Covid-19: Singing disallowed as Germans go back to Church

Churches across Germany are holding services for the first time in six weeks as the country begins to ease coronavirus restrictions. Members of the congregation must wear masks, stay apart and no singing is permitted.

Many German churches reopened on Sunday morning after most remained closed for more than a month in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Worshippers will have to wear masks, respect social distancing, and no singing will be allowed amid fears that it spreads the virus more easily.

Cologne Cathedral, Europe’s largest church and Germany’s most visited landmark, has planned a special ceremony for friends of the church. Workers, choir members, lay readers and altar boys were invited to a ceremony of only 122 people in the enormous medieval cathedral which normally received 20,000 visitors a day.

As well as extra hygiene requirements, people must abide by the social distancing regulations that require members of the congregation to sit in designated seats 1.5 meters apart. All physical contact is forbidden, doing away with the traditional “well-wishing” handshake that makes up part of the Catholic ceremony.

To receive communion, floor markings have been laid out to avoid people coming too close to each other.

From Wednesday onward, Cologne Cathedral will hold public services once more, but the number of congregation members will remain at 122.

Why i snubbed Germany for Nigeria – Maduka Okoye

Fortuna Düsseldorf goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, has said he snubbed the chance to play for Germany, because he always wanted to represent Nigeria.

Okoye was initially invited for the Dream Team’s qualifying game against Libya in March 2019, but his club blocked him from travelling.

The 20-year-old eventually made his senior debut, when the Super Eagles took on Brazil in October 2019.

Okoye who started the game on the bench, came on for the injured Francis Uzoho in the second half.

“It was easy to choose playing for Nigeria, I never dreamed of playing for Germany, always wanted to play for Nigeria, so when I got the call, the first one for the U23 team, this was the dream, this is my fatherland, it was easy, however, I was not released by the club for the U23s,” Okoye said on Instagram Live,

“It was an unbelievable moment playing for Nigeria against Brazil, it was amazing I could talk about that for two hours.

“When the coach called me to get ready, I was on fire, hot, but also nervous because you are playing for your country, this is not playing for a club, that is also good, but you cannot compare playing for the country.”

Okoye was in line to make his competitive debut against Sierra Leone, before the COVID-19 outbreak forced the games to be postponed.

Coronavirus: Emir of Zamfara dies

The Emir of Kaura-Namoda in Zamfara State, Alhaji Mohammed Ahmad Asha, died in the early hours of Sunday.

He was said to have died of suspected coronavirus-related complications.

The Emir, according to the Publicity Secretary for the Control and Prevention of COVID-19 in the state, Alhaji Mustafa Jafaru Kaura, had been in isolation at the Yariman Bakura Specialist Hospital, Gusau three days ago.

Mustafa stressed that his blood sample had been sent to Abuja for the COVID-19 test, explaining, however, that “the result is still being awaited”.

He said the remains of the late Emir were still in the hospital waiting for burial by officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

Aged 71, the late Emir was appointed in 2004 by the first civilian Governor of the state, Alhaji Sani Yariman Bakura.

Until his appointment, he was an accountant, Auditor, and Director Finance at Kaura Namoda, Gusau, Bukkuyum local government councils respectively, and a Village head of Nasarawar Mai-layi in the year 1975.

He became senior District Head (Chief) of Kaura Namoda in the year 2000, a position he held until his appointment as the second Emir of Kaura Namoda.

Quitting Eagles was a very difficult decision – Odion Ighalo

Ex-Super Eagles striker, Odion Ighalo, has admitted that it was difficult quitting the national team, but added he had to take the decision after sealing a deal with Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.

Ighalo stated this during an Instagram interview with a Ghanaian journalist.

Ighalo helped Nigeria to a third-place finish at the 2019 AFCON in Egypt as tournament’s top scorer with five goals, but the 31-year-old announced  his retirement from the team shorty afterwards.

“I needed to stop because it is too long from China to Nigeria for national team duties. I’m not getting younger and we have a lot of young exciting players coming up, Victor Osimhen doing so well, Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze are there.

“I thought about it, ‘this is the right time for me to leave.’”

He added, “It was a difficult decision because I love playing for my country, it’s a country that gave me everything I have today. So, anytime I was called upon to play for my country it was a joy to play.

“That decision was difficult but I have to do it for my health, for me to play longer in my club, so I had to stop travelling very far.”

Abacha loot: US lawmakers oppose return of $320m

Two members of the United States House of Representatives, Steve Chabot and Chris Smith, have expressed concern over alleged human rights violations under the regime of the President Muhammadu Buhari, in light of plans to return $320m stolen by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.

A  United States-based political organisation, American Principles Project, in a letter to the US Attorney General, William Barr, dated April 22, 2020, stated that the congressmen had relayed their fears to Barr.

The letter, signed by APP Executive Director, Terry Schilling, said, “Concern with Nigeria’s behaviour under the Buhari Administration is growing.

“Recently, US Senator (Chuck) Grassley has written to the DOJ noting that, under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, Nigerians face violations undermining freedom of religion, freedom of speech, due process, and the rule of law.

“The persecution of Christians is especially alarming, as attacks have increased rapidly.’ Similar concerns were also shared with you by Representatives Steve Chabot and Chris Smith.”

The APP expressed its objection to the decision by the US Department of Justice to repatriate the $320m Abacha loot to Nigeria, saying the funds should not be returned until human rights, religious liberties, and due process had significantly improved.

It added, “Recently, the United States Government concluded that under the direction of President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration, Nigeria has become a ‘severe violator of religious freedom.’ The evidence to support this conclusion is overwhelming.

“Amnesty International, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, the International Committee on Nigeria, and the International Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice have documented that since President Buhari came into power in 2015, more than 12,000 Nigerians have been murdered, of which more than half have been singled out because of their Christian faith.”

The group said, apart from the “deeply troubling” persecution of Christians, the 2019 Human Rights report by the US State Department had alleged systematic human rights and due process violations at the hands of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Attorney General Abubakar Malami, and Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.

Churches re-open in Germany

Churches in Germany can now open their doors again to worshippers but services will be very different.

After weeks of negotiations with officials, religious leaders have come up with strict rules to prevent coronavirus infections.

Churches will restrict numbers attending and people will have to keep at least 2m (6ft) apart.

Singing, which officials say can spread the virus, is banned and priests will have to wear a mask when giving out communion.

Jewish and Muslim leaders are also introducing special hygiene rules for synagogues and mosques.

Religious leaders supported the government’s lockdown in March – but increasingly have been asking, if shops can open, why can’t places of worship?

They have welcomed the move to allow services. Particularly in the current situation, said one Jewish leader, people need the support and comfort of their faith

Exchange of gunfire by North and South Korea

North and South Korea have exchanged gunfire in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which divides the two countries.

Gunshots fired by North Korea at 07:41 hit a South Korean guard post in the central border town of Cheorwon, Seoul’s military said.

No casualties were reported on the South Korean side.

In response, South Korea fired “two rounds of gunfire and a warning announcement according to our manual”, the military statement said.

It is not clear what provoked the initial gunshots. The joint chiefs of staff (JCS) said that they were trying to contact North Korea through their military hotline to determine the cause of the incident.

There’s a “low possibility” that the shots fired by North Korea were intentional, according to the South Korean military. But at this stage is unclear how they’ve made that assessment.

Even if was an accident or a miscalculation, it shows just how important it is for troops to keep level heads in the heavily fortified DMZ to ensure the situation isn’t made much worse.

If it was a more tactical decision by North Korea then that’s a very different matter.

The timing is interesting. It’s just 24 hours since the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un re-appeared after a 21-day absence. There have also been a large number of military drills in the North in recent months to improve readiness to fight an “actual war”, according to state media.

Pyongyang has sometimes used the tactic of escalate to de-escalate, using its military posturing as leverage in later negotiations.

But any sign of direct fire will be a disappointment to many in South Korea. There has been a lot of work in the last two years to ease tensions between the two countries after President Moon Jae-in met Kim Jong-un. The two sides signed a military agreement – any deliberate shots fired would breach that pact.

North Korea: Am glad to see that he is back and well – Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump has said he is “glad” that Kim Jong-un has re-emerged and appears to be healthy.

“I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!” Mr Trump tweeted, after the North Korean leader reportedly attended the opening of a fertiliser plant.

It was Mr Kim’s first public appearance in almost three weeks.

His absence – particularly from his late grandfather’s birthday celebration on 15 April – had sparked intense global speculation over his health.

KCNA news agency reported that Mr Kim cut the ribbon at the opening of the fertiliser factory on Friday, and added that crowds “broke into thunderous cheers of hurrah” when he appeared.

On Monday, amid speculation and rumour about Mr Kim’s health, President Trump had said he had a “very good idea” about Mr Kim’s condition, but added that “I can’t talk about it”.

“I just wish him well,” he added at the time.

President Trump and Mr Kim have developed a unique relationship in recent years.

The two men have met three times since 2018, and have exchanged personal letters with each other that Mr Trump has described as “excellent”.

However, talks about the denuclearisation of North Korea have stalled in recent months.

US Women’s equal pay claim dismissed by court

The United States women’s football team’s bid for equal pay has been dismissed by a court, with the judge rejecting the players’ claims they were underpaid compared to the men.

The lawsuit was filed by 28 women’s national team players last year against the US Soccer Federation (USSF).

They had been seeking $66m (£52.8m) in damages under the Equal Pay Act.

Molly Levinson, the players’ spokeswoman, said that they planned to appeal against the decision.

“We are shocked and disappointed,” said Levinson. “We will not give up our hard work for equal pay.

“We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender.”

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for US president in this year’s election, told the team to not “give up this fight”, adding: “This is not over yet.

“To US Soccer: equal pay, now. Or else when I’m president, you can go elsewhere for World Cup funding.”

Federal judge Gary Klausner allowed the players’ case for unfair treatment in travel, housing and medical support to go to trial, which is set for 16 June in Los Angeles.

Giving its ruling, the court said: “The women’s team has been paid more on both a cumulative and an average per-game basis than the men’s team over the class period.”

The US team won the Women’s World Cup last summer for their fourth title overall. They have also won five Olympic gold medals.

After the equal pay claim was dismissed, striker Megan Rapinoe, who won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at last year’s World Cup, tweeted: “We will never stop fighting for equality.”

Fellow US striker Alex Morgan said: “Although disappointing to hear this news, this will not discourage us in our fight for equality.”

The USSF said it wanted to work with the team to “chart a positive path forward to grow the game both here at home and around the world”.

Its statement added: “US Soccer has long been the world leader for the women’s game on and off the field and we are committed to continuing that work.”

Former USSF president Carlos Cordeiro resigned in March after lawyers for US football’s governing body made submissions as part of the lawsuit in which it was claimed that the job of a male footballer on the national team “requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength” than their female counterparts.

Before they played Japan in the SheBelieves Cup on 12 March, the US players turned their tops inside out during the warm-up to hide their badges, leaving only the four stars which represent their World Cup successes on show.

The US men’s team made the World Cup quarter-finals in 2002, while their best finish was third place in the inaugural tournament in 1930.

The women’s case had been publicly supported by male players, and in February the US men’s team issued a statement criticising the governing body, saying that “the federation continues to discriminate against the women in their wages and working conditions”.

UK made contingency plan for Johnson’s death as he battled COVID-19

Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom’s prime minister, has revealed that the British government made contingency plans for his death as his condition deteriorated while battling COVID-19 in hospital last month.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper on Sunday, Johnson said doctors gave him “litres and litres of oxygen” to keep him alive.

Johnson, 55, returned to work on Monday, a month after testing positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

He spent 10 days in isolation in Downing Street from late March, but was then was taken to London’s St Thomas’ Hospital where he received oxygen treatment and spent three nights in intensive care.

“They had a strategy to deal with a ‘death of Stalin’-type scenario,” Johnson told The Sun. “It was a tough old moment; I won’t deny it.”

He added: “I was not in particularly brilliant shape, and I was aware there were contingency plans in place.”

After Johnson was discharged, St Thomas’ said it was glad to have cared for the prime minister, but the hospital has given no details about the gravity of his illness beyond stating that he was treated in intensive care.

Johnson and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, on Saturday announced the name of their newly born son as Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas, partly as a tribute to two of the intensive care doctors who they said had saved Johnson’s life.

“The doctors had all sorts of arrangements for what to do if things went badly wrong,” Johnson said of his COVID-19 battle. “The bloody indicators kept going in the wrong direction.”

He said doctors discussed invasive ventilation.

“The bad moment came when it was 50-50 whether they were going to have to put a tube down my windpipe,” he said.

“That was when it got a bit … they were starting to think about how to handle it presentationally.”

Johnson described feeling “frustrated” as his health worsened and became emotional as he described the ordeal, according to The Sun.

He put down his recovery to “wonderful, wonderful nursing”, adding: “it was an extraordinary thing”.

The experience made him more determined to fight the disease and get the country back to normal, Johnson said, adding that he would announce a “roadmap” towards easing the lockdown restrictions imposed in late March later this week.

The prime minister’s comments came as the government announced 621 more deaths in the outbreak, taking the overall cumulative toll to 28,131 – just behind Europe’s worst-hit country, Italy.

(AJ and NA)