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S. Korea again urges social distancing, strict self-isolation amid steady rise in virus cases

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South Korea on Friday once again urged people to stay at home, avoid mass gatherings and comply with self-isolation rules, if they returned from abroad, as COVID-19 clusters continued to emerge amid a rise in imported coronavirus cases.

According to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the 91 new cases, which were detected on Thursday and down from 104 new cases on Wednesday, marked the 16th consecutive day there were about 100.

There were 9,332 confirmed cases in total, and the death toll rose by eight to 139.

The KCDC said 56 virus patients are in critical condition, while the number of imported cases climbed by 13 to reach 144.

According to the KCDC, the mortality rate stood at 1.49 per cent as of Thursday.

For those aged 80 and above, the fatality rate was 15.19 per cent.

South Korea began implementing stricter rules on social distancing Sunday to slow the coronavirus pandemic that emerged in China late 2019.

Citizens are strongly urged to stay at home, except for essential needs or jobs, with the government restricting religious gatherings, indoor sports activities and visits to nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

South Korea has enforced a two-week quarantine period and virus tests for all long-term arrivals from Europe, regardless of symptoms, in an effort to contain imported virus cases.

However, passengers from the U.S. for long-term stay are required to self-isolate at home for two weeks.

Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, said about 40 people have violated rules on self-isolation so far, calling for people coming from abroad to strictly comply with the rules.

South Korea has vowed a “no-tolerance’’ policy in dealing with violators, adding that those who are Korean nationals would face lawsuits and foreigners will be expelled.

“Travellers from Europe and the U.S. are advised to use their own cars when returning home.

“If they do not own cars, the government will arrange for them to be transported via buses and trains,’’ Yoon said.

On Monday, officials said that any passenger with a body temperature higher than 37.5 C would be banned from boarding flights to South Korea.

KCDC Director General Jeong Eun-kyeong said South Korea is considering requiring people coming from Southeast Asian nations to self-isolate at home for two weeks.

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, virus cases in Thailand and the Philippines stood at 1,045 and 707, respectively.

Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, the nation’s two worst-affected regions, reported 34 and nine new cases, respectively.

Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital city, saw the daily number of new infections rise by 26 to 830 on Thursday.

So far, 4,528 patients have recovered, and 4,665 are receiving treatment.

South Korea has tested 376,961 people since Jan. 3.

The virus was first detected in the country on Jan. 20.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Felix Ajide
(NAN)

 

 

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Spotlight: Iran’s tankers’ cross into Venezuela waters “defies” U.S. sanctions: Iranian expert

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An Iranian expert says the arrival of Iran’s fuel tankers to the Venezuelan shores has defied U.S. sanction pressures against Tehran and Caracas.

The deal between Iran and Venezuela which came amid unprecedented U.S. sanctions on both states is primarily a “humiliation’ of U.S. policies, Foad Izadi, a professor at the Faculty of World Studies of the University of Tehran, said in an interview on Sunday.

On Sunday, the first vessel of Iranian five-tanker flotilla loaded with gasoline crossed into the Venezuelan territorial waters, escorted by the the Venezuelan navy. On Monday, two other tankers entered the Caribbean Sea and are heading to the Latin American country’s refinery ports.

Squeezed under economic pressures, both Iran and Venezuela struggle to evade the impacts of embargos by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Islamic republic has a surplus of oil and gasoline, due to a significant drop in its exports pursuant to the sanctions and global economic setback caused by novel coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Venezuela is in dire need of fuel because of its aged refinery facilities and inefficient energy management, which has made it rely on its imports.

Under these circumstances, Tehran and Caracas made a “win-win deal,” according to Izadi, at the end of last year, and the Iranian-flagged vessels left the southern ports of the country in mid-March to the Caribbean shores.

Last week, the White House announced that President Nicolas Maduro was using gold from central bank reserves to pay Iran, and the United States was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela.

However, Iranians warned the United States against any move which may cause trouble for the Venezuela-bound Iranian fuel vessels.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that “if Americans create problems for our oil tankers in the Caribbean waters or in other parts of the world, we will reciprocally create problems for them.”

In the meantime, Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said the naval forces of the country would escort the Iranian tankers “to welcome them … and their solidarity” with Venezuela amid the U.S. sanctions.

Izadi said that “the successful measure by Iran (to supply its petrol to Venezuela) would ultimately result in the failure of U.S. sanction mechanism.”

“This also shows that the U.S. ‘maximum pressure campaign’ has been seriously challenged by the Islamic republic,” he said, adding that Tehran could maintain this “pragmatic win-win” policy.

Iran’s “successful” move will serve as an example for other countries who are under the duress of the United States, he added.

(XINHUA)

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Irresponsible armed groups clash leaves 10 dead in N. Afghanistan

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At least 10 persons were killed as two irresponsible armed groups clashed in the northern Takhar province on Sunday, a security official said Monday but declined to be named.

The clash took place Sunday morning when two irresponsible armed groups clashed in Kalafgan district of the province, resulting in the death of 10 men and injury of four others from both sides, a police official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The clash ended after police forces arrived at the site.

Countless armed groups exist in the conflict-battered Afghanistan which often create law and order problems.

Similar clash between two irresponsible armed groups in the restive Baghlan province on Sunday claimed six lives.

(XINHUA)

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Spotlight: No more reunion in Eid for families lost beloved in PK-8303

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Zubair Muhammad’s wife and sons were waiting for her husband and their father at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on Friday, expecting a family reunion in the Eid and a big bag of gifts Muhammad promised to bring from Lahore.

Muhammad flew to Lahore on Wednesday for his office work which had been long postponed due to suspension of flights amid COVID-19 lockdown. Before leaving, he hugged his younger son and told his family that he will be back on Friday with a bag full of Eid gifts for him and his sibling.

As planned, Muhammad, along with other 90 passengers and eight crew members, took flight PK-8303 bounded for Karachi from Lahore on Friday. The plane took off from the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore at 1:08 p.m. and was scheduled to land in Karachi after 105 minutes. At around 2:45 p.m., one or two minutes before its landing at Karachi, the flight crashed.

The reunion of the Muhammad’s broke. “My brother is no more, and his wife and older kid are grief-stricken. His younger son is only three years old, he doesn’t know much about the meaning of death, and is still waiting for his father to come back with the bag full of goodies as Eid gift,” Ilyas, Muhammad’s brother, told Xinhua.

Ilyas said that they have been looking through the bodies with a hope to identify the dear departed to save his wife and children from the agony of waiting for over three more weeks to get the body after identification, but they failed and had no choice to opt for DNA test.

The plane caught fire after crashing, burning most of the bodies inside beyond identification. Eyewitnesses from the Model Town Colony where the plane crashed told Xinhua that rescue teams could manage to reach at the crash site after 20 minutes due to traffic flow and congested streets in the colony, but the fire was so serious that it burnt the plane and the passengers inside to ashes when the help arrived.

Salman Qureshi, a rescuer with the Karachi based non-government organization Saylani Welfare Trust, was among the first ones who reached at the incident site. Qureshi, who has been working as a rescuer for the last 20 years, said that he has never witnessed such a horrific sight in his life.

“We were working with the firefighters to douse the blaze. The plane was quite big and it was burning badly, and several vehicles also caught fire because of it. Residents were in acute panic, some of them rushing out of their houses and others were injured,” Qureshi told Xinhua.

He said that several bodies were also scattered on the roof tops, and due to congested streets they shifted the bodies to the ambulances from the roofs of the houses, adding that except a few bodies most of them were “pieces of charcoal.” Finally, 97 bodies were found after the crash and two luckily escaped from the deadly crash.

Mareen Yousuf, media coordinator of the health minister of Sindh province, told Xinhua that 21 of the victims have been identified and handed over to relatives while identification of the rest is underway, adding that the health department has requested the families of the deceased to cooperate for DNA test to identify the remaining and it will take 21 days to identify the bodies through the test after which they will be handed over to the families.

Muhammad Zubair was also on board the ill-fated plane. He was also one of the two who miraculously survived the plane crash.

“The plane seemed OK, the weather was clear, and everyone in the plane might have thought to reach the destination to meet their loved ones with in the scheduled time. Everything was smooth until the plane unexpectedly took off again after a few jerks while attempting to land at the airport,” Zubair told Xinhua.

The passengers got panicked, as it became obvious that the plane has met some fault, but things seemed under control again when the pilot announced for the second time that they are going to land at the airport.

“There was a relief in the plane, because we were landing. The flight was smooth and the danger was apparently averted, but then all of a sudden something happened which I hate to recall. The plane falls down. An inferno followed. I couldn’t see anyone. There was fire everywhere,” he said.

Suddenly he saw the light somewhere in the plane, and for him it was like the light at the end of the tunnel, he managed to rush towards it, he himself doesn’t believe how he managed to do it, and finally he succeeded in jumping off the burning metal, about 10 feet down into the street.

Zubair was later shifted to a hospital with 30 percent burn injuries, but his condition was stable and the doctors discharged him on Sunday, the Eid day, which his travel fellows also wanted to celebrate with their families.

Yousuf told Xinhua that the second survivor, president of the Bank of Punjab, was sitting close to an emergency exit, and he controlled his nerves to quickly open the exit door after the plane crashed. And Zubair, who was sitting the back seat, saw the door opening and he restored his conscious and quickly jumped off the burning plane. The bank official got multiple fractures but his condition is stable, Yousuf said.

The plane fell in a 6-8 feet wide street with houses on both sides, while trying to land at the airport. Some aeronautical experts also said that it took the plane only 30 seconds to one minute more to land at the airport, but the pilot could not do it due to some defect in the plane.

Briefing media about the crash, Chief Executive Officer of Pakistan International Airlines Arshad Malik said that the plane was technically fit for flying and was given clearance for flying after fulfillment of all technical requirements.

He said that two runways were made available for the plane when the pilot told the air traffic control that he is ready to land, but rather than landing he went for another round in the air, and later told the traffic controller about some fault in the aircraft before the second landing attempt, but shortly after that it lost contact with the airport and crashed in the neighboring area.

Cause of the crash has not been determined yet, and the government has formed an investigation board to probe the incident, the country’s Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said.

A team from the aircraft’s makers on Monday have arrived in Karachi for investigation, and the plane’s black box will be sent for decoding to further help the probe, according to local reports.

(XINHUA)

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Australia suspends Olympic bid amid COVID-19 recovery

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Australia’s Queensland has suspended its bid to host the 2032 Olympics recently as the state government focuses on economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed the bid process had been paused.

“It’s just on hold. I wouldn’t read too much into that,” Palaszczuk told reporters last weekend.

“We’re focused absolutely on the economic recovery at the moment.”

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it fully supported the Queensland government’s position in placing the Brisbane 2032 candidature on hold.

AOC President John Coates said in a recent statement that meetings of the Olympic Candidature Leadership Group (OCLG) scheduled earlier this year were deferred, allowing governments to focus on dealing with COVID-19.

Coates said he’d proposed to OCLG members that the meetings would not proceed while all three levels of governments dealt with the pandemic.

He also told the AOC Annual General Meeting on May 9 that discussions with the IOC on the candidature would resume when appropriate.

“We all understand there are pressing issues of public health and community wellbeing for governments to address,” Coates said.

“The candidature will have its role to play in terms of jobs and growth in the Queensland economy once we have seen our way through the current crisis.”

(XINHUA)

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Australia’s life expectancy stagnates amid worsen social inequality: study

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Despite recording a steady increase for the past several decades Australia’s life expectancy has begun to stagnate, local research disclosed on Monday, with growing social inequality being blamed for the change.

The University of Melbourne led research analyzed data from Australia’s death registry for 2006-2016, identifying socioeconomic status and geographic location as two major contributors to differences in life expectancy.

Australia has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, which in 2016-2018 was 80.7 years for males and 84.9 years for females, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

However, a slowing in the decline of premature deaths among lower socioeconomic and non-urban populations, has tempered growth in the population’s overall life expectancy.

Meanwhile there has been no slowdown in the rate of mortality decline in the highest socioeconomic areas of major cities.

Between the ages of 35-74, the premature death rate for those of worse socioeconomic status was double that of those in the highest category.

Similarly, people living in the most disadvantaged geographic locations suffered a roughly 40 percent higher premature death rate than those in major cities, with the gaps widening in the early part of the century.

Co-leader of the research, Professor Alan Lopez from the University of Melbourne said decisive actions were required from government to address the issue, adding that the ongoing COVID-19 might worsen social inequality.

“Reducing this widening gap in mortality will require a significant shift in policy, with a stronger emphasis on the context and stressors prevalent among regional, rural and low socioeconomic groups,” Lopez said.

“The advent of COVID-19 might well exacerbate this already unfavourable trend due to increased stress and unemployment hitting the least well off hardest, which could well have a flow-on effect in terms of poorer health behaviours and access to health care.”

“This ought to be a key consideration in government policy responses to COVID-19,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Republicans sue Gov. Newsom over vote-by-mail order for November election

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Three Republican groups have sued Gov. Gavin Newsom over his executive order to send mail-in ballots to California’s 20.6 million voters in November.

The suit was brought by the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the California Republican Party.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced the lawsuit via Twitter late on Sunday.

“His radical plan is a recipe for disaster that would create more opportunities for fraud & destroy the confidence Californians deserve to have in their elections,” McDaniel said.

Newsom issued the order on May 8, making California the first state in the nation to temporarily shift to all-mail voting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit accuses Newsom of a “brazen power grab” that would “violate eligible citizens’ right to vote.”

The complaint echoes those made by President Donald Trump, who has criticised mail-in ballots as “dangerous” and fraudulent and threatened to withhold federal funding from some states that have sought to expand mail voting.

In making the decision, California officials cited public health concerns of millions of people showing up to cast a ballot when the threat of infection is still likely to be present.

Responding to the lawsuit late on Sunday, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said via Twitter: “Expanding vote-by-mail during a pandemic is not a partisan issue – it’s a moral imperative to protect voting rights and public safety.

“Vote-by-mail has been used safely and effectively in red, blue and purple states for years.

“This lawsuit is just another part of Trump’s political smear campaign against voting by mail.

“We will not let this virus be exploited for voter suppression.”

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Live COVID-19 updates: Outbreaks hit nine facilities in Southern California city

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The following are the updates on the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

– – – –

LOS ANGELES — A cluster of COVID-19 outbreaks hit nine facilities in Southern California city of Vernon, the United States, including a meat packing plant in which 153 employees were reported to test positive, authorities said on Sunday.

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, five of the nine facilities are meatpacking plants and the largest of the outbreaks was at Smithfield, where 153 of 1,837 employees tested positive for COVID-19.

– – – –

BISHKEK — Kyrgyzstan on Monday confirmed 30 new COVID-19 cases and two new deaths, raising its total number of infections to 1,433 and the death toll to 16.

Among the newly infected are five medical workers, bringing the number of infected medical workers to 280, including 231 recoveries, Deputy Health Minister Nurbolot Usenbaev, said during his daily online news briefing.

– – – –

SYDNEY — Public school students in several Australian states returned to classrooms on Monday, as state leaders unveiled further plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

Public schools across New South Wales and Queensland welcomed children back after two months of remote teaching.

– – – –

WELLINGTON — New Zealand reported no new case of COVID-19 on Monday, with the combined total of confirmed and probable cases staying at 1,504, according to the Ministry of Health.

The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 remains at 1,154, which is the number reported to the World Health Organization, said a statement of the ministry.

– – – –

SEOUL — A three-day drive-in concert was held over the weekend in South Korea to secure safety and provide comfort for people tired of enduring the prolonged COVID-19 outbreak, Hyundai Motor Company said Monday.

The Hyundai-hosted “Stage X Drive-in Concert” event continued from Friday to Sunday, with 300 vehicles each day parked at a site near Hyundai Motorstudio Goyang in the outskirts of Seoul.

– – – –

NEW DELHI — 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.

– – – –

CHANGCHUN — No new confirmed COVID-19 cases and asymptomatic cases were reported in northeast China‘s Jilin Province on Sunday, the provincial health commission said Monday.

As of Sunday, the province had reported a total of 136 confirmed locally transmitted cases, including two deaths and 109 who had been discharged from hospital after recovery.

– – – –

CAPE TOWN — 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.

(XINHUA)

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Bulgaria reports record-low new COVID-19 infections

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Bulgarian health authorities on Monday reported a record low of only six new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide tally to 2,433.

Meanwhile, another 22 people have recovered from the disease, raising the total number of recoveries to 862, secretary of the national coronavirus task force Dimo Dimov said in a statement, adding that there were no new COVID-19 deaths.

He also said that 235 patients are currently hospitalized with 20 in intensive care units.

(XINHUA)

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Kyrgyzstan reports 30 new COVID-19 cases

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Kyrgyzstan on Monday confirmed 30 new COVID-19 cases and two new deaths, raising its total number of infections to 1,433 and the death toll to 16.

Among the newly infected are five medical workers, bringing the number of infected medical workers to 280, including 231 recoveries, Deputy Health Minister Nurbolot Usenbaev, said during his daily online news briefing.

The number of recoveries increased to 992, with 12 new recoveries in the last 24 hours, Usenbaev noted.

He added that currently 425 patients are in hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, 348 of whom are in a satisfactory condition without any particular symptoms, while four are in the intensive care unit.

A total of 2,307 people who have had contact with infected patients are under medical observation, and another 6,841 people are in home quarantine under the supervision of doctors for the same reason.

(XINHUA)

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Aussie students return to school as restrictions ease

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Public school students in several Australian states returned to classrooms on Monday, as state leaders unveiled further plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

Public schools across New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland welcomed children back after two months of remote teaching.

Students in Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) also resumed face-to-face learning this week in a staggered pattern — joining their peers in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, who had returned to classrooms full time.

To ensure the safety of students, NSW deployed hundreds of extra security and marshalling officers across the Sydney transport network.

Under COVID-19 prevention measures, only 12 passengers were allowed on a Sydney bus, 35 people in a train carriage and 45 on a ferry.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian thanked parents for easing the pressure on public transport by walking and dropping off students to schools on Monday.

She also promised to make sure “schools have the resources and the support” to reopen safely.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk echoed her words.

“We’ve taken extraordinary measures to ensure the health and safety of everyone attending schools, including strict hygiene practices and increased cleaning of classrooms and play equipment,” Palaszczuk said.

“We also have a range of resources available to support the wellbeing and mental health of staff and students as they return to school.”

Meanwhile, Both NSW and Victoria governments announced further easing of restrictions.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard confirmed on Sunday that beauty salons and nail bars can reopen from June 1 with “a COVID-safe plan”.

From the same date, Victorians will be allowed gatherings of up to 20 people at private residences and tourist accommodation.

(XINHUA)

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COVID-19 outbreaks hit nine facilities in Southern California city

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A cluster of COVID-19 outbreaks hit nine facilities in Southern California city of Vernon, the United States, including a meat packing plant in which 153 employees were reported to test positive, authorities said on Sunday.

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, five of the nine facilities are meatpacking plants and the largest of the outbreaks was at Smithfield (Farmer John), where 153 of 1,837 employees tested positive for COVID-19.

Out of the 153 employees who were positive, a total of 41 Smithfield employees have returned to work, said the department in a statement.

The meat processing company has offered testing to all employees and the positive results span from March through May.

It is unclear if the rise in cases in Vernon’s facilities is due to additional testing or to spread amongst workers, said the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The department said that it’s supporting the City of Vernon, located around eight kilometers south of downtown Los Angeles, on response and mitigation plans and to ensure that close contacts are identified, and isolation and quarantine orders are issued.

“We are closely monitoring outbreaks within facilities in the City of Vernon, as many of the employees reside in adjacent Southeast Los Angeles communities,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the county’s Department of Public Health.

“We have assigned an infectious disease doctor to work closely with the Vernon Health Director on response and mitigation plans, and we are engaging in comprehensive contact tracing protocols to ensure that close contacts are identified and isolation and quarantine orders are issued, to keep employees and their families safe,” she added.

Los Angeles County reported 940 new COVID-19 cases and 14 more virus-related deaths on Sunday, raising the countywide total number to 44,988 cases with 2,104 deaths.

(XINHUA)

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Increase in childhood food allergies stumps Aussie doctors

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The number of Australian children seeking urgent hospital care due to food allergies surged in the early part of the century leaving doctors baffled, a study revealed on Monday.

Between 2005 and 2015 the number of children presenting to emergency departments with food allergy-related problems in the Australian State of Victoria, went from 2,368 over the course of a year, to 4,263.

The increase was particularly marked in children aged 0-4, which accounted for around half of cases, while the proportion of presentations triaged as requiring urgent care also increasing from 51 percent to 63 percent.

Doctors have been unable to attribute a reason to the drastic increase, but are concerned that it may cause hospital resources to become stretched, resulting in poorer health outcomes.

The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), was led by Professor Harriet Hiscock, director of the Royal Children’s Hospital Health Services Research Unit and group leader, Health Services, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

“While the reason for the increased burden is not clear — that is, whether the prevalence of allergy had increased, management plans had changed, or access to community services was reduced — the consequence is greater demand on emergency services across Melbourne,” the article said.

“This may lead families to consider alternative avenues, which can lead to poor allergy management and the need for emergency care.”

(XINHUA)

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New Zealand confirms no new case of COVID-19

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New Zealand reported no new case of COVID-19 on Monday, with the combined total of confirmed and probable cases staying at 1,504, according to the Ministry of Health.

The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 remains at 1,154, which is the number reported to the World Health Organization, said a statement of the ministry.

There is no change to the number of recovered cases which remain at 1,456. This represents 97 percent of all confirmed and probable cases, it said.

The death toll has remained at 21 in the country since May 6, the ministry said. There is one person receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19 and this person is not in ICU.

The NZ COVID Tracer app has now recorded 380,000 registrations. That’s an increase of 17,000 since 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“We continue to encourage as many people as possible to download the app – it will help us identify, trace, test and isolate any cases of COVID-19,” it said.

The ministry is also very supportive of the work done by businesses to get their unique QR codes up and running, with 13,600 posters having been created as of midday on Monday.

(XINHUA)

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Drive-in concert held in S.Korea for safety, comfort from COVID-19

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A three-day drive-in concert was held over the weekend in South Korea to secure safety and provide comfort for people tired of enduring the prolonged COVID-19 outbreak, Hyundai Motor Company said Monday.

The Hyundai-hosted “Stage X Drive-in Concert” event continued from Friday to Sunday, with 300 vehicles each day parked at a site near Hyundai Motorstudio Goyang in the outskirts of Seoul.

More than 1,000 people enjoyed live music performances, distancing themselves from each other safely according to government guidelines, Hyundai said.

The first-day event was a pop music concert, featuring performances by diverse K-pop and indie music acts.

On the second day, the South Korean cast of the Broadway musical 42nd Street performed songs from the show, followed on the third day by the classical music favorites performed by the New World Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Given the challenging times we live in and the limitations we will face going forward, it was important for us to find ways to celebrate culture and shared experiences safely,” said Cornelia Schneider, vice president of Hyundai.

Stage X is an annal event hosted by Hyundai Motorstudio since last year. This year’s event came at a time when most of live performances, such as concert, were delayed or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

(XINHUA)

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Once-in-a-decade storm hammers Australia’s west coast

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Australia’s western coastline endured damaging wind and rain, as a “once-in-a-decade” storm struck on Sunday night and continued into Monday.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology warned of abnormally high tides and damaging surf spanning a distance of roughly 3,000 kilometres, from Albany to the Kimberley Coast.

Trees and powerlines knocked down by the storm created hazards and left more than 47,000 homes without power, according to reports by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, while several boats were blown ashore after breaking free from their moorings.

The State of Western Australia (WA) Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) acting assistant commissioner Jon Broomhall warned residents to take particular care securing their homes and property due to the unusual nature of the weather.

“So it’s a once-in-a-decade-type system and it’s from a different angle,” Broomhall said.

“Normally our storms come from the south-west and this will come from the north-west so it will test people’s buildings, sheds and all those unsecured items, so we’re asking people to secure property and make sure everything loose is tied down.”

The storm was the result of a system from ex-Tropical Cyclone Mangga interacting with a cold front over the Indian Ocean.

(XINHUA)

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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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Interview: Scholar says national security legislation key to tackling turmoil in Hong Kong

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“It is urgent and important to end the chaos in Hong Kong through stronger national security legislation,” a Kenyan scholar has told Xinhua during a recent interview in Nairobi.

The recent violence in Hong Kong exposed loopholes in its legal system and the lack of effective enforcement mechanisms in maintaining national security there, as well as lack of legal means to effectively control the riots, said Gerishon Ikiara, an economics scholar at the University of Nairobi.

A draft decision on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to safeguard national security was submitted Friday to the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) of China for deliberation.

Young people hold up China‘s national flag during a flash mob in Hong Kong, south China, Sept. 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Gang)

Young people hold up China‘s national flag during a flash mob in Hong Kong, south China, Sept. 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Gang)

Ikiara, a former permanent secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Transport and Communication, said it’s important that the NPC exercises the necessary powers conferred by the Constitution to fix the legal loopholes in order to protect the national sovereignty and security for both the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.

He said that Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, and the “one country, two systems” principle has been and continues to be an important prerequisite for its long-term prosperity and stability.

However, external support for anti-China riots and engagement in activities that endanger China‘s national security is likely to pose challenge to the key principle, he noted.

Regarding some Western politicians discrediting and attacking China‘s decision to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms, the scholar pointed out that “the issue of safeguarding national security legislation is China‘s internal affairs, and no foreign country has the right to interfere with it.”

The interference was partly responsible for last year’s violent protests, Ikiara noted.

Photo taken on Nov. 17, 2019 shows the fire set by rioters next to a police vehicle outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in south China‘s Hong Kong. (Xinhua)

Photo taken on Nov. 17, 2019 shows the fire set by rioters next to a police vehicle outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in south China‘s Hong Kong.

(Xinhua)

Stressing that “one country” is the prerequisite and a basis for effective implementation of the “two systems,” he said under the umbrella of the Basic Law, a combination of Hong Kong‘s original system, economic model, and close links with the mainland have strengthened the region’s ability to withstand financial crises and major disasters, and its status as an international financial, shipping, and trade center.

Establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms of the HKSAR to safeguard national security will help improve the practice of “one country, two systems,” which is crucial for Hong Kong to end the chaos, restore order and make the Pearl of the East shine again.

Tourists visit a scenic spot at Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong, south China, Nov. 14, 2019. (Xinhua/Zhu Xiang)

Tourists visit a scenic spot at Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong, south China, Nov. 14, 2019.

(Xinhua/Zhu Xiang)

Ikiara said he believes that as China continues its deepening of reform and opening up, and its promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative, Hong Kong is expected to have more opportunities to achieve long-term economic and social prosperity.

(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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