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Russia names exceptions from Chinese entry ban on coronavirus fears

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The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it would continue to allow Chinese citizens to enter the country if they have an official, business, humanitarian or transit visa, .

Other Chinese citizens with a private, work, study or tourist visa will be banned from entering Russia as of Thursday to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Foreign Ministry said.

The epicentre of the outbreak is the city of Wuhan in central China.

“The Russian side is supporting efforts by Chinese partners to counter the epidemic,’’ the statement said, describing the entry ban as temporary.

No potential end date has been reported.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that commercial air traffic would continue between Moscow and the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

The only two reported cases of the new coronavirus on Russian territory have been two Chinese nationals in Siberia who, according to Russian health officials, have fully recovered.

Edited By: Halima Sheji/Maureen Atuonwu

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New Zealand media company sold for one NZ dollar

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Australian-owned New Zealand media company Stuff Limited, who operates the country’s largest news website, was sold to its chief executive Sinead Boucher for one New Zealand dollar, said the company on Monday.

With the management buyout being expected to complete by May 31, Stuff, which was owned by Australian media group Nine Entertainment, will regain a New Zealand ownership, said the company.

Direct proceeds from the sale will be one NZ dollar. Nine, however, will retain ownership of Stuff’s Petone printing plant site in Wellington and lease it back to Stuff. It will also receive an immediate and subsequent percentage of the proceeds from the sale of Stuff Fibre, completed on May 20.

“Nine will receive 25 percent of those proceeds before completion of the Stuff sale, plus up to a further 75 percent over the subsequent 36 months, depending on the Stuff business’ ability to raise funding,” said Nine at a statement to Australia stock market ASX.

“Today is an important moment for Stuff as a business,” said Boucher in a statement.

Stuff Limited operates the country’s largest news website, Stuff, and also owns nine daily newspapers, including New Zealand’s second and third-highest circulation daily newspapers, The Dominion Post and The Press, and the highest circulation weekly, Sunday Star-Times. (1 New Zealand dollar equals 0.61 U.S. dollar)

(XINHUA)

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Aussie state backs COVID-19 research blitz

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The Australian State of Western Australia (WA) has upped funding to 12 local COVID-19 related studies, to help better tackle the global effects of the virus.

Officials announced on Monday that 1.9 million Australian dollars (1.24 million U.S. dollars) would be delivered in the form of research grants, with an additional 1 million Australian dollars (653,000 U.S. dollars) to be spent on research infrastructure.

Grants will go towards researching potential treatments, studies of at-risk groups, development of less invasive and more informative testing, and the study of mental health impacts — while additional infrastructure will help cover the costs of consumables, staffing and site set-up for local COVID-19 research.

“The more research we can support, the closer we are to finding out more about this virus,” WA Health Minister Roger Cook said.

“While enabling WA researchers to be part of the global search for COVID-19 answers, it will also give our patients access to potential new therapies and treatments.”

One such potential therapy which received the funding is the transfusing of active COVID-19 patients with plasma from recovered cases.

In the absence of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital respiratory specialists will investigate whether antibodies contained in donated plasma can prevent patients from deteriorating to the point where they need to be hospitalised.

“This project is a fantastic example of some of the innovative research underway across the WA health system,” Cook said.

(XINHUA)

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Tourism industry could benefit from Australian wage subsidy scheme savings: treasurer

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Australia’s treasurer has flagged further support for the nation’s tourism industry amid the coronavirus crisis.

Josh Frydenberg said on Monday morning that some of the 60 billion Australian dollars (39.2 billion U.S. dollars) in savings from the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme could be redistributed to the struggling tourism industry.

It comes after the Treasury on Friday revealed that the number of Australians accessing the 1,500 Australian dollars per fortnight JobKeeper Payment was almost half the 6.5 million previously estimated, slashing the estimated cost of the scheme from 130 billion Australian dollars to 70 billion Australian dollars.

“When it comes to JobKeeper, we’ll be undertaking a review in the month of June, and we’ll look at how it’s been implemented, what’s happening in various sectors,” Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

“The tourism sector could be one sector in need of further support. That’s what we’ll look at in the context of the economic situation at the time.

“You’ll continue to see our international borders closed for some time.”

The government has come under pressure to use the savings to extend JobKeeper to casual staff and so on who were excluded from scheme under its initial design.

However, the government have ruled out doing so.

“The estimate was overstated,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Sunday. (1 U.S. dollar equals 1.53 Australian dollars)

(XINHUA)

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India’s COVID-19 death toll rises to 4,021 as total cases reach 138,845

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India’s health ministry Monday morning said 154 new deaths due to COVID-19, besides fresh 6,977 positive cases were reported since Sunday in the country, taking the number of deaths to 4,021 and total cases to 138,845.

This is the highest one day spike in COVID-19 cases so far in the country, showed the data.

“As on 8:00 a.m. (local time) Monday, 4,021 deaths related to novel coronavirus have been recorded in the country,” reads information released by the ministry.

On Sunday morning, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was 131,868, and the death toll was 3,867.

According to ministry officials, so far 57,721 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement.

“The number of active cases in the country right now is 77,103,” reads the information.

Monday marks the 62nd straight day of the ongoing lockdown across the country announced by the Centre Government to contain the spread of the pandemic.

The lockdown, announced on March 25, was extended for third time on May 17 till May 31. The fourth phase began from Monday.

(XINHUA)

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Traffic accident kills 2 teenagers in central Vietnam

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

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

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

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

(XINHUA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(XINHUA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(XINHUA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(XINHUA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(XINHUA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(XINHUA)

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

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

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

(XINHUA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(XINHUA)

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People perform Eid al-Fitr prayer at home in Uganda

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

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People enjoy sunset by Adriatic Sea in Zadar

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

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Eid al-Fitr marked in Tehran, Iran

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Aftermath of cyclone Amphan landfall in Kolkata, India

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Aftermath of Cyclone Amphan in Kolkata, India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(XINHUA)

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