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Country folk singer, John Prine dies at 73 of coronavirus complications

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Grammy-winning Singer John Prine, who wrote his early songs in his head while delivering mail and later emerged from Chicago’s folk revival scene in the 1970s to become one of the most influential songwriters, died on Tuesday.

He was 73.

According to his wife, Fiona Whelan Prine, who was also his manager, Prine was hospitalised in Nashville on March 26, suffering from symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus,

“We join the world in mourning the passing of revered country and folk singer/songwriter John Prine.

“Widely lauded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, John’s impact will continue to inspire musicians for years to come. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones.” the Recording Academy said in a written statement.

A Publicist for Prine confirmed his death due to complications from COVID-19 at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in his adopted hometown of Nashville.

Born in Chicago on Oct. 10, 1946, to William Prine and Verna Hamm, both originally of Kentucky, Prine was taught by his older brother David to play guitar at the age of 14 and attended music classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

After graduating from high school in suburban Maywood, Illinois, Prine worked as a mail carrier for five years, performing in Chicago clubs in the evenings at occasional “open mic” nights.

He would say later that some of his best-known early songs were written while he walked the streets of Chicago delivering mail.

“I likened the mail route to being in a library without any books. You just had time to be quiet and think and that’s where I would come up with a lot of songs.

“If the song was any good I could remember it later and write it down,” Prine told the Chicago Tribune in a 2010 interview.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966, stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War, before returning home to dedicate himself to music and establishing himself as a leading member of Chicago’s folk revival scene.

That album, widely praised by critics, contained several songs that would become staples of Prine’s catalogue.

They included “Angel from Montgomery,” about a woman wishing for deliverance from her unfulfilling life; “Paradise,” about a Kentucky town devastated by strip mining; and “Sam Stone,” chronicling the downward spiral of a drug-addicted Vietnam War veteran and containing the oft-quoted refrain:

“There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose.”

His early song writing style earned comparisons with no less than folk Great Bob Dylan, who later called Prine one of his favourites

He won his first Grammy Award in 1991; Best Contemporary Folk Album for “The Missing Years.”

He would win a second Grammy in the same category in 2005 for “Fair and Square’’.

In December 2019, the Recording Academy honoured him with a lifetime achievement award.

Prine survived squamous cell cancer in 1998, undergoing surgery to his neck and tongue that left his voice with an even deeper, gravelly tone.

In 2013, he was diagnosed with cancer in his left lung and had it removed.

Prine was able to find humour in his struggle with cancer, joking that it actually improved his voice.

The same humour suffused much of his work, alongside its poignant commentary about the struggles and foibles of ordinary people.

“If I can make myself laugh about something I should be crying about, that’s pretty good,” he once said.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Adeleye Ajayi
(NAN)

 

Emmanuel Okara: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

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Japan lifts state of emergency over coronavirus for entire country, ushers in era of “new normal”

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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,” the Japanese leader 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.

As for the greater Tokyo area, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike offered her thanks to the people for their efforts to help contain the pneumonia-causing virus, but warned them to remain cautious and not to let their guards down.

“There could be a second or third wave of infections so I need to ask the citizens of Tokyo for their continued cooperation,” Koike said.

Under Koike’s stewardship, the Tokyo metropolitan government has set out a roadmap toward resuming economic and social activities in the nation’s capital. The roadmap has been divided into three phases.

Phase one, which could kick off as soon as Tuesday, will see restrictions begin to be eased on museums and libraries. Restaurants and bars in this phase will be allowed to stay open until 10:00 p.m., beyond the previous closing time of 8:00 p.m. under the prior emergency measures.

The second phase, possibly to begin at the end of the month, involves easing the restrictions for cinemas and theaters and cram schools, while the final phase will allow restaurants to stay open until midnight and amusement parks and pachinko parlors to reopen, although high-risk businesses like karaoke bars, gyms and hostess bars will be requested to stay closed.

Professional sports, including baseball and basketball leagues, will be allowed to resume without spectators from June 19, according to the government’s latest plans issued Monday.

High schools that fall under the auspices of the Tokyo metropolitan government will be phased back in, with students rotating between classes and online learning. The number of students attending regular classes will be gradually increased, with the situation being constantly monitored, Tokyo officials said.

For the city to move to the next phase, there must be fewer than 20 daily infections on average across a week, with the percentage of untraceable cases remaining below 50 percent. The number of total weekly infections must be lower than the previous week, while the number of seriously ill, testing capacity and medical facilities’ occupancy rates will also be factored in, the officials said,

“Recently, the number of new cases in Tokyo has been relatively low. If this welcome trend continues, we may progress along the roadmap more quickly than expected. We want to be flexible,” Koike has said.

According to the latest figures on Monday evening from the health ministry and local authorities, 17 new COVID-19 infections were confirmed nationwide, bringing the total to 16,628 cases.

The death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus, including those from a cruise ship that had been quarantined in Yokohama, totals 864 people.

(XINHUA)

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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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Chaos at Indian airports as country resumes domestic air travel

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India resumed domestic flights on Monday, two months after a coronavirus lockdown was imposed, but confusion and chaos prevailed at major airports as large numbers of flights were cancelled.

Air services were suspended in late March when India went into a lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, bringing the domestic aviation sector to the brink of collapse.

More than 80 flights to and from the capital New Delhi were cancelled on Monday, airport authorities said, with irate passengers complaining of not being informed until the last minute.

Similar scenes were taking place at airports in Mumbai and Chennai, with many passengers sitting outside after their flights were cancelled, domestic news channels showed.

The cancellations were a result of confusion as each state made its own set of rules on easing restrictions, including capping the number of flights to address concerns about infections being imported from other cities.

States also had different rules on the duration of quarantine for arriving passengers, in some places as long as 28 days.

“We travelled (all) night to catch a flight from the Delhi airport but we are now told our flight is cancelled. We got no notifications from our airlines,” a passenger at told a domestic news channel.

Passengers were also stranded at airports in southern cities of Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram after flights were cancelled, broadcaster NDTV reported.

Eastern India’s main airport in Kolkata was not yet operational. West Bengal, the state in which the city is located, was battered by Cyclone Amphan last week and repair works are under way.

India’s government last week announced the resumption of domestic flights in a “calibrated” way, with airline companies allowed to operate one-third of their scheduled flights.

It devised a protocol including physical distancing, no-contact check-in at airports, thermal screening and use of a mandatory COVID-19 tracking app.

But a plan to keep the middle seat vacant on planes in accordance with physical distancing was dropped to cap ticket prices.

The Supreme Court on Monday directed international flights repatriating Indian nationals to have the middle seat vacant from June 7 to prevent infections. It was not clear whether this would apply to domestic flights.

The resumption of domestic travel comes as the country entered the top 10 countries worst-hit by the virus, after four days of record spikes in the number of new coronavirus cases.

India registered 6,977 new patients in the last 24 hours, taking the total to over 138,000 cases, overtaking Iran. 4,021 deaths linked with COVID-19 have been confirmed.

India that entered its fourth phase of lockdown on May 18, announced several relaxations including resumption of domestic travel, allowing bus and passenger vehicles, within and between states but outside of containment zones.

Passenger train services will also expand from existing 15 trains to more than 200 from June 1.

Aviation officials indicated that international flights may begin by mid-June.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Farmers harvest garlic in countryside near Damascus, Syria

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Farmers harvest garlic in the countryside near Damascus, Syria, May 19, 2020. (Photo by Ammar Safarjalani/Xinhua)

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Morocco decides to extend country’s state of emergency for three more weeks

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Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani is seen wearing a face mask in Rabat, Morocco, May 18, 2020. Moroccan government has decided to extend the country’s state of emergency for three more weeks until June 10, announced Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani on Monday in a parliamentary hearing session. (Photo by Chadi/Xinhua)

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Germany to turn worldwide travel warning into country-specific advice in mid-June

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The German government plans to lift its worldwide travel warning and turn it into country-specific travel advice on June 15, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced on Monday.

“We want to ensure and create the conditions for summer holidays to be possible, but under responsible circumstances,” said Maas after a telephone conference with his counterparts from several European countries, some of which are hot destinations for German travelers.

Mass ruled out a quick return to “business as usual,” pointing out that restrictions would apply “everywhere” — on beaches, in restaurants and in city centers.

A “coordinated and transparent approach” by the European countries was important with regard to entry regulations, quarantine rules and normalization of cross-border traffic, according to Maas.

Before the meeting, Maas told the German broadcaster ZDF “the holiday this year will not like the one you know from the past.”

(XINHUA)

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Slow response makes U.S. hardest-hit country of COVID-19: experts

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The United States has reported more than 1.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 85,000 deaths, making it the hardest-hit country. Experts say the U.S. government’s non-efficient response has led to the situation.

(XINHUA)

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Stop hostilities in Libya so country can focus on fighting COVID-19: UN

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Amid reports of rocket fire and civilian casualties in and around Tripoli, the United Nations is calling for a cease-fire in Libya so that the country can focus on fighting COVID-19, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.

There were reports of rockets being fired in Tripoli on Thursday, reportedly causing civilian casualties. Hostilities were also reported near the Tripoli Central Hospital, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“Our humanitarian partners say that if Libya is to have any chance against COVID-19, the ongoing conflict must come to an immediate halt. We reiterate our call once again for all parties to the conflict to do everything in their power to uphold their responsibility to protect civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles.”

Despite enormous challenges, humanitarian partners continue to deliver urgent assistance to people in need, reaching more than 138,000 people so far this year, Dujarric told a virtual briefing.

While acknowledging the generosity of donors, the spokesman said a boost in funding to continue humanitarian programs is urgently required. The Libya humanitarian response plan, which requires 130 million U.S. dollars, is only 14 percent funded, he said.

(XINHUA)

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Canada to test for COVID-19 antibodies as country’s debt forecasted to reach 1 trln CAD

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As the COVID-19 pandemic could push Canada’s debt into the trillion-Canadian-dollar (709 billion U.S. dollars) territory, the country took an important step to identify immunity from the novel coronavirus disease.

On Tuesday night, the Canadian government’s health department announced that it had authorized the first COVID-19 serological test — the Italian-made DiaSorin LIAISON approved in the United States last month — for use in Canadian laboratories to detect antibodies specific to the virus.

A COVID-19 immunity task force, established by the government in late April, will oversee the collection and testing of at least one million blood samples from across Canada over the next two years to track the spread of the virus within the general population as well as in groups of people at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, such as the elderly and healthcare workers.

The serological tests will examine the effectiveness of antibodies, which appear days or weeks following an infection, in providing someone with protection from reinfection, and for what duration, said Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, at the government’s daily COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Canada’s National Research Council also announced a collaboration with Chinese company CanSino Biologics, Inc., to produce a vaccine which is currently in human clinical trials.

Elsewhere in Canada, a team at the Lawson Health Research Institute is attempting a world first in treating seriously ill COVID-19 patients with a form of dialysis by removing a patient’s blood, reprogramming the white blood cells associated with inflammation and returning them to combat the heightened immune response.

On the economic side, a wide range of COVID-related relief packages provided by the government could lead to the federal debt rising to more than 638 billion U.S. dollars, or about 17,000 dollars for every adult and child in Canada, the country’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux warned on Tuesday.

It is “possible and realistic” that Canada’s debt could reach one trillion Canadian dollars, or 709 billion U.S. dollars, by this time next year, Giroux told the House of Commons standing committee on finance.

Due to the pandemic crisis, the government delayed releasing a budget this year, but last year’s projection of the national treasury’s debt for the 2020-21 fiscal year is 514 billion U.S. dollars.

Giroux, who is accountable to the parliament, called on the Canadian government to provide a fiscal update on the massive emergency spending spree.

“The situation is changing incredibly rapidly,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during his daily COVID-19 news conference on Wednesday when asked about the state of the country’s finances.

“A budget is usually something that projects what’s going to happen in the Canadian economy for the next 12 months, and right now, we’re having a lot of difficulty establishing with any certainty what’s going to happen in the next 12 weeks,” Trudeau said.

(XINHUA)

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India becomes 12th worst-affected country by COVID-19, Thailand records zero cases for first time since January

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The overall situation in Asia-Pacific countries over the COVID-19 pandemic remained unstable on Wednesday, as India became the 12th worst-affected country with over 74,000 infections, regardless of zero cases reported in Thailand for the first time since the outbreak.

India has become the 12th most-affected country due to the pandemic after recording a total of 74,281 COVID-19 cases and 2,415 deaths, surpassing Canada’s tally with 71,157 cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) list.

Thailand saw zero new COVID-19 cases, the first time since Jan. 13 when the first case was recorded in the country, according to Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

Bangladesh reported 19 new deaths of COVID-19 patients, the country’s biggest daily increase since March. Its number of confirmed cases increased to 17,822, with 1,162 more cases reported in the last 24 hours.

The Indonesian government announced 689 new confirmed cases of the COVID-19, the highest single-day rise since the outbreak in the country in early March, taking the total to 15,438 cases in the country.

Malaysia reported 37 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national total to 6,779, the Health Ministry said. Of the new cases, 33 cases were local transmissions and four were imported.

The Philippines’ daily tally of new infections rose by 268, increasing the total number of the COVID-19 cases to 11,618.

Nepal reported 217 cases after the Ministry of Health and Population on Tuesday reported 83 new cases, the largest single-day spike in cases.

With the rising number of cases in recent days, the COVID-19 cases in Nepal more than doubled in less than a week, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Health and Population.

New Zealand reported no more COVID-19 cases for two consecutive days, with the total number of confirmed and probable cases remaining at 1,497, as the country is about to relax lockdown restrictions midnight.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government will deliver Budget 2020 on Thursday “within the most challenging economic conditions faced by any government since the Great Depression.”

The country will move to COVID-19 Alert Level 2 on Thursday and reopen most businesses in 10 days, according to a decision made on Monday.

South Korea reported 26 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 10,962. After hitting the bottom at two on May 6, the daily caseload continued to rise and stay around 30 in recent days.

South Korea’s job loss hit the worst in over 21 years in April as companies led employees to go on unpaid leave or be laid off amid the COVID-19 outbreak, statistical office data showed.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has held talks with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau on the latest developments of COVID-19 pandemic.

(XINHUA)

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India becomes 12th worst-affected country with over 74,000 COVID-19 cases

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India has become the 12th most-affected country on Wednesday due to the pandemic after recording a total of 74,281 COVID-19 cases and 2,415 deaths.

With these figures, India has crossed Canada’s tally, which has 71,157 cases of COVID-19, according to World Health Organization (WHO) list.

According to top health research body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 1,854,250 samples have been tested until Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday evening, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a package worth 267 billion U.S. dollars during a televised address to tackle the impact of COVID-19 outbreak and weeks of lockdown on the economy. The new package is equivalent to 10 percent of India’s GDP.

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to list out the details of the package during the evening.

(XINHUA)

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New Zealand reports no new COVID-19 cases as country relaxes restrictions midnight

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New Zealand reported no more COVID-19 cases for two consecutive days on Wednesday, with the total number of confirmed and probable cases remaining at 1,497, as the country is about to relax lockdown restrictions midnight.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a press conference the death toll remained at 21 in the country, and 1,042 cases have recovered from the virus.

Two people are receiving hospital treatment, but neither is in ICU, Bloomfield said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government will deliver Budget 2020 on Thursday “within the most challenging economic conditions faced by any government since the Great Depression.”

“The global COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a global economic shock not of our making, but like every country in the world, we are also not immune to its fallout,” Ardern said in a speech on Wednesday.

“Let me be clear, the coming months and years will be some of the most challenging our country has faced in a very, very long time,” she said.

New Zealand will move to COVID-19 Alert Level 2 on Thursday and reopen most businesses in 10 days, according to a decision made on Monday.

The State of National Emergency across New Zealand has been lifted and a National Transition Period is now in place as the country prepares to move to Alert Level 2, said Civil Defense Minister Peeni Henare.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Italy COVID-19 cases drop as country braces for economic decline

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A further 172 COVID-19 patients had died in the past 24 hours in Italy, bringing the country’s death toll to 30,911, out of total infection cases of 221,216, according to fresh figures on Tuesday.

Recoveries jumped by 2,452, bringing the nationwide total to 109,039 — up from 106,587 recoveries on Monday. Nationwide, the number of active infections fell by 1,222 to 81,266, according to Italy’s Civil Protection Department.

Of those who tested positive for the coronavirus, 952 are in intensive care — down by 47 compared to Monday, and 12,865 are hospitalized with symptoms — down by 674 over the past 24 hours. The rest 67,449 people, or 83 percent of those who tested positive, are isolated at home.

The Lombardy region, whose capital is Milan, still had the lion’s share of active cases (30,675), followed by its neighbors Piedmont (13,184), Emilia-Romagna (6,801) and the Veneto region whose capital is Venice (5,190).

In the rest of Italy’s 20 regions, active case totals ranged from 4,273 in the central Lazio region, where Rome is located, to 104 in the northern Valle d’Aosta region in the Alps.

“THE RIGHT PATH”

During a press conference earlier in the day, Coronavirus Emergency Commissioner Domenico Arcuri said with regards to the first week after the easing of lockdown restrictions that “Italians have given the rest of the world a good example with their cautious and prudent attitude as they embarked on Phase Two of this emergency.”

“I think we’re on the right path,” Arcuri said. “The curve of the infection has normalized, and I am certain we will be able to manage Phase Two as we did Phase One (meaning the lockdown).”

He said that over the past few weeks “we have delivered 4,403 ventilators to hospitals throughout the country; last night, for the first time since the start of the emergency, the number of COVID-19 ICU patients dropped to under 1,000.”

The extra ventilators will remain, and the country will soon “stop having to depend on imports of personal protection equipment.”

“These are two significant differences between what was there before, and what will remain after” the emergency, Arcuri said.

He added that since May 1, 19 million surgical masks have been sold to the public at a fixed price of 50 euro cents (54.3 dollar cents) per mask.

“Unfortunately for speculators, the price is and will remain 50 cents,” Arcuri said. “The speculation we observed in the past no longer exists, and it will not be back.”

He also said that the Civil Protection Department has distributed 36.2 million masks to authorities in Italy’s 20 regions — 40 percent more than the previous week.

“Since the beginning of the emergency, we have distributed 208.8 million masks — the regions now have 55 million masks in their warehouses,” Arcuri said.

Italy has a population of just over 60 million inhabitants, according to ISTAT national statistics institute.

“NOT ENOUGH TO SAVE TOURISM”

In a statement out Tuesday, the Bank of Italy said that while it is difficult to gauge the long-term economic fallout of the pandemic, “its effects will be of virulence that has never or rarely been experienced in the past.”

In its monthly economic bulletin, the Italian central bank said the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 4.7 percent in the first quarter of the year.

This compared to the contraction of 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 and growth of 0.3 percent in the first quarter last year, according to the Bank of Italy.

The government is working on 55-billion-euro (60 billion U.S. dollars) so-called “Recovery Decree” to shore up Italy’s productive system, and drafts have been circulating, sparking objections from different sectors of the country’s economic base.

In a joint statement, the Italian Association of Tourism Distribution (AIDIT), the Italian Association of Tour Operators (ASTOI), and the Italian Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (Assoviaggi) warned that the measures contained in the draft decree don’t go far enough.

If the Recovery Decree is approved as it is, “it will deliver the final blow … against a sector that represents 13 percent of GDP and 15 percent of employment,” the statement said.

Among their major objections is that in its current form, the draft decree would grant non-repayable loans to tourist firms with a turnover of up to 5 million euros.

“This cap must be eliminated,” the associations claimed, arguing that it leaves out “all the medium and large tourist companies, including over 99 percent of tour operators and all the medium and large business travel, incoming, and events planning firms.”

According to Demoskopika market research firm, if there is “a slow exit from the COVID-19 health emergency, coupled with a tardy injection of liquidity into the economic system,” over 40,000 Italian tourism-related businesses will have to declare bankruptcy by the end of the year, with losses of almost 10 billion euros in turnover.

This “entrepreneurial mortality rate” would lead to the loss of 184,000 jobs across Italy, according to Demoskopica.

“Much will depend on the speed with which the institutions help the system come out of the emergency,” Demoskopica President Raffaele Rio said in a statement out April 11.

According to international tourism numbers released by the Bank of Italy on Tuesday, over 62 million foreigners came to visit this Mediterranean country in 2018, rising to more than 65 million such visitors in 2019.

(XINHUA)

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France becomes world’s 4th worst-hit country with 26,991COVID-19 related deaths

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France‘s death toll from the coronavirus reached 26,991 on Tuesday, overtaking Spain‘s 26,920 as it recorded 348 more deaths in the last 24 hours. France thus became the world‘s fourth worst-hit country in terms of deaths after the United States, Britain and Italy, data from the Health Ministry showed.

Meanwhile, some 21,595 are hospitalized, among them 2,542 are in intensive care units, down by 170, consolidating a downtrend reported since April 8.

Since early March, 140,227 infections have been confirmed, representing a one-day increase of 708, while 57,785 have been recovered.

“The pandemic is still active and evolving. We are gradually resuming our activities, but we must do so with great caution, respect all barrier measures…We must all continue to mobilize to curb the virus’ circulation and continue our efforts to protect those most at risk from developing a serious form,” the ministry said.

(XINHUA)

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Lebanese cabinet orders country’s complete shutdown amid increase in COVID-19 cases

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The Lebanese cabinet announced on Tuesday that it will completely shut the country down for four days from Wednesday night until Monday morning amid an increase in new COVID-19 cases.

Due to the effectiveness in containing the virus since its outbreak in Lebanon on Feb. 21, the government decided to reduce lockdown measures to allow people to return to work amid a dire economic situation.

However, the country has seen a rise in new cases recently. Lebanon registered zero new cases on April 21 for the first time since the virus got spread in the country, but it registered 36, 14, and 11 new cases on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Local health experts attribute the resurgence to several reasons, including nationwide protests which resumed due to dire economic conditions and the fact that some people did not commit to proper precautionary measures.

“We do not blame reduction in lockdown measures for this increase in new cases because people will eventually have to go out. However, some people left their houses without committing to proper measures, such as wearing masks and obeying social distancing,” Firas Abiad, director general of Rafic Hariri University Hospital, the main hospital treating COVID-19 in Lebanon, told Xinhua.

Abiad noted that some Lebanese expats arriving from COVID-19 infected countries did not quarantine themselves for 14 days as instructed by the Health Ministry.

Lebanon has made efforts in its fight against the virus by controlling the movements of people, and shutting down restaurants, hotels, casino, pubs, and all kinds of shops except for food and medicine shops.

Moreover, a big number of Lebanese doctors, researchers, engineers and students invented some equipment to make up for any lack in the medical supplies in the country.

Abiad emphasized the need by authorities to shut down the country for at least two weeks while taking measures to control people’s movements.

“If authorities do not have the capacity to do this, then they should at least force expats arriving from infected countries to be quarantined in specific places for a minimum period of two weeks,” he said.

He also suggested to use tracking apps on mobiles to help monitor people’s movements.

“People who jeopardize other citizens’ health should be punished,” he said.

Abiad also stressed the importance of increasing testing to make a better assessment of the situation.

The Lebanese government has increased its number of random tests conducted on a daily basis all over the country.

Moreover, Lebanon’s traffic management center announced on Tuesday that it has given 2,374 fine tickets in the past 24 hours for people who have violated general mobilization rules.

(XINHUA)

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COVID-19 Treatment: FG continues to learn other country’s approaches and tailor to Nigeria

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The Federal Ministry of Health says Nigeria’s response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) is in adherence with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines for the management of patients, who test positive for the virus.

Dr Adebimpe Adebiyi, Director (Hospital Services) in the ministry, told the News Agency of Nigeria , on Sunday in Abuja, that scientists were working on a global effort to find the best drugs to treat the virus.

Adebiyi said that while there was no cure for COVID-19 at this time, plans were  in place to harness herbal medicine for the clinical management of COVID-19 patients in the country.

 “The general response to the pandemic so far, in lieu of a vaccine, has been to effectively manage the growing number of cases in the country.

“While Nigeria has sadly recorded 128  deaths, resulting in a fatality rate of three per cent it has 745 discharged cases and a discharge rate of 17 per cent,” she stressed.

The director said that this was a result of effective coordination between the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and states to bolster their preparedness and response activities through the deployment of teams to support the capacity of health workers trained in various states.

She explained that the support given by the ministry of health, and NCDC to states included guidelines and procedures to support the work of health care workers managing patients.

 Adebiyi also explained that patients, who escaped from the isolation centres could possibly have done so due to other medical conditions that they had prior to when they tested positive for COVID-19.

She, however, stressed the need to incorporate mental health support in the ongoing case management for COVID-19 patients, stressing the consequences that could arise if not properly addressed.

 Adebiyi said that as Nigerians adhered to measures put in place to avoid the virus affecting even more Nigerians, the increasing number of isolation centres in the country was also part of  government’s strategy to avoid many citizens getting infected.

She added that as more information was determined about the virus, strategies for management of cases would be adapted.

“This is in line with the decision of the National Council on Health to decentralise the accreditation of isolation centres at the state level, to make it possible for teams in various states to constitute their own accreditation committees, while remaining regulated at the national level.

“This is in the hope that with better state management of the response, there will be a stronger and hopefully long-lasting management of the pandemic in Nigeria,”’ she stated.

Edited By: Ifeyinwa Omowole (NAN)

 

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French hospital says first suspected COVID-19 cases weeks earlier than official record in country

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The first suspected cases of COVID-19 infection in France could date back to Nov. 16 last year, some nine weeks earlier than the official record of the country’s first confirmed cases, a hospital in eastern France said Thursday.

“Doctor Michel Schmitt, head of the medical imaging department at the Albert Schweitzer hospital in Colmar, has reviewed 2,456 chest scans performed between Nov. 1 and April 30, for all reasons (cardiac, pulmonary, traumatic, tumor pathologies),” said the hospital in a press release.

The typical scans compatible with COVID-19 infection have been also reviewed in a second then a third reading by two other experienced radiologists. According to this retrospective study, the first cases of contamination with COVID-19 were thus identified from Nov. 16 in this hospital, it said.

Albert Schweitzer hospital added that it has launched a collaboration with France‘s National Center for Scientific Research to start an epidemiological exploitation of these results.

Before this announcement, the first case of COVID-19 infection in east France was officially identified in late February. It involved a 36-year-old man who returned from a trip to Lombardy, then hotspot of the epidemic in Italy.

The first COVID-19 infection cases officially recorded in France were on Jan. 24, 2020 relating to individuals who had recently arrived or returned from China.

France on Thursday registered 178 new deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, taking the tally to 25,987. As hospitalization data continued to slow, the government said on Thursday that the country would start to unwind the nearly-two-month anti-coronavirus lockdown from Monday.

(XINHUA)

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UK overtakes Italy as worst-hit country in Europe by coronavirus

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Britain has overtaken Italy as the worst-hit country in Europe by the novel coronavirus, according to the latest official figures released on Tuesday.

Chairing Tuesday’s Downing Street press briefing, Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said another 693 COVID-19 patients have died, bringing the total coronavirus-related death toll in Britain to 29,427.

The figures include deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.

Earlier in the day, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its latest coronavirus-registered death figures, showing the total death toll has passed 32,000, making Britain the worst-hit country in Europe followed by Italy.

The coronavirus-related death toll in Italy currently stands at 29,315. 

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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No country can be great in isolation, Chinese UN ambassador says in op-ed

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Zhang Jun, China‘s permanent representative to the United Nations, said in an op-ed published Tuesday by South China Morning Post that no country can be great in isolation, while stressing the importance of upholding multilateralism.

The newspaper published Zhang’s op-ed titled “A lesson from Covid-19: no country can be great in isolation. Instead, we must strengthen multilateralism” on the occasion of the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, which was observed Friday.

“Multilateralism, a collective choice made by humankind following a world war, has secured peace and development for the world over the past 75 years. At present, however, unilateralism is having a strong impact on multilateralism, threatening the international system centered on the UN, and shaking the international order underpinned by international law. This is truly worrying,” Zhang said in the op-ed.

Noting that multilateralism is not outdated, Zhang said “the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of multilateralism to all countries. After hard struggles against the disease and the loss of countless lives, humankind has finally realized that the virus knows no borders, or race.”

“Global collaboration, multilateral cooperation and collective strength is desperately needed in response to the pandemic. The overwhelming majority of countries fully support the World Health Organization, which has been central to multilateral cooperation efforts on health,” said the envoy.

Zhang said the world faces a long list of formidable challenges, including armed conflicts, terrorism and climate change, adding that the global economy is plagued with uncertainties, as the spread of protectionism is disrupting global supply and industrial value chains and undermining world trade.

“This is compounded by acts of bullying, which are jeopardizing global peace and stability. We have no choice but to strengthen multilateral cooperation,” he said.

“All countries, big or small, need multilateralism. In a world of interdependence, no one can escape a major challenge or get through it on its own. No country can make itself great in isolation,” he added.

“In fact, big countries have a bigger stake in multilateral cooperation, because they usually have more expansive interests around the world, from investment to trade, from protection of nationals to public security. And they need to behave in a way that befits their status,” said the envoy.

“Instead of putting their own interests above those of others, they should care for the common interests of all. Instead of carving out spheres of influence, they should work for an open world. Instead of provoking confrontation, they should take the lead in maintaining world peace and stability,” Zhang said.

Noting that the trust deficit is the biggest crisis, the ambassador said that “trust, especially trust between major countries, is the foundation of effective cooperation and a prerequisite of coordinated action. This virus is terrible. Yet, what is more terrible is a political virus, such as a Cold War mentality or a zero-sum game, which harms everyone.”

“Trust is built on mutual respect. China respects and learns from Western countries to work for shared prosperity. Western countries, for their part, need to respect the choices of the Chinese people and welcome the progress of a major country in the East, one with a different system from theirs,” he said.

Zhang called for responsibility, noting that global governance requires concerted efforts and, more importantly, efforts by major countries.

He also called for equality. “Developing countries constitute the vast majority of the UN membership, and their rights should be fully guaranteed in global governance. Only when all parties engage on an equal footing will multilateral mechanisms have vigor and synergy, and succeed in maintaining international fairness and justice,” he said.

“Achieving equality requires strong determination and sustained efforts. In this regard, China‘s Belt and Road Initiative follows the principle of consulting together, building together and sharing together, which is a true demonstration of equality of all,” he added.

The envoy also said benefits for all are important.

“The biggest advantage of multilateral cooperation is that resources and strength can be mobilized to the greatest extent in joint responses to global challenges. This will benefit more countries, especially vulnerable ones, and ensure no one is left behind,” he said.

“In combating Covid-19, solidarity for the mutual benefit of all is even more important. All countries should cherish the assistance received and try to help others. China is proud to have provided medical supplies to over 140 countries and international organizations, and will continue to help,” said Zhang.

“We live in one world and have a shared future. Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic we have to face. Stronger and better multilateral cooperation is key to winning the battle, all the time. Now more than ever, it is a lesson that we cannot afford to ignore. Supporting multilateralism is supporting ourselves,” said the ambassador.

(XINHUA)

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Libya’s eastern leader announces running country, canceling UN-backed deal

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Khalifa Haftar, commander of the eastern-based army of Libya, on Monday announced cancelling the UN-sponsored political agreement.

Haftar made this announcement in a televised speech, claiming it’s “people’s authorization” for him to run the country.

No official statements have been issued yet from the eastern-based parliament or the eastern-based government regarding Haftar’s remarks.

In December 2015, Libyan rival parties signed a UN-political agreement in Morocco that appointed the UN-backed Government of National Accord, in an attempt to end the state of political division in the country.

However, Libya remains politically divided between eastern and western governments competing for dominance.

Haftar’s eastern-based army has been leading a military campaign in and around the capital Tripoli, attempting to take over the city and topple the rival UN-backed government.
(XINHUA)

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