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Spanish PM announces 10 days of national mourning for COVID-19 victims

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez declared on Saturday 10 days of national mourning for the victims of COVID-19.

The prime minister made the announcement in a televised TV broadcast the day after the Health Ministry gave the regions of Madrid, the Barcelona metropolitan area and the urban areas of Castilla-Leon permission to move to Phase 1 of Spain‘s four-stage plan to ease lockdown restrictions.

“From next Tuesday (May 26), when all of the country is in Phase 1, the government will declare 10 days official mourning – the longest in the history of our democracy,” said Sanchez.

Over 28,600 people have lost their lives in Spain due to the novel coronavirus and the prime minister said that “flags will fly at half-mast on all public buildings and all naval vessels and when the scale-down is over, the Head of State will preside over a homage” to the victims.

Sanchez celebrated the easing of restrictions, saying that from Monday everyone “will be able to see our families and friends, who live in the same provinces… Shops will reopen and streets will recover their normality.”

However, he insisted that the pandemic is not over. “We are a step away from victory, but the virus has not disappeared, we have to keep it at a distance… We are still in a health emergency and a spike in new cases is not impossible if we fail to maintain the right behavior in the coming months.”

“We should not act with fear, but with prudence and responsibility,” the prime minister noted.

Although he stressed the need to control movement throughout June, Sanchez said that from the start of July, Spain would “reopen for the arrival of foreign tourists in conditions that guarantee safety.”

“People can plan their holidays. We will guarantee tourists will not be at risk and will not present a risk to us either – there is no payoff between health and business,” he added.

“Bars and restaurants and tourism have a key role in our economy and the moment has arrived. I want to announce there will be a tourist season. I publically invite all of the establishments at the beach and in the interior to prepare to renew their activity in the coming days,” said Sanchez, who added that professional football would also be allowed to restart on June 8.

Saturday also saw thousands of supporters of the right-wing Vox party take to their cars in Madrid and other major Spanish cities to protest against the government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic. In Madrid, their cars blocked some streets in the city center, while photos showed demonstrators at times failing to observe social distancing recommendations.

(XINHUA)

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

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Japan lifts state of emergency over coronavirus for entire country, ushers in era of “new normal”

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency in the five remaining prefectures still under restrictions, including Tokyo, as the spread of the virus has largely been brought under control.

“Today the government will lift the state of emergency across the nation. We’ve set some of the most strict criteria in the world to lift the declaration, and we concluded that prefectures across the country have met that standard,” the Japanese leader told a press conference.

The five prefectures that had remained under restrictions were Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Hokkaido.

The lifting of the state of emergency came after the government’s coronavirus advisory panel showed support for the move earlier in the day.

The emergency measures were issued first for Tokyo, Osaka and five other urban areas on April 7, before being expanded nationwide in mid-April and with the deadline extended thereafter until the end of May.

The advisory panel had been focusing on criteria for the emergency period being lifted which was based around the number of newly reported cases over the past week, the availability of medical resources, and the capacity to provide virus tests and monitor the spread of the virus.

“The advisory panel has agreed that all prefectures no longer need to be under a state of emergency and that lifting the declaration is appropriate,” Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said, adding that the situation would be closely monitored and reviewed every three weeks.

Nishimura also said that social and economic activities, including large-scale events, would be phased back in, although people would still be asked not to travel across prefecture lines until the end of the month.

The government, while showing caution amid the coronavirus pandemic, has been keen to see the economy fully reopened as the five prefectures that had remained under emergency restrictions account for around one-third of the country’s gross domestic product.

Data released by the government showed that Japan’s economy shrank for a second straight quarter in the January-March period and entered a technical recession under the impact of the pandemic.

The Cabinet Office said the economy shrank by an annualized real 3.4 percent in the January-March period from the previous quarter.

The decrease in the quarter corresponds to a 0.9-percent decline on a seasonally adjusted quarterly basis, the Cabinet Office said.

The Japanese leader is now tasked with ushering in a “new normal” for the society, which balances the rejuvenation of the economy with guarding against an explosive second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Abe had said earlier that another state of emergency could be declared if the country is faced with a second wave of infections.

“Our businesses and daily routines will be completely disrupted if we continue with strict curbs on social and economic activity. From now on, it’s important to think about how we can conduct business and live our lives while still controlling the risk of infection,” Abe said.

He said wearing face masks in public should be kept up and social distancing measures maintained. Abe also said that teleworking does not need to be immediately halted as medical experts have warned that relaxing too many restrictions too soon could trigger another wave of infections.

As for the greater Tokyo area, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike offered her thanks to the people for their efforts to help contain the pneumonia-causing virus, but warned them to remain cautious and not to let their guards down.

“There could be a second or third wave of infections so I need to ask the citizens of Tokyo for their continued cooperation,” Koike said.

Under Koike’s stewardship, the Tokyo metropolitan government has set out a roadmap toward resuming economic and social activities in the nation’s capital. The roadmap has been divided into three phases.

Phase one, which could kick off as soon as Tuesday, will see restrictions begin to be eased on museums and libraries. Restaurants and bars in this phase will be allowed to stay open until 10:00 p.m., beyond the previous closing time of 8:00 p.m. under the prior emergency measures.

The second phase, possibly to begin at the end of the month, involves easing the restrictions for cinemas and theaters and cram schools, while the final phase will allow restaurants to stay open until midnight and amusement parks and pachinko parlors to reopen, although high-risk businesses like karaoke bars, gyms and hostess bars will be requested to stay closed.

Professional sports, including baseball and basketball leagues, will be allowed to resume without spectators from June 19, according to the government’s latest plans issued Monday.

High schools that fall under the auspices of the Tokyo metropolitan government will be phased back in, with students rotating between classes and online learning. The number of students attending regular classes will be gradually increased, with the situation being constantly monitored, Tokyo officials said.

For the city to move to the next phase, there must be fewer than 20 daily infections on average across a week, with the percentage of untraceable cases remaining below 50 percent. The number of total weekly infections must be lower than the previous week, while the number of seriously ill, testing capacity and medical facilities’ occupancy rates will also be factored in, the officials said,

“Recently, the number of new cases in Tokyo has been relatively low. If this welcome trend continues, we may progress along the roadmap more quickly than expected. We want to be flexible,” Koike has said.

According to the latest figures on Monday evening from the health ministry and local authorities, 17 new COVID-19 infections were confirmed nationwide, bringing the total to 16,628 cases.

The death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus, including those from a cruise ship that had been quarantined in Yokohama, totals 864 people.

(XINHUA)

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Tanzanian police kill 7 suspected armed gangsters in business capital

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Tanzanian police killed seven suspected armed gangsters in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam after their robbery attempt became abortive, a senior police officer said on Monday.

The suspected gangsters were killed at midnight on Sunday as they planned to raid a warehouse for construction materials in the business capital, said Lazaro Mambosasa, the Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander.

“Acting on intelligence reports, a special anti-crime police task force trailed a vehicle in which the suspected bandits were driving towards Mwenge area,” Mambosasa told a news conference.

He said when the suspected gangsters realized that they were being followed by the police they started firing at the law enforcers who fired back killing the suspects on the spot.

“When police searched the vehicle used by the suspects they found a pistol with three rounds of ammunition, two gas cylinders, machetes, a mobile telephone and a rope,” said Mambosasa.

He said the gas cylinders were to be used for breaking into the warehouse.

On May 11, police gunned down four suspected armed robbers after an exchange of fire in the east African nation’s western region of Kigoma.

(XINHUA)

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Merkel urges vigilance as officials probe restaurant virus outbreak

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Health officials in north-western Germany were pursuing an investigation into a coronavirus outbreak at a restaurant in Lower Saxony on Monday, as the number of people testing positive rose.

Seven people initially tested positive for coronavirus after visiting the Alte Scheune restaurant in Moormerland, a municipality in the district of Leer in the north-western state, earlier this month.

That number had increased to 14 by Sunday, while four additional cases of people who had contracted the virus since then were also reported.

A total of 118 people have been placed under quarantine at home, up from an initial 50.

Regional authorities in Leer district said it was likely that the four additional infections had occurred following visits to the restaurant.

The outbreak is the first to have taken place in a restaurant since they were allowed to reopen in stages across Germany’s 16 states from May 9.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the governments of Germany’s states to be “courageous and watchful” as they ease restrictions imposed since mid-March to contain the pandemic.

Speaking through her spokesman Steffen Seibert, Merkel backed continuing “binding instructions” on social distancing, restriction of contact and hygiene rules.

Recommendations were insufficient, Seibert said, as federal officials continued discussions with their state-level counterparts on how to proceed with further easing.

The number of cases of the novel coronavirus had risen to more than 178,500 by Monday morning, according to figures from the individual states compiled by dpa.

At least 8,252 people diagnosed with the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen have died, up from 8,229 on Sunday morning.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Burundian ruling party’s Evariste Ndayishimiye wins presidential election: provisional results

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Provisional results show Burundian ruling party’s Evariste Ndayishimiye wins the presidential election held on May 20, the country’s electoral body said here on Monday.

Ndayishimiye from the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy won 68.72 percent of votes in the presidential election, followed by National Council for Liberty’s Agathon Rwasa who got 24.19 percent of votes, said the National Independent Electoral Commission.

Burundi voters went to the polls last Wednesday to elect a new president, members of the National Assembly, and district councillors.

(XINHUA)

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Bulgaria seizes over 100 kg of heroin at border, three arrested

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Bulgarian customs officers at the country’s Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint near the border with Turkey have seized 100.44 kg of heroin and arrested three suspects, authorities said here on Monday.

The drug, split into 200 packets, was found on Sunday night in the driver’s cab of a truck carrying auto parts to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the National Customs Agency and the country’s Prosecutor’s Office said in a joint statement.

Authorities estimated that the value of the heroin on the black market would exceed 5 million U.S. dollars.

The driver of the vehicle, a 33-year-old BiH citizen, was arrested at the scene.

Authorities also arrested two other BiH citizens who were his accomplices, the statement said, adding that they were moving almost in parallel with another truck, but no drugs were found in it.

The investigation is ongoing.

(XINHUA)

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Japan to add 11 countries to entry ban list amid spread of COVID-19

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that Japan will deny the entry of foreign nationals from an additional 11 countries including India, in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

According to the entry ban, non-Japanese citizens who have been in Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Ghana, Guinea, India, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, South Africa and Tajikistan within two weeks of their arrival in Japan will be turned away at the border.

The ban will take effect from Wednesday, said Abe, adding that it will remain in place “for the time being.”

The addition brings the total number of countries and regions covered by the entry ban to 111, including China, South Korea, the United States and all of Europe.

While Japanese citizens can re-enter the country, they must undergo coronavirus testing and self-quarantine for two weeks to see if they develop symptoms such as high fever and coughing.

Japan will maintain other border control measures until the end of next month, including visa suspensions and a two-week quarantine period for all arrivals, said Abe.

(XINHUA)

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Putin, Iraqi PM discuss oil market, Syria over phone

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday held a phone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, to discuss stabilizing the global oil market and the situation in Syria, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin and al-Kadhimi gave a positive assessment to the agreements on oil output cuts reached with the participation of Russia and Iraq in the OPEC+ format, which are aimed at overcoming the acute phase of the oil crisis, the statement said.

They stressed the importance of continuing effective joint efforts in this direction, it said.

While discussing the situation in Syria, Putin and al-Kadhimi agreed to further coordinate steps to ensure a long-term normalization of the situation in the war-torn Middle East country and restoration of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The two leaders discussed issues concerning bilateral cooperation in trade, the economy and energy and expressed the wish to further develop the traditionally friendly ties between their countries, the statement said.

Putin congratulated al-Kadhimi on assuming his office earlier this month, and the Iraqi people on the occasion of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr celebrated during the past weekend.

Putin and al-Kadhimi agreed to continue the bilateral contacts at various levels, the statement said.

(XINHUA)

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Africa Day commemorated to build better Africa: PAP

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Pan-African Parliament (PAP) situated in South Africa believed that Africa Day should be used to reflect on how to build a better Africa and a better world.

Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity, now African Union (AU), on May 25, 1963.

The Acting PAP President Bouras Djamel told Xinhua that Africa Day is a reminder of the commitment made by AU members to address challenges facing the continent, to build inclusive and sustainable development.

“Commemoration of Africa Day is an opportunity for Africans to reflect on the journey, renew strength and motivation to realize the liberation and absolute freedom from foreign domination,” Djamel said.

PAP called for a deeper reflection on the common challenges that the continent faces in a global environment and to come up with solutions for the continent in the areas including development, health, digitalization, sustainability, jobs for young people.

Djamel stated that African made strides in empowering women, improving gender equality and boosting economies.

On this day, PAP takes this opportunity to commend all members for their courage and cooperation in the bid to save the lives of the African people from the rage of COVID-19, he said.

He called on members to reinforce political commitment and accountability to front-load investments to strengthen national health systems and provide long-term domestic resources needed to achieve health goals, grounded in principles of inclusivity, transparency and accountability.

(XINHUA)

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Economist warns S. Africa’s economy may take years to recover

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With most economic sectors set to reopen next week, an economist on Monday said South Africa’s economy might take a number of years to recover from COVID-19 lockdown devastation.

“The South African economy will likely remain in a recession for a prolonged time. The lost production in the past two months will be lost for many years,” chief economist with Efficient Group Dawie Roodt told Xinhua on Monday.

He was reacting to the president’s Sunday announcement that the majority of the economy would be opened on June 1 as lockdown measures were eased.

Roodt believed hardship would be on the rise.

“The economy was in a technical recession before, so this has worsened everything…hardship and poverty for a number of citizens would increase due to this,” he said.

The Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago last week said macroeconomic policies to deal with the lockdown problems should be implemented. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni will deliver a new budget that would respond to COVID -19 challenges in June.

Labor federation Cosatu said the budget to be tabled must be “decisive and bold” to deal with the “economic depression”. It said it must be aimed at kick-starting the economy and retaining jobs.

(XINHUA)

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India’s federal government allows domestic flights to resume

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An airport employee (L) wearing a face mask disinfects the baggage of a passenger at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, May 25, 2020. India’s federal government has allowed domestic flights to resume from Monday. (Photo by Partha Sarkar/Xinhua)

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Brunei reports no new COVID-19 cases for 18 straight days

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Brunei reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Monday with the national tally of cases standing at 141, marking the 18th consecutive day without new cases.

According to Brunei’s Ministry of Health, no more recoveries were recorded on Monday, maintaining the total number of recovered cases at 137.

Only three active cases are still receiving treatment at the National Isolation Center, and two patients remain in critical condition. There has been so far one death resulting from the COVID-19 in Brunei.

(XINHUA)

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Feature: Radio provides learning access to millions of students amid COVID-19 crisis in Malawi

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As Malawi continues to register more COVID-19 cases, the government through the Ministry of Education in conjunction with UNICEF has introduced an initiative that will see primary school students getting access to their daily education through the radio.

In the latest development, the Malawi government has initiated a programme to reach millions of primary school children in the country. In this programme, learners will continue to proceed following their recommended lessons through the radio.

According to the Minister of Education, William Susuwele Banda, the radio programmes have been introduced to encourage learners to keep up on their studies while they are home.

“We have looked at the possibility of online learning, however, this seems to be difficult because not every student can access the internet here in Malawi. The ministry of education also plans to distribute print materials to the students whilst considering plans to extend the program to a televised learning programme,” he said.

Rudolf Schwenk, representative of UNICEF in Malawi told local media that by working together, Malawians can ensure that the pandemic does not threaten the gains that have been made in the education sector and also not threaten the dreams and hopes of millions of children and young people in the country.

Schwenk has therefore commended the government of Malawi for prioritizing the urgent need to ensure school-age children continue to learn despite the closure of schools.

This development has been welcomed by a number of students in Malawi. Many are saying that this will revive their performances since they have been at home for a long time and many could not access the ongoing online learning.

Tasha Kuchala, aged 14, said she is overwhelmed with the idea. For the past six months, she has been preparing for her final national exams but the closure of her school has let her down.

According to the ministry of education, the lessons will be aired through two state-owned radio stations and it is expected that the lessons are going to reach over six million students across the country.

(XINHUA)

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EU must present united front to shield pandemic-hit banks- regulator

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European countries need to join forces to shield their banks from the effects of the coronavirus, one of the bloc’s top regulators said on Monday, potentially using a 500 billion euro (545 billion dollars) EU recovery fund to do so.

The remarks from Jose Manuel Campa, who leads the European Banking Authority (EBA), will rekindle a divisive debate about whether rich countries such as Germany should support banks of poorer neighbours such as Italy.

Campa made his comments days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron proposed an EU recovery fund to help the bloc’s worst-hit members to rebuild their economies after the coronavirus outbreak.

“It would make sense to have a European approach to support banks. That could be in the form of a TARP-style precautionary recapitalisation.

“Here, the EU recovery fund could play a role,” Campa told Reuters.

He suggested that assistance could be aimed at banks that were fundamentally robust but hit by the coronavirus crisis.

During the financial crisis of 2008, the U.S. government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) injected billions into the country’s banks.

The EBA says that European banks have built a capital buffer of over 430 billion euros, which should be more than enough to cover losses resulting from a rise in unpaid loans as businesses such as travel agents and restaurants struggle to ride out the pandemic.

However, some lenders, particularly in economies where the pandemic hit hardest, such as Italy and Spain, are more vulnerable than others.

Berlin recently dropped its long-standing opposition to joint borrowing by EU countries, backing a 500 billion euro recovery fund to give grants to countries stricken by the outbreak.

“Extending that to banks, however, is likely to stir up stiff opposition.

“I’m expecting a wave of NPLs (non-performing loans) in the next two or three quarters, how much is difficult to say,’’ said Campa, referring to unpaid loans.

Campa was a junior economy minister in Spain at the beginning of the global financial crisis that later prompted Madrid to apply for an international bailout.

Spain, to repair its financial system, set up a so-called bad bank to deal with toxic loans.

“The use of bad banks to segregate non-performing loans has proven useful.

“Germany had bad banks, while countries like Ireland used asset-management agencies in the same way. It could be used again,” Campa said.

Germany, where unemployment is low and borrowers are less likely to default, has vehemently opposed any pan-European move.

He argued that it would leave Germany on the hook for the problems of lenders in countries with mounting unpaid debts.

“Banks are resilient and stronger than before the last crisis.

“But we don’t know how the crisis will evolve. It is best to act sooner rather than later,” Campa noted.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Palestine declares end of lockdown in light of slowdown of COVID-19 pandemic

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Palestine on Monday declared the end of lockdown and a set of new measures in dealing with the COVID-19.

“As we continue to control the spread of the virus, and in light of the workers’ tests, the Emergency Committee, the Council of Ministers, security services and governors have recommended new measures that were approved by the president,” said Palestine Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye.

Under the new measures, the ban on movement between cities will be lifted immediately, allowing public transportation to normally operate in terms of safety procedures.

Shops, commercial and industrial establishments, including cafes, restaurants, and health clubs as well as mosques and churches will be allowed to open starting from Tuesday morning.

Official bodies will return to work regularly starting Wednesday morning after the end of Eid al-Fitr holiday while observing safety requirements.

Indoor and outdoor halls for group events are being studied by the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.

Nevertheless, the one-month long state of emergency declared by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on May 5 is still in effect.

Palestinian Minister of Health Mai al-Kaila told Xinhua that the tests will continue to be conducted on a daily basis, especially amongst workers recently returning from Israel, who are required to commit to home-bound quarantine.

Precautionary measures are likely to change again in accordance with the results of the new tests in the coming two weeks, as the state of emergency is still on, she noted.

According to official data, nearly 30,000 workers have returned home for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, and a random sample check of 5,408 was conducted, showing no positive cases.

Currently, there are 32,300 cases in-home quarantine under the supervision of the Ministry of Health.

The number of cases registered in Palestine has reached 602, including 475 recovered and only five dead.

(XINHUA)

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Nepal confirms 4th death from COVID-19 as cases surge

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The Nepali government on Monday confirmed the fourth death from the COVID-19 in the country after a 70-year-old man who died on May 17 was confirmed positive for the novel coronavirus.

“The presence of the novel coronavirus has been found in repeated tests on the man who hails from Kalaiya town of south-eastern Bara district,” Bikas Devkota, spokesperson at the Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population said in a regular press briefing on Monday.

According to the ministry, the man, who was a tuberculosis patient, had been admitted to the intensive care unit of National Medical College at Birgunj city in southern Para district on May 15 after suffering from respiratory problems. His swab was collected on May 16 for COVID-19 test but he died the next day, according to Devkota.

After finding doubtful results at a nearby hospital in a swab test, his specimen was brought to Kathmandu-based National Public Health Laboratory for a further test. The test conducted in Kathmandu confirmed the presence of COVID-19, the ministry said.

According to Devkota, six other persons who had come into contact with the man have also been tested positive for COVID-19.

Along with the rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in recent days, the Himalayan country has also started to see deaths from the disease. On Monday, Nepal confirmed 79 new COVID-19 cases, one of the largest single day spikes in the country.

With the additional cases, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has reached 682, according to the Ministry of Health and Population.

Altogether 111 people have been discharged from isolation center after recovery.

(XINHUA)

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Ukraine reports 259 new COVID-19 cases

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Ukraine’s health ministry said on Monday that 259 more people have tested positive for coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total number to 21,245.

The ministry said 623 people have so far died from the disease, while 7,234 patients have recovered. Of the infected, 1,546 are children and 4,112 are health workers.

A total of 6,620 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized since the beginning of the epidemic, it said.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian government introduced adaptive quarantine measures from May 22 to June 2.

(XINHUA)

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Netanyahu suffering from ‘paranoid delusion’ – Opposition leader

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Netanyahu

Jerusalem, May 25, 2020  An Israeli opposition leader said on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was suffering from a “paranoid delusion” if he thought that his corruption trial was only aimed at removing him from office.

A spokesman cited opposition leader Yair Lapid as saying that someone who believes that thousands of people including investigators, journalists, judges, and politicians were part of a vast conspiracy to topple a right-wing leader “isn’t fit to be prime minister.”

Netanyahu launched a fiery tirade against Israel’s justice system on Sunday as the corruption trial against him got under way.

Israel’s longest-serving prime minister was officially indicted on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in January.

The 70-year-old is accused of offering political favours in return for positive press coverage, and helping wealthy business contacts in return for gifts including champagne and cigars.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied all accusations against him.

The trial comes one week after he was sworn in as the head of an emergency unity government including his Likud party and the centrist Blue and White Alliance of his former main rival Benny Gantz.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Japan lifts state of emergency over coronavirus for entire country

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency in the five remaining prefectures still under restrictions, including Tokyo, as the spread of the virus has largely been brought under control.

“Today the government will lift the state of emergency across the nation. We’ve set some of the most strict criteria in the world to lift the declaration, and we concluded that prefectures across the country have met that standard,” Abe told a press conference.

The five prefectures that had remained under restrictions were Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Hokkaido.

The lifting of the state of emergency came after the government’s coronavirus advisory panel showed support for the move earlier in the day.

The emergency measures were issued first for Tokyo, Osaka and five other urban areas on April 7, before being expanded nationwide in mid-April and with the deadline extended thereafter until the end of May.

The advisory panel had been focusing on criteria for the emergency period being lifted which was based around the number of newly reported cases over the past week, the availability of medical resources, and the capacity to provide virus tests and monitor the spread of the virus.

“The advisory panel has agreed that all prefectures no longer need to be under a state of emergency and that lifting the declaration is appropriate,” Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said, adding that the situation would be closely monitored and reviewed every three weeks.

Nishimura also said that social and economic activities, including large-scale events, would be phased back in, although people would still be asked not to travel across prefecture lines until the end of the month.

The government, while showing caution amid the coronavirus pandemic, has been keen to see the economy fully reopened as the five prefectures that had remained under emergency restrictions account for around one-third of the country’s gross domestic product.

Data released by the government showed that Japan’s economy shrank for a second straight quarter in the January-March period and entered a technical recession under the impact of the pandemic.

The Cabinet Office said the economy shrank by an annualized real 3.4 percent in the January-March period from the previous quarter.

The decrease in the quarter corresponds to a 0.9-percent decline on a seasonally adjusted quarterly basis, the Cabinet Office said.

The Japanese leader is now tasked with ushering in a “new normal” for the society, which balances the rejuvenation of the economy with guarding against an explosive second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Abe had said earlier that another state of emergency could be declared if the country is faced with a second wave of infections.

“Our businesses and daily routines will be completely disrupted if we continue with strict curbs on social and economic activity. From now on, it’s important to think about how we can conduct business and live our lives while still controlling the risk of infection,” Abe said.

He said wearing face masks in public should be kept up and social distancing measures maintained. Abe also said that teleworking does not need to be immediately halted as medical experts have warned that relaxing too many restrictions too soon could trigger another wave of infections.

(XINHUA)

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Gambari: U.S.-based group lauds Buhari, congratulates Nigerians

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U.S.-based Organisation for the Advancement of Nigerians (OAN) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, as his Chief of Staff. 

In a statement signed by its President, Mr Solomon Bakare, on Monday, OAN said Gambari was the man for the job, given his “superb administrative, organisational, diplomatic and leadership skills”.

The body congratulated Nigerians for the appointment, which it said came at a time the president needed such competent hands to actualise his vision for the country.

“We have no iota of doubt that Gambari is equal to the Herculean tasks ahead.

“We are confident that he will give the president his complete loyalty, wise counsel and good guidance.

“He will bring his native wisdom and superb administrative, organisational, diplomatic and leadership skills to bear on the running of the Federal Government of Nigeria,” it said.

OAN is the lead coordinator of the Nigeria Independence Day Celebration in New York City, the largest platform for Nigerians in the Diaspora for showcasing their culture and national pride.

The group recalled the support of Gambari to the Nigerian community while serving as the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations between 1990 and 1999.

“Our organisation benefited immensely from his guidance and unparallel love and passion for Nigeria.  

“In fact, there is no way we can talk about the success of the Nigerian Independence Day Parade in New York City without mentioning Gambari’s name.

“It was he who advised us to move the annual celebration of Nigeria from its original route in Harlem to Second Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, where the Nigerian House is located, to make it one of the most prominent annual ethnic parades in New York City. 

“Gambari backed his wise counsel up with moral support, enlisting the participation of his influential friends in the Nigerian Community, including Amb. Aminu Wali, to ensure the continued success of the annual parade. 

“Today, it has grown to an annual carnival that gives Nigerians in the United States, the platform to showcase our cultural pride and accomplishments,” it stated.

“We respectfully advise him to discharge his duties to our president and our country with truth, honor, loyalty, fairness, compassion, and uncommon courage,” it added.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye (NAN)

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Foreign

Morocco seizes 3 tons of cannabis

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Moroccan authorities announced on Monday that they have foiled smuggling of three tons of cannabis near the city of Guelmim in southern Morocco.

Three people were arrested during the operation on Sunday evening in the town of Tagnate, said Moroccan police in a statement.

The banned substance was packed in 94 packages inside a Morocco-registered truck transporting a shipment of agricultural products.

Moroccan security services have seized over 20 tons of cannabis since May 1, in different operations.

Despite efforts to crack down on cannabis farming in the last decade, Morocco remains one of the world largest producers of the cannabis resin, according to the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime.

(XINHUA)

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