Protests raise concerns of COVID-19 spread; Researchers retract hydroxycholorquine study

Protests raise concerns of COVID-19 spread; Researchers retract hydroxycholorquine study

By
The World staff

People protest in solidarity with those in the United States protesting police brutality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Sydney, Australia, June 2, 2020.

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Loren Elliott/Reuters

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

As protests reverberate around the world over the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, some governments have urged would-be protesters to move their activism out of the streets over fears of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, while underscoring her solidarity with protesters, asked them to find an alternative to gathering physically: “Right now, it is the case, unfortunately and regrettably, that large gatherings of people could pose a risk to health and indeed to life.” Scotland is currently under strict coronavirus lockdown rules which prohibit gatherings of more than eight people and require social distancing of at least six feet.

An Australian court banned a Black Lives Matter protest planned in Sydney, citing COVID-19 concerns. While the curve has flattened in New South Wales, authorities warned, “It’s not a time to throw out our caution.” But organizers say they plan to go ahead with the protest, which has also brought attention to deaths in police custody of black and Indigenous people in Australia.

What The World is following

Researchers retracted a study in the Lancet medical journal that found risks in using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients, saying they can “no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.” The retraction raises concerns about the rush to publish during the pandemic. 

US President Donald Trump tweeted a letter calling demonstrators in Washington, DC’s Lafayette Square “terrorists” and citing other falsehoods after former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis heavily criticized the president. The peaceful protesters were violently cleared from the square Monday for the president’s photo opportunity, prompting a lawsuit from the ACLU.

From The WorldYemen faces spread of COVID-19 ‘with no health care system at all’

Yemen, made vulnerable by more than five years of war, is ill-equipped to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The public health problem is exacerbated by warring factions, who downplay the threat of the pandemic even as Yemeni hospitals — and graveyards — are crowded with victims.

Police killing of George Floyd strikes a chord in Kenya

A man sits under a graffiti depicting African American man George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, June 4, 2020. The writing reads ”Justice” in Swahili. 

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Baz Ratner/Reuters

George Floyd’s killing by a police offer in the US has struck a chord with Kenyans who have also spoken out against police brutality. When Kenya enacted restrictive policies to curb the spread of the coronavirus, activists sounded the alarm about deadly policing. According to Kenya’s Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA), more than 15 people were killed by police during the coronavirus curfew — including children. Community organizers say that number could be much higher.

From Things That Go Boom: Was the US sleeping through China’s rise? 

China’s millennials reexamine spending habits as economy recovers

Visitors hold face masks at the Shanghai Disneyland theme park as it reopens following a shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China May 11, 2020. 

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Aly Song/Reuters

Millennials in China have been known to be big spenders. But as the Chinese economy recovers from a coronavirus-induced slowdown, many young people are reexamining their lives and their spending habits.

Morning focus

Blowing bubbles looks fun across the universe. Watch this black hole send blobs of 400 million billion pounds of matter into space. 

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M. Espinasse et al./Université de Paris/CXC/NASA

In case you missed itListen: The parallels of police violence in the US and around the world

A man holds a candle in commemoration of George Floyd, a black man killed while in Minneapolis police custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 3, 2020.

Credit:

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

We continue to focus on the two biggest stories across the globe: Police violence against black people in the US and around the world, and the coronavirus pandemic. The killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the killing of a 14-year-old boy during a botched police raid in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is forcing a reckoning in both countries. Also, how testing and tracing for COVID-19 is working in the UK. And, pandemic lockdowns have changed the way people around the world are using their streets and sidewalks. We take you to a busy street in Milan to hear how people are using new bike lanes and socially-distanced sidewalks.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

Police killing of George Floyd strikes a chord in Kenya

Police killing of George Floyd strikes a chord in Kenya

By
Halima Gikandi

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A man sits under a graffiti depicting African American man George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, June 4, 2020. The writing reads ”Justice” in Swahili. 

Credit:

Baz Ratner/Reuters

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Early this week, Nafula Wafula, a Kenyan activist, got a call from an American friend living in Nairobi. They talked about the recent killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“When she called me, at the same time I was thinking about the police brutality that is happening here in Kenya,” said Wafula, who is the vice-chairperson of policy at the Commonwealth Youth Council. She also has a brother who lives in the United States.

Related: World responds to protests sparked by George Floyd’s death

“The persons in the poorest communities, informal urban settlements face more police brutality, while in the US it’s more racial.”

Nafula Wafula, activist and vice-chairperson of policy, Commonwealth Youth Council, Kenya

“The persons in the poorest communities, informal urban settlements face more police brutality, while in the US it’s more racial,” said Wafula. Last year, more than 100 people were killed by police violence in Kenya, according to human rights groups. 

Related: Somali Americans share grief and pain over George Floyd’s killing

When Kenya enacted restrictive policies to curb the spread of coronavirus, activists sounded the alarm about deadly policing. According to Kenya’s Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA), more than 15 people were killed by police during the coronavirus curfew — including children. Community organizers say that number could be much higher.

On Thursday, the IPOA announced that six police officers would be arrested and charged over the deaths and assault of Kenyans during the coronavirus curfew, including Yasin Hussein Moyo, a 13-year-old boy killed in March. 

Yet, last Friday, Kenyan police officers killed two children and a woman lost her unborn baby during a police raid in the coastal region of Kwale. Days later, Kenyan police reportedly killed a homeless man in the poor neighborhood of Mathare, in Nairobi. Videos on social media show residents demonstrating in the middle of the night on Monday.

Related: ‘No justice, no peace’: Thousands in London protest the death of Floyd

Despite a nationwide curfew and limit on public gatherings, Wafula and her friend organized a small demonstration of their own on Tuesday, outside the US Embassy in Nairobi. Shortly after, the US ambassador released a video statement condemning the killing of George Floyd, a black man. 

For some, it’s a sign of how much the police killing of George Floyd, and the nationwide protests, has resonated within other countries where police violence is also a problem.

“The events happening in the US have sparked police accountability questions in Kenya. … The cops are very clever in terms of hiding evidence and blaming these victims for being criminals.”

Robi Chacha, human rights attorney, Nairobi, Kenya

“The events happening in the US have sparked police accountability questions in Kenya,” said Robi Chacha, a human rights attorney who recently moved back to Nairobi from San Francisco. He’s worked on extrajudicial killing cases but says they rarely get the level of media attention seen in the US now.

Related: Floyd’s death reverberates in Nigeria 

“The cops are very clever in terms of hiding evidence and blaming these victims for being criminals,” he continued.

On Tuesday, Kenya’s national police spokesperson Charles Owino was asked about police brutality on national TV. 

“Let’s take action against individual police officers who are erratic,” he said. “But let’s support the police, let’s not set the public against our police officers.” Owino denied that the man killed in Mathare was shot by police officers.

Years of pressure from community social justice groups, who have been documenting police killings and violence, has led to some police reforms and increased civilian oversight.

“The only concern for me and for many other Kenyans is why those do not reflect in just for these victims and their families as well,” said Chacha.

Under lockdown, mosques in Kenya offer virtual prayers for Ramadan

Under lockdown, mosques in Kenya offer virtual prayers for Ramadan

By
Halima Gikandi

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Women walk down the streets of Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 19, 2019. The neighborhood is currently under quarantine due to a spike in coronavirus cases. 

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Halima Gikandi/The World

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On a normal Friday during Ramadan, Ahmed Ali Mohamed would head to the mosque with his family and friends to break the fast.

“Then [we’d] head home and have a feast with friends, and family, and relatives, sometimes at my grandmother’s or mother’s house,” he said from his home in Nairobi, Kenya. “But this Ramadan has been very different.”

Related: How coronavirus is changing the way Muslims celebrate Ramadan

Eastleigh, a predominantly Muslim neighborhood where Mohamed’s mother and grandmother live, is currently under lockdown, and most mosques have closed. Instead, some mosques are offering virtual prayers via YouTube. 

“I can’t visit at all. No one is allowed,” said Mohamed, who lives in another area of Nairobi. He notes how police and soldiers have put up roadblocks in Eastleigh to prevent people from moving in and out of the neighborhood. 

On May 7, the Kenyan government announced the 15-day lockdown in Eastleigh after the neighborhood saw a spike in COVID-19 cases. Some accused officials of discriminating against Muslims, because they had also locked down Old Town, a predominantly Muslim area in the coastal city of Mombasa.

“There is no effort to target anyone,” Kenya’s Interior Minister Fred Matiangi told Muslim leaders earlier this week. “We are suffering equally. This disease does not choose where you come from.”

Mohamed didn’t feel the lockdown was singling out Muslims. In fact, he recalled how Islamic scripture has specific guidelines on what people should do during a pandemic or a plague.

“Any place that is under quarantine, you shouldn’t go in. And if you are inside you shouldn’t come out,” he said. “That’s hadith [saying] from the prophet, peace be upon him.”

Still, like many in Nairobi, he worries about how his family will deal with the effects of the lockdown. “Most of the people who used to go into Eastleigh come from outside. The small traders. The ones who bring fresh groceries, they don’t come into Eastleigh anymore.”

Residents and workers of Eastleigh initially protested the lockdown, leading officials to allow essential workers to come in and out of the neighborhood.

But Mohamed, who trades wholesale goods like sugar and flour, says the increasingly narrow lockdowns are cutting off food supply not only in Eastleigh but in the whole country.

Related: Coronavirus — and locusts — threaten Kenya’s food security 

Weeks before the Eastleigh quarantine, the government had announced a citywide lockdown, meaning Mohamed cannot leave Nairobi for work.

Even dates — a favorite Ramadan treats — are scarce or overpriced.

“We used to have dates, lots of dates from mostly the Middle Eastern countries, or North Africa,” said Mohamed. “We don’t get them because there are no goods coming into the country,” he continued.

Without iftar feasts to look forward to, Mohamed is spending Ramadan at home with his wife Fatimah, and their two small children.

Instead of going to the mosque, they pray at home. “The majority of the mosques do have YouTube pages, so you can follow the sermons on YouTube,” said Mohamed. 

“Spiritually, you have to go online if you want to interact or see or ask any questions with the imams.”

Mohamed points to Jamia mosque, which closed its doors for the first time in 95 years due to the pandemic. The mosque’s TV channel, Horizon TV, regularly releases virtual prayers, programming for children, and interviews with scientists and experts.

As religious leaders in other parts of the region seek to undermine the threat of the coronavirus, Jamia is trying to drive a different message to its congregants who are spending Ramadan at home. 

“You fall sick today. Look for a doctor, look for medicine,” said Sheikh Ibrahim Lethome in a recent message on Jamia mosque’s YouTube channel.