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Coronavirus cases surge in occupied West Bank | Palestine News



Hebron, Occupied West Bank – The number of COVID-19 cases in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza reached 13,457 on Friday as a surge in infections in the second half of July saw the total number of reported cases double.

According to the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, the rate at which the disease is transmitted in the occupied West Bank has reached 1.58, meaning that every two infected individuals are likely to spread the virus to three more.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited control over some areas of the occupied West Bank, has struggled to contain the spread of the virus.

When the PA eased a lockdown following street protests in late May, there were less than 130 confirmed coronavirus infections. It has since reimposed a partial lockdown in response to the increase in reported cases.

However, spotty adherence to social distancing guidelines remained widespread across the West Bank, while a lack of control over borders and the movement of people have elevated the problems faced by the Ramallah-based administration.

Hebron is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the occupied West Bank [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

New epicentre

Of the 8,796 active cases, more than half of have been reported in Hebron governorate in the southern West Bank.

On a recent weekend in Hebron city, with a population of more than 750,000, the local authorities appeared ineffective or unwilling to enforce a routine lockdown. Vehicle traffic in and out of the city flowed unhindered, and many businesses were open.

“I decided to open my shop when I saw that by noon everybody was open,” Ahmad al-Qaisi, an upholstery retailer from Hebron told Al Jazeera.

In late June, as it became clear that Hebron was the epicentre of the outbreak, the health ministry directed more staff and supplies to the area. A new hospital in Dura, near Hebron city, was repurposed upon opening to exclusively treat COVID-19 patients.

“From the start, they brought the hardest cases here that need intensive care,” Dr Muhammad Ribie, the administrator of the hospital, told Al Jazeera. “Of course, it was a big challenge for us,” he said.

The hospital at Dura was first supplied with six ventilators, 10 intensive care unit beds, and 100 beds for minor cases, Ribie said. After a visit by the Palestinian health minister, Dr Mai Keleh, six more ventilators were sent along with 10 more ICU beds as cases in the region surged.

The Dura hospital was also equipped with an oxygen generator, but Ribie said an additional generator is still needed to meet the demand.

“The treatment of the majority of the corona patients is by oxygen,” Ribie said. “If the generator cannot produce enough, we switch to oxygen tubes and those run out fast and then we have to send them to Hebron to be refilled. This is not practical,” he added.

In early July, as the number of cases in the Hebron region was surging, the demand for test kits resulted in a shortage that led authorities to temporarily use serological testing instead. The health ministry replenished test kit supplies the next day, but public anger mounted.

A group of nurses prepare to leave the Dura Hospital after the end of their shift.

A group of nurses prepare to leave the Dura Hospital after the end of their shift [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

‘Community transmission’

A local health official who is privy to the COVID-19 situation in the West Bank told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity that the number of daily detected cases is worrying. During the last two weeks of July, newly detected cases averaged around 500 a day.

“This is a high figure when we think about the low number of tests performed,” he said. “We’ve been performing around 35,000 tests for every one million people, and this is not enough.”

“Israel ran far more tests … The UAE ran 490,000 for every one million people,” he said. “We are short of money.”

At the beginning of the health crisis, the PA struggled to limit the spread of the disease in the West Bank via workers who travel to and from Israel. There are 10 official crossings between the West Bank and Israel, and 300 more unofficial crossings, Mai Keleh said in a recent TV interview.

The PA does not have the resources to control labour traffic for all those points of entries. Also, many of the unofficial crossings are located in Area C of the West Bank where the PA has no control.

However, the situation has far worsened now. The majority of the recent transmissions in the West Bank are “community transmissions,” the Palestinian health minister said recently.

The health official told Al Jazeera that these account for “more than 61 percent of the cases”.

Economic impact

The economic fallout from coronavirus has been severe, with the ministry of economy estimating losses from the standstill at more than three billion dollars.

Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayeh this week announced agreements with the Palestinian Monetary Authority on several measures to ease the economic strain.

Banks were ordered not to slap fees on returned checks. In addition, they were also instructed to not deduct loan payments owed by their clients when the PA transfers salaries to its employees.

According to data from the Palestinian Monetary Authority, the value of returned checks in the West Bank has soared in recent months to $389m.

Ahmad Quaisi, the young upholstery merchant from Hebron, believed the policy has a downside because it has encouraged some to abuse it.

But for now, he said, “We’ve transitioned from accepting checks to cash; we sell on a cash basis, only.”

Before the pandemic, he imported as many as 10 containers a month of merchandise from China, Turkey and Europe. That has changed, he said, as fewer customers are buying from his shop.

“Importing has been scaled back. The purchasing power is gone. Now, I import two containers a month.”

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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