public Health England’s strategic COVID-19 response director has revealed there are 25 coronavirus variants “under monitoring”.

Dr Susan Hopkins told the parliamentary science and technology committee: “We’re living in a world of variants now, so everything we see is a variation of the original.”

She said eight variants are “under investigation”, along with the 25 that are being monitored.