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Somalia suspends learning in schools, allocates $5 million for combating COVID-19

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Learning in major government and private schools in Somalia will remain suspended for a fortnight, authorities said, barely a day after the first positive case for COVID-19 was discovered.

The interference of the school calendar was inevitable, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said in a press conference on Tuesday, adding that the directive also affects universities.

The move is part of the government's urgent policy to combat the spread of the virus, which has threatened millions of people around the world, besides its devastating impact on the economy.

He said: "As a matter of urgency, we have decided to suspend learning in all schools for the next two weeks. This is to allow us effectively monitor the coronavirus pandemic."

Effective Wednesday [today], Somalis will not be allowed to attend huge gatherings across the country, which also remained banned for the same period, he said, emphasizing that "we all need to be cautious".

Dr. Fawziya Abikar, the country's health minister, announced the first COVID-19 case in Somalia on Monday, when giving periodical updates. The victim, she said, was one of four people quarantined after their trip to China.

To that effect, all international flights had been suspended by Aviation minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omar for 15 days, although domestic travelers will not be affected.

Thorough sanitation was encouraged among citizens in all eateries and at home, with President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo saying "you all have to adhere to directives for us to be safe".

With almost dysfunctional health systems, Somalia is one of the most vulnerable to the pandemic, given years of inter-clan conflicts and Al-Shabaab menace, which have derailed stabilization of the country.

At least 70 percent of the citizens cannot access good medical care, with the impoverished population depending on well-wishers and donor funds, which are often embezzled by greedy politicians, records show.

But already, $5 million have been set aside to help tackle the pandemic in major hospitals, which are equipped to handle such emergencies, the PM said.

"We have set aside $5 million for this pandemic. We may not be prepared but we have competent teams to handle the matter whenever such cases arise. It's our hope that the tragedy won't be catastrophic".

Neighboring Kenya has already recorded four cases, Ethiopia, which gas suspended learning just like Kenya has six positive cases while Rwanda's figures hit seven on Tuesday. Tanzania has one, reports indicate.

By Tuesday, there were 183,000 cases of infections worldwide, with over 6,000 succumbing to their infections. Around 80,000 have recovered from the tragedy, Reuters reported.

China, which is the epicenter of the pandemic, has the highest cases of infections. It's closely followed by Italy, the worst affected European nation, whose deaths have hit 1,000.

The US, which has also suspended critical operations such as flights, recorded 100 deaths, causing anxiety even in State House. Kenya has called for national prayer for this weekend.

Fundamentally, vigilance has been improved at Aden Adde International Airport, which is the major point of entry to Somalia, with authorities targeting travelers from infected nations, prior to Wednesday's suspension.


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