How to Read "Gilgamesh" @NewYorker
A carnelian tree was in fruit,
hung with bunches of grapes, lovely to look on.
A lapis lazuli tree bore foliage,
in full fruit and gorgeous to gaze on.
To me, this is the most dazzling passage in the poem: the engulfing
darkness, in which Gilgamesh can see nothing for hours—he is just an
organism, in a hole—and then, suddenly, light, color, beautiful globes
of purple and red hanging from the trees. God’s world, made for us, or
so we thought.
Gilgamesh does not linger in the garden. He at last finds
Uta-napishti, the man who gazed on death and survived. Gilgamesh wants
to know, How did you do this? Unhelpfully, Uta-napishti explains:
“No one at all sees Death,
no one at all sees the face [of Death,]
no one at all [hears] the voice of Death,
Death so savage, who hacks men down. . . .
Ever the river has risen and brought us the flood,
the mayfly floating on the water.
On the face of the sun its countenance gazes,
then all of a sudden nothing is there!”
The Way we live now #COVID19
It certainly is a new c21st that we find ourselves in. There is a
luminous and Fairy Tale feel to life in quarantine and as you know
most fairy tales have an oftentimes dark and dangerous and unspoken
I sit in my study and its as if my hearing is sharpened. I hear the
Breeze, birdsong, Nature in its many forms and the urban background
noise which was once the constant accompaniment to daily life has
The Nights are dark, the stars are bright and the neighbiours long gone.
''You felt the land taking you back to what was there a hundred years
ago, to what had been there always.”
Don DeLillo wrote "Everything is barely weeks. Everything is days. We
have minutes to live."
The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them @ErinBromage
It seems many people are breathing some relief, and I’m not sure why.
An epidemic curve has a relatively predictable upslope and once the
peak is reached, the back slope can also be predicted.
We have robust data from the outbreaks in China and Italy, that shows
the backside of the mortality curve declines slowly, with deaths
persisting for months.
Assuming we have just crested in deaths at 70k, it is possible that we
lose another 70,000 people over the next 6 weeks as we come off that
peak. That's what's going to happen with a lockdown.
As states reopen, and we give the virus more fuel, all bets are off. I
understand the reasons for reopening the economy, but I've said
before, if you don't solve the biology, the economy won't recover.
There are very few states that have demonstrated a sustained decline
in numbers of new infections. Indeed, the majority are still
increasing and reopening.
As a simple example of the USA trend, when you take out the data from
New York and just look at the rest of the USA, daily case numbers are
Bottom line: the only reason the total USA new case numbers look flat
right now is because the New York City epidemic was so large and now
it is being contained.
So throughout most of the country we are going to add fuel to the
viral fire by reopening. It's going to happen if I like it or not, so
my goal here is to try to guide you away from situations of high risk.
Where are people getting sick?
We know most people get infected in their own home. A household member
contracts the virus in the community and brings it into the house
where sustained contact between household members leads to infection.
But where are people contracting the infection in the community? I
regularly hear people worrying about grocery stores, bike rides,
inconsiderate runners who are not wearing masks.... are these places
of concern? Well, not really. Let me explain.
In order to get infected you need to get exposed to an infectious
dose of the virus; based on infectious dose studies with MERS and
SARS, it is estimated that as few as 1000 SARS-CoV2 viral particles
are needed for an infection to take hold.
Please note, this still needs to be determined experimentally, but we
can use that number to demonstrate how infection can occur. Infection
could occur, through 1000 viral particles you receive in one breath or
from one eye-rub, or 100 viral particles inhaled with each breath over
10 breaths, or 10 viral particles with 100 breaths.
Each of these situations can lead to an infection.
How much Virus is released into the environment?
A Bathroom: Bathrooms have a lot of high touch surfaces, door
handles, faucets, stall doors. So fomite transfer risk in this
environment can be high.
We still do not know whether a person releases infectious material in
feces or just fragmented virus, but we do know that toilet flushing
does aerosolize many droplets.
Treat public bathrooms with extra caution (surface and air), until we
know more about the risk.
A Cough: A single cough releases about 3,000 droplets and droplets
travels at 50 miles per hour. Most droplets are large, and fall
quickly (gravity), but many do stay in the air and can travel across a
room in a few seconds.
A Sneeze: A single sneeze releases about 30,000 droplets, with
droplets traveling at up to 200 miles per hour. Most droplets are
small and travel great distances (easily across a room).
If a person is infected, the droplets in a single cough or sneeze may
contain as many as 200,000,000 (two hundred million) virus particles
which can all be dispersed into the environment around them.
A breath: A single breath releases 50 - 5000 droplets. Most of these
droplets are low velocity and fall to the ground quickly. There are
even fewer droplets released through nose-breathing.
Importantly, due to the lack of exhalation force with a breath, viral
particles from the lower respiratory areas are not expelled.
Unlike sneezing and coughing which release huge amounts of viral
material, the respiratory droplets released from breathing only
contain low levels of virus.
We don't have a number for SARS-CoV2 yet, but we can use influenza as
a guide. We know that a person infected with influenza releases about
3 - 20 virus RNA copies per minute of breathing.
Remember the formulae: Successful Infection = Exposure to Virus x Time
If a person coughs or sneezes, those 200,000,000 viral particles go
everywhere. Some virus hangs in the air, some falls into surfaces,
most falls to the ground.
So if you are face-to-face with a person, having a conversation, and
that person sneezes or coughs straight at you, it's pretty easy to see
how it is possible to inhale 1,000 virus particles and become
But even if that cough or sneeze was not directed at you, some
infected droplets--the smallest of small--can hang in the air for a
few minutes, filling every corner of a modest sized room with
infectious viral particles.
All you have to do is enter that room within a few minutes of the
cough/sneeze and take a few breaths and you have potentially received
enough virus to establish an infection.
But with general breathing, 20 copies per minute into the environment,
even if every virus ended up in your lungs, you would need 1000 copies
divided by 20 copies per minute = 50 minutes.
Speaking increases the release of respiratory droplets about 10 fold;
~200 copies of virus per minute.
Again, assuming every virus is inhaled, it would take ~5 minutes of
speaking face-to-face to receive the required dose.
The exposure to virus x time formulae is the basis of contact tracing.
Anyone you spend greater than 10 minutes with in a face-to-face
situation is potentially infected. Anyone who shares a space with you
(say an office) for an extended period is potentially infected.
This is also why it is critical for people who are symptomatic to
stay home. Your sneezes and your coughs expel so much virus that you
can infect a whole room of people.
What is the role of asymptomatic people in spreading the virus?
Symptomatic people are not the only way the virus is shed. We know
that at least 44% of all infections--and the majority of
community-acquired transmissions--occur from people without any
symptoms (asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people).
You can be shedding the virus into the environment for up to 5 days
before symptoms begin.
Infectious people come in all ages, and they all shed different
amounts of virus. The figure below shows that no maTter your age
(x-axis), you can have a little bit of virus or a lot of virus
The amount of virus released from an infected person changes over the
course of infection and it is also different from person-to-person.
Viral load generally builds up to the point where the person becomes
So just prior to symptoms showing, you are releasing the most virus
into the environment. Interestingly, the data shows that just 20% of
infected people are responsible for 99% of viral load that could
potentially be released into the environment (ref)
So now let’s get to the crux of it. Where are the personal dangers
When you think of outbreak clusters, what are the big ones that come
to mind? Most people would go to the cruise ships. But you would be
wrong. Ship outbreaks don’t even land in the top 50 outbreaks to date.
Ignoring the terrible outbreaks in nursing homes, we find that the
biggest outbreaks are in prisons, religious ceremonies, and
workplaces, such a meat packing facilities and call centers. Any
environment that is enclosed, with poor air circulation and high
density of people, spells trouble.
Some of the biggest super-spreading events are:
Meat packing: In meat processing plants, densely packed workers must
communicate to one another amidst the deafening drum of industrial
machinery and a cold-room virus-preserving environment. There are now
outbreaks in 115 facilities across 23 states, 5000+ workers infected,
with 20 dead. (ref)
Weddings, funerals, birthdays: 10% of early spreading events
Business networking: Face-to-face business networking like the Biogen
Conference in Boston in March.
As we move back to work, or go to a restaurant, let’s look at what can
happen in those environments.
Restaurants: Some really great shoe-leather epidemiology demonstrated
clearly the effect of a single asymptomatic carrier in a restaurant
environment (see below). The infected person (A1) sat at a table and
had dinner with 9 friends. Dinner took about 1 to 1.5 hours.
During this meal, the asymptomatic carrier released low-levels of
virus into the air from their breathing. Airflow (from the
restaurant's various airflow vents) was from right to left.
Approximately 50% of the people at the infected person's table became
sick over the next 7 days.
75% of the people on the adjacent downwind table became infected. And
even 2 of the 7 people on the upwind table were infected (believed to
happen by turbulent airflow).
No one at tables E or F became infected, they were out of the main
airflow from the air conditioner on the right to the exhaust fan on
the left of the room. (Ref)
Workplaces: Another great example is the outbreak in a call center
(see below). A single infected employee came to work on the 11th floor
of a building. That floor had 216 employees. Over the period of a
week, 94 of those people become infected (43.5%: the blue chairs). 92
of those 94 people became sick (only 2 remained asymptomatic).
Notice how one side of the office is primarily infected, while there
are very few people infected on the other side. While exact number of
people infected by respiratory droplets / respiratory exposure versus
fomite transmission (door handles, shared water coolers, elevator
buttons etc) is unknown.
It serves to highlight that being in an enclosed space, sharing the
same air for a prolonged period increases your chances of exposure and
Another 3 people on other floors of the building were infected, but
the authors were not able to trace the infection to the primary
cluster on the 11th floor.
Interestingly, even though there were considerable interaction between
workers on different floors of the building in elevators and the
lobby, the outbreak was mostly limited to a single floor (ref). This
highlights the importance of exposure and time in the spreading of
Choir: The church choir in Washington State. Even though people were
aware of the virus and took steps to minimize transfer; e.g. they
avoided the usual handshakes and hugs hello, people also brought their
own music to avoid sharing, and socially distanced themselves during
A single asymptomatic carrier infected most of the people in
attendance. The choir sang for 2 1/2 hours, inside an enclosed church
which was roughly the size of a volleyball court.
Singing, to a greater degree than talking, aerosolizes respiratory
droplets extraordinarily well. Deep-breathing while singing
facilitated those respiratory droplets getting deep into the lungs.
Two and half hours of exposure ensured that people were exposed to
enough virus over a long enough period of time for infection to take
Over a period of 4 days, 45 of the 60 choir members developed
symptoms, 2 died. The youngest infected was 31, but they averaged 67
years old. (corrected link)
Indoor sports: While this may be uniquely Canadian, a super spreading
event occurred during a curling event in Canada. A curling event with
72 attendees became another hotspot for transmission.
Curling brings contestants and teammates in close contact in a cool
indoor environment, with heavy breathing for an extended period. This
tournament resulted in 24 of the 72 people becoming infected. (ref)
Birthday parties / funerals: Just to see how simple infection-chains
can be, this is a real story from Chicago. The name is fake. Bob was
infected but didn't know. Bob shared a takeout meal, served from
common serving dishes, with 2 family members. The dinner lasted 3
The next day, Bob attended a funeral, hugging family members and
others in attendance to express condolences.
Within 4 days, both family members who shared the meal are sick. A
third family member, who hugged Bob at the funeral became sick.
But Bob wasn't done. Bob attended a birthday party with 9 other
people. They hugged and shared food at the 3 hour party.
Seven of those people became ill. Over the next few days Bob became
sick, he was hospitalized, ventilated, and died.
But Bob's legacy lived on. Three of the people Bob infected at the
birthday went to church, where they sang, passed the tithing dish etc.
Members of that church became sick. In all, Bob was directly
responsible for infecting 16 people between the ages of 5 and 86.
Three of those 16 died.
The spread of the virus within the household and back out into the
community through funerals, birthdays, and church gatherings is
believed to be responsible for the broader transmission of COVID-19 in
Commonality of outbreaks
The reason to highlight these different outbreaks is to show you the
commonality of outbreaks of COVID-19.
All these infection events were indoors, with people closely-spaced,
with lots of talking, singing, or yelling.
The main sources for infection are home, workplace, public transport,
social gatherings, and restaurants.
This accounts for 90% of all transmission events. In contrast,
outbreaks spread from shopping appear to be responsible for a small
percentage of traced infections. (Ref)
Importantly, of the countries performing contact tracing properly,
only a single outbreak has been reported from an outdoor environment
(less than 0.3% of traced infections). (ref)
So back to the original thought of my post.
Indoor spaces, with limited air exchange or recycled air and lots of
people, are concerning from a transmission standpoint.
We know that 60 people in a volleyball court-sized room (choir)
results in massive infections. Same situation with the restaurant and
the call center. Social distancing guidelines don't hold in indoor
spaces where you spend a lot of time, as people on the opposite side
of the room were infected.
The principle is viral exposure over an extended period of time. In
all these cases, people were exposed to the virus in the air for a
prolonged period (hours).
Even if they were 50 feet away (choir or call center), even a low dose
of the virus in the air reaching them, over a sustained period, was
enough to cause infection and in some cases, death.
Social distancing rules are really to protect you with brief
exposures or outdoor exposures. In these situations there is not
enough time to achieve the infectious viral load when you are standing
6 feet apart or where wind and the infinite outdoor space for viral
dilution reduces viral load.
The effects of sunlight, heat, and humidity on viral survival, all
serve to minimize the risk to everyone when outside.
When assessing the risk of infection (via respiration) at the grocery
store or mall, you need to consider the volume of the air space (very
large), the number of people (restricted), how long people are
spending in the store (workers - all day; customers - an hour).
Taken together, for a person shopping: the low density, high air
volume of the store, along with the restricted time you spend in the
store, means that the opportunity to receive an infectious dose is
But, for the store worker, the extended time they spend in the store
provides a greater opportunity to receive the infectious dose and
therefore the job becomes more risky.
Basically, as the work closures are loosened, and we start to venture
out more, possibly even resuming in-office activities, you need to
look at your environment and make judgments.
How many people are here, how much airflow is there around me, and how
long will I be in this environment. If you are in an open floorplan
office, you really need critically assess the risk (volume, people,
If you are in a job that requires face-to-face talking or even worse,
yelling, you need to assess the risk.
If you are sitting in a well ventilated space, with few people, the
risk is low.
If I am outside, and I walk past someone, remember it is “dose and
time” needed for infection. You would have to be in their airstream
for 5+ minutes for a chance of infection.
While joggers may be releasing more virus due to deep breathing,
remember the exposure time is also less due to their speed.
While I have focused on respiratory exposure here, please don't forget
surfaces. Those infected respiratory droplets land somewhere. Wash
your hands often and stop touching your face!
As we are allowed to move around our communities more freely and be in
contact with more people in more places more regularly, the risks to
ourselves and our family are significant.
Even if you are gung-ho for reopening and resuming business as usual,
do your part and wear a mask to reduce what you release into the
environment. It will help everyone, including your own business.
This article was inspired by a piece written by Jonathan Kay in Quillete
COVID-19 Superspreader Events in 28 Countries: Critical Patterns and Lessons
10-MAY-2020 :: #COVID19 and the Spillover Moment
Law & Politics
''They fancied themselves free'' wrote Camus, ―''and no one will ever
be free so long as there are pestilences''
―In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up
in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved
A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell
ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that
will pass away.
But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it
is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they
have taken no precautions
We are trending in the 80,000-100,000 #COVID cases a day now. We have
crossed 4,000,000 cases.
The Winners are easy to see @balajis
Developed World ex US has bent the Curve
The European Trend is down now
May 6 In Europe, the number of daily cases is decreasing... @RemiGMI
We are witnessing a Spill Over into EM and Frontier Geographies
―Brazil is the global epicenter of the coronavirus.
In Brazil we have a toxic mix of a „‟Voodoo‟‟ President @jairbolsonaro
and a runaway #COVID19
Brazilians aren‘t infected by anything, even when they fall into a sewer
“It‟s tragic surrealism ... I can‟t stop thinking about Gabriel García
Márquez when I think about the situation Manaus is facing.” Guardian
Bolsonaro rides jet ski while Brazil's COVID-19 death toll tops 10,000 EFE
The South American country with a population of 210 million reached
10,627 deaths after 730 fatalities were recorded overnight, while
cases stood at 155,939.
Viruses are in essence non linear exponential and multiplicative and
COVID19 has „‟escape velocity‟‟ in Brazil.
Brazil Real touched a Record Low of 5.884 May 7th
Brazil is a real time Laboratory experiment and the African
@jairbolsonaro is of course @MagufuliJP
According to the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention,
Tanzania has conducted just 652 tests (as of 7 May). This compares to
over 26,000 tests conducted in Kenya and nearly 45,000 in Uganda.
BRICS ex China is accelerating – covid 19 tracker list. @ vivekmoffical
#COVID19 Stephen B. Streater @video4me https://twitter.com/video4me
Hot countries up. >10%: Mayotte93
>5%: Russia5 Brazil8 Mexico18 Pakistan21 Qatar28 Dominican Republic43 South Africa44 Egypt45 Kuwait49 Bahrain58 Ghana59 Nigeria60 Afghanistan61 Azerbaijan69 Bolivia72 Senegal82 Somalia92 DRC94 Guatemala97
now: >10%: Ghana59, Honduras80, Sudan89
>5%: Russia5, Brazil8, Peru13, India14, Mexico19, Pakistan22, Chile23, Qatar28, Bangladesh36, Colombia41, South Africa44, Egypt45, Kuwait49, Kazakhstan56, Bahrain58, Nigeria60, Afghanistan62, Bolivia73
Coronavirus: @WHO warns of 190,000 deaths in Africa @TheAfricaReport
WHO warns that the coronavirus pandemic could 'smoulder' in Africa for
Should the various lockdowns currently being eased in many African
countries fail to ̳bend the curve‘, between 29m – 44m Africans risk
being infected, with deaths potentially reaching 190,000.
The WHO believe that transmissions will likely be slower — because of
Africa‘s age pyramid, and social and environmental factors — the
pandemic risks lasting for far longer.
―While COVID-19 likely won‘t spread as exponentially in Africa as it
has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission
hotspots,‖ said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for
“COVID-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several
years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the
region. We need to test, trace, isolate and treat.”
Over 56,000 confirmed #COVID19 cases on the African continent - with
more than 19,100 associated recoveries & 2,100 deaths.
The worrying development is Transmission Hotspots
Kano in Nigeria for example
• Western Cape growing at an alarming rate @sugan250388
Someone with close knowledge of the medical profession said it was
almost impossible to secure a hospital bed in several cities.
The Aga Khan hospital in Dar es Salaam had a well-equipped ward for 80
coronavirus patients, but several were dying each night, he said.
The Question for SSA is whether these Transmission Hot Spots expand
America lost so many jobs in April that we could barely fit the
numbers in this chart of historic downturns (and that includes all of
the Great Recession)
Unemployment Rate versus Stocks
Last week for a moment The FED FUNDS rates went negative for June 2021
which is a remarkable and never seen before thing.
We are in the realms of Behavourial Economics.
I had a clinically “mild” case for 8+ weeks. There was nothing mild
about it. @ ElissaBeth
For example Tourism – I believe it is stopped out through Q4 2021
Business Travel is Toast.
Tourism dependency globally (top 25 most dependent). @Trinhnomics
DEUTSCHE: Our global forecast "has turned decidedly gloomier .. [M]uch
of the world has struggled mightily with the virus and the economic
fallout. .. we now see global GDP falling 10% in Q2 and remaining well
below pre-virus levels through most of next year.
What‘s certain is that the whole global economy has been hit by an
insidious, literally invisible circuit breaker. #COVID19
The US Stock Market has rebounded mightily but this is a Venezuela or
a Zimbabwe Trade, as it were H/T @Adammancini4
Its all about the Print Shop [Scott Burke]
Some Folks dived into BITCOIN which topped $10,000.00 on Friday
Take Your Pick
Paul Tudor Jones
“The best profit-maximizing strategy is to own the fastest horse,”
Jones, the founder and chief executive officer of Tudor Investment
Corp., said in a market outlook note he entitled „The Great Monetary
“If I am forced to forecast, my bet is it will be Bitcoin.” Jones, who
said his Tudor BVI fund may hold as much as a low single-digit
percentage of its assets in Bitcoin futures, becomes one of the first
big hedge fund managers to embrace what until now has largely been
snubbed by the financial mainstream.
.@Nouriel Roubini https://twitter.com/Nouriel/status/1259290961336827904
Bitcoin crashes by 15% in 7 minutes on NO news: a rigged, totally
manipulated, whales- controlled market where most transactions (90%)
volumes are false as exchanges pretend to have liquidity they don't
have. Massive pump & dump, spoofing, front running, wash trading!
Crude Oil rebounded
Will it last?
Of course it won’t. But where will it stall?
The drop in worldwide oil consumption in April has been put as high as
35 million barrels a day
Population Density the whole of Africa @undertheraedar
Africa will go Juche
Juche (Korean: 주체/主體, lit. 'subject'; Korean pronunciation: [tɕutɕhe];
usually left untranslated or translated as "self-reliance") is the
official ideology of North Korea
described by the government as "Kim Il-sung's original, brilliant and
revolutionary contribution to national and international thought".
The IMF has put some money to work but It is a Band Aid
biggest African recipients of the #IMF's emergency #coronavirus funding
Amid the #COVID19 shock, lower commodity prices and regional
dependence on tourism & #remittances will push current accounts in
most Sub-Saharan African countries to deficit in 2020. @IIF
The Outliers are rolling over
ZAMBIA On the brink of sovereign default @Africa_Conf
The government is getting no help from the IMF because it won't stop
borrowing unsustainably and covertly
After stopping payments on several commercial loans this year, Zambia
is set to default on its US$3 billion Eurobonds, now trading at
'distressed debt' levels, with yields over 50%, Africa Confidential
Ratings Agencies are throwing in the Towel.
Another devaluation looms as Naira depreciates at forwards market, now
N570 to $1 @nairametrics
Nigeria‟s 5 years onshore Non-Deliverable forward contract posted its
biggest drop by plunging 27% from N413.36 to close at N569.69 a price
differential of N156.
The 1-year Non-Deliverable forward contract was down 5% from N394.29
to close at N421.22 a price differential of N26.93.
Regime Implosion risk in SSA is trending higher.
Some Folks dived into BITCOIN which topped $10,000.00 on Friday
Take Your Pick Paul Tudor Jones “The best profit-maximizing strategy
is to own the fastest horse,” Jones, the founder and chief executive
officer of Tudor Investment Corp., said in a market outlook note he
entitled „The Great Monetary Inflation.‟
“If I am forced to forecast, my bet is it will be Bitcoin.” Jones, who
said his Tudor BVI fund may hold as much as a low single-digit
percentage of its assets in Bitcoin futures, becomes one of the first
big hedge fund managers to embrace what until now has largely been
snubbed by the financial mainstream.
by 15% in 7 minutes on NO news: a rigged, totally manipulated, whales-
controlled market where most transactions (90%) volumes are false as
exchanges pretend to have liquidity they don't have. Massive pump &
dump, spoofing, front running, wash trading! Total Scam!
African Finance Ministers Launch Debt Talks With Creditors @economics
African finance ministers started talks with private creditors to find
a way to temporarily suspend debt payments without triggering
At least a dozen African finance ministers spoke during the
hour-and-half virtual meeting with more than 100 creditors on Monday,
according to a representative of private creditors who attended the
Both sides talked about mechanisms that would allow nations to suspend
payments while guaranteeing their access to debt markets in the
future, said the representative, who asked not to be named because the
discussions were private. Both sides agreed to hold more meetings.
African countries are asking official and private creditors to
temporarily suspend payments in order to channel resources to contain
the coronavirus pandemic.
The virus threatens to overwhelm the health system of a continent that
is home to two-thirds of the world’s poor.
While official creditors have agreed to halt payments this year on
about $20 billion of obligations, getting private investors to join
the initiative is proving more difficult due to legal and financial
Vera Songwe, the head of the United Nations Economic Commission for
Africa, participated in the meeting, the person said.
The African Union’s special envoy Tidjane Thiam, chaired the
discussion, according to a statement by UNECA and the Washington-based
Institute of International Finance.
“A one-size-fits-all solution may not apply in light of country
specific characteristics,” they said in a joint statement.
“Communication to and from all stakeholders needs to be well managed
so as not to cause an unnecessary disruption in the crucial flow of
President says one person infected 533 with coronavirus at Ghana fish factory @ReutersAfrica
“All 533 persons were infected by one person,” President Akufo-Addo
said. He did not provide details of how the disease spread in the
facility or if safety measures had been in place.
He said that the 533 positive cases, which represents around 11.3% of
Ghana’s total infections, were part of a backlog of about 921 cases
going back as far as April 26 that are only recently being reported.
The new cases pushed Ghana’s total since the pandemic was first
reported in the West African nation in mid-March to 4,700 as of Sunday
night, the highest number of infections in West Africa.
The president said 22 people have died of coronavirus-related causes,
while 494 have recovered.
Senegal’s holy city of Touba is fighting a second wave of COVID-19 infections @ReutersAfrica
TOUBA, Senegal, May 11 (Reuters) - Senegal’s holy city of Touba is
fighting a second wave of COVID-19 infections, dashing hopes that
swift action by authorities had stopped the new coronavirus from
spreading in the one-time epicentre.
Confirmed cases in Touba have risen seven-fold to more than 190 since
a market trader fell ill in April, ending a two-week lull in new
Now, as other countries in West Africa, including Nigeria and Ghana,
are beginning to ease lockdowns to assist those whose livelihoods were
disrupted, Senegal is tightening restrictions to try to contain the
A cluster of cases in Touba in March prompted President Macky Sall to
close schools and ban religious gatherings, one of the first leaders
in sub-Saharan Africa to do so.
A Senegalese man returning from Italy had infected 17 others,
including his 2-year-old child, just weeks before Senegal’s second
city was due to host thousands of pilgrims at a religious festival.
Touba is the headquarters of a powerful Sufi Muslim brotherhood and
known to some as “little Mecca”.
Its Grand Mosque, whose white minarets tower over the city of 1.5
million people, was ordered to close its doors. A dusk-to-dawn curfew
was imposed and public awareness campaigns launched.
But despite these efforts, the city confirmed its 27th case on April
11 - the first since March 26. The man had not travelled abroad or
come into contact with other known patients, a worrying development
suggesting the disease had taken root.
The number of cases in Touba has climbed steadily since then despite
the intervention of the army, which is testing for COVID-19, the
respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, at a makeshift
field hospital and decontaminating streets and markets.
“Perhaps it’s ignorance or even some denial of the disease,” said
Sylla Mbacke, head doctor at Touba’s main health centre, Darou
Marnane. “There are some that don’t believe in it at all.”
Touba appeared quieter than usual during a recent visit by Reuters,
but despite government guidelines only a few people were wearing masks
in the streets.
Some sought entry to the mosque for Friday prayers but were turned away.
Mbacke’s centre is coping with the caseload, thanks in part to the
army, which is helping to treat non-coronavirus patients.
But with no ventilators or intensive care beds, it could quickly
The World Health Organization has warned that Africa could become the
next epicentre of the virus.
Senegal, which has recorded more than 1,700 cases and 19 deaths, last
week ordered markets to close on certain days, while supermarkets must
limit customer numbers.
At Touba’s main market, ground zero for the second wave of cases,
trader Abdoulaye Diagne said the new restrictions were making life
The market must now close at 3 p.m., making it harder to earn a
living, and residents are unable to gather to break their daily fast
during the sacred month of Ramadan.
“What can be done apart from pray for this disease to leave the
planet,” he said, as he packed up the plastic cups he had been selling
to go home.
Madagascar’s Covid-19 ‘miracle cure’ @mailandguardian
On April 29, 10 African heads of state met via video chat. The meeting
was presided over by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, in his
capacity as chair of the African Union.
Also present was AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat and John
Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and
Prevention (Africa CDC).
The purpose of the meeting was to assess Africa’s response to the
coronavirus pandemic and determine what should happen next. Broadly
speaking, they were all on the same page — until Andry Rajoelina began
Rajoelina, the 45-year-old president of Madagascar, was the youngest
person in attendance. He came bearing what he said was good news:
Madagascar had discovered a cure for Covid-19.
This was not the first time Rajoelina had made such a claim. He has
been aggressively touting the benefits of Covid-Organics, a herbal
drink invented by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research.
Rajoelina says the bitter drink can both prevent and cure Covid-19,
and has distributed it to schoolchildren across Madagascar.
Rajoelina — a former DJ who first came to power in a military coup in
2009 – has released no evidence to support his claims.
At the meeting, Rajoelina urged his fellow African heads of state to
embrace the herbal remedy. The other presidents did not push back,
even though most had deep reservations.
“You know how it works at the African Union. Once people say such a
thing, his peers are supposed to compliment him,” said one source who
was party to the discussions.
The Malagasy Institute of Applied Research occupies a tree-lined plot
on the outskirts of Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital.
It was established in 1957 by Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga, one of the
country’s pre-eminent scientists, to research how local plants and
traditional practices could be used to treat disease.
Among its successes is Madeglucyl, an anti- diabetic drug derived from
the Eugenia jambolana plant, widely used in Madagascar and abroad.
Covid-Organics is its latest formulation. The primary ingredient is
artemisia, indigenous to China, imported to Madagascar in the 1970s,
and now widely grown on the island.
Like chloroquine (also controversially touted by a head of state —
Donald Trump — as a Covid-19 treatment), the plant’s active compound
artemisinin is a recognised antimalarial treatment.
But the World Health Organisation (WHO) advises against the use of the
artemisinin compound as a preventative, and of the artemisia plant
altogether, because the short half-life of the former and its low
concentration in the latter accelerate resistance to treatment in
active cases, rendering it useless against malaria.
President Rajoelina has made grand claims about the efficacy of
Covid-Organics. It has healed two people who had Covid-19, he said.
It has the “potential to change the course of history”.
Ata glitzy launch event in April, he said: “All trials and tests have
been conducted and its effectiveness in reducing and elimination of
symptoms has been proven in the treatment of Covid-19 patients in
But this cannot possibly be true, said Shabir Madhi, professor of
vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
Madhi is also a founder and director of the African Leadership
Initiative for Vaccinology Expertise. “There is absolutely no evidence
that it has cured anything,” he told the Mail & Guardian.
Madhi noted that Madagascar only has a small number of confirmed
coronavirus cases (158 as of 7 May). “That’s definitely not enough for
a trial. Citing these sorts of numbers is a meaningless exercise.”
He dismissed President Rajoelina’s claim that two people had been
“cured” by the herbal remedy. “The majority of people who have this
virus show no symptoms. Of those who develop symptoms, 85% of them
have mild illness. You could treat them with water and it would have
the same effect.”
This is not the first time Professor Madhi has witnessed politicians
make grand claims at odds with established medical evidence. He lived
through that dark period in South Africa’s history during which its
leaders — principally former president Thabo Mbeki — disputed the
science on how to treat HIV/Aids.
At one point, cabinet minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang suggested
beetroot and garlic were more effective treatments than
antiretrovirals — despite all evidence to the contrary. A Harvard
University study found in 2009 that this misguided policy may have
caused more than 300,000 premature deaths.
Both Africa CDC and the WHO are concerned about history repeating
itself — and that using an untested herbal remedy such as
Covid-Organics could have the opposite of the intended impact.
“We would caution and advise against countries adopting a product that
has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy against Covid-19
and its safety in different population groups,” said Matshidiso Moeti,
the WHO’s Africa region director.
“We are concerned that touting this product as a preventative measure
might make people feel safe to do other things [against medical
recommendations, such as neglecting social distancing].”
The WHO and Africa CDC have offered to partner with Madagascar to test
Covid-Organics in a proper medical trial. So too has South Africa.
John Nkengasong, the director of Africa CDC, told the Mail & Guardian:
“I heard the briefing the president of Madagascar made … [we] look
forward to seeing the data and the design of the study.”
So far, Madagascar has not shared the data underpinning its claims.
Both the government and the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research
declined to be interviewed for this story.
A lack of evidence has not deterred several leaders from embracing
Covid-Organics. Last week, Madagascar dispatched 1.5 tonnes of the
herbal drink to Equatorial Guinea.
Another shipment went to Guinea-Bissau. President George Weah
personally greeted a plane as it delivered samples for Liberia.
And Tanzanian President John Magufuli — who has claimed three days of
prayer can cure Covid-19 — said he would send a plane to Antananarivo
to collect a consignment.
But sources within the AU suggest most leaders remain unconvinced —
even if diplomatic protocol is preventing them from saying so
One of the few institutions to speak out is West Africa’s regional
bloc Ecowas, which distanced itself from claims it had ordered
It said although it recognises the importance of traditional and
plant-based medicine, “we can only support and endorse products that
have been shown to be effective through scientific study”.
The WHO has taken a similar line. This week, it said: “Many plants and
substances are being proposed [as Covid-19 cures] without the minimum
requirements and evidence of quality, safety and efficacy. Africans
deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the
rest of the world. Even if therapies are derived from traditional
practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through
rigorous clinical trials is critical.”
09-DEC-2019 Time to Big Up the Dosage of Quaaludes
This week Moody’s Investor Services downgraded Nigeria to negative and
we learnt that Foreign Investors are propping up the Naira to the tune
of NGN5.8 trillion ($16 billion) via short-term certificates. Everyone
knows how this story ends. When the music stops, everyone will dash
for the Exit and the currency will collapse just like its collapsing
in Lusaka as we speak.