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Relief for migrants on board German rescue ship as they’re assigned Sicilian port
6 August 2021, 3:25 PM

German NGO rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 was assigned a port of safety on Friday, with Italian authorities allowing the ship with 257 migrants on board to dock in Sicily.

The ship will arrive in the port town of Trapani on the southern island on Saturday.

The announcement from the authorities comes a week after the first migrant rescues, and those on board were relieved to hear the news when it was announced by a crew member on the ship’s deck.

The humanitarian ship was one of two rescue ships that pulled 394 migrants from a dangerously overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean overnight last week on Sunday (August 1) in an operation lasting about six hours.

Migrant boat departures from Libya and Tunisia to Italy and other parts of Europe have increased in recent months as weather conditions have improved.

According to the U.N.- affiliated International Organization for Migration, more than 1,100 people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have perished this year in the Mediterranean.

Data from the Italian interior ministry shows that migrant arrivals in Italy have more than doubled compared to last year. As of August 5, 30,324 migrants have arrived in Italy throughout the year, compared with 14,832 in 2020, the data showed.

Psychologists warn of COVID-19 cumulative trauma on families
6 August 2021, 3:23 PM

COVID-19 is stripping some cultures and religions of their normalised ways of dealing with death and grieving. The current lockdown regulations only allow 50 mourners to attend funerals, while others have to watch virtually. This causes trauma that cannot be processed yet while we are still in the eye of the pandemic storm.

Health experts and religious leaders say the trauma is compounded by people losing many loved ones in a short space of time.

A mother of five, Jenny Arthur, lost four family members within a space of six months all due to COVID-19 complications.

In January this year, her son, Nathan passed away, two days before his 47th birthday. Four months later her husband, Charles followed.

COVID-19 is a horrible thing and it’s not nice to lose people. It’s different if you lose people over a year, but over a few months, it’s terrible and it’s hard for you to process that, but the support you get from your family is ok and friends who are there for you. The thing is when the funerals are over, friends are gone and the people are gone and you’re left alone,” says Arthur. 

Arthur says the trauma of all this loss is unbearable.

It’s hard to cope and just as soon as you think that you are healing, then somebody else dies and that wound goes open and then you heal again and then somebody else dies and it’s hard. But you need to trust in God because God is there for you. He’s been there for you all the time. 

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Grieving families have to drop some cultural and augmented religious burial practices. Clergy say many bereaved families battle to cope with the new reality.

Mourners are now forced to post their messages of condolences online. Flowers are dropped off outside the yard of the grieving families.

Funerals and memorial services are viewed virtually, with very few allowed to attend.

The biggest difficulty they face with is not the passing of their loved one, but closure. They don’t experience closure, because of the different protocols of burials of COVID-19. There is very little done as far as counseling is concerned,” says religious leader, Adam Feldman.

This sentiment is shared by many psychologists, like Keydy O’Callaghan at Caritas in Kimberley.

The fastness of everything. It must be handled quickly and if you do that there is no process to go through the trauma because trauma is a process and trauma is like a fingerprint. And I think in the long run it will catch up with us because people will do funny things at work in families and stuff like that because of the stuff that is not worked through and that’s lying in their systems.” 

As the pandemic continues to ravage humanity, many families are tossed into this new reality.

Video: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 trauma

Inquest into deaths of Life Esidimeni patients resumes
2 August 2021, 5:00 AM

The inquest into the deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni mental healthcare users will resume in the Pretoria High court on Monday morning.

Proceedings were postponed over a week ago to allow parties who’d obtained legal representation to familiarize themselves with the proceedings.

Former mental health director in the health department in Gauteng, Dr Makgabo Mamamela, was forced to find new legal representation after lawyers for the Gauteng government raised concerns over having to represent her and some officials who have contradicting statements.

Several NGOs had also just obtained legal representation.

The inquest will decide whether officials and political players are criminally liable for the deaths.

The victims died from neglect, malnutrition, and hunger after being transferred from Life Esidimeni to various NGO, some of which were unlicenced.

The Gauteng health department had embarked on the move in a bid to “deinstitutionalise” mental healthcare and  save costs.

Unpacking the Life Esidimeni Inquest:

US senators make final tweaks to infrastructure bill, expect passage this week
1 August 2021, 9:30 PM

The US Senate on Sunday worked to finalise legislation to forge ahead with a sweeping $1 trillion spending plan for roads, rail lines, high-speed internet and other infrastructure, with some senators predicting final passage later this week.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the text was “being finalised imminently,” and the Senate could soon start voting on all relevant amendments, finishing the bill “in a matter of days.”

The massive infrastructure package is one of President Joe Biden’s top legislative priorities and would be the largest investment in US roads, bridges, ports, and transit in decades.

It includes $550 billion in new spending on top of $450 billion in previously approved funds and would provide money to replace lead water pipes and build a network of electric vehicle charging stations.

Senator Jon Tester, a key Democratic negotiator on the legislation, told reporters that one potential holdup is a provision over wages.

Democrats want to include a decades-old law that would require contractors to pay prevailing wages – typically higher levels set by unions – on projects funded by the legislation.

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, told CNN that she believes at least 10 Republicans will support the measure, enabling it to clear a 60-vote procedural hurdle.

“My hope is that we’ll finish the bill by the end of the week,” Collins said, adding that the measure is “good for America.”

Final text – including detailed provisions to pay for it – will determine whether a sizeable bipartisan majority in the closely divided Senate can hold up.

Senators so far have  supported a shell version of the legislation in procedural votes, including a 66-28 margin on Friday that included 16 Republicans.

White House economic adviser Brian Deese talked up the bill before its final provisions were revealed as “badly needed investments in our economy” that could help ease supply bottlenecks that were contributing to inflation.
“It will make it easier to get goods and services flowing. It’ll actually lower prices over the long term,” Deese said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Bigger spending train 

But Democrats have paired the “hard” infrastructure bill with a much-larger $3.5 trillion “reconciliation” budget bill that would boost spending on education, child care, climate change and other priorities of the party.

Schumer said in Senate floor remarks that immediately after passage of the infrastructure bill, he will proceed with a budget resolution that would allow “reconciliation” rules to be used for those investments – enabling Democrats to pass them with only a simple majority without Republican support.

Democrats want to offset the social spending with tax increases on corporations and wealthy Americans earning more than $400,000 a year – measures that Republicans oppose.

Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat whose support is pivotal to the party’s spending plans, said that while the infrastructure bill should win strong support, he could not guarantee passage of the reconciliation bill.

He said both plans need to be fully paid for to avoid a dangerous build-up of debt.

Some Democratic progressives, particularly in the House of Representatives, have also suggested the $1 trillion package is inadequate, and the Senate could impose changes that potentially complicate its chances of becoming law.

The Democrats’ majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives are razor-thin, requiring the party to stick together if it wants to achieve its legislative goals.

eThekwini municipality issues harmful smoke warning
1 August 2021, 9:00 PM

The eThekwini municipality has issued a harmful smoke warning to Hammersdale and surrounding communities west of Durban. This follows a fire on the 13th of July at a logistics warehouse in the area.

This was during the period when looting, arson and violence gripped the area.

Billions of rand worth of damage was caused.

eThekwini spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela says residents are advised to prevent additional indoor air pollution.

“The warehouse is currently smouldering following fire that began on the 13th of July. The City’s fire and emergency services is monitoring the site daily however the safety of the building is compromised. It is therefore unsafe for emergency teams to enter and completely extinguish the burn. As a precautionary measure, residents are advised to close windows and doors to put wet clothes over vents until the smoke clears,” says Mayisela. – Report by Nonhlakanipho Magwaza

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