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South Africa Shuts Land Borders To Curb Spread Of COVID-19

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The South African government has on Monday announced it will close all its land borders in an effort to curb the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus in the country.

Making the announcement, the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa in a televised address said the land borders will be closed to most travellers until 15 February, saying that the pandemic in South Africa is currently at its most devastating, with infection numbers far exceeding the peak experienced in the first wave.

Ramaphosa said there have been nearly 190,000 reported infections since New Year’s Day, and there are currently more than 15,000 persons in hospital with COVID-19.

South Africa has the highest number of infections in the African continent with more than a million cases.

On Monday, the country recorded 15,046 new cases and 416 deaths, bringing the total cases to 1,246,643 and fatalities to 33,579 respectively.

According to the president, 20 million doses of the vaccine had already been secured, for delivery in the coming months, and that negotiations are ongoing with a number of different manufacturers.

He added that the vaccine programme that South Africa plans to undertake will be the most ambitious logistical project in the country’s history.

The province of KwaZulu Natal has seen the most cases per head of population in recent weeks, but Ramaphosa said infection numbers in Gauteng are growing exponentially and are expected to increase further as travellers return from their holidays.

On Monday, South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has become the fourth member of the executive to test positive for coronavirus after displaying symptoms.

The presidency said he has gone into quarantine along with everyone who came into close contact with him.

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Baby Vaccination Drops In Rwanda Amid Lockdown

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Baby vaccination rate is of concern to Rwandan authorities.  The Rwanda biomedical center says it expects to vaccinate 360,000 babies every year with their first shot, but the number has dropped in Kigali during the total lockdown.

Some mothers in Kigali city say they cannot miss their babies’ vaccination schedules despite the city currently being in total lockdown.

At a vaccination exercise in Kigali on Monday, not all who were supposed to bring their babies for the vaccination showed up, thinking the medical personnel would not be available because of the lockdown.

The Rwanda biomedical center says the government spends $10 million annually to provide babies with no cost vaccinations.

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Tunisian Protesters Marching To Parliament Blocked

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Hundreds of Tunisians have taken to the streets in renewed protests.  The demonstrations first, in the town of Sbeitla were triggered by reports that an injured young man during last week’s clashes, Haykel Rachdi, had died. The man’s family said he was hit by a tear gas canister.

He had joined nationwide protests to mark the 10th anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, which ushered in democracy and triggered the Arab spring uprisings across the region.

Soldiers were deployed to government buildings in the town after protesters tried to storm the police station.

On Tuesday, Tunisian police blocked the path of hundreds of protestors who were trying to reach the parliament building in the capital, Tunis.

It was the latest in a series of demonstrations that have been fueled by frustration at the lack of jobs and spiraling prices.

More than one thousand young protesters had been arrested during the previous protests, and many of the protesters on Tuesday were calling for their release.

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Morocco Begins Rolling Out COVID-19 Vaccinations

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After Egypt, Morocco is set to become the latest country in Africa to roll out a vaccination programme against COVID-19 giving priority to frontline medical staff.

The country has received two million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and is expected to take delivery of half a million doses from China’s Sinopharm on Wednesday.

Morocco was hit hard last year when it recorded a higher number of cases compared to its neighbours

Tunisia has pushed back its vaccination campaign to April, while Algeria expects to acquire a batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vacc Oxford/AstraZeneca ine by the end of this month.

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