Coronavirus provides unexpected boost for Kenyan fishermen

The beach registers a catch of between 1 and 1.5 tons of fish each day and sales have gone up from 50% of the catch to 90% in the last two weeks. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2020

Coronavirus provides unexpected boost for Kenyan fishermen

  • Kenya bought $23.2 million worth of frozen fish from China in 2018
  • Prices of local fish have gone up

KISUMU: The coronavirus pandemic has handed Kenyan fishermen an unexpected boon — a rush of customers who now shun imported Chinese frozen fillets in favor of freshly caught fish from Lake Victoria.
Kenya bought $23.2 million worth of frozen fish from China in 2018, according to the International Trade Center, almost all of its fish imports. Fishermen have long complained that the cheap imports were strangling local trade.
The coronavirus has slowed Chinese imports. Nervous customers have turned to local fish. But Kenya will soon face shortages unless imports from China resume; it produces just over a third of what it consumes.
Kenyan fishermen like 38-year-old Maurice Misodhi, whose skin has been weathered by the sun and wind during two decades on the water, have had a bumper month. Based at Dunga Beach in Kisumu, customers want every fish he catches.
Misodhi says the Chinese lockdown seemed to have dried up imports of cheaper Chinese fish.
“As fishermen we can now smile, not because people are suffering from coronavirus, but because we can now sell our fish, and at a good price,” he said.
The price of a kilo of Nile perch — 250 shillings ($2.50) a month ago — has shot up to 350 shillings.
Fish trader Mary Didi usually buys from Chinese suppliers but has now turned to Misodhi.
“The supply at the Chinese importers has gone down, and many of my customers were also scared of the Chinese fish, thinking they would contract the virus,” she said. “To keep the business running, I had to turn to fish from the lake.”
Bob Otieno, chairman of Dunga Beach Management Unit, says sales have shot up. The beach registers a catch of between 1 and 1.5 tons of fish each day and sales have gone up from 50% of the catch to 90% in the last two weeks. Previously, fishermen would eat, barter or give away around half their catch.
“We used to have many fishermen sell their catch at low prices because of competition from the Chinese fish,” he said.
Kenya produces 180,000 tons per year but consumes about 500,000 tons, according to 2019 government figures.
Christine Adhiambo, the government’s assistant director of fisheries for the lake region, said the two biggest importers of Chinese fish had not shipped from China since November and were running down stocks. Kenya could face shortages soon, she said.
“Kenya cannot satisfy its local fish demand,” she said. “That is why we heavily rely on supplements from China.”

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US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

Updated 31 October 2020

US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

  • On Friday the US set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours
  • More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began

WASHINGTON: The United States passed nine million reported coronavirus cases on Friday and broke its own record for daily new infections for the second day in a row, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, as Covid-19 surges days before the country chooses its next president.
The US, which has seen a resurgence of its outbreak since mid-October, has now notched up 9,034,295 cases, according to a real-time count by the Baltimore-based school.
On Friday the country set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours, breaking the record of 91,000 it had set just one day earlier.
With the virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South, hospitals are also filling up again, stretching the health care system just as the nation heads in to flu season.
"We are not ready for this wave," Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University school of public health, warned on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday.

COVID-19 tally by the John Hopkins University of Medicine as of October 30, 2020.

Authorities in El Paso, Texas, imposed a curfew this week to protect "overwhelmed" health care workers and began setting up field hospitals.
But a judge's attempt to shut down non-essential businesses in the city has been challenged by the mayor and the state's attorney general, the Washington Post reported.
Midwestern state Wisconsin has also set up a field hospital in recent weeks, and hospital workers in Missouri were sounding warning bells as cases rise.
Hospitals in the western state of Utah were preparing to ration care by as early as next week as patients flood their ICUs, according to local media.
The pattern of the pandemic so far shows that hospitalizations usually begin to rise several weeks after infections, and deaths a few weeks after that.
More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began, the Hopkins tally showed as of Friday, with the daily number of deaths creeping steadily upwards in recent weeks also -- though at present it remains below peak levels.
For months public health officials have been warning of a surge in cases as cooler fall weather settles over the US, driving more people indoors.
As the weather changes, New York and other parts of the northeast, which were the epicenter of the US outbreak in the spring but largely controlled the virus over the summer, were reporting a worrying rise.
Some epidemiologists believe that Covid-19 spreads more easily in drier, cool air.
Rural areas, which in the spring appeared to be getting off lightly compared to crowded cities, were also facing spikes with states like North Dakota charting one of the steepest rises in recent weeks.
The state is so overwhelmed that earlier this month it told residents they have to do their own contact tracing, local media reported.
With four days to go until the election, Donald Trump was battling to hold on to the White House against challenger Joe Biden, who has slammed the president's virus response.
"It is as severe an indictment of a president's record as one can possibly imagine, and it is utterly disqualifying," Biden said Friday as the toll passed nine million.
Trump downplays the virus even as the toll has been accelerating once more, holding a slew of rallies with little social distancing or mask use.
He has repeatedly told supporters that the country is "rounding the curve" on Covid infections.
But Americans, wary of crowded polling booths on Election Day as the virus spreads, are voting early in record numbers.