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Roundup: Preparations on full swing as cyclone “Amphan” approaches Bangladesh, India coastlines

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Bangladesh on Wednesday raised its storm danger signal to the highest level of 10 as “very severe” cyclone “Amphan” formed in the Bay of Bengal is heading towards its coastlines.

Shamsuddin Ahmed, director at Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD), told journalists Wednesday morning that the cyclone will make its landfall in Bangladesh in the evening hours of Wednesday.

He said weather forecasters were asked to hoist danger signal No. 9 for Chattogram, a seaside city in southeast Bangladesh, and signal No. 10 for Mongla seaport in southwest Bangladesh.

The cyclone on its path will likely return to Bangladesh again on May 21 or 22 after it crosses India, he added.

“Under the influence of the very severe cyclonic storm ‘Amphan’ and the moon phase, the low-lying areas of the coastal districts of Chattogram and Khulna regions are likely to be inundated by storm surge of 10-15 feet height above normal astronomical tide,” said the bulletin of BMD.

Maximum sustained wind speed within 85 km of the very severe cyclone center is about 200 kph, rising to 220 kph in gusts or squalls, it said.

All the fishing boats, trawlers and maritime vessels have been advised to remain in shelter till further notice.

The authorities have suspended all sorts of activities at four maritime ports including Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh and Payra and Mongla in the country’s southern Khulna region, and inland water transportation until further notice.

Over 300,000 people have already been evacuated from their homes in coastal areas of Khulna and Chattogram and other districts at the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directives, said Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim.

However, an elderly person died after strong winds blew trees down onto him in Bangladesh’s southern Barishal district on Tuesday night while he was going to a cyclone shelter, a senior government official told local Somoy TV on Wednesday morning.

As an impact of the advancing cyclone, cities including capital Dhaka are also experiencing drizzle and gusty wind from Tuesday night.

Bangladeshi State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman said authorities were directed to complete the evacuation before midnight Tuesday.

Announcements are being made in coastal Bangladesh districts on loudspeakers asking people to evacuate their homes and move to shelters.

The cyclone which already intensified into a super cyclonic storm over the Bay of Bengal was poised to be the strongest landfalling cyclone like “Aila” and “Sidr”. It is likely to cross Odisha coast in India and then move towards eastern Indian state of West Bengal and gradually towards Bangladesh’s southern Khulna region by Wednesday evening.

Tornado and cyclones are common in Bangladesh, causing hundreds of deaths every year.

(XINHUA)

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

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Roundup: Afghans’ ceasefire remains intact as President Ghani promises to release 2,000 more Taliban prisoners

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Afghanistan’s President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has welcomed the three-day ceasefire announced by the Taliban outfit on Saturday and vowed to set free 2,000 more Taliban detainees to expedite the peace process.

The Taliban leadership on Saturday evening, the eve of Eid al-Fitr, declared a three-day ceasefire, ordering its fighters to stay inside their bases and refrain from fighting.

Afghanistan, like other Muslim countries celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Sunday to mark the end of Muslims’ fasting month Ramadan.

In his short address after offering Eid al-Fitr prayer on Sunday, President Ghani welcomed the Taliban announcement for a ceasefire as a goodwill gesture towards peace and promised to set free 2,000 more prisoners.

Both the Taliban and Afghan government have exchanged more than 1,200 prisoners including more than 1,000 Taliban and some 200 security personnel since inking the U.S.-Taliban peace deal on Feb. 29.

The Afghan president, who ordered his forces to resume offensives on the armed group following deadly attacks on maternity in Kabul and funeral ceremony in Nangarhar weeks ago, also instructed his forces to return to a defensive position to support the ceasefire in the country in his speech on Sunday.

Calling upon the Taliban to reciprocate the release of prisoners and observe permanent ceasefire in the country, Ghani said his negotiating team “is ready to initiate dialogue” with the armed group to end the war in Afghanistan.

Since the observance of the ceasefire in Afghanistan on Sunday, no security incident has been reported.

Zabihullah Mujahid who claims to speak for the Taliban outfit told media that the group’s fighters are in defensive posture during the three-day Eid holidays.

Some countries including the United States, Qatar, Pakistan and India have welcomed the three-day ceasefire observed by warring sides during Eid al-Fitr holidays in Afghanistan.

(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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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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Roundup: Turkey’s COVID-19 cases surpass 156,000; Chinese experts in Algeria hold video conference on virus prevention

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Turkey’s COVID-19 cases on Sunday exceeded 156,000. Meanwhile, Chinese medical experts in Algeria shared with Chinese people in Tunisia the experience in the prevention of the coronavirus via a video conference.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, increased to 156,827 after 1,141 new infections were reported, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

The death toll from the coronavirus in the country rose to 4,340 after 32 new fatalities were added in the past 24 hours, he said, adding that 1,092 more patients recovered, bringing the overall number of recoveries to 118,694.

On the same day, Chinese medical experts in Algeria answered questions related to COVID-19 during a video conference which was participated by workers from Chinese companies and Chinese people living in Tunisia.

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

In Iran, the tally of COVID-19 infections reached 135,701 with 2,180 new infections.

The country also reported 58 new deaths from the virus on Sunday, raising the death toll to 7,417. A total of 105,801 coronavirus patients have recovered, with 2,615 still in critical condition.

Saudi Arabia announced 2,399 new cases and 11 more deaths, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 72,560 and the death toll to 390.

The kingdom also reported 2,284 more recovered patients, taking the total recoveries to 43,520.

In Qatar, 1,501 new cases of coronavirus infections were detected, bringing the total number to 43,714, of whom 23 have died and 9,170 recovered.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 781 new COVID-19 cases and one more death, raising the tally of infections to 29,485 and the death toll to 245.

The total number of recoveries from the virus in the UAE rose to 15,056 after 561 more patients fully recovered.

Kuwait reported 838 new cases and eight more deaths, raising the country’s total number of infections to 21,302 and the death toll to 156.

The country’s tally of recoveries hit 6,117 after 370 more patients recovered.

Egypt’s coronavirus cases soared to 17,265 after 752 new infections were added.

The country witnessed a record of 29 daily new fatalities of COVID-19, raising the death toll to 764. The Egyptian Health Ministry also reported 179 more cases of recoveries, increasing the total recoveries to 4,807.

The North African country has received three batches of medical aid from the Chinese government to help its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Israel reported five new COVID-19 cases, the lowest single-day rise in the country since March 7, bringing the tally of coronavirus infections to 16,717.

The number of recoveries in the country increased by 63 to 14,153.

It is worth noting that the death toll from COVID-19 in Israel remained 297 as no new death case has been recorded for four consecutive days.

Oman’s Ministry of Health announced 513 new cases of infections, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 7,770, including 36 deaths and 1,933 recoveries.

In Morocco, the tally of the coronavirus infections increased to 7,433 after 27 new cases were added, which included 199 fatalities and 4,703 recoveries.

Iraq confirmed 197 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections to 4,469, of whom 160 have died and 2,738 recovered.

In the mean time, the Iraqi Health Ministry said that further health preventive measures will be taken next week after the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, including maintaining the partial curfew to help curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Iraq has received batches of medical aid from China and the support from a team of Chinese medical experts during their 50-day stay.

In Lebanon, the number of COVID-19 infections increased by 17 to 1,114, while the death toll remained unchanged at 26.

Jordan registered four more infections, bringing the total coronavirus cases to 708, including nine deaths and 471 recoveries.

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

The death toll of the pandemic climbed to 42 in different areas of the government-controlled provinces, including the southern port city of Aden.

So far, the pro-government health authorities have recorded 10 recoveries.

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

In Syria, 16 new cases were recorded, raising the overall number of infections in the country to 86 which included four fatalities and 41 recoveries.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: UNECA plans to deepen partnership with China on Africa’s development

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The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on Saturday expressed its keen interest to deepen partnership with China with particular emphasis on building Africa’s socio-economic condition back to normal in the postCOVID-19 pandemic period.

The remark was made by Antonio Pedro, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Sub-regional Office for Central Africa, as he emphasized the need to strengthen global partnership and collaboration in building back Africa after COVID-19 pandemic.

“The day after COVID-19 should not be the same as before COVID-19,” Pedro said in exclusively with Xinhua on Saturday, as he recalled a similar recent remark by the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the need to build climate-friendly economies in the postCOVID-19 pandemic era.

“We are looking for a world that’s greener with green economies and green jobs where impacts of climate change will be addressed, where our energy intensity will be reduced, and where we will have what we call the deep de-carbonization,” the ECA director said.

Members of a Chinese medical team pose for a group photo after donating medical supplies to Mvurwi Hospital in Mvurwi, Zimbabwe, May 19, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuliang)

Members of a Chinese medical team pose for a group photo after donating medical supplies to Mvurwi Hospital in Mvurwi, Zimbabwe, May 19, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuliang)

“Here, China is leading in many of these areas such as in electric cars, which will reduce carbon emissions,” Pedro told Xinhua on Saturday, as he emphasized that “all of these efforts are part of the package on building back better in terms of energy transitions as well as electrification of the transport systems.”

“We are looking for collaboration and partnership with China on that area as well. We will facilitate Africa’s participation in global value chains that we add value to our product so that we can generate more employment; because one of the unfortunate faces of COVID-19 is that the race of unemployment in Africa is already increasing,” said Pedro.

“It’s important that in building back better, we create more jobs on the continent and this, among other things, requires industrialization,” he said, adding that “we are looking forward to more of this collaboration and we appreciate the efforts that has been done so far.”

Commending the Chinese engagement and support to African governments and Pan-African institutions, such as the African Union, in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the ECA director also called on countries across the globe to emulate China‘s positive engagement in strengthening the global solidarity against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting the need to strengthen the global solidarity in order to effectively contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in building back better after the coronavirus pandemic, Pedro also singled out China as a major player in propelling the much-needed global partnership and collaboration towards combating the virus.

“We see the Chinese engagement and the support that it is providing to African governments and to the African Union in terms of access to medical supplies, masks and other things as part of the global solidarity against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pedro told Xinhua on Saturday.

Chinese Ambassador to Ghana Wang Shiting (C) donates food items to Ghana’s local communities in Accra, capital of Ghana, on April 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Xu Zheng)

Chinese Ambassador to Ghana Wang Shiting (C) donates food items to Ghana’s local communities in Accra, capital of Ghana, on April 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Xu Zheng)

According to Pedro, among the areas in which the UNEAC presently collaborating with China is the facilitation of access to business opportunities for Africa companies in China and beyond, which includes the ongoing partnership with the Chinese Alibaba Group’s Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) initiative that envisaged the promotion of African products in the global market.

The ECA regional director’s remarks in deepening partnership with China on building Africa’s socio-economic condition back to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic came as the UNECA recently disclosed that a one-month full lockdown across Africa would cost the continent about 2.5 percent of its annual GDP, equivalent to about 65.7 billion U.S. dollars per month.

Earlier this month, a UNECA report entitled “COVID-19: Lockdown Exit Strategies for Africa,” which indicated that at least 42 African countries applied partial or full lockdowns in their quest to curtail the pandemic, mainly proposed to African nations various COVID-19 exit strategies following the imposition of lockdowns that helped suppress the virus but with devastating economic consequences.

The report, among other things, proposed seven exit strategies that provide sustainable, albeit reduced, economic activity. The report also sets out some of the exit strategies being proposed and tried around the world and outlines the risks involved for African countries.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) disclosed that the number of confirmed COVID-19 positive cases across Africa surpassed 103,933 as of Saturday morning as the death toll surpassed 3,183. Some 41,473 people had also recovered from the infectious virus so far.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: UNECA to deepen ties with China in post COVID-19 pandemic period

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The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on Saturday expressed its keen interest to deepen partnership with China with particular emphasis on building Africa’s socio-economic condition back to normal in the postCOVID-19 pandemic period.

The remark was made by Antonio Pedro, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Sub-regional Office for Central Africa, as he emphasized the need to strengthen global partnership and collaboration in building back Africa after COVID-19 pandemic.

“The day after COVID-19 should not be the same as before COVID-19,” Pedro said in exclusively with Xinhua on Saturday, as he recalled a similar recent remark by the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the need to build climate-friendly economies in the postCOVID-19 pandemic era.

“We are looking for a world that’s greener with green economies and green jobs where impacts of climate change will be addressed, where our energy intensity will be reduced, and where we will have what we call the deep de-carbonization,” the ECA director said.

“Here, China is leading in many of these areas such as in electric cars, which will reduce carbon emissions,” Pedro told Xinhua on Saturday, as he emphasized that “all of these efforts are part of the package on building back better in terms of energy transitions as well as electrification of the transport systems.”

“We are looking for collaboration and partnership with China on that area as well. We will facilitate Africa’s participation in global value chains that we add value to our product so that we can generate more employment; because one of the unfortunate faces of COVID-19 is that the race of unemployment in Africa is already increasing,” said Pedro.

“It’s important that in building back better, we create more jobs on the continent and this, among other things, requires industrialization,” he said, adding that “we are looking forward to more of this collaboration and we appreciate the efforts that has been done so far.”

Commending the Chinese engagement and support to African governments and Pan-African institutions, such as the African Union, in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the ECA director also called on countries across the globe to emulate China‘s positive engagement in strengthening the global solidarity against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting the need to strengthen the global solidarity in order to effectively contend the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in building back better after the coronavirus pandemic, Pedro also singled out China as a major player in propelling the much-needed global partnership and collaboration towards combating the virus.

“We see the Chinese engagement and the support that it is providing to African governments and to the African Union in terms of access to medical supplies, masks and other things as part of the global solidarity against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pedro told Xinhua on Saturday.

According to Pedro, among the areas in which the UNEAC presently collaborating with China is the facilitation of access to business opportunities for Africa companies in China and beyond, which includes the ongoing partnership with the Chinese Alibaba Group’s Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) initiative that envisaged the promotion of African products in the global market.

The ECA regional director’s remarks in deepening partnership with China on building Africa’s socio-economic condition back to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic also came as the UNECA recently disclosed that a one-month full lockdown across Africa would cost the continent about 2.5 percent of its annual GDP, equivalent to about 65.7 billion U.S. dollars per month.

Earlier this month, a UNECA report entitled “COVID-19: Lockdown Exit Strategies for Africa,” which indicated that at least 42 African countries applied partial or full lockdowns in their quest to curtail the pandemic, mainly proposed to African nations various COVID-19 exit strategies following the imposition of lockdowns that helped suppress the virus but with devastating economic consequences.

The report, among other things, proposed seven exit strategies that provide sustainable, albeit reduced, economic activity. The report also sets out some of the exit strategies being proposed and tried around the world and outlines the risks involved for African countries.

On Saturday, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) disclosed that the number of confirmed COVID-19 positive cases across Africa surpassed 103,933 as of Saturday morning as the death toll surpassed 3,183. Some 41,473 people have also recovered from the infectious virus so far.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: India records biggest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases, tally reaches 125,101

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India on Saturday reported the biggest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases during the last 24 hours, pushing the infection tally across country to 125,101, the federal health ministry said.

According to the ministry data, the death toll has risen to 3,720 after 137 people died in the last 24 hours.

It was the second time in a week that the tally of COVID-19 cases has surged by over 6,000 in one day.

On Friday, 6,088 new cases were recorded in the country within the span of 24 hours.

The government data suggested that nearly 25,000 cases have been reported in the last four days after restrictions were eased following the imposition of the fourth phase of the lockdown in country.

Health officials attributed the spike in cases to the increase in India’s testing capacity, which, over the last two months, has increased by 100 times – from 1,000 tests per day in March to 100,000 tests daily this month.

As per the country’s top health research body, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), until Saturday morning over 2.83 million samples have been tested. The research body said during the last 24 hours 115,364 samples were tested.

The recovery rate of COVID-19 patients Saturday increased to 41.39 percent as 51,783 people have been cured across the country.

According to government data released by Indian government’s top policy think tank – National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog (commission) member Vinod Paul on Friday, the first and second phase of the lockdown managed to significantly slow down the virus transmission rate in the country and averted between 1.4 million and 2.9 million COVID-19 cases, besides 54,000 related deaths.

“The situation would have been much worse, as the data suggests. We have about 95 percent confidence level on the data generated out of all this analysis, which is proof enough to say that the country is on the right track. Having said that, this kind of analysis is always prone to improvisations, depending on the kind of data that’s fed,” Paul said.

Maharashtra state reported the highest number of cases in the last 24 hours with 2,940 new patients, followed by 784 cases in Tamil Nadu. The two states have the highest number of cases in India. While Maharashtra has recorded over 44,000 cases so far, Tamil Nadu has reported over 14,000 patients.

Indian capital city Delhi has the fourth highest number of cases in the country (12,319). The city recorded 660 new patients on Friday as the number of containment zones, where restrictions are in place to contain the illness, rose from 79 to 92 in a single day.

On Wednesday federal civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced domestic passenger flights will resume from May 25 in a “calibrated manner.” The ministry has issued fresh guidelines for the passengers and flights. However, as the bookings began, Tamil Nadu government on Friday amid spurt in the number of cases, appealed to the federal government to rethink its decision on resumption of flights.

Saturday marks the 60th straight day of ongoing lockdown across the country announced by the central government to contain the spread of the pandemic.

The lockdown, which was announced on March 25 to break the chain of infection, is likely to end on May 31.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Turkey’s COVID-19 cases surpass 154,000 as Iran’s tally exceeds 131,000

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Turkey’s COVID-19 cases on Friday exceeded 154,000 as the daily number of new infections continued to drop below 1,000. Meanwhile, Iran’s tally of confirmed cases surpassed 131,000.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, climbed to 154,500 after 952 new infections were reported, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

This was the third day that Turkey’s daily infections with the novel coronavirus fell below 1,000.

Turkey’s death toll surged to 4,276 after 27 more deaths were added, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

Turkey has launched a financial support package to protect exporters from the impact of coronavirus, Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan announced on Friday.

The package, called the Stock Financing Support Package, has come into use through Turkey’s Eximbank, according to a press release issued by the ministry.

The Iranian health ministry on Friday reported 51 new deaths of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 7,300 since the outbreak of the disease in late February.

Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education, said 2,311 people contracted the virus over the past 24 hours, taking the number of infections to 131,652.

Saudi Arabia continued to be the country in the Middle East with the fastest rise in daily COVID-19 cases, with 2,642 new ones reported on Friday, pushing up the total number to 67,719.

The kingdom also reported 13 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 364. The number of recoveries increased to 39,003 after 2,963 new ones were added.

Qatar’s health ministry on Friday announced 1,830 new infections of COVID-19, increasing the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 40,481.

Kuwait reported 955 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 19,564 and the death toll to 138, the health ministry said in a statement.

Kuwait also announced the recovery of 310 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 5,515.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 994 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 27,892.

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention said 1,043 more patients fully recovered from the virus, taking the tally of recoveries to 13,798. Four more deaths were recorded, raising the country’s death toll to 241.

Egypt recorded 783 new COVID-19 cases during the last 24 hours, the highest daily rise since the pandemic outbreak in February, bringing the total cases to 15,786, Egypt’s health ministry said on Friday.

Egypt also confirmed 11 new coronavirus-related deaths, taking the death toll from the disease to 707, said Khaled Megahed, the health ministry’s spokesman, in a statement.

On Thursday, Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang said Chinese companies in the North African country take strict precautionary measures to maintain their work momentum in different projects amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Omani Ministry of Health announced 424 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 6,794.

The Iraqi Health Ministry on Friday recorded 87 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 3,964 in the country.

Lebanon’s number of COVID-19 infections increased on Friday by 62 cases to 1,086 while death toll remained at 26.

A total of 121 new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Morocco on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 7,332.

The number of people cured has increased to 4,377 with 97 new recoveries, director of epidemiology at the Ministry of Health Mohamed El Youbi said in his daily briefing.

Libya’s National Center for Disease Control on Friday announced one new COVID-19 case and three recoveries.

The number of confirmed cases in Libya so far is 72, including 38 recoveries and three deaths.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Zimbabwe to explore using traditional Chinese medicine to fight COVID-19

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Zimbabwe highly values traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and plans to set up a unit at the country’s main hospital in Harare to explore integrating the medicine in Zimbabwe’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the visiting team of Chinese medical experts who completed their two-week visit to the country on Friday, Health and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo said Zimbabwe was keen to tap China‘s traditional medicine for the benefit of its population.

“We have plans to use TCM in Zimbabwe. We are lucky that among the team of doctors who are visiting there is a specialist in TCM,” said the minister.

“So we are going to set up a unit at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. They have already identified the facility where the TCM unit will be based so that we can be able to develop it,” he said.

“TCM is a very useful area which we are seriously looking at. So the visiting doctor who is here is going to lead us in that aspect and when the next team comes we want to see more TCM doctors coming in,” Moyo said.

He added that the country wants to enhance research collaboration with China on development and use of the traditional medicine in curing the virus.

“We would also want to try the other medicines that the Chinese people have been using for COVID-19 and we can have a combined research effort with the Chinese government to also look at our plants and we get advice on how we can develop those herbs and use them,” he said.

Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun said the two-week visit to share and exchange knowledge in fighting the pandemic had been rewarding for both sides.

Chinese experts learned a lot about how Zimbabwe has been tackling COVID-19 and in turn contributed their knowledge and expertise to Zimbabwe’s fight,” he said.

He said the two-way flow of ideas will go a long way toward defeating the virus and increasing health care cooperation between the two countries.

In addition to technical support, China has donated a significant amount of medical supplies to the country to help it combat the virus.

Guo praised Zimbabwe’s efforts so far in combating the pandemic.

“Since the onset of the first case on March 20, Zimbabwe has put up a good fight against COVID-19. China is also very pleased it has been able to assist Zimbabwe in various ways. The war is not over yet. China‘s support will not stop either,” he said.

The team arrived in the country on May 11 and met Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Vice President Kembo Mohadi and World Health Organization officials, among others.

During its visit, the 12-member team of Chinese medical experts engaged with Zimbabwean government ministries and institutions, in addition to touring four of the country’s 10 provinces to share their experience with local medical staff in combating the pandemic.

These areas visited by the team include Harare, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West.

The team also donated medical supplies to the hospitals they visited including Marondera Provincial Hospital, Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital and Mvurwi Hospital.

The team comes from southern China‘s Hunan Province and is made up of experts from infectious diseases and respiratory illnesses, intensive medicine, infection control, traditional Chinese medicine as well as public health and nursing.

At the press conference, leader of the Chinese medical team Zhu Yimin presented a report with recommendations on fighting COVID-19 to the Zimbabwean government.

Zhu said measures taken by Zimbabwe to fight the pandemic have been effective so far, as shown by the relatively low number of COVID-19 cases that stand at 51, including 18 recoveries and four deaths since the onset of the outbreak in March.

He urged the Zimbabwean government to continue enforcing preventive and control measures against the pandemic, noting that in the absence of a vaccine or cure for COVID-19, self isolation remained key in curbing the spread of the deadly virus.

The country should also increase community awareness, screening, monitoring and testing for COVID-19, he said.

Zhu added that they were encouraged to note that the Zimbabwean government greatly values the advice and proposals from the Chinese medical experts.

“Our proposals may not be comprehensive enough and our knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country may be limited but we admire the greatness and perseverance of Zimbabwean people and tremendous efforts by the Government of Zimbabwe in dealing with COVID-19,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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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: Italy looks ahead three months after first COVID-19 outbreak

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The coronavirus infection curve continued downward overall in Italy on Thursday, three months after the pandemic officially broke out in its northern Lombardy region on Feb. 21.

Nationwide, the number of active infections dropped by 1,792 to 60,960 cases, according to the Civil Protection Department. Recoveries increase by 2,278 compared to Wednesday, bringing the nationwide total to 134,560.

A further 156 COVID-19 patients had died in the past 24 hours in Italy, bringing the country’s toll to 32,486, out of total infection cases of 228,006.

Of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus, 640 are in intensive care, 36 fewer compared to Wednesday, and 9,269 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 355 patients from Wednesday.

The rest 51,051 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are quarantined at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

The Lombardy region whose capital is Milan still led in terms of cases, with 26,715 active infections. At the other end of the spectrum was the northern Valle d’Aosta region in the Alps, with 43 active infections.

“A CALCULATED RISK”

In a report to the Lower House of Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte outlined the government’s strategy for Phase Two, or the post-lockdown phase.

“We realize the challenge that lies ahead is even more difficult and just as dangerous as the one we faced at the beginning of the emergency,” he said.

“Exactly three months after the first case was confirmed (in Lombardy), we can state in good conscience that we made the right choice, the only one that could prevent the epidemic from spreading throughout the national territory,” Conte said in reference to the March 10-May 3 national lockdown decreed by his government.

Although “the epidemiological picture is not completely resolved,” the government believes it is time to return to normality, the prime minister said.

“We are now in a condition to face Phase Two with confidence… We all know a little more about the virus, and how to protect ourselves,” Conte said.

The prime minister also warned young people that “now is not the time for parties” and that “in this phase more than ever, social distancing and the use of masks are essential” in keeping the virus at bay.

“We are aware that starting this new phase could make the contagion curve rise again in some parts of the country,” Conte added.

“It is a calculated risk, and we will keep the (infection) curve under observation,” the prime minister continued. “We must accept this risk. We cannot stop while we wait for a vaccine. Otherwise our productive and social fabric will be irremediably compromised.”

Conte assured lawmakers that the government has “set up an accurate nationwide monitoring system based on data from the regions” and that “this will allow us to intervene should new outbreaks occur.”

Conte also noted that beginning on May 25, “serological tests will be available for free to 150,000 volunteers for the sole purpose of scientific research.”

Scientists want to find out how many healthy people have developed antibodies to the new coronavirus.

Carrying out the tests “will require an effort, based on the work of volunteers” and there will be a “national coordinating structure” to oversee them, the prime minister said.

ANTIBODY SCENARIO IN MILAN

In an article posted on Wednesday, Milan’s Policlinico Hospital cited a recent study saying that an estimated 1 in 20 inhabitants of Milan had COVID-19 antibodies weeks before the outbreak officially began on Feb. 21.

“What the experts suspected has been demonstrated with a study of blood donors at the Policlinico Hospital … where over 40,000 people from Milan and other parts of Lombardy give blood every year,” the article said.

Researchers selected a random sample of 800 healthy people who donated their blood at the Policlinico between Feb. 24 and April 8.

“According to the results, at the (official) beginning of the epidemic, 4.6 percent of the donors already had antibodies to the virus, and that percentage had risen to 7.1 percent by the beginning of April,” researchers wrote.

“A seroprevalence of 4.6 percent means 1 person out of 20 had already come in contact with the virus and had developed an immunity to it,” they wrote.

They concluded that “when the epidemic officially began, the new coronavirus had already been circulating among the population for a while.”

NOTE OF CAUTION

Meanwhile, Italians are looking forward to another date — June 3, when they will be allowed to move freely within the country again, and not just within the region they live in.

For many, that means a holiday by the sea, a trip to a country house, or a visit to distant friends and family.

However, Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia sounded a note of caution.

In an interview earlier on Thursday, he told Mattino Cinque TV program that the new nationwide coronavirus monitoring system which was put in place last week “will allow us to know whether a region is at low, medium or high risk” of infection.

Whether or not Italians will get to travel beginning on June 3 “depends on the region” they want to reach and its level of risk, Boccia said.

“If it is a low-risk region, probably yes,” the minister said.

“For almost three months we have been reading tough, difficult data — we must never forget that 32,000 Italians are no longer with us because of COVID-19,” Boccia said.

Like the prime minister, he also warned the youth against partying in public.

“We all want our teens and young adults to be happy,” said Boccia, a father of three, including two teenagers. “But public parties are intolerable. Safety is not optional — it is an obligation.”

Conte and Boccia’s comments came after reports of young people crowding together in public, especially in Milan, since the end of the lockdown.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Turkey sees signs of slowdown in COVID-19 pandemic; Saudi Arabia continues to lead in region’s daily rise of infections

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Turkey saw new signs of slowdown in the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday with 961 new infections reported, while Saudi Arabia continued to lead the region in terms of daily rise of coronavirus infections.

This was the second day that Turkey’s daily infections with the novel coronavirus fell below 1,000, after 972 cases were reported on Wednesday.

So far, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Turkey climbed to 153,548, while the death toll surged to 4,249 after 27 more deaths were added, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

A total of 1,003 patients recovered from the respiratory disease on Thursday, bringing the overall number of recoveries to 114,990.

Turkey’s tourism sector said it is looking forward to attracting Chinese tourists back to the country once the COVID-19 pandemic is fully contained.

China is a huge market, and we are attaching significant importance to the country and Chinese people,” Firuz Baglikaya, head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies, said at an online press conference in the largest Turkish city of Istanbul.

Baglikaya said China and Turkey will continue to improve their already strong ties even further when everything is back to normal in the postpandemic era.

Iran on Thursday registered 66 new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 7,249, the highest in the region.

The total confirmed COVID-19 cases in Iran surged to 129,341 after 2,392 new cases were reported.

Saudi Arabia continued to be the country in the Middle East with the fastest rise in daily COVID-19 cases, with 2,532 new ones reported on Thursday, pushing up the total number to 65,077.

The kingdom also reported 12 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 351. The number of recoveries increased to 36,040 after 2,562 new ones were added.

The Qatari health ministry announced 1,554 new infections of the COVID-19, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 38,651.

At the same time, 688 people recovered from the virus, bringing the overall number of recoveries to 7,288, while the fatalities rose to 17.

Kuwait reported 1,041 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 18,609 and the death toll to 129.

The Kuwaiti health ministry also announced the recovery of 320 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 5,205.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday announced 894 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 26,898.

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention said 946 more patients fully recovered from the virus, taking the tally of recoveries to 12,755. Four more deaths were recorded, raising the country’s death toll to 237.

Egypt set a record daily increase of 774 COVID-19 cases, raising the total infections to 15,003. It was the third consecutive day for Egypt’s COVID-19 daily infections to exceed 700.

Meanwhile, 16 patients died from the coronavirus in Egypt in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 696, Egyptian Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said.

Earlier in the day, Egyptian Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar explained that the actual number of COVID-19 infections in Egypt could be five times that of confirmed infections.

“The actual figure of coronavirus infections in Egypt could be more than 71,000,” the minister said in a televised conference.

The Omani health ministry announced on Thursday 327 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the country to 6,370.

In Iraq, 153 new cases of COVID-19 were registered, the highest daily increase so far, bringing the total number of infections to 3,877.

So far, 140 people have died from the virus in Iraq, while 2,483 others have recovered, the Iraqi health ministry said.

Lebanon’s total number of COVID-19 infections increased by 63 cases to 1,024, the highest daily increase since the outbreak of the virus on Feb. 21.

The Lebanese cabinet approved on Thursday the extension of general mobilization until June 7 in an attempt to curb the number of daily infections.

The Moroccan health ministry on Thursday announced 78 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 7,211.

The number of the recoveries in Morocco rose by 182 to 4,280, while the death toll increased to 196 after two fatalities were added.

In the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip, 29 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the past three days, raising the total tally to 49 since March 5. All the new cases are Palestinians who recently returned home from Egypt or Israel.

Israel’s Health Ministry reported zero coronavirus death case on Thursday for the first time since March 28.

The ministry reported 18 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 16,683.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Chinese medical experts visit 3 provinces in Zimbabwe, donate medical supplies

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The visiting team of Chinese medical experts have toured the country’s three provinces to share their experience with local medical staff who stand at the frontline to fight COVID-19 in the southern African country.

The 12-member team, which arrived in Zimbabwe last Monday, comes from southern China‘s Hunan Province.

The team is made up of experts from infectious diseases and respiratory illnesses, intensive medicine, infection control, traditional Chinese medicine as well as public health and nursing.

In this week, they visited Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West provinces, covering more than 1,000 km.

In Marondera Provincial Hospital, the main provincial hospital in Mashonaland East, the Chinese experts gave a lecture to the doctors and nurses, sharing their experience with their Zimbabwean counterparts to help them fight against the pandemic.

Zhu Yimin, the leader of the Chinese team, said every country had the problem of inward transmissions and there was need to scale up health screening at ports of entry, closely monitor inbound travelers and compulsorily quarantine them.

“The issue of transmissions that are inbound is affecting every country and there is need to ensure that people are thoroughly screened at ports of entry as well as quarantine them as per international standards,” he said.

Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital and Mvurwi Hospital are the COVID-19 isolation and treatment hospital in Mashonaland West and East provinces. During the visit, the Chinese medical experts toured the wards and isolation center of the two hospitals and provided recommendations on hospital infection control, laboratory testing among other issues.

The team also donated medical supplies to the hospitals they visited including Marondera Provincial Hospital, Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital and Mvurwi Hospital.

Provincial officials and medical staff highly praised the Chinese experts for helping Zimbabwe in its fight against COVID-19, saying they believed that it has greatly helped the provinces to fight the epidemic.

Mary Mliswa, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs of Mashonaland West, expressed sincere gratitude to the Chinese medical experts for unreservedly sharing the experience with their Zimbabwean counterparts.

Appollonia Munzverengwi, Mashonaland East’s Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, hailed cordial China-Zimbabwe ties that date back to Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, adding that Zimbabwe had a lot to learn from China which managed to contain a huge outbreak of COVID-19.

“As a province and as a country, we can get an insight and learn much from the Chinese who have always been our all-weather friends,” she said.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Chinese companies in Egypt maintain work momentum amid COVID-19 outbreak: Chinese envoy

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Chinese companies in Egypt take strict precautionary measures for maintaining the work momentum in different projects amid the COVID-19 outbreak, said Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang on Thursday.

During a virtual press conference, the Chinese ambassador highlighted that “all the Chinese projects are progressing regularly in light of the continuous dialogue between the two countries for pushing the bilateral ties forward.”

Liao highlighted that May 30 marks the 64th anniversary for establishing Chinese-Egyptian ties, stressing the two countries’ strong economic, trade, cultural, and current medical cooperations.

He added that the two countries’ fruitful cooperation signals the mutual political trust, noting that China is the largest trade partner with Egypt.

The Chinese diplomat said that some 1,600 Chinese companies working in Egypt have provided 30,000 job opportunities for Egyptian workers.

Meanwhile, Han Bing, minister counselor for economic and commercial affairs of the Chinese embassy in Cairo, said “Chinese companies have promoted the awareness of the workers about precautionary measures of the pandemic.”

China aimed at boosting the work in the ongoing projects in Egypt,” Han said.

He added that the Chinese companies have taken strict measures at a high level including wearing face masks, measuring the temperature, cleansing the buildings of the projects, and preventing the gathering of workers.

Han said that no single COVID-19 case has registered among the Egyptian or the Chinese workers in those companies.

He confirmed “the work inside China State Construction Engineering Corporation company operating in the new administrative capital with 3,000 workers hasn’t stopped or been impacted amid the virus spread.”

Han also voiced confidence in the Egyptian side for containing the spread of the virus, adding that “we are ready to work with Egypt for promoting the trade and economic cooperation especially in the health field.”

On May 16, Egypt received the third batch of medical supplies from the Chinese government weighing over 35 tons.

Egypt received on May 10 the second batch of medical aid from China weighing 4.7 tons.

In April, Egypt received the first batch of aid from China.

Egypt registered 745 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections to 14,229 in the country including 680 deaths.

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Roundup: Turkey’s daily new COVID-19 cases fall below 1,000: minister

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The daily new COVID-19 cases fell under 1,000 on Wednesday for the first time since March 25, indicating Turkey’s success in dealing with the novel coronavirus, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

“The world does not yet know when the outbreak will end. But in Turkey, we have seen the results of our measures. When the daily number of coronavirus cases falls below 1,000, this decline will be an indicator of our success,” the minister said at a press conference.

“We will now fight the virus more freely. Our new way of life is controlled social life,” he added, referring the policy of easing anti-COVID-19 measures, but also urged the citizens for mandatory masks and gloves as well as strict social distancing rules in public spaces.

Turkey has conducted a different treatment algorithm which is one of the key factors for success in decreasing the number of patients in intensive care units and for intubated cases, Koca said.

Late intubation method and use of blood thinners are part of this treatment, he stated.

The experienced health workers is another factor in this success, Koca emphasized.

“R naught,” or the reproduction variable, for the coronavirus in Turkey is 0.72, he noted, adding that a value below 1.0 suggests that active cases were in decline.

“We don’t expect a second wave at the moment. If people obey the measures and stay in controlled social life, we don’t wait for a second wave,” the minister stated.

As he called the second phase of the struggle against the coronavirus as “controlled social life,” Koca said that Turkey succeeded in the first phase of the fight against the coronavirus and it will succeed in the second phase as well.

Turkey imposes curfews at the weekends and even extends the lockdown days to national holidays. Accordingly, the country will have a four-day curfew on May 23-26 during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

With a decreasing trend in the number of daily cases and fewer deaths, Turkey recently started gradual normalization with few hours of curfew relaxation and the reopening of shopping malls and barbershops.

The Turkish government plans to further ease restrictions after the Eid al-Fitr holiday and allow intercity travels and foreign tourists at the beginning of June.

The elderly people that are under lockdown for two months will be allowed to leave for their hometowns for the Eid al-Fitr with a doctor’s approval and on the condition of not returning for 30 days, the health minister said.

Turkey will start the health tourism season early for foreigners and charter flights would be arranged depending on demand, Koca added. The government also monitors its citizens by a mobile application for their travels.

“The mobile app by the Health Ministry will be used to track intercity travel,” he said, adding that the citizens will use the code from the app to show that they are not diagnosed with COVID-19 and be able to travel with planes and trains within Turkey.

The government also plans to test passengers coming from abroad at airports and on land borders, he noted.

Turkey on Wednesday reported 972 new daily COVID-19 cases and 23 more deaths in the country.

The total number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases has surged to 152,587, while the death toll surged to 4,222, the health minister tweeted.

In addition, 113, 987 patients have recovered from the virus since the outbreak, while 877 are being treated at intensive care units and 445 intubated, according to the minister.

Turkey reported its first COVID-19 case on March 11.

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Roundup: Turkey’s COVID-19 cases surpass 152,000 as Iran’s tally nudges 127,000

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Turkey’s COVID-19 cases on Wednesday exceeded 152,000 as the daily number of new infections dropped below 1,000. Meanwhile, Iran witnessed a higher surge of coronavirus cases with the tally approaching 127,000.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, climbed to 152,587 after 972 new infections were reported, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

The death toll from the coronavirus in the country rose to 4,222 after 23 more fatalities were added in the past 24 hours, he said.

In Iran, 2,346 new cases of the novel coronavirus were registered, bringing the tally to 126,949.

The country also reported 64 new deaths from the virus on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 7,183. A total of 98,808 coronavirus patients have recovered, with 2,673 still in critical condition.

On the same day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his country has got closer to the containment of the coronavirus pandemic in Iran.

“During these three months, we have been advancing step by step without a retreat. In general, we’ve made good progress in the face of this dangerous virus and are almost on the verge of containment,” he said.

Saudi Arabia announced 2,691 new cases and 10 more deaths, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 62,545 and the death toll to 339.

The kingdom also reported 1,844 more recovered patients, taking the total recoveries to 33,478.

In Qatar, 1,491 new cases of coronavirus infections were detected, bringing the total number to 37,097, of whom 16 have died and 6,600 recovered.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 941 new COVID-19 cases and six more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 26,004 and the death toll to 233.

Kuwait reported 804 new cases, bringing the country’s total number of infections to 17,568, of whom 124 have died and 4,885 recovered.

The total number of recoveries from the virus in the UAE increased to 11,809 after 1,018 more fully recovered.

Israel reported six new COVID-19 cases, the lowest single-day rise in the country since March 7, bringing the tally of coronavirus infections to 16,665.

The deaths from the virus in Israel increased from 278 to 279 while the recoveries rose by 139 to 13,574.

It is worth noting that the number of active cases in the country dropped to 2,812, the lowest since March 26.

Earlier on the day, beaches and places of worship were reopened in Israel, under distance restrictions and hygiene measures.

Egypt’s coronavirus cases continued the surging trend to reach 14,229 after a daily record of 745 new infections were added.

The Egyptian Health Ministry also reported 21 more deaths and 252 cases of recoveries, increasing the death toll to 680 and the total recoveries to 3,994.

The North African country has received three batches of medical aid from the Chinese government to help its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Morocco, the tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 7,133 after 110 new cases were added, which included 194 fatalities and 4,098 recoveries.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the European Union and Morocco have signed a finance agreement wroth 100 million euros (110 million U.S. dollars) to upgrade the North African country’s health system.

Oman’s Ministry of Health announced 372 new cases of infections, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 6,043, including 29 deaths and 1,661 recoveries.

Iraq confirmed 113 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally of infections to 3,724, of whom 134 have died and 2,438 recovered.

The country has received batches of medical aid from China and the support from a team of Chinese medical experts during their 50-day stay.

In Lebanon, the number of COVID-19 infections increased by seven to 961, while the death toll remained unchanged at 26.

In Jordan, a total lockdown will be imposed during Eid al-Fitr amid the unprecedented increase in the number of coronavirus cases over the past few days.

The country registered 23 more infections on Wednesday, bringing the total coronavirus cases to 672, including nine deaths and 446 recoveries.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s health authorities recorded 13 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total confirmed cases in the war-ravaged Arab country to 180.

The death toll of the pandemic climbed to 29 in different areas of the government-controlled provinces, including the southern port city of Aden.

So far, the pro-government health authorities have recorded five 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 to allow travel to all its islands next week

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The Greek authorities will allow travel to and from all its islands starting from May 25, officials announced here on Tuesday during a regular press briefing.

The decision was made as the gradual rollback of the measures implemented in the past few months to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the country was undergoing well, said Nikos Hardalias, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection and Crisis Management at the Ministry of Citizen Protection.

Greece was under full lockdown from March 23 till May 4 and in the past two weeks the government has started to ease the measures.

Four new confirmed coronavirus cases were registered in the last 24 hours with no deaths, said the Health Ministry’s coronavirus spokesman Prof. Sotirios Tsiodras at the briefing.

Since the first case was reported on Feb. 26 in Greece, a total of 2,840 infections have been diagnosed, including 165 fatalities.

The average age of the deceased was 75 years and 94 percent had underlying health conditions and/or were above 70 years of age, the expert noted.

Currently 22 patients were being treated in intensive care units and 95 have so far been discharged from ICUs.

Tsiodras welcomed “the endorsement by more than 100 countries, including China and Australia, of the European Union’s resolution for an independent evaluation of the management of the pandemic on the global level, by the WHO (World Health Organization), as well as by countries, during WHO’s ministerial meeting yesterday.”

“We all have to take lessons from the pandemic and its management so far,” stressed the Greek expert, according to an e-mailed press release issued by the Health Ministry.

Most of the businesses which had closed earlier this spring have reopened, as well as archaeological sites and all middle and high schools. A decision on whether elementary schools will open on June 1 will be announced next Monday, Hardalias said.

Restaurants will open on Monday while hotels are scheduled to follow on June 1 as Greece is taking steps to kick start its tourism sector, a pillar of its economy.

Until May 31, a quarantine rule on all arrivals on the limited number of flights landing at Athens International Airport will remain in place, said the deputy minister.

A total of 46,000 people had entered Greece since the start of the outbreak in the country, he added.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: COVID-19 cases fall as Italy struggles to reopen

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A further 162 COVID-19 patients had died in the past 24 hours in Italy, bringing the country’s toll to 32,169, out of total infection cases of 226,699, according to fresh figures on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s number of deaths bounced from Monday’s tally of 99, the first time Italy’s daily casualties were lower than 100 since March 10. Italy also registered 813 new cases of infection nationwide in the 24-hour period.

Nationwide, the number of active infections fell by 1,424 cases to 65,129 cases, down from a total of 66,553 infections on Monday, according to the Civil Protection Department.

Of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus, 716 are in intensive care, 33 fewer compared to Monday; and 9,991 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 216 patients over the past 24 hours.

The rest 54,422 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are quarantined at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

Recoveries rose by 2,075 compared to Monday, bringing the nationwide total to 129,401 — up from 127,326 recoveries on Monday.

The Lombardy region whose capital is Milan still led the way in terms of cases with 27,291 active infections, followed by its neighbors Piedmont with 9,635 cases and the Emilia-Romagna region with 5,330 cases.

In the rest of Italy’s 20 regions, the figures ranged from 3,786 cases in the central Lazio region, where Rome is located, to 49 infections in the northern Valle d’Aosta region in the Alps.

ITALIAN BUSINESSES “PASS THE TEST”

The Italian General Confederation of Enterprises, Professions and Self-Employment (Confcommercio) reported Tuesday that the almost 800,000 businesses that reopened on May 18 after over two months of lockdown have “passed the test” in terms of compliance with new anti-coronavirus regulations.

“It was a bit like the first day of school,” Confcommercio wrote.

Over 90 percent of fashion retailers reopened, and the most sought-after items were lingerie, trousers, shirts, shoes and accessories.

The very first post-lockdown jewelry purchase in Italy was a pendant bought by a little boy as a belated Mother’s Day present, according to Confcommercio.

Of Italy’s many outdoor neighborhood markets, 50-60 percent have reopened so far. The rest are still struggling with “organizational and logistical difficulties” stemming from the new anti-COVID security protocols.

Restaurants and coffee bars were off to “a slow start,” Confcommercio wrote, saying that 70 percent of them have reopened, but with 40 percent fewer employees (about 400,000 workers).

In a report out Tuesday, the National Farmers Confederation (Coldiretti) said that consumption in restaurants and agritourism facilities in the days immediately following the end of the lockdown has fallen by an estimated 80 percent compared to the same period last year.

This was due not so much to the new anti-COVID-19 safety protocols — such as fewer tables in restaurants in order to guarantee social distancing — as to the “total absence of tourists, both foreign and domestic” as well as the absence of office workers, most of whom are working remotely.

Coldiretti described this drastic drop in consumption as “a hard blow to the national economy.”

VACCINE “A GLOBAL RIGHT NOT A PRIVILEGE”

Meanwhile, on the international stage, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said that “the development of a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine is a fundamental challenge” and “we must fight for this vaccine to be considered a global public good, a right for all and not a privilege for the few.”

Speranza made these remarks during the second and last day of the 73rd World Health Assembly, which is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The World Health Assembly, which opened on Monday, was held virtually due to the pandemic.

“I wanted to stress the importance of the WHO and the need to reinforce its central role, especially in times of crisis,” Speranza explained in a statement.

“We must ensure that (the WHO) remains completely independent of external influences, be they political or financial, and that it is guided solely by science,” said the Italian minister.

Also on Tuesday, the Health Ministry published the National Institute of Health (ISS) findings of the life span of the new coronavirus on different surfaces that are encountered commonly in daily life.

On printed paper and tissue paper, the virus can remain alive and with the power to cause infection for up to 30 minutes after contamination, according to the findings.

The amount of time rises to up to one day after contamination on fabrics, up to two days on paper money and glass, and up to four days on stainless steel and plastic.

Regarding surgical masks, the viral contents remain active for up to four days on the inside layer and up to seven days on the outside layer, the Health Ministry said.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Kenya’s containment measures to sustain as COVID-19 cases rise

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Kenya’s COVID-19 cases are creeping towards the 1,000 mark, with the rising infections jolting citizens into a reality that they have to sustain containment measures.

Kenya on Tuesday recorded 51 more cases, pushing the total tally to 963.

The rise in cases means that the disease is active and spreading in the community, according to Patrick Amoth, the director-general at Kenya’s Ministry of Health.

Kenyans had seemingly started to drop the ball when it comes to following the containment measures, which include washing hands, maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.

Some citizens, however, especially at open-air markets, have been wearing masks below their chin thus failing to cover their mouths and noses.

One of the things that had led to this was the failure of the country to hit the infection target of 10,000 by the end of April as forecasted by the Ministry of Health.

Citizens had also misunderstood the government’s move to reopen restaurants and hotels under strict rules, a move many misconstrued as normalcy had returned.

A move to reconsider the reopening of schools had also sent the wrong signal among the citizen, with thousands of citizens having expected that President Uhuru Kenyatta would lift the curfew and unlock the capital and other five counties.

But the rising COVID-19 cases across the east African nation have shocked citizens since most of them involve Kenyans who have no history of travel — unlike in the beginning.

“I was among the proponents of the lifting the dusk to dawn curfew because it has killed the business, but with the rising cases, the government is right in extending the restriction,” motorbike taxi rider David Kimani, a resident of Kitengela south of Nairobi, said on Tuesday, capturing sentiments of hundreds of people in the informal sector.

The industry, together with that of commuter buses commonly known as matatus, were identified as high-risk due to the nature of the businesses.

The Kenyan government prescribed various measures for the transport sector, including wearing a mask and carrying a limited number of passengers, but rules had started flouting. Meanwhile, some parents in Kenya had also started to become jittery as the crisis drags on.

The rising COVID-19 cases have, however, changed their perspective of the crisis, with many noting that students may not be safe in school as the infections rise.

“We are approaching 1,000 cases yet the curve seems far from being flattened. This means we are in the early stages of the disease cycle thus we should not be thinking about schools opening at this stage but how to stop the infections,” said government auditor Victoria Selima, whose niece is expected to sit for class eight exit exam in November.

Dozens of other Kenyans had the same views as the cases accelerate at an alarming rate in the community.

At least 25 counties have been affected by the disease, which spread from Nairobi, the capital, and the coastal city of Mombasa, with the worst-hit currently being those at the border with neighboring countries.

Kenya curtailed the movement of people in and out of Nairobi alongside four other counties to curb the spread of the disease, a measure the Ministry of Health notes has worked.

Health secretary Mutahi Kagwe said that the country is registering high cases because of targeted testing.

“We have moved to hotspots and we are testing people to avoid wastefulness. This is the reason numbers are rising,” he said.

He added that the war is not won yet thus Kenyans must be patient and continue with containment measures.

“People have been taking measures seriously and because of cooperation, the country is making progress but this war is far from over,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Major U.S. automakers reopen some plants after COVID-19 shutdowns

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Major American automakers on Monday returned to making vehicles for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdowns brought production to a halt in late March.

The reopening of plants for U.S. three big auto companies, General Motors (GM), Ford Motor Company and Fiat Chrysler, bulwarks of a sector that employs nearly one million workers, will be closely watched as companies in a range of American industries seek to get back to business without a surge of coronavirus infections.

Ford said 59,000 factory workers, about 80 percent of its workforce, were expected to show up for work on Monday, while GM said it expected about 15,000 of its 48,000 factory workers to report. About one third of Fiat Chrysler’s hourly workforce, some 16,000 workers, were to come in, the company said.

All three companies said they would thoroughly and frequently clean facilities and allot extra time between work shifts to do so. At Ford, factories that had been running on three shifts, or essentially around the clock, will work on two shifts to allow extra time for cleaning. At Fiat Chrysler factories, 10 minutes per shift will be allotted for cleaning.

The three auto giants will also make changes to how “common areas,” such as dining areas, are used in order to keep employees apart from one another. Fiat Chrysler shared an image of a break area table, which normally seats six people, now has plastic dividers that reduce its seating to three.

These practices are based, in part, on the experiences at the companies’ factories that have reopened in Asia and Europe.

Executives at Ford and GM said no cases of COVID-19 transmission were observed in plants outside the United States since new safety measures were adopted. The changes include mandatory face masks, separating workers on assembly lines, cleaning work areas often and requiring workers to go through temperature monitors and report any symptoms before entering a plant.

The companies also are offering zero-percent financing of up to 84 months as well as big discounts on vehicles to spur consumer demand.

(XINHUA)

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