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Tuesday, Nov 24, 2020

Coronavirus latest: Europe deaths top 100,000 as US anti-lockdown protests spread

Europe accounts for nearly two-thirds of the 158,000 fatalities worldwide. South Korea reports single digit new cases for the first time in two months

Coronavirus deaths surged past 100,000 in hardest-hit Europe on Saturday as hundreds of Americans frustrated by lockdown orders and egged on by US President Donald Trump staged protests in several US cities.

As the latest grim data emerged, performers from around headlined an hours-long live-streamed concert aimed at supporting health care workers, and cultivating a sense of community in a time of crisis.

The six-hour event, which includes A-listers ranging from cellist Yo-Yo Ma to award-winning teen singer Billie Eilish to the Rolling Stones, was brought together by the advocacy group Global Citizen with the World Health Organisation.

Worldwide, more than 2.3 million people have tested positive for the highly contagious virus.

Europe accounts for a total of 100,510 deaths - nearly two-thirds of the more than 158,000 fatalities worldwide, while nearly a quarter of deaths have come in the United States.

The United States has the highest caseload of any country and by Saturday had lost some 38,000 people to the virus, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Demonstrations Saturday at the capitols of states including Texas, Maryland, New Hampshire and Ohio drew hundreds of people, many waving American flags and some carrying arms, demanding a quick end to state-ordered confinement.

The spreading anti-lockdown movement drew encouragement Friday from US President Donald Trump, who tweeted that three states should be “liberated” from the stay-home orders.

Here are the latest developments:


Japan passes 10,000 domestic cases

Japan’s health ministry said Sunday that 568 new cases of the coronavirus were reported the day before, bringing a domestic total to 10,361. A combined total including 712 others from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year came to 11,073, with 174 deaths.

The number of cases is still relatively small compared to the US and Europe, but that’s only as many as Japan’s limited testing has detected and actual infections are believed to be far more widespread.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday expanded a state of emergency, which was limited to Tokyo and six other urban areas, to all of Japan, in a bid to prevent further spread of the virus nationwide amid concerns that hospitals are already overburdened with influx of patients.

It took two months for the cases to reach 1,000 since the first case was detected in mid-January, but the spread of the infections has accelerated in recent weeks and the number doubled from around 5,000 in just 10 days.


McDonald’s suspends operations in Singapore

Fast food giant McDonald’s says it will suspend all operations in Singapore for two weeks from Sunday after seven of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

McDonald’s said in a Facebook post it decided to follow the health ministry’s advise to shutdown until May 4 when Singapore’s partial lockdown ends as part of a preventative action in the battle against the Covid-19 outbreak. It said it would continue to pay the salary of 10,000 employees working in more than 135 outlets across the city state during this period.

The fast-food chain, which serves six million customers every month, didn’t give further details. Seven of its employees working in several outlets have been diagnosed with the virus in the past week.

The city state Saturday reported a record daily jump of 942 new infections, the highest one-day spike seen in Southeast Asia, to bring its total to 5,992. The government has made it mandatory for people to wear masks outside them homes and imposed strict social distancing measures.


Bill Gates ‘optimistic’ about vaccine in late 2021

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said he was optimistic there will be a vaccine against the novel coronavirus by the end of next year, in comments at the virtual “One World: Together at Home” concert on Saturday night.

“There are a lot of vaccine candidates now that we are backing, and I’m optimistic by late next year one of those will come out, and we need to make sure that it gets out to everyone in the world,” Gates said.

“The eventual end comes when we get a vaccine that protects all of us, not just in the US - in the entire world.”

Lady Gaga, Elton John and the Rolling Stones were among the stars who appeared at the event held by the Global Citizen organisation.

It is also aimed at encouraging philanthropists and companies to contribute to the WHO’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Corporate and other donors have already contributed some US$150 million, organisers said.


China reports 16 new cases, lowest since March 17

China’s National Health Commission reported 16 new confirmed coronavirus cases on April 18, the lowest number since March 17 and down from 27 a day earlier, according to data published on Sunday.

Of the new cases, 9 were imported infections, the lowest since March 13 and down from 17 a day earlier. The remaining 7 confirmed cases were locally transmitted, down from 10 the previous day.

Newly discovered asymptomatic cases were at 44, down from 54 a day earlier. Three of the new cases were imported, according to the health commission.

No new deaths were reported, it said.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in mainland China reached 82,735 as of April 18, while the total death toll from the virus stood at 4,632, it said.


Trump: China could face consequences for outbreak

US President Donald Trump warned China on Saturday that it should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the coronavirus pandemic, as he ratcheted up criticism of Beijing over its handling of the outbreak. “It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t, and the whole world is suffering because of it,” Trump told a daily White House briefing.

It was the latest US volley in a war of words between the world’s two biggest economies, showing increased strains in relations at a time when experts say an unprecedented level of cooperation is needed to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

Trump and senior aides have accused China of a lack of transparency after the coronavirus broke out late last year in its city of Wuhan. This week he suspended aid to the World Health Organisation accusing it of being “China-centric”.

Washington and Beijing have repeatedly sparred in public over the virus. Trump initially lavished praise on China and his counterpart Xi Jinping for their response. But he and other senior officials have also referred to it as the “Chinese virus” and in recent days have ramped up their rhetoric.


South Korea reports single digit new cases

South Korea has reported eight more cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, the first time for a daily jump in the country to drop to a single digit in about two months.

The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says the additional figures released Sunday took the country’s total to 10,661 with 234 deaths.

It says 8,042 of the total have been recovered and released from quarantine and that 12,243 others were under tests to determine whether they contracted the virus.

South Korea’s caseload has been waning in recent weeks since it recorded hundreds of new cases every day between late February and early March, mostly in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas.

Despite the recent downward trend, South Korean officials have warned about the possibility of a broader “quiet spread” with people easing up on social distancing.


10,000 Bangladeshis defy police to attend funeral

An estimated 10,000 devotees attended the funeral of an Islamist party leader in eastern Bangladesh in defiance of restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus, police said on Saturday.

Crowds of people crammed into the premises of a religious school in the north-eastern region of Sarail in Brahmanbaria district to pay their respects to Jubayer Ahmed Ansari, a former leader of Islamist party Khelafat Majlish.

Ansari, who was also an Islamic televangelist and head of the school, died at his home on Friday after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 69.

Police had tried to limit attendance of the funeral to only 50 people to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading among the crowd, but the ban was widely ignored, said local police chief Shahadat Hossain Titu.

“The crowd was beyond control,” Titu said, adding that an estimated 10,000 people attended the service.
Images of the crowds sparked fury on social media as Bangladesh’s death toll climbed to 84.

Non-essential businesses and schools have been closed and public transport shut down since late last month.

The Muslim-majority country has also imposed a ban of groups of more than five people attending daily prayers at mosques to contain the spread of the virus that has so far infected 2,144 people.


Turkey’s coronavirus cases now highest in Middle East

Turkey’s confirmed coronavirus cases have risen to 82,329, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Saturday, overtaking neighbouring Iran for the first time to register the highest total in the Middle East.

An increase of 3,783 cases in the last 24 hours also pushed Turkey’s confirmed tally within a few hundred of China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged.

Koca said 121 more people have died, taking the death toll to 1,890. A total of 1,822 people have recovered from coronavirus so far, and the number of tests carried out over the past 24 hours came to 40,520, the minister said.

The Interior Ministry also said it was extending restrictions on travel between 31 cities for a further 15 days starting at midnight on Saturday.



Sri Lanka to ease some restrictions

Sri Lanka’s government has announced it will start relaxing a countrywide curfew.

The president’s office announced that curfew in 18 of the country’s 25 districts will be in force from 8pm to 5am every day starting Monday. Curfew in the remaining seven districts, where most of the patients have been reported, will start Wednesday, and 25 areas identified as high-risk localities will remain locked down.

The government has instructed that only one third of state workers should report to their offices in Colombo. In other areas 50 per cent of the state workers will be required to report to their offices.

Sri Lanka has so far reported 248 Covid-19 patients with seven deaths, while 86 have recovered.


Hundreds in Brazil denounce lockdown measures

Hundreds of people denouncing pandemic lockdown measures opposed by President Jair Bolsonaro snarled traffic in major Brazilian cities on Saturday.

Protesters in trucks, cars and on motorcycles honked horns on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and the capital of Brasilia, calling for governors to resign over measures that have forced most businesses to close for weeks.

Bolsonaro has been a fierce critic of the states’ stay-at-home measures, arguing that the economic harm could be more damaging than the illness. The protests took place a day after Bolsonaro fired his health minister, who had been promoting isolation measures.

In Rio de Janeiro, about 100 vehicles took part in the gridlock and temporarily shut down Copacabana Beach.
In Brasilia, Bolsonaro reiterated his intention to start reopening the economy.


Nigerian president’s chief of staff dies

The Nigerian president’s chief of staff died on Friday from Covid-19, the presidency said on Saturday, making him the most high profile person in the country to die in the coronavirus outbreak.

Abba Kyari had acted as the gatekeeper to 77-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari. After his re-election last year, Buhari ordered ministers to channel all communications through him.

Kyari had underlying health problems including diabetes. Reuters reported on March 24 that he had contracted the disease.
“Mallam Abba Kyari, who died on April 17, 2020, at the age of 67 from complications caused by the coronavirus, was a true Nigerian patriot,” said Buhari in a tweet, using an honorific title for Kyari.

“Mallam Abba Kyari, who died on April 17, 2020, at the age of 67 from complications caused by the coronavirus, was a true Nigerian patriot,” said Buhari in a tweet, using an honorific title for Kyari.

He referred to Kyari as his “loyal friend and compatriot for the last 42 years” who, as chief of staff, “strove quietly and without any interest in publicity or personal gain” to implement the president’s agenda.



Spain to extend lockdown by two weeks

The Spanish government plans to extend the nationwide lockdown by about two weeks after seeing the death toll from the new coronavirus rise to 20,043 on Saturday.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's request to prolong the stay-at-home order to May 9 must still be signed off by parliament, but approval is considered all but certain as the opposition as expressed support.

Sanchez said in a speech that the extension was needed despite the steady progress being made to get the outbreak under control.

For five weeks Spain's almost 47 million citizens have been allowed to leave their homes in only a few exceptional cases - mainly to go to work, the doctor, or the grocery store. Unlike in other countries, outdoor walks and sports are strictly prohibited.
The current lockdown is set to end April 27.


15,000 hotel rooms for California’s homeless

California is on its way to acquiring 15,000 hotel rooms to house the homeless during the pandemic, said Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday as he reminded people to stay indoors while outbreaks continue to crop up throughout the state.

Standing in front of a Motel 6 outside the city of San Jose, Newsom said more than 4,000 people have been moved out of shelters and off the streets and into motel rooms. He took the opportunity to scold leaders of unnamed cities for blocking efforts to house the homeless, asking them to “please consider the morality” of their decisions.

His announcement came a day after the state reported another 87 deaths from the coronavirus. Meanwhile, California’s death toll from the virus rose above 1,050 on Saturday, according to a tally by John Hopkins University.

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