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Roundup: Italy COVID-19 data “encouraging” almost 3 weeks after end of lockdown

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Italy continued to see a downward trend in the novel coronavirus infections on Friday, almost three weeks after the exit of a national lockdown.

With 652 new infections reported over the past 24 hours, the country’s total active infections stood at 59,322, down from 60,960 on Thursday, according to the Civil Protection Department.

The Lombardy region with Milan as its capital, where the pandemic officially first broke out on Feb. 21, still led the way in terms of active infections with 25,933 cases. At the other end of the spectrum was the northern Valle d’Aosta region in the Alps with only 43 infections.

Nationwide, recoveries rose by 2,160 within the 24-hour period, bringing the total to 136,720, up from 134,560 on Thursday.

Of those who tested positive for the coronavirus, 595 are in intensive care, down by 45compared to Thursday, and 8,957 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 312 over the past 24 hours, the Civil Protection Department said.

The remaining 49,770 people, or 84 percent of those who tested positive, are isolated at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

With 130 new deaths within a day, 32,616 people have succumbed to the virus-caused disease in Italy as of Friday.

The overall number of COVID-19 infections, fatalities, and recoveries has risen to 228,658 cases as of Friday, up from 228,006 cases on Thursday.

WORKPLACE INFECTIONS

Also on Friday, the National Institute for Workplace Accident Insurance (INAIL, in its Italian acronym) said in a statement that 43,399 COVID-19 infections occurred in the workplace between the end of February and May 15, up by 6,000 cases compared to its last report out May 4.

Fatalities rose by 42 to a total of 171 deaths. “About half of the fatalities occurred among health care and social services staff, and nine out of 10 were aged over 50,” according to INAIL.

As well, 71.7 percent of those infected were women and 28.3 percent were men, but the gender difference was reversed among the deceased, of whom 82.5 percent were male, INAIL said.

DANGER “NOT PAST”

Italy’s COVID-19 infection numbers are “encouraging”, Health Minister Roberto Speranza tweeted on Friday. “They tell us the country has withstood the initial reopening on May 4.”

“But we must not imagine that we have won. Maximum caution is needed. It takes very little to nullify the sacrifices made so far,” the health minister wrote.

Speranza posted his comments after a televised press conference earlier in the day by the National Institute of Health (ISS) President Silvio Brusaferro, who said that “the epidemiological curve… clearly shows it is decreasing” and that “the number of asymptomatic cases is growing.”

This means that more and more swabs and contact-tracing activities are being carried out, he explained.

Brusaferro also said that Italy’s 20 regions can be divided into “three speeds” of infection since some have very few cases and others have “a significant number,” but that “all are decreasing.”

Even the Lombardy region where the pandemic first showed up and where the most deaths have occurred is showing a “clear-cut downward trend,” Brusaferro added.

The key point, he said, is that the new coronavirus monitoring system the government has put in place is designed to be as sensitive as possible and that authorities will pay attention to “even the slightest sign of a spike” in infections.

“The objective is to prevent the resurgence of epidemic curves that could spiral out of control,” Brusaferro said.

Brusaferro was followed by Dr. Giovanni Rezza, the former director of the ISS Infectious Diseases Department who was named Director-General for Preventive Healthcare at the Ministry of Health earlier this month.

Rezza said, “there are two major concerns” in passing from Phase One (lockdown) to Phase Two (post-lockdown): that people fail to follow anti-virus protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing, and that health authorities fail to “quickly identify and contain” any new COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Health authorities must be able to register even the smallest sign of alarm,” Rezza said.

“Thanks to the lockdown, we knocked out the epidemic, (but) we know the virus will continue circulating, (and) the danger is not past,” he continued.

“The resilience of the health care system and its capacity to identify hotbeds have increased, and this high level of attention must be maintained constantly,” Rezza said.

TOURISM SEES DIRE DAYS AHEAD

In a joint news release on Friday, Italy’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MIBACT) and the National Tourism Board (ENIT) said that in the first four months of 2020, international air traffic to Italy collapsed by 64.8 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

International bookings for the June-August summer season have dropped by 81.4 percent, compared to -80.1 percent in France and -77.5 percent in Spain.

ENIT forecast a 49-percent drop in international overnight stays this year compared to 2019.

Total visitors (both foreign and domestic) are expected to fall by 41 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year.

The volume of visitors, both national and international, should return to or exceed 2019 levels by 2023.

These scenarios could change for better or worse, depending on how successfully the pandemic is contained and whether or not a second wave occurs, the statement said.

Tourism represents the fourth largest export category in the European Union (EU), according to ENIT.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: S.Korea’s export posts double-digit fall for 2 months

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South Korea’s export posted a double-digit fall for two straight months through May as global demand weakened amid the COVID-19 outbreak across the world, a government report showed Monday.

Export, which accounts for about half of the export-driven economy, amounted to 34.86 billion United States dollars in May, down 23.7 percent from a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The outbound shipment dropped in double figures for two months in a row. In April, the export dived 25.1 percent.

The daily average export retreated 18.4 percent as the coronavirus pandemic roiled global demand for locally-made products.

The import contracted 21.1 percent from a year earlier to 34.42 billion dollars in May on the back of lower global crude oil price and slumped 15.8 percent in April.

Trade balance recorded a surplus of 440 million dollars in May, after posting a deficit of 1.39 billion dollars in April.

The ministry said the country’s export is anticipated to rebound in accordance with the economic recovery of major economies given that South Korea’s export fall in April and May did not stem from the country’s structural problem such as the weakened export competitiveness.

It noted that South Korea’s export to China is being improved as China‘s economic recovery was the fastest among major economies, forecasting that the country’s shipment to the United States and the European Union (EU) would recover according to the easing of the COVID-19 fallout in these regions.

Export to China, South Korea‘s biggest trading partner, fell 2.8 percent in May from a year earlier after sliding 17.9 percent in the previous month, while its daily average shipment advanced 4.0 percent.

Exports to the United States and the EU plunged 29.3 percent and 25.0 percent each last month, with shipment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) skidding 30.2 percent.

Shipment to Japan, the Middle East, Latin America and India all plummeted in double digits in the month.

Export for automobiles, auto parts and textiles plunged in double digits last month as the products are sensitive to a business cycle. The ministry predicted a rebound of the products export in accordance with the recovery of major economies.

Oil product shipment plummeted 69.9 percent due to cheaper crude oil and weaker demand. Petrochemicals export sank 34.3 percent amid the supply glut.

Outbound shipment for general machinery, display panels, steel products, mobile phones and consumer electronics all declined in double figures last month amid the global economic slump.

However, semiconductor export advanced 7.1 percent in May from a year earlier, marking the first rebound in 18 months. It was attributable to robust demand for chips used for personal computers (PCs) and servers.

The daily average export for semiconductors jumped 14.5 percent last month.

Computer shipment soared 82.7 percent in May, continuing to grow for the eighth consecutive month.

Demand for computer remained strong as companies encouraged employees to work at home with laptops or PCs amid the fear over the COVID-19 spread, while solid state drive (SSD) shipment rose on an increased server capacity.

Ship export picked up 35.9 percent on demand for LNG carrier, containership and oil tanker, and biopharmaceutical shipment kept expanding for the ninth straight month on demand for locally-made testing kits and medical supplies relevant to the COVID-19.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Life edges closer to normal as Aussie states ease COVID-19 restrictions

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Life for Australians in several major states edged closer to normal on Monday, with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings and businesses after months of strict lockdowns.

Gatherings of up to 50 people were permitted once again, with restaurants and pubs being allowed to reopen, along with gyms, zoos, beauty salons, places of worship and other public institutions such as libraries and galleries.

While specific rules differed from state to state, with some only allowing gatherings of 20 people, the effect on thousands of businesses nationwide was significant and offered the return of a lifestyle similar to that of pre-COVID-19.

There were however rules for establishments to follow to prevent a second wave of infections, including allowing only one person per four square metres of space.

“We need to accept life will be different until we have an effective treatment or a vaccine,” New South Wales State Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

“A simple tip advocated by health experts is to act as if you are infectious which will help you think twice about how you interact around others, as more restrictions are eased.”

With many domestic borders remaining closed despite discussions between state leaders, Aussies were urged to take a holiday closer to home and help reinvigorate the nation’s badly affected tourism industry.

State leaders encouraged their constituents to take the money they would normally spend overseas or interstate, and use it to support local businesses and attractions.

“In terms of our spend, we spend billions and billions on international or interstate travel each and every year,” Western Australia State Premier Mark McGowan said.

“This is the opportunity to spend all of that money right here in Western Australia, whether it is our magnificent regional communities or our great city places to spend your money.”

The easing of restrictions follows a significant drop in the number of new cases being recorded despite widespread testing.

On Monday, the aged care home which staged one of the country’s largest clusters was declared infection-free.

Nineteen residents died, with 37 residents and 34 staff testing positive for the virus at the nursing home during the outbreak, which began in mid-April after a member of staff worked six shifts with mild COVID-19 symptoms.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Curfews imposed in about 40 United States cities as protests against police brutality spread

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About 40 U.S. cities including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington D.C. have imposed curfews as protests against police brutality kept spreading for the sixth day.

The protests began in response to the death of 46-year-old African American male George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in police custody on Monday.

The unarmed man died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, held him down with a knee on his neck though he repeatedly pleaded “I can’t breathe.”

Chauvin was arrested and charged with three-degree murder and manslaughter earlier on Friday.

However, unrest has swept the United States as protesters say they want to see charges for all four police officers involved in the death of Floyd.

In Minneapolis, thousands of people swarmed the city on another day of protests on Sunday.

A tanker truck driver was in custody after speeding through marchers protesting Floyd’s death on the Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis late in the day, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

The freeway was among many shut down in the Minneapolis area for the second night in a row as an 8 p.m. curfew was imposed at the nation’s center of protests for days.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Sunday night she was imposing a citywide curfew amid rising tensions between protesters and police outside the White House.

The curfew would last from 11:00 p.m. on Sunday (0300 GMT Monday) until 6:00 a.m. (1000 GMT) on Monday. Bowser also activated the D.C. National Guard to support the local police.

Sunday marked the third day in a row of protests in the United States capital over the death of Floyd. On Friday night, United States President Donald Trump was briefly taken to the underground bunker used in the past during terrorist attacks, according to local media report.

By Sunday night, thousands of demonstrators were fanning across New York City in different groups, walking into streets which were crowded with traffic.

Some of the groups paused every few blocks to take a knee, while others gathered in Times Square in Manhattan and outside the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn.

A viral video that captured one of the tensest moments of Saturday’s protests in the Big Apple showed that police officers in a Sport Utility Vehicle suddenly surged forward into a crowd of protesters.

Los Angeles declared another curfew effective from local time 8:00 p.m. Sunday (0300 GMT Monday) to 5:30 a.m. (1230 GMT) Monday as the country’s second largest city witnessed a night of looting and vandalism in the city’s downtown and shopping streets.

Other cities in Southern California, including Santa Ana, Culver City and West Hollywood, which joined Los Angeles in proclaiming an overnight curfew on Saturday, also extended the curfew to local time 5:30 a.m. Monday.

California governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County on Saturday night to cope with the unrest. With a population of more than 10 million, the county is the most populous county in the United States.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Sunday once again set strict parameters for the city effort to contain another night of protesting.

Bridges on the Chicago river dividing the residential areas north of the city’s downtown Loop area remained up on Sunday, closing off any movement between the two sides. The city’s public transit system suspended all bus and rail services starting at 6:30 p.m.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker would activate 375 Illinois National Guard soldiers to help manage street closures at the request of Lightfoot. The Guard will not interfere with peaceful protestors, Pritzker said.

Chicago’s precautions followed a chaotic and violent Saturday evening, when many businesses along the streets were looted, police cars overturned and some properties damaged. There were six shootings with one death, and police made 240 arrests.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday declared a state of disaster following violent protests in cities throughout the state. The move allowed Abbott to designate federal law enforcement officers to respond to the ongoing threats.

Abbott also has ordered thousands of more troopers to these cities and more than 1,000 National Guard soldiers to assist the Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement in their efforts.

Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has also deployed tactical teams to assist state and local law enforcement.

Over the weekend, protests and violence throughout Texas continued as hundreds of protestors were arrested in the past two days.

In Dallas, Police Chief Renee Hall on Sunday instituted a curfew from 7 p.m. Sunday (0100 GMT Monday) till 6 a.m. for the next several days in response to the weekend violent protest.

In the state capital of Austin, protesters gathered in downtown area Sunday afternoon and marched toward the state Capitol and Austin City Hall, chanting “no justice, no peace,” according to local media.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Italy’s infection rate continues to improve as country gears up for tourist arrivals

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Italy recorded 355 new coronavirus infections over the last day, the second-lowest figure since early March and a welcome dose of good news as the country gears up to further ease lockdown measures this week, according to the Ministry of Health on Sunday.

Italy has now recorded fewer than 600 new cases per day for eight consecutive days, a dramatic drop from peaks of more than 6,000 new infections a day when Italy was the epicenter of the pandemic in late March.

The northern Italian region of Lombardy remains the area hardest hit by the global outbreak, accounting for 210 of the 355 new cases in the 24-hour period.

The one-day total is down from 416 recorded between Friday and Saturday.

The one-day death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, was 75, down from 111 announced Saturday. It was the fifth time in seven days the daily death toll was in double-digits — a level reached just one time in the 11 weeks before that.

Other indicators were also positive: a total of 1,874 people in Italy recovered from COVID-19 in the 24-hour period, while those in intensive care units dropped by 15 to 435, those recovering with symptoms in Italian hospitals fell by 293 to 6,387, and those recovering at home declined to 35,253.

The recent trends show that the spread of the virus has slowed dramatically despite a methodical easing of Italy’s national lockdown at two-week intervals, first on May 4 and again on May 18.

The next step toward easing will come this week, on June 3, when Italians will be allowed to move freely between regions even if for non-essential reasons. It will be the first time such travel will be allowed since March 9, the day before the national lockdown entered into force.

The country will also allow arrivals from the 25 other members of Europe’s Schengen visa-free area.

It is unclear how many Italians or foreigners will take advantage of the loosened restrictions that are aimed in part to help jump-start the country’s massive tourist industry, which has been all but shuttered since March.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Over 530 arrested in U.S. LA after protests over death of George Floyd turn violent

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Over 530 people were arrested Friday night and early Saturday after protests against police brutality turned violent in downtown Los Angeles, authorities said Saturday noon.

A total of 533 arrests were made related to the protests. The charges include burglary, looting, probation violation, battery on police officer, attempt murder and failure to disperse. All but 18 of the arrestees have been released on their own recognizance, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The department said it would continue to assess the full extent of property damage from last night’s protest activities.

Several police vehicles were vandalized, and numerous downtown businesses were damaged and looted, the department noted.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles Friday night during a third day of demonstrations against police brutality.

Protesters marched in the streets, shouting slogans such as “I can’t breathe” to express their anger over the killing of the unarmed Minnesota black man by police. A group of protesters briefly blocked a major north-south freeway in downtown Los Angeles.

Authorities had to make so many arrests because those on the street refused repeated orders to leave, including an unlawful assembly order for all of downtown issued Friday night, according to the Los Angeles Times, adding it marked one of the largest mass arrests by the Los Angeles Police Department in recent years.

Local TV channel footage showed protesters clashing with police and some store windows were smashed.

The Target store at Seventh and Figueroa streets, a Rite Aid store at Seventh and Hope streets, the Sixth Street Market, the Starbucks on Sixth Street between Broadway and Main Street, and jewelry stores near Sixth Street and Broadway were among the businesses looted before midnight, according to the local news outlet City News Service.

Police set up skirmish lines throughout the downtown area and, in at least one instance, fired non-lethal ammunition as they pushed a crowd out of the area, City News Service reported.

Six police officers were injured in confrontations with protesters. Los Angeles Police Department said that those injured officers sustained non-life-threatening injuries ranging from lacerations to impact wounds.

“I believe in our city. L.A. is strong enough to stand for justice and walk in love,” tweeted Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday.

“We respect every Angeleno’s right to protest, but violence and vandalism hurts all,” he noted.

Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore tweeted Saturday morning that “last night was a dark reminder of the perils of a society in turmoil.”

“As of this morning all restrictions in the downtown area have been lifted. While more protests are slated for various locations throughout the city today, we remain hopeful those demonstrations will be peaceful,” tweeted the Los Angeles Police Department Saturday morning, adding that the department would be deploying additional resources to maintain order and ensure the safety and security of people.

Demonstrations and riots have spread to cities across the United States after a video went viral of George Floyd being suffocated to death by a white police officer in the mid-western U.S. state of Minnesota on Monday.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Turkey’s COVID-19 cases surpass 163,000 as Iran’s tally nears 149,000

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Turkey’s COVID-19 cases on Saturday exceeded 163,000 with more than 980 new infections. Meanwhile, Iran witnessed a higher surge of coronavirus cases with the tally approaching 149,000.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, climbed to 163,103 after 983 new infections were reported, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

The death toll from the coronavirus in the country rose to 4,515 after 26 new fatalities were added in the past 24 hours, he said.

The overall number of recoveries in the country rose to 126,984.

On the same day, Turkey announced that it will resume domestic flights as part of measures towards normalization.

In Iran, the tally of COVID-19 infections surged to 148,950 after 2,282 new cases were registered.

The country also reported 57 new deaths from the virus, raising the death toll to 7,734. A total of 116,827 coronavirus patients have recovered, with 2,533 still in critical condition.

Saudi Arabia announced 1,618 new cases and 22 more deaths, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 83,384 and the death toll to 480.

The kingdom also reported 1,870 more recovered patients, taking the total recoveries to 58,883.

In Qatar, 2,355 new cases of coronavirus infections were detected, bringing the total number to 55,262, while the fatalities remained at 36.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 726 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 33,896 and the death toll to 262.

The total number of recoveries from the virus in the UAE increased to 17,546 after 449 more fully recovered.

Kuwait reported 1,008 new cases, bringing the country’s total number of infections to 26,192, of whom 205 have died and 10,156 recovered.

Egypt’s coronavirus cases continued the surging trend to reach 23,449 after a daily record of 1,367 new infections were added.

The Egyptian Health Ministry also reported 34 more deaths and 182 cases of recoveries, increasing the death toll to 913 and the total recoveries to 5,693.

In the mean time, Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed said that the ministry has increased the number of hospitals tasked with receiving the coronavirus patients to 376 nationwide.

Israel reported 25 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the tally of coronavirus infections to 17,012.

The number of death cases in the country remained 284 while the recoveries rose by 35 to 14,811.

It is worth noting that the number of active cases in Israel decreased to 1,917.

Earlier on the day, Israeli health ministry announced that several schools in which coronavirus cases were detected will be shut down.

Oman’s Ministry of Health announced 603 new cases of infections, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 10,423, including 42 deaths and 2,396 recoveries.

In Morocco, the tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 7,780 after 66 new cases were added, which included 204 fatalities and 5,401 recoveries.

Iraq confirmed 306 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections to 6,179, of whom 195 have died and 3,110 recovered.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi authorities imposed a week-long curfew starting from May 31 to June 6 to curb the latest increase in infections of coronavirus in the country.

Sudan’s Health Ministry announced 279 new COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths, bringing the total confirmed cases to 4,800 and the death toll to 262.

In Lebanon, the number of COVID-19 infections increased by 19 to 1,191, while the death toll remained at 26.

Jordan registered four more infections, bringing the total coronavirus cases to 734, including nine deaths and 507 recoveries.

Yemen’s health ministry confirmed 27 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the tally of infections to 310 in the country’s provinces controlled by the government, including 77 deaths and 13 recoveries.

In addition, health authorities in the Yemeni Houthi rebel-held capital Sanaa has declared earlier a total number of four infections in northern Yemen, including one death.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Greece’s Blue-flagged beaches set to welcome tourists under COVID-19 safety rules

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Greece’s 517 Blue-flagged beaches, marinas and tourism vessels are set to welcome tourists under strict safety rules in the new COVID-19 pandemic era, according to Greek officials and experts.

The country’s tourism industry is kick-starting for the summer season after a full lockdown earlier this spring that helped flatten the curve. With the new cases and fatalities in Greece counted mostly under 10 in the past few days, the economy has started to gradually restart from early May.

On Saturday, the Health Ministry announced seven new cases and no death within the past 24 hours. The country now has a total of 2,915 infections, including 175 fatalities since the start of the outbreak on Feb. 26.

On June 1, all-year hotels in the country will reopen.

The Tourism Ministry on Friday announced the first list of 29 countries, including China, that can start sending tourists to Greece as of June 15, when the international flights to Athens and Thessaloniki resume.

On July 1, more countries are expected to be added to the list, based on epidemiological data, the Greek government said.

Meanwhile, beaches across Greece have opened after getting “safety facelifts” to ensure appropriate social distancing between bathers.

Xinhua was given a tour on Friday around the popular beaches of Athens where the new postCOVID-19 operation protocol is applied.

A minimum distance of four meters is maintained between sets of umbrellas and sunbeds, which are regularly disinfected, as well as in showers.

The excellent quality of the seawater, safety and services provided were recognized with the prestigious Blue Flag international awards given this May to 497 beaches, 14 marinas and 6 tourism vessels nationwide.

Greece received the second largest number of Blue Flags for its beaches among over 40 countries worldwide this year, behind Spain, announced the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (HSPN) last week.

The Greek environmental group HSPN is the national operator of the program that runs for more than three decades under the auspices of the owner of the Blue Flag trademark, the Foundation for Environmental Education, which is headquartered in Copenhagen.

The Blue Flag is regarded as one of the most recognizable ecological symbols in the world, Nikos Petrou, HSPN President, noted in a message for the 2020 Blue Flag annual awards.

In order to qualify for the Blue Flag, a series of more than 30 stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained by operators of organized beaches, marinas and tourism vessels.

“Once again, Greece ranks second internationally among 47 countries participating in the program, after Spain and before Turkey. This allows us to have optimism for this year’s summer,” Petrou commented.

“This year’s awards have a special significance. All together we are holding strongly the Blue Flag which unites us. In this difficult period, the sea, the sky and the sea depth is a comparative advantage for our country and our tourism industry,” Manos Konsolas, Greece‘s Deputy Tourism Minister said in his message for the new awards.

“By maintaining a marina clean and safe, we are contributing to the national economy and local society,” said Greek Marinas Association President Stavros Katsikadis.

Currently, some 45,000 people are employed in marinas across Greece which contribute about one billion euros (1.11 billion U.S. dollars) to Greek GDP per year, he noted.

In 2019, at least 33 million people visited Greece, generating 18.2 billion euros in revenues, according to Bank of Greece data on tourism. (1 euro= 1.11 U.S. dollars)

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Egypt reports biggest daily COVID-19 infections, increases hospitals for coronavirus treatment

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Egyptian Health Ministry reported on Saturday 1,367 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily record, raising the country’s total infections to 23,449.

Thirty-four new fatalities have also been recorded, bringing the country’s death toll from the disease to 913, the ministry’s spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.

According to Megahed, 182 patients have been discharged from the hospitals after fully cured, taking the recoveries in Egypt to 5,693.

Egypt has been witnessing a continuing surge in COVID-19 infections since the last week of April, with the government urging Egyptians to stay at home to avoid infections.

Since the beginning of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday on May 24, Egypt extended a previously imposed nighttime curfew from nine hours to 13 hours for six days, to maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings amid increasing COVID-19 infections.

Starting from Saturday, May 30, the curfew was reduced to 10 hours for two weeks, and then the government will consider easing the restrictions and gradually resuming some suspended activities.

The government has already started gradually reopening services and offices that have been suspended since mid-March amid a “coexistence plan” to maintain anti-coronavirus precautionary measures while resuming services, businesses and economic activities.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Hala Zayed said on Saturday that the ministry has increased the number of hospitals tasked with receiving the coronavirus patients to be 376 nationwide.

She noted that 5,400 health units and 1,000 fixed and mobile medical convoys have been allocated across the country to distribute a bag of medicines and preventive supplies to those who have been in contact with COVID-19 positive cases.

The minister appealed to those who recover from the virus to donate blood plasma after 14 days of their recovery to contribute to the treatment of critical cases of COVID-19.

She noted that plasma injection showed a great success after treating 30 critical cases since blood plasmas of the recovered patients contain coronavirus antibodies, according to a statement by the health ministry.

Zayed also urged those who show symptoms of the coronavirus to go to any of these hospitals where they will receive necessary tests and treatment if needed.

Egypt and China have been closely cooperating in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic through exchanging medical aid and expertise to curb the spread of the deadly respiratory disease.

In early February, Egypt was among the first nations to provide aid to China in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

Since mid-April, Chinese doctors held three video conferences with Egyptian counterparts to share their experiences in the prevention and treatment of the novel coronavirus.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Italy gears up for travel ban lift as COVID-19 hospitalizations dip

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The COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased in Italy on Saturday, the Civil Protection Department said, continuing a positive trend for the hard-hit Mediterranean nation as it geared up for the end of domestic travel restrictions next week.

Total active infections stood at 43,691, down from 46,175 on Friday, according to the Civil Protection Department.

Of these infections, 450 are in intensive care unit (ICU), 25 fewer compared to Friday, and 6,680 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 414 from the day before. The remaining 36,561, or about 84, are isolated at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms

The densely populated, highly industrialized Lombardy region whose capital is Milan, where the pandemic first broke out on Feb. 21, still had the lion’s share of cases, with 21,809 active infections, up by 221 compared to Friday.

Lombardy authorities said Saturday that since the pandemic began, swabs have been carried out on 741,447 people and that the region has so far seen a total of 88,758 infections, 50,878 recoveries, and 16,079 fatalities.

Nationwide, recoveries jumped by 2,789 compared to Friday, bringing the total to 155,633, while another 111 people died, bringing the death toll since the pandemic began to 33,340.

The overall number of COVID-19 cases combining infections, fatalities, and recoveries has risen to 232,664.

GEAR UP FOR INTERREGIONAL TRAVELS

On Friday, the Health Ministry said in a statement that based on its nationwide COVID-19 monitoring activities during the week of May 18-24, “at the moment in Italy there are no reported critical situations.”

Health Minister Roberto Speranza followed this up with a tweet, writing that “the monitoring data are encouraging. The significant sacrifices of the lockdown have produced these results.”

“We must continue on the path we have taken, gradually and cautiously,” the minister added.

Speranza made this comment as Italians got ready to take holiday trips, visit distant friends and family, or relocate to their summer homes, beginning on June 3.

Under terms of a national lockdown that went into effect on March 10 and subsequent decrees by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that progressively relaxed the restrictions, Italians are forbidden from traveling across the borders of the country’s 20 regions until June 2.

Beginning on June 3, it will be possible to travel between different regions,” the government said on its website on May 27.

“However, the central government can impose limitations on interregional travel… to specific areas of the national territory, based on the proportion of epidemiological risk that is effectively present in those areas,” the government added.

As well, people with fevers and those who are isolated at home because they have tested positive to the new coronavirus are forbidden from traveling.

TOURISM SECTOR LOOKS FORWARD TO JUNE 3

In a statement on Saturday, the National Confederation of Farmers (Coldiretti) said that 7 million Italians are planning a vacation trip next month, breathing some much-needed oxygen into the country’s stalled tourist industry.

“The freedom to cross-regional borders beginning on June 3 will have a significant economic and employment impact on tourism,” Coldiretti wrote.

Italy’s tourist season normally begins in March, but this year the sector lost 81 million visitors between March and May due to the lockdown.

Tourist spending ground to a halt, causing estimated losses of almost 20 billion euros (22.21 billion U.S. dollars) for hotels, restaurants, transportation firms, and retailers over the past three months, according to Coldiretti estimates.

The hardest-hit sector has been food and wine, which is the “main spending item for foreign and Italian tourists alike,” Coldiretti said.

“Food has become the true added value of Made-in-Italy holidays,” Coldiretti continued.

Italy is the world leader in terms of gastronomic tourism thanks to its many prized, unique wines and gourmet delicacies, but also because it has “the greenest agriculture in Europe” with over 60,000 organic farms, Coldiretti said.

(XINHUA)

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