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South Africa shuts schools for a month

President Cyril Ramaphosa has shut public schools in South Africa for a month, and pledged to crack down on corruption in aid and procurement spending related to the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

The announcement came a day after researchers revealed that excess mortality data suggested that South Africa’s Covid outbreak had contributed to very substantially more deaths over a 10-week period from early May than official figures suggested , and among further steep increases in the number of confirmed cases in the country.

There are now more than 400,000 cases of Covid-19 in South Africa with more than 6,000 deaths.

Relatives chat through a window to a resident of Casa Serena, a home for elderly people, in Johannesburg

Relatives chat through a window to a resident of Casa Serena, a home for elderly people, in Johannesburg. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

“We have taken a deliberately cautious approach to keep schools closed during a period when the country is expected to experience its greatest increase in infections,” President Ramaphosa said during a TV address to the nation on Thursday evening.

“This has also been the experience in a number of other countries where schools have opened and have also had to close.”

Schools were shut during a strict lockdown imposed in March and April.

Ramaphosa’s address received a mixed reception. Some critics claimed that government policy is overly influenced by the concerns of key constituencies of the ruling African National Congress party, including teachers’ unions. Others highlighted the failure to investigate and convict senior ANC officials and other individuals linked to a series of corruption scandals.

The president said that 36 cases of Covid-related graft were already at an advanced stage of investigation, and that substantial fines had been paid by companies for price fixing during the outbreak.


France has reported a rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases after more than 1,000 new infections were recorded in 24 hours.

In the week of 6-13 July, the national health authority, Santé Publique France said there was a 27% increase in the number of cases. This compared with 21% and 13% the previous weeks and could not be explained by an increase in testing, which was only 3% in the same week.

Santé Publique said there had been an rise in Covid-19 cases among the over-75s and an increase in cases in care homes. The authorities say there has also been an increase in coronavirus cases among young adults.

The increases were due to people dropping their guard and not systematically employing health safety measures including keeping a 1-metre distance, they said.

“Santé Publique France and the Assurance-Maladie observe a slackening of the application of barrier gestures which results in an increase in the number of contacts at risk per patient with Covid-19, and less adherence to physical distancing in particular.

During the summer and holidays, it may seem artificial to greet each other at a distance, talk from a distance, wash hands regularly and wear masks in enclosed spaces, but this individual and collective effort is crucial to prevent the virus from encroaching on our freedom and the epidemic from rebounding,” read a statement.

On Friday, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, held a meeting of the country’s defence council at the Élysée to discuss the rise in cases and consider new measures including whether to tighten controls French borders with Belgium and Spain and possible quarantine measures for international passengers at airports.


The Afghan health ministry has urged people to stay indoors and avoid gatherings for the upcoming Eid celebrations as the number of confirmed coronavirus related deaths has reached 1,225.

Ahmad Jawad Osmani, the country’s acting health minister told a press conference on Thursday that hospitals were filled with Covid-19 patients.

Osmai said that Afghanistan is still in the midst of the outbreak. “We are in a better position to fight with coronavirus because the percentage of people infected in Afghanistan is dropping. The number of people visiting hospitals has also decreased, but that does not mean that we will not follow medical instructions,” he added.

The health ministry in the country recorded 14 new deaths from Covid-19 on Friday. In its latest update, it said the number of people who tested positive for the virus had reached 35,988, an increase of 60 on the day before.

Most new deaths were reported in Kabul. The capital is the country’s worst affected area with 489 deaths and around 15,000 confirmed cases. Another death was reported in Helmand province.

The United States has allocated more than $36.7 million to help Afghanistan address the Covid-19 pandemic, and expedited $90 million through the World Bank to support Afghanistan’s national health and education sectors and local government needs, the US embassy in Kabul announced Thursday.

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