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UN chief defends WHO after criticism from Trump, says probe possible

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United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Wednesday defended the World Health Organisation (WHO) after U.S. President Donald Trump accused the world body of failing in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is my belief that the World Health Organisation must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19,” Guterres said in a statement.

The secretary general also indicated there could be an investigation at a later stage.

“This virus is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response. Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities,” Guterres said.

“Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis.”

But that time had not come, the UN chief stressed.

“Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” Guterres said.

Trump on Tuesday said he would consider putting a “hold” on funding to the WHO, after accusing it of possibly withholding information early on in the outbreak.

The president said the global health body was “China-centric,” appearing to echo criticism that it relied too heavily on information from that country, where the virus originated, in the initial stages of the outbreak.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
(NAN)

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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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Commentary: Post-pandemic world needs better globalization, not less

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Even at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is sweeping the world, beef from New Zealand, red wine from Chile, and detergent from Germany remain just a click away to Chinese customers.

This offers a glimpse of how globalization has led to the creation of a highly integrated world web of interdependence and altered the way of living in many parts of this closely connected global community.

The ravaging pandemic, however, has jolted global supply chains and halted much of cross-border travels. It has also exposed once again some of globalization’s deep-seated deficiencies, and prompted many in academia, politics and the press to debate whether this marks the beginning of an end to this historic process.

It is not the first time that globalization has been questioned or assaulted in times of turbulence. Between the 2008 global financial crisis and this pandemic, sharp criticism against globalization was heard fueled by rising waves of trade protectionism and economic nationalism.

Nevertheless, being a natural process driven by the combined forces of technological breakthroughs, as well as the free flow of people and profit-thirsty capital, globalization has brought down trade and commerce barries, shrunk production costs, stimulated technological cooperation, integrated global markets and financial systems, created inestimable jobs and wealth, and raised living standards throughout the world over the centuries since the Age of Discovery.

These upsides of globalization are unmistakable, and will not be wiped out by a single global crisis. Arjun Appadurai, a U.S. globalization studies expert, argued in an opinion piece published by the Time magazine earlier this month that “globalization is here to stay,” and de-globalization efforts are no more than “wishful thinking.”

Thus the international community, instead of trying to turn inward and break away from each other, should come even closer and make globalization work better for everyone.

The first task should be for countries worldwide to make global production and supply chains more risk-resilient. This pandemic will not be the last one. Other unknown risks and new challenges are likely to emerge in the future.

While some Washington politicians are talking about reshoring the production of critical medical and technological supplies back to the United States, others like Shannon K. O’Neil, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that governments and boardrooms should add redundancies to the global manufacturing processes.

Information technologies have also been considered key to rendering future global supply chains more resilient. The World Economic Forum (WEF) suggested in an article published on its website last month that companies should stop recording data like ships’ cargo on paper, and start digitizing their supply chain processes so as to make sure critical information can always be available.

Whatever the proposals — reshoring, multi-sourcing or digitizing, China, with its comprehensive industrial advantages, will remain a critical part of any future global supply chains.

“I don’t think China‘s role as a major source of manufacturing is going to be eliminated. They will continue to be so,” said Morris Cohen, a professor at The Wharton School, told Deutsche Welle last month.

Secondly, the international community should jointly enhance global economic governance and further boost global free trade.

In mid-April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that the global economy is on track to contract sharply by 3 percent in 2020 due to COVID-19, probably the worst recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

To forestall that nightmare scenario, governments should at the moment better coordinate their macro-economic policies so as to maintain market stability, prop up employment, conduct stimuli proportional to the ongoing pandemic, and restore global growth through such multilateral economic platforms as the Group of 20.

Also, they should give even stronger support to the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at the core. Right now, because of Washington’s intentional obstruction, the WTO’s Appellate Body, which has arbitrated international trade disputes over the past 25 years to ensure fairness, has been left inquorate.

The Financial Times, a British newspaper, argued in a recent editorial that the WTO is needed more than ever so that it can “underpin the open global economy we will all need on the other side of the pandemic.”

The U.S. administration should curb its protectionist impulses, and actively and fully back the existing global economic governance system.

The third front should be strengthening international cooperation so that countries worldwide can better respond to their shared non-conventional security challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Globalization is now far more than just economic integration. As the global village is highly interconnected, the human race needs to ramp up, not to dial down, trans-border cooperation in a bid to jointly tackle common challenges like deadly contagions, climate change, terrorism and cyber attacks, problems no country can solve single-handedly.

The most immediate mission should be stepping up global cooperation against the COVID-19 pandemic and bolster the backbone-role the World Health Organization has been playing in coordinating global endeavor to beat humanity’s common enemy.

The fourth task is to make globalization more inclusive for all. The pandemic has further revealed that globalization has not turned out to be a rising tide lifting all boats, and that it could further widen the global gap between the rich and the poor.

In a WEF research report earlier this month, which focuses on epidemics like H1N1 in 2009, MERS in 2012, and Zika in 2016, and traces out their distributional effects in the five years following each event, the Gini coefficient, a commonly-used index of inequality, has gone up by nearly 1.5 percent on average.

In the United States, the world‘s largest economy, the outbreak recession has kicked millions of the most economically vulnerable Americans out of their jobs, while many are facing a dire choice between protecting their health or their jobs. Also, several racial minority groups account for a disproportionate number of the COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country largely due to lower living and working conditions as well as a lack of access to health care. In Wisconsin alone, a U.S. state with a 6-percent Black population, African Americans account for about half of its outbreak fatalities, according to a recent report by the Washington Post.

The pandemic offers decision-makers worldwide a chance to bridge those wealth and health gaps through refashioning policies like reordering tax codes, introducing universal health care coverage, and promoting common development through international cooperation in regions like Africa and the Middle East so as to make sure that the dividends of globalization can be shared by all global villagers.

Following the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage markets in 2007, shock waves swept financial sectors in all corners of the world, and the most serious financial tsunami since the Great Depression of the 1930s kicked in. Globalization then encountered a major setback. Yet despite all the second-guessing about it at that time, countries worldwide rose to the occasion and jointly steered the global economy through the uncharted waters and back onto the track of recovery.

“Our fractured world needs agile governance and smarter globalization,” Klaus Schwab, founder and chief executive of the WEF, once said.

The world will never be the same when this pandemic comes to an end, and neither will the process of globalization. The human race has every reason to repeat what they did in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and work together to help this unstoppable trend take a turn for the better.

(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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