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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: Washington’s unruly withdrawal from WHO draws ire, opposition across globe

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Washington’s decision to sever ties with the World Health Organization (WHO), widely seen as irresponsible and immoral, has once again riled the world for the Trump administration’s indulgence in scapegoating others, particularly China and the WHO, for its own malfeasance to handle the double crisis of the raging COVID-19 pandemic and rampant racial unrest across the country.

United States President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed China for loss of life and economic recession in the United States, as well as accused the WHO of being “China-centric.” However, it’s widely acknowledged that there is no evidence for the alleged wrongdoing of China and the WHO.

Public health experts and officials worldwide generally stand opposed to the U.S. president, debunking his moves “as a way to deflect attention” for his administration’s botched attempts to deal with domestic predicaments and calling for global collaboration.

Epidemiologists have revealed that 90 percent of American lives might have spared amid the pandemic had Washington imposed ristrictions including lockdown measures and social distancing two weeks earlier on March 2.

The pain for the U.S. exit from the WHO, a decision “both immoral and likely illegal,” will be inflicted on “the COVID-19 battlefields and in every poor community that relies on U.N. agencies for emergency food, child immunizations, essential medicines, and guidance,” Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer, said in an article published by Foreign Policy.

Garrett also opined that Washington’s move to abandon the WHO “encapsulates the most questionable aspects of the president’s leadership style: his penchant to blame others for his mistakes, his refusal to share the global stage politely with other actors, his indulgence of blind self-interest, and his utter contempt of science.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America “stands strongly against President Trump‘s decision,” said Dr. Thomas M. File, its president, on Twitter. “We will not succeed against this pandemic, or any future outbreak, unless we stand together, share information and coordinate actions.”

Calling Trump‘s decision “shameful and irresponsible,” Ami Bera, Democrat of California in the United States House of Representatives, tweeted that leaving the WHO “will make the United States and the world less safe.”

The U.S. severance of ties with the WHO is “not a good sign,” said Shekhar Mande, director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in India.

“WHO is a valuable body which has played an important role. It has been involved in smallpox elimination, polio virus elimination and it has worked very well with countries,” he said, according to Indian daily newspaper Mint.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also voiced his opposition against Washington’s move, criticizing it as “the wrong signal at the wrong time,” according to German news media Funke. “We cannot tear down the dike in the middle of a storm,” Maas was quoted by Reuters as saying.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Europe-based airlines start to resume services as countries try to revive tourism

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Europe-based airlines are starting to resume services step by step as countries try to revive tourism as a way to bring their economies battered hard by the COVID-19 pandemic back to life.

Alitalia, Italy‘s flagship airline, formally launched long-haul flight from Rome to New York on Tuesday, a day before the country opens its borders to other Schengen countries. The eight-hour flight will run twice a week.

Since early March, the lockdown has all but shut down the airline aside from some cargo flights and a few flights used to repatriate Italians from coronavirus hotspots.

The airline will also restart flights between Rome and the Sardinian cities of Alghero and Olbia on Wednesday, as well as flights between Rome and Spanish cities of Barcelona on Wednesday and Madrid on Thursday.

All the flights will take place with social distancing rules in effect, meaning that flights will be capped at 33 to 50 percent capacity depending on the type of aircraft.

Germany’s biggest airline Lufthansa announced on Tuesday that it is going to make wearing mouth-nose cover on board mandatory starting from June 8. This change would initially apply to Lufthansa, Eurowings and Lufthansa Cityline and will preliminarily apply until Aug. 31, 2020.

Lithuania lifted on Monday the 14-day self-isolation rule for travellers from 24 European countries.

Travellers coming from Malta, Ireland and Spain are still subject to mandatory self-isolation for 14 days while travel is still prohibited from Belgium, Sweden, Portugal and Britain, where the number of COVID-19 patients exceeds 25 cases per 100,000 population.

Up to now, Lithuania has resumed regular flights to Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and plans to resume flights to Denmark, Israel and Finland in the upcoming week.

From July 1, Malta will reopen its airport for some European countries and Israel. The lifting of restrictions applied only to direct flights, and passengers have to guarantee that they have stayed in the same country for four weeks prior to the flight.

In Cyprus, airports are scheduled to reopen on June 9 when flights are expected to resume with 19 countries considered by Cypriot authorities to be relatively safe as far as COVID-19 is concerned.

Most hotels are offering big discounts, but have announced on their websites that accommodation will not be available before June 20, when travellers from Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Norway, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Israel, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia and Lithuania will travel freely without having a proof for a negative COVID-19 test, those from six other countries will still need the proof.

As the summer tourism season is about to start in the coming weeks, the Greek government gave more information on the the conditions under which Greece will welcome tourists.

The Ministry of Tourism announced last Friday the first list of 29 countries, including China, which can send tourists to Greece as of June 15 to the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki.

The list was drafted based on epidemiological data and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announcements, following recommendations from Greek scientists. These travelers will be subject only to sample testing for COVID-19 upon arrival.

In addition, the country also opens to visitors from other countries as of mid-June. But at least until June 30, all the tourists originating from an airport on the EASA list of affected areas with high risk of transmission of COVID-19, are obliged to be tested upon arrival and will have to spend one night at a designated hotel.

If the test is negative then the passenger has to self quarantine for seven days, while if the test is positive, the passenger is quarantined under supervision for 14 days, according to Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis.

Greek authorities will focus on the departure airports but not the nationality of the travelers, the minister stressed.

As of July 1, international flights are allowed into all airports in Greece and visitors are subject to random tests upon arrival, while additional restrictions regarding certain countries will be announced at a later date.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said on Sunday that there has been a slight easing of world travel restrictions introduced in response to COVID-19.

The Madrid-based agency stressed the importance of international tourism in promoting sustainable economic growth.

“The timely and responsible easing of travel restrictions will help ensure the many social and economic benefits that tourism guarantees will return in a sustainable way. This will contribute to the livelihoods of many millions of people around the world,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.

“The sector is a driver of sustainable development and a pillar of economies. UNWTO stresses the need for vigilance, responsibility and international cooperation as the world slowly opens up again,” he added.

On May 7, the organization predicted that international tourist numbers would fall by between 60 and 80 percent in 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Greece reports 19 new COVID-19 cases within 24 hours, suspends flights from Qatar

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Greece reported 19 new confirmed COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, including 12 people on a flight from Doha, Qatar, which landed on Athens international airport on Monday.

All the 91 people on board were placed in quarantine and all flights from Qatar have been suspended until June 15, Greece’s Civil Protection authority announced in a press release.

According to the press release, among the 12 passengers who tested positive to the novel coronavirus, nine are Pakistani nationals with residence permits for Greece, two are Greek nationals from Australia and one Japanese national, member of a Japanese-Greek family.

With the new cases registered within the past 24 hours, the country’s total confirmed cases have risen to 2,937, according to another announcement issued by the National Public Health Organization (EODY). The death toll remains at 179, EODY added.

Greece was in full lockdown between March 23 and May 4, but has started to gradually lift the restrictions.

Tourism is the last sector of the economy that is scheduled to go back to business starting on June 15.

As of mid-June, flights from 29 countries with positive epidemiological data, including China, can land on the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki with passengers being subject only to sample testing for COVID-19 upon arrival, the Tourism ministry has announced.

From June 15 until at least June 30, all travelers arriving from an airport on the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) list of affected areas with high risk of transmission of COVID-19 are obliged to test for coronavirus upon their arrival and spend one night at a designated hotel.

As of July 1, international flights will be allowed into all airports and visitors will be subject to random tests upon arrival.

As Greece is adapting to the new normalcy of the COVID-19, authorities continue their efforts to strengthen the public health system.

By early May, Greece had received donations exceeding 89 million euros (99.5 million U.S. dollars) by countries, organizations, enterprises and individuals, the government announced.

The first significant load of medical supplies weighed 18 tons donated by the Chinese government, enterprises and organizations arrived in Greece on March 21. Since then, more donations from China have reached Greece.

On Tuesday, Piraeus Port Authority S.A. (PPA) made one more donation of sanitary material to the program of the Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals “Kethea En Drasi” (Kethea in Action), it was announced.

China’s COSCO Shipping acquired in 2016 a majority stake in PPA after an international tender. (1 euro= 1.12 U.S. dollars)

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Italy marks Republic Day with tribute to coronavirus victims

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Italy on Tuesday marked its annual Republic Day with a tribute to the almost 33,500 Italians who lost their lives to the novel coronavirus.

The national holiday is the anniversary of June 2, 1946, when a majority of Italians voted in favor of being a republic instead of a monarchy in a national referendum that was also the first time women were allowed to vote.

On Tuesday morning, Italian President Sergio Mattarella placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument in the central Piazza Venezia, in the presence of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and other top officials.

Then the Air Force acrobatics team — the Frecce Tricolori (Italian for “three-colored arrows”) — flew in formation over the capital, leaving smoke trails in the colors of the Italian flag: green, white, and red.

This year, beginning on May 25, the Frecce Tricolori have flown over the capitals of Italy’s 20 regions in what the Air Force called “a symbolic hugging of the entire nation with the three-colored smoke in a sign of unity, solidarity and recovery.”

“One of the crucial principles of acrobatic flight is that of flying together while maintaining the right distance,” the Air Force said in a statement. “This principle can become a metaphor for … our daily lives now: distant, but united.”

The Frecce Tricolori also flew over the town of Codogno in the northern Lombardy region, where the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out on Feb. 21 and where the first red zone was set up.

Instead of presiding over the traditional military parade in Rome, which was canceled this year, Mattarella on Tuesday traveled to Codogno to “pay tribute to all the victims and to bear witness to the courage of all Italians” in the battle against the new coronavirus.

He met with local and regional officials and visited the local cemetery, where he laid a wreath for those who lost their lives to the virus.

Back in Rome, Mattarella attended a concert in honor of the victims of the novel coronavirus at the Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital, which houses the National Institute for Infectious Disease (INMI) and which is on the frontlines in battling the virus.

In a televised speech to the nation on Monday evening, Mattarella said that “many of us hold the heartbreaking memory of those who passed away due to the coronavirus: relatives, friends, colleagues.”

The president said the people of Italy are fighting “an invisible enemy” which has “disrupted our lives … and placed the productive structure of our country under enormous strain.”

More challenges lie ahead in the “reconstruction” of the country in the wake of the pandemic, Mattarella said, adding “we are not alone.”

“Europe shows it has recovered the authentic spirit of its integration,” Mattarella noted.

“Solidarity between the countries of the (European) Union is not one option out of many, but the only way to face successfully the most serious crisis our generations have experienced,” he said.

“No country will have an acceptable future without the European Union — not even the strongest, not even the one least stricken by the virus,” the president stressed.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Kenyans adopt new greeting habits amid COVID-19 pandemic

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As COVID-19 cases take an upward trend in Kenya, reaching 2,093 on Tuesday, citizens are adopting new greeting habits, such as elbow bumps, which are helping people socialize as they maintain hygiene and keep social distance to curb the spread of the disease.

With handshakes, hugs, cheek kisses and shoulder bumps among other forms of salutations dead, thanks to the new coronavirus disease pandemic, new forms of greetings considered safer are taking root in Kenya, both in official and informal circles.

One such a greeting that is taking the east African nation by storm is elbow bump as citizens consider it much safer.

From the old to the young, men and women, elbow bumps have now become the official greetings of Kenyans both in formal and informal settings like homes.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto cemented the greeting in Kenya’s formal circles on Monday when they used it during independence celebrations in Nairobi, the capital.

Wearing masks, clenching their fists and smiling, Kenyatta and Ruto bumped their elbows to greet each other.

Their greeting did not only acknowledge the popularity of the salutation amid the pandemic, but it also confirmed to citizens that they can use it.

Several dignitaries at the event that was attended by few government officials and opposition leaders also used the elbow bump to greet each other.

“I have been using the elbow bump since last month, some people have been comfortable with it, others are not, avoiding contact but when I saw the president use it on Monday, I felt happy, that this is the greeting for those of us who are used to handshakes,” said Gilbert Wandera, a businessman in Nairobi.

Wandera, who sells computers, had shunned any form of contact greeting when the disease broke out to maintain hygiene.

But I changed my mind as people embraced face masks and other sanitation measures. Besides, elbow bumps are a little safer because chances that you will touch your face with the elbow are nil,” he said.

The greeting has also been embraced in households, corporate offices, operators of public transport vehicles commonly known as matatus, commuters, motorbike taxi riders and traders among others as it quenches citizens’ thirst to shake hands.

Besides elbow bumps, other forms of greetings that Kenyans are using include foot taps and hand on my heart, what the World Health Organization recommends. But these are not as popular as elbow bumps.

Another culture that has taken root in the east African nation, thanks to the pandemic is the wearing of face masks. Initially, wearing of masks was seen as a mark of style mainly done by the sophisticated or wealthy, but it has now been embraced by all citizens, with thousands hardly venturing out of their houses without the gadget.

“I am also finding myself maintaining the 1.5m social distance in public places naturally. No one is reminding me to keep distance in supermarkets, at ATMs, in public transport vehicles or in the office. And this is what many other people are doing. It is now a culture that is helping curb the disease,” said Victoria Selima, a government auditor.

Initially, funerals in the east African nation would attract hundreds of people, some who would stay at the affected families’ homes for days mourning.

But with COVID-19, citizens have learnt to keep away from the events without being forced by government officials, noted Victor Mulanda, who traveled to western Kenya on Monday from the capital for a funeral.

Rashid Aman, Kenya‘s health chief administrative secretary, noted Tuesday that citizens must be responsible and embrace new norms to beat the disease that is currently deeply entrenched in community across the east African nation.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Lao students return to schools as gov’t further eases COVID-19 restrictions

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Most Lao students returned to schools on Tuesday as the Lao government further eased its precautionary COVID-19 restrictions.

Preschools, kindergartens and the remaining classes of primary and secondary schools (whose final-year classes resumed earlier on May 18) have reopened on Tuesday.

Final-year classes at technical colleges, pedagogy colleges and universities have also reopened on the same day, while other remaining classes are instructed to reopen on June 15.

Since May 18, the graduating grade students of primary and secondary schools have gone back to their classrooms, to prepare for tests to gain admission into higher education levels, according to an earlier announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office on May 15.

School administrators must implement precautionary measures to prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19, which was recommended by the Ministry of Education and Sports and the National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control.

The measures for reopening schools include school administrators keeping their premises clean by cleaning classrooms and grounds and spraying disinfectant around their facilities to reduce the risk of infections.

Administrative staff, teachers and students must wear face masks at all times at school, and parents must also wear masks while picking up their children.

The Lao government also allows normal transport of goods across international borders from Tuesday. Organizations of all forms of sport competitions with no spectators, night markets and cinemas are also permitted to reopen.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the easing of restrictions was temporary and that if further cases of COVID-19 were found, the rules would be reimposed in the province where the infection was detected. If clusters of infections occur in two or more provinces, the lockdown will be re-introduced nationwide.

Restrictions have been further relaxed given that there have been no new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Laos for 50 consecutive days as of Monday. Sixteen of the 19 patients who contracted the virus have been discharged from hospitals.

The Lao Health Ministry announced its first two confirmed COVID-19 cases at its daily press conference on March 24.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: United States manufacturing activity contracts for third straight month amid COVID-19 fallout

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Economic activity in the United States manufacturing sector contracted for the third straight month in May amid mounting COVID-19 fallout, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported Monday.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index stood at 43.1 percent in May, up 1.6 percentage points from the April reading, which was the lowest level since April 2009.

Any reading below 50 percent indicates the manufacturing sector is generally contracting.

“Three months into the manufacturing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, comments from the panel were cautious regarding the near-term outlook,” Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM‘s manufacturing business survey committee, said in a statement.

Noting that the pandemic impacted all manufacturing sectors, Fiore said “May appears to be a transition month, as many panelists and their suppliers returned to work late in the month.”

“However, demand remains uncertain, likely impacting inventories, customer inventories, employment, imports and backlog of orders,” he said.

Among the six biggest industry sectors, Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products remains the only industry in expansion, according to the report. Transportation Equipment, Petroleum & Coal Products, and Fabricated Metal Products continue to contract at “strong levels,” Fiore said.

Despite the continued contraction, Tim Quinlan, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote in an analysis that “a reading of 43.1 in May versus 41.5 in April tells us that the pace of decline is slowing.”

“After some of the worst months on record, this is a step in a better direction,” Quinlan said, while noting that “there are certainly challenges ahead.”

“Supply chain disruptions and implementation of new social-distancing protocols in factories and workshops not just in the United States, but around the world, likely mean that the recovery here will take longer than the quicker turnaround we expect to see in consumer spending,” he said.

A business executive from the Transportation Equipment industry also highlighted the new protocols, saying in the ISM report that social distancing measures in the manufacturing plant and customer demand are “impacting the rate of production.”

Despite the COVID-19 issues, we are seeing an increase of quoting activity. This has not turned into orders yet, but it is a positive sign,” a business executive from the Computer & Electronic Products industry said.

The United States Commerce Department reported on Thursday that economic activity in the first quarter contracted at an annual rate of 5 percent in a second estimate, 0.2 percentage point lower than the advance estimate.

That downwardly revised figure, however, still does not fully capture COVID-19‘s economic damage, and many analysts believe that the decline in the second quarter is expected to be much deeper.

United States Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently said the unemployment rate could peak around 20 percent or 25 percent, and the United States economy could shrink dramatically in the second quarter, at an annualized rate of more than 20 percent or 30 percent.

In a virtual discussion held by Princeton University on Friday, the central bank chief said he was concerned about a second wave of COVID-19 infections, which he believed would dampen consumer confidence and hurt economic recovery.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Italy records lowest new COVID-19 cases since Feb. 27

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Italy recorded 178 fresh cases of infection from the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the lowest such figure since Feb. 27, the Civil Protection Department said on Monday.

The overall number of COVID-19 infections, fatalities and recoveries rose to 233,197 cases over the past 24 hours, from 233,019 cases on Sunday.

The pandemic began in Italy on Feb. 21 in the northern, densely populated and highly industrialized Lombardy region, whose capital is Milan.

Total active infections stood at 41,367, down from 42,075 on Sunday, while another 848 COVID-19 patients recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 158,355.

Another 60 patients died, taking the toll to 33,475.

The overall fatalities include 166 doctors, according to the National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists (FNOMCeO), which is keeping a running tally of doctors who died in fighting the virus.

Of those who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, 424 are in intensive care, 11 fewer compared to Sunday; and 6,099 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 288 patients over the past 24 hours, the Civil Protection Department said.

The rest 34,844 people, or 84 percent of those who tested positive — are quarantined at home because they are asymptomatic or have very light symptoms.

“The new coronavirus is circulating less… This is due to both the lockdown and existing measures such as the use of face masks and social distancing,” Dr. Luca Richeldi, who heads the Pulmonology Department at Rome’s Policlinico Gemelli Hospital and who sits on the Technical and Scientific Committee advising the government on how to fight the pandemic, told reporters on Monday.

Italy declared a six-month national state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic on Jan. 31, and the government followed this up with a nationwide lockdown that went into effect on March 10.

Exactly a month later, on April 10, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the lockdown would continue until May 3, to be followed by a so-called Phase Two involving “the gradual resumption of social, economic and productive activities.”

INDUSTRY “SUFFOCATED” BY LACK OF DEMAND

Phase Two, however, is off to a slow and painful start for industrialists, according to a report on Monday by the General Confederation of Italian Industry (Confindustria).

The industrial sector “is still suffocated by extremely weak domestic and foreign demand,” the report said.

Italy’s industrial production plunged by 44.3 percent in April and by 33.8 percent in May compared to the same period last year. Also on a yearly basis, the volume of industrial orders dropped by 29.6 percent in April and by 51.6 percent in May, the Confindustria report stated.

On the home front, “millions of workers have lost their purchasing power” while household consumption fell as people prefer to save their money amidst uncertainty as to how long the health emergency will last.

On the international front, “foreign demand is still compromised by the different timing of the introduction of COVID-19 containment measures in other countries,” the report said.

“Many entrepreneurs are suffering from lack of cash flow and are being forced to play by ear in the midst of a scenario of extreme uncertainty with regards to the Italian and the international economy,” Confindustria wrote.

The report warned that “we risk the explosion of an outright social emergency within a few months” unless the government steps in to help the productive system.

Confindustria represents more than 150,000 manufacturing and service companies of all sizes in Italy, employing over 5.4 million people in the country.

45 MLN AIR PASSENGERS “LOST IN LOCKDOWN

One of the most hard-hit sectors is air transport. Due to the lockdown, Italy’s airports lost 45 million passengers in March, April and May compared to the same period last year, and over 10,000 airport staff have had to claim unemployment benefits, the Association of Italian Airports (Assaeroporti) said in a statement on Monday.

The association “asks the government to ensure a competitive air transportation market” through targeted policies, because “air transport is a critical sector for Italy’s socio-economic recovery.”

Assaeroporti pointed out that 40 percent of foreign tourists reach Italy by air, and that together, the air transport and tourism sectors generate “17 percent of national gross domestic product (GDP).”

Assaeroporti represents 32 companies that manage 42 airports, which move 193.1 million passengers a year.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Unprotected interactions, increasing tests behind re-spike in COVID-19 cases: expert

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An Iranian medical expert said unprotected social interactions and an increase in the number of tests are the reasons for the recent surge in the tally of the novel coronavirus cases in the Islamic republic.

On Monday, Iran‘s confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 154,445, continuing a new rise in daily cases over the past weeks, while the death toll rose to 7,878.

Iran reported the first cases of the disease on Feb. 19, and the officials decided to impose a major lockdown on economic and cultural sectors thereafter.

In early April, Iran announced a gradual reopening of its economy and easing of restrictions on social interactions under the plan of “smart distancing.”

Last week, Iran allowed partial reopening of the holy shrines. All employees have returned to work since Saturday and high-risk places of businesses, such as gyms and beauty salons, have also reopened for business.

Mosques, malls and holy sites have opened under social distancing rules, but wedding ceremonies remain banned.

However, following the recent rise in the number of new infections, the Iranian health authorities raised the alarm over a new spike in different regions in Iran.

Seven provinces are in alarming state over the virus’ return, and the southwestern province of Khuzestan is in a state of emergency, Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of the health ministry, said Sunday.

“An increase in the social interaction has resulted in the re-spike of the disease,” Seyyed Ahmad Hashemi, head of North Khorasan University of Medical Sciences, said in an interview.

“Some people think the disease has ended, so they do not care the health protocols,” Hashemi warned, noting in some gatherings the health instructions are not observed.

Hashemi, an expert in infectious diseases, said the soaring infections are also linked to the increasing number of tests across the country and the tracing factor.

According to the health ministry, more than 100 laboratories across the country have been equipped with the testing kits. On Monday, Iran announced the administration of 955,865 lab tests since the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the country in February.

On Monday, Jahanpour urged the public to wear face masks in crowded places and respect distancing.

(XINHUA)

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