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South Africa on her knees as coronavirus cases exceed 900

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The number of coronavirus cases in South Africa jumped to more than 900 on Thursday and President Cyril Ramaphosa called for richer countries to help African nations deal with the economic fallout, hours before the start of a countrywide lockdown.

The president underwent a test on Tuesday on the advice of doctors and received a negative result on Wednesday night.

“We now have more than 900 people who are infected, as the minister told me, and we fear that it might rise even much further than that,” the president said in Pretoria.

“We as Africa have called upon the countries of the G20, particularly the more developed economies, to support stimulus packages to Africa,” he said, adding that they had also called for IMF and World Bank debt relief.

Ramaphosa has been praised for ordering some of the toughest measures on the continent, including a 21-day lockdown to begin on Friday morning from midnight. He has deployed the army to support the police.

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But the lockdown threatens to cripple an economy already beset by power cuts and shrinking since the end of last year.

“I’ve got two months cash in the bank. Nothing more. After that, we close down,” Rajan Govender, 51, said at his family-run Indian restaurant in a Johannesburg suburb as he prepared to send staff on compulsory paid leave.

“We can weather a few weeks, but not longer.”

Mining and metal refining companies, the core of South Africa’s economy, are either reducing or shutting down production altogether.

Mines Minister Gwede Mantashe said on Wednesday that South Africa would continue to process platinum group metals, even as gold, chrome, manganese are scaled-down.

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The rand has hovered around four-year lows for the past two and a half weeks, and on Thursday it weakened from a brief respite, as relief faded over an announcement by the central bank of a quantitative easing programme.

State power utility Eskom has applied for its critical staff to be exempt from the stay-at-home order so electricity supplies will not be interrupted. It has said coal supplies are adequate.

Businesses are bracing for further damage from the lockdown, with Airlink becoming the latest local airline to suspend flights from midnight on Thursday. State-owned South African Airways (SAA), already massively unprofitable and with an unsustainable debt burden, has also cancelled flights.

SAA’s creditors have authorised an extension of a deadline for the airline’s business rescue plan until May 29, the airline’s administrators said on Thursday.

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The Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) said the industry would try to help customers suffering from the economic fallout of the coronavirus, but without the kind of fiscal back-up on offer elsewhere in the world, their options were relatively limited.

Banks will, on a case-by-case basis, help customers that were in good standing and up to date on their commitments, with options including payment deferral, debt restructuring or bridging loans, BASA said.

“If government is able to create some fiscal space for us then we can do more,” BASA managing director Cas Coovadia told Reuters, adding the sector could not take steps that would harm its credibility.

Reuters

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JUST IN: NDDC headquarters shuts down over COVID-19 scare

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The management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has shut down the commission’s corporate headquarters following COVID-19 scare.

The coronavirus scare, it was gathered, was triggered by the death of a member of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of NDDC, Mr Ibanga Etang.

Etang, who until his death, was the Acting Executive Director of Finance and Administration reportedly died at about 2 am on Thursday at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH), Port Harcourt after a brief illness.

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An internal memo signed for the management by Silas Anyanwu directed informed all employees that the headquarters of the commission would be shut down for two weeks with immediate effect.

“Consequently, all activities of the commission including ongoing matters are hereby shut down,” the memo said.

Details shortly…

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VSF supports Edo IDPs with COVID-19 palliatives

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The Victims Support Fund (VSF) has supported the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and vulnerable Nigerians in Edo State with palliatives to help cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The VSF Team was led by the Chairperson of the VSF Task Force on COVID-19, Mrs. Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji who was in the company of the Edo State government that was ably represented by the wife of the Edo State Governor, Mrs Betsy Obaseki.

This comes as the country battles over 8700 cases of the respiratory illness that has affected economies across the globe, including that of Nigeria.

MyNigeria.com reports that the VSF palliative was in the form of 200 bags set that contained 10kg of rice, 10kg of beans, 10kg of garri, 4kg of vegetable oil and 2 small packets of salt per bag.

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During the course of delivery of the items, additional bags of foodstuff were added to the initial amount by compassionate officials of VSF to the amazement IDPs Camp Uhogua.

Speaking on behalf of the management team of the camp, Coordinator of International Christian Centre (ICCM) and Coordinator of the Camp, Pastor Solomon Folorunsho said the VSF is Godsent for coming at this very critical time.

He said the lockdown caused by Covid-19 has impacted negatively on the welfare of the residents of the Camp.

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The visit to the IDPs Camp Uhogua was a response to an “SOS correspondence they recently received from CSED (Community Sport and Educational Development)” and the VSF intends to visit most states in Nigeria.

According to reports, the current cost of preparing a meal for the four thousand five hundred and seventy-five residents of the Camp is about three hundred thousand naira.

National Coordinator of CSED, Mr Edema Fuludu said that they were forced to reach out to VSF and other bodies having seen the plight of the people, though the CSED work is mainly sport/educational intervention.

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“We cannot afford to walk on by when the children/youths we work with are in dire needs of food and basic daily necessities,” Mr Fuludu said.

Mr Fuludu urged public-spirited individuals, corporate organisations and NGOs to continue to provide palliatives to the IDPs and other needy members of the society, as this is the only way they (vulnerable Nigerians) can survive the hunger and social isolation that has been induced by Covid-19.

He noted that “every effort put in touching the vulnerable in the society is the rent we pay to God for allowing us to live on planet earth.”

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Govt can’t risk reopening schools now – education minister

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No date yet for schools resumption – Education minister

The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba,  said that the Federal Ministry of Education would not risk reopening schools across the country, until all preventive measures had been put in place.

He noted that various dates of resumption being circulated in some quarters were false, adding that the government would consider introducing afternoon classes to ease rowdiness.

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Nwajiuba said,

“We want to say that the announcement that we are reopening all schools on June 8 did not emanate from us. That is not true; until we are sure that these children can go to school, return safely and not bring home with them this COVID-19 material.

“So we are not taking that risk yet. We are going to prepare as much as possible within the guidance that we are offered, working in conjunction with the World Health Organisation, before we reopen schools.”

 

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