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Egypt Suspends in-class Learning, Postpones First Term Exams Amid Coronavirus Concerns

The cabinet also ordered that the remaining classes in the first semester of the current academic year be taken only through an online system

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The Egyptian cabinet on Thursday announced that first term exams in schools and universities will be postponed until after the end of the mid-year vacation to mitigate against the impact of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mid-year vacation has been slated for 16 January – 20 February.

The Egyptian cabinet also ordered that the remaining classes in the first semester of the current academic year be taken only through an online system, starting from Saturday.

The decisions are apart of measures taken by the Egyptian Government to mitigate against the consequences of the spread of the coronavirus, and in the interest of the health and safety of everyone involved in the educational process, including students, faculty members, and teachers, the statement noted.

On December 20, the country’s ministry of education decided to make students attendance optional for the rest of the first semester while leaving schools open to receive students willing to attend.

During the cabinet meeting which was held on Thursday, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly emphasised the importance of implementing the cabinet decisions to reduce the number of employees on duty in ministries and government bodies and ensuring attendance rotation.

Madbouly said this decision was necessary, following the complaints received by the government regarding health concerns at government entities.

The prime minister also emphasised the implementation of immediate fines on citizens and establishments that do not adhere to the coronavirus precautionary measures starting Sunday. He added that the cabinet will follow up with all governors to see this decision through.

While attempting to curb the spread of the coronavirus, earlier this week, the Egyptian cabinet ordered a number of measures, including the imposition of an immediate EGP 50 fine on citizens who fail to comply with the wearing of facemasks in public, starting 3 January.

Meanwhile on Wednesday Cairo’s Metro Authority also announced the collection of a similar fine from those who fail to wear face masks in metro stations, also starting Sunday.

New Year’s Eve celebrations have been banned while restrictions on occupancy for hotels, restaurants and coffee shops are being maintained.

On Thursday, Madbouly stressed that the government would speedily and decisively deal with any attempt to hold celebrations or gatherings on New Year’s Eve, with violators facing legal actions.

Egypt, which is currently struggling with second wave of the pandemic, has witnessed an upsurge of daily infections after reporting low rates over the past months.

On Wednesday, the country recorded 1,411 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily record in almost five months, bringing the total number of cases to 136,644 since the pandemic emerged in the country mid-February.

The number of coronavirus cases in Egypt is expected to reach its peak during the second wave in late January. This was according to Wagida Anwar, a member of the Supreme Committee for Viruses at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

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Health

Tunisian Foreign Minister Tests Positive for COVID-19

The minister said he had been exhibiting severe symptoms and urged Tunisians to protect themselves from the virus.

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Tunisia’s foreign minister, Othman Jerandi has tested positive for COVID-19.

Jerandi made his COVID status public on his official twitter page.

“My COVID-19 test was positive today, although I complied with health protocols and adhered to all measures,” Othman Jerandi said on Twitter.

Tunisia’s foreign minister said he had been exhibiting severe symptoms and urged Tunisians to protect themselves from the virus.

“This has made me more insistent on the supply of vaccines to protect my country’s people from the pandemic,” he added.

According to a tally by US-based Johns Hopkins University, Tunisia has reported more than 197,000 infections and over 6,200 deaths from the virus. More than 144,000 people have so far recovered.

Since December 2019 when the virus originated in China, the pandemic has claimed more than 2.12 million lives in 192 countries and regions.

According to Johns Hopkins, recorded COVID-19 cases worldwide have exceeded 99.13 million, with recoveries over 54.69 million.

In terms of cases, the worst hit countries remain the US, India and Brazil.

Earlier this month, a 4-day nationwide lockdown was imposed in Tunisia. The lockdown started from Thursday January 14, as authorities moved to curb alarming covid-19 contaminations.

The measure which the country took reduce the spread of the virus includes a nationwide curfew from 4pm to 6am, suspension of school classes until January 24, and a ban on all cultural events. Restaurants and cafes were ordered not to provide seats for their clients.

The move came a few days after President Kais Saied lambasted the government over the handling of the pandemic despite several measures put in place to stem contaminations.

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100,000 Displaced, 250 Dead in Sudan’s Renewed Violence

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No fewer than 250 people died in a flare-up of violence between communities in Sudan’s Darfur region over the past week, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on Friday.

According to the UNHCR, at least 100,000 people were left displaced in the renewed hostilities.

The UN Human Rights Office, which published a slightly lower death count, said armed clashes broke out between Arab communities and internally displaced people of the Masalit community on Saturday and Sunday in West Darfur.

As gunshots were fired and homes torched, 160 people were reportedly killed and 215 injured, the UN Human Rights Office said.

In a separate incident on Monday, 72 people died and 73 were injured in South Darfur’s town of Gereida in a land dispute between the Falata and Reizigat tribes, according to the UN Human Rights Office.

“These incidents raise serious concerns about the imminent risk of further violence in Darfur,’’ UN rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said at a news briefing.

She added that the region was rife with decades-old ethnic and tribal tensions.

Ramdasani urged Sudan’s government to restore order and to break the cycle of armed citizens taking the law into their own hands to avenge attacks on members of their communities.

The clashes occurred about two weeks after the UN peacekeepers discontinued their patrols in the Darfur region, preparing for a full withdrawal.

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East Africa News

Ethiopian Army General Blames ‘3rd Party’ for Sudan Border Dispute

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Ethiopia Chief of General Staff, Birhanu Jula Gelalcha, has blamed “a third party” for his country’s border role with Sudan, saying the intention is to disrupt the negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Birhanu – a General with the Ethiopian National Defense Force – said the Sudanese army has been violating Ethiopia’s sovereignty and asked its neighbour to “shun the pressure it has been facing to go into a proxy war”.

He said Sudan should rather commit itself to resolving the border dispute with Ethiopia through dialogue.

The two countries have disagreed on the construction of the GERD being built on the Blue Nile.

Tensions among Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, over the dam began to rise after Ethiopia announced last year that it had started filling the reservoir.

In the latest round of talks, which stalled, Sudan said it presented a strongly-worded protest to Ethiopia and the African Union on Ethiopia’s decision to continue filling the dam for the second successive year next July with 13.5 billion cubic meters of water regardless of whether or not an agreement was reached.

Birhanu said the unnamed third party is taking advantage of Ethiopia’s engagement in the north of the country with the Tigray People’s Liberation Force (TPLF) as well as Sudan political transition.

“Our internal problem was one thing and the weakening of Sudan’s internal strength another. These factors resulted in helping the third party to push its agenda. It is a well thought out plan, and the third party has calculated that Sudan would not stand with Ethiopia in the Renaissance Dam negotiation,” he said.

Birhanu noted that border disputes between the two countries were not new and had been resolved peacefully. However, “the current problem was exacerbated by the third party”.

Birhanu said that Ethiopia did not have a desire to go to war with its “historical friend Sudan” and it wanted to solve the problem peacefully.

He called on Sudan to resolve its differences through negotiations by avoiding such “a war trap laid by a third party”.

Birhanu said a year ago, Ethiopia played an important role in resolving the political crisis in Sudan peacefully and without harming the Sudanese people.

He said a meeting was scheduled to be held between the military of the two countries soon.

“In the past, there were occasional border crossings in which sometimes we go in and sometimes they get in. But those had been resolved through discussions. The situation has now escalated as a third party is involved. The object is to lead us into conflict with our neighbours and attain their target. So we don’t have to do what they want. Discussions have now taken place at all levels including military-to-military talks between the two nations.”

The President of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Fattah Al-Burhan, also said this week that his country does not want to go to war with Ethiopia as tension between the two countries rises over incidents on their border.

The Sudanese Civil Aviation Authority has banned flights over the Al-Fashaga border area, east of the city of Gadarif, on the border with Ethiopia.

It said that the ban would be from 14 January until 11 April.

Sudan has accused an Ethiopian military plane of violating its airspace and border with the Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs describing the incident as a “dangerous escalation that could have severe consequences and would result in more tension at the border area”.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement demanded that “such hostilities should not be repeated in the future due to their dangerous repercussions on the future of the bilateral relations between the two countries and on the security and stability in the Horn of Africa region”.

Sudan and Ethiopia have also accused each other of other incidents on their common border with Ethiopia accusing Sudan of inflaming the situation.

The Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has “strongly” condemned the “treacherous armed attack” by the Ethiopian militias on Quresha locality, in eastern Sudan, which killed five women and a child.

It said in a statement that two Sudanese women were also missing “due to the aggression”.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry, without specifically mentioning Sudan’s complaint, said the Sudanese Armed Forces had been “inflaming” the situation at the border despite Ethiopia’s “magnanimous and tolerant attitude to settle the issues peacefully”.

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