An attack on Saudi Arabia that shut 5 per cent of global crude output caused the biggest surge in oil prices since 1991, after U.S. officials blamed Iran and President Donald Trump said Washington was “locked and loaded” to retaliate.
The Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls Yemen’s capital claimed responsibility for the attack, which damaged the world’s biggest crude oil processing plant. Iran denied blame and said it was ready for “full-fledged war”.
Two sources briefed on the operations of state oil company Saudi Aramco told Reuters it may take months for Saudi oil production to return to normal. Earlier estimates had suggested it could take weeks.
Oil prices surged by as much as 19 per cent before coming off peaks. The intraday jump was the biggest since the 1991 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that prompted the Gulf War.
Prices eased after Trump announced that he would release U.S. emergency supplies, and producers around the globe said there were enough stocks stored up to make up for the shortfall.
“There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Trump said on Twitter on Sunday.
While Iran has denied blame for the attacks, its Yemeni allies have promised more strikes to come. Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said the group carried out Saturday’s pre-dawn attack with drones, including some powered by jet engines.
“We assure the Saudi regime that our long arm can reach any place we choose and at the time of our choosing,” Sarea tweeted. “We warn companies and foreigners against being near the plants that we struck because they are still in our sights and could be hit at any moment.”
U.S. officials say they believe that the attacks came from the opposite direction, possibly from Iran itself rather than Yemen, and may have involved cruise missiles.
Wherever the attacks were launched, however, they believe Iran is to blame.
“There’s no doubt that Iran is responsible for this. No matter how you slice it, there’s no escaping it. There’s no other candidate,” a U.S. official said on Sunday on condition of anonymity.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been enemies for decades and are fighting a number of proxy wars, including in Yemen where Saudi forces have been fighting against the Houthis for four years.
Overall tension in the oil-producing Gulf region has dramatically escalated this year after Trump imposed severe U.S. sanctions on Iran aimed at halting its oil exports altogether.
For months Iranian officials have issued veiled threats, saying that if Iran is blocked from exporting oil, other countries will not be able to do so either.
However, Tehran has denied any role in specific attacks, including bombings of tankers in the Gulf and previous strikes claimed by the Houthis.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the U.S. accusations of Iranian involvement in Saturday’s attacks “unacceptable and entirely baseless”.
The plant that was struck cleans crude oil of impurities, a necessary step before it can be exported and fed into refineries. The attack cut Saudi output by 5.7 million barrels a day, or around half.
Saudi Arabia is not only the world’s biggest oil exporter, it has a unique role in the market as the only country that can increase or decrease its output by millions of barrels per day to keep the market stable.
A long outage would make markets subject to wild swings that could potentially destabilize the global economy.
But big countries such as the United States and China have reserves designed to handle even a major outage over the short term.
Russia and an OPEC source said on Monday there was no need for an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+ that has orchestrated a supply-curbing deal.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters there was enough oil in commercial stockpiles to cover the shortfall.
Aramco, which is gearing up for what could be the world’s biggest IPO, has not given a timeline for resumption of supplies.
Riyadh said it would compensate by drawing on stocks, which stood at 188 million barrels in June.
The U.S. official who asked not to be identified said on Sunday there were 19 points of impact in the attack and evidence showed the launch area was west-northwest of the targets – not south from Yemen.
Saudi officials had seen signs that cruise missiles were used in the attack, the official added. (Reuters/)
Edited by Abdullahi Mohammed/Felix Ajide
Roundup: Egypt reports biggest daily COVID-19 infections, increases hospitals for coronavirus treatment
Egyptian Health Ministry reported on Saturday 1,367 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily record, raising the country’s total infections to 23,449.
Thirty-four new fatalities have also been recorded, bringing the country’s death toll from the disease to 913, the ministry’s spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.
According to Megahed, 182 patients have been discharged from the hospitals after fully cured, taking the recoveries in Egypt to 5,693.
Since the beginning of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday on May 24, Egypt extended a previously imposed nighttime curfew from nine hours to 13 hours for six days, to maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings amid increasing COVID-19 infections.
Starting from Saturday, May 30, the curfew was reduced to 10 hours for two weeks, and then the government will consider easing the restrictions and gradually resuming some suspended activities.
The government has already started gradually reopening services and offices that have been suspended since mid-March amid a “coexistence plan” to maintain anti-coronavirus precautionary measures while resuming services, businesses and economic activities.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Hala Zayed said on Saturday that the ministry has increased the number of hospitals tasked with receiving the coronavirus patients to be 376 nationwide.
She noted that 5,400 health units and 1,000 fixed and mobile medical convoys have been allocated across the country to distribute a bag of medicines and preventive supplies to those who have been in contact with COVID-19 positive cases.
The minister appealed to those who recover from the virus to donate blood plasma after 14 days of their recovery to contribute to the treatment of critical cases of COVID-19.
She noted that plasma injection showed a great success after treating 30 critical cases since blood plasmas of the recovered patients contain coronavirus antibodies, according to a statement by the health ministry.
Zayed also urged those who show symptoms of the coronavirus to go to any of these hospitals where they will receive necessary tests and treatment if needed.
Bangladesh sees biggest daily jump on COVID-19 deaths, tally crosses 600
Professor Nasima Sultana, a senior health ministry official, told an online media briefing in Dhaka that 28 COVID-19 deaths were confirmed in a 24-hour period, bringing the total number of fatalities in the country since March to 610.
According to the official, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 44,608 with the a rise of 1,764 cases in the last 24 hours as of 8:00 a.m. local time on Saturday.
She said 9,987 samples were tested in the last 24 hours in scores of labs across Bangladesh.
During the last 24 hours, 360 more patients were released from hospitals and clinics, bringing the number of recovered patients in the country to 9,375, said the official.
Roundup: COVID-19 cases in Asia-Pacific region continue to rise as India reports biggest daily jump of 7,466 new cases
The number of COVID-19 infections in the Asia-Pacific region continues to rise on Friday as India reported the biggest daily jump of 7,466 new cases.
This is the biggest spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country so far.
Professor Nasima Sultana, a senior health ministry official, told an online media briefing in Dhaka that “the total number of positive cases is now 42,844 and the death toll stands currently at 582.”
South Korea reported 58 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Friday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,402.
The daily caseload rose sharply for the past three days, recording 79 on Thursday and 40 on Wednesday each.
A total of 2,636 new cases and 57 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, the statistics revealed.
The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 678 within one day to 25,216, with the death toll adding by 24 to 1,520, Achmad Yurianto, a Health Ministry official, said at a press conference on Friday.
According to him, 252 more people had been discharged from hospitals, as the total number of recovered patients stood at 6,492.
Afghanistan’s Public Health Ministry has registered 623 new positive cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, totaling the number of patients infected with the virus to 13,659 in the country, a spokesman for the ministry Tawhid Shakohmand said Friday.
Malaysia reported 103 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, a significant rebound from 10 cases a day earlier, pushing the national total to 7,732, the Health Ministry said.
Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said at a press briefing that of the new reported cases, 96 were local transmissions and seven were imported cases. Among the local cases, 84 were foreign nationals, with 53 and 24 foreign workers from two clusters.
The number of cases on board the live animal export ship, Al Kuwait, which is docked in the Australian state of Western Australia (WA), jumped to 20 on Friday, with eight new positive tests.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook revealed that all 48 crew have been tested and the 10 who remained on the ship all returned negative results.
India reports biggest daily jump of 7,466 new COVID-19 cases as total reach 165,799
This is the biggest spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country so far.
On Thursday morning the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was 158,333, and the death toll was 4,531.
According to ministry officials, 71,106 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement, and the number of active cases in the country stood at 89,987.
Friday marks the 66th straight day of an ongoing lockdown across the country announced by the government to contain the spread of the pandemic.
The lockdown, announced on March 25, was extended for the third time on May 17 till May 31.
India registers another biggest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases
India on Sunday reported 6,767 cases, another biggest single-day spike, in COVID-19 cases during the last 24 hours, pushing infection tally across the country to 131,868, federal health ministry said.
According to the ministry data, the death toll has risen to 3,867 after 147 people succumbed in the last 24 hours.
This is for the third time since Friday that the tally of COVID-19 cases has surged beyond 6,000.
On Saturday, 6,654 new cases were registered with a span of 24 hours, while as, on Friday, 6,088 new cases were recorded in the single day.
Globally, India is the 11th on the list of affected countries in terms of total infections.
The easing of restrictions with the announcement of the fourth phase of lockdown in the country has seen an increasing trend in the new cases.
Health experts attribute the spike in cases to the increase in India’s testing capacity and easing of restrictions.
“As travel eases, cases will continue to rise. Surge in cases in areas of low transmission is mostly due to import from other areas. Syndromic Surveillance and Testing has to be strengthened at every level. Most parts of India are susceptible. To reduce mortality, detect every case,” Dr. Giridhar R Babu, professor and head lifecourse epidemiology at Indian Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru wrote on social media.
Over the last two months, India has increased its testing capacity by 100 times – from 1,000 tests per day in March to 100,000 daily tests this month.
“India has expanded testing greatly. Yet, there is huge scope to increase testing in some states. Syndromic approach coupled with testing will provide better results. This will define the success of efficient containment efforts,” he said.
As per India’s top health research body – Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) until Sunday morning over 2.94 million samples have been tested. The research body said during the last 24 hours, 108,623 samples were tested.
In India, the state of Maharashtra continues to report the highest number of cases, followed by Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. The national capital Delhi retains the fourth position.
Meanwhile, while the federal civil aviation ministry is all set to resume the domestic flight operations from Monday, three Indian states Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra have urged government to rethink its decision on resumption of flights.
“It’s extremely ill-advised to reopen airports in red zone. Mere thermal scanning of passengers inadequate without taking swabs. Impossible to have autos/cabs/buses ply in current circumstances. Adding positive passenger will add COVID-19 stress to red zone,” Maharashtra health minister Anil Deshmukh wrote on social media.
The federal civil aviation ministry has also announced to resume the international flight operations before August.
Sunday marks the 61st straight day of ongoing lockdown across the country to contain the spread of the pandemic.
The lockdown, which was announced to break the chain of spreading the infection on March 25 is likely to end on May 31.
Earlier this month the director of India’s premier health institute – All India Institute of Medical Sciences Dr Randeep Guleria said COVID-19 cases are likely to peak in the month of June and July in the country.
Roundup: India records biggest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases, tally reaches 125,101
According to the ministry data, the death toll has risen to 3,720 after 137 people died in the last 24 hours.
It was the second time in a week that the tally of COVID-19 cases has surged by over 6,000 in one day.
On Friday, 6,088 new cases were recorded in the country within the span of 24 hours.
The government data suggested that nearly 25,000 cases have been reported in the last four days after restrictions were eased following the imposition of the fourth phase of the lockdown in country.
Health officials attributed the spike in cases to the increase in India’s testing capacity, which, over the last two months, has increased by 100 times – from 1,000 tests per day in March to 100,000 tests daily this month.
As per the country’s top health research body, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), until Saturday morning over 2.83 million samples have been tested. The research body said during the last 24 hours 115,364 samples were tested.
The recovery rate of COVID-19 patients Saturday increased to 41.39 percent as 51,783 people have been cured across the country.
According to government data released by Indian government’s top policy think tank – National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog (commission) member Vinod Paul on Friday, the first and second phase of the lockdown managed to significantly slow down the virus transmission rate in the country and averted between 1.4 million and 2.9 million COVID-19 cases, besides 54,000 related deaths.
“The situation would have been much worse, as the data suggests. We have about 95 percent confidence level on the data generated out of all this analysis, which is proof enough to say that the country is on the right track. Having said that, this kind of analysis is always prone to improvisations, depending on the kind of data that’s fed,” Paul said.
Maharashtra state reported the highest number of cases in the last 24 hours with 2,940 new patients, followed by 784 cases in Tamil Nadu. The two states have the highest number of cases in India. While Maharashtra has recorded over 44,000 cases so far, Tamil Nadu has reported over 14,000 patients.
Indian capital city Delhi has the fourth highest number of cases in the country (12,319). The city recorded 660 new patients on Friday as the number of containment zones, where restrictions are in place to contain the illness, rose from 79 to 92 in a single day.
On Wednesday federal civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced domestic passenger flights will resume from May 25 in a “calibrated manner.” The ministry has issued fresh guidelines for the passengers and flights. However, as the bookings began, Tamil Nadu government on Friday amid spurt in the number of cases, appealed to the federal government to rethink its decision on resumption of flights.
Saturday marks the 60th straight day of ongoing lockdown across the country announced by the central government to contain the spread of the pandemic.
The lockdown, which was announced on March 25 to break the chain of infection, is likely to end on May 31.
Shantytown field hospital opens in Brazil’s biggest city
Brazil’s biggest city Sao Paulo on Wednesday opened a field hospital in its largest favela, or shantytown, Heliopolis, to treat local COVID-19 patients, officials said.
As the epicenter of Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak, Sao Paulo now has four field hospitals in operation, including the first at a favela.
“Together they add up to a total of 2,440 beds specifically to treat patients with the coronavirus,” Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria said.
Located in southeast Sao Paulo, Heliopolis’ field hospital has 200 beds, including 24 equipped for intensive care, and a staff of 596 healthcare workers and administrators.
The other three mobile hospitals are located at the municipal Pacaembu Football Stadium, Anhembi Convention Center and Ibirapuera Gymnasium.
In a government gazette Wednesday, the state government estimated the existing healthcare facilities will “collapse” in three weeks amid a ballooning caseload, prompting it to open bidding for 1,500 intensive care unit beds and another 3,000 standard hospital beds to meet the expected rise in demand during the epidemic’s peak.
Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most industrialized and populous state, has so far reported a total of 69,589 COVID-19 cases with over 5,000 deaths.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to mount in some Asian countries, with Bangladesh, India recording biggest daily increase
More confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in some Asian countries on Wednesday, with Bangladesh and India confirming the biggest daily jump.
Bangladesh reported the biggest daily increase of 1,617 new infections, taking the total to 26,738.
Sixteen more people died in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll in the country to 386.
India also witnessed the largest single day spike as 5,611 positive cases were reported, bringing the total cases to 106,750 as of Wednesday morning.
A total of 140 new deaths were recorded in the country, taking the number of deaths to 3,303.
In Indonesia, the total cases rose by 693 within one day to 19,189, and the death toll increased by 21 to 1,242.
The Philippine health department on Wednesday reported 279 new infections, bringing the total number in the country to 13,221.
In a daily bulletin, the Department of Health said 89 more patients have recovered from the disease, bringing the number of recoveries to 2,932, and five more patients have died, bringing the death toll to 842.
Among these new cases, 21 are local transmissions, 10 are imported cases.
No new fatalities had been reported, leaving the total at 114 deaths.
The Afghan Ministry of Public Health said that 492 people, including 262 in the capital city Kabul, have been tested positive over the last 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 8,145.
A total of 188 patients have died and 390 others have recovered since the outbreak in mid February.
Solomon Islands authorities started to enforce the scheduled lockdown around the capital city Honiara area from Wednesday morning, local media reported.
During the 36-hour lockdown, no one will be allowed to leave their residence. All businesses will be closed during that period. No vessels will be allowed to leave or arrive at the Honiara port after 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday until after 6:00 a.m. on Friday.
Cambodia on Wednesday lifted a ban on foreign travelers from the United States, Iran, and four European countries after the kingdom has reported no new infections for more than a month.
The ban lifting came after the country has detected no new infections since April 12, and all 122 patients in the kingdom have recovered.
South Korea reported 32 more cases compared to 24 hours ago as of midnight Wednesday, raising the total number of infections to 11,110.
The daily caseload rose above 30 in nine days. Of the new cases, eight were imported, lifting the combined figure to 1,189.
New Zealand recorded no new cases again on Wednesday, with the combined total of confirmed and probable cases remaining at 1,503, according to the Ministry of Health.
Bangladesh records biggest daily jump of 1,617 new COVID-19 cases, tally at 26,738
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh has reached 26,738 as 1,617 new cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, the biggest daily jump since March 8, a senior health ministry official told a media briefing on television on Wednesday.
“Sixteen more people died in the last 24 hours,” said Professor Nasima Sultana, additional director general of Directorate General of Health Services under the Ministry of Health.
The death toll of COVID-19 in the country has reached 386.
She said 10,207 samples were tested in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh.
Bangladesh earlier recorded highest 1,602 cases in a 24-hour period on May 18.
During the last 24 hours, she said 214 more patients were released from hospitals and clinics, bringing the number of recovered patients in the country to 5,207.
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