July 13, 2020


Webstynx News

Coronavirus live updates: New Zealand PM dismisses calls to open borders; UK locks down city of Leicester

The president of Afghanistan has ordered a probe into alleged corruption surrounding Covid-19 funds, while the number of confirmed deaths from the virus has risen 12 to a total of 745. It was also revealed that the Taliban have carried out at least 44 attacks each day since February.

President Ashraf Ghani warned officials that any corruption and negligence in the handling of the outbreak response budget will be dealt with accordingly, and ordered an investigation.

“The presidential palace inspector should assess all accusations and allegations of corruption in the coronavirus response budget spending and inform the people about the details of the expenses,” the presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

The health ministry detected 279 new Covid-19 infections from 769 tests on Tuesday, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 31,517. The war-torn country, which has admitted it has a lack of testing capacity, has tested 72,318 suspected patients since the outbreak began. The number of recoveries stands at 14,036.

The health ministry spokesman, Akmal Samsour, said Monday that the actual number of infections is higher than what the ministry has reported, as “only patients with severe symptoms go to medical centres, so the actual number may be something between 150,000 and 1.5m”.

Most new cases were confirmed in the central province of Ghor, after 65 tests from 95 came back positive. Ghor recorded its second death from Covid-19 overnight. The capital, Kabul, which has been the country’s worst affected area, reported 41 new cases and three deaths.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has carried out at least 44 daily attacks since February, according to the country’s national security council. “On average, the Taliban has carried out 44 attacks and killed or wounded 24 civilians every day in Afghanistan since the 22 February reduction in violence week,” said Javid Faisal, the council’s spokesman. “The success of the Doha deal and peace in Afghanistan requires an immediate reduction in violence and the start of direct talks.”

At least 23 civilians were killed in Helmand and dozens were wounded when mortars hit a cattle market on Monday. Twenty-one patients have lost their lives to Covid-19 since the outbreak began in Helmand.

The warring sides blamed each other for the attack on the open-air weekly cattle market in Sangin district, where hundreds of villagers from neighbouring districts had gathered to trade sheep and goats. The district is mostly under Taliban control.

At least six civilians, including women and children, were killed in the province on Sunday afternoon when their vehicle was hit a roadside mine. Two civilians also were killed this morning when their vehicle was hit such a mine. Save the Children condemned the deaths of children in Helmand and asked for the war on children to stop.

Milan Dinic, country director for Save the Children in Afghanistan said in a statement: “These past few months have been some of the deadliest in recent times, with a spike in the numbers of attacks that involved civilians. At a time in which the country should be focusing on the Covid-19 outbreak and the devastating effects it has on millions, the extreme violence hampers the possibility for people to get support and children to have access to education and other services.”

The Thai government has, as trailed earlier, confirmed the extension of an emergency decree until the end of July in a bid to avoid the risk of a second wave of the coronavirus as the country was poised to reopen bars and allow some foreigners into the country.

The cabinet approved the extension of the emergency decree because the global pandemic was still ongoing, Narumon Pinyosinwat, a spokeswoman for the Thai government told a briefing. With the government set to ease more restrictions on Wednesday, it was necessary for the government to continue using the decree to control travel and reduce the risk of a second wave, she said.

The emergency decree gives the government a range of additional powers including to deploy officials to investigate venues, bring in curfews, restrict gatherings and control travel, Reuters reports.

We’ve also got a detailed breakdown of Australia’s lockdown restrictions, for those affected. Some suburbs of Melbourne have returned to “stage three” today.

Our coronavirus world map, and associated range of graphics, keeps you up to date with cases around the globe:

The United States is not on a “safe list” of destinations for non-essential travel due to be unveiled European Union governments later today, three diplomats have said.

The 27-member bloc is expected to give outline approval to leisure or business travel from Wednesday to 14 countries beyond its borders when they vote on the list midday Brussels time, the diplomats said.

The countries are said to be Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. Meanwhile Russia and Brazil, along with the United States, are among countries that do not make the initial “safe list”, Reuters reports.

The vote is aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations, particularly countries in southern Europe hardest hit the Covid-19 pandemic. China would also be provisionally approved, although travel would only open up if Chinese authorities also allowed in EU visitors. Reciprocity is a condition of being on the safe list.

The list must be passed a “qualified majority” of EU countries, meaning 15 EU countries representing 65% of the population. Four EU diplomats said they expected it to secure the required backing. It will act as a recommendation to EU members, meaning they will almost certainly not allow access to travellers from other countries, but could potentially set restrictions on those entering from the 14 nations.

The EU’s efforts to reopen internal borders – particularly among the 26-nation Schengen area, which normally has no frontier checks – have been patchy as various countries have restricted access for certain visitors.

Greece is mandating Covid-19 tests for arrivals from a range of EU countries, including France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, with self-isolation until results are known. The Czech Republic is not allowing in tourists from Portugal and Sweden. British residents can also travel to many EU countries, although non-essential travellers to Britain are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Uzbekistan has imposed an overnight curfew in some parts of the country, including the capital Tashkent, as it seeks to curb a fresh rise in Covid-19 infections following the gradual lifting of a two-month lockdown.

The central Asian nation had been cautiously lifting a nationwide lockdown that had been in place in April and May, Reuters reports. However, after a decline in Covid-19 cases between mid-April and mid-May, it has once again seen a steady rise.

The new restrictions will see residents of “red” and “yellow” areas deemed at higher risk barred from leaving their homes between 11pm and 7am, except for medical emergencies, the government said today. Large shopping malls and markets will also be closed on weekends across the country.

Uzbekistan has divided its territory into green, yellow and red zones depending on the rate of fresh Covid-19 cases in those areas. Tashkent is mostly yellow, with some red neighbourhoods which have been cordoned off. The country of 34m people has confirmed 8,298 coronavirus cases, with 24 deaths.

A coordinated response to the Covid-19 crisis in the Americas, India and Africa must be led countries that have suppressed it, writes Adam Tooze, urging us to stay focused on the big picture of a pandemic that is very far from over.

The question is do we have the political imagination, the sympathy and the grit necessary to grasp this crisis at the world level? Can public opinion and decision-makers in Europe and Asia, where the disease has been more or less effectively suppressed, be rallied to support an adequate global response to the crisis in the rest of the world?

The full piece is here:

Over in Greece there is mounting concern over the rising number of “imported” coronavirus cases ahead of the Mediterranean country opening to holidaymakers tomorrow.

For a nation so reliant on tourism the fact that its archipelago of islands has remained so Covid-free has been crucial to projecting an image of safety and security. But since Greece reopened its main airports in Athens and Thessaloniki on 15 June, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has crept up.

Tellingly, almost a third of the 110 new infections logged authorities over the last week were travellers from abroad. Six of those reported were on Syros, Ios and Paros – all popular islands. On Monday, three of the 15 new cases registered health officials had arrived from overseas.

This morning, media on Zakynthos reported that seven people had now contracted the virus – the latest described as a man admitted to the local hospital on Sunday with a high fever after recently returning from Germany.

Most tourists who have thus far been detected with the virus are asymptomatic, adding to the concerns of epidemiologists. “The big problem is that the virus is transmitted via individuals who are asymptomatic or have few symptoms,” said professor Nikolaos Sypsas, a member of the scientific committee that advises the government. “The problem of dispersal via asymptomatic people remains a very big risk.”

The country’s civil protection ministry says health officials with the armed forces will be dispatched to islands to conduct tests on arriving passengers over the next three months. “They will have absolute responsibility,” said the deputy civil protection minister Nikos Hardalias as he toured regional airports in advance of direct flights to destinations being resumed nationwide on Wednesday.

At the weekend Athens’ centre-right government announced that, 48 hours prior to arrival, anyone entering Greece would have to fill out an electronic form, stating personal details and where they had travelled to in recent weeks. With the aid of special software, the input will then be weighed up health authorities – a form of ‘smart testing’ that is hoped will help identify possible coronavirus carriers.

To date Greece has had 3,390 confirmed coronavirus cases and 191 covid-related fatalities – far lower than most other European countries. Fears of the highly contagious virus being imported played a central role in the government deciding to continue its suspensions of air links with the UK and Sweden on Monday.

French consumer spending rebounded in May as the country emerged from a coronavirus lockdown that triggered an unprecedented spending slump the previous months, official data has revealed.

The Insee official stats agency said that consumer spending rose 36.6% in May from April, when it had plunged 19.1% and following a 16% drop in March. A Reuters poll of 16 economists had an average forecast for a 30% increase in May, though estimates of the jump had ranged from 6% to 42.5% in light of the exceptional circumstances.

The French government began lifting restrictions on 11 May after the country spent nearly two months under one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. The lockdown left nearly all retail outlets but those deemed essential shuttered, plunging the eurozone’s second-biggest economy into its deepest recession on record in modern peacetime France.

Despite the rebound in May, consumer spending remained down 7.2% from pre-crisis levels in February, Insee said.

Here is Melissa Davey’s report on the lockdown announced in 10 postcodes of Victoria, Australia, as mentioned earlier in the blog:

Our UK coronavirus live blog is now up and running, with Aamna Mohdin at the helm:

It is nomination day in Singapore ahead of the general election on 10 July. Here, the prime minister Lee Hsien Loong of the ruling People’s Action Party arrives at a nomination centre to formally join the contest.


Photograph: Edgar Su/Reuters

This concerning report from Hannah Summers explains how older Covid-19 patients are turned away from hospital or left untreated in some places, while domestic abuse is also rising.

While accessing healthcare has been a challenge faced older populations during the crisis, the pandemic has also amplified violence and abuse of older people around the world.

Chris Roles, the managing director of Age International, said: “Regrettably, the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the abuse and neglect older people were already facing.

“Too often, elder abuse is kept hidden and not reported; older people may fear retribution or stigma, may not recognise what is happening to them as abuse or national bodies may not even record abuse over a certain age.”

The full piece is here:

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