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As the number of Covid-19 infections continues to climb across South Sudan, the Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Juba is encouraging the public to stay safe and take precautionary measures to help stop the spread of the virus.

“My message to all South Sudanese is that Covid-19 is real, it exists and it kills. So people should not ignore it. As a church leader, I want everybody to take this message very seriously,” Archbishop Stephen Ameyu said. “That’s why we decided to close our churches and told everyone to stay home and pray in their houses. The disease spreads faster when people gather in churches, clubs or public places.”

The Archbishop’s appeal comes as the latest figures show that Covid-19 cases in South Sudan have climbed to 8,766, with 102 deaths.

On Wednesday, the South Sudan National Taskforce on Covid-19 extended the national partial lockdown for one more month, listing punitive measures including fines against violators. The task force said the extension runs through April 3, 2021.

South Sudan registered its first Covid-19 case on April 5, 2020.

The religious leader implored other churches to adhere to the set Covid-19 protocols and regulations to ensure the safety of congregants.

“We should keep social distance and wear face masks. This is very important for our health. There are some churches which are not members of the South Sudan Council of Churches and they continue conducting their prayers as if there is no Covid-19,” he said.

“Our priests are organizing prayers in their homes but without faithful. So there are no activities going on in our parishes currently because Covid-19 spreads faster when many people gather in one place,” he added.

Ameyu slammed officials for organizing football activities amid the rising cases of the Covid-19 pandemic, citing recent sports activities in the town of Torit in Eastern Equatoria State.

“I am currently in Torit and there was a football match played at Freedom Square and there were many people who attended the match. Our people don’t want to listen, especially the youth. I don’t know why? Covid-19 doesn’t know if you are young or old. They should follow the preventive measures,” he stressed. - Radio Tamazuj

The first batch of 102,960 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 coronavirus vaccines arrive at the Kigali International Airport in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 3, 2021. Photo AF

 

Rwanda on Wednesday became the first African country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, with around 100,000 doses delivered in what the pharmaceutical giant hailed as a "milestone" for the continent.

The East African country received nearly 103,000 doses of the vaccine at the capital Kigali through the UN-led Covax initiative, which aims to provide equitable access to Covid-19 jabs for poorer countries.

Pfizer said the first shipment to Africa of its vaccine represented "an important milestone for the region, for Rwanda, and for the global health partners working tirelessly to fight this pandemic".

"Our goal is to make vaccines accessible worldwide and today's delivery to Rwanda is a great step forward," said Janine Small, Pfizer Global President for Emerging Markets, in a statement.

An official at Rwanda's health ministry told AFP the vaccines -- which must be kept at ultra-low temperatures -- were "immediately transported to cold room freezers" upon arrival at Kigali aboard on a KLM flight at around 2015 local time (1815 GMT).

Earlier in the day, Rwanda took separate possession of 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab, its first delivery under the Covax facility.

The health ministry said the collective 340,000 doses would be dispatched Thursday from a biomedical warehouse in Kigali to district hospitals and onward to hundreds of health centres dotted across Rwanda. 

Vaccinations will begin Friday, with the country of 12 million planning to inoculate 30 percent of its population this year, and 60 percent by the end of 2022.

The ministry said the vaccine shipment should protect about 171,500 frontline personnel, as well as other priority citizens such as those over 65 or with underlying health conditions.

"We will immediately roll out our prepared vaccination plan, which will see target risk groups across Rwanda receive their first of two vaccine doses," Health Minister Daniel Ngamije said in a statement.

In February, Rwanda became the first country in East Africa to begin vaccinating against the disease, targeting high-risk groups such as healthcare workers after acquiring around 1,000 doses of the Moderna jab.

Rwanda has carried out more than a million coronavirus tests and detected just over 19,100 cases. As of Wednesday, 265 people had lost their lives to the disease.

It imposed some of the strictest anti-coronavirus measures on the continent, including one of Africa's first total shutdowns in March 2020. It put capital Kigali back under a full lockdown in January after a surge in cases.

Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine is based on different technology to AstraZeneca's, and is expected to be much more effective in protecting against the onset of Covid-19 when transmitted through the South African variant. - AFP/Daily Monitor

FILE PHOTO: Workers prepare face shields from recycled plastics at the Zaidi Recyclers workshop as a measure to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania May 27, 2020. Picture taken May 27, 2020. Photo REUTERS/Stringer

 

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The Unites States urged vaccine-sceptical Tanzania on Friday to review evidence on the drugs, saying they work and are one of the tools to fight off the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Don Wright said he was encouraged that authorities had recently acknowledged COVID-19 as a public health priority and had called on Tanzanians to take basic precautions to fend off the virus.

In a statement he urged the government to start sharing data about testing and cases “in order to know if response measures are having the intended impact”, and said the government should employ vaccines as an anti-coronavirus tool.

“There is no doubt that a mass immunization campaign will save lives,” he said. “I urge the Government of Tanzania to convene its health experts and review the evidence on vaccines.”

President John Magufuli has been one of the world leaders most sceptical of efforts to combat the pandemic. He has also cast doubt about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, saying last month that they “are not good. If they were, then the white man would have brought vaccines for HIV/AIDS”.

His government has said it has no plans to import vaccines.

Last week, the death of a senior politician who had tested positive for COVID-19 added to the concern about a hidden epidemic running rampant in the East African country.

On Sunday, World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged Tanzania to bolster public health measures, prepare to distribute vaccines and start reporting coronavirus cases and sharing data.

The government stopped reporting coronavirus statistics last May, at a time when it had registered 509 cases and 21 deaths.

On Feb. 10, the U.S embassy said Tanzania was experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and that its healthcare facilities could be quickly overwhelmed.

On Wednesday, the health minister implored citizens to take precautions against COVID-19, including wearing facemasks, avoiding unnecessary public gatherings and washing hands. - Reuters

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