• COVID-19 Cases: Caribbean countries with the biggest weekly percentage increases

    As COVID-19 cases continue to rise globally, 18º North findings look at the countries in the Caribbean recording the biggest weekly percentage increases in their coronavirus counts.

    The percentage increases are not useful for comparing countries, but rather just to illustrate how each nation’s numbers have changed week-on-week.

    The period covered for this analysis is as of 12:30PM EST on both days between March 26 and April 2, 2020. As a result, numbers updated later in the afternoon or evening of April 2 will not be reflected in the data.

    Below are the findings….

    Grenada, St. Maarten and Puerto Rico had the biggest weekly percentage increases in the number of reported positive COVID-19 cases, with jumps of 900% (from 1 to 10 cases), 500% (from 3 to 18), and 386% (from 65 to 316), respectively, during March 26 – April 2, 2020.

    26 of the 43 countries or islands in our dataset have seen the number of cases this week double or more than double compared to last week.  

  • Creative Nigeria at forefront in Covid-19 fight as Ooni of Ife endorse locally invented fumigator

    As the coronavirus pandemic makes its mark in Africa, in Nigeria, The Ooni of Ife, Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, fulfilled his position as Royal King of the ancient Yoruba city of Ife by leading by example when he set about the fumigation of Ile Ife, before providing the wider State of Osun, and 35 other State, with fumigators, as the country, and continent at large, stood strong as, together, they stood up to the crisis.

    And in highlighting the advanced, forward-thinking nature of The Ooni – as well as the inventiveness and integrity of Nigeria-at-large - the whole operation took place with fumigators and drones that were locally invented and provided.

    It was before the full operation was ready to take place, that The Ooni, in a press conference, described his actions as “a necessity to eventuate the State’s, and country’s creativity at its best - Especially that of our young people!

    He continued: “Their innovation stemmed from ‘thinking outside the box’ – just like major inventive creators have done in the past, and still doing the world over today.

    “The motorised fumigator”, he said, “is a creation out of necessity that can also serve purpose in the fields of agriculture and industry once we – and the whole world – finally successfully tackle the pandemic.

    “We need an abundance of fumigators right now, and that’s why we have partnered with suppliers of drones to then be able to widen coverage”.

    Of equal standard as those found in any western country, China or other leading Asian states, and unequalled in Nigeria each Ife-made fumigator’s range capacity covers some 20-30 feet in radius.

    “With it being heavily tested and approved by royal accent, not only is it cost-effective, but, it is easy to assemble. And, we fully approve of its workability.

    “We need to do now, is to make sure that we roll this out to the general public”.

    As Co-Chair of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN), The Ooni of Ife stressed that, by way of support, he will be donating two of the fumigators to every one of the States of the Federation of Nigeria.

    This is in addition to what he is already doing – as he continues to assist the Nigerian government by sharing out food and sanitizing items to people most in need in the country.

     

  • CTO, Skift to Host Webinar on Caribbean Tourism Recovery

    The Allied Members of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) have partnered with leading global business travel outlet Skift to host their first joint webinar, 'The Trends Driving Travel's Big Rebound: Implications for the Caribbean' on Thursday, July 22 at 11 a.m. EST, featuring Skift CEO and Founder Rafat Ali, global tourism reporter Lebawit "Lily" Girma, and host William "Billy" Griffith, Chairman of CTO Allied Members Board.

  • Data reveals that Scorpio and Cancer Zodiac Signs are Next to Rule the World

     

    Zodiac signs and the Royal family are two of the most popular topics amongst the press/news. More recently the debate of a new star signs being introduced and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex settling into their new life after giving up Royal duties.

    While it’s difficult to estimate how many of us believe in astrology, research suggests that 90% of adults know what their zodiac sign is. However, it isn’t just our own zodiac signs that interest us — have you ever wondered the secret to Queen Elizabeth’s and Prince Philip's enduring love story? Or was there celestial influence over Princess Diana becoming the ‘People’s Princess’?

    With this in mind, Fulton Umbrellas have analysed the gender and star signs of current monarchs across the globe, to find out if there is a dominant “ruling” zodiac. They have also analysed 'next-in-lines’ to discover which star sign is most popular and least popular when destined to don the crown. 

    Some of the key stats are as followed: 

    70% of current rulers are Aries, Taurus, Leo, Pisces, and Aquarius - Queen Elizabeth II is a Taurus, who tend to escape from reality when they're emotional, which is something that the Queen doesn’t display in public.
    Scorpio and Cancer are the next zodiac signs to rule the world, with 34% of heirs having these zodiac signs. - Cancers are said to be sensitive to their environments and extremely protective — will this reflect in the way monarchies will be protective of their people in a mothering sense? Whilst a Scorpio is driven by a relentless need for control — if they’re controlled by their egos, they risk self-destruction. 
    The number of kings and queens currently stands at 91% men and 9% female, which will increase to 17% women when heirs come into their throne — will more female monarchs be a goal these progressive characters will strive to achieve for in the future, signalling transformation and a step forward for monarchies?

    The data might help support any upcoming Royal Family/Zodiac pieces you may have or could be used in a stand-alone piece as there is global data too. If you would like to use the data could you please credit (https://www.fultonumbrellas.com/) as a source. I have attached the raw global data for your review.

  • Deadly 7.2-magnitude earthquake strikes in Haiti

    A powerful earthquake has struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti, killing at least 227 people.

    The 7.2-magnitude quake hit the west of the country on Saturday morning, toppling and damaging buildings including churches and hotels. The prime minister said there was "extensive damage" in some areas, and declared a month-long state of emergency.

  • Delhi hospitals run out of oxygen supplies in Covid-19 crisis

    Six hospitals in the Indian capital Delhi have completely run out of oxygen and doctors say other hospitals have just a few hours' worth of supply left. A number of people have died while waiting for oxygen, and more than 99% of all intensive care beds are full.

    India is in the grips of a second wave of Covid infections and on Thursday recorded the highest one-day tally of new cases anywhere in the world. The country has recorded close to 16 million confirmed infections.

    There have been 314,835 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, while deaths rose by 2,104.

    There have been reports of state authorities stopping oxygen tankers from travelling to other states, according to Delhi television station NDTV. Some facilities have been accused of hoarding their supplies.

    Indian politician, Saurabh Bharadwaj, who is being treated in a Delhi hospital for Covid, posted a plea for help in Hindi on Twitter, saying there were just three hours of oxygen left where he was.

    "A lot of people are dependent on oxygen and without oxygen, these people will die just like fish die in the absence of water," he said. "This is a time for all to come together to work."

    Families are also waiting hours to perform funeral rites, Reuters news agency reports, with at least one Delhi crematorium resorting to building pyres in its car park in order to cope with the numbers arriving. Crematoriums are holding mass cremations, and working day and night in several cities.

    "During the first phase of coronavirus, the average here was eight to 10, one day it reached 18. But today the situation is very bad. Last night we cremated 78 bodies," Jitender Singh Shunty, who runs a crematorium in northeast Delhi, said.

    "It is four times more frightful, this coronavirus... Many bodies are around, waiting. We have no place left in the crematorium to cremate them. Very bad times, very bad times," he added.

    A doctor working in a government hospital in the south of India, who wished to remain anonymous, said tensions were running high.

    "Patients are trying to hit doctors," they told the BBC. "They are blaming doctors for everything and even the [hospital] management is also blaming the doctors. It's a stressful environment."

    "We have presently almost used 99% of oxygen ports - only 1% is left. It's a very pathetic situation."

    India has seen a rapid rise in case numbers over the past month driven by lax safety protocols, a Hindu festival attended by millions and variants of the virus, including a "double mutant" strain.

    Political parties have come under criticism for holding huge state election rallies - including one by Prime Minister Narendra Modi - in West Bengal. The government has defended the decision to continue with polling, which is taking place in phases, but India's election body has now banned campaign rallies.

    Prime Minister Modi chaired a high-level meeting on Thursday to discuss the oxygen supply issue. According to a government statement, he was told that an "elaborate exercise" is under way, with state governments to identify their needs so they can be supplied with oxygen.

    To transport oxygen around the country faster, the canisters are being airlifted and put on direct trains, the statement says. There is no national lockdown currently in place, and regions are implementing their own rules.

    Delhi announced a week-long lockdown at the weekend, leaving just government offices and essential services like hospitals, pharmacies and grocers open.

    Tougher restrictions have been announced in the worst affected state of Maharashtra, which is India's richest region and home to its financial hub, Mumbai. It has also been a Covid hotspot since the start of the pandemic, accounting for a quarter of India's cases.

    Despite a promising start in January, India's inoculation drive has been lagging. Some 130 million doses have so far been administered, but with a population of more than a billion people, it is a small percentage, and the drive has been restricted to health workers, frontline staff, those above the age of 45 and anyone with co-morbidities.

    Experts say India is unlikely to meet its target of covering 250 million people by July. From May 1, people above 18 will also be eligible for the vaccine. But there is a shortage of doses, which could slow it down further.

  • Descendant of African slaves say: 'I'll be at front of queue to change my slave name'

    Descendants of African slaves have said that they will change their surnames, after a Dutch city decided to make the procedure free of charge.

    Utrecht council has decided to remove the €835 (£715) cost and bureaucracy to help people shake off their slave names and have the option to adopt one that recognises their African ancestry.

  • Do This In Memory of Us - Retro Africa Gallery making New York debut

    Retro Africa Gallery will make its U.S. debut this summer with a group exhibition of new works by Nigerian-American artist and writer Victor Ehikhamenor, Congolese painter Chéri Samba and African-American artist Nate Lewis, also marking Retro Africa’s first group show in New York.

  • Donors commit to highest-ever funding to UN rural development agency IFAD to tackle world hunger and poverty

    US$3.8 billion, that’s how much the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will now be able to invest in the world’s rural poor. This, thanks to an unprecedented record-high financing target set by governments from 177 countries at IFAD’s annual Governing Council.

    At a time when many nations are facing severe economic challenges, this move demonstrates the importance global leaders place on investing in effective long-term rural development as critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This strong vote of confidence significantly boosts IFAD’s capacity to address the devastating socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and climate change. With this unprecedented funding, IFAD will reach approximately 140 million people in the world’s most fragile and remote areas over three years.

    When combined with an expansion of IFAD’s pioneering climate change adaptation programme (ASAP+), a new private sector financing programme, and co-financing by national and international partners, IFAD aims to deliver a total programme of work of at least $11 billion from 2022-2024.

    “Today our Member States made it clear that the fate of the poor and hungry matters. All of us are united in our battle against the impacts of COVID-19 and a rapidly changing climate – but none feel the impacts more profoundly than rural people in the world’s poorest countries,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD. “It costs less to invest in sustainability and building long-term resilience to shocks than it does to respond to repeated humanitarian emergencies,” he added. “That is why the Sustainable Development Goals exist, and this increased commitment to IFAD is an important step to delivering on them. The contributions pledged so far show our Member States are determined to eradicate poverty and hunger, and are confident in the impact of IFAD’s work.”

    Already, 67 countries have announced new pledges totalling more than $1.1 billion in support of IFAD’s Twelfth Replenishment (IFAD12), a process whereby Member States define strategic priorities and commit funds to the organization for its work in 2022-2024. More pledges are expected throughout 2021.

    In a strong show of support, the governments of Germany and France issued a joint statement that said; ‘As IFAD12 is both ambitious and necessary to address rural poverty at this critical time, the German government and the French government have both decided to significantly increase their financial support to IFAD to an all-time-high. We urge all Member States to join us in making an ambitious contribution.’

    IFAD is unique among international financial institutions in the high number of Member States - usually more than 100 – that contribute voluntarily to its core funding. This includes some of the world’s poorest countries, who were among the first to announce significantly increased pledges last year, highlighting the value they place on their partnership with IFAD, and putting pressure on traditional donors to step up.

  • DR Congo residents flee as Mount Nyiragongo volcano erupts

    Thousands of people fled their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the night after a large volcano erupted.

    As the sky turned red and rivers of lava streamed from Mount Nyiragongo, there were concerns that its past deadly tragedies would be repeated. A mass evacuation was launched in the city of Goma, which has a population of about two million people.

    However, the city was largely spared and some residents are now returning. The volcano, located 10km (six miles) from Goma, last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and making 120,000 homeless.

    There has been no official report of casualties during the latest eruption and it is unclear how many homes have been damaged. On Sunday morning, Communications Minister Patrick Muyay tweeted to say the intensity of the lava flow had slowed and an assessment of the humanitarian situation was ongoing.

    One resident, Zacharie Paluku, told the Associated Press news agency that the eruption had sparked fear and people began running. "We really don't know what to do," he said.

    Some locals complained about the lack of information from the authorities amid conflicting accounts circulating on social media. Crowds were seen with mattresses and other belongings, fleeing even before the government's announcement, which came several hours after the eruption started.

    Many residents headed across the nearby Rwandan border, while others went to higher ground to the west of the city. Rwandan authorities said about 3,000 people had officially crossed from Goma. The country's state media said they would be accommodated in schools and places of worship.

    Electricity was out across large areas in the aftermath of the eruption. "There is a smell of sulphur. In the distance you can see giant flames coming out of the mountain," resident Carine Mbala told AFP news agency.

    Mount Nyiragongo is one of the world's more active volcanoes but there were concerns that its activity had not been properly observed by the Goma Volcano Observatory, since the World Bank cut funding amid allegations of corruption. In a report on 10 May, the observatory warned that seismic activity at Nyiragongo had increased.

    Last year, the observatory's director, Katcho Karume, told the BBC World Service's Science in Action that the volcano's lava lake had been filling up quickly, increasing the chances of an eruption in the next few years. But he also warned that an earthquake could trigger a disaster earlier.

    The volcano's deadliest eruption happened in 1977, when more than 600 people died.

  • Dr Nkosazana's Speech to the Young Communist League at the University of Witwatersrand

    Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is an ANC NEC member. She delivered this speech at the Chris Hani Memorial Lecture, to the Young Communist League of the University of Witwatersrand, on Saturday. The event was held under the theme ’Saving the soul of the ANC from the claws of factionalism and neo-liberal policies’.

    We wish to thank the Young Communist League’s Shimi Matlala Branch for the invitation to address this Chris Hani Memorial Lecture. We also thank you for tackling such a challenging topic, it shows you care deeply about the movement and the future of this country. I am sure that comrade Chris Hani would be proud! Daunting as it is, we shall attempt to address the topic of “saving the soul of the ANC from the claws of factionalism and neo liberal policies” by utilising the canvas and essence of our movement, as well as comrade Chris Thembisile Hani and other revolutionaries.

    We also thank you for the warm reception we have received from the student body and teaching staff. We have been struck by the vibrancy, diversity and the leadership this campus has provided to the discourse in our country. More especially, as it relates to the question of access to education and equality, which we shall return to in this talk.

    We were also pleasantly struck by our sight of the plaque in honour of Dr Mary Malahlela Xakana, the first black female medical doctor who qualified here at Wits in 1947.

    That our past, present and future are coincided by Dr Malahlela Xakana, Chris Hani and Comrade Shimi is not a mere coincidence because these heroes are authentic products of our revolution. What is most outstanding is that they were all products of the Struggle, shaped by their environment and driven by a deep sense of love for the people.

    It was Che Guevara who once said “at the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality”.

    Comrade Chris was first and foremost guided by love. Every single soldier and worker in the camps, and wherever he worked or resided, was well-known to comrade Chris, he would even remember where each of them came from and would inquire on the health of their family members, mentioning their names.

    Born and raised in the rural village of Sabalele in Cofimvaba, son of a migrant worker and hawker, his reality shaped his revolutionary spirit. Thus taking up the Struggle for the downtrodden and workers was not a mere coincidence, but a result of his lived experience.

    Commenting on his family structure to Dr Lilli Callinicos in 1993, in one of his last interviews, he says: “A family was lucky to have the whole offspring surviving. If 50% survived, that was an achievement, so out of six, three of us survived … ”

    Thus there also lies another feature we can emulate from comrade Chris – the love for family. Often times, when we theorise about revolutionaries and societal transformation, we overlook the role of the family. Yet this is the most basic unit of society, by which both the suffering masses and thriving capitalists survive.

    Capitalism, in its essence, also survives on individualism and the progress of the self. Comrades, it therefore holds to logic that the pursuit of social justice and, dare we say, socialism ought to be about transforming societal relations by strengthening that basic unit. In so doing, we must also transform the ownership patterns of the economy and the means of production.

    To quote comrade Chris: “As long as the economy is dominated by an unelected, privileged few, the case for socialism will exist”.

    He goes on to say: “Socialism is not about big concepts and heavy theory. Socialism is about decent shelter for those who are homeless. It is about water for those who have no safe drinking water. It is about health care, it is about a life of dignity for the old. It is about overcoming the huge divide between urban and rural areas. It is about a decent education for all our people. Socialism is about rolling back the tyranny of the market … ”

    Indeed, despite the gains recorded by the developmental democratic state, the tyranny of the market has gained gravitas. This fact was also noted by the outcomes of our 54th conference, which noted that: “Despite the economic advances of the past 23 years of freedom and democracy, the legacy of colonialism and apartheid is still deeply entrenched in our society, and in the structure of the South African economy”.

    The conference went on to note that “this legacy expresses itself in racialised patterns of poverty, inequality and unemployment, in land and spatial disparities, in infrastructure and service backlogs, in concentrated structures of ownership and control and in the weaknesses of the SMME and cooperatives sector.”

    The striking feature of our economy today, as expressed by the Forbes top ten list, tells us:

    • First, 9 of the 10 are white
    • Second, none of them are women
    • Third, the 10 individuals account for 7,1% of our wealth, and
    • Finally, according to Oxfam, the wealthiest 1% of South Africans own 70% of our wealth, whereas the bottom 60% only control 7% of the country’s assets.

    Comrades, we should not be comfortable with this glaring failure of the economic system. It is also important to recall that our revolution is based on the strategic mission to liberate our country and continent from the systems of apartheid and colonialism.

    It is because of this strategic objective, that the ANC and the broader liberation forces, the alliance – including the Communist Party, as well as the women’s movement and other organisations – achieved the historic breakthrough of 1994, through its high and lows. Despite these highs and lows our movement consistently ensured that it was never deterred from this objective and it never succumbed to the challenges it faced from time to time – whether as a result of the conditions beyond its control, actions of the regime or its own internal weaknesses.

    Despite the difficulties, the movement – because of its commitment to principle and to uniting the people in action, to finding sustainable solutions – was able to renew itself, its tactics, its policies, and its leadership and cadreship.

    Part of the problem we are facing is the factionalism that tears us apart and defocuses us. As a result, we run the risk of losing our revolutionary discipline and political consciousness. We must not allow this factionalism to prevail.

    Comrades, the call for unity by our 54th conference should not be interpreted as a mere call, but a revolutionary act. It is a firm belief that only a united ANC and alliance can fulfil the dreams and aspirations of our people, towards democratic and developmental outcomes. We ought to pause and introspect whether we remain on course? If not, we must go back to Lenin and answer the big question of “what is to be done”.

    Indeed comrades, as alluded by the title of this event, the demon of factionalism has slowly been creeping and destroying the essence of the ANC.

    The ANC has never made decisions based on the views of a particular group (faction), democratic centralism is about respecting the views of others in a debate. We have always made decisions based on the interests of the motive forces, the interests of women, youth, workers, etc.

    So much so that the 54th conference noted that factionalism has resulted in “a loss of confidence in the ANC … social distance, corruption, nepotism, arrogance, elitism, manipulating organisational processes … [and] abusing state power … ”

    Dare we unmask the source of this factionalism? And, as we do so, let us once again recall the words comrade Mark Shope, would say after a political lecture: “I am teaching you politics today, comrades, so that you can use it against me one day when I deviate from the policies of the ANC.”

    In our view, factionalism is a gross deviation from ANC policies and is rooted in the promotion of self-interest and careerism above the interest of the people. It is also a self-preservation agenda that sees self above all. That agenda is contradictory to Marxist philosophy, which dictates that “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

    It is also driven by counter-revolutionary tendencies, which are rooted in maintaining the status quo at the least or returning to the old ways at best. Indeed, comrade Chris’ nightmare has come to fruition wherein he had said: “What I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists, who drive around in Mercedes-Benzes and use the resources of this country … to live in palaces and to gather riches”.

    Thus, we must ask what is our relationship with our people, are our cadres still embedded amongst the people? Are they living the values of our movement? We shall leave these questions to the discussion segment.

    But we must say that these factional tendencies are also supported by a counter-revolutionary intelligentsia, which is the opposite of the intelligentsia anticipated by comrade Chris who once called for “an intelligentsia which is selfless, which is not just concerned about making money, creating a comfortable situation for themselves, but an intelligentsia which has lots of time for the Struggle of the oppressed people”.

    You, as young people, must also never allow yourselves to be used for any factional reasons.

    Comrades, to recall comrade OR Tambo’s final speech at the 47th congress as President of the ANC, when he said: “Before I sit down, I wish to make a few observations: we did not tear ourselves apart because of lack of progress at times. We were always ready to accept our mistakes and to correct them. Above all, we succeeded to foster and defend the unity of the ANC and the unity of our people in general. Even in bleak moments, we were never in doubt regarding the winning of freedom. We have never been in doubt that the people’s cause shall triumph.”

    Indeed, as comrade OR said, we have faced difficult times but we made sure that we put the interest of the people first, in order to advance and ultimately win the struggle for freedom. Such a time we now face again.

    Let us also recall that, in 1991, when comrade OR handed over our movement, we began to navigate our existence in a different and complex environment. We went from operating underground, in exile and within the mass democratic movement since, to becoming a mass legal organisation, opening up our membership in 1990.

    In the changing terrain of the early 1990s, we had to rebuild the ANC as a mass legal organisation, engage in negotiations, prepare for governance and elections, and defend the people against third forces and state violence. Although there were challenges, the movement navigated this difficult terrain through focused, serving, disciplined and principled leadership.

    We had to maintain commitment, disciplined and an active cadreship from different generations, whilst balancing that with a culture of engagement, democracy and robust debate, premised on a strategy and tactics directed at unity in action. Consequently, the democratic breakthrough of 1994, though a negotiated settlement with compromises, provided a beachhead to advance our strategic objective of this era, which ultimately defined as the creation of a National Democratic Society.

    Comrades, It is impossible to build this society without a united and renewed organisation. Thus the renewal of our organisation occupies a mantlepiece of our total liberation. Thus we must pay attention to political education, campaigns, community work and cadre development which necessitates a skills revolution, as well as discipline. In the words of comrade Mark Shope: “A soldier without politics is a mercenary.”

    Is it not time to ask ourselves, what is an ANC cadre without politics, and how do we address this situation?

    I think this is especially important to note because, even as leaders, we can go wrong from time to time. However, it is our political understanding that gives us the ability to self-correct. That is why cadre development is a core of our activities. It must be undertaken on a continuous basis for all comrades, in all structures, from branch level all the way up to the most senior levels.

    According to our cadre policy, ANC cadres are required to:

    • have revolutionary consciousness and discipline,
    • commitment to serve and love for the people,
    • be dedicated and humble,
    • committed to self-improvement, their understanding of their tasks,
    • of our struggle, the motive forces,
    • as well as national and gender consciousness.
    • Moreover, ANC cadres must be committed to democracy, and collective processes.

    On the occasion of the centenary celebration of the ANC in 2012, we declared the Decade of the Cadre, and committed to revitalise all aspects of our Cadre Policy – recruitment, cadre development, deployment and accountability, as well as cadre preservation.

    We thus said, that in addition to the above attributes, we must build, develop and retain, ANC cadres who are ideologically rooted and schooled in ANC and progressive politics. However these comrades also have the responsibility to skill themselves and be competent to undertake assigned tasks with discipline, and high ethics. They must be conscientious and committed to continuous self-improvement.

    Comrades, our cadre policy and our strategic objective also requires from the ANC to be rooted amongst the motive forces, to organise and participate in their issues, and to act in the interest of the motive forces.

    This, therefore, includes continually sharpening our understanding of the motive forces, the objective and subjective changes within the motive forces, and the impact of our policies and actions on these forces.

    We must ask the question whether our characterisation of the motive forces remains relevant and whether they still see the ANC as the vehicle that will transform their lives for the better? The majority are women and youth. Have we sufficiently addressed the plight of women and the challenges that are faced by young people, including their socialisation as citizens of a non-racial, non-sexist democracy, committed to shared prosperity?

    What is our relationship with our people, are our cadres still embedded amongst the people, while living the values of our movement? What is causing a rift and waning influence of the ANC among our people?

    Comrades, part of the attributes of a cadre, is the ability to find your bearings independently, to be conscious of the tasks of the moment and in your sector in order to advance transformation. You must be hard-working. This requires the tools to assess the balance of forces and how to shift it, in order to respond to the needs of the people.

    At the time of the transition, it was clear that the balance of forces were not entirely in our favour. As a result, we had to work on consolidating and fostering cohesion and unity in society in order to safeguard our hard-earned freedom.

    The ANC, from its inception, has never been an organisation that has opted for violence and loss of life of its people. It was only when the apartheid government banned all our organisations and consistently responded with violence towards our people that we had no option but to turn to armed Struggle.

    In President Tambo’s words “Operating within the logic of the armed struggle – armed and political – and supported by the international community, we managed to push the enemy into a crisis which could not be resolved within the confines of the old order. For the first time, possibilities to end apartheid and national oppression through negotiations were created. As a result of Struggle, the closed door that our late President, Chief AJ Luthuli, knocked on for many decades was finally opened. It is our responsibility and destiny to seize this opportunity.”

    We did well comrades, in order to bring back dignity to our people and to bring about the will of the people and the right to self-determination. We also successfully navigated out of the transitional phase and established a non-racial and non-sexist government to further our revolution. We knew then that our Struggle was not over and that we would need to ensure that we build on our gains and transform our institutions and the economy. As a result of the negotiated settlement, we needed to consolidate our political power in order to utilise it to begin the radical transformation of our society.

    In the 2004, national elections the ANC managed to consolidate a decisive victory of 69.7% of the vote and was able to garner a two third majority in Parliament. In retrospect, we must admit that we did not reflect deeply enough on the balance of forces . This lack of appreciation of the balance of forces meant that we equally did not shift gears from fostering political stability to advancing socio-economic transformation of our country.

    In 2004, the political climate and the economic environment, the balance of forces had shifted in our favour. We needed to have used our political hegemony and influence to really transform the economy and our society.

    We dare not continue to allow crippling fiscal austerity, export oriented production and privatisation of public sector services and succumbing to the pressure and influence of neoliberal forces that bombarded us with threats of disinvestments, rating agencies and the decline of the rand, and pushed us to limit our mission of transforming our economy. They used their institutions to scare us into pursuing policy directions that will ensure that, by and large, the economic status quo remains the same.

    Comrades, Twenty-seven years later, we find ourselves facing very serious difficulties.

    * Our National Democratic Revolution is threatened and, as a movement, we are at a low point. Our electoral performance is on the decline, with our support in the 2016 Local elections declining to below 55%,

    * The economic situation is not favourable – unemployment, poverty and inequality remain unacceptably high, we have had pedestrian growth for a number of years now and, increasingly, our people are becoming disillusioned at our ability to deliver the National Democratic Society.

    * Since the dawn of our democracy, we have had groups splitting from the organisation. There was UDM, COPE and then the EFF. If you look at each of these cases, at the core of the problem has been ill-discipline.

    * As the ANC, we are not producing and maintaining the quality of cadre that is expected by a progressive revolutionary movement, and it is evident in the rampant ill-discipline that has been creeping up, which has now become pervasive.

    * The challenges include not only the ANC, but the alliance as a whole, as well as other structures of the MDM.

    * The fracturing and disunity of our movement creates a vacuum, which is being filled by opportunistic elements in our society. Ill-discipline, factionalism and divisions are, therefore, tearing us apart and we need to focus categorically on cadre development and utilising the confidence our people show in us through the ballot to advance our revolution.

    Comrades, consequently, the activist of today has the added responsibility to contribute to the radical transformation of our economy. During a lecture similar to this in 2003, comrade Pallo Jordan pointed out that: “No one, not even the most optimistic among the early communists, did not appreciate that these revolutions would be bourgeois democratic in character … there has been an unfortunate tendency among some in our movement to counter-pose the national democratic and the socialist revolution. From its inception, Marxism, as understood by its founders, has regarded these two as parts of a continuum, at times anticipating that the democratic revolution would grow into the socialist revolution, at others, that the political revolution would evolve into a social revolution.”

    Thus, the young communist and aspirant socialist has an even greater responsibility.

    As argued by Marx and Engels, they have a special role “... on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions and the ultimate general result of the proletarian movement.”

    We must, therefore, be inspired by the words of comrade Chris, who explained his affinity towards socialism by saying: “Given my background, I was attracted by ideas and the philosophy which had a bias towards the working class; which had as its stated objective the upliftment of the people on the ground.“

    He continues to say: “I didn't get involved with the workers' Struggle out of theory alone. It was a combination of theory and my own class background. I never faltered in my belief in socialism, despite all the problems currently. For me, that belief is strong because that is still the life of the majority of the people with whom I share a common background.”

    Here, comrade Chris lays the line of march anticipated by Marx and Engels. In the words of Che Patria o Muerte (homeland or death). Thus, according to comrade Chris, that line of march is whatever it is we do we must do in the service of the people. For him “the homeland is humanity!!” as said Jose Marti. Consequently, Che concludes that the revolutionary has the “task of educating and feeding youngsters... educating the army … distributing the lands … without receiving its benefits”.

    This can only be achieved through an integrated, developmental and community-based approach, thus our added emphasis on cooperatives. In this regard, Che concludes that: “The peasant must always be helped technically, economically, morally, and culturally. The guerrilla fighter will be a sort of guiding angel who has fallen into the zone, helping the poor always and bothering the rich as little as possible in the first phases of the war.”

    Thus, the SACP’s Discussion Document titled “building cooperatives as a concrete expression of building people’s power in the economy”, is instructive. The paper also notes that “cooperatives, existing by themselves within capitalist economies and isolated from the tactical and strategic framework of progressive forces, are doomed to either degenerate or collapse.”

    It further asserts that “However, this does not mean that cooperatives are not viable and cannot be a part of a wider strategic response to transcending capitalism.” Indeed this is in line with the thinking of comrade Chris and Che.

    For Hani: “What is important is the continuation of the Struggle and we must accept that the Struggle is always continuing under different conditions, whether within Parliament or outside Parliament. We shall begin to tackle the real problems of the country … for social upliftment of the working masses of our people”.

    Similarly, Che observes that “isolated individual endeavour, for all its purity of ideals, is of no use, and the desire to sacrifice an entire lifetime to the noblest of ideals serves no purpose if one works alone, solitarily, in some corner … fighting against adverse governments and social conditions which prevent progress. To create a revolution, one must undertake the mobilisation of a whole people, who must learn … the value of unity.”

    So what must be done? We must, therefore, de-concentrate economic and work opportunities away from the state, at least at local level. For so long as the rural child, in Winnie Madikizela Mandela Municipality in the Eastern Cape, only sees the municipal manager or the mayor as the most successful person in the area, then service of self will thrive. We must create economic opportunities, where the people live as anticipated by the RDP. To facilitate for this and also inculcate the culture of long-term planning, we are currently implementing the District Development Model.

    Through the model, we intend to facilitate for Local Economic Development, whilst solving the coordination conundrum which has been defined by vertical and horizontal silo mentality. This mentality has, amongst others, resulted in substandard implementation. To solve this, we are implementing the District Development Model. The model employs joint planning, implementation, as well as monitoring and evaluation. The district is seen as the landing strip, around which capacity and investment can be “crowded in” to support local economic development and the full array of services including health.

    We must also drive our transformation agenda and embark on a selective industrialisation process, which prioritises:

    (1) The infrastructure sector. By building our social and economic infrastructure, which in the transport sector must prioritise the building of buses, trains, rural roads and maritime transportation. We ought to have a fast rail network to link our cities with the continent. This will also require that we fix our parastatals such as Eskom, whilst also facilitating for wall-to-wall energy and ICT infrastructure. We must also build and maintain our water and sanitation. We can direct where investment should go, whilst at the same time providing jobs and skills for our people.

    (2) It is inconceivable that, in the near future, humans will be able to live without food. Thus, agriculture will remain cardinal in our economy, we must just ensure that we fully explore that value chain up to Agro-processing and beyond the logistics that support it. This will require that we grow our own food, meat and capture the entire value chain of agriculture. We will need to employ innovation through vertical agriculture.

    (3) Closely related to this is the Blue Oceans Economy, which strategically favours South Africa, with two oceans and vast experience. We must develop all the relevant skills, which include oceanographers, marine biologists and all the areas of the maritime economy, which spreads from logistics to humanities, including floating and coastal tourism.

    (4) South Africa is favoured by some of the most diverse flora and fauna, which can work to our advantage, so long as we invest in the labour intensive tourism sector.

    (5) South Africa has the most developed manufacturing sector on the continent, which sector can facilitate for the development of the four sectors we have highlighted above.

    (6) All of these will require financing, thus, the importance of transforming our financial sector. There is no reason why, in localising economic development, we cannot think of cooperative banks and well as municipal banks. The type of budgets and complexity of programmes, run by major cities like Johannesburg and eThekwini, justify for such a bank.

    (7) In accelerating our development, we will also need sustainable energy generation, as well as the employ of creativity and innovation. Thus, the broad creative sector is an important and supportive growth point.

    To successfully deliver on this path, we will require a capacitated public service and a patriotic private sector. We will also require that we locate the appropriate skills throughout the bureaucracy and in the localities we intend developing. Thus, the backbone of our model is the skills revolution, as we will require appropriately motivated and orientated professionals in the various fields of need, including engineers, oceanographers, cultural workers, film producers and so on.

    Comrades, thus we support the call for a decolonised and accessible education. First, because we believe education to be a right and not a privilege. However, you must remember that with every right comes a responsibility. Thus, as we extend that right, you must remember your obligations to the service of humanity and country. Thus our education system must transform and align to the aspiration of the “Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened” in the Freedom Charter.

    This clause anticipated four interrelated fundamentals, amongst others, that:

    1. “The government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life;

    2. The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace;

    3. Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; and

    4. Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit.”

    Therefore, we should, in fact, not be having any debate on free education and its decolonisation, but rather on what the progressive steps towards it will be, given our limited resources. After all, it was Chris Hani who attested to the fact that education was the single most important thing that conscientised him and opened the world to him the “world of knowing how to write the alphabet, how to count…”

    Indeed, the world over is in abundance of research that proves education as the most important equaliser by which we can break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, inequality and want.

    Comrades, this generation sits at the crossroads in the life of our once glorious movement. You sit on the foothill of what could be an era when our country reaches its full potential. This phase of our revolution is perhaps most testing, as the enemy is now unseen and operates amongst us, persuading some to abandon the revolutionary spirit of the congress movement. However, as you enter into battle, remember what comrade Che said: “The revolution is made by man [or woman], but man [or woman] must forge his [or her] revolutionary spirit from day to day”. Above all, remain brave, for comrade Chris was one of the bravest amongst all of us.

    For those in the Young Communist League, remember Engels’ letter to Adophe Sorge, the day after Marx’s death, wherein he says: “The Struggle of the proletariat continues. That victory is certain. Well, we must see it through. What else are we here for? And we have not lost courage yet.” Comrade Chris was courageous, this next phase of our revolution requires brave and courageous women and men.

    Amandla!

    Aluta Continua!

  • East Africa thriving in the world’s arts scene

    For many years, the cultural spotlight in Africa has seemed to be stubbornly focused on the west or south of the continent rather than East Africa. And yet from Sudan and Ethiopia to Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania, this large, ancient and multifaceted region is brimming with unique histories, peoples and stories.

  • Eid al-Fitr celebrate virtually

    With no morning prayers at the mosque, no chance of meeting family and friends to celebrate Islam's most important festival, it was never going to be the same this year as people around the world have been celebrating Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam's two major holidays.

    Traditionally the festival at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan is marked with communal prayers in mosques, visits to friends and family.

    But this year the Muslim Council of Britain encouraged people to celebrate the "festival of the breaking of the fast" begins when the moon rises on the final day of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting virtually due to social-distancing measures brought in during the coronavirus pandemic.

    The special Eid al-Fitr prayers are typically among the best attended of the year, and people also mark the occasion by holding parties.

    The timing varies from country to country, with some following the moonrise in Mecca and others using local sightings.

    After a sighting of the first crescent of the new moon, a three-day festival is held in celebration.

     

  • Emilia Rimini to welcome new museum to honour world-renowned director, Federico Fellini

    The seaside city of Rimini, in the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna, is welcoming a brand new museum dedicated to Federico Fellini next month, allowing an aftermath of last year’s centennial of the acclaimed Italian film director and screenwriter.

    The Federico Fellini International Museum is scheduled to open on 19th August, becoming the world’s largest museum devoted to the life and work of Fellini and his poetic heritage. It will feature drawings, costumes, exhibitions, film showings, scenographic elements and multimedia presentations that will allow visitors to immerse themselves in the world of Fellini, regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century.

  • Empowering women and girls crucial to ensure sustainable food security post-COVID, say UN food agency ahead of International Women’s Day

    Hunger and famine will persist and there will be unequal recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic unless more women in rural and urban areas hold leadership positions with increased decision-making power, say the heads of the three United Nations’ food agencies ahead of their joint International Women’s Day event tomorrow (March 8).

    The event, co-organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), will focus global attention on the vital role that empowered female farmers, entrepreneurs and leaders need to play so that women can contribute on equal terms to the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and in creating an environment to eliminate poverty, enhance productivity, and improve food security and nutrition.

    FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said: “The world is home to more than 1.1 billion girls under the age of 18, who have the potential of becoming the largest generation of female leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers ever seen for the better future. Yet, women and girls continue to face persistent structural constraints that prevent them from fully developing their potential and hinder their efforts of improving their lives as well as their households and communities.

    “Women and girls can play a crucial role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in particular in transforming our agri-food systems. We all need to work together to spark the necessary changes to empower women and girls, particularly those in rural areas

    Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD, said:  “It is essential that women are not only in more leadership positions, but that they are consulted and listened to, and integrated in all spheres and stages of pandemic response and recovery.

    “Investing in rural women’s leadership and involving them more in creating our post-COVID future is critical to ensure their perspectives and needs are adequately considered, so that we can build back better food systems where there is equal access to nutritious food and decent livelihoods.”

    “Women and girls make up half of our global community and it’s time this was reflected in leadership positions at every level,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of WFP. “We know from our work around the world that when women and girls have better access to information, resources and economic opportunities, and are free to make their own decisions, hunger rates fall and nutrition improves not only for themselves but also their families, communities and countries.”

    Women’s leadership is particularly important in rural areas of developing countries, where the voices of the 1.7 billion women and girls who live there are often overlooked. Sixty percent of women in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa work in agriculture – yet they have less access to resources and services than men, including land, finance, training, inputs and equipment. In addition to their agricultural work, women are overburdened with domestic chores and caring for their families – roles that have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    At the same time, women are more negatively affected by the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including losing livelihoods and experiencing decreases in their personal incomes. Ensuring that women have a greater voice is not only a matter of gender equality. Women leaders can advocate for women to have better access to and control over assets and productive inputs, thus boosting their productivity and incomes, leading to food security and increasing their employment opportunities and real wages.

    Research shows that if women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields by 20 to 30 percent and total agricultural output by 2.5 to 4 percent, lifting 100 to 150 million people out of hunger.

  • End Sars protests changing Nigeria

     

     

     

    The anti-police brutality protests in Nigeria created a powerful movement that appeared to shake those in power. A potent mix of street protests and social media has given young Nigerians a voice that has shattered the country's culture of deference. As the #EndSARS hashtag went viral, so did a defiance of the elite in Nigeria.

     

    The trashing of the palace of the highly respected oba, or traditional ruler, of Lagos was symbolic of this mood. The youths dragged his throne around, looted his possessions and swam in his pool.

     

    What began as a protest against the hated police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars) has become a conduit for the youth to vent their anger with the people who have been in charge of Nigeria for decades, and demand change. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo warned in 2017 that "we are all sitting on a keg of gunpowder" when it comes to the young.

     

    His comments were about the continent in general but they apply to Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with 200 million people, more than 60% of whom are under the age of 24.

     

    The majority of those of working age do not have formal employment and there are few opportunities to get a good education. Earlier this year, government statistics showed that 40% of Nigerians lived in poverty. But those currently in power at first misunderstood what was going on this time, activist and writer Gimba Kakanda said.

     

    "The #EndSARS protests were initially perceived as another of the youths' episodic mischief-making that would fizzle out if left unaddressed," he said. "This mind-set of the political class, almost overly condescending, was the reason for its slow response to this unprecedented movement and left them all on the edge."

     

    The question is where does that movement go now?

    The success of the protest in forcing concessions from the government - such as a promise to disband Sars, and wider police reform - has given Nigerian youths confidence and they believe that they can make a difference.

     

    A few days into the protests, activists were able to establish a helpline that could respond to emergencies. They also provided legal services to those in need and even set up a radio station. These were financed through crowdfunding and were cited as examples of how Nigeria could be better if it were not for the politicians who often seem more interested in what they can personally gain, rather than how they can improve the country. But there has also been an ugly side.

     

    While those who backed and came out in support of the #EndSARS movement were peaceful, another segment of the youth saw the protests as an opportunity. They vandalised shops, raided warehouses and targeted the businesses of prominent politicians. Although the approach of these two groups is different, they do share one thing in common: a disdain for those in charge.

     

    It is unlikely though that they can find common cause. Any move in that direction may affect the spread of the movement across the country because some will find it hard to sit at the same table as people with "questionable character".

     

    There is, nevertheless, an awareness on the part of the authorities that poverty and hardship are national security threats, activist Mr Kakanda said.

     

    "The government has realised that it can no longer take such outrage for granted as it has done before," he added. But it continued to make missteps in trying to quell the mood.

    President Muhammadu Buhari's address to the nation "missed the point by a wide margin", according to blogger and columnist Japheth Omojuwa.

     

    Buhari called for an end to the protests and the beginning of a dialogue, but "he will be remembered for threatening Nigerians just because they asked their government to commit to justice". Nevertheless, Mr Omojuwa believes that the #EndSARS movement can achieve something. It should not focus on long-term ambitions of gaining political power, he argues, but rather should make sure that the authorities stick to their promise of reform and bringing errant policemen to justice.

     

    It is these small steps that may eventually bring wider change.

     

  • Ethiopia Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed, wins Nobel Peace Prize

    The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed who last year made peace with their bitter enemy, Eritrea.

    Named as the winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Dr Abiy was rewarded for his efforts to "achieve peace and international cooperation" in a deal which ended a 20-year military stalemate following their border war between 1998 and 2000.

    With a total of 301 candidates being nominated for the prestigious award, including 223 individuals and 78 organisations, there was great speculation over who would win the prize, with climate activist Greta Thunberg widely tipped as the favourite.

    Abiy Ahmed became prime minister of the east African country in April 2018, when he almost immediately introduced massive liberalising reforms as he shook up what was a tightly controlled nation.

    He freed thousands of opposition activists from jail and allowed exiled dissidents to return home. Most importantly, he signed the peace deal with Eritrea.

    But his reforms also lifted the lid on Ethiopia's ethnic tensions, and the resulting violence forced some 2.5 million people from their homes.

    The Norwegian Nobel Committee said. That Dr Abiy was honoured for his "decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea".

    Continuing, they said: "The prize is also meant to recognise all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions".

    He will receive the award in the Norwegian capital in December.

  • Ethiopians mourn Africa’s Mother Teressa, Abebech Gobena

    Ethiopians are mourning a humanitarian icon fondly known as "Africa’s Mother Teressa", Abebech Gobena.

    She founded one of the first orphanages in Ethiopia. Abebech, 85, was being treated for Covid-19 at a hospital in the capital Addis Ababa since the beginning of June.

  • EU starts mass vaccination in 'touching moment of unity'

    The EU has begun a co-ordinated vaccine rollout to fight Covid-19, in what the bloc's top official says is a "touching moment of unity". European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been delivered to all 27 member states.

    Some countries started administering the jabs on Saturday, saying they were not prepared to wait another day. The EU has so far reported more than 335,000 Covid-related deaths.

    More than 14 million people have been infected, and strict lockdown measures are currently in place in nearly all the member states.

    The vaccine rollout comes as cases of the more contagious variant of Covid-19 are confirmed in several European nations as well as Canada and Japan. Mass vaccination across the EU - a bloc of 446 million people - began early on Sunday.

    This comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Commission authorised the German-US Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The EU has secured contracts for more than two billion vaccine doses from a range of drug companies.

    "Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The #COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries. Vaccination will begin across the EU," Ms von der Leyen tweeted. "The #EUvaccinationdays are a touching moment of unity. Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic," she added.

    German Health Minister Jens Spahn said: "This really is a happy Christmas message. At this moment, lorries with the first vaccines are on the road all over Europe, all over Germany, in all federal states.

    "This vaccine is the crucial key for defeating the pandemic. It's the key for us getting back our lives." Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio urged his compatriots to get the jabs. "We'll get our freedom back, we'll be able to embrace again," he said.

    Health workers in north-east Germany decided not to wait and started immunising elderly residents of a nursing home in Halberstadt. In Hungary, the first recipient of the vaccine was a doctor at Del-Pest Central Hospital, the state news agency says.

    The authorities in Slovakia also said they had begun vaccinating.

  • Europe halts flights to UK to stave off new Covid strain

    An increasing number of European Union nations barred travel from the U.K. on Sunday and others were considering similar action, such as Spain, in a bid to block a new strain of coronavirus sweeping across southern England from spreading to the continent. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and Bulgaria all announced restrictions on U.K. travel, hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Christmas shopping and gatherings in southern England must be cancelled because of rapidly spreading infections blamed on the new coronavirus variant.

    France banned all travel from the U.K. for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday, including trucks carrying freight through the tunnel under the English Channel or from the port of Dover on England’s south coast. French officials said the pause would buy time to find a “common doctrine” on how to deal with the threat, but it threw the busy cross-channel route used by thousands of trucks a day into chaos.

    The Port of Dover tweeted Sunday night that its ferry terminal was “closed to all accompanied traffic leaving the UK until further notice due to border restrictions in France.”

    Eurostar passenger trains from London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam were also halted.

    Germany said all flights coming from Britain, except cargo flights, were no longer allowed to land starting midnight Sunday. It didn’t immediately say how long the flight ban would last.

    Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said he was issuing a flight ban for 24 hours starting at midnight “out of precaution.” “There are a great many questions about this new mutation,” he said, adding he hoped to have more clarity by Tuesday.

    Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, called a special crisis meeting on Monday to coordinate the response to the virus news among the bloc’s 27 member states.

    The Netherlands banned flights from the U.K. for at least the rest of the year. Ireland issued a 48-hour flight ban. Italy said it would block flights from the U.K. until Jan.6, and an order signed Sunday prohibits entry into Italy by anyone who has been in the U.K. in the last 14 days. The Czech Republic imposed stricter quarantine measures from people arriving from Britain.

    Beyond Europe, Israel also said it was banning flights from Britain, Denmark and South Africa because those were the countries where the mutation is found. The World Health Organization tweeted late Saturday that it was “in close contact with U.K. officials on the new #COVID19 virus variant” and promised to update governments and the public as more is learned.

    The new strain was identified in southeastern England in September and has been spreading in the area ever since, a WHO official said. “What we understand is that it does have increased transmissibility, in terms of its ability to spread,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19.

    Studies are underway to better understand how fast it spreads and and whether “it’s related to the variant itself, or a combination of factors with behavior,” she added.

    She said the strain had also been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia, where there was one case that didn’t spread further.

    Viruses mutate regularly, and scientists have found thousands of different mutations among samples of the virus causing COVID-19. Many of these changes have no effect on how easily the virus spreads or how severe symptoms are.

    British health authorities said that while the variant has been circulating since September, it wasn’t until the last week that officials felt they had enough evidence to declare that it has higher transmissibility than other circulating coronaviruses.