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China rushes to build 1000 bed hospital in 10 days to contain deadly virus

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China is rushing to build a new hospital in a staggering 10 days to treat patients at the epicentre of a deadly virus outbreak that has stricken hundreds of people, state media reported Friday.

The facility in the central city of Wuhan is expected to be in use by February 3 to serve a rising number of patients infected by a coronavirus that has left at least 26 people dead and millions on lockdown in an effort to curb its spread.

Dozens of excavators and trucks were filmed working on the site by state broadcaster CCTV.

The hospital will have a capacity of 1,000 beds spread over 25,000 square metres (270,000 square feet), the official Xinhua news agency said.

Construction began as reports surfaced of bed shortages in hospitals designated to deal with the outbreak, which has now infected 830 people across China.

Xinhua said the new facility is aimed at “alleviating the shortage of medical treatment resources and improving the ability to care for patients”.

“We’ve mobilised all the workers left in Wuhan to work in shifts to ensure round-the-clock construction,” said Zhang Chongxi, manager of building group Wuhan Construction, according to Xinhua.

In 2003 China erected a hospital on Beijing’s rural outskirts in barely a week to cater to a rapidly rising number of patients suffering from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed 349 people in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Xiaotangshan Hospital consisted of prefabricated structures and Xinhua reported Friday that Wuhan was building the new facility based on the same model.

The city of more than 11 million people has been centralising its treatment of the new virus by isolating patients in 61 clinics and designated hospitals.

In a sign that the city is feeling the pressure, Hubei governor Jiang Chaoliang said in a meeting Friday that Wuhan must “make every effort to increase isolation places and designated hospital beds”, according to a statement on the government’s website.

Chinese officials have said the virus likely originated from wild animals at a seafood market in Wuhan but it has since spread to several countries around Asia and beyond.

The outbreak has prompted authorities in at least eight Chinese cities to impose travel restrictions and cancel public events to curb the spread.

State broadcaster CCTV reported Friday that 40 military doctors were being brought in to help with intensive care at the Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital.

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Coronavirus May kill 10 million people in Africa- Bill Gate warns

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US billionaire and software developer Bill Gates has warned that the coronavirus epidemic could overwhelm the health services of Africa and trigger a pandemic which may lead to 10 million deaths in the continent.

The Microsoft founder and philanthropist was speaking at the annual meeting of an American scientific society in Seattle, Washington, amid growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

As Gates was speaking, news broke that the first case of coronavirus had been confirmed on the continent, as a person in Cairo, Egypt, tested positive for the disease.

“This is a huge challenge,” Gates said. “We’ve always known that the potential for either a naturally caused or intentionally caused pandemic is one of the few things that could disrupt health systems, economies and cause more than 10 million excess deaths.”

“This disease, if it’s in Africa, is more dramatic than if it’s in China,” noting that he was “not trying to minimize what’s going on in China in any way.”

There are now fears that the disease could spread to sub-Saharan Africa where it could spark an uncontrollable outbreak, with health services unable to monitor or control the virus.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the charitable foundation that he and his wife, Melinda Gates, established in 2000, recently committed $100 million to fighting the coronavirus.

As of Sunday, the death toll in mainland China reached 1,770, up by 105 from the previous day, while there were 2,048 new cases, bringing the total count to 70,548.

Over 500 cases have been confirmed outside China, mostly of people who traveled from Chinese cities, with five deaths in Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and France.

Chinese authorities say the stabilization in the number of new cases is a sign that measures they have taken to halt the spread of the disease are having an effect.

 

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Coronavirus vs Cameroon: The lessons we could learn from ground zero

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As countries around the world scramble to contain the spread of the highly infectious Covid-19 coronavirus, China (ground zero of the virus) appears to have successfully contained the pathogen. With official figures showing that the crisis, which first started in Wuhan, China, may have stabilized, other countries have started taking a look at how the Chinese did it.

The first proof that China is indeed winning the war against the virus was the President Xi Jinping’s visit to Wuhan on Tuesday (March 10) – the first time since the outbreak began in Dec 2019. Obviously, the president would be advised against taking unnecessary risks, even if it was for publicity stunt. After all, there was no need for such a political stunt in a nation like China.

The second sign that the Coronavirus cases have indeed declined was the closure of the last of a dozen temporary hospitals in Wuhan such as converted sports centre and factories. Even before the President Xi’s visit to Wuhan, about 11 of 16 temporary hospitals that had been converted from public facilities including stadiums and schools were closed by Sunday.

Then there was Shanghai Disney who said it’s shopping and entertainment Disneytown zone would be reopened. Another sign that the worst is over in China was an order issued by Hubei Airport Group to all airports in the province to get back to work by Thursday. Some schools have also reopened as the Chinese economy is on track to get back to business.

Beijing reported only 19 new Coronavirus infections on Tuesday, down from 40 a day earlier. Even though 19,000 people are still getting treatment for the virus, it was a huge improvement as compared to as high as 58,000 on Feb 24. As of today (March 11), China has a total 80,785 Coronavirus case and 3,158 deaths, while 61,503 have recovered.

However, the virus has spread across the planet, infecting almost 190,000 people globally and taking at least 8,000 lives. Despite initial criticism over the Chinese handling of the outbreak, amusingly, the world is taking a second look at how Beijing managed to win the war. When China locked down some 50 million people in more than a dozen cities, many slammed the draconian approach.

On Monday (March 9), amusingly, Italy did the same – locking down the entire country of 60.5 million populations. While Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told his entire nation to “stay at home”, the government also imposed some restrictions, including suspension of weddings and even funerals. The country has now 10,149 confirmed cases and 631 deaths from the virus.

As the third-largest economy in the Eurozone, but with massive debt, economists and analysts are debating whether Italy could afford a Wuhan-style full shutdown for a long period of time. People have already started complaining and struggling with the new ways of life. JPMorgan expects Italy’s economy to slide 7.5% in the first quarter from the previous quarter.

Indeed, Beijing could easily lock down an entire city of Wuhan (11 million people), or even a dozen more thereafter, because the iron-fisted approach can only be executed in a country controlled by the China’s Communist Party. To ensure people were really restricted and did not cheat, Beijing deployed enforcers to actually guard the gates of residential compounds.

In fact, between January and February, the Chinese had confined 507.5 million people either in full or partial lockdown covering 20 provinces. That half a billion people population is about the size of the European Union. Imagine all the 27 member countries in Europe put on lockdown like China. It was more than the populations of the U.S. (327.2 million) and Russia (144.5 million) combined

In addition, the Chinese government leveraged on state-run mobile carriers to track down anyone who disobeyed the lock-down order. Such measure which breaches privacy will definitely invite condemnations from human rights activists if being carried out in the Western countries. But in China, nobody would dare to question the authorities of the uniformed law enforcement officers.

China’s big three telecom providers – China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom – have been working hand in glove with authorities by sharing location data on users with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. That information would later pass to the National Health Commission and other response team involved in the containment of the Coronavirus.

Desperate times calls for desperate measures. What is regarded as draconian tactics in the U.S. and Europe has proven to be the working solution in China. And unlike China who has a very high tolerance for economic pain, Italy does not have deep pocket to use the same tactics. As of February 2020, China possesses the world’s biggest foreign reserves – US$3.107 trillion.

In the United States, at least 32 people have died of the virus nationwide with confirmed Coronavirus cases reaches 1,016 people. While there was mounting evidence that strict control measures pay off in China, the responsibility for combating the infectious disease largely falls on individual state governments in America, each of which has its own laws governing quarantines.

However, as the virus spread across the U.S., the authorities have warned that mandatory preventive measures may be necessary. When push comes to shove, Trump administration might toy with the idea of a lock-down like the one implemented in Italy. But such option would be definitely met with strong opposition as it is amount to martial law.

Still, the U.S. authorities can use a more acceptable word like “containment” instead of “lockdown”. On Tuesday, the New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that schools, places of worship and other large gathering spots within a one-mile zone of the city of New Rochelle will close for 14 days. National Guard troops will be called to help deliver food.

Digital surveillance in the U.S. would require subpoenas, a legal obstacle to accessing personal tracking data. Inspired by China’s success, some Asian governments like South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore have tapped credit-card transactions, ride-sharing data, mobile phone signals and surveillance cameras to monitor people under self-quarantine.

The Singapore government has threatened to slap Coronavirus patients with thousands of dollars in fines – or even jail time – if they lie about their travel history. Last month, a Chinese man was charged for giving false information about his movements and whereabouts. For violating self-quarantine, the immigration officers have even withdrawn the permanent resident status of a foreigner.

In March 17th, the Cameroon government issued a national lockdown on its own. With 10 cases recorded and risk of sudden rise looming, Biya ordered his government to shut down all borders, close schools nationally and cancel every major event for an unspecified period

Cameroon government might have the kind of overwhelming powers to the world on its citizens like the Chinese, but desperately lack the transparency(due to corruption) and technological expertise to roll out the kind of groundbreaking nation the ASIAN giant has done which has help put them on the path to victory against the virus

Many are hoping that the country can learn from the rest of the world in real-time and come out with a quick solution to beat the virus and once again puts the country on the path of normalcy

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Operation Mamba: Ailing Gabonese President purges opponent in new anti-corruption drive

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Authorities in Gabon this week arrested eight people who are suspected of theft and money-laundering in what is seen as follow-up to Operation Mamba, an anti-corruption campaign launched in 2017 by President Ali Bongo, who has been battling serious illness.

The revived anti-graft drive has seen a string of top-level arrests in the central African country, as accusations that millions of euros have disappeared from state coffers swirl around top officials.

“Eight people have been placed in preventive detention,” Gabon’s prosecutor Andre Patrick Roponat said on Thursday, adding that they were accused of “siphoning off public funds and money-laundering.”

The group appeared before a judge on Wednesday along with eight others who were released on bail, Roponat said.

Pro-government newspaper L’Union reported this week that more than 85 billion CFA francs ($142 million) have “evaporated” over the past two years from the funds of the Gabon Oil Company.

60-year-old Bongo said last month he was “fiercely determined” to push ahead with the campaign against graft.

Political witch-hunt?

One high-profile political figure embroiled in the affair is Brice Laccruche Alihanga, Bongo’s former cabinet director who took the lead and spoke for the president after he suffered a stroke in 2018.

Laccuruche had held his cabinet post for more than two years but was dismissed on November 7, at the start of a wave of arrests.

He has announced on social media that he will undertake a new mission for “the president and for Gabon”.

Earlier this week, lawyers told AFP that presidential spokesman Ike Ngouoni and a dozen others were arrested and questioned over their ties to Alihanga.

The lawyers also insist that “there is a political vendetta” in the current process, a claim the country’s Prime Minister refutes.

During his months-long absence abroad for treatment, speculation over Bongo’s fitness surged and the army quashed a brief attempted coup.

Bongo has ruled Gabon since 2009, following the death of his father Omar Bongo, who was in power from 1967.

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