9:00pm | CORONAVIRUS: Three billion under lockdown
Let me leave you with this five-minute read that should paint for you a picture on what's happening around the world as the United Nations warns that humanity is under threat.
This story is by AFP:
More than three billion people are living under lockdown measures to stem the spread of the killer coronavirus that the United Nations warned Wednesday is threatening all of humanity.
As the global death toll soared past 20,000 Spain joined Italy in seeing its number of fatalities overtake China, where the virus first emerged just three months ago.
"COVID-19 is threatening the whole of humanity -– and the whole of humanity must fight back," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, launching an appeal for $2 billion to help the world's poor.
"Global action and solidarity are crucial. Individual country responses are not going to be enough."
Markets rebounded after Washington vowed to spend $2 trillion to fend off a US economic collapse, while governments elsewhere are still taking ever more dramatic steps to contain the disease.
India's stay-at-home order for its 1.3 billion people is now the biggest, taking the total number of people facing restrictions on their daily lives to more than three billion.
Russia, which announced the death of two patients who tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, is expected to follow suit.
President Vladimir Putin declared next week a public holiday and postponed a public vote on controversial constitutional reforms, urging people to help each other and follow instructions given by medics and the authorities.
In Britain, heir to the throne Prince Charles became the latest high-profile figure to become infected while Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the country's response to tackle the outbreak despite accusations it was slow to act.
The G20 major economies will hold an emergency videoconference summit on Thursday to discuss a global response to the crisis, as will the 27 leaders of the European Union, the outbreak's new epicentre.
China has begun to relax its own draconian restrictions on free movement in the province of Hubei -- the original epicentre of the outbreak -- after the country reported no new cases.
Huge crowds jammed trains and buses as people in the province of 50 million people took their first opportunity to travel.
But Spain saw the number of deaths surge to 3,434 after more than 738 people died in the past 24 hours and the government announced a 432-million-euro ($467 million) deal to buy medical supplies from Beijing.
'People dying alone'
At La Paz university hospital in Madrid, accident and emergency nurse Guillen del Barrio sounded bereft as he related what happened overnight.
"It is really hard, we had feverish people for many hours in the waiting room," the 30-year-old told AFP.
"Many of my colleagues were crying because there were people who are dying alone, without seeing their family for the last time."
Spain and Italy were joined by France and six more EU countries in urging Germany and the Netherlands to allow the issue of joint European bonds to cut borrowing costs and stabilise the eurozone economy.
This is likely to fall on deaf ears when the 27 leaders talk on Thursday -- with northern members wary of pooling debt with big spenders -- but they will sign off on an "unprecedented" recovery plan.
Coronavirus cases are also spreading in the Middle East, where Iran's death toll topped 2,000, and in Africa, where Mali declaring its first case and several nations announced states of emergency.
And in Japan, which has postponed this year's Olympic Games, Tokyo's governor urged residents to stay home this weekend, warning of a possible "explosion" of the coronavirus.
The impact of the pandemic is also hitting European football in a big way, with top-flight leagues and tournaments cancelled.
'Wartime level of investment'
The economic damage of the virus -- and the lockdowns -- could also be devastating, with fears of a worldwide recession worse than the financial meltdown more than a decade ago.
But financial markets rose after US leaders agreed a stimulus package worth roughly 10 percent of their economy, an injection Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said represented a "wartime level of investment".
The US Senate was poised to pass the massive relief package for Americans and businesses ravaged by the pandemic as New York hospitals braced for a wave of virus patients,
Meanwhile, nearly 130 million Americans, or 40 percent of the population, are under or will soon come under some lockdown order, including in the largest state of California.
President Donald Trump has voiced hope the US will be "raring to go" by mid-April, but his optimism appeared to stand almost alone among world leaders.
Anxious Indians raced for supplies after the government ordered the world's second-biggest population to stay at home for three weeks from Wednesday.
"To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family... every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
Whether the order will be obeyed in full remained to be seen. Mumbai vegetable trader Rafiq Ansari said his customers were getting angry over shortages and price hikes.
"I don't understand what's going on," the 35-year-old told AFP. "We are going to face major shortages in the days ahead."
Iran announced it would ban intercity travel as it finally got tough with the virus that has killed more than 2,000 people in one of the world's deadliest outbreaks.
Many governments are listening to health experts who warn the only way to slow the epidemic -- and save the lives of the elderly and vulnerable -- is by imposing "social isolation" measures.
8:43pm | The President has spoken
President Yoweri Museveni's message is clear, and key among the additional measures are the following:
- Public transport has been suspended for the next two weeks.
- Markets have been limited to selling only foodstuffs.
- Only essential staff to be allowed in government offices.
8:39pm | 'What we are dealing with has been handled before'
While concluding his speech, the President makes a biblical allusion (Isaiah 26:20) to contexualize what the world is going through at the moment in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The scriptural extraction says (depending on the version of the Bible you are using): "Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by."
"What we are dealing with have been there before and have been handled," says Museveni.
He wraps up his speech by reminded the public that eight of the original nine coronavirus cases in Uganda are recovering steadily. The other one is not steady yet.
"I wish you good luck, I wish you God's protection. Thank you very much," he signs off.
8:35pm | Government vehicles to be stationed at district headquarters
Museveni says: "Now that we have got cases in other parts of the country (beyond Kampala and Entebbe), we have a system of getting samples from suspected people all the way to Entebbe for testing. There are teams near villages who do surveillance.
"These inform people who are at the 100 hubs across the country, who in turn take samples [from the suspected people] and send them to Entebbe aboard Posta Buses."
To ease this countrywide surveillance, the President says: "I am directing that all govenrment vehicles in the districts (except the ones for the army and Police) should be centralised at the district headquarters under the command of the district health officer, aided by a Police officer.
"We are going to ensure that [these vehicles] have enough fuel."
8:27pm | Business of boda bodas
"In Kampala, companies will be identified to start doing this business of bodabodas. I hope there won't be corruption and bribery," says Museveni.
8:27pm | Government offices should be rid of non-essential staff
"Each ministry and government department should work out a plan of the essential staff that need to remain on duty," says the President.
This can be done on rotational basis.
"At district level, district officials can identify boda bodas who can deliver food and other cargo to wherever it is needed. This crisis will teach us other methods of doing business," adds the President.
8:23pm | Markets to sell only food - nothing else
After dealing with public transport, the President says the other big problem are the markets, as they bring together many people.
He, however, says he is happy to learn that the people in these markets have tried to adhere to hygiene measures - washing of hands with soap and water. But that is not enough.
Therefore, the second new additional measure is that the markets should be for selling only food - matooke, sweet potatoes, caassava, rice, beans, peas, chicken, meat, etc.
Save for food, the selling of other items has been suspended.
"We think this will reduce numbers and then they can maintain social distance. We think by removing the non-food items and sellers, it will reduce the numbers," says Museveni.
8:18pm | Ambulances allowed to move
The only other vehicles allowed to move are ambulances, vehicles of security agencies and some institutions as well as vehicles for sanitary services (like KCCA garbage collection trucks).
"This is to cause people to postpone their unsafe journeys from one point to another point. The only people who can move safely are those moving using private cars," says the President.
8:13pm | Government suspends public transport
In its latest measures, the government has decided to suspend all public transport - that includes taxis, coasters/minibuses, buses, passenger trains, auto rickshaw (tuk tuks) and all boda bodas.
The suspension is for 14 days.
Why this suspension?
"Because we want to limit movement. The only vehicles to move should be private vehicles, which should carry no more than three people, including the driver," says the President.
But there are a few exceptions.
Trucks and lorries delivering cargo (food and other essentials) are allowed to continue moving.
The President says that boda bodas and tuk tuks can move only if they are carrying cargo. He says boda boda riders should not simply sit back and sulk over the suspension of their services - instead, they should think about using their bikes to transport cargo.
8:09pm | President begins address
The president is speaking to the nation.
He says the original nine cases are in "good condition" and their temperatures are going down - save for one, whose temperature keeps flactuating.
"We are going to get scattered cases across the country. Therefore, we are happy that we took the other big steps in the past - we closed the schools in time and we closed the churches and mosques."
With more coronavirus cases coming up, the President says the country needs to take additional measures.
7:47pm | Coronavirus in Uganda: Graphical illustration
To get an idea of what is happening in the country in light of the new coronavirus, this map below from the government information portal shows where the confirmed cases are located and where alerts to the ministry are coming from.
7:43pm | 'Nothing has caused prices of food to be hiked'
In his fourth address on Tuesday, President Museveni reiterated his call to Ugandans to adhere to his and the health ministry's directives aimed at arresting the spread of the new coronavirus within the population.
In his message, he mentioned that he may call a ban on the usage of public transport in case the situation worsens. In doing so, he would also promote using bicycles as an ideal alternative.
The President also warned "crooks" against hiking the prices of especially foodstuffs, saying he would use spies to catch anyone taking advantage of the situation. If found, a culprit will be arrested and their license revoked.
"Nothing has caused prices of foodstuffs to be hiked. The bananas we had yesterday are the same today, the maize is the same. So the crooks who are taking advantage of coronavirus to hike prices of foodstuffs anywhere in this country will be arrested and their licenses revoked," he reechoed his warning in a tweet.
7:25pm | 'It is a tough job during such a difficult time'
Also called Ma Yun, the 55-year-old Chinese tycoon sent out a message of thanks to Ethiopian Prime Miniter Abiy Ahmed for "helping us distribute supplies throughout Africa".
The large packages were delivered to the recipient nations using Ethiopian Airlines.
Source: The New Vision