Coronavirus: “Our people need to eat” – President Cyril Ramaphosa

South Africa has started to gradually loosen its strict coronavirus lockdown, allowing some industries to reopen after five weeks of restrictions that plunged its struggling economy deeper into turmoil.

The economy of Africa’s most industrialised nation was already teetering when the lockdown kicked in on March 27 to contain the spread of infections.

President Cyril Ramaphosa took the decision to stagger the easing of the lockdown restrictions in a bid to strike a balance between protecting public health and the economy.

“Our people need to eat. They need to earn a living,” Ramaphosa said. “Companies need to be able to produce and to trade, they need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment.”

South Africa’s economy was in recession and reeling from low growth and high debts before the coronavirus pandemic began.

Last week, President Ramaphosa unveiled an unprecedented $26.9bn economic stimulus and social relief package, amounting to about 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said the country will seek coronavirus relief aid from the IMF and the World Bank, where it is eligible for up to $4.2bn.

Pandemic: Widow cooking stones for children attracts helpers

Kenyans have rallied to the aid of a widow filmed cooking stones for her eight children to make them believe she was preparing food for them.

Peninah Bahati Kitsao, who lives in Mombasa, hoped they would fall asleep while they waited for their meal.

She used to wash laundry locally but such work is hard to come by now as people have restricted their interactions because of coronavirus.

A shocked neighbour, Prisca Momanyi, alerted the media to her plight.

After being interviewed by Kenya’s NTV , the widow has received money via mobile phone and through a bank account that was opened for her by Ms Momanyi, as the mother of eight does not know how to read and write.

Ms Kitsao, who lives in a two-bedroomed house without running water or electricity, has described the generosity as a “miracle”.

“I didn’t believe that Kenyans can be so loving after I received phone calls from all over the country asking how they might be of help,” she told Tuko news website.

She had told NTV that her hungry children had not been deceived for long by her delaying stone-cooking tactics.

“They started telling me that they knew I was lying to them, but I could do nothing because I had nothing.”

Her neighbour had come around to see if the family was OK after hearing the children crying, NTV reports.

As part of measures to cushion the most vulnerable from the coronavirus crisis, the government has launched a feeding programme.

But it had yet to reach Ms Kitsao, who was widowed last year when her husband was killed by a gang.

Her neighbour has also thanked the county authorities and the Kenya Red Cross, who have also come to help Ms Kitsao.

Many more households in that neighbourhood of the coastal city are now going to benefit from the relief food scheme too, the authorities say.

Dino Melaye: Dismiss petition, INEC tells tribunal

The Independent National Electoral Commission, on Thursday, closed its case without calling any witness in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate in the Kogi West senatorial rerun, Dino Melaye.

The electoral body, through its lawyer, Chris Alashey, on Thursday, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition which he argued lacked merit.

Melaye and his party, the PDP, are, by their petition, challenging the victory of Smart Adeyemi of the All Progressives Congress at the rerun poll, which held on November 30, 2019.

The rerun, which held in 53 polling units on November 30, 2019, was ordered in the judgment of the Court of Appeal which nullified Melaye’s victory in the main election which earlier held in March 2019.

Adeyemi of the APC was declared the winner at the end of the rerun.

Melaye is now challenging Adeyemi’s victory at the tribunal.

Melaye and the PDP, the petitioners who instituted the case, had earlier closed their case after calling their last witness.

It was the turn of INEC, the first respondent to the case, to open its case by calling witnesses on Thursday.

But the commission’s lawyer, Alashey, told the three-man tribunal-led by Justice Isa Sambo, that having reviewed the case, there was no substance in it warranting INEC to call witnesses.

Alashey noted that most of the witnesses called by Melaye and the PDP admitted before the tribunal that they lied in their statements on oath.

The tribunal adjourned till May 5, when Adeyemi, who is the second respondent, is expected to open his defence.

Coronavirus: Kano pandemic surge

Kano State recorded 118 coronavirus cases in two days. According to data obtained from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, the state recorded 38 cases on Wednesday and 80 on Thursday.

The NCDC also said the state had recorded a total of Kano 219 cases with three deaths.

The increase in cases came three days after COVID-19 tests resumed in the state.

Since Nigeria recorded its index case on February 27, Kano has discharged no patient.

The NCDC said Kano’s new 80 COVID-19 cases were part of the 204 infections recorded in the country on Thursday.

It is reported that 71 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in Nigeria were recorded in Lagos, Abuja and Kano.

Lagos has the highest cases of COVID-19 with 976 infections followed by Kano, which has 219 cases and Abuja with 178 cases.

NCDC said, “204 new cases of #COVID19 reported: 80 in Kano, Lagos, 45;
Gombe – 12, Bauchi – nine, Sokoto – nine, Borno – seven, Edo – seven, Rivers – six, Ogun – six, FCT – four, Akwa Ibom – four, Bayelsa – four, Kaduna – three, Oyo – two, Delta – two, Nasarawa – two, Ondo – one, Kebbi – one.

“As of 11:50 pm on the 30th April, there are 1932 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. Discharged: 319; Deaths: 58.”

Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has assured Nigerians that the Federal Government is on top of the situation in Kano State.

Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and PTF chairman on COVID-19, gave the assurance at the PTF daily briefing on Thursday in Abuja.

The SGF said that the government was committed to curbing the spread of COVID-19 in Kano State.

He noted that Kano is one of Nigeria’s historical cities and remained a backbone for the economy of the country.

“The PTF has released pieces of equipment to be transported immediately to Kano to beef up the response.

“These include two oxygen concentrate and three ventilators, 280 protective gowns, 538 examination gloves, 25 boot covers, medical masks, surgical caps, and infrared thermometers.”

He noted that the government has already established isolation and treatment centres with a holding capacity of 274 persons in Kano.

“The proposed establishment of additional facilities with a capacity of 500 persons and two sample collection centres along with six new proposed centres will provide a strong foundation for tackling the spread of the virus in the state,” he added.

Mustapha also revealed that the Nigerian Military, under its COVID-19 response plan, would establish an additional isolation centre, a treatment facility, and a testing laboratory in Kano.

“The PTF on COVID-19, in the immediate, will further strengthen Kano State to scale up its response.

“This is with the provision of necessary facilities and equipment, capacity building, improving stakeholder interface and guidance on existing policies against the pandemic in the state.

“Already, the testing laboratories in the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and the Bayero University, Kano have become fully functional,” he said.

He noted that the PTF is confident that the lockdown directed by the President, Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), would be effective in slowing down the spread as they continue to test, detect, isolate, trace contacts and manage COVID-19 cases.

The SGF gave an assurance that the ongoing investigation into the causes of the recent high number of deaths in Kano would be pursued to a logical conclusion.

Racist discrimination: Nigerians, China disagree over accommodation

More Nigerians have been evicted from their apartments in Guangzhou as racial discrimination swelled against Africans in the capital of Guangdong Province, China.

A businessman, Chukwudi Asogwa, told our correspondent on Thursday that he was evicted from his Baiyun district apartment on Wednesday, adding that he complained to the police, but no action had been taken against the landlord.

He confirmed that some Nigerians were provided hotel rooms by the Chinese government, noting that those seeking private apartments had yet to secure them.

Asogwa, who has lived in Guangzhou for three years said, “We are tired of living in Guangzhou, we want to come back home. I am staying in a hotel because my landlord asked me to move out for no reason. I complained to the police, but no action had been taken.

“The police have spoken with my landlord, but they didn’t tell me why the man evicted me. I have dispatched my personal effects to Nigeria, I’m merely waiting for the government to evacuate us.”

Some Nigerians also sent a video of a woman with two children who were staying on the streets.

In the footage, the unidentified woman was feeding her infant daughter as the older second child slept in a baby walker. She was allegedly evicted from her apartment.

But the Chinese authorities said they had provided free hotel accommodation  for 207 Nigerians in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, China.

The Press Secretary, Embassy of China in Nigeria, Mr Sun Saixiong, disclosed this to our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday.

The Civil Liberties Organisation had said 300 Nigerians stranded in Guangzhou were facing starvation and homelessness on account of their alleged treatment by the Chinese authorities.

But Saixiong said, “According to the Guangzhou Foreign Affairs Office, 207 Nigerians who claim they have no place to live have been checked into hotels by the local government. Those who are facing economic difficulties will receive deductions or exemptions for the room rates and food charges.”

Tennis: Andy Murray and Kiki Bertens clinch titles in virtual Madrid open

Andy Murray won the Madrid Open for a third time on Thursday without even leaving the comfort of his sofa.

With tennis suspended until at least mid-July, the Scot emerged triumphant in a contest of 16 leading ATP players who had all swapped their racquets for PlayStation 4 controllers.

David Goffin was Murray’s victim in the final, with the world number 121 edging out the Belgian 7-6 (5) on the Tennis World Tour video game.

Murray, who reached the final by walkover after Diego Schwartzmann had a “connection issue”, twice served to stay in the contest and trailed 5-4 in the tie-break before winning the last three points.

The Scot, who has not played since November because of complications arising from his hip operation, had previously won in Madrid on a hard court in 2008, then on clay five years ago.

He claimed the biggest share of a 150,000 euros (£131,210) prize pot, part of which will be donated to lower-ranked players whose incomes have dried up during the coronavirus pandemic.

Murray chose to donate half of his winnings to the NHS.

Kiki Bertens, who should have been defending her WTA title in Madrid next week, claimed the women’s title.

The Dutch world number seven beat Fiona Ferro of France after overcoming Caroline Wozniacki in the semi-finals.

Ligue 1: Paris St-Germain awarded French title as season finished early

Paris St-Germain have been awarded the Ligue 1 title after it was announced the season would not resume because of the coronavirus pandemic.

PSG were 12 points clear at the top of the table, with a game in hand, when French football was suspended indefinitely on 13 March.

The club said they wished to dedicate the title “to healthcare staff and all the everyday heroes on the front line”.

PSG chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi added that French essential workers’ “commitment and self-sacrifice over many weeks have earned our deepest admiration”.

He continued: “We understand, respect and support the decisions taken by the French Government to end the championship. Health, as the government has always said, must be everyone’s priority.

“In these difficult times, I hope that this trophy will bring a little happiness and hope to all our supporters, and I am grateful to them for their unwavering support which helps drive Paris St-Germain forward.”

Before the government’s intervention, French football’s governing body had been hoping to resume the season on 17 June.

PSG have been awarded the title on a points-per-game basis, while Lorient have been crowned Ligue 2 champions on the same principle.

They were just one point above Lens when the season was suspended and both teams will be promoted.

Amiens and Toulouse will be relegated from Ligue 1.

Lyon – who were fifth a week before the last match day, but finished seventh – said they might appeal against the verdict.

Now set to miss out on a place in Europe next season, Lyon say they also “reserve the right to claim damages”, which the club say amount to “several tens of millions of euros”.