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Coronavirus and conspiratorial dog-whistles return to New Zealand | Coronavirus pandemic

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After more than 100 days without recording a case of community transmission, New Zealand is once again methodically stamping out COVID-19.  

The nation’s largest city, Auckland, is back in alert level three. Roads out of the city are closed. The remainder of the country watches on from the more permissive alert level two, nervously waiting as a more complete picture of viral spread emerges. 

So far, contact tracing seems to be working, with about 96 percent of close contacts followed up. A total of 154,000 tests have been processed over the past week, an enormous surge after public complacency around testing set in. 

The outbreak was detected on August 11, when four members of a family from South Auckland tested positive for COVID-19. By Thursday, the cluster had grown to 78 confirmed cases, highlighting the speed at which the virus spreads. 

The source of that outbreak – which has seen 133 people linked to the cluster moved into quarantine – has so far eluded authorities. Another case, a maintenance worker at a hotel used for managed isolation, is believed to have contracted the virus from a contaminated surface in the hotel’s lift.

Reports that testing of border and isolation staff in Auckland had not ramped up to levels expected by Cabinet has once again cast a spotlight on what critics call egregious mismanagement of the border and isolation facilities

Regardless, the government, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, moved quickly to contain the outbreak, announcing that Auckland would move into alert level 3 within hours of being informed of the new cases; left to spread unrestrained, COVID-19 infections grow exponentially.  

“Together we have got rid of COVID before. We have been world-leading in our COVID response,” said Ardern last week, while announcing the cabinet’s decision to extend lockdown measures by 12 days. “We can do all of that again.”  

Yet, months-long efforts to discredit lockdown measures have almost certainly contributed to a partial fraying of public patience with the approach. 

Prominent commentators and special interests are at it again, claiming it is time to abandon the country’s elimination strategy, instead “managing” the spread of COVID-19 into communities – just lock away the elderly and the infirm, the commentariat suggests.

Of course, those demanding such an approach belong to a particular class of people, one that can insulate itself from the viral rampage as it overwhelms a fragile health sector and devastates vulnerable communities. 

In the same vein, conspiracy theories and misinformation have proliferated. Fringe groups claim that COVID-19 is a 5G-linked bioweapon and promise to oppose lockdown measures with demonstrations. 

To date, protests have drawn only a scattering of people, in contrast to the online noise such groups generate. That may change.

More alarming are the manoeuvrings of the centre-right, main opposition National Party, which recently attempted to leverage conspiracy and misinformation for political gain.  

‘An interesting series of facts’

The government and health officials have long warned that COVID-19 would return to the country; New Zealanders did not have to look far to see why. In the Australian state of Victoria, rule-breaking by workers from private security firms overseeing quarantines at two Melbourne hotels led to multiple outbreaks.

With a massive drop-off in testing – on July 19, merely eight tests in the community were processed – New Zealand’s health authorities were looking to boost surveillance testing to around 4,000 per day.

On August 11, the director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, received a much-publicised COVID-19 test, an attempt to offset any complacency or stigma surrounding the procedure. In the meantime, Ardern visited a mask-making factory, abandoning the government’s reticence towards encouraging the use of masks.

Later that day, testing discovered that COVID-19 had returned to the country. 

The National Party called a press conference the following day, headed by party leader Judith Collins and her deputy, Gerry Brownlee.  

Citing the Bloomfield test and Ardern’s visit to the mask factory, Brownlee stood smirking. “It’s interesting,” he said. “An interesting series of facts.”   

The implication seemed to be that the government knew for some time that there was a COVID-19 outbreak and withheld this from the public. 

In an environment of heightened fear and misinformation, Brownlee was dog-whistling to the emergent conspirational fringe – those who vow civil disobedience – while more generally attempting to undermine faith in the public health response.

The party quickly walked back the claims. 

Brownlee told the broadcaster Newstalk ZB on August 14 that he had ended up in a “bad spot” and “didn’t intend to create any fear”.   

“The way it has been presented has been unfortunate.”   

That explanation is, of course, nonsense: on Tuesday, Brownlee reiterated his claims, again engaging in scaremongering and conspiracy-baiting in the hope of drawing a tiny number of fringe voters to his party. 

There is something deeply unappealing about a grasping politician who puts the personal pursuit of power above public wellbeing. 

The election

On Monday, Ardern announced her decision to postpone the general election – and accompanying End of Life Choice and cannabis referendums – by a month, until October 17.

This, hopefully, gives health authorities time to get on top of the latest outbreak, provides all parties ample breathing room to campaign and reassures the public that the election can be held safely.  

The government’s health-first priorities and Ardern’s compassionate leadership style have generated massive public support since the country’s first confirmed COVID-19 case on February 28.  

Ardern’s Labour Party has consistently polled above 50 percent throughout the pandemic.

Whether voters will punish the government for a number of mistakes and mishaps during the pandemic remains to be seen. Its failures to deliver flagship policies – the ill-fated KiwiBuild real estate project, for example – over the past three years will have little impact.

By contrast, the National Party’s relentless negativity has turned voters away, with the latest Roy Morgan poll putting them on 26.5 percent support. Collins, the party’s third leader in three months, has – like her predecessors – totally misread the public mood. 

Had the party provided constructive criticism of the government’s COVID-19 response, it would likely be in a much healthier electoral position. 

Instead, it mostly went down the path of scattershot criticism and dirty politics: leaking private details of COVID-19 patients to the media and inventing a “homeless man” at a managed isolation facility.

Nothing about Collins’s character suggests that she will be able to, or is interested in, correcting the party’s course. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema

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When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.

Background

Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded

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The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      





Source – observer.ug

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19

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Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  





Source – observer.ug

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