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Corruption fight will be frontal in Buhari’s new administration – Lai Mohammed

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Corruption

Washington , April 16, 2019 The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has assured the international community that President Muhammadu Buhari’s new administration will be more determined in the fight against corruption.

Mohammed who gave the assurance in Washington D.C., in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA), said  the president will not compromise his anti corruption programmes and policies.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports the Minister is in Washington to engage international media and think tank, promote and reiterate the successes of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

The interview anchored in English by Alhaji Aliyu Mustapha of the VOA Hausa service, the minister said that the anti corruption fight would be frontal in the agenda of the government because corruption is one of the major causes of poverty and underdevelopment in the country.

He recalled a saying by President Buhari that “if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us’ and reiterated the government commitment to the fight against the scourge.

The minister also reiterated the discovery during the past administration, that 55 Nigerians shared a whopping sum of N1.3 billion equivalent to what the present administration had spent on infrastructure development in four years.

“The President is committed to the fight against corruption and the administration will continue with it.

“For example, the Treasury Single Account has instituted accountability in government‘s earnings and spendings and the whistle blower policy has led to the recovery of billions of Naira.

“It takes more than four years to clean a country endemic in corruption. However, it is on record that this administration has driven corruption under the carpet in four years.

“In the next four years, therefore, the government will consolidate on the achievements recorded particularly in the fight against corruption,” he said.

Speaking on insecurity, the minister said that the administration would apply multi dimensional approach besides deployment of forces.

He said the government was not unaware of other remote causes of the crises in the affected areas including economic and social reasons, non inclusiveness, lack of infrastructure and job opportunities.

The minister noted that, by and large, the administration had performed well in addressing insecurity and the country is safer than it was in 2015.

Mohammed said that the fight against banditry, killings and banditry in Zamfara and Kaduna has been put under control in the last two weeks because of the synergy among the security forces.

He assured that the government will continue to strengthen partnership on the regional and international levels in addressing the challenges.

The minister also said that the administration has made progress in economy recovery with deliberate programmers of diversifying the economy through agriculture and other sectors as well as developing infrastructure.

Speaking on the general elections, the minister said that President Buhari’s victory was well deserved and represented the triumph of the ordinary Nigerians over the elites.

He said having delivered on his electoral promises, the people voted for Buhari and he won the elections fairly and squarely with about four million votes.

Mohammed said with the wide margin of winning, the government did not envisage any attempt to delegitimise the will of the people.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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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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Argentine capital steps up restrictions as COVID-19 outbreak nears peak

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Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires on Sunday said it was stepping up social distancing measures in the lead up to an expected spike in cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The city announced it would further restrict commercial activity and people’s mobility, including by closing certain train stations.

“We took the decisions based on the data and the evidence, which today show that the peak of infection is arriving,” Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta said.

Local cases of infection have been steadily rising in the past two weeks, and city officials are concerned that population density in the capital and its metropolitan area will fuel a larger outbreak.

Officials closed 11 train stations, stepped up control at 36 entrances to the city, and intensified inspections of public transit, which is currently used exclusively by those considered to be essential workers.

Residents also must renew permits, which have now expired, that allow them to circulate.

“Millions of permits … have to be reissued one by one,” Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, non-essential businesses at major shopping centers will remain closed to avoid mass gatherings, he said.

“The problem is not commercial activity, but all of the people that it brings together, including those going shopping and those going to take a stroll or window shopping. We are going to restrict commercial activity at centers that draw the most people,” said the mayor.

Argentina, which announced a general lockdown on March 20 that continues through June 7, has reported a total of 11,353 cases of infection, including 5,006 in the capital city of Buenos Aires and 3,864 in the province of Buenos Aires.

(XINHUA)

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Israel reports no COVID-19 death cases for 4 consecutive days

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Israel’s Ministry of Health reported no death from novel coronavirus on Sunday, for four days in a row.

According to the ministry, the number of victims in Israel has remained at 279 since the last death case occurred on May 20.

The ministry also reported five new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number to 16,717.

This is the lowest daily number since March 7, when four patients tested positive.

The number of patients in serious condition dropped from 47 to 44, out of 126 patients currently hospitalized.

The number of recoveries increased by 63 to 14,153, while the number of active cases dropped to 2,285, the lowest since March 24.

Also on Sunday, Israeli health minister Yuli Edelstein and culture minister Hili Tropper agreed that plays, movies and shows will resume for public on June 14 under restrictions.

Thus, these events can take place at a maximum occupancy of 75 percent, maintaining distance among people, ensuring the wearing of face masks, and taking hygiene measures.

In addition, it will be possible to purchase tickets only online.

(XINHUA)

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Defiant Netanyahu goes on trial in Israel charged with corruption

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Defiant Netanyahu goes on trial in Israel charged with corruption

Jerusalem, May 24, 2020   Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday became the first serving Israeli Prime Minister to go on trial, proclaiming his innocence in the corridor before walking into court to face charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes the hand of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following their meeting in Jerusalem (Photo by Sebastian Scheiner / POOL / AFP)

The trial came a week after Israel’s longest-serving leader was sworn in to a record fifth term, demonstrating his knack for survival by securing an unexpected power-sharing deal with his main opponent after three inconclusive elections in a year.

He says the cases against him are a left-wing plot to unseat him.

Netanyahu, 70, was indicted in November in cases involving gifts from millionaire friends and for allegedly seeking regulatory favours for media tycoons in return for favourable coverage.

He appeared at Jerusalem District Court flanked by a clutch of cabinet ministers from his right-wing Likud party.

In the courtroom, Netanyahu and the judges wore face masks because of the coronavirus crisis.

One of the judges asked Netanyahu whether he had read and understood the indictment. He replied: “Yes, your Honour.”

The hearing lasted an hour. The court excused Netanyahu from appearing in person at the next hearing set for July 19. Israeli analysts say the trial could last months or even years.

Before the hearing, Netanyahu appealed to public opinion, taking off his mask to address television cameras in the courthouse hallway.

“These investigations were tainted and stitched-up from the first moment,” Netanyahu said.

“I am appearing here today as your prime minister, standing tall and with head high,” he said.

In a statement, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said prosecutors “will continue to conduct themselves without fear, even given the preposterous attempt – which should be rejected out of hand – to ascribe ulterior motives to law-enforcement authorities”.

Supporters, some in masks, rallied outside the East Jerusalem building, their chants of “Bibi, King of Israel”, using his nickname, audible in the courthouse.

One supporter’s sign read: “You’ll never walk alone”. Many waved blue-and-white Israeli flags.

Anti-Netanyahu demonstrators gathered outside his residence in central Jerusalem holding up a banner reading “Crime Minister,” a slogan that also appeared on some face masks.

Netanyahu, in power now for 11 straight years plus three in the 1990s, kept the position of prime minister by securing the power-sharing deal last month with his main opponent, the centrist former general Benny Gantz.

The pact also opens the way for Netanyahu to proceed towards a pledged annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, land that Palestinians envisage as part of a future independent state.

Bribery charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine. Fraud and breach of trust carry a prison sentence of up to three years.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Silas Nwoha (NAN)

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Yemeni gov’t reports 10 more COVID-19 cases, 222 in total

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

The Yemeni Health Ministry said in a brief statement that “during the past 24 hours, 10 cases of COVID-19 were detected in four provinces controlled by the government.”

The ministry said that the number of recoveries in the government-controlled areas increased to 10 since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus on April 10.

Also, the government announced that the death toll from the virus climbed to 42 in different areas under its control, including the southern port city of Aden.

The Yemeni government has taken several measures to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, including imposing a partial overnight curfew in Aden and other major cities under its control.

The government called on donors and relevant international humanitarian organizations to provide support to help contain the pandemic.

Yemen has been mired in a civil war since late 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthi group seized control of much of the country’s north and forced the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of Sanaa.

(XINHUA)

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Lebanon’s number of COVID-19 infections rises to 1,114

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Lebanon’s number of COVID-19 infections increased on Sunday by 17 new cases to 1,114 while the death toll remained unchanged at 26, the National News Agency reported.

The Health Ministry has conducted 63,044 tests since the outbreak of the virus in Lebanon on Feb. 21.

The ministry is still conducting PCR tests all over the country in a bid to isolate the areas that are highly infected.

Director general of Rafic Hariri University Hospital tweeted on Saturday that the number of cases in the coming week will tell if isolation measures adopted in some regions are sufficient.

(XINHUA)

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5 killed, 15 injured in Somalia roadside blast

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At least five people were killed and 15 others injured on Sunday in a roadside blast in Baidoa town in southwest Somalia.

A police officer, who declined to be named, said that a land mine exploded near an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp on the outskirts of Baidoa during Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

“The blast occurred near an IDP camp where many people were holding traditional Eid celebrations. We can confirm five people died and 15 others were wounded,” the officer told Xinhua by phone, adding that the casualties could rise as there were many people at the scene.

Ismael Mukhtar Omar, spokesman of the Somali government, confirmed the incident to Xinhua, saying the explosion occurred where people were holding Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

“As we were watching people playing traditional plays, we heard a huge blast sound, and then smoke rose up into the air. We ran to different directions for safety. There were many casualties,” Hani Ibrahim, a witness, told Xinhua via phone.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

(XINHUA)

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Spain’s coronavirus death toll rises to 28,752

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The coronavirus death toll in Spain rose by 70 to 28,752, according to the Spanish Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare on Sunday.

According to the ministry, 70 people lost their lives in the 24 hours until midnight on Saturday, 22 more than the number reported a day earlier.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 235,772 from 235,290, it said.

(XINHUA)

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Israeli aircraft lands in Turkey for first time since 2007

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An Israeli plane has landed in Turkey for the first time for over a decade, Israel’s leading airline El Al said on Sunday.

El Al was the only Israeli airline to conduct flights to Turkey until it canceled the route to Istanbul in 2007 due to high security costs and stiff restrictions arising from the tense relations between the two countries.

Since then, except for emergency landings and private flights, no Israeli aircraft has landed in Turkey.

On Sunday, however, El Al’s Dreamliner aircraft, converted to carry cargo, landed in Istanbul.

It was loaded there with 24 tons of humanitarian coronavirus equipment, destined for Israel and the United States.

So far, El Al has received approval from the Turkish authorities to operate two flights for humanitarian purposes and is awaiting approval to operate cargo flights regularly.

(XINHUA)

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Syria records 16 new COVID-19 cases

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A total of 16 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in Syria on Sunday, bringing the overall number of infections registered in the country to 86, the Syrian Health Ministry said.

All of the newly discovered cases were for people who came from abroad, said the ministry.

It said there are 41 recoveries and four deaths among the registered cases.

The Syrian government has recently eased the measures against the spread of the COVID-19 but kept a partial curfew in place while urging civilians to take precautions and maintain social distancing.

(XINHUA)

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Tunisia’s president stresses people’s unity

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Tunisian President Kais Saied on Sunday said many difficulties could be overcome thanks to everyone’s belief in the solidarity of the Tunisian people at home and abroad.

“The ultimate goal is to ensure decent living conditions for all citizens, while the wealth looted from the people must be returned to them,” President Saied stressed in a televised address to the nation on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

“Whoever prepares for anarchy and sets fire to the property of the Tunisian people here and there will certainly be the first to suffer the repercussions of the flames,” Saied said.

(XINHUA)

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27 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Morocco, 7,433 in total

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A total of 27 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Morocco on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to 7,433.

The number of recovered people has increased to 4,703 with 65 new recoveries, Director of Epidemiology at the Ministry of Health Mohamed El Youbi said in his daily briefing.

El Youbi said that 199 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported so far, after one new death case was reported in the past 24 hours.

(XINHUA)

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Spotlight: U.S. small businesses go all out to survive COVID-19 pandemic

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Small business owners across the United States, finding themselves wedged between a rock and a hard place, are struggling not to become the latest casualty in COVID-19‘s march from sea to shining sea.

Some are shuttering their businesses, some are scrambling to repurpose them to try and tough it out, while other small business owners and employees are finding themselves having to choose between keeping their businesses healthy or themselves.

While most people are safely sheltering in place during the pandemic, many workers, like at cleaning services, must still work outside the home to earn their daily bread.

“For us, the fear of having no money coming in can outweigh the fear of getting COVID-19,” said Gladys Hamil, manager of MurrMaids Residential Cleaning Service, a small, Hispanic-owned and staffed housecleaning service operating in Orange County, California.

Working in a pandemic that is already disproportionately infecting Hispanics according to Los Angeles County statistics can be a challenge. Cleaners have to keep working when their income takes a nosedive and government programs are slow to pick up the slack to help put food on the table for their families.

“Those of us who can stay home, do,” Hamil told Xinhua. “But that’s not possible for everyone.”

MurrMaids staff and their clients prioritize safety, despite the difficulties and added expense of COVID-19 protocols.

“We and our clients are super safety conscious now, so our staff wears masks and gloves and maintains correct social distancing. Some clients are still nervous — especially those with small kids and elderly parents in the house,” Hamil said. “You need to be compassionate about people’s fears.”

MurrMaids has already had cancellations that have brutalized its business and raised the worry of how to make ends meet for its hardworking staff.

“We used to clean four or more per day five days a week. Now we are down to less than half of that,” Hamil said. “That’s a real worry for everyone.”

Restaurants, from “white tablecloth” gourmet venues to mom-and-pop eateries, have been particularly hard hit. Rise N Shine Cafe in Shadow Hills, Los Angeles, a small business owned by the Ratz family and run by a mother-daughter team, Sharon and Melinda Ratz, is trying to come up with innovative ways to survive the lockdown and stay in business.

“Our business dropped 50 percent and we went from dine-in to take-out pretty much overnight,” daughter Melinda told Xinhua. “We are using the down time to renovate, prep for reopening, repainting and hanging partitions inside.”

They have been in business for 18 years and served a lot of first responders from local police and fire departments who can’t get enough of their hearty plates of American and TexMex fare.

“They are not just customers,” Melinda said. “We have a lot of friends in our community and hate to see everyone struggling. We are trying to bring a little light into their lives, especially the first responders who are used to eating here all the time.”

They are considering doing “car-hop” service so people can eat off 1950’s style window trays in their cars in the parking lot or putting up big tents outside so people can sit six feet (1.8 meters) apart while they chow down.

Another industry feeling the bite is pet services. Right Fluff operates outside of Washington, D.C. It is owned and run by the founder, Marcela Santos, who went from owning a thriving dog-walking, cat-sitting, and pet-care business to having to make a COVID-19-inspired hard pivot into the grocery delivery service.

“Our pet care business went hand-in-hand with the travel industry, so we were hit really hard by the pandemic,” Santos told Xinhua. “There’s not much need for pet-sitting when no one is traveling and everyone is working from home.”

A level-headed and resourceful young woman, Santos took just a weekend to grieve the loss of her pet business, and then got down to figuring out how to move forward and survive.

Now she is making ends meet with grocery delivery, prescription pickup and pet supply delivery services, with the occasional drop off of sick pets to the veterinarian. Her company now also features staff members on its website with other skills to offer, such as one employee who offers tutoring in French and another who is also a talented graphic designer.

Like many of the really small businesses, Right Fluff has had little success getting government grants or loans. “We’ve applied for every kind of assistance there is, but other than a little Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) money, none of the other programs even answered us,” Santos said.

“My number one goal is to make sure everyone has a job to come back to,” Santos said.

“It is frustrating to see the delay on critical and necessary changes to the flawed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that will make the program more functional for small business owners who have received PPP loans,” said Amanda Ballantyne, executive director of the Main Street Alliance, a business advocacy group that represents over 30,000 small businesses, in a recent press release.

Before the pandemic, small businesses typically accounted for 44 percent of U.S. economic activity and created two-thirds of net new jobs, according to the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration, noting that small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy.

But now, mid-stream in the COVID-19 outbreak, multiple reports and polls are painting a far grimmer reality.

A total of 54 percent of all small businesses report that they have closed or expect to close temporarily in the next 14 days, according to a poll released in April from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fortune 500 insurer, MetLife.

The CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey conducted from April 21 to 27 among 2,200 small business owners across the country reported that 72 percent of all small business owners say their businesses will be permanently affected by the outbreak, due to decreasing consumer demand for their products and services.

With U.S. consumers accounting for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, if they won’t — or can’t — keep spending, it will trigger a domino effect leading to more closures.

There are government programs trying to help, but with no central leadership coordinating the effort in Washington, D.C. and many confusing qualifications, exclusions and contradictory rules for each program, only 45 percent of U.S. small businesses have even tried to apply for them, revealed the CNBC’s recent survey.

Ballantyne warned that the loss of small businesses will have a multiplier effect on employment and the economy, predicting additional waves of bankruptcies coming down the pike, a matching rise in unemployment, and supply chain breakdowns.

(XINHUA)

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Afghan girls design ventilator from car parts for Covid-19 patients

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A group of Afghan girls has designed the prototype of a cheap ventilator that can help patients, suffering from the novel coronavirus who are struggling, to breathe.

Members of the all-female robotics team known as the “Afghan Dreamers” – aged between 12 and 18 years old – live in the country’s western Herat province.

The six-member team took up the challenge when the virus reached their province after thousands of people fled neighbouring Iran to escape the pandemic.

Local officials said they were concerned about lack of ventilators to help patients severely affected by the disease.

The ‘Afghan Girls’ Robotic Team’, as they are also known, created a prototype for a ventilator costing around $600.

A standard ventilator costs an average of $30,000 on the global market.

Spare parts from Toyota Corolla cars and motorcycles were the only tools available to the teenagers as they built the device during the lockdown.

A physician from Harvard University and scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were among the experts the team approached for guidance.

“The ventilator is almost completed and only needs an air sensor to work similar to a standard device,’’ said Roya Mahboob, the tech entrepreneur, who sponsors 50 girls including the robotics team.

Mahboob has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people.

In the absence of the air sensor, the team’s ventilator can pump air into the lungs of patients for two hours.

Nahid Rahimi, 18, who joined the group last year, told dpa that the team had tested the device in a hospital and that experts approved of it.

Some improvements are still needed though, she said.

The team also plans to present a new device in the near future called the “Virus Killer”.

It scans and kills viruses on surfaces in seconds, using a UV light.

“The team has done a brilliant job,’’ Ms Mahboob said, noting the country’s lack of resources and the ongoing war.

“At a time as the world is fighting the coronavirus crisis, the Afghan girls took a step forward and did what they could.’’

The Afghan Dreamers have been honing their skills for years but in 2017, when hoping to attend an international robotics competition in Washington, the team was denied a visa by the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

The ensuing headlines reportedly led the U.S. President Donald Trump to intervene and the girls returned from the event with a silver medal for “courageous achievement”.

Since then, the team has participated in many other competitions from Canada to Mexico.

The girls’ robots have won prizes including the 2018 Rookie Inspiration Award and the 2019 Asia Game Changer award.

Their homeland had recorded some 10,000 cases of the virus by Saturday and a death toll of 216 that includes at least 11 health workers.

Of Afghanistan’s 37 million people, only 30,000 have been tested since the country reported its first case in February.

The country has limited testing capabilities and a fragile health-care system after four decades of war and conflict.

There are fears of further, undetected outbreaks in Afghanistan, where there are only 400 ventilators and 3,000 beds for patients suffering from COVID-19.

Many in the country do not believe that the virus is particularly serious and there is a rumour that the president is exaggerating about the disease in order to attract aid.

However, the number of cases continues to climb.

“If the situation continues like this, we may see a major crisis and tragedy in Afghanistan in June and July,’’ Health Minister, Firuzuddin Firuz, warned recently.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

 
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Mozambique reports 26 new cases of COVID-19

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Mozambique recorded 26 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 194, health authorities announced on Sunday.

It was the largest increase in a single day since the country reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 22.

Public Health Director Rosa Marlene, speaking at the regular press conference in Maputo, said nine of the new cases are asymptomatic and the rest have mild to moderate symptoms. The patients are in isolation at home while the process of mapping their contacts is underway.

Among the 26 new cases, 24 are of Mozambican nationality, one is of South African nationality and one is of American nationality.

Mozambican authorities have so far tested a total of 8,463 suspected cases, with 1,634 of them still under quarantine.

(XINHUA)

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South Sudan confirms 10 new cases of COVID-19 as tally hits 665

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South Sudan’s Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 10 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of infections to 665.

Angok Gordon Kuol, an official with the Ministry of Health of South Sudan, said the latest cases are from 218 samples which were tested in the last 24 hours.

“The Ministry of Health is conducting tracing of individuals who had contact with COVID-19 cases,” Kuol told reporters in Juba.

The official reiterated that South Sudan so far registered six recovery cases and eight fatalities.

He urged the public to strictly observe the rules of social distancing and other public health measures that were declared by the government as a means to manage the spread of the disease.

Kuol called on the public to report any suspected case to the nearest public health facility.

The spike in COVID-19 cases came after the government eased the restrictions that were imposed as part of measures to help control the spread of the virus in the country.

(XINHUA)

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Chinese medical experts in Algeria hold video conference about COVID-19

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Chinese medical experts in Algeria on Sunday held a video conference with Chinese people in Tunisia for the prevention of the COVID-19.

Organized by the Chinese embassy in Tunisia, workers from Chinese companies and Chinese people living in Tunisia participated in the video conference.

During the conference, Chinese medical experts answered questions related to the COVID-19, including the prospect for the resumption of the work of Chinese companies in Tunisia and personal protection measures against the COVID-19.

Chinese Ambassador to Tunisia Wang Wenbin said that Chinese people in Tunisia strengthened their confidence in the prevention of the COVID-19 through the training event.

Zhou Lin, the expert team leader and the deputy director of Chongqing Municipal Health Commission, said the expert team is willing to provide support and professional consulting for Chinese people in Tunisia to fight against the epidemic at any time.

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

During their stay in Algeria, they have already carried out extensive and in-depth exchanges with their Algerian counterparts on the prevention and control measures of the COVID-19.

They also held several video conferences with Chinese companies and Chinese people in Algeria for the prevention and control of the COVID-19.

(XINHUA)

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