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COVID-19 claims more lives in the US than 9-11 attacks
31 March 2020, 4:37 PM

The number of Coronavirus deaths in the United States has surpassed the number of people lost during the attack on 9-11 almost 19 years ago and could within the next 24 hours surpasses China’s toll.

Almost three thousand people died in the terrorist attacks on the United States but COVID-19 has proven more deadly as the U.S toll, at almost 3200, edges closer to China’s 3300 dead. This as President Donald Trump again praised his administration’s response to the outbreak announcing that more than one million test had now been conducted in the country, more than anywhere else in the world by number.

Trump speaking at the White House said, “Today, we reached a historic milestone in our war against the coronavirus. Over one million Americans have now been tested, more than any other country by far. Not even close.”

The United States still lags behind others in per capita testing. South Korea’s at 410 000 tests in a population of 51 million gives it a per capita rate of 8000 tests per million. Italy, that has suffered the highest number of deaths globally at over 11 000, has done almost 500 000 tests; population 60 million. That’s 7800 tests per million. The United States at one million tests in a population of 327 million leaves it with 3000 tests per one million people.

And when a journalist put that to the President, he called her question snarky.

“It’s very much on par per capita, we have areas that are very much… I know South Korea better than anybody, it’s a very tight – do you know how many people are in Seoul? Do you know how big the city of Seoul is? 38 million people. That’s bigger than anything we have. 38 million people all tightly wound together. We have vast farmlands, we have vast areas where they don’t have much of a problem, in some cases they have no problem whatsoever. We have done more tests, I didn’t talk about per capita. We have done more tests by far than any country in the world, by far.”

Seoul’s population is actually 9.7 million.

The President also unveiled a new testing kit given emergency clearance by the Food and Drug Administration that could deliver a result in five minutes.

Meanwhile, the city hardest hit by the outbreak took delivery of a 1000-bed Navy hospital ship that will assist with the overflow of non-coronavirus patients as hospitals here and elsewhere struggle to cope with COVID-19 volumes.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, “As the USNS Comfort entered New York Harbour, coming here to save the lives of New Yorkers in our hour of need. We’ve all been through a lot these last few weeks, and we needed this boost. We needed this hope that’s being created by our brothers and sisters in the US Navy and the Marine Corps, everyone who is here to help us at this crucial moment. This ship arriving is not just an example of help arriving in a physical form. It’s not just about the beds and the doctors and the equipment. It’s also about hope.”

Monday’s death toll in the United States exceeded 500 with the New York Governor warning that figure could ultimately reach 800 per day. This comes as the President’s Coronavirus Task Force plans to present the American public with projection models that have informed decision-making within the White House situation room.

This could add substance to predictions that between 100 and 200-thousand people could die due to the current outbreak in the United States while Federal social distancing guidelines could also be tweaked.

Below is a Live Tracking of the cases, death toll and other information, updated daily:



Rand breaches R18 to the dollar mark
30 March 2020, 11:48 AM

The rand has passed R18 to the dollar mark. This is a record low for the currency and it came after markets opened Monday morning.

It follows Moody’s downgrade of South Africa’s credit rating to junk status on Friday night. This means, amongst others, that South Africa’s borrowing cost will increase, as is already reflected by a rise of the R186 bond yield to 10.65 percent.

Moody’s was the last of the credit rating agencies that still had an investment grading of South Africa’s debt. This means that South Africa will eventually have to exit from global bond indices, causing a greater outflow of foreign capital and a further weakening the rand.

Last week economists warned that the rand will remain extremely weak in the coming days as the coronavirus continues to ravage global markets.

The currency was trading at lows of R17, 74 last week Monday.

It breached R17  the week before.

Standard Bank Chief Economist Goolam Ballim predicted the rand could reach the R18 mark.

“Emerging markets are in acute risk aversion, financial market participants are almost indiscriminately selling assets and turning to cash as a safe haven. Given that South Africa is an emerging market and one that has a substantial commodity component to its GDP and an emerging market that was already weak prior to the COVID-19 means that South Africa would be in the crossheads of this sell-off and this will result in the rand remaining vulnerable and weak.”

Wimbledon will be cancelled, says German tennis official – report
30 March 2020, 9:13 AM

All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) officials earlier said the June 29-July 12 event would not be played behind closed doors and postponement was not without significant risk and difficulty.

“Wimbledon has stated that they will have a board meeting next Wednesday and will make the final decision there,” Hordorff told Sky Sports Germany.

“I am also involved in the bodies of the ATP and WTA. The necessary decisions have already been made there and Wimbledon will decide to cancel next Wednesday. There is no doubt about it. This is necessary in the current situation.

“It is completely unrealistic to imagine that with the travel restrictions that we currently have an international tennis tournament where hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world would travel. That is unthinkable.”

The AELTC did not respond to a request for comment.

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics opened up a two-week window in the tennis calendar in July/August but it is less likely that it will be feasible for Wimbledon, which has only two covered courts and cannot be held past late summer.

French Open organisers stunned the tennis world by unilaterally postponing the claycourt Grand Slam at Roland Garros from May until late September because of the pandemic.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) came under heavy fire from tennis players around the world at the lack of communication as the new dates clashed with several other events already featuring on the calendar.

The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs women’s tournaments, require their players to participate at the four Grand Slams, but the new French Open dates are yet to feature on the calendars of either association.

“The unilateral behaviour of the organizers has been criticized by everyone and I can simply predict that the French Open will not be relocated as it was intended,” Hordorff said.

He said either the FFT would go ahead with the new dates and feel the wrath of the entire tennis world or they have the option to start working with others to draw up a plan that makes sense for everyone.

“They will be deprived of the points and they will degenerate into a chaos event,” he said.

“Even those there have understood that and they are slowly crawling back. Solidarity is the order of the day, it is a matter of being together and not going it alone, as the president of the French Tennis Association did.”

Senegal’s graffiti artists join fight against coronavirus
30 March 2020, 8:14 AM

 The mural stretched over 10 metres of wall in Senegal’s seaside capital Dakar shows a giant pair of hands reaching out for sanitiser, and a woman in hoop earrings and a facemask colored blue, red, gold and green.

It is the work of RBS CREW, a collective of graffiti artists who have offered up their spray cans in the cause of public health.

Black and yellow block letters spell out the message “Together against COVID-19,” referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“A big thank you to the caregivers,” reads another message scrawled out like a graffiti tag, next to the government’s health hotline on the high school wall.

“As Senegalese we have a duty, a responsibility to raise awareness,” said Serigne Mansour Fall, the 33-year-old head of the collective who goes by the name “Mad Zoo”.

“Especially as the majority of the population is illiterate, as artists, we can communicate through visuals,” said Fall, whose past work has focused more on Dakar street life and Malcolm X.

Senegal had reported 119 cases and no deaths as of Friday. Figures reported across Africa are still relatively small compared with parts of Asia and Europe, but the World Health Organization has warned the continent’s window to act is narrowing.

That, said Fall, makes it even more important to encourage prevention measures and head off false information, including one online rumor that only white people can catch the disease.

Other murals painted around Dakar by the collective show people washing their hands with soap and water and sneezing into their elbows.

Each year for the past decade, Dakar has also hosted the Festigraff festival, which bills itself as the leading graffiti festival in Africa and attracts artists from around the world.

RBS CREW was set up in 2012 with the goal, according to its website, of making messages ring out “like blasts of gunfire”.

From sofas and kitchens, music stars hold coronavirus concert fundraiser
30 March 2020, 8:04 AM
Billie Eilish sang on her sofa, Elton John played a keyboard belonging to his children, and the Backstreet Boys sang in harmony from five locations as dozens of musicians put on a fundraiser for the warriors against a coronavirus.

Those who performed from their homes for the “IHeart Living Room Concert for America” also included Mariah Carey, Camila Cabello, Alicia Keys, Shawn Mendes and Sam Smith.

The one-hour show, broadcast on Fox television without commercials, was the biggest joint effort in the pandemic to lift spirits, raise money for those in the frontlines, and remind Americans to wash their hands and keep their distance.

“There’s doctors, nurses and scientists on the frontlines. They’re living proof that most superheroes don’t wear capes,” said John, who hosted the show from his kitchen.

“We hope this bit of entertainment can feed and fuel your souls.”

All the performances and appearances by celebrities ranging from comedian Ellen DeGeneres to R&B artist Lizzo and country singer Tim McGraw were filmed on phones, home cameras or online platforms.

The songs were interspersed with short personal stories from nurses, doctors, truckers, grocery staff, and other essential workers as millions of Americans entered a third week subjected to orders to stay home.

Dr Elvis Francois, a surgeon from Rochester, Minnesota, stole hearts on social media with an emotional rendition of “Imagine” performed in medical scrubs.

“Did this doctor just out sing every artist that’s performed?” one viewer, Ender Wiggins, asked on Twitter.

The concert, also broadcast on iHeart radio stations nationwide, urged listeners to donate to charities Feeding America, and First Responders Children’s Foundation.

The amount raised was not immediately known, but more than $1 million was donated in the first 10 minutes, courtesy of $500,000 from household goods giant Procter & Gamble and a matching sum from Fox Television.

“My heart goes out to people who have lost loved ones and also those who are losing their jobs,” said Lady Gaga, clad in pink sweatpants and a hoodie.

Alicia Keys, singing “Rise Up,” Dave Grohl performing “My Hero,” and Billie Joe Armstrong’s acoustic version of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” spoke to the hardships of millions of those working or laid off as stores, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters have shut down.

“After we come out of this horrible thing, I hope we are nicer to each other, and fairer to one another,” John said.



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