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Sudan to establish police force to protect health workers

Tori Holland

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FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2019, file photo, Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok speaks at a news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. A statement from Hamdok’s office says deadly tribal clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in the country's South Darfur province that erupted on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, and continued into Wednesday have since subsided. (AP Photo, File)

CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s transitional authorities are working to create a police force to protect health facilities, the prime minister’s office said Saturday, as attacks against health workers and hospitals increase amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The move came after doctors across the country threatened Thursday to go on strike to pressure authorities to provide protection for health workers and facilities.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok met with representatives of doctors on Friday to find “decisive and strict solutions” to “the phenomenon of repeated attacks on health workers,” his office said in a statement.

The government will introduce a draft bill to provide protection to health workers, the statement said.

At least two dozen attacks on health care workers and facilities have taken place in the past two months across the country, according to a tally by the Sudan Doctors’ committee. The group is part of the protest movement that last year helped oust longtime autocratic president Omar al-Bashir.

In one instance last month, a riot erupted at a hospital in the city Omdurman, across the Nile River from the capital, Khartoum, when a rumor spread that it would take coronavirus patients. Police arrested several people who tried to attack the building.

On Thursday alone, there were at least three attacks on health workers and facilities in Khartoum that led to a temporary suspension of services at a hospital there, the committee said.

Sudan has reported at least 63 deaths from COVID-19 among around 3,380 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which causes the disease.

Sudan’s health care system has been weakened by decades of war and sanctions. The country is still reeling from last year’s uprising that toppled al-Bashir.

Meanwhile, a handful of young people took to the streets in Khartoum on Saturday on the first anniversary of the deadly dispersal of a protest camp in in the last days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan last year. The protesters torched tires but there were no clashes reported between protesters and security forces.

Footage circulated online showed some protesters practicing social distancing or wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the virus.

The violent beak-up last year of the protest camp outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum was an alarming turn of events in the standoff between the military and civilian protesters. The protesters had been holding a sit-in to pressure the military council to hand power over to civilians after al-Bashir ouster.

The protesters say at least 128 people were killed and hundreds wounded during the sit-in dispersal and the subsequent crackdown. However, military-backed health authorities say only 87 died, including security forces.

Later, the generals and the protesters reached a power-sharing deal that established a joint military-civilian sovereign council that would lead Sudan toward elections.

After being a professional journalist for 5 years and understanding the ups and downs of health care sector all over the world, Tori shifted her focus to the digital world. Today, she works as a contributor for News Brig with a knack for covering general and health news in the best possible format.

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General News

Russian Orthodox priest tends to Moscow’s COVID-19 patients

Tori Holland

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Russian Orthodox priest tends to Moscow's COVID-19 patients

MOSCOW (AP) — The Rev. Vasily Gelevan bends over a COVID-19 patient at her apartment to administer Holy Communion and say words of comfort while clad in a hazmat suit.

The bedside ministry is one of many such visits the 45-year old Russian Orthodox priest makes daily as he shuttles across Moscow in a minivan to tend to people fighting the coronavirus at their homes or in hospital rooms.

Gelevan’s family at first wasn’t happy with his decision to come in close contact with those infected with the virus, but the father of five sees pastoral care as a responsibility he can’t refuse, especially during a pandemic.

“I put myself in their place,” he said. “For me, the visit of a priest giving Holy Communion would be the most desirable thing. It doesn’t matter that I wouldn’t see his face. I would hear his voice, he would come and embrace me, show his sympathy and bring me the most precious thing in the world — the Holy Communion!”

For several years before the coronavirus outbreak, the priest visited the gravely ill at Moscow hospitals. Then the coronavirus hit the Russian capital.

“They called me and said that there is a lot of work to do, many people are sick, and there are few who are trained to overcome the stress and enter the red zone to offer help,” Gelevan said. “I felt that I must answer the call.”

Moscow has accounted for about half of the nation’s more than 449,000 confirmed cases, the world’s third-highest number after the United States and Brazil. Russia reported 5,520 virus-related deaths as of Friday.

Along with needing to reassure his family — “They told me that I was playing a hero,” Gelevan said — the priest had to cope with his own fear of exposure as the virus rapidly engulfed Russia.

Gelevan recalled that the first time he went to first visit a COVID-19 patient, he was shocked to see cotton stuffed into the keyhole of the woman’s apartment door. He assumed it was put there to protect the neighbors from the virus. It turned out that the woman had blocked the keyhole long before to protect herself from the neighbor’s tobacco smoke.

“I often remember that keyhole,” the priest said. “I realized that the eyes of fear see danger everywhere.”

Gelevan said he wears all the required gear to keep himself from becoming infected and takes other necessary precautions, but won’t allow fear to stand in the way of performing his clerical duties.

“You just need to find a middle way without falling into extremes — being panicky or going into COVID-19 denial,” he said.

Gelevan serves as a priest at Moscow’s Church of the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin in Sokolniki, which was built by the Russian imperial army in 1906. During Soviet times, the church housed a military unit, and after the Russian Orthodox Church reclaimed it in the early 2000s it became the official church of the Russian airborne forces.

The church, like all churches in Russia, has been closed to parishioners since April 13 and is set to reopen on Saturday. In the recent times of illness and disruption, Gelevan sees a message to humankind to abandon its arrogance and correct its mistakes.

“We shall weep and then calm down, raise from our knees and go forward,” he said. “We will become simpler and more humane, filled with more love for ourselves and others and also the world around us.”

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Kazakh police detain dozens of anti-government protesters

Evan Lewis

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Kazakh police detain dozens of anti-government protesters

ALMATY (Reuters) – Police in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty detained dozens of anti-government protesters who took to the streets on Saturday even as a new, more liberal law on demonstrations was expected to come into force.

Pedestrians wearing protective face masks, which are used as a preventive measure against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), watch law enforcement officers detaining a man during an unsanctioned rally held by Kazakh opposition supporters in Almaty, Kazakhstan June 6, 2020. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev

The Central Asian nation has frequently been criticised by human rights groups for requiring public rallies to have been approved by authorities. However President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a law late last month removing this provision.

But officials said that, while the law technically took effect on Saturday, it would need a five-day notice period before being applied in practice. They said opposition groups had failed to notify authorities about their plans to rally, and were also breaching COVID-19 social distancing rules.

Police, including riot units, cordoned off the main squares of Almaty as well as streets near the area where at least 100 activists had gathered, breaking up the protesters into smaller groups of dozens of people each.

At least one group of activists carried a banner that read “I can’t breathe” – a reference to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed American black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, which sparked riots across the United States.

Some protesters also chanted “Old man, go away!” a reference to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev who retains sweeping powers in the former Soviet nation.

Among their other demands were the resignation of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Nazarbayev’s ally who took over following his resignation last year, and a fairer redistribution of wealth.

“Why are people poor in a country rich with oil and gas?” read one banner.

After a brief confrontation, police detained a few dozen protesters and took them away in minivans.

The oil-rich nation of 19 million people has been hit hard by a drop in crude prices as well as the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic. More than four million people lost their sources of income during a two-month lockdown that ended last month, according to official data.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov, Mariya Gordeyeva and Pavel Mikheyev; Editing by Pravin Char

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General News

Iranians must live with virus ‘for long time’: Rouhani

Tori Holland

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Iranians must live with virus 'for long time': Rouhani

Tehran (AFP) – President Hassan Rouhani warned Iranians Saturday to prepare to live with the novel coronavirus “for a long time”, as the country gradually rolls back restrictions imposed to curb the outbreak.

People should not assume that “this disease will be eliminated in 15 days or a month: we must therefore follow the instructions for a long time,” Rouhani said during the weekly meeting of the coronavirus taskforce broadcast on state TV.

“We must end all gatherings, be it marriage, mourning, or family visits, until told otherwise by the health minister,” he added.

Iran has been battling the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of the novel coronavirus since reporting its first cases in February.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the country’s total number of cases had risen to 169,425 with 2,269 new infections confirmed in the past 24 hours.

He added that 75 people who were infected died in the same period, bringing the overall fatalities to 8,209.

There has been some scepticism at home and abroad about Iran’s official figures, with concerns the real toll could be much higher.

Authorities have progressively lifted restrictions imposed to tackle the virus, and activity has almost returned to normal in most of the country’s 31 provinces.

The rising trajectory of infection figures since a low in early May and the lack of observance of social distancing measures have authorities worried.

According to Rouhani, there is no “second path” for Iran and economic activity across the country must continue.

He announced a further relaxation of restrictions with travel agencies set to resume local tours as of June 13, and cinemas and concerts reopening with only half of venue capacity from June 21.

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