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As Coronavirus Scare Continues: Church Enters the Fight

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In a move meant to compliment the government’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, Tanzania Episcopal Council (TEC) has provided a special guideline to its worshipers, which includes skipping the traditional kissing of the Holly Cross during this year’s Good Friday service.

The Council also said that worshippers will be required to receive the Holy Eucharist with their hands only, and where a Mass involves more than one Priest, they will be required to dip it in the Grail instead of the traditional procedure of drinking from it.

These new instructions were announced by TEC President, His Eminence Archbishop Gervas Nyaisonga, during a special Mass to consecrate the new Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Moshi, His Eminence Ludovick Minde held at Christ the King Cathedral grounds here on Thursday.

“Through this guideline, the Church enters the fight …PM acts tough on fake news “cooks” Council has announced two days of special prayers to beseech God to protect our country from the ravages of COVID-19, and those who have been infected to get quick recovery, and at the same time grant specialists the ability to find the right prevention and cure of the pandemic,” he said.

He further stated that the new guidelines intend to provide education to worshipers so that they can comply with procedures meant to prevent the spread of the disease as directed by the Government.

Bishop Nyaisonga added that the directive also stipulates that during this year’s Good Friday service, believers will not be allowed to kiss the Holy Cross during the traditional Good Friday session, and instead they will only bow down in respect to the Holy Cross.

He also called on all priests and other church leaders to adhere to the provided guidelines and instructions while at the same time make sure that worshipers adhere to them to avoid the disease.

On his part, the Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Arusha, His Eminence Isaac Amani urged all Catholic faithful and Tanzanians at large not to make fun of the deadly disease, especially through social media.

“There are those who publish on social networks that the Coronavirus cannot infect a black person, and that Africans are safe from it. That is not true, the reality is that the viruses affect human beings, and Africans are human beings, therefore we as Africans are also in danger. This disease is not a comedy, the reports you see and hear in the media are real, people are dying, and there are many patients receiving treatment worldwide, including in Africa, let us follow and comply with the procedures which are provided to help us from contracting the disease,” the cleric said.

His Eminence Archbishop of Arusha Catholic Diocese, Rt. Rev Isaac Amani, who is the immediate predecessor of Bishop Minde and who headed the Catholic Diocese of Moshi for 10 years before he was transferred to the Catholic Archdiocese of Arusha, urged the Catholic Diocese of Moshi faithful to give Bishop Minde their full cooperation in his new mission in the Diocese.

Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner, Ms. Anna Mghwira, who represented President John Magufuli during the ceremony, congratulated TEC on its willingness to join the government in the fight against Coronavirus in the country.

“We believe, just like all other calamities which came and went this too will pass, but as long as it is here, we should keep praying to the Almighty God to save us from this pandemic. I would like to congratulate you, Bishop Minde, who is taking over the leadership of the Catholic Diocese of Moshi in the face of the Coronavirus crisis, and urge you to join the regional government in tackling it,” she said.

In his message, Bishop Minde thanked God for allowing the ceremony to take place despite the ongoing threat of COVID-19, a disease caused by coronavirus.

“I thought these celebrations will be postponed due to the current crisis, but I thank the government for giving us the permission to continue with this event, after it was satisfied with the procedures and precautions taken,” he said.

During the Consecration Mass, several procedures had to be skipped or completely left out, including taking a slight bow to the new Bishop instead of shaking hands.

The tradition of shaking hands as a sign of peace among the congregation was also skipped, including the traditional Blessing of the Priests in attendance where the new Bishop was supposed to lay his hands on their heads, and instead they came before him and bowed as a sign of respect to him while the Bishop blessed them by bowing.

Currently, there are 287,397 Coronavirus cases reported worldwide, with 11, 897 deaths and 93, 617 recovered cases.

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Covid-19: FCT Minister tasks health professionals on synergy

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The FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello, on Friday enjoined all health professionals to collaborate with each other to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bello gave the advice when a delegation from the FCT Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) paid a courtesy call on him in Abuja.

He noted that the successes recorded in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was largely due to the synergy between the various health professionals in the FCT.

Bello, therefore, urged them to continue to function as a unified team in the fight against COVID-19.

The minister commended the good works of all the health workers in the FCT especially for their efforts at combating the Coronavirus disease.

He pledged that the FCT Administration would continue to partner with the PSN as a large number of its members are staff of the FCTA who are also involved in the fight against the COVID-19.

Bello urged the PSN to forge a robust relationship with the National Drug Law enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in order to reduce the menace of drug abuse among residents of the territory.

Earlier, Chairman of the FCT PSN, Mr Jelili Kilani, commended the FCTA for the support it has always rendered to the association.

Kilani emphasised the need for greater collaboration between the PSN and the FCTA.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the PSN used the visit to donates Personal Protective Equipments, First Aid materials and hand hygiene products to the FCTA.

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Africa records 30% increase in COVID-19 cases– WHO

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By Cecilia Ologunagba

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there has been 30 per cent increase in the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the African Region in the past week.

WHO Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, disclosed this in COVID-19 Situation Report posted on its official Twitter account @WHOAFRO on Thursday.

In external situation report number 19 issued on July 8, it stated that COVID-19 outbreak continued to grow in the WHO African Region.

It said the virus continued to grow since it was first detected in Algeria on 25 February, 2020.

“Since our last External Situation Report 18 issued on 1 July, 2020, a total of 91, 038 new confirmed COVID-19 cases (a 30 per cent increase) was reported from 45 countries.

“Of the 91, 038 reported new cases in the region, the majority 71 per cent (64, 646) were recorded in South Africa.

“South Africa remains the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in the region and the country is now among the top 15 most affected countries globally.

“South Africa has the cumulative number of cases (215, 855) exceeding that for Turkey (206, 844), Germany (196, 944) and France (159, 568), which previously reported the highest numbers.

“On 4 July 2020, the WHO African Region and South Africa recorded their highest daily case count of 13, 474 and 10 853, respectively.’’

Similarly, it said the WHO African Region and South Africa registered the highest daily death toll of 225 and 192, respectively, on 7 July 2020.

“During this period, five countries in the region observed the highest percentage increase in incidence cases.

“Lesotho recorded 237 per cent increase (from 27 to 91 cases), Namibia 166 per cent (from 203 to 539 cases) and Madagascar 57 per cent (from 2, 214 to 3, 472 cases).

“Also, Malawi recorded 48 per cent increased (from 1,265 to 1, 877 cases) and South Africa 43 per cent (from 151, 209 to 215, 855 cases).

“Equatorial Guinea and United Republic of Tanzania did not officially submit reports indicating any confirmed case.

“A total of 119 new health worker infections were recorded from three countries: Ghana (70), Malawi (38), South Sudan (7), Sierra Leone (2), Gambia (1) and Lesotho (1).

“Two countries: Gambia and Lesotho reported their first health worker infection this reporting period,’’ it stated.

In addition, it stated that from 1 to 7 July, 2020, 1, 221 new COVID-19 related deaths (20 per cent increase) were registered in 33 countries, with 845 (69 per cent) of the deaths recorded in South Africa

This was followed by Nigeria, with 79 (6.5 per cent) deaths and then Algeria with 56 (4.6 per cent) deaths.

The report further stated that currently, 33 (70 per cent) countries in the region were experiencing community transmission, seven (15 per cent) have clusters of cases and seven (15 per cent) have sporadic cases of COVID-19.

It stated that the region had also observed increased incidence of importation of cases from affected countries within the region, largely fueled by long-distance truck drivers and illicit movement through porous borders.

(NAN)

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Coronavirus – Africa: WHO calls for equitable access to future COVID-19 vaccines in Africa

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The World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa (www.Afro.WHO.int) joined immunization experts in urging the international community and countries in Africa to take concrete actions to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, as researchers around the world race to find effective protection against the virus.

“It is clear that as the international community comes together to develop safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19, equity must be a central focus of these efforts,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Too often, African countries end up at the back of the queue for new technologies, including vaccines. These life-saving products must be available to everyone, not only those who can afford to pay.”

WHO and partners launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to speed up the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. It brings together leaders of government, global health organizations civil society groups, businesses and philanthropies to form a plan for an equitable response to the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO is collaborating with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure a fair allocation of vaccines to all countries, aiming to deliver 2 billion doses globally for high-risk populations, including 1 billion for low and middle-income countries.

The African Union has endorsed the need for Africa to develop a framework to actively engage in the development and access to COVID-19 vaccines. Countries can take steps now that will strengthen health systems, improve immunization delivery, and pave the way for the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine. These include: mobilizing financial resources; strengthening local vaccine manufacturing, and regulatory, supply and distribution systems; building workforce skills and knowledge; enhancing outreach services; and listening to community concerns to counter misinformation.

Globally, there are nearly 150 COVID-19 vaccine candidates and currently 19 are in clinical trials. South Africa is the first country on the continent to start a clinical trial with the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg testing a vaccine developed by the Oxford Jenner Institute in the United Kingdom. The South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial is expected to involve 2000 volunteers aged 18–65 years and include some people living with HIV. The vaccine is already undergoing trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil with thousands of participants.

According to the African Academy of Sciences only 2% of clinical trials conducted worldwide occur in Africa. It is important to test the COVID-19 vaccine in countries where it is needed to ensure that it will be effective. With more than 215 000 cases, South Africa accounts for 43% of the continent’s total cases. Clinical trials must be performed according to international and national scientific and ethical standards, which include informed consent for any participant.

“I encourage more countries in the region to join these trials so that the contexts and immune response of populations in Africa are factored in to studies,” said Dr Moeti. “Africa has the scientific expertise to contribute widely to the search for an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Indeed, our researchers have helped develop vaccines which provide protection against communicable diseases such as meningitis, Ebola, yellow fever and a number of other common health threats in the region.”

Earlier, this month WHO Africa’s principle advisory group on immunization policies and programmes – the African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG) – also noted the need to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 and other vaccines in the region.

“As the world focuses on finding a vaccine for COVID-19, we must ensure people do not forget that dozens of lifesaving vaccines already exist. These vaccines should reach children everywhere in Africa – no one can be left behind,” said Professor Helen Rees, Chair of the RITAG.

Initial analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immunization in the African Region suggests that millions of African children are likely to be negatively impacted, as routine immunization services and vaccination campaigns for polio, cholera, measles, yellow fever, meningitis and human papilloma virus have been disrupted.

Despite these challenges, RITAG members also noted significant milestones and markers of progress. For example, there have been tremendous gains in the fight against wild poliovirus, and the African Region is expected to be officially certified free of wild poliovirus in August 2020. The Democratic Republic of the Congo also announced the end of its 10th Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC, which was the worst in its history. An effective vaccine was a key tool in the response.

Dr Moeti spoke about COVID-19 vaccine development in Africa during a virtual press conference today organized by APO Group. She was joined by Professor Shabir Madhi, University of Witwatersrand, Principal Investigator of Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine Trial in South Africa; and Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, Director of the MCR/UVRI and LSHTM Ugandan Research Unit. The briefing was streamed on more than 300 African news sites as well as the WHO Regional Office for Africa’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

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