THE Democratic Republic of Congo will impose a curfew and other strict measures, including the mandatory wearing of masks in public spaces, to fight a second wave of the coronavirus, its virus response team said on Wednesday.

The mining industry in the world’s leading producer of cobalt and Africa’s biggest copper producer will not be affected by the new measures.

Congo has recorded 14,942 cases of coronavirus and 364 deaths since the epidemic was officially declared in March.

But it has seen a steady increase in recent weeks, with 345 new cases declared on Wednesday, mostly in the capital Kinshasa.

From Friday a curfew will be imposed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. while marches and meetings of more than 10 people will be banned, the Multisectoral Committee for the Response against COVID-19 said in a statement.

School holidays will begin early, while higher education and university courses will be indefinitely suspended. Sports competitions will continue without fans and dead bodies must be taken to their burial place without any other ceremony.

The number of coronavirus patients in hospitals has surpassed those seen during the first wave, the head of the response team, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, said earlier this month, warning of a shortage of oxygen.

Congo re-opened its airspace in August after five months of closure to combat the virus.

On Monday, President Felix Tshisekedi said the second wave is caused mainly by cases from foreign countries and the relaxation of preventive measures.

Congo’s economy is forecast to contract slightly this year in line with a drop in global demand for copper and cobalt, two of its main exports.

Congo’s mining industry will not be impacted by the new rules, mines minister Willy Kitobo Samsoni said.

“All transporters of mining products will pass the curfew checkpoints because their work will be justified,” he told Reuters.

Source – Thomson Reuters Foundation.

AFTER losing his sister to Ebola and narrowly surviving the disease himself, health worker Sherry Bangura is on a mission to spread awareness about COVID-19 and stop it spreading.,

About one in three Ebola patients survived the outbreak which killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2013 and 2016.

Bangura, 32, from Sierra Leone, says survivors like him are in a unique position to educate others about their experience and the importance of hygiene and vaccines.

As countries gear up to roll out COVID-19 vaccines, Bangura is on the frontlines — one of millions of health workers ensuring vulnerable people understand the importance of immunisation.

Working for the medical charity, Partners In Health, he goes door-to-door explaining how to use face masks and stay safe in the northern Port Loko district – a former hotspot of Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak. 

This is his story:

Every day I go to visit my community and talk to Ebola survivors – widows, orphans, and children.

I represent over 750 Ebola survivors. Many are seriously suffering. I advocate for their welfare, health and mental care, hear their problems and get their voices heard.

Now I must also try to prevent Ebola survivors getting infected with COVID-19.

Ebola survivors can also be a point of entry to communities. We can give testimony that people can trust and believe.

I share experiences that are vital in fighting COVID-19 in terms of mitigating fears, in telling people about the seriousness of this disease.

Ebola survivors have a responsibility to step up and play a role in getting the COVID-19 vaccine to communities. We are the people to encourage others to take the vaccine.

People don’t easily trust the medical system. You have to do serious engagement with communities and training.

There is a lot of misinformation and misconception about the vaccine. People are afraid and are confused about vaccines.

I have been to almost every corner of my local district. I’m well-known in the community. People have trust and confidence in what I say.

It takes a whole day to convince someone that a vaccine can be beneficial for them.

I wasn’t fortunate to be vaccinated against Ebola.

But I can share experiences of my past, being a victim of Ebola, how to be patient, what being in quarantine means.

A Ugandan health worker administers ebola vaccine to a child in Kirembo village, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kasese district, Uganda June 16, 2019. REUTERS/James Akena

In the past, health professionals were inconsistent in giving out health information. I rely on giving information that is concrete and practical.

You use a layman to educate a layman. Let’s use our network of Ebola survivors, let’s use our people who are residents of these communities.

People who have experience of similar epidemics are in a better position to share that experience.

You cannot tell a story if you don’t understand it.

We have to explain the importance of taking the vaccine, how having a vaccine can help mitigate the spread and infection rate.

We need to explain the advantages the vaccine can bring to society and the economy.

We are learning about the outcome of vaccine trials in big companies in the world. We don’t have an idea when there will be vaccine trials in any of our communities.

The fear in Sierra Leone about the COVID vaccine is who will have it. Will it be expensive? will people be able to afford it or will only the rich get it?”

Source – Thomson Reuters Foundation.

SBERG

FOR Davy Tsopo, a WiFi password changed his life.

When Tsopo lost his cleaning job at a Johannesburg restaurant during the lockdown, a neighbour thought sharing his password might help distract Tsopo from his money worries.

At first, Tsopo watched episodes of U.S. reality baking show Cake Boss to pass the time as he and his wife cared for their newborn son but soon found himself scribbling down recipes for chocolate gateau, scones, biscuits and red velvet cake too.

“This is where it all began,” said Tsopo, 35, holding a worn-out notebook filled with the recipes in the kitchen he shares with four other families living in his apartment block.

With the help of former colleagues, neighbours and even anonymous good Samaritans, his impromptu cake business – Cakey by Davy – exploded, with South Africans as far afield as Japan, Italy and Ireland ordering cakes for family back home.

Cakey by Davy now has more than 1,000 Instagram followers, and Tsopo has given television interviews and been invited to speak at entrepreneurial events.

He has been baking at least 10 cakes a week and is making twice his previous salary.

Working from home – instead of doing 16-hour shifts at the restaurant – means he can also spend time with his son, who is now nine-months-old, while his wife is at work.

“My former boss called me when he saw my company getting attention and said he’s sorry he wasted my time. I told him he hadn’t, everything happens for a reason, and losing my job as a cleaner was my blessing in disguise,” Tsopo said.

He said many of his Instagram followers were motivated by the global Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests, which saw many South African social media users urging each other to support Black-owned businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

But Cakey by Davy drew support from all corners.

A friend designed the company logo, another helped him enter a competition in which he won a laptop, a neighbour donated baking tins, a customer started giving him IT lessons. One unknown well-wisher even delivered a WiFi router to his home.

“Maybe some people thought because I was a cleaner, I was nothing, a useless thing,” said Tsopo, wearing his baking apron in preparation for his next order.

“But my story is a reminder to never undermine someone.”

Davy Tsopo stirs chocolate cake batter in a bowl from his kitchen in Johannesburg, South Africa. November 11, 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Kim Harrisberg

THE EXODUS SOUTH

A month after South Africa’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown was announced in March, three million people had lost their jobs and one in five were going hungry, a survey by several local universities found.

Many immigrants, like Tsopo who comes from Zimbabwe, were among the hardest hit by the collapse of the job market during the lockdown, which drove unemployment rates to more than 30%.

“I don’t want to lie to you, I was so stressed when I lost my job, but I have never had that begging mind. I wanted to start my own thing and be my own boss” said Tsopo, cradling his son, Travis, in the communal kitchen.

Originally from the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo, Tsopo joined the estimated 600,000 Zimbabweans living in South Africa, according to the most recent government data from 2016, representing about 40% of South Africa’s foreign-born residents.

Unable to afford university fees, he worked as a cleaner and an informal trader after leaving school.

His first attempt at business ended when police confiscated the memory cards and USB ports he was selling outside mines in his homeland – taking all his savings with them and spurring him to join the exodus south.

“The economic hardships in Zimbabwe are too tough. Jobs are scarce. I had no choice but to join the great trek to South Africa,” he said, leaving with just enough money to buy a ticket to Johannesburg and stay with his cousin until he found work.

‘THE REAL CAKE BOSS’

Despite the success of his business, money worries are never far away as the pandemic continues to weigh on Africa’s second-largest economy.

“What if things get worse? What if there is another pandemic and I fall into debt?” said Tsopo, his fingers stained green from the food colouring he used to prepare his last order.

South Africa has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the continent at about 752,000, and more than 20,000 deaths, according to the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tsopo said one day he would like to open his own bakery, where customers can come and drink coffee and order bespoke cakes for special occasions.

In the meantime, he is enjoying being his own boss and having more time to spend with his family, and more sleep.

The first few months of Travis’s life were spent in the kitchen with his dad, sampling icing and watching him mix flour, eggs, milk and butter together. Now he is older, Tsopo’s cousin babysits Travis while Tsopo bakes.

“I didn’t know this kind of life before, I didn’t know this was possible for me… I feel free,” said Tsopo, cracking an egg with a knife as he started work on his next cake.

“Imagine, one day I may be asking people to send in their CVs to work at my own bakery. Then I’ll be the real cake boss.”

Source – The African Mirror

HAVING scraped money together following medical studies abroad, Somali doctor Abdullahi Sheikdon Dini opened Mogadishu’s first advanced diagnostic laboratory in January.

Its arrival could hardly have been better timed because, just two months later, the coronavirus epidemic reached the Horn of Africa country.

Since then Medipark Diagnostics, which he runs with five other doctors who pooled $1 million to buy equipment, has become a linchpin of the country’s creaking, donor-supported health infrastructure.

Hospitals in the battle-scarred city that once had to wait weeks for blood test results now use the lab to test for conditions including HIV and hepatitis.

But, as the Somali government has acknowledged, it is in the fight against COVID-19 that Medipark has made its most visible mark.

“We had the supplies and our molecular pathologists were in touch with other pathologists doing COVID-19 tests in other countries,” said Dini, 37, whose studies took him to India and China.

Until July, Medipark was the only private lab in the city testing for the virus, but since then its technicians have trained government health workers to conduct tests.

“We were needed … and we were appreciated,” he said.

Medipark has arranged import pipelines of reagents needed for tests, including the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test used for COVID-19. It employs staff from Kenya, Lebanon and India to operate and maintain equipment imported from Europe, Asia and the United States.

Somalia has been plagued by conflict since 1991, and outbreaks of diseases such as cholera are common.

More than 2 million people do not have enough food. Many live in crowded, unsanitary camps, creating fears COVID-19 could scythe through a vulnerable population.

So far, that hasn’t happened. The health ministry has recorded 4,229 infections and 107 deaths in the pandemic though, with large swathes of the country are off-limits due to the fighting, that is likely to be an undercount.

Medipark lab is next to Hotel Shamo, where a 2009 bombing killed 19 people during medical student graduation. Dini was there and the memories are still raw, but he and his fellow doctors are proud to be back home.

“I am glad to help my community and make a difference,” said Ali Muse, who practised in Rwanda and South Sudan before returning two years ago to help open the lab.

Source: The African Mirror