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As death rate slows, US exceeds 600 000 COVID-19 fatalities
15 June 2021, 4:00 AM

The United States on Monday crossed the grim milestone of 600 000 COVID-19 deaths, according to a Reuters tally, as slowing vaccination rates threaten the Biden administration target of having 70% of US adults receive at least one shot and 160 million fully inoculated by July 4.

The early success of the US vaccine rollout has had a huge impact on the pace of COVID-19 fatalities in the country.

It took 113 days to go from 500 000 total US COVID-19 deaths to 600 000 – the second slowest 100 000-death jump since the pandemic began. The nation went from 400 000 to 500 000 deaths in just 35 days.

“My heart goes out to those who’ve lost a loved one. We have more work to do to beat this virus and now’s not the time to let our guard down,” said President Joe Biden on the sidelines of NATO meetings in Brussels, Belgium, urging people to get vaccinated.

The US seven-day COVID-19 death average has fallen by almost 90% from its peak in January. The country reported 18 587 coronavirus-related deaths in May, about 81% less than in January, Reuters data showed.

While the epicenter of the pandemic has shifted to places like Brazil and India in recent months, the US remains the hardest-hit nation in terms of cumulative deaths.

But the country has so far vaccinated 166 million adults with at least one dose, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although the rate of shots administered has dropped significantly from a mid-April peak.

The average seven-day COVID-19 hospitalization number has also plummeted since April due to vaccinations. On June 2, total hospitalized patients fell below 20 000 for the first time since June 24, 2020.

However, hospitalization among teenagers has increased as more easily transmitted virus variants began to spread, according to recent CDC data.

Dance helps Congo’s rape survivors cope with trauma
15 June 2021, 2:30 AM

It was the silence of the traumatised young women she saw before her that convinced dance teacher Amina Lusambo she must do something to help.

So she set up dance sessions for rape survivors at a rehabilitation centre attached to Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, in eastern Congo, which according to hospital authorities has treated more than 60 000 survivors of sexual violence in its some 20 years of operation.

Congo’s eastern borderlands have remained gripped by violence since the official end of a civil war in 2003, with armed groups fighting for land, resources and self-protection.

“I started doing this because of the girls who came to us in a state of silence. They were raped at a young age and they didn’t know how to express themselves. They were so withdrawn,” said Lusambo.

Now the same women line up in brightly coloured leggings for her classes, where they learn to reconnect with their bodies.

“You can do more in one month of dance than in three months of psychotherapy,” Lusambo said.

The Panzi hospital and rehabilitation centre was founded by Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynaecologist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.

“We don’t just do the medical treatment anymore,” said Mukwege. The centre also provides psychological care, helps the women reintegrate into society, supports them economically and assists them in seeking justice, he said.

Twenty-year-old woman in Lusambo’s class said dancing had released her from the pain and fear she held inside, allowing her to sleep peacefully and smile again.

Three years ago the woman, who asked not to be identified, said she was raped and left for dead by unidentified men wearing combat fatigues in her village in South Kivu province, where sexual violence has been a feature of the unrest for more than 20 years. She did not know if they were from a militia group or army soldiers.

The young woman’s family did not complain to authorities because they feared repercussions, they said, and took her to the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. Reuters was not able to confirm her account independently.

Egypt upholds death sentence for 12 senior Muslim Brotherhood figures
15 June 2021, 1:07 AM

Egypt’s highest civilian court on Monday upheld death sentences for 12 senior Muslim Brotherhood figures over a 2013 sit-in which ended with security forces killing hundreds of protesters, judicial sources said.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, means the 12 men could face execution pending approval by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

They include Abdul Rahman Al-Bar, commonly described as the group’s mufti or top religious scholar, Mohamed El-Beltagi, a former member of parliament, and Osama Yassin, a former minister.

Many Muslim Brotherhood figures have been sentenced to death in other cases related to the unrest that followed the military’s ousting of Brotherhood president Mohamed Mursi in 2013, but the Court of Cassation ordered retrials.

Rights groups have documented a sharp rise in the number of executions in Egypt, with at least 51 carried out so far this year according to Amnesty International.

“Instead of continuing to escalate their use of the death penalty by upholding death sentences following convictions in grossly unfair mass trials Egyptian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Monday’s ruling relates to a mass trial of hundreds of suspects accused of murder and incitement of violence during pro-Brotherhood protests at Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo in the weeks after Mursi’s overthrow.

In September 2018, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced 75 people to death and issued varying jail terms for more than 600 others. Many defendants were tried in absentia.

Forty-four of those sentenced to death appealed to the Court of Cassation. Thirty-one had their sentences changed to life in prison, while death sentences were upheld for 12 others.

Aspen to provide 300 000 doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine for SA teachers
14 June 2021, 11:30 PM

South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has welcomed the announcement that pharmaceutical company, Aspen will within days, provide 300 000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for South African teachers.

It says the doses will come from abroad and won’t be part of the two million doses that they have to destroy at their Gqebera production facility in the Eastern Cape, as a result of contamination in United States factory.

Sadtu Spokesperson, Nomusa Qembi says the move is long overdue.

“Sadtu welcomes the news that there are 300 000 vaccines that have been made available for teachers. And in the education sphere. We are more than ready to receive these vaccines and we have been ready since last week. We have now entered stage three and there’s a rapid rise in infections.”

Sadtu says the option to vaccinate teachers comes at the right time, ahead of the resumption of daily attendance in primary school learners from next month.

The union’s provincial secretary Bricks Moloi said earlier the union will be at the forefront of advocating for teachers to avail themselves.

Growing calls for more vaccination sites in Gauteng

Meanwhile, Gauteng leads the increase in COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths according to officials.

COVID-19 vaccination drives within the province of Gauteng have seen a further 25 sites activated – as the third wave gains momentum bringing the number of sites across the province to 129.

Final week for public comment to ensure free, fair elections amid COVID-19
14 June 2021, 10:43 PM

The Electoral Commission (IEC) has issued a reminder that this is the final week for public comment on the inquiry to ensure free and fair elections during COVID-19.

South Africans are scheduled to go to the polls in local government elections in October.

However there have been some calls for the elections to be postponed until the pandemic has subsided.

Launch of 2021 municipal elections:

The inquiry is headed by Justice Dikgang Moseneke. People can give their opinions by emailing or sending a voice note to 063 863 4623. Submissions must be made by this Friday.

Earlier this month the IEC Chief Electoral Officer, Sy Mamabolo said the 2021 upcoming Local Government Elections (LGE) will be the most complex in the history of democratic South Africa.

He told guests at the launch of the Municipal Elections, that they are expecting more than 10 000 councilors to be elected into the different municipalities across the country.

Mamabolo added that this year’s  Local Government Elections’ tag line is “Every Voice Together” which underlines the possibilities for South Africa where every voice comes together.

“Municipal Elections involve 4 725 unique elections and thus unique ballot paper configuration consisting of the following. 4 468 ward elections, 205 municipality elections in council and eight PR elections in metro councils and 44 district council elections across the country,” Mamabolo explained.



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