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EU commission to present Covid-19 economic aid package on Friday

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The European Commission is to present a package to help European Union (EU) member states struggling with the economic impact of the outbreak of COVID-19.

The EU executive will present “policy guidance and measures to deal with fiscal and economic consequences” of the disease on Friday, EU Economy Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis wrote on Twitter.

“We need to support our companies, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises and the self-employed hit by the crisis,” he added, following a crisis meeting of EU commissioners earlier on Thursday.

Similarly, European markets plunged after a coronavirus emergency monetary package announced by the European Central Bank fell well short of what investors had expected.

While Europe’s blue-chip Eurostoxx 50 dived by a hefty 9.54 per cent to 2,632.19 points as ECB President Christine Lagarde was outlining the package at a Frankfurt news conference, the euro slumped by 0.94 per cent to 1.1161 dollars.

Ten-year bond yields also came under pressure, notably in France, Spain and Italy, with the eurozone’s third biggest economy in total lockdown.

The drop in Eurostoxx 50 reflected steep falls in national bourses across the eurozone with stocks in Paris and Frankfurt also slumping by about 10 per cent.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim
(NAN)

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Traffic accident kills 2 teenagers in central Vietnam

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A traffic accident in Vietnam’s central province of Ha Tinh has killed two local teenagers, Vietnam News Agency reported on Monday.

The two victims, both under driving age, drove a motorbike at high speed and fell over after hitting a milestone themselves late Sunday night, the news agency cited a witness as reporting.

The two teenagers were found dead by the motorbike when the local authorities arrived, according to the report.

More than 4,500 traffic accidents occurred in Vietnam, killing over 2,100 people and seriously injuring nearly 1,300 people in the first four months of this year, according to the country’s General Statistics Office.

(XINHUA)

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India’s Mumbai COVID-19 infections surpasses 30,000 mark

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India’s western state of Maharashtra has surpassed the milestone of 50,000 COVID-19 cases with its capital Mumbai surpassing 30,000 cases mark, as per the official update late Sunday.

Total number of positive cases in Mumbai stands at 30,359 with 988 deaths reported so far after 1,725 fresh cases were reported on Sunday, as per the official report by the city’s civic authority.

Spread over 307,713 square kilometers, the second-most populous state and third-largest by area, Maharashtra with a population of 114 million, saw a new peak of 3,041 fresh cases on Sunday, taking the total tally of confirmed patient to 50,231, according to the state government data.

According to BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation report, the overall average growth rate of COVID-19 cases in the city from May 16-22 is 6.61 percent.

Mumbai, which accounts for 23 percent of the India’s total confirmed cases, has a higher base of COVID-19 patients, since the pandemic started spreading over the past two months.

Addressing the citizens of the state on Sunday, Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray indicated that the lockdown, which is in its fourth phase, might not be lifted by May 31.

“We can’t say that lockdown will be over by May 31. We will have to see how we will go forward. The coming time is crucial as the multiplication of the virus is picking up,” Thackeray said.

As per the official update on Monday morning, India has 73,560 active cases of novel coronavirus with 3,867 deaths reported so far.

(XINHUA)

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S.Korea reports 16 more COVID-19 cases, 11,206 in total

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South Korea reported 16 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Monday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,206.

The daily caseload fell below 20 in four days. Of the new cases, three were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 1,215.

One more death was confirmed, leaving the death toll at 267. The total fatality rate stood at 2.38 percent.

A total of 13 more patients were discharged from quarantine after making full recovery, pulling up the combined number to 10,226. The total recovery rate was 91.3 percent.

Since Jan. 3, the country has tested more than 826,000 people, among whom 796,142 tested negative for the virus and 19,089 are being checked.

(XINHUA)

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Vancouver unveils “Slow Streets” program to help people maintain physical distance

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South Africa to ease lockdown despite surge in COVID-19 cases

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South Africa will ease the COVID-19 lockdown from level four to level three, beginning from June 1, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Sunday amid a surge in confirmed cases.

“Moving to alert level three marks a significant shift in our approach to the pandemic,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.

Level three will allow the opening of the economy and the removal of a number of restrictions on the movement of people, while significantly expanding and intensifying the public health interventions, said Ramaphosa.

With up to 8 million people returning to work, the implementation of alert level three will involve the return to operation for most sectors of the economy, subject to observance of strict health protocols and social distancing rules, he said.

The opening of the economy and other activities means that more public servants will be called back to work, accompanied by the phased re-opening of schools, Ramaphosa said.

All gatherings will remain prohibited, except for funerals with no more than 50 people or meetings in the workplace for work purposes.

The national borders will remain closed except for the transport of goods and repatriation of nationals.

Ramaphosa said the decision was based on wide consultations with various stakeholders across the country and guided by advice from the World Health Organization and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The stakeholders “are all united in their insistence that our central goal must be to save lives and protect livelihoods,” Ramaphosa said.

South Africa enforced a level-five lockdown on March 27 and eased it to level four on May 1, allowing certain businesses to reopen and limited movement of people.

“While the nationwide lockdown has been effective, it cannot be sustained indefinitely,” he said.

Even as the country moves to alert level three, it is important that South Africans should be aware that there are a few parts of the country where the disease is concentrated and infections continue to rise, the president said.

He emphasized that the easing of some restrictions does not mean that the threat posed by the coronavirus has passed or that the fight against the disease is over.

In fact, the risk of a massive increase in infections is now greater than it has been since the start of the outbreak in the country, warned the president.

As of Sunday, South Africa has recorded 22,583 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up by 1,240 from Saturday, the highest daily surge since March 5 when the country reported its first case.

The national death toll stood at 429, with 22 reported in the past 24 hours.

(XINHUA)

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South Africa wants COVID-19 vaccine to be shared by all: president

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Any COVID-19 vaccine, if developed in the world, should be made freely and equitably available to citizens of all countries, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

There is a massive global effort to develop a vaccine, of which South Africa is part, Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.

The South African government is supporting and funding several research projects, including a plan to locally manufacture coronavirus vaccines as soon as candidates are available, said Ramaphosa.

South Africa will use the skills, expertise, infrastructure and organizations within the vaccine industry to produce and distribute the vaccines, he said.

As of Sunday, the country recorded a total of 22,583 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up 1,240 from Saturday, the highest daily surge since March 5 when the country reported its first case.

The country’s death toll stood at 429, with 22 reported in the past 24 hours.

As scientists had predicted, COVID-19 infections in South Africa have now started to rise sharply, with one third of the cumulative confirmed cases recorded in the last week alone, said Ramaphosa.

“And we should expect that these numbers will rise even further and even faster,” he said.

Various scientific models have showed that the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa is going to get much worse and the duration, scale and impact of the pandemic depends on human actions as a society and as individuals, Ramaphosa said.

“By following basic defensive practices, we can reduce both the number of infections and the number of deaths,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Over 700 staff members of Fiji Airways terminated due to implication of COVID-19

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More than 700 staff members of Fiji Airways, Fiji’s national carrier, were terminated on Monday as a result of the implication of COVID-19.

According to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) on Monday, around 775 staff members of Fiji Airways which include all cabin crew have been given termination letters by the company following a meeting on Monday.

In the letter, Fiji Airways said the severe effects of COVID-19 have resulted in the company taking this drastic step.

The letter stated that in future all terminated staff will need to reapply when the situation normalizes.

In May, Fiji Airways had extended all its international flight suspensions to the end of June due to the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a statement by Fiji Airways earlier this month, the national carrier also expects to reduce its scheduled services in July as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to decimate travel demand.

(XINHUA)

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5.0-magnitude quake hits 205km NNE of Ile Hunter, New Caledonia — USGS

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An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 jolted 205 km NNE of Ile Hunter, New Caledonia at 00:06:26 GMT on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 10.0 km, was initially determined to be at 20.5931 degrees south latitude and 172.5224 degrees east longitude.

(XINHUA)

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U.S. COVID-19 death toll nears 100,000, New York Times calls it “incalculable loss”

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The front page of Sunday’s New York Times features the names of 1,000 people who have died of COVID-19 in the United States. Calling it “an incalculable loss,” the newspaper clarified that “the 1,000 people here reflect just 1 percent of toll.”

“They were not simply names on a list. They were us,” the paper said. “Numbers alone cannot possibly measure the impact of the coronavirus in America, whether it is the number of patients treated, jobs interrupted or lives cut short.”

“Toward the end of May in the year 2020, the number of people in the United States who have died from the coronavirus neared 100,000 — almost all of them within a three-month span. An average of more than 1,100 deaths a day,” said the cover story sub-titled “The Human Toll,” which was printed on four full pages including the cover.

“Why has this happened in the United States of 2020? Why has the virus claimed disproportionately large number of black and Latino victims? Why were nursing homes so devastated? These questions of why and how and whom will be asked for decades to come,” said the report.

“For now, all we can do is hold our collective breath, inch toward some approximation of how things were — and try to process a loss of life greater than what the country incurred in several decades of war, from Vietnam to Iraq,” it added.

Over 96,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States, the largest toll among all the countries in the world, according to the Center of Systems Science and Engineering of Johns Hopkins University as of Sunday morning.

(XINHUA)

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People perform Eid al-Fitr prayer at home in Uganda

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A family perform Eid al-Fitr prayer at home in Wakiso district, Uganda, May 24, 2020. All places of worship including mosques in Uganda were temporarily closed to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Hajarah Nalwadda/Xinhua)

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People enjoy sunset by Adriatic Sea in Zadar

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People enjoy the view of sunset by the Adriatic Sea in Zadar, Croatia, May 24, 2020. (Dino Stanin/Pixsell via Xinhua)

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Eid al-Fitr marked in Tehran, Iran

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Aftermath of cyclone Amphan landfall in Kolkata, India

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Aftermath of Cyclone Amphan in Kolkata, India

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An Indian soldier chops a tree branch fallen on a road following the landfall of cyclone Amphan in Kolkata, India, on May 24, 2020. (Str/Xinhua)

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Algeria tightens restriction measures to contain COVID-19 spread during holiday

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Ecuador’s COVID-19 death toll hits 3,108, infections reach 36,756

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Ecuador on Sunday said it has 36,756 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and a death toll of 3,108 since the start of the outbreak in the South American country.

In the past 24 hours, healthcare workers reported 498 new cases of infection and 12 more deaths from the disease.

Ecuador’s actual death toll may be higher as 1,929 deaths are considered “likely” to have been caused by the virus, but have not been verified, the Public Health Ministry said.

The southwest province of Guayas continues to be the epicenter of the national outbreak, with a total of 13,787 people testing positive, 217 more than on Saturday, and 1,362 deaths.

The province’s capital, Guayaquil, is the country’s second most populated city and the country’s worst hit urban center, with 9,606 cases of infection.

All of Ecuador’s 24 provinces have seen an outbreak, though to different degrees, including Galapagos, home to the world-famous Galapagos Islands. In recent days, parts of the country have begun to cautiously emerge from a March 17 lockdown to resume some economic activity.

(XINHUA)

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News Analysis: Israeli PM strives to use new gov’t as protection in court trial

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With newly appointed ministers behind him, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his trial opened on Sunday is “an effort to bring him down” and his right-wing political camp.

Netanyahu came to the court escorted by his supporters from the government, part of them in charge of the enforcement agencies and appointment committee of court judges.

Facing a “battle for life”, Netanyahu is striving to use its government power as the most effective weapon.

He has endeavored from the beginning of his investigations to depict himself as “a victim of a witch hunt” led by the left-wing side.

The corruption trials of Netanyahu in three different cases involve serious charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust.

But no one could imagine anyone else able to form an alternative government in the near future, even Benny Gantz.

And not many believe that Netanyahu would hand over the post of prime minister to Gantz in 2021.

Benny Gantz, an alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister, signed a rotation agreement with Netanyahu, which enabled the latter to establish the government, in the act of uniting the Israeli society during the COVID-19 crisis.

Yossi Shain, head of the school of political science at Tel Aviv University, said in an interview with Xinhua that Gantz is trying not to break the government right now.

“He doesn’t see any value of destroying the government by condemning Netanyahu,” which will immediately bring the government down, said Shain.

Gantz, a former chief of staff of the Israeli military, entered the politics a year ago claiming to overthrow “corrupted” Netanyahu. But after three elections, they joined hands.

Gayil Talshir, an expert on Israeli democracy at the department of politics in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said Gantz has prevented Netanyahu from using the government to terminate his trial completely.

If Netanyahu had been able to form his dream government without Gantz which just consisted of right-wing parties, they could pass laws that undermine the trial at least as long as Netanyahu is the acting PM.

“I think that we will hear many statements of Netanyahu’s party members against the trial, the judges, and the police,” Talshir said in an interview with Xinhua.

Netanyahu just minutes before his trial started said at his speech to the media that the former head of the Israeli police, which he appointed, committed criminal offenses as leaking information from PM investigations.

Netanyahu accused the official of wrongdoings, as well another high-ranking police officer. “These are the people who led the investigations against me,” he said. “I am sure they did this deliberately and willingly.”

Talshir thinks that the new appointee by Netanyahu for the minister of public security who is now in charge of the police would make sure no new investigations against the prime minister would happen.

Analysts said some ministers appointed by the new government may not be the best fit for their public positions, but perfect for helping Netanyahu in the trial.

Netanyahu, 70-year-old and the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Israel, was elected firstly in 1996, served until 1999, and has been in power continuously since 2009.

Meanwhile, he has been indicted in three cases, including receiving gifts from billionaires in exchange for visa extension and tax reduction laws, helping a prominent publisher close its competitor in exchange for less negative coverage, and promoting regulatory decisions in favor of a telecom giant in exchange for positive coverage.

(XINHUA)

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Chile confirms 69,102 cases of COVID-19, 718 deaths

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Chile on Sunday said a total of 69,102 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the death toll has reached 718.

The Health Ministry’s latest report showed 3,709 new cases of infection were detected in the previous 24 hours, with the vast majority — 3,343 — displaying symptoms.

In the past 24-hour period, 45 more patients died of the disease.

Chile has been working to strengthen its healthcare infrastructure to deal with the increase in admissions due to the outbreak.

On Sunday, President Sebastian Pinera, accompanied by Health Minister Jaime Manalich and Deputy Health Minister Arturo Zuniga, toured a new field hospital erected alongside Sotero del Rio Hospital in the capital Santiago and metropolitan area.

The field hospital is the first of five temporary facilities to be erected by the government to alleviate the burden on standard hospitals. The temporary units are designed to attend to non-COVID-19 patients who would otherwise be occupying needed hospital beds.

Some 13.7 million U.S. dollars was invested in the first facility, which provides an additional 100 beds in a 1,500-square-meter area covered in tents, and will be fully operational by June.

“The great advantage of installing field hospitals in the metropolitan area, where we have the most need and demand for critical-care beds, is that it avoids having to displace patients and allows us to care for them as close to their homes and their families as possible,” Pinera said.

According to Zuniga, the nation’s hospital beds are currently at 85 percent capacity.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Egyptians stay indoors on fast-breaking day under anti-coronavirus measures

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Egypt celebrated on Sunday the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which comes after the holy fasting month of Ramadan, amid tight anti-COVID-19 restrictions.

Unlike previous years, streets, public parks and beaches that used to be overcrowded with people were almost empty as the security beefed up presence to impose a lockdown, social distancing measures as well as a 13-hour curfew that starts in the afternoon.

During the feast, Egyptians used to flock to public parks, zoos and other outdoor places to mark the festival. However, the spread of the novel coronavirus has kept millions of them indoors to avoid infection.

The most populous Arab country has so far confirmed 17,265 COVID-19 cases, including 764 deaths and 4,807 recoveries.

The Egyptian government decided to impose a stricter package of anti-COVID-19 measures during the six-day holiday to combat the spread of the virus.

In the holiday, the curfew in Egypt lasts for 13 hours instead of nine to maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings amid the increasing COVID-19 infections.

After the Islamic holiday, the curfew will be reduced to 10 hours for two weeks and then, the government will consider from mid-June easing restrictions and gradually resuming several suspended activities.

Egypt has already started easing restrictions and gradually reopening services and offices that have been halted since mid-March amid the government’s “coexistence plan” to maintain anti-coronavirus precautionary measures while resuming services, businesses and economic activities.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Interior Ministry announced that its security plans included intensifying security presence in all axes, roads, streets, squares and vital areas.

The plan also included following up on the implementation of the precautionary measures to preserve citizens’ well-being within the comprehensive plan to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which includes the closure of beaches, public parks, shops, malls, restaurants, and areas providing entertainment services.

The interior ministry announced on Sunday that 5,532 inmates were pardoned and released on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. The move came in accordance with a recent presidential decree, the ministry said in a statement.

It has been a custom for Egyptian presidents to pardon prisoners, mainly those who have spent more than half of their terms as well as patients and the elderly people, on national and significant religious occasions.

(XINHUA)

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U.S. imposes travel restrictions on Brazil due to COVID-19

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The White House announced Sunday that the United States has imposed travel restriction on Brazil, which has become the nation with the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases.

“Today, the President has taken decisive action to protect our country by suspending the entry of aliens who have been in Brazil during the 14-day period before seeking admittance to the United States,” the White House said in a statement.

The statement said the action would “help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,” noting that this measure would not apply to the flow of commerce between the two countries.

(XINHUA)

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