The United States Congress has approved nearly $900bn coronavirus relief package bill to tackle the pandemic after months of partisan conflict.
US House of Representatives approved a total $892bn (£655bn) COVID-19 relief bill which provides $284bn for loans to small business to keep workers employed and $166bn for $600 one-time payments to most US citizens among other measures.
Also, the bill provides $3.36bn for GAVI, the international vaccine alliance, a partnership of the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the World Bank and the The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that provides vaccines to people in low-income countries.
The bill includes short term unemployment benefits, aid for the US airline industry, funding for vaccine distribution and help for urban and poor communities hit hardest by the virus.
Both Democrats and Republicans claimed victory but Mitch McConnell argued that the final bill came close to what Democrats rejected months ago as insufficient.
The stimulus package is also the first congressionally approved relief since April, and is expected to be the final piece of legislation for the 116th Congress, which expires on 3 January. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the package into law
As the latest wave of the pandemic continues to grow in the US, more than 214,000 persons are testing positive for COVID-19 every day.
According to COVID-19 data map by the US Johns Hopkins University, the country has recorded more than 18 million cases of the virus with 319,457 fatalities.
Zimbabwe COVID-19 Deaths Pass 1,000 As Infections Surge
Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 1,000 as the country struggles to contain a spike in infections that has claimed the lives of three government ministers in the last 10 days.
There are fears the more infectious South African variant of the virus entered the country when thousands of Zimbabweans living in the neighbouring countries returned home for the December holiday.
Data released late on Sunday showed, Zimbabwe has recorded a total of 31,320 coronavirus cases and 1,005 deaths. More than half of these have been reported since the beginning of this year.
The recovery rate has fallen to 71% from 82% on Jan. 1.
Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, Zimbabwe’s healthcare system was facing collapse with workers frequently going on strike to demand better salaries and hospitals facing shortages of medicines and equipment.
In a bid to re-assure anxious citizens, president Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a national address on Saturday that health experts were assessing different vaccines and would “quite soon” recommend to the government which vaccine doses to purchase.
Mnangagwa said, frontline health workers, who complain of a lack of adequate protective clothing, would be the first to receive the vaccine.
Doctors’ groups say that hospitals are quickly filling up with covid-19 patients and that there is an increase in the number of infected people dying at home, unable to afford the steep fees charged by hospitals.
Early this month, Zimbabwe extended a nationwide curfew, banned gatherings, closed its land borders and ordered non-essential businesses closed for a month in an effort to curb the surge in coronavirus infections.
The government said it was ready to introduce stronger measures if necessary.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe doctors have protested against a twitter comment made by the government spokesperson, who referred to them as ‘medical assassins.
The doctors’ association said it was unfortunate that a government official could make such references despite health workers risking their lives to save Zimbabweans.
The association tweeted quote “we are in difficult times as a nation in as much as the whole world is also troubled. We empathize with the sick and the bereaved. Attacking a whole profession at such a time does not add any value to alleviation of our challenges. End quote.
Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana said he was only “amplifying” a matter that was being debated publicly. He added that the doctors “will hear something from the police”.
Kenya To Use Robots For Body Temperatures
The Kenyan government has launched a robotic technology which will test body temperatures and collect data of up to 200 persons in a minute. Health cabinet secretary, Mutahi Kagwe says the three machines, donated by the united nations development program, will minimize contact between doctors and patients in three Kenya government facilities.
The robots, which are already in use in Guinea, Rwanda and India, are customizable and can be used for other purposes, including scanning of workforce, teleconferencing and disinfecting of places.
The move came as Kenya recorded one hundred thirty-nine new cases on Sunday, taking the nation’s cases to ninety-nine thousand seven hundred sixty-nine. The death toll now stands at one thousand seven hundred forty after one more patient was lost on the same day.
Health experts are warning the country’s infection rate might surge in march after schools close and parents mingle with their children.
Africa’s COVID-19 Death Rate Now Higher Than Global Rate
It is been reported that Africa’s COVID death rate is now above global average.
Head of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), John Nkengasong says it is “worrying and concerning” that coronavirus fatality rate on the continent is now higher than the global average. Africa has recorded 81,000 deaths since the pandemic started. Deaths rate at the second wave of the pandemic is reported higher in Africa than the first wave.
Nkengasong told journalists, the continent’s death rate stands at two and a half percent against a global average of 2.2%, and the number of nations recording higher rates is also growing.
He had said, earlier during the pandemic, Africa recorded lower death rates than the global average.
But in the “second wave,” 21 African nations, including the Sudan, Egypt, Liberia, Mali, Chad, Niger, the Gambia, Tunisia, Eswatini, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, had a death rate above 3%.