With registering 782 new COVID-19 positive cases over the past 24 hours in Afghanistan, the number of patients infected with the disease has risen to 9,998 in the country, Tawhid Shakohmand, a spokesman for Public Health Ministry said Saturday.
Expressing concern over what he described “fast spread of coronavirus” in the country, the official called upon countrymen to respect the Public Health Ministry’s advice and stay at home during Eid-ul-Fitr holiday.
The spreading of the COVID-19 in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of eight persons over the past 24 hours, totaling the number of COVID-19 related deaths to 216 since the outbreak of the virus in February in Afghanistan, Shakohmand said.
According to the official, 44 patients have recovered over the past 24 hours, bringing the number of recovered ones to 1,040 in the country.
A deputy for Public Health Ministry has also called upon people to stay at home during Eid-ul-Fitr festival to stay safe, warning any ignorance to respect the lockdown would lead to catastrophe.
Kabul governor Mohammad Yaqub Haidari said that strict measures had been put in place during Eid-ul-Fitr days in Kabul to enforce the lockdown in the city.
Tanzanian police kill 7 suspected armed gangsters in business capital
Tanzanian police killed seven suspected armed gangsters in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam after their robbery attempt became abortive, a senior police officer said on Monday.
The suspected gangsters were killed at midnight on Sunday as they planned to raid a warehouse for construction materials in the business capital, said Lazaro Mambosasa, the Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander.
“Acting on intelligence reports, a special anti-crime police task force trailed a vehicle in which the suspected bandits were driving towards Mwenge area,” Mambosasa told a news conference.
He said when the suspected gangsters realized that they were being followed by the police they started firing at the law enforcers who fired back killing the suspects on the spot.
“When police searched the vehicle used by the suspects they found a pistol with three rounds of ammunition, two gas cylinders, machetes, a mobile telephone and a rope,” said Mambosasa.
He said the gas cylinders were to be used for breaking into the warehouse.
On May 11, police gunned down four suspected armed robbers after an exchange of fire in the east African nation’s western region of Kigoma.
Merkel urges vigilance as officials probe restaurant virus outbreak
Health officials in north-western Germany were pursuing an investigation into a coronavirus outbreak at a restaurant in Lower Saxony on Monday, as the number of people testing positive rose.
Seven people initially tested positive for coronavirus after visiting the Alte Scheune restaurant in Moormerland, a municipality in the district of Leer in the north-western state, earlier this month.
That number had increased to 14 by Sunday, while four additional cases of people who had contracted the virus since then were also reported.
A total of 118 people have been placed under quarantine at home, up from an initial 50.
Regional authorities in Leer district said it was likely that the four additional infections had occurred following visits to the restaurant.
The outbreak is the first to have taken place in a restaurant since they were allowed to reopen in stages across Germany’s 16 states from May 9.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the governments of Germany’s states to be “courageous and watchful” as they ease restrictions imposed since mid-March to contain the pandemic.
Speaking through her spokesman Steffen Seibert, Merkel backed continuing “binding instructions” on social distancing, restriction of contact and hygiene rules.
Recommendations were insufficient, Seibert said, as federal officials continued discussions with their state-level counterparts on how to proceed with further easing.
The number of cases of the novel coronavirus had risen to more than 178,500 by Monday morning, according to figures from the individual states compiled by dpa.
At least 8,252 people diagnosed with the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen have died, up from 8,229 on Sunday morning.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Burundian ruling party’s Evariste Ndayishimiye wins presidential election: provisional results
Provisional results show Burundian ruling party’s Evariste Ndayishimiye wins the presidential election held on May 20, the country’s electoral body said here on Monday.
Ndayishimiye from the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy won 68.72 percent of votes in the presidential election, followed by National Council for Liberty’s Agathon Rwasa who got 24.19 percent of votes, said the National Independent Electoral Commission.
Burundi voters went to the polls last Wednesday to elect a new president, members of the National Assembly, and district councillors.
Putin, Iraqi PM discuss oil market, Syria over phone
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday held a phone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, to discuss stabilizing the global oil market and the situation in Syria, the Kremlin said in a statement.
Putin and al-Kadhimi gave a positive assessment to the agreements on oil output cuts reached with the participation of Russia and Iraq in the OPEC+ format, which are aimed at overcoming the acute phase of the oil crisis, the statement said.
They stressed the importance of continuing effective joint efforts in this direction, it said.
While discussing the situation in Syria, Putin and al-Kadhimi agreed to further coordinate steps to ensure a long-term normalization of the situation in the war-torn Middle East country and restoration of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The two leaders discussed issues concerning bilateral cooperation in trade, the economy and energy and expressed the wish to further develop the traditionally friendly ties between their countries, the statement said.
Putin congratulated al-Kadhimi on assuming his office earlier this month, and the Iraqi people on the occasion of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr celebrated during the past weekend.
Putin and al-Kadhimi agreed to continue the bilateral contacts at various levels, the statement said.
Africa Day commemorated to build better Africa: PAP
Pan-African Parliament (PAP) situated in South Africa believed that Africa Day should be used to reflect on how to build a better Africa and a better world.
Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity, now African Union (AU), on May 25, 1963.
The Acting PAP President Bouras Djamel told Xinhua that Africa Day is a reminder of the commitment made by AU members to address challenges facing the continent, to build inclusive and sustainable development.
“Commemoration of Africa Day is an opportunity for Africans to reflect on the journey, renew strength and motivation to realize the liberation and absolute freedom from foreign domination,” Djamel said.
PAP called for a deeper reflection on the common challenges that the continent faces in a global environment and to come up with solutions for the continent in the areas including development, health, digitalization, sustainability, jobs for young people.
Djamel stated that African made strides in empowering women, improving gender equality and boosting economies.
On this day, PAP takes this opportunity to commend all members for their courage and cooperation in the bid to save the lives of the African people from the rage of COVID-19, he said.
He called on members to reinforce political commitment and accountability to front-load investments to strengthen national health systems and provide long-term domestic resources needed to achieve health goals, grounded in principles of inclusivity, transparency and accountability.
Economist warns S. Africa’s economy may take years to recover
“The South African economy will likely remain in a recession for a prolonged time. The lost production in the past two months will be lost for many years,” chief economist with Efficient Group Dawie Roodt told Xinhua on Monday.
He was reacting to the president’s Sunday announcement that the majority of the economy would be opened on June 1 as lockdown measures were eased.
Roodt believed hardship would be on the rise.
“The economy was in a technical recession before, so this has worsened everything…hardship and poverty for a number of citizens would increase due to this,” he said.
The Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago last week said macroeconomic policies to deal with the lockdown problems should be implemented. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni will deliver a new budget that would respond to COVID -19 challenges in June.
Labor federation Cosatu said the budget to be tabled must be “decisive and bold” to deal with the “economic depression”. It said it must be aimed at kick-starting the economy and retaining jobs.
India’s federal government allows domestic flights to resume
An airport employee (L) wearing a face mask disinfects the baggage of a passenger at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, May 25, 2020. India’s federal government has allowed domestic flights to resume from Monday. (Photo by Partha Sarkar/Xinhua)
Brunei reports no new COVID-19 cases for 18 straight days
Brunei reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Monday with the national tally of cases standing at 141, marking the 18th consecutive day without new cases.
According to Brunei’s Ministry of Health, no more recoveries were recorded on Monday, maintaining the total number of recovered cases at 137.
Only three active cases are still receiving treatment at the National Isolation Center, and two patients remain in critical condition. There has been so far one death resulting from the COVID-19 in Brunei.
Feature: Radio provides learning access to millions of students amid COVID-19 crisis in Malawi
As Malawi continues to register more COVID-19 cases, the government through the Ministry of Education in conjunction with UNICEF has introduced an initiative that will see primary school students getting access to their daily education through the radio.
In the latest development, the Malawi government has initiated a programme to reach millions of primary school children in the country. In this programme, learners will continue to proceed following their recommended lessons through the radio.
According to the Minister of Education, William Susuwele Banda, the radio programmes have been introduced to encourage learners to keep up on their studies while they are home.
“We have looked at the possibility of online learning, however, this seems to be difficult because not every student can access the internet here in Malawi. The ministry of education also plans to distribute print materials to the students whilst considering plans to extend the program to a televised learning programme,” he said.
Rudolf Schwenk, representative of UNICEF in Malawi told local media that by working together, Malawians can ensure that the pandemic does not threaten the gains that have been made in the education sector and also not threaten the dreams and hopes of millions of children and young people in the country.
Schwenk has therefore commended the government of Malawi for prioritizing the urgent need to ensure school-age children continue to learn despite the closure of schools.
This development has been welcomed by a number of students in Malawi. Many are saying that this will revive their performances since they have been at home for a long time and many could not access the ongoing online learning.
Tasha Kuchala, aged 14, said she is overwhelmed with the idea. For the past six months, she has been preparing for her final national exams but the closure of her school has let her down.
According to the ministry of education, the lessons will be aired through two state-owned radio stations and it is expected that the lessons are going to reach over six million students across the country.
EU must present united front to shield pandemic-hit banks- regulator
European countries need to join forces to shield their banks from the effects of the coronavirus, one of the bloc’s top regulators said on Monday, potentially using a 500 billion euro (545 billion dollars) EU recovery fund to do so.
The remarks from Jose Manuel Campa, who leads the European Banking Authority (EBA), will rekindle a divisive debate about whether rich countries such as Germany should support banks of poorer neighbours such as Italy.
Campa made his comments days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron proposed an EU recovery fund to help the bloc’s worst-hit members to rebuild their economies after the coronavirus outbreak.
“Here, the EU recovery fund could play a role,” Campa told Reuters.
The EBA says that European banks have built a capital buffer of over 430 billion euros, which should be more than enough to cover losses resulting from a rise in unpaid loans as businesses such as travel agents and restaurants struggle to ride out the pandemic.
Berlin recently dropped its long-standing opposition to joint borrowing by EU countries, backing a 500 billion euro recovery fund to give grants to countries stricken by the outbreak.
“Extending that to banks, however, is likely to stir up stiff opposition.
“I’m expecting a wave of NPLs (non-performing loans) in the next two or three quarters, how much is difficult to say,’’ said Campa, referring to unpaid loans.
Spain, to repair its financial system, set up a so-called bad bank to deal with toxic loans.
“The use of bad banks to segregate non-performing loans has proven useful.
“Germany had bad banks, while countries like Ireland used asset-management agencies in the same way. It could be used again,” Campa said.
Germany, where unemployment is low and borrowers are less likely to default, has vehemently opposed any pan-European move.
He argued that it would leave Germany on the hook for the problems of lenders in countries with mounting unpaid debts.
“Banks are resilient and stronger than before the last crisis.
“But we don’t know how the crisis will evolve. It is best to act sooner rather than later,” Campa noted.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Palestine declares end of lockdown in light of slowdown of COVID-19 pandemic
Palestine on Monday declared the end of lockdown and a set of new measures in dealing with the COVID-19.
“As we continue to control the spread of the virus, and in light of the workers’ tests, the Emergency Committee, the Council of Ministers, security services and governors have recommended new measures that were approved by the president,” said Palestine Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye.
Under the new measures, the ban on movement between cities will be lifted immediately, allowing public transportation to normally operate in terms of safety procedures.
Shops, commercial and industrial establishments, including cafes, restaurants, and health clubs as well as mosques and churches will be allowed to open starting from Tuesday morning.
Official bodies will return to work regularly starting Wednesday morning after the end of Eid al-Fitr holiday while observing safety requirements.
Indoor and outdoor halls for group events are being studied by the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.
Nevertheless, the one-month long state of emergency declared by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on May 5 is still in effect.
Palestinian Minister of Health Mai al-Kaila told Xinhua that the tests will continue to be conducted on a daily basis, especially amongst workers recently returning from Israel, who are required to commit to home-bound quarantine.
Precautionary measures are likely to change again in accordance with the results of the new tests in the coming two weeks, as the state of emergency is still on, she noted.
According to official data, nearly 30,000 workers have returned home for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, and a random sample check of 5,408 was conducted, showing no positive cases.
Currently, there are 32,300 cases in-home quarantine under the supervision of the Ministry of Health.
The number of cases registered in Palestine has reached 602, including 475 recovered and only five dead.
Nepal confirms 4th death from COVID-19 as cases surge
“The presence of the novel coronavirus has been found in repeated tests on the man who hails from Kalaiya town of south-eastern Bara district,” Bikas Devkota, spokesperson at the Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population said in a regular press briefing on Monday.
According to the ministry, the man, who was a tuberculosis patient, had been admitted to the intensive care unit of National Medical College at Birgunj city in southern Para district on May 15 after suffering from respiratory problems. His swab was collected on May 16 for COVID-19 test but he died the next day, according to Devkota.
After finding doubtful results at a nearby hospital in a swab test, his specimen was brought to Kathmandu-based National Public Health Laboratory for a further test. The test conducted in Kathmandu confirmed the presence of COVID-19, the ministry said.
Along with the rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in recent days, the Himalayan country has also started to see deaths from the disease. On Monday, Nepal confirmed 79 new COVID-19 cases, one of the largest single day spikes in the country.
With the additional cases, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has reached 682, according to the Ministry of Health and Population.
Altogether 111 people have been discharged from isolation center after recovery.
Ukraine reports 259 new COVID-19 cases
The ministry said 623 people have so far died from the disease, while 7,234 patients have recovered. Of the infected, 1,546 are children and 4,112 are health workers.
A total of 6,620 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized since the beginning of the epidemic, it said.
On Wednesday, the Ukrainian government introduced adaptive quarantine measures from May 22 to June 2.
Netanyahu suffering from ‘paranoid delusion’ – Opposition leader
Jerusalem, May 25, 2020 An Israeli opposition leader said on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was suffering from a “paranoid delusion” if he thought that his corruption trial was only aimed at removing him from office.
A spokesman cited opposition leader Yair Lapid as saying that someone who believes that thousands of people including investigators, journalists, judges, and politicians were part of a vast conspiracy to topple a right-wing leader “isn’t fit to be prime minister.”
Netanyahu launched a fiery tirade against Israel’s justice system on Sunday as the corruption trial against him got under way.
Israel’s longest-serving prime minister was officially indicted on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in January.
The 70-year-old is accused of offering political favours in return for positive press coverage, and helping wealthy business contacts in return for gifts including champagne and cigars.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied all accusations against him.
The trial comes one week after he was sworn in as the head of an emergency unity government including his Likud party and the centrist Blue and White Alliance of his former main rival Benny Gantz.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Japan lifts state of emergency over coronavirus for entire country
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency in the five remaining prefectures still under restrictions, including Tokyo, as the spread of the virus has largely been brought under control.
“Today the government will lift the state of emergency across the nation. We’ve set some of the most strict criteria in the world to lift the declaration, and we concluded that prefectures across the country have met that standard,” Abe told a press conference.
The five prefectures that had remained under restrictions were Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Hokkaido.
The lifting of the state of emergency came after the government’s coronavirus advisory panel showed support for the move earlier in the day.
The emergency measures were issued first for Tokyo, Osaka and five other urban areas on April 7, before being expanded nationwide in mid-April and with the deadline extended thereafter until the end of May.
The advisory panel had been focusing on criteria for the emergency period being lifted which was based around the number of newly reported cases over the past week, the availability of medical resources, and the capacity to provide virus tests and monitor the spread of the virus.
“The advisory panel has agreed that all prefectures no longer need to be under a state of emergency and that lifting the declaration is appropriate,” Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said, adding that the situation would be closely monitored and reviewed every three weeks.
Nishimura also said that social and economic activities, including large-scale events, would be phased back in, although people would still be asked not to travel across prefecture lines until the end of the month.
The government, while showing caution amid the coronavirus pandemic, has been keen to see the economy fully reopened as the five prefectures that had remained under emergency restrictions account for around one-third of the country’s gross domestic product.
The Cabinet Office said the economy shrank by an annualized real 3.4 percent in the January-March period from the previous quarter.
The decrease in the quarter corresponds to a 0.9-percent decline on a seasonally adjusted quarterly basis, the Cabinet Office said.
The Japanese leader is now tasked with ushering in a “new normal” for the society, which balances the rejuvenation of the economy with guarding against an explosive second wave of COVID-19 infections.
Abe had said earlier that another state of emergency could be declared if the country is faced with a second wave of infections.
“Our businesses and daily routines will be completely disrupted if we continue with strict curbs on social and economic activity. From now on, it’s important to think about how we can conduct business and live our lives while still controlling the risk of infection,” Abe said.
He said wearing face masks in public should be kept up and social distancing measures maintained. Abe also said that teleworking does not need to be immediately halted as medical experts have warned that relaxing too many restrictions too soon could trigger another wave of infections.
Gambari: U.S.-based group lauds Buhari, congratulates Nigerians
U.S.-based Organisation for the Advancement of Nigerians (OAN) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, as his Chief of Staff.
In a statement signed by its President, Mr Solomon Bakare, on Monday, OAN said Gambari was the man for the job, given his “superb administrative, organisational, diplomatic and leadership skills”.
The body congratulated Nigerians for the appointment, which it said came at a time the president needed such competent hands to actualise his vision for the country.
“We have no iota of doubt that Gambari is equal to the Herculean tasks ahead.
“We are confident that he will give the president his complete loyalty, wise counsel and good guidance.
“He will bring his native wisdom and superb administrative, organisational, diplomatic and leadership skills to bear on the running of the Federal Government of Nigeria,” it said.
OAN is the lead coordinator of the Nigeria Independence Day Celebration in New York City, the largest platform for Nigerians in the Diaspora for showcasing their culture and national pride.
The group recalled the support of Gambari to the Nigerian community while serving as the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations between 1990 and 1999.
“Our organisation benefited immensely from his guidance and unparallel love and passion for Nigeria.
“In fact, there is no way we can talk about the success of the Nigerian Independence Day Parade in New York City without mentioning Gambari’s name.
“It was he who advised us to move the annual celebration of Nigeria from its original route in Harlem to Second Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, where the Nigerian House is located, to make it one of the most prominent annual ethnic parades in New York City.
“Gambari backed his wise counsel up with moral support, enlisting the participation of his influential friends in the Nigerian Community, including Amb. Aminu Wali, to ensure the continued success of the annual parade.
“Today, it has grown to an annual carnival that gives Nigerians in the United States, the platform to showcase our cultural pride and accomplishments,” it stated.
“We respectfully advise him to discharge his duties to our president and our country with truth, honor, loyalty, fairness, compassion, and uncommon courage,” it added.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye (NAN)
Morocco seizes 3 tons of cannabis
Moroccan authorities announced on Monday that they have foiled smuggling of three tons of cannabis near the city of Guelmim in southern Morocco.
Three people were arrested during the operation on Sunday evening in the town of Tagnate, said Moroccan police in a statement.
The banned substance was packed in 94 packages inside a Morocco-registered truck transporting a shipment of agricultural products.
Moroccan security services have seized over 20 tons of cannabis since May 1, in different operations.
Despite efforts to crack down on cannabis farming in the last decade, Morocco remains one of the world largest producers of the cannabis resin, according to the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime.
S. Africa to start human trial for COVID-19 rapid breath test in June
South African researchers, in cooperation with their U.S. counterparts, will start a ground-breaking human trial for COVID-19 rapid breath test in June.
The South Africa-based Ezintsha research group at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and U.S.-based Canary Health Technologies will collaborate on the trial, the researchers said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.
The trial will determine whether a highly accurate, non-invasive, disposable breath test that could detect virus before symptom onset could be on global market before the end of 2020.
The rapid breath test, if successful, can deliver results on site in less than five minutes, thus quickly detecting persons at risk to reduce transmission.
Using exhaled Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) found in human breath as biomarkers of the virus, this diagnostic test (COVID-19 RT BAP) could potentially identify those who are acutely infected with COVID-19 as well as those who have not yet developed clinical symptoms, according to the statement.
The initial phase of the trial will see the collection of breath samples from 150 people – both COVID-19 positive patients and those who do not have the virus. They will be asked to breathe for three minutes into the device. The device will then translate their breath biomarkers into electronic signals which will be transmitted to a centralized “lab in the cloud” for analysis.
The human trial is due to start in South Africa by the end of June, with preliminary results expected by the end of July. Similar trials are also planned in the UK and the U.S.
“We are very excited to partner with Canary on this game-changing technology. The holy grail is a real time, point of care device which can capture Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC as biomarkers,” said Prof. Francois Venter, an infectious diseases expert and Head of Ezintsha.
This could revolutionize testing for COVID-19, to then build a base to detect many other diseases, he said, adding that a non-invasive and accurate test that healthcare workers can carry in their pockets is a win-win for all.
“We are confident that our highly responsive sensors and proprietary software can detect COVID-19 in less than five minutes without the need of a lab,” he said.
This handheld device with disposable sensors is ideal for use in doctors’ offices, nursing homes, airports and should be available before the end of the year, according to Reddy.
“We aim to set the gold standard in COVID-19 detection,” he said.
If this initial phase of the human trial is successful, Canary Health Technologies will seek to move quickly into a pivotal trial with a larger sample size for expedited regulatory approval with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other markets, for global use, the statement said.
Palestinian Authority to lift coronavirus restrictions
The Palestinian Authorities on Monday said it would ease restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus over the course of the coming week.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said restrictions would be lifted in stages by Wednesday.
“Public transport will resume and mosques, churches, shops, parks, restaurants and cafes are to gradually reopen.
“Classes for older children will resume coming week, though the regular school year is already over,’’ Shtayyeh said.
He, however, warned that the restrictions imposed in March would return should the numbers of new infections begin to rise.
The Palestinian Health Ministry has confirmed 368 coronavirus cases in the West Bank and 55 in the Gaza Strip, with three virus-related deaths across both territories.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye (NAN)
Israel finds 3,500-year-old tablet with engraving
A rare 3,500-year-old clay tablet was discovered in the Negev desert in southern Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Monday.
The square-shaped 2.8-cm long tablet was found by a 6-year-old boy who was touring with his parents the archaeological site of Tell Jemmeh.
The tablet is engraved with captor and naked captive figures, imprinted in a carved pattern, with the artist’s fingerprints preserved on the reverse side of the tablet.
The captor figure, wearing a skirt, holds the captive, whose hands are tied behind his back.
The researchers estimate the artifact could date back to the Late Bronze Age.
They added that the scene imprinted on the tablet is taken from descriptions of victory parades, so the tablet likely shows the ruler’s power over his enemies.