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(Reopened: Funke Akindele, husband to serve 14-day community service, be isolated for flouting distancing regulation

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For flouting social distancing regulation by hosting a birthday party,  Nollywood star, Funke Akindele and her husband, Abdul-rasheed Bello, have  been each fined N100,000 by an Ikeja Chief Magistrates’ Court.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the Chief Magistrate, Yewande Aje-Afunwa, also ordered that they should serve 14-day community service amongst other sanctions.

“The defendants shall pay a fine of N100, 000 within three days from today. They are to serve community service for a period of 14 days – for three hours from 9am-12pm daily – excluding Saturday and Sunday,” she said.

The chief magistrate held that the community service should  be done in any public place in Lagos.

“The defendants shall be made to visit 10 important public places in Lagos State to generate awareness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of non-compliance with the laws created to curb the spread of the disease.

“Each defendant shall provide the names, addresses and GSM numbers of every person who attended the party within 24 hours.

“In order to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread, the defendants shall be immediately held in isolation for 14 days in a place only known to the Lagos State Ministry of Health.”

Earlier while reading the sentence, Aje-Afunwa reprimanded  the couple for their action and said that the sentence would serve as a deterrent to others.

“The gathering was a reckless and irresponsible act. When thousands have died or have been infected and the whole world is mourning it is callous for an individual to throw such a huge party.

“While governments are paying millions to flatten the curve, the two defendants were strengthening the curve by throwing a party.

“Have the two defendants lived up to the expectations of the public and teeming youths that look up to them? The answer is, ” No,” she said.

The chief magistrate, however, noted that the couple had no prior criminal record and had looked remorseful and after the sentence the general public will be put on notice of the consequences of flouting the social distancing directives.

NAN reports that following social distancing guidelines, less than 20 persons were allowed into the courtroom.

The prosecution team was led by the Attorney-General of Lagos, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN).

The state Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Yhaqub Oshoala.

Messrs  Abayomi Alagbada and Akeem Fadun defended the couple.

Earlier during their arraignment, Akindele  and Bello plead guilty to a count charge of flouting the social distancing regulation  of Lagos State Government.

According to the prosecution, the couple committed the offence on April 4 at  their residence  located at No. 9, Gbadamosi St., Amen Estate, Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos.

The prosecution said  that the couple  gathered more than 20 people at the residence,  contrary to the state’s Regulation 8(1)(a) and (b).

 

It said that their action is punishable under Section 58 of the Public Health Laws of Lagos State, 2015.

Addressing the court after the charge was read, Onigbanjo said that the couple held a birthday party at their residence with many people in attendance.

“This is contrary to the social distancing directive contained in the regulations issued by the Governor of Lagos State pursuant to the Infectious Diseases Act.

“Particularly, the defendants flouted Regulations 8(1)(a)(b) and 17(1)(I) of the Lagos State Emergency Regulations 2020.

“My lord, the defendants’ offence is punishable under Section 58 Public Health Laws of Lagos State 2015.

“The defendants having pleaded guilty, I urge the court to convict them accordingly,” he prayed.

After the submission, Akindele and Bello were asked if the facts ascertained by the state against them were true.

“It is true though there are one or two exemptions,” Akindele responded  in tears.

“Yes, it is true but there are some exemptions,” Bello said.

Reacting to their responses , Aje-Afunwa said that the couple should not give a “partial answer” or  a plea of not guilty would be entered against them.

Following the assertion of the chief magistrate, the couple said they were admitting all the facts brought against them by Lagos State, and thereafter pleaded guilty to the charge.

Alagbada, in his allocutus (plea for mercy), said that the couple was first-time offenders and decent members of the Lagos society.

“They have two young children who need the attention of their parents, and one of them is very ill.

“The first defendant (Akindele) is an Ambassador of Lagos State, she advocates that people should pay their taxes and she uses her talent to advance the cause of the state, she used to do it and will continue to do it.

“I urge my lord to consider this relationship which will continue after now.

“I hope my lord will play a role in ensuring the relationship between the first defendant and Lagos State continues,” he submitted.

The counsel added that they  were role models to young people, many of whom were at the party on that day.

“The offence was committed in ignorance, and majority of the people in the house that day reside there,” the defence counsel said.

NAN reports that Akindele was arrested by the police on April 5 for flouting the social distancing order of the Lagos State Government.

The actress had on April 4 hosted numerous people including Azeez Fashola (alias Naira Marley) to her husband’s 43rd birthday party at their home located at Amen Estate, Eleko Beach Road, Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos.

Videos of the party were posted and circulated on various social media platforms.

According to the police, efforts are ongoing to arrest Naira Marley and others featured in the video.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Ijeoma Popoola
(NAN)

Ijeoma Popoola: 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

Foreign

Some beaches reopened to public after lockdown

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People visit the beach in Dunkirk, north of France on May 16, 2020. With preventive measures like keeping social distancing, some beaches in north of France reopened to the public on Saturday after lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Sebastien Courdji/Xinhua)

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Foreign

Feature: Reopened hair and beauty salons busy in Israel

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After more than a month without a professional place to go for haircuts and nail polish, Israeli people are embracing the newly reopened beauty salons.

On Sunday, the Israeli government eased the restrictions on economy by allowing most of the street shops to open again, though with significant precaution measures.

Hairdressers, cosmeticians, manicurists, pedicurists, and esthetic clinics are among the most desirable places for people to visit.

The beauty salons are now much busier than before the COVID-19 crisis.

Market manager of My Look beauty salon at the city of Ma’ale Adumim, next to Jerusalem, said that he is still worried despite the current high demand for haircuts and beauty treatments.

“Our clients like us were sitting at home without work, so I am not sure if they would have money to spend on beauty treatments. Beauty care is less important than food,” explained Boris Pechurihin.

Nevertheless, since Sunday, as many other hairdressers and beauty salons, My Look has seen a significant increase in clients.

“The number of customers has tripled,” Pechurihin said, but he is still not sure whether the current situation will last.

“We need to see what would happen in the coming months because beauty treatments are usually desired only ones in a few weeks or months,” Pechurihin said.

Pechurihin and his wife immigrated to Israel from Russia and started their business of beauty salon.

In the beginning, it was a tiny place with just one worker. But gradually, it became bigger and bigger as they moved into a shopping center.

They have four workers who are temporarily getting unemployment benefits from the state, due to the coronavirus crisis.

Pechurihin said that during the closure he still need to pay the rent which has been a great pressure.

“Because of our loans and expenses, we thought to declare bankruptcy if the lockdown on our business would continue for another month, yet still, I don’t know if we would survive, we are on thin ice,” told Boris.

Tel Aviv, a central seaside city of Israel, is full of hair and beauty salons, alongside bars and cafes on its main streets.

One of the popular hairdressing salons in the city is Snir and Meir barbershop, named after two brothers that own the place, which serves only males.

“It is great to reopen. It is my passion,” said Snir Aharon, the co-founder of Snir and Meir barbershop.

Since the reopening, Aharon and his hairdressers have been working hard from morning until midnight, hoping to earn back all the money they lost during the closure.

One of the first clients of Snir and Meir barbershop was 12-year-old Jonathan Spronz who was excited about finally having the opportunity to have a professional haircut.

Spronz, accompanied by his mother Rachel Spronz, said, “my mother cut my hair during the time barbershops were closed, but it wasn’t so good.”

“During the lockdown, I bought a simple haircut machine. It took me an hour and a half to cut his hair. It was the first time for me to try to do such thing,” said Rachel.

Dr. Monica Elman is the owner of three aesthetic clinics under her name in the cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Rishon Lezion.

“My clinics are educational centers for workshops and courses for doctors and nurses. Since the coronavirus crisis begun, my clinics have been locked down for seven weeks, ” Elman told Xinhua.

During the period of seven weeks, Elman received many e-mails and calls from clients, encouraging her to reopen as soon as the restriction is removed.

Before the outbreak of the COVID-19, Elman employed 42 workers. At present, her clinics has reopened but with a new requirement of social distance, face masks, gloves, and hand washing.

Elman hopes to bring back to work all her employees in about a week.

(XINHUA)

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Metro

Enugu airport will be reopened before Easter, Sirika reiterates

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Sen. Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation has reiterated that Akanu Ibiam International airport, Enugu closed down in August, 2019 for runway rehabilitation will be reopened for use before Easter.

A statement issued in Abuja and signed by Mr James Odaudu, Director of Public Affairs in the ministry, said Sirika gave the assurance after an inspection visit to the airport on Thursday.

According to him, the Federal Government recognizes the importance of the airport to the whole of the South East region and the hardship occasioned by the closure.

Sirika however, maintained that closing of the airport was done in the interest of safety and comfort of air travelers from the region.

He commended the handlers of the project on the quality of job done, adding that the airport, when delivered, would be one of the best in the country.

On the reported shortage of some materials needed by the contractor, the minister said it was being addressed noting that it would not be an impediment to the completion of the project.

“Work on the new terminal building at the airport will resume in earnest, regarding the budgetary provision for it in the 2020 budget.

“The present administration met the terminal project at about 20 per cent but had taken it to about 60 per cent completion stage.

The representatives of the Enugu State Government and the South East Governors Forum, who joined the minister expressed appreciation to the federal government for brave action in shutting down the airport for rehabilitation.

Others on the visit with the Minister were officials of the Ministry of Aviation, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and consultants to the project.

Edited By: Maureen Atuonwu
(NAN)

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Metro

Port Harcourt varsity ASUU wants closed secretariat reopened

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has decried the closure of its secretariat by the management of the University of Port Harcourt, describing the act “unjust”.

Dr Austen Sabo, chairman of the institution’s chapter of ASUU, told newsmen on Friday in Abuja that the welfare of academic staff of the university had been jeopardized following the closure.

Sabo said that the union had deployed “every peaceful means” to address the issues with the school management to no avail.

Sabo also expressed concern over the termination of the appointment of a Professor in the University, Frank Ugiomoh, over issues in the graduate programme of Fine Arts and Design Department, and declared that due process was not followed.

He explained that the Union had constituted a committee involving eminent scholars, and discovered that the Professor was innocent.

“The case of termination of the appointment of Prof. Ugiomoh by the university is among the many display of recklessness and abuse of power under the present Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ndowa Lale.

“The case of Ugiomoh is one that demonstrates that Lale has turned the university into a fiefdom,” the union official alleged.

He, therefore, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, to wade into the matter.

Efforts to reach Prof. Lale proved abortive, but a top source at the university confirmed the sack of Ugiomoh and the closure of the ASUU secretariat, but refused to speak further on the matter.

Edited & Vetted By: Ephraims Sheyin
(NAN)

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Foreign

Mysterious 1948 death of Czechoslovak diplomat reopened

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Mystery

 The mysterious death of Czechoslovak foreign minister Jan Masaryk seven decades ago will once again be re-investigated after new information came to light, the state attorney in Prague said.

According to Wednesday’s edition of the Pravo daily, state attorney Michal Muravsky said a recently uncovered audio recording led him to reopen the case into Masaryk’s death on March 10, 1948, shortly after the Communist Party took power in a coup.

Masaryk’s body was found outdoors underneath his second-storey apartment’s bathroom window. Prior to the end of Communist rule in 1989, his death was attributed to an accident or possibly suicide.

But in the intervening years other theories have been floated in the Czech Republic, a successor state to the former Czechoslovakia, including that the Western-oriented Masaryk was murdered by being thrown out the window, presumably under the order of the Communists.

A police inquiry conducted in the early 2000s uncovered neither the killer nor motive but determined that Masaryk was likely murdered.

At Muravsky’s request, the police will now launch another investigation.

YEE

(Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim)
(NAN)

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Foreign

German school in Turkey reopened after closure by authorities

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A German school in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir has reopened after being shuttered at the end of June by Turkish authorities, the school’s head teacher Dirk Philippi, said on Thursday.

“I am very happy. Now we can begin on time when the new school year starts at the end of August,” Philippi said.

A delegation from the Turkish Education Ministry and local officials accompanied by police officers entered the school less than a day after students left for their summer holiday to give notice that it would be closed.

The German ambassador in Ankara then began negotiations with the Turkish ministries of education and foreign affairs.

The closure was apparently related to questions over whether “children with a Turkish background” should go to the schools, a source close to the negotiations said.

“The Turkish state wants to educate Turkish children itself.

“Further meetings are planned,’’ the source said.

The non-profit school in Izmir is a branch of the private school attached to the German embassy in Ankara.

Tensions between Berlin and Ankara rose last year when German officials blocked Turkish politicians from speaking in Germany ahead of a Turkish constitutional referendum.

The two governments later called for detente, but other issues including German nationals detained in Turkey have continued to dog the relationship.

Edited by: Celine-Damilola Oyewole/Wale Ojetimi
(NAN)

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Foreign

Church in northern Iraq reopened after 2 years under IS control

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The Mar Korkeis Church in the town of Bashiqa, some 15 km (10 miles) north of Mosul, in Iraq, was reopened on Sunday after two years under the control of Islamic State (IS).

The bells rang out after two years of silence in the church following recapturing of the town which is Islamic State’s last major city stronghold, on Nov. 7, by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Reuters reports that women trilled to celebrate the moment when a new crucifix was erected on the church, replacing one that was broken by the Islamic State militants.

The feat ended two years of rule by the hardline Sunni group which persecuted Christians and other minorities in the Nineveh plains, one of the world’s oldest centres of Christianity.

The town is largely empty as the Peshmerga have not finished clearing explosives and mines left behind by the insurgents in their fight against U.S.-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters had on Oct. 17 launched an offensive on Mosul.

“We want people to be patient and not to return here until we completely clear the area, as we want to ensure their safety,” said Peshmerga Brig.-Gen. Mahram Yasin

After seizing the Nineveh plains in 2014, Islamic State issued an ultimatum to Christians: pay a tax, convert to Islam, or die by the sword.

Most abandoned their homes and fled to the nearby autonomous Kurdish region.

The priest at the Mar Korkeis church, Father Afram, said he would prefer Bashiqa to remain under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and not revert to the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.

“Of course we would prefer to be part of the KRG, because of our proximity to the area and because, for the past 13 years, the regional government has been looking after us,” he said.

“Nobody from Baghdad came here to say hello, at all,” since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, he said.

Christianity in northern Iraq dates back to the first century AD.

The number of Christians has fallen sharply during the violence which followed the 2003 toppling of Hussein, and Islamic State’s takeover of Mosul two years ago.

The development saw the city purged of Christians for the first time in two millennia.

From a Mosul mosque in 2014 Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” spanning parts of Iraq and Syria.

The recapture of Mosul would mark the effective defeat of the group in Iraq.

Edited by: Isaac Aregbesola and Abdullahi Yusuf
(NAN)

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Foreign

Spotlight: U.S. national parks reopening despite record COVID-19 cases

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As the fiery orange sun streaked Memorial Day’s first rays across the dry, desert landscape, cars were already lined up to get into remote Zion National Park, located in the western U.S. state of Utah.

Zion National Park’s Scenic Drive was so full Sunday that the park had to close its access by 6:30 a.m. and the whole park was full by 11 a.m., park officials said on Twitter, as visitors flocked to the popular park located 260 kilometers northeast of Las Vegas, where tumbleweed and tiny towns frequent the landscape.

It was the same scene at Zion on Monday – one of America’s biggest national holidays, held since 1971 to honor the country’s military dead – where citizens swarmed to stretch their limbs after weeks of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

With 4 million visitors a year, Zion and nearby Grand Canyon National Park, with 6.3 million guests, are two of the country’s four most popular parks, along with Colorado’s Rocky Mountain and Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, in the eastern United States, according to 2018 National Geographic statistics.

Both Grand Canyon and Zion opened this past week, despite reservations and opposition – both located in parsley-populated, high-elevation desert areas of southern Utah and northern Arizona in states run by Republican governors.

In neighboring Colorado, run by Democrat Jared Polis, citizens will wait until Wednesday, when a phased reopening of Rocky Mountain will begin.

Meanwhile, the number of infections and deaths continued to grow each week. The United States has so far had more than 1.6 million cases and more than 97,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

ALARMED

A USA Today article last week said COVID-19 cases are still peaking in more than a dozen American states, and noted that “several states that relaxed social distancing measures – or never implemented them at all – now have among the fastest growing rates of coronavirus cases per capita.”

U.S. deaths from the 90-day pandemic are projected to crest 100,000 in the next few days.

With America’s national parks hosting some 320 million visitors a year, and that traffic occurring in the summer months, health experts and politicians questioned the rush to reopen, and especially, the absence of direction or a cohesive plan from the federal government.

“Ensuring the safety of NPS (National Park Service) employees, visitors, and gateway communities is your responsibility, and human safety must take precedence over any politically motivated decisions to reopen national park sites,” House Natural Resources Chairman Raul M. Grijalva said in a statement last week.

Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, has been critical of Trump administration’s call for reopening parks, including Grand Canyon, that reopened for day traffic on Friday, where photographs on Twitter Sunday showed visitors observing social-distancing guidelines at the park’s scenic overlook sites.

“I recognize the benefits of reopening national parks and other public land sites when appropriate,” Grijalva wrote. “But rushing to reopen national parks prematurely and in the absence of stringent safeguards threatens public health and puts lives in jeopardy,” he added.

To access Grand Canyon, visitors from the populous nearby city of Phoenix must travel through the Native American Navajo reservation, where COVID-19 cases have spiked.

Alicyn Gitlin, Grand Canyon program manager for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, told Roll Call last week it was a “terrible time” to encourage wide scale travel through the Navajo Nation and northern Arizona, where cases have continued to rise in Coconino County.

“The large population that lives at Grand Canyon and all nearby communities are put at risk by this move,” Gitlin said in response to the partial reopening of the Grand Canyon.

Last week there had been 4,153 confirmed positive cases and 144 deaths in the Navajo Nation, according to the Navajo Department of Health.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told MSNBC on Friday “the tribe was forced to temporarily suspend tourism in order to protect tribal members,” and asked for funding to mount a formal “opposition to reopening of Grand Canyon.”

On the Navajo Nation’s Facebook page Friday, tribal leaders asked visitors to stay away from the Grand Canyon for the time being.

“Unconscionable,” said Sandy Bahr, director of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter of the park’s reopening. “National Parks reopen without release of plan or infection data,” she posted on Twitter Friday.

CONSERVATIVE COLORADO

In neighboring Colorado, Rocky Mountain will reopen later than most parks in the west, except for those in the state of California. Memorial Day saw “Closed” signs at Colorado’s most visited park, and barred gates kept the park vacant, except for wild animals that park rangers say have proliferated in the absence of humans.

Rocky Mountain will begin a phased reopening on May 27, when the park will start issuing wilderness camping permits and the primary shuttle bus will start running again.

But restrictions on travel and permits inside the park will continue, officials said.

To the south in Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park “will open campgrounds, picnic areas and hiking trails on June 3, although backcountry permits will not start until mid-June,” the park’s website said.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s fourth national park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison opened limited access to trails and day hikes this past week.

Near the state’s “Four Corners,” Mesa Verde National Park began a phased re-opening Sunday, and reported a steady stream of visitors, who also enjoyed access to the park’s concession facilities.

In California, famous Yosemite National Park announced this week it will reopen “sometime in June.” The Golden State is home to 10 of the country’s 62 national parks, more than any other state.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

UK to reopen thousands of shops as eases coronavirus lockdown: Johnson

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Britain will reopen thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.

Johnson also set out a timetable for businesses as part of moves to ease the coronavirus lockdown.

He told a news conference that from June 1, outdoor markets and care showrooms could be reopened as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines.

All other non-essential retail could reopen from June 15 if the government’s tests are met.

“There are careful but deliberate steps on the road to rebuilding our country,’’ Johnson said.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Foreign

Hungary reopens border with Serbia for local citizens

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Hungary reopened its borders with Serbia on Monday and is making preparations to open them with Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, said the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto.

“On Monday, from 10 a.m., citizens of the two countries can cross the border without restrictions,” Szijjarto announced on his Facebook page.

“Serbian citizens can enter Hungary without a quarantine obligation and Hungarian citizens can return from Serbia without quarantine obligations as well,” he said.

“The opening of the border provides an opportunity for families and communities living on both sides of the border to reunite, and also contributes to a new impetus for economic relations,” the minister underlined.

Szijjarto also spoke about preparations being made to reopen Hungary’s borders with Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

“I discussed with my Austrian, Czech and Slovak counterparts in a video conference on the easing of border restrictions,” Szijjarto said.

The four countries have set on June 15 as the target date for starting to lift border restrictions, the minister said, adding that this depended greatly on the status of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

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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Foreign

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

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday lifted the state of emergency in Japan for the five remaining prefectures, including Tokyo, as the spread of the virus has been brought under control.

“Today the government will lift the state of emergency across the nation. We’ve set some of the most strict criteria in the world to lift the declaration, and we concluded that prefectures across the country have met that standard,” the Japanese leader told a press conference.

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

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

The advisory panel had been focusing on the lifting criteria which was based around the number of newly reported cases over the past week, the availability of medical resources, and the capacity to provide virus tests and monitor the spread of the virus.

“The advisory panel has agreed that all prefectures no longer need to be under a state of emergency and that lifting the declaration is appropriate,” Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said, adding that the situation would be closely monitored and reviewed every three weeks.

Nishimura also said that social and economic activities, including large-scale events, would be phased back in, although people would still be asked not to travel across prefecture lines until the end of this month.

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

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

The Cabinet Office said the economy shrank by an annualized real 3.4 percent in the January-March period from the previous quarter.

The decrease in the quarter corresponds to a 0.9 percent decline on a seasonally adjusted quarterly basis, the Cabinet Office said.

The Japanese leader is now tasked with ushering in a “new normal” for society, which balances the rejuvenation of the country’s recession-hit economy, while ensuring the nation is not hit by an explosive second wave of COVID-19 infections.

(XINHUA)

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Spain to welcome foreign tourists back from July

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Spain on Monday urged foreign tourists to return from July as one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns eased, with streets gradually filling again and some pupils returning to school.

The world’s second-most visited nation closed its doors and beaches in March to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, but has seen out the worst and plans to lift a 14-day quarantine requirement on overseas arrivals within weeks.

“It is perfectly coherent to plan summer vacations to come to Spain in July,” Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto told radio station Onda Cero.

Maroto said since Spain geared up to salvage a tourism industry that normally draws 80 million people a year.

The hard-hit capital Madrid was coming back to life on Monday, with people allowed back into its main Retiro park and a few bars and restaurant terraces reopening.

“This is great; I was really looking forward to it. And so was my dog!” said interior designer Anna Pardo, walking her pet in the sunshine in the Retiro.

Strolling, jogging and chatting, Madrilenos passed through the park’s shaded alleys or stopped for a moment to enjoy its small lake, still devoid of the usual rowing boats.

Meanwhile, bars and restaurants are now allowed to open terraces at 50 per cent capacity but cannot welcome clients indoors, few restarted in Madrid, as businesses weighed the value of catering to just a few customers.

While most pupils in Spain still need to stay home and study online, some schools reopened in the northern Basque region.

Spain has recorded 28,752 coronavirus deaths and 235,772 cases, although has seen daily fatalities drop to fewer than 100 recently.

The tourism minister’s comments, after similar remarks by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, lifted shares of tourism-related stocks, including hotel operator Melia Hotels which rose 14 per cent in early trading.

In half of the country, including the popular Canary and Balearic Islands, even more restrictions have been lifted as lockdown has moved one notch ahead to a phase 2.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Salif Atojoko (NAN)

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Aussie state to open most internal borders as COVID1-19 restrictions ease

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Australia’s State of Western Australia (WA) will lift most of its internal borders on Friday except those protecting biosecurity areas and vulnerable remote indigenous communities.

In a statement released on Monday, the state government said the decision is a part of the government’s road map to safely and gradually reduce COVID-19 restrictions.

The further lift on internal boundaries came after a previous ease made seven days ago that saw the reginal boarders reduced from 13 to 4 and there was no outbreak after that.

While travelling to those remote indigenous communities is still prohibited, the Commonwealth designated biosecurity areas within WA will be reopened from June 5 as the authorities see the local COVID-19 spreading remain controlled.

“Western Australia’s success in curbing the spread of COVID-19 has been world-leading,” the state’s Premier Mark McGowan said.

“I would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding, and I urge everyone who can travel to get out there, wander around WA and support local businesses.”

He added the time WA’s boarder opening to other states still need to be decided.

“Based on health advice, Western Australia’s hard border with the rest of the country will remain in place, and will likely be the final restriction lifted.” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Tokyo stocks close higher on hopes for full economic restart

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Tokyo stocks closed higher Monday on hopes that Japan’s economy will be fully reopened as the government is poised to lift the remaining coronavirus-related state of emergency in Tokyo and nearby regions.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average gained 353.49 points, or 1.73 percent, from Friday to close the day at 20,741.65.

The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, meanwhile, added 24.40 points, or 1.65 percent, to finish at 1,502.20.

Stocks recovered lost ground after retreating over the past two trading days, as investors’ risk appetite returned on expectations the government’s lifting of the state of emergency for Tokyo and four other prefectures would lead to a significant rise in economic activity.

The greater Tokyo area accounts for a significant percentage of Japan’s overall population and hence consumption, so eased restrictions on business activities and people’s movements amid a decline in coronavirus cases is a clear boon for Japan’s recession-hit economy, market analysts here said.

“The greater Tokyo area has 30 percent of Japan’s population and likely accounts for about half of its personal consumption, so opening it up will clearly help the economy. It is a bit earlier than expected and the opening is quite broad,” John Vail, chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management, was quoted as saying.

Local brokers, meanwhile, said that cyclical issues like steelmakers and shipping lines found favor on hopes for Japan’s economic restart, while air transportation issues also rallied on expectations the easing of the virus emergency would see more domestic demand in the short term.

As such, Nippon Steel added 2.7 percent, while Kobe Steel climbed 3.5 percent. JFE Holdings, for its part, ended the day 4.0 percent higher.

Rising shipping stocks included Mitsui O.S.K. Lines advancing 3.5 percent and Kawasaki Kisen gaining 1.9 percent.

Japan Airlines surged 9.4 percent, while ANA Holdings also drew buying on hopes for increased patronage, ending the day 7.6 percent higher.

Similarly, rail transportation issues gained on hopes the eased emergency virus restrictions would lead to an increase in passengers commuting to work again, with West Japan Railway climbing 5.6 percent, while East Japan Railway closed 5 percent higher.

By the close of play, air and land transportation, and real estate-linked issues comprised those that gained the most, and issues that rose outpaced those that fell by 1,857 to 259 on the First Section, while 54 ended the day unchanged.

On the main section on Monday, 1.002 billion shares changed hands, dropping from Friday’s volume of 1.229 billion shares.

The turnover on the first trading day of the week came to 1.737 billion yen (16.127 billion U.S. dollars).

(XINHUA)

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Spain to welcome foreign tourists back from July

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Spain, on Monday, urged foreign tourists to return from July as one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns eased, with streets gradually filling again and some pupils returning to school.

The world’s second-most visited nation closed its doors and beaches in March to handle the COVID-19 pandemic but has seen out the worst and plans to lift a 14-day quarantine requirement on overseas arrivals within weeks.

“It is perfectly coherent to plan summer vacations to come to Spain in July,’’ Tourism Minister, Reyes Maroto, told radio station Onda Cero as Spain geared up to salvage a tourism industry that normally draws 80 million people a year.

The hard-hit capital Madrid is coming back to life on Monday, with people allowed back into its main Retiro Park and a few bars and restaurant terraces reopening.

“This is great, I was really looking forward to it.

“And so was my dog!’’ said interior designer, Anna Pardo, walking her pet in the sunshine in the Retiro.

Strolling, jogging and chatting, Madrilenos passed through the park’s shaded alleys or stopped for a moment to enjoy its small lake, still devoid of the usual rowing boats.

More cars buzzed through streets.

Though bars and restaurants are now allowed to open terraces at 50 per cent capacity but cannot welcome clients indoors, few restarted in Madrid on Monday morning, as businesses weighed the value of catering to just a few customers.

While most pupils in Spain still need to stay home and study online, some schools reopened in the northern Basque region.

Spain has recorded 28,752 coronavirus deaths and 235,772 cases, but has seen daily fatalities drop to fewer than 100 for the last week.

The Tourism Minister’s comments, after similar remarks by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, lifted shares of tourism-related stocks, including hotel operator Melia Hotels, which rose 14 per cent in early trading.

In half of the country, including the popular Canary and Balearic Islands, even more restrictions have been lifted as lockdown has moved one notch ahead to a phase 2.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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People visit Warsaw Zoo park amid COVID-19 outbreak in Poland

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Photo taken on May 23, 2020 shows a meerkat in Warsaw Zoo park in Warsaw, Poland. Warsaw Zoo, which was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reopened on May 20. (Xinhua/Zhou Nan)

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Toronto reopens hundreds of park amenities with physical distancing measures

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People enjoy leisure time at Woodbine Beach Park in Toronto, Canada, on May 23, 2020. The City of Toronto reopened hundreds of park amenities, including basketball courts, baseball diamonds and picnic pavilions, with physical distancing measures this weekend. (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua)

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People visit Colonna Palace with face masks in Rome, Italy

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A girl wearing a face mask visits the Colonna Palace in Rome, Italy, May 23, 2020. Colonna Palace, one of the oldest and largest private palaces of Rome, reopened recently with strict measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. Italian leading museums and cultural sites are laying down plans for post-lockdown phase these days, according to strict safety protocols to avoid coronavirus contagion. Italy continued to see a downward trend in the novel coronavirus infections on Friday, almost three weeks after the exit of a national lockdown. (Xinhua/Cheng Tingting)

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