GENEVA: The new coronavirus pandemic could severely disrupt access to anti-malaria nets and drugs in sub-Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization said on Thursday (Apr 23), warning that malaria deaths risked doubling if efforts are not urgently scaled up.
The UN health agency called on countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 95 per cent of all the world's malaria cases and deaths occur, to rapidly distribute malaria prevention and treatment tools now, before they become too overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.
"Severe disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and access to antimalarial medicines could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year compared to 2018," WHO warned, citing new modelling analysis.
The analysis, it said, considers nine scenarios for potential disruptions in access to core malaria control tools during the pandemic across 41 countries, and the resulting possible increases in cases and deaths.
Under the worst-case scenario, in which all campaigns to distribute insecticide-treated nets are suspended and there is a 75 per cent reduction in access to effective antimalarial medicines, "the estimated tally of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 would reach 769,000," WHO said.
That is twice the number of deaths reported in the region in 2018, it stressed, adding that such an increase would mean returning to malaria mortality levels not seen in two decades.
The hike would have particularly dire consequences for young children, with those under five making up more than two-thirds of all malaria deaths in 2018.
WHO stressed that so far, sub-Saharan African countries had reported relatively few cases in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 180,000 people globally and infected more than 2.6 million.
But the agency, which has long warned that weak health systems in the region risked becoming seriously overwhelmed as cases increase, said the disease was picking up pace there.
"This means that countries across the region have a critical window of opportunity to minimise disruptions in malaria prevention and treatment and save lives at this stage of the COVID-19 outbreak," it said.
"Mass vector control campaigns should be accelerated, ensuring protection for both health workers and communities against COVID-19 transmission," it said.
In a separate statement on Thursday, WHO also reiterated its call to maintain immunisation services worldwide to ensure the measures taken to halt the pandemic do not end up sparking a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and polio.
"While the world strives to develop a new vaccine for COVID-19 at record speed, we must not risk losing the fight to protect everyone, everywhere against vaccine-preventable diseases," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.
"These diseases will come roaring back if we do not vaccinate."
SINGAPORE: A 58-year-old man was killed and three others were injured on Tuesday (Apr 21) night in an accident involving a lorry, taxi and car at a Yio Chu Kang Road traffic junction.
The police said they were alerted shortly after 9pm on Tuesday, to an accident at the junction of Phillips Avenue, Yio Chu Kang Road and Serangoon North Avenue 1.
The lorry driver involved in the crash was found “lying motionless” at the location and was later pronounced dead by an SCDF paramedic at the scene.
According to dash cam footage circulating online, a lorry was seen dashing through a traffic junction when the traffic lights were not in its favour.
A yellow taxi crashed into the lorry, sending both vehicles spinning. People were seen coming to the aid of those involved in the accident.
A close-up video of the taxi after the incident showed the front of the vehicle mangled.
A 50-year-old female passenger in the lorry was conscious when she was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the police added.
Also taken to the same hospital were a 56-year-old taxi driver and his 57-year-old female passenger. Both were conscious at the time.
Police investigations are ongoing.
Thinner crowds at 4 wet markets with restricted entry; NEA says IC requirement to be enforced from Apr 24
SINGAPORE: It is Apr 23 – an odd-numbered date, and only people whose identification card numbers end in an odd number can enter the Chong Pang Market.
But not everyone who turned up this Thursday morning was aware of this.
An elderly woman draws out her identity card and asks one of the safe distancing ambassadors whether she can go in, since the last digit on her IC number is even and it is a Thursday. Armed with illustrations on laminated cards, the ambassador explains to her that it is based on the date, not the day of the week.
But the rule is still not being enforced yet, and the senior citizen gets to join the queue to enter the market.
Chong Pang Market is one of four popular wet markets that has had this new rule imposed under stricter circuit breaker measures announced on Tuesday. The other three are Geylang Serai Market, the market at Block 20/21 Marsiling Lane and at Block 505 Jurong West Street 52.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) announced then that access to these markets would be restricted based on the last digit of patron's identification card numbers beginning Wednesday.
Those whose last digit on their IC is an even number may only visit these markets on the even dates of the month, while those whose last digit is an odd number may only visit these markets on the odd dates of the month.
This measure was introduced to ensure safe distancing as part of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, in addition to earlier measures such as controlled entry and exit points at markets.
ENFORCEMENT BEGINS ON FRIDAY: NEA
In a media release on Thursday, the NEA said it had been taking an "advisory approach" to the new requirements over the past two days, where patrons who came on the wrong date were reminded of the new restriction, but were still allowed to enter the markets.
The restrictions had resulted in decreased queue lengths during the morning peak periods at the four markets, with about 80 per cent of patrons adhering to the date restrictions on Thursday, the agency noted.
There is now "increased awareness of the new entry restriction system" and strict enforcement of the date-based entry restrictions at the four markets will begin on Friday, said the NEA.
"LESS CROWDED AND MORE ORDERLY"
The queue at Chong Pang Market on Thursday moved quickly and the crowd has thinned compared to before, said 67-year-old Madam Hock Hong, who visits the wet market once or twice a week.
Her daughter was there to help her take the groceries home, but waited outside the market as her IC number ended with an even number.
“The market was less crowded and more orderly, no one bumped into me,“ she said in Mandarin.
At the market at Marsiling Lane, a queue that wrapped around the adjacent food centre had formed when reporters arrived on the scene at 7am.
Safe distancing ambassadors fanned out to chaperone the patrons, check their identification cards and explain the new rule to people who joined the queue.
Ms Elly Puteh, 50, was already on her way home with her marketing as she had come at 5.30am when there was no queue.
She lingered to check with the ambassadors how her husband – whose IC number ends with an even digit – could help her with heavy groceries over the weekend if they cannot go to the market at the same time.
“I want to pass him the groceries but I don’t want to queue again if I go out of the market,” she said. She now goes to the market every morning as her fridge broke down recently, she added.
At this market, there were also some who were unaware of the new rule, such as Chinese national Jiang Zhen Hua.
The 29-year-old was given an exemption to enter the market even though his identification number ended with an even number.
He said he did not mind the regulation: "It's to protect us, we should co-operate.”
Woodlands resident Abu Bakar Hussain, 55, delayed his trip to the market for a day to comply with the rule but said he did not see the need to restrict entry using one's IC number.
"This is not comfortable for us, they can just check how many go in and go out," he said.
Though barricades had been set up as part of crowd management measures at the wet market at Block 505 Jurong West Street 52, the crowds had largely thinned there on Thursday.
About 15 safe distancing ambassadors could be seen at various locations around the market, directing them to the sole entrance to the wet market, as well as checking their NRICs and informing them of the new safe distancing guidelines.
Though some were unaware of the new requirements, they were still allowed into the market.
On the other end of the island at the Geylang Serai Market, the crowds seen in recent days had largely disappeared, though the market itself was still bustling.
TECHNOLOGY USED TO MONITOR CROWDS
In addition to the IC requirement, technology was used to ensure only 300 people were allowed in at any one time.
Safe distancing ambassadors monitored the number of visitors entering the market via a monitor mounted on the wall, near the entrances to the Geylang Serai Market, with sensors seen suspended from beams on the ceiling of the market.
Once there were 300 people inside, shoppers had to wait in line until others exited before being allowed in.
At each of the two entrances to the market along Changi Road, no more than 20 people could be observed queuing.
NEA said on Thursday that it was testing the use of a digital check-in application, dubbed SafeEntry, at the Geylang Serai Market, adding that patrons there may have their IC or FIN scanned before they enter.
"This will help to support contract tracing and also allow NEA to better fine tune its crowd management measures at the markets," the agency said.
Madam Ella, who was visiting the Geylang Serai market with her son, said the crowds had dipped since last week, when photos and videos circulating had shown crowds of shoppers outside the Geylang Serai Market, with the queue stretching more than 300m along nearby Jalan Turi.
Though she lives in Jurong, she frequents the Geylang Serai market at least once every two weeks as she says it is easier for her to find what she needs there.
The 52-year-old said she did not find it an inconvenience to comply with the safe distancing requirements.
“It’s good because it helps keeps the number of people down,” she said.
LOS ANGELES: Health officials in California's Santa Clara County have identified two people who died from the new coronavirus in early and mid-February, making them the earliest known victims of the outbreak in the United States.
It was previously thought that the first US death from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, was a man in his 50s who died in Washington state on Feb 29.
"The Medical Examiner-Coroner performed autopsies on two individuals who died at home on Feb 6, 2020 and Feb 17, 2020", Santa Clara County Public Health said in a statement.
"Today, the Medical Examiner-Coroner received confirmation from the CDC that tissue samples from both cases are positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)", the statement added.
The county's medical examiners also confirmed on Tuesday (Apr 21) that another death there early in March was caused by COVID-19.
The victims died at home during a time when very limited testing was available only through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to the statement, which added that additional deaths from the outbreak were expected to be identified.
The testing parameters set at the time by the CDC restricted testing to individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms.
News of the deaths in California could improve public health officials' understanding of how the outbreak took hold in the United States.
US coronavirus deaths topped 45,000 on Tuesday, doubling in a little over a week and rising by a near-record amount in a single day, according to a Reuters tally.
The United States has by far the world's largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases at more than 810,000, almost four times as many as Spain, the country with the second-highest number. Globally, cases topped 2.5 million on Tuesday.
The new coronavirus is believed to have emerged in a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has spread around the world killing nearly 177,000, Reuters calculations show.
SINGAPORE: The number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore has crossed the 10,000 mark, with 1,016 new cases reported as of noon on Wednesday (Apr 22).
The vast majority of the new cases are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in its preliminary release of figures.
Fifteen cases are Singaporeans or permanent residents.
The new cases bring the national total to 10,141.
"We are still working through the details of the cases, and further updates will be shared via the MOH press release that will be issued tonight," the ministry said.
CIRCUIT BREAKER EXTENDED
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday announced that Singapore will extend its COVID-19 "circuit breaker" period by four weeks until Jun 1.
Tighter measures, such as closing more workplaces and entry restrictions at popular markets, were also announced.
Standalone shops that sell only beverages, packaged snacks, confectioneries or desserts will have to close. Hairdressers and barbers will also have to shut.
Addressing the spike in COVID-19 cases in dormitories, Mr Lee said that older foreign workers will be given "special attention" and moved to a separate dormitory for monitoring.
The Prime Minister added that the Government will increase medical resources in dormitories and deploy more medical personnel to ensure workers with flu symptoms get "appropriate and timely" medical treatment.
SINGAPORE: Cabbies with ComfortDelGro will get another month of full taxi rental waivers, in line with the Government's extension of the COVID-19 "circuit breaker" period.
The rental waiver will be extended to Jun 1, said the company in a media release on Wednesday (Apr 22).
ComfortDelGro had previously announced a one month rental waiver for drivers, after the Government said on Apr 3 that it would implement measures such as closing schools and most workplaces.
In a televised address on Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the circuit breaker period, which was supposed to end on May 4, will now be extended by four weeks until Jun 1.
“With the circuit breaker period being extended by another month and further tightening of the existing circuit breaker measures, our cabbies will continue to be hard-hit and find it difficult to make ends meet," said ComfortDelGro Taxi CEO Ang Wei Neng.
"Times like these, we have to band together and face the challenges together.”
The further rental waiver is expected to cost the company an additional S$17 million, said ComfortDelGro, bringing the total relief package given to its cabbies to S$116 million.
The taxi operator added that more than 680 cabbies have been deployed to take on other jobs, with nearly 110 of them providing delivery services for food outlets such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Cedele, as well as delivery platform foodpanda.
ComfortDelGro taxi drivers are also being trained to take on grocery delivery jobs with RedMart, under a partnership that was announced earlier this month.
This comes amid a spike in demand for delivery services, as people have been urged to stay home as much as possible to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
LONDON - Ronan Hughes, a 40-year-old from County Armagh in Northern Ireland, was arrested in Ireland on Monday (April 20) in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals who were found in a lorry trailer in Essex, south-east England, in October 2019, Essex Police said in a statement.
Hughes has been charged with 39 offences of manslaughter as well as immigration offences, Essex Police said. He will appear at Dublin's High Court on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Northern Irish truck driver Maurice Robinson pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter related to the deaths.
Pregnancy is no doubt, one of the most life-altering moments in a woman's life; her mind and body become more vulnerable, extra care and attention are needed.
Especially towards the third trimester when some women become increasingly uncomfortable as their due date nears, it can be a challenge to get through the days ahead.
But all these ultimately make mums-to-be stronger than ever.
While most pregnant mums would be enjoying their maternity leave by their third trimester, but not for this pregnant mum who has chosen to dedicate herself to work despite trying times.
Not just any kind of work though, but as a frontline staff to tackle Covid-19 in Singapore.
Pregnant police officer continues to support community during Covid-19 pandemic
In light of the Covid-19 situation, pregnant mums would have chosen to stay home to avoid possible Covid-19 infection, and fears of passing the virus to her unborn baby.
Despite that, Reema Razif who is 30 weeks into her pregnancy still reports to duty as a police officer in Singapore.
According to her Facebook post on Friday, 17 April 2020, Reema is also a mum to two other children.
Dedicating herself to work in the frontlines not only poses a difficulty for the pregnant mum to move around but also takes precious time away from her kids at home.
We also know that home-based learning for kids is now ongoing, which could be an added concern for the mum.
"Would I like to be home? Be with my kids? Of course! I too feel worried and anxious," wrote Reema.
Still, she is determined and "hustling with no complaints, every day." And it all stems from her dedication towards helping those in need.
'Selflessness is fulfilling'
It is easier said than done to extend a hand to others when we face challenges ourselves. It is more than just stepping out of our own comfort zones.
It is a commitment.
And Reema made the choice, rose to the challenge, and showed us what being selfless truly is.
Her job as a police officer is more than just going through "insanely long and irregular hours of duties". According to Reema, police officers' job scopes include:
Especially with the Covid-19 pandemic, keeping up to ensure the security of the community becomes increasingly important.
Apart from that, police officers also have to deal with public scrutiny and are "prone to media humiliation and getting an earful" even when carrying out their duties.
They also have to learn how to remain calm and composed in face of these challenges.
Shows respect to fellow essential frontline workers
It is really not an easy feat, requiring both physical and mental resilience to work in the frontline during this crisis.
In her post, Reena shouts out to everyone who is forging through this Covid-19 pandemic together, appealing for kindness and cooperation.
"I give my respect especially to all fellow essential frontline workers, my husband & my love to every.single.individual. Let’s be kind, let’s cooperate & This shall be over, soon," she wrote.
Police Maternity Uniforms for Pregnant Officers
Among the slew of comments by netizens thanking Reema for her dedication and sacrifice in supporting the community during the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the highlights definitely has to do with the police maternity uniform donned by Reema — one that is uncommonly seen in Singapore.
"TIL police maternity uniforms exist. AND they look amazing," wrote Facebook user Candice Simone. She also looked up to Reema as "a superwoman" for working with the public during the pandemic.
Many other users have also commented on seeing a police maternity uniform for the first time.
Amid the pandemic, it can be easy to lose sight of the positive happenings around us.
But if we look around, be more aware and concerned for those around us, we will start to see the good and be encouraged despite trying times.
SINGAPORE: Singapore reported 1,111 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday (Apr 21), taking the national total to 9,125.
The vast majority of the new cases are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in its release of preliminary figures.
Twenty cases are Singaporeans or permanent residents.
"We are still working through the details of the cases, and further updates will be shared via the MOH press release that will be issued tonight," the ministry added.
A total of 19 foreign worker dormitories have been gazetted as isolation areas, following a recent spike in the number of COVID-19 cases among foreign workers in Singapore.
MOH on Monday said that it was "picking up many more cases" because of extensive testing.
"These are not new infections as the workers are staying in their rooms and many have not reported sick. But when the teams go in to test them, many turn out to be positive."
Most of them have a mild illness and are being monitored in community isolation facilities or general wards. None are in the intensive care unit, MOH added.
BERLIN: Germany will foot the bill for treating novel coronavirus patients taken in from European Union neighbour countries as a gesture of goodwill, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Monday (Apr 20).
Germany has been spared the worst of the coronavirus crisis seen in some of its hard-hit European neighbours, and has taken in patients - mainly from France and Italy - to relieve pressure on their overburdened healthcare systems.
More than 200 seriously ill COVID-19 patients from other EU nations are currently in German intensive care units, at a cost of about 20 million euros (US$21.7 million).
"Germany will cover the treatment costs of these patients, that is what we understand by European solidarity," Spahn said ahead of a meeting of ministers tackling the virus crisis on Monday.
"The willingness and capacity is there to admit more if necessary," he added.
The number of coronavirus deaths and infections in Germany has remained well below some of its neighbours.
As of Monday, Europe's biggest economy had over 140,000 confirmed cases and 4,404 deaths, while Spain and Italy have reported more than 20,000 deaths each. France has close to 20,000 fatalities while Britain has more than 16,000.
Germany had 28,000 intensive care beds before the start of the crisis and has since increased that number to 30,000.
Over 12,600 beds remained free Sunday according to the Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (DIVI).
Spahn's announcement came as many parts of Germany prepared to reopen some shops and schools on Monday after weeks of lockdown.
The health minister said Friday the pandemic was "under control".