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2nd Ebola patient dies in Uganda

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The 50-year-old woman who died on Wednesday night was the grandmother of a 5-year-old boy who became the country’s first victim of the highly infectious virus after returning from a trip to Congo, where over 1,000 people had died in the latest outbreak.

A 3-year-old child was also confirmed to have the disease and is still hospitalised.

Seven other people suspected of having Ebola are also in an isolation ward near the border with north-east Congo.

“She passed on yesterday at Bwera health centre but the baby, her grandson, is still alive,’’ health ministry spokesman Emmanuel Ainebyoona told dpa.

The government has stepped up health control measures among communities along the Congo border.

These include urging people to wash their hands with soap, avoid shaking hands or hugging and report people with Ebola-like symptoms.

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South Africa to ease lockdown despite surge in COVID-19 cases

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South Africa will ease the COVID-19 lockdown from level four to level three, beginning from June 1, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Sunday amid a surge in confirmed cases.

“Moving to alert level three marks a significant shift in our approach to the pandemic,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.

Level three will allow the opening of the economy and the removal of a number of restrictions on the movement of people, while significantly expanding and intensifying the public health interventions, said Ramaphosa.

With up to 8 million people returning to work, the implementation of alert level three will involve the return to operation for most sectors of the economy, subject to observance of strict health protocols and social distancing rules, he said.

The opening of the economy and other activities means that more public servants will be called back to work, accompanied by the phased re-opening of schools, Ramaphosa said.

All gatherings will remain prohibited, except for funerals with no more than 50 people or meetings in the workplace for work purposes.

The national borders will remain closed except for the transport of goods and repatriation of nationals.

Ramaphosa said the decision was based on wide consultations with various stakeholders across the country and guided by advice from the World Health Organization and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The stakeholders “are all united in their insistence that our central goal must be to save lives and protect livelihoods,” Ramaphosa said.

South Africa enforced a level-five lockdown on March 27 and eased it to level four on May 1, allowing certain businesses to reopen and limited movement of people.

“While the nationwide lockdown has been effective, it cannot be sustained indefinitely,” he said.

Even as the country moves to alert level three, it is important that South Africans should be aware that there are a few parts of the country where the disease is concentrated and infections continue to rise, the president said.

He emphasized that the easing of some restrictions does not mean that the threat posed by the coronavirus has passed or that the fight against the disease is over.

In fact, the risk of a massive increase in infections is now greater than it has been since the start of the outbreak in the country, warned the president.

As of Sunday, South Africa has recorded 22,583 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up by 1,240 from Saturday, the highest daily surge since March 5 when the country reported its first case.

The national death toll stood at 429, with 22 reported in the past 24 hours.

(XINHUA)

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South Africa wants COVID-19 vaccine to be shared by all: president

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Any COVID-19 vaccine, if developed in the world, should be made freely and equitably available to citizens of all countries, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

There is a massive global effort to develop a vaccine, of which South Africa is part, Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.

The South African government is supporting and funding several research projects, including a plan to locally manufacture coronavirus vaccines as soon as candidates are available, said Ramaphosa.

South Africa will use the skills, expertise, infrastructure and organizations within the vaccine industry to produce and distribute the vaccines, he said.

As of Sunday, the country recorded a total of 22,583 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up 1,240 from Saturday, the highest daily surge since March 5 when the country reported its first case.

The country’s death toll stood at 429, with 22 reported in the past 24 hours.

As scientists had predicted, COVID-19 infections in South Africa have now started to rise sharply, with one third of the cumulative confirmed cases recorded in the last week alone, said Ramaphosa.

“And we should expect that these numbers will rise even further and even faster,” he said.

Various scientific models have showed that the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa is going to get much worse and the duration, scale and impact of the pandemic depends on human actions as a society and as individuals, Ramaphosa said.

“By following basic defensive practices, we can reduce both the number of infections and the number of deaths,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Over 700 staff members of Fiji Airways terminated due to implication of COVID-19

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More than 700 staff members of Fiji Airways, Fiji’s national carrier, were terminated on Monday as a result of the implication of COVID-19.

According to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) on Monday, around 775 staff members of Fiji Airways which include all cabin crew have been given termination letters by the company following a meeting on Monday.

In the letter, Fiji Airways said the severe effects of COVID-19 have resulted in the company taking this drastic step.

The letter stated that in future all terminated staff will need to reapply when the situation normalizes.

In May, Fiji Airways had extended all its international flight suspensions to the end of June due to the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a statement by Fiji Airways earlier this month, the national carrier also expects to reduce its scheduled services in July as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to decimate travel demand.

(XINHUA)

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5.0-magnitude quake hits 205km NNE of Ile Hunter, New Caledonia — USGS

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An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 jolted 205 km NNE of Ile Hunter, New Caledonia at 00:06:26 GMT on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 10.0 km, was initially determined to be at 20.5931 degrees south latitude and 172.5224 degrees east longitude.

(XINHUA)

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U.S. COVID-19 death toll nears 100,000, New York Times calls it “incalculable loss”

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The front page of Sunday’s New York Times features the names of 1,000 people who have died of COVID-19 in the United States. Calling it “an incalculable loss,” the newspaper clarified that “the 1,000 people here reflect just 1 percent of toll.”

“They were not simply names on a list. They were us,” the paper said. “Numbers alone cannot possibly measure the impact of the coronavirus in America, whether it is the number of patients treated, jobs interrupted or lives cut short.”

“Toward the end of May in the year 2020, the number of people in the United States who have died from the coronavirus neared 100,000 — almost all of them within a three-month span. An average of more than 1,100 deaths a day,” said the cover story sub-titled “The Human Toll,” which was printed on four full pages including the cover.

“Why has this happened in the United States of 2020? Why has the virus claimed disproportionately large number of black and Latino victims? Why were nursing homes so devastated? These questions of why and how and whom will be asked for decades to come,” said the report.

“For now, all we can do is hold our collective breath, inch toward some approximation of how things were — and try to process a loss of life greater than what the country incurred in several decades of war, from Vietnam to Iraq,” it added.

Over 96,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States, the largest toll among all the countries in the world, according to the Center of Systems Science and Engineering of Johns Hopkins University as of Sunday morning.

(XINHUA)

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People perform Eid al-Fitr prayer at home in Uganda

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A family perform Eid al-Fitr prayer at home in Wakiso district, Uganda, May 24, 2020. All places of worship including mosques in Uganda were temporarily closed to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Hajarah Nalwadda/Xinhua)

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People enjoy sunset by Adriatic Sea in Zadar

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People enjoy the view of sunset by the Adriatic Sea in Zadar, Croatia, May 24, 2020. (Dino Stanin/Pixsell via Xinhua)

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Eid al-Fitr marked in Tehran, Iran

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Aftermath of cyclone Amphan landfall in Kolkata, India

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Aftermath of Cyclone Amphan in Kolkata, India

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An Indian soldier chops a tree branch fallen on a road following the landfall of cyclone Amphan in Kolkata, India, on May 24, 2020. (Str/Xinhua)

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Algeria tightens restriction measures to contain COVID-19 spread during holiday

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Ecuador’s COVID-19 death toll hits 3,108, infections reach 36,756

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Ecuador on Sunday said it has 36,756 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and a death toll of 3,108 since the start of the outbreak in the South American country.

In the past 24 hours, healthcare workers reported 498 new cases of infection and 12 more deaths from the disease.

Ecuador’s actual death toll may be higher as 1,929 deaths are considered “likely” to have been caused by the virus, but have not been verified, the Public Health Ministry said.

The southwest province of Guayas continues to be the epicenter of the national outbreak, with a total of 13,787 people testing positive, 217 more than on Saturday, and 1,362 deaths.

The province’s capital, Guayaquil, is the country’s second most populated city and the country’s worst hit urban center, with 9,606 cases of infection.

All of Ecuador’s 24 provinces have seen an outbreak, though to different degrees, including Galapagos, home to the world-famous Galapagos Islands. In recent days, parts of the country have begun to cautiously emerge from a March 17 lockdown to resume some economic activity.

(XINHUA)

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News Analysis: Israeli PM strives to use new gov’t as protection in court trial

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With newly appointed ministers behind him, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his trial opened on Sunday is “an effort to bring him down” and his right-wing political camp.

Netanyahu came to the court escorted by his supporters from the government, part of them in charge of the enforcement agencies and appointment committee of court judges.

Facing a “battle for life”, Netanyahu is striving to use its government power as the most effective weapon.

He has endeavored from the beginning of his investigations to depict himself as “a victim of a witch hunt” led by the left-wing side.

The corruption trials of Netanyahu in three different cases involve serious charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust.

But no one could imagine anyone else able to form an alternative government in the near future, even Benny Gantz.

And not many believe that Netanyahu would hand over the post of prime minister to Gantz in 2021.

Benny Gantz, an alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister, signed a rotation agreement with Netanyahu, which enabled the latter to establish the government, in the act of uniting the Israeli society during the COVID-19 crisis.

Yossi Shain, head of the school of political science at Tel Aviv University, said in an interview with Xinhua that Gantz is trying not to break the government right now.

“He doesn’t see any value of destroying the government by condemning Netanyahu,” which will immediately bring the government down, said Shain.

Gantz, a former chief of staff of the Israeli military, entered the politics a year ago claiming to overthrow “corrupted” Netanyahu. But after three elections, they joined hands.

Gayil Talshir, an expert on Israeli democracy at the department of politics in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said Gantz has prevented Netanyahu from using the government to terminate his trial completely.

If Netanyahu had been able to form his dream government without Gantz which just consisted of right-wing parties, they could pass laws that undermine the trial at least as long as Netanyahu is the acting PM.

“I think that we will hear many statements of Netanyahu’s party members against the trial, the judges, and the police,” Talshir said in an interview with Xinhua.

Netanyahu just minutes before his trial started said at his speech to the media that the former head of the Israeli police, which he appointed, committed criminal offenses as leaking information from PM investigations.

Netanyahu accused the official of wrongdoings, as well another high-ranking police officer. “These are the people who led the investigations against me,” he said. “I am sure they did this deliberately and willingly.”

Talshir thinks that the new appointee by Netanyahu for the minister of public security who is now in charge of the police would make sure no new investigations against the prime minister would happen.

Analysts said some ministers appointed by the new government may not be the best fit for their public positions, but perfect for helping Netanyahu in the trial.

Netanyahu, 70-year-old and the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Israel, was elected firstly in 1996, served until 1999, and has been in power continuously since 2009.

Meanwhile, he has been indicted in three cases, including receiving gifts from billionaires in exchange for visa extension and tax reduction laws, helping a prominent publisher close its competitor in exchange for less negative coverage, and promoting regulatory decisions in favor of a telecom giant in exchange for positive coverage.

(XINHUA)

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Chile confirms 69,102 cases of COVID-19, 718 deaths

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Chile on Sunday said a total of 69,102 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the death toll has reached 718.

The Health Ministry’s latest report showed 3,709 new cases of infection were detected in the previous 24 hours, with the vast majority — 3,343 — displaying symptoms.

In the past 24-hour period, 45 more patients died of the disease.

Chile has been working to strengthen its healthcare infrastructure to deal with the increase in admissions due to the outbreak.

On Sunday, President Sebastian Pinera, accompanied by Health Minister Jaime Manalich and Deputy Health Minister Arturo Zuniga, toured a new field hospital erected alongside Sotero del Rio Hospital in the capital Santiago and metropolitan area.

The field hospital is the first of five temporary facilities to be erected by the government to alleviate the burden on standard hospitals. The temporary units are designed to attend to non-COVID-19 patients who would otherwise be occupying needed hospital beds.

Some 13.7 million U.S. dollars was invested in the first facility, which provides an additional 100 beds in a 1,500-square-meter area covered in tents, and will be fully operational by June.

“The great advantage of installing field hospitals in the metropolitan area, where we have the most need and demand for critical-care beds, is that it avoids having to displace patients and allows us to care for them as close to their homes and their families as possible,” Pinera said.

According to Zuniga, the nation’s hospital beds are currently at 85 percent capacity.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Egyptians stay indoors on fast-breaking day under anti-coronavirus measures

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Egypt celebrated on Sunday the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which comes after the holy fasting month of Ramadan, amid tight anti-COVID-19 restrictions.

Unlike previous years, streets, public parks and beaches that used to be overcrowded with people were almost empty as the security beefed up presence to impose a lockdown, social distancing measures as well as a 13-hour curfew that starts in the afternoon.

During the feast, Egyptians used to flock to public parks, zoos and other outdoor places to mark the festival. However, the spread of the novel coronavirus has kept millions of them indoors to avoid infection.

The most populous Arab country has so far confirmed 17,265 COVID-19 cases, including 764 deaths and 4,807 recoveries.

The Egyptian government decided to impose a stricter package of anti-COVID-19 measures during the six-day holiday to combat the spread of the virus.

In the holiday, the curfew in Egypt lasts for 13 hours instead of nine to maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings amid the increasing COVID-19 infections.

After the Islamic holiday, the curfew will be reduced to 10 hours for two weeks and then, the government will consider from mid-June easing restrictions and gradually resuming several suspended activities.

Egypt has already started easing restrictions and gradually reopening services and offices that have been halted since mid-March amid the government’s “coexistence plan” to maintain anti-coronavirus precautionary measures while resuming services, businesses and economic activities.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Interior Ministry announced that its security plans included intensifying security presence in all axes, roads, streets, squares and vital areas.

The plan also included following up on the implementation of the precautionary measures to preserve citizens’ well-being within the comprehensive plan to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which includes the closure of beaches, public parks, shops, malls, restaurants, and areas providing entertainment services.

The interior ministry announced on Sunday that 5,532 inmates were pardoned and released on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. The move came in accordance with a recent presidential decree, the ministry said in a statement.

It has been a custom for Egyptian presidents to pardon prisoners, mainly those who have spent more than half of their terms as well as patients and the elderly people, on national and significant religious occasions.

(XINHUA)

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U.S. imposes travel restrictions on Brazil due to COVID-19

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The White House announced Sunday that the United States has imposed travel restriction on Brazil, which has become the nation with the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases.

“Today, the President has taken decisive action to protect our country by suspending the entry of aliens who have been in Brazil during the 14-day period before seeking admittance to the United States,” the White House said in a statement.

The statement said the action would “help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,” noting that this measure would not apply to the flow of commerce between the two countries.

(XINHUA)

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Ghana close to easing COVID-19 restrictions: president

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Ghana is close to announcing a roadmap toward easing of COVID-19 restrictions, Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said Sunday.

Akufo-Addo said consultations are ongoing with relevant stakeholders on the form and timing of easing the restrictions.

Ghana banned social gatherings on March 15, following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country. The country also shut its entry points on March 22.

The president said the proposed easing of restrictions intends to restore “social and economic lives.”

“I expect these consultations to conclude this week so that I can announce to Ghanaians a clear roadmap for easing the restrictions. We have to find a way back, but in safety, for we cannot be under these restrictions forever,” he said.

Ghana’s number of COVID-19 cases increased to 6,683 as of Sunday, with the number of recoveries increasing to 1,998 and the death toll reaching 32.

(XINHUA)

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Tunisian PM vows to exit COVID-19 outbreak with slightest damage

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Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said on Sunday that his country is preparing to exit the stage of COVID-19 outbreak with the slightest damage.

The official TAP news agency quoted the prime minister as saying that “Tunisia, which has succeeded in controlling COVID-19, is about to exit from the outbreak stage with the slightest damage after registering more than 1,000 cases and most them have recovered.”

He also stressed the continuation of the national effort to fight against COVID-19 during the summer period.

The prime minister announced that the resumption of tourism activities will take place after July, which will contribute to reviving the national economy.

As of May 24, Tunisia reported a total of 1,048 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 48 deaths.

The government has imposed strict confinement measures shortly after the announcement of the first coronavirus case in the country on March 2.

The North African country has received several batches of medical aid from the Chinese government, Chinese foundations and companies since late March.

(XINHUA)

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Turkey, Iran presidents discuss cooperation against COVID-19 pandemic

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed cooperation possibilities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic on the phone, local media reported on Sunday.

Both leaders reviewed the possible steps that would be taken in the postpandemic era, the state-run Anadolu agency said.

Erdogan and Rouhani also discussed regional issues and bilateral relations, the agency added.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Turkey’s COVID-19 cases surpass 156,000; Chinese experts in Algeria hold video conference on virus prevention

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Turkey’s COVID-19 cases on Sunday exceeded 156,000. Meanwhile, Chinese medical experts in Algeria shared with Chinese people in Tunisia the experience in the prevention of the coronavirus via a video conference.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, increased to 156,827 after 1,141 new infections were reported, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

The death toll from the coronavirus in the country rose to 4,340 after 32 new fatalities were added in the past 24 hours, he said, adding that 1,092 more patients recovered, bringing the overall number of recoveries to 118,694.

On the same day, Chinese medical experts in Algeria answered questions related to COVID-19 during a video conference which was participated by workers from Chinese companies and Chinese people living in Tunisia.

At the invitation of the Algerian government, the Chinese medical expert team arrived in Algeria on May 14.

In Iran, the tally of COVID-19 infections reached 135,701 with 2,180 new infections.

The country also reported 58 new deaths from the virus on Sunday, raising the death toll to 7,417. A total of 105,801 coronavirus patients have recovered, with 2,615 still in critical condition.

Saudi Arabia announced 2,399 new cases and 11 more deaths, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 72,560 and the death toll to 390.

The kingdom also reported 2,284 more recovered patients, taking the total recoveries to 43,520.

In Qatar, 1,501 new cases of coronavirus infections were detected, bringing the total number to 43,714, of whom 23 have died and 9,170 recovered.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 781 new COVID-19 cases and one more death, raising the tally of infections to 29,485 and the death toll to 245.

The total number of recoveries from the virus in the UAE rose to 15,056 after 561 more patients fully recovered.

Kuwait reported 838 new cases and eight more deaths, raising the country’s total number of infections to 21,302 and the death toll to 156.

The country’s tally of recoveries hit 6,117 after 370 more patients recovered.

Egypt’s coronavirus cases soared to 17,265 after 752 new infections were added.

The country witnessed a record of 29 daily new fatalities of COVID-19, raising the death toll to 764. The Egyptian Health Ministry also reported 179 more cases of recoveries, increasing the total recoveries to 4,807.

The North African country has received three batches of medical aid from the Chinese government to help its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Israel reported five new COVID-19 cases, the lowest single-day rise in the country since March 7, bringing the tally of coronavirus infections to 16,717.

The number of recoveries in the country increased by 63 to 14,153.

It is worth noting that the death toll from COVID-19 in Israel remained 297 as no new death case has been recorded for four consecutive days.

Oman’s Ministry of Health announced 513 new cases of infections, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 7,770, including 36 deaths and 1,933 recoveries.

In Morocco, the tally of the coronavirus infections increased to 7,433 after 27 new cases were added, which included 199 fatalities and 4,703 recoveries.

Iraq confirmed 197 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections to 4,469, of whom 160 have died and 2,738 recovered.

In the mean time, the Iraqi Health Ministry said that further health preventive measures will be taken next week after the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, including maintaining the partial curfew to help curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Iraq has received batches of medical aid from China and the support from a team of Chinese medical experts during their 50-day stay.

In Lebanon, the number of COVID-19 infections increased by 17 to 1,114, while the death toll remained unchanged at 26.

Jordan registered four more infections, bringing the total coronavirus cases to 708, including nine deaths and 471 recoveries.

Meanwhile, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Yemen’s government-controlled provinces increased to 222, as 10 new cases were confirmed.

The death toll of the pandemic climbed to 42 in different areas of the government-controlled provinces, including the southern port city of Aden.

So far, the pro-government health authorities have recorded 10 recoveries.

In addition, health authorities in the Yemeni Houthi rebel-held capital Sanaa has declared earlier a total number of four infections in northern Yemen, including one death.

In Syria, 16 new cases were recorded, raising the overall number of infections in the country to 86 which included four fatalities and 41 recoveries.

(XINHUA)

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