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Analysis: New Hertha coach Labbadia creating stability in rough waters

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Two victories in his first two games make a perfect start for Bruno Labbadia as Hertha BSC’s new coach.

Counting on a strict but straightforward strategy is allowing the struggling side to gain stability.

Six points and a 7-0 goal difference stand for a club turnaround that wore out four coaches and suffered from much turbulence. Not many expected the side from the German capital to survive the noisy farewell of Jurgen Klinsmann, followed by an infamous video posted on social media by Salomon Kalou.

The striker shared a stream of the inside life of the players’ locker room containing significant violations of newly-implemented hygiene rules introduced to counter the COVID-19 outbreak.

53-year-old Labbadia is one of the most experienced coaches in the first-tier, having coached Bayer Leverkusen, VfB Stuttgart and VfL Wolfsburg, in addition to two spells in charge of Hamburger SV.

“It was inevitable for a team to return to a clear plan after they had four coaches this season. Every one of them used different tactics within one game. You can imagine it’s difficult having to live with the changes,” the former striker commented.

Due to restricted training only allowing small groups, Labbadia used a sort of modular system. Different parts of the team practised his new system, continuously relying on a 4-3-3 formation.

As soon as full team training was possible, the former Bayern Munich attacker combined the pieces. Part of his plan is always having key points “everyone can easily follow.”

The Hertha coach has talked about closed-doors meetings with his assistant coaches Eddy Soezer and Olaf Janssen last winter in a remote skiing hut in the mountains.

The trio talked through their general coaching approach, adding little details. When Hertha called the head coach, his staff was already well prepared.

It is notable that Labbadia is relying on experienced players embedded in a back-row of four, a flexible midfield of three containing a robust interceptor, and a central striker flanked by two creative attackers.

Joining Hertha, the coach took up education sessions with sporting manager Michael Preetz, the entire team and individual performers, the under-23 juniors, and talent coaches.

Now the Berlin coach says he is happy about the short-term effects he didn’t expect to work that well.

In recent games, the team has shown unprecedented team spirit. “I had to tell them that things work well for us. It is important to count on patience and game control by possession,” he stated.

Several players report how comfortable the squad feels with the precise plan. “Everyone got their feet behind the line feeling a lot of trust in the new coaches’ work,” striker Vedad Ibisevic said.

The experienced forward increased Hertha’s efficiency upfront along with Dodi Lukebakio, Vladimir Darida, and Matheus Cunha. 20-year-old Cunha joined Hertha under Klinsmann from RB Leipzig for 18 million euros to add depth to the club’s attacking options.

The Hertha coach insists the recent victories “are only the first steps. Not to win the first games would have caused serve problems; now, there is a basis to work from,” Labbadia said adding, “we need to be focused and have respect fighting against relegation.”

(XINHUA)

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Brunei reports no new COVID-19 cases for 18 straight days

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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.

(XINHUA)

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Feature: Radio provides learning access to millions of students amid COVID-19 crisis in Malawi

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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.

(XINHUA)

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EU must present united front to shield pandemic-hit banks- regulator

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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.

“It would make sense to have a European approach to support banks. That could be in the form of a TARP-style precautionary recapitalisation.

“Here, the EU recovery fund could play a role,” Campa told Reuters.

He suggested that assistance could be aimed at banks that were fundamentally robust but hit by the coronavirus crisis.

During the financial crisis of 2008, the U.S. government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) injected billions into the country’s banks.

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.

However, some lenders, particularly in economies where the pandemic hit hardest, such as Italy and Spain, are more vulnerable than others.

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.

Campa was a junior economy minister in Spain at the beginning of the global financial crisis that later prompted Madrid to apply for an international bailout.

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)

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Palestine declares end of lockdown in light of slowdown of COVID-19 pandemic

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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.

(XINHUA)

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Nepal confirms 4th death from COVID-19 as cases surge

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The Nepali government on Monday confirmed the fourth death from the COVID-19 in the country after a 70-year-old man who died on May 17 was confirmed positive for the novel coronavirus.

“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.

According to Devkota, six other persons who had come into contact with the man have also been tested positive for COVID-19.

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.

(XINHUA)

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Ukraine reports 259 new COVID-19 cases

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Ukraine’s health ministry said on Monday that 259 more people have tested positive for coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total number to 21,245.

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.

(XINHUA)

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Netanyahu suffering from ‘paranoid delusion’ – Opposition leader

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Netanyahu

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)

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Japan lifts state of emergency over coronavirus for entire country

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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.

Data released by the government showed that Japan’s economy shrank for a second straight quarter in the January-March period and entered a technical recession under the impact of the pandemic.

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.

(XINHUA)

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Gambari: U.S.-based group lauds Buhari, congratulates Nigerians

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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)

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Morocco seizes 3 tons of cannabis

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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.

(XINHUA)

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S. Africa to start human trial for COVID-19 rapid breath test in June

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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.

Raj Reddy, CEO of Canary Health Technologies, said his institution is thrilled to collaborate with Ezintsha which is a world-class research unit focused on health innovations.

“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.

(XINHUA)

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Palestinian Authority to lift coronavirus restrictions

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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)

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Israel finds 3,500-year-old tablet with engraving

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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.

(XINHUA)

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Pressure mounts on British PM over refusal to sack top aide

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday faced continuing pressure after refusing to fire his top aide Dominic Cummings over allegations he broke coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

No fewer than 15 lawmakers from Johnson’s Conservatives have joined calls by the opposition Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, as well as health officials and bishops from the Church of England for Cummings, to resign or be fired.

Cummings reportedly broke lockdown travel restrictions more than once.

He travelled 430 kilometres from London to his parents’ home in County Durham at the end of March while he had coronavirus symptoms, as well as no less than twice in mid-April.

The Press Association (PA) news agency reported that Johnson was later scheduled to host a cabinet meeting on easing of virus restrictions, including proposals to reopen some non-essential businesses.

On Sunday, the prime minister said at a news conference that he had come to the conclusion that Cummings had “followed the instincts of every father and every parent, and I do not mark him down for that.”

However, critics said Cummings alleged behaviour risked undermining the government’s policy.

“If you give the impression there’s one rule for them and one rule for us,you fatally undermine that sense of ‘we’re all in this together’,” Stephen Reicher, a member of the government’s advisory group on behavioural science, told broadcaster ITV.

Conservative lawmaker Paul Maynard said Cummings behaviour was “indefensible,” while Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, tweeted: “The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?”

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye (NAN)

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Cameroonian minister warns of “complicated phase” as COVID-19 cases soar

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Cameroon’s heath minister Manaouda Malachie has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is entering a “complicated phase” in the country, calling for strict respect of social distancing measures to curb its spread.

“It is important to note that we are entering a complicated phase of the pandemic,” Manaouda said in a tweet early Monday. “More than ever, we must protect ourselves, protect our families and protect others by observing barrier measures. Wear a mask when going out and wash your hands regularly.”

The warning came as the country’s new cases of COVID-19 continued to rise lately.

Cameroon reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 6, an imported case from Europe, and has since March 18 closed national borders, schools and applied social distancing.

So far, Cameroon has reported 4,890 confirmed cases. The tally nearly doubled in half a month.

(XINHUA)

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Japan lifts state of emergency over coronavirus for Tokyo, 4 other prefectures

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday lifted the state of emergency in Japan for the five remaining prefectures, including Tokyo, as the spread of the virus has 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,” the Japanese leader told a press conference.

The remaining prefectures that were still subject to restrictions under the emergency declaration were Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Hokkaido prefectures.

Abe’s remarks and the official lifting of the state of emergency for the five prefectures brought an end to emergency measures issued first for Tokyo, Osaka and five other urban areas on April 7. The announcement came after the government’s coronavirus advisory panel showed support for the move earlier in the day.

The advisory panel had been focusing on the lifting criteria 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 this month.

The government, while showing caution amid the coronavirus pandemic, has been keen to see the economy fully reopened as the five prefectures account for around one-third of the country’s gross domestic product.

On May 18, data released by the government showed that Japan’s economy shrank for a second straight quarter in the January-March period and entered a technical recession as a result of the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

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 society, which balances the rejuvenation of the country’s recession-hit economy, while ensuring the nation is not hit by an explosive second wave of COVID-19 infections.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign ministers recommit to German-Russian cultural cooperation

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German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Monday recommitted their countries to closer cultural cooperation at the opening of an annual conference held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a welcome speech read out online to mark the start of the 23rd Potsdam Meeting, a German-Russian discussion forum, Maas said he hoped the pandemic would help the two countries pursue a positive agenda.

“We should not draw back from our joint responsibility at this point.

“This year’s meeting will focus on the effects of the pandemic on foreign and security policy.

“The coronavirus pandemic will, in the immediate future, be one of the most important factors in developing joint approaches in foreign policy in the global economy to boost cooperation between countries,’’ Lavrov said.

He added that Germany and Russia would focus on the leading role of their countries in a rapidly changing world.

The Potsdam Meetings, set up by the German-Russian Forum in 1999, run parallel to the Petersburg Dialogue, established in 2001.

Report says the forums aim to promote understanding between German and Russian civil societies.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye (NAN)

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Somalia’s Jubaland forces say kill 4 Shabab militants

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Somalia’s Jubaland forces on Monday killed four al-Shabab extremists in a fierce fight in Dhobley, a town in southern Somalia, a police officer confirmed.

Mohamed Abdullahi, deputy commander of police forces in Dhobley, said that al-Shabab fighters launched an attack on a base used by Jubaland forces in Dhobley, but they were repulsed.

“Al-Shabab extremists attacked a training base for Jubaland forces, prompting an intense confrontation between the army and the attackers,” Abdullahi said.

“We killed four militants during the clashes. Our forces are now controlling the base and the militants have fled to the outside of the town,” he added.

The attack came barely three days after Somali forces killed five al-Shabab militants in Burdhubo, a town in the country’s southern region of Gedo.

Government forces have stepped up operations against al-Shabab extremists in southern regions, but militants still hold swathes of rural areas in those regions, conducting ambushes and planting land mines.

(XINHUA)

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FG evacuates 69 Nigerians stranded in Lebanon – Onyeama

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The Federal Government has repatriated 69 Nigerians from Lebanon, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, said on Monday.

He said the 69 Nigerians were evacuated with the help of Lebanese government.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the 69 persons were made up of 50 trafficked girls and 19 stranded Nigerians.

Onyeama who disclosed this on his verified twitter handle, appreciated the assistance of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese community in Nigeria for a successful evacuation process.

“With financial and logistic support of the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese community in Nigeria, 50 trafficked girls and 19 stranded Nigerians were successfully evacuated from Lebanon and arrived Nigeria today.

“My profound gratitude to Amb. Houssam Diad, Lebanese Ambassador in Nigeria and Ambassador Goni Zannabura, Nigerian Ambassador in Lebanon,’’ he twitted.

NAN reports that the Nigerian Government had so far successfully evacuated 1,039  Nigerians from the U.S., the UK,  the United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Over 2,300 Myanmar nationals brought home by relief flights amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

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A total of 2,326 Myanmar nationals who were stranded in foreign countries due to the suspension of international commercial flights amid COVID-19 outbreak have been brought back home by relief flights so far, according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday.

“More Myanmar nationals from Thailand, Singapore, India and Korea will arrive soon this month,” an official from the Consular and Legal Affairs Department under the ministry told Xinhua.

Plans are underway to bring more nationals back home from other foreign countries, the official said.

All returnees have to stay under quarantine at designated facilities or hotels in Yangon region for 21 days upon arrival.

According to the Health and Sports Ministry, Myanmar has reported 201 COVID-19 cases with six deaths as of Monday morning.

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