Situation Reports Overseas

Brought to you by Safe Communities Portugal – From our correspondent Louise Birch

Information accurate at the time of writing. Information about our sources here.

Situation reports Overseas 2020-04-20 to 2020-05-10

Situations reports  Overseas 2020-03-30 to 2020-04-19

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Thursday 9th July by Louise Birch

This is, as I understand it, a gathering of human beings concerned about turning around one of the greatest threats humankind has faced” (Nelson Mandela)

Words repeated by the Director General World Health Organisation during his opening remarks at the COVID-19 media briefing this week.  Although originally said during the closing of AIDS conference in Durban 20 years ago, they are deemed to be appropriate during this new health crisis that has stricken the world.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said;

“It took 12 weeks for the world to reach 400 thousand cases of COVID-19. Over the weekend, there were more than 400 thousand cases across the globe. There have now been more than 11.4 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 535,000 lives have been lost. The outbreak is accelerating and we have clearly not reached the peak of the pandemic. While the number of deaths appears to have levelled off globally, in reality some countries have made significant progress in reducing the number of deaths, while in other countries deaths are still on the rise. Where there has been progress in reducing deaths, countries have implemented targeted actions toward the most vulnerable groups, for example those people living in long-term care facilities.”

 There was also a repeat of his plea for unity and solidarity:

“I will say it again. National unity and global solidarity are more important than ever to defeat a common enemy, a virus that has taken the world hostage. This is our only road out of this pandemic. I repeat national unity and global solidarity”.

The WHO says coronavirus cases are increasing by 200,000 a day, doubling from April and May. The WHO emergencies chief said that the number of Covid-19 deaths appeared to be stable for the moment, but he cautioned that there is often a lag time between when confirmed cases increase and when deaths are reported due to the time it takes for the coronavirus to run its course in patients.

The USA has formally notified the World Health Organisation of its withdrawal, despite widespread criticism and an almost complete lack of international support for the move in the midst of a pandemic.

Texas surpassed 10,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day this week for the first time, crossing a sobering milestone rarely seen since the pandemic first hit the US in March. The record high of 10,028 new cases in Texas served as another alarming new measure of the swift resurgence of Covid-19 nationwide. Republican Governor Greg Abbott of Texas aggressively began one of Americas fastest re-openings in May but has begun reversing course in recent weeks, ordering bars closed and mandating face coverings.  California reported more than 10,000 coronavirus cases on one day, another record rise for a single day. Previously, New York and Florida were the only other states to record more than 10,000 new cases in a single day. New York hit that grim total back in April, when New York City hospitals were overwhelmed and hundreds of people were dying every day. Florida topped 10,000 confirmed cases last week. Once the epicentre of the US epidemic, New York saw cases rise by about 6% in June – the lowest rate in the entire country.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for Covid-19. He said he began feeling ill on Sunday and has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with unproven effectiveness against Covid-19. Brazil has recorded another 1,312 deaths and more than 48,000 new cases. According to official sources, the number of lives lost in Brazil now stands at 66,868, the second highest number in the world. The country has registered 1,674,655 confirmed cases of coronavirus. There are currently 489,865 active cases in the country and 8,318 of those are considered serious or critical.

Other world leaders and notable figures who have had bouts of Covid-19 include British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britains Prince Charles, Prince Albert II of Monaco and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.

Africa has now reported 511,949 confirmed coronavirus cases. The total across the continent increased significantly after South Africa recorded another day of more than 10,000 confirmed cases according to official reports. The true number of cases among the 1.3 billion people in Africa is unknown as its 54 countries continue to face a serious shortage of testing materials for the virus. A tremendous problem, a real crisis of access, the World Health Organisation’s Africa chief, Matshidiso Moeti, said last week. So far most testing has been concentrated in capital cities but infections in many cases have spread beyond them. In Africa, the health systems are the most poorly funded and thinly staffed in the world, already more than 2,000 health workers have been infected by the virus, according to the WHO.  To date, 12,026 people are reported to have lost their lives too COVID-19 across the geographic region although this figure is expected to be much higher in reality.

The Netherlands shut its borders to people from Serbia and Montenegro again yesterday, a week after opening them, citing a rapid rise in coronavirus infections in both countries. Travellers from Serbia and Montenegro regained access to the Netherlands on 1 July when the Dutch, following European Union guidelines, reopened their borders to a list of 14 countries outside the bloc. The government said a rise in coronavirus infections in Serbia and Montenegro had forced it to take those countries off the list again, and that Dutch travellers should only visit them if absolutely necessary. Serbia has declared a lockdown in Belgrade over the coming weekend due to the Covid-19 surge, sparking overnight rioting in the capital in which dozens were injured. 

Serbia has reported 16,719 confirmed infection and 330 people have died. With a population of 8,736,536, the number of infections per 1M populous is 1,914.

Montenegro has reported 907 cases and 17 people have lost their lives. The population is 628,068 and the figures equate to 1,444 confirmed cases per 1M populous.

Earlier on Wednesday, Austria issued travel warnings for Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova because of the worsening coronavirus situation there.  Bulgaria has reported 6,102 confirmed cases and 254 lives lost.  Romania has confirmed 30,175 cases and 1,817 people have died. Moldova has reported 18,141 coronavirus cases and 603 people have lost their lives. The Netherlands has reported 50,694 infections since the outbreak began and 6,132 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.

In Iran the number of lives lost to coronavirus reached 12,084 on Wednesday, the health ministry said, with 153 deaths in the past 24 hours, amid a sharp rise in the number of daily infections and deaths in the past week as lockdown measures have eased. The total number of infections has reached 248,379, with 209,463 people having recovered, according to official figures. Iran recorded 200 deaths from Covid-19 within a 24-hour period recently, the highest official figure recorded by the ministry. President Hassan Rouhani recently launched new measures to try to curb the spread. Iranians who do not wear masks will be denied state services and workplaces that fail to comply with health protocols will be shut for a week.

Israel was praised for quickly tackling the pandemic when it emerged earlier this year, imposing strict stay-home orders, but there has been a spike in infections following the easing of restrictions. More than 1,300 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Israel in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report bringing the total to 32,714, while there have been 343 lives lost in total. In an attempt to confront the resurgence of the virus, Israel has put a West Bank settlement into lockdown. Beitar Illit has become a “restricted zone” for a week over an outbreak of the virus there. Furthermore, the Israeli government has started reimposing measures, such as shutting gyms and bars.

The number of coronavirus recoveries has reached 20,700 in Afghanistan as the health ministry reported 17 new deaths and 210 new cases, while three new polio cases were reported in Helmand and Kandahar, amid raging war across the country.  The total number of confirmed coronavirus infections is now 33,594 and 936 people have died as a result of COVID-19. The war-torn country, which has admitted it has a lack of testing capacity, has tested 77,510 suspected patients since the outbreak began.

The country’s health ministry has said that Afghanistan has reached the peak of coronavirus as daily infections are dropping in recent days. The ministry has said several times said it has the capacity to carry out 2,000 tests a day but has never reached that mark. Testing has been conducted at a rate of 1,990 tests per 1M populous.

The country’s health ministry has raised concerns about new Polio cases as vaccination campaigns have been paused due to the coronavirus pandemic for the last three months. The health ministry has detected 26 new Polio cases in the first six months of this year, compared with 13 in the same period of last year and 29 cases in the whole of 2019.

 

 

Total number of cases worldwide – 11,981,301

Total number of deaths worldwide – 547,324

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 6,925,812

Active cases:

4,508,165 active cases,

4,449,926 in mild condition,

58,239 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 7,473,136

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

 

Wednesday 8th July by Louise Birch

“I think a sense of complacency has crept into us as we let our frustrations get the better of us. I think that each of us know someone who has not been following the rules as well as they should have. I think each of us know that we’ve got no choice but to take these very, very difficult steps.”  (Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, Australia)

The Australian state of Victoria has recorded 191 new coronavirus cases overnight. Official sources report that Victoria, is fighting a worsening coronavirus outbreak, breaking the previous record of 127 cases. State Premier Daniel Andrews has reimposed stage 3 stay at home restrictions on the Melbourne metropolitan are for 6 weeks stating “There is simply no alternative. We have to be realistic about the circumstances we confront, we have to be clear with each other that this is not over.  Pretending that it is over is not the answer”.  From 11.59pm on Wednesday 8 July, those who live in the Metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shires, are unable to leave home, unless it is for – Shopping for essentials, Work, Exercise or Medical and care giving.

 

Flights in New Zealand will be limited as the government seeks to ease pressure on its quarantine regime, (international arrivals are quarantined for 14 days to ensure Covid-19 does not enter the community), by rationing the return of citizens to the country. Jacinda Ardern’s government has struck a deal with Air New Zealand to limit the number of places available for international arrivals, given the strain on compulsory isolation facilities.

Israel has reimposed certain restrictions after a surge in cases, to avoid a wider lockdown that could devastate the economy. Bars, nightclubs, gyms and event halls have been closed in Israel as restrictions are reimposed to combat a rise in infections. Restaurants, buses and synagogues will limit the number of entrants also. In recent days, Israel has reported daily increases of over 1,000 cases at least 3 times after a drop in the infection rate in May.

South Africa, one of Africa’s largest economies and the worst-affected country on the continent in terms of the number of known coronavirus cases passed the grim milestone of 200,000 known infections recently, after adding more than 8,000 new cases in one day.

The country has reported 205,721 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 3,310 people have lost their lives.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has extended its coronavirus health emergency for 15 days, the sixth extension since March, with some lawmakers voicing concern about the effect on the economy. President Felix Tshisekedi’s government closed the borders, halted flights between the capital Kinshasa and the rest of the country and closed schools and places of worship in March. Officials lifted the ban on internal flights last week, but all other measures remain in place in a country that has recorded 182 deaths from 7,432 infections.

China reported eight new coronavirus cases in the mainland for July 6, up from four a day earlier, the health authority said. All of the new infections were imported cases, involving travellers entering China from abroad, while the capital city of Beijing reported zero new cases, the National Health Commission said in a statement on Tuesday. There were no new deaths. China also reported 15 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases for July 6, up from 11 a day earlier. At the time of writing, China had a total of 83,565 confirmed coronavirus cases while the number of lives lost is 4,634.

Hong Kong is facing another community outbreak of Covid-19 after reporting mostly imported cases in recent months, a health official has said. “The next few days are very crucial,” said Wong Ka-hing, controller of the centre for health protection of the department of health. The Chinese-ruled city reported 14 new infections of Tuesday, five of them imported and nine local. Officials said five of the cases were of unknown origin.

Since late January, Hong Kong has reported 1,286 cases and seven people have died. There are currently 122 active cases in HK and 1 of those is described as serious or critical.

Russia has reported 6,368 new coronavirus cases, taking its nationwide total infections to 694,230. The country’s coronavirus crisis response centre said 198 people had also died from the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the death tally to 10,494. It added that 463,880 people had recovered from the virus. Russia currently reports that there are 219,856 active cases in the country and 2,300 of those are described as serious or critical.

Four new coronavirus field hospitals have opened in Mumbai as India’s death toll from the disease reached 20,201. Hospitals in densely populated cities such as Mumbai and Delhi are struggling to cope with the epidemic in the country, which has 723,195 infections – the world’s third-highest. The Mumbai region, where about a quarter of India’s 20,100 deaths have occurred, has experienced a new surge in cases, forcing authorities to build makeshift hospitals and quarantine facilities.  The facilities will provide an extra 3,500 beds in the city of 20 million people.  Hospitals have been overwhelmed with hundreds of patients every day.

In the USA, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases now stands at 3,041,950. The number of people who have died as a result of COVID-19 is 133,041. This massive surge of new cases has derailed efforts to restart the economy. Nonetheless, the White House claimed on Monday that the US has been “a leader” in the global fight against coronavirus, despite and America recently witnessing the highest ever number of new daily cases reported in the world, with over 55,000.

Total number of cases worldwide – 11,779,956

Total number of deaths worldwide – 541,753

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 6,775,470

Active cases:

4,462,733 active cases,

4,404,831 in mild condition,

57,902 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 7,317,223

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

 

Tuesday 7th July by Louise Birch

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it” (Helen Keller)

India has registered a record daily number of coronavirus cases and opened a sprawling treatment centre in the capital to fight the pandemic. The health ministry reported just under 25,000 cases and 613 deaths in 24 hours ,the biggest daily spike since the first case was detected in late January. In the capital New Delhi, medical staff started treating patients at a spiritual centre converted into a sprawling isolation facility and hospital with 10,000 beds, many made of cardboard and chemically coated to make them waterproof.

About the size of 20 football fields, the facility on the outskirts of the city will treat mild symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.  State government officials fear Delhi, home to 25 million people, could record more than half-a-million cases by the end of the month. The city has repurposed some hotels to provide hospital care. It is also converting wedding halls and has several hundred modified railway coaches standing by. A strict lockdown in place since late March has gradually been lifted, allowing most activities after the economy nose-dived during the shutdown. Schools, metro trains in cities, cinemas, gyms and swimming pools remain closed and international flights are still grounded. Authorities have made wearing masks mandatory in public places, while large gatherings are banned and shops and other public establishments are required to implement social distancing.

India has reported 700,724 cases of coronavirus and 19,714 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  India has now overtaken Russia with the world’s 3rd highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

In Peru, the total of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has now reached 302,718 the fifth-highest in the world, as the Andean nation of nearly 33 million people slowly reopens its battered economy. The South American copper producer, which locked down in March against the virus but struggled to enforce a nationwide quarantine in the face of rising economic hardship, trails only Brazil in the region in terms of case numbers. Peru’s death toll from the virus now stands at 10,589, the 10th-highest in the world.

In Australia, the state of Victoria has recorded its largest jump in cases at any point in the coronavirus crisis, with 127 cases reported on Monday. The state premier announced the state’s border with New South Wales would be closed from midnight on Tuesday, Daniel Andrews said the border closure would be enforced only on the NSW side. “The closure is the result of a phone hook-up between the prime minister, the premier of New South Wales and myself just an hour or so ago, where we have, all of us, agreed that the best thing to do is to close the border,” Andrews said on Monday morning.  The decision marks the first time in 100 years that the border between the 2 states will be closed.

Greece has announced it will prohibit Serbian tourists from entering the country as of 6am today. The ban, due to last until at least 15 July, follows a surge in incidence of coronavirus in the Balkan state.  It has also been announced that Greece and Great Britain will fully resume flights on 15 July.  Government spokesman Stelios Petsas made the announcement in which he said “In cooperation with the British government, and following advice of experts, the government announces the resumption of direct flights from the United Kingdom to all airports of the country (Greece) from July 15”. It comes after Greece extended its ban on UK visitors for another two weeks after reopening its borders to some foreign travellers on 1 July, as European nations moved to ease their lockdowns further. The country placed restrictions on travellers from Sweden and the UK as well as other countries with large coronavirus caseloads, including the US, Brazil and Russia.

Troops in Serbia set up an emergency 500-bed field hospital Monday, a day after neighbouring Kosovo re-imposed a nighttime curfew in four cities, as the Balkans battled to contain a surge in coronavirus infections that underscored the risks of swiftly easing lockdowns. The makeshift hospital in a sports hall in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, is a precautionary measure as hospitals in the capital are reaching their capacity because of the coronavirus outbreak, the city’s deputy mayor Goran Vesic said. Serbian infections have returned to levels last seen at the peak of the pandemic in the Balkan country in March and April. Serbia has reported 16,240 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 317 people have died.  Serbia’s rising infections provide a chilling insight into how the virus, while retreating in much of Europe, can roar back if lockdowns are lifted too swiftly.

The country went from having some of Europe’s toughest lockdown measures to a near-complete reopening at the beginning of May.

Kosovo Prime Minister said that the country was dealing with a new situation and restrictions on movement were necessary. The new measures come after Kosovo health institutions reported 17 deaths over the past 48 hours. Kosovo also recorded more than 300 new COVID-19 infections over the weekend. The new figures bring the total number of COVID-19 cases in Kosovo to 3,313, with 54 lives lost. Health officials have said the number of patients requiring acute treatment for COVID-19 has also increased significantly in recent weeks.

Doctors in Ukraine are battling a post-lockdown surge in cases of Covid-19, according to reports, after reopening public transport, reopening of parks, outdoor cafes and beauty salons in late May and early June. By mid-June, the World Health Organisation listed Ukraine among two dozen European countries that have seen resurgences of the virus. At the highest point on 26 June, Ukraine had a daily increase of 1,109 cases as authorities warned they might have to re-impose movement restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. The country has confirmed 49,043 cases and 1,262 lives have been lost to COVD-19.  There are 26,078 active cases in Ukraine and 103 of those are described as serious or critical.

Kuwait reported 538 new infections on Monday, bringing its total tally to 50,644 and 373 deaths.  Over 40,000 people are reported to have recovered from the virus and there are currently 9,270 active cases, 152 of those are considered serious or critical. The Gulf state initiated a five-phase plan at the start of June to gradually lift coronavirus restrictions, including partially restarting commercial flights from 1 August. A partial curfew remains in place.

Bulgaria will clamp down on people who fail to observe obligatory social distancing in public spaces or wear protective face masks indoors as new cases of the coronavirus surged, the health minister Kiril Ananiev said on Monday. He also said he would extend the state of epidemic emergency in the country until the end of July to allow him to be more flexible and issue special orders if needed. He urged local authorities to enforce compliance with anti-infection measures and limit large public events. Fines for failing to comply with distancing and other measures would be more strictly imposed. Yesterday, health officials in central city of Veliko Tarnovo said 23 out of 42 people who attended a school prom at the end of June tested positive for the infection. Ananiev told reporters that 20 players and officials from two top division soccer clubs had tested positive and warned that Bulgaria might ban public attendance at football matches. Bulgaria has lifted most of the restrictions linked to the coronavirus, opening bars, restaurants and allowing free travel to help the economy recover and does not plan to tighten measures for the time being. The Balkan country of 6,947,401 people has registered 5,740 cases and 246 deaths

The number of coronavirus cases in Qatar reached 100,345 on Monday, adding 546 new cases and five deaths in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said. 133 people have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19.  Qatar has seen its daily case numbers fall from a peak of 2,355 in late May. Only about 12% of its population are Qatari nationals and, as in other Gulf states, Qatar saw Covid-19 spread among low-income migrant workers living in crowded quarters. With a population of about 2.8 million people, the energy-rich Gulf state has one of the world’s highest per capita number of confirmed cases. Qatar, which did not impose curfews, began a four-phase lifting of restrictions on 15 June. The second phase began on 1 July, allowing the limited reopening of restaurants, beaches and parks. Qatar has the second highest number of cases after much larger Saudi Arabia in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which together have recorded more than 489,000 cases and 3,000 deaths.  Saudi Arabia has recorded 209,509 confirmed infections and 1,916 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Vietnam’s health ministry on Monday reported 14 new coronavirus infections, all among Vietnamese citizens held in quarantine upon their arrival from overseas. The southeast Asian country has been 81 days without a domestically transmitted infection due to successful programmes to contain the virus. The country has yet to report any deaths from Covid-19 and has confirmed 369 cases in total, 341 of which have recovered.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced a phased re-opening of the country from a lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, lifting restrictions in and out of the capital Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa. Kenyatta extended the current nationwide nightly curfew between 9pm and 4am for a further 30 days. He said that international commercial travel would resume from 1 August, while domestic flights are scheduled to restart on 15 July. Mosque and churches will be allowed to host services again, but for a maximum of an hour with only 100 worshippers allowed at a time. However, the President warned that should the situation worsen over the next few weeks the country could be locked down again saying “In the next 21 days we shall study patterns of interactions and the spread of the disease. Any trends that signal a worsening of the pandemic, we will have no choice but to return to lockdown”. Kenya has confirmed 7,886 cases of the coronavirus as of July 6, with 160 deaths. Kenyatta said the reopening of the country came with risks, and urged Kenyans to take precautions.

Total number of cases worldwide – 11,598,692

Total number of deaths worldwide – 537,640

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 6,563,929

Active cases:

4,497,123 active cases,

4,438,388 in mild condition,

58,735 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 7,101,569

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.rferl.org

 

 

Monday 6th July by Louise Birch

“He who has courage and faith will never perish in misery” (Anne Frank)

Key developments in the global pandemic from the weekend:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported a record increase in coronavirus infections globally on Saturday, a rise of 212,326 in 24 hours.

The US state of Texas has recorded 8,258 new cases in the 24 hours to Saturday, the highest single-day surge since the pandemic started, taking overall infections in Texas to 191,790. Current Covid-19 hospitalisations rose by 238 in one day to a record high of 7,890.

Arizona reported 2,695 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing its total to 94,553. The number of hospital admissions for Covid-19 increased by 100 to a record high of 3,113 on Friday.

The number of confirmed infections in Florida increased by a record 11,458 on Saturday.

This is the second time in three days that the figure has increased by more than 10,000.

The Philippines recorded a record 7,027 new infections last week, pushing the overall tally in the country to 41,830.

Brazil recorded 37,923 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the 24 hours preceding this report, as well as 1,091 deaths.

Over the 24 hours to Saturday, 1,008 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in Israel, raising the number of active cases in the country to 10,060.

Jordan on Saturday began putting electronic bracelets on travellers who have arrived recently in the kingdom to ensure that they observe home-quarantine.

Here is an overview of places where fresh outbreaks of coronavirus have led to renewed more localised lockdowns. The list is not exhaustive, however, it is obvious that the easing of certain restrictions and the failure of people to act responsibly has allowed the coronavirus to take hold again.

SPAIN: lockdown on Saturday for around 200,000 residents in a section of the northeastern Catalonia region. Nobody is allowed to enter or leave the area, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned and visits to retirement homes halted. The north-western Spanish region of Galicia imposed restrictions on about 70,000 people on Sunday following a Covid-19 outbreak.

PORTUGAL: lockdown at home has been in place since 1 July for some 700,000 inhabitants in the Lisbon region, for a period of at least two weeks.

GERMANY: local lockdowns were announced on 23 June for more than 600,000 people in two neighbouring districts Guetersloh and Warendorf in North Rhine-Westphalia state.

ENGLAND: on 30 June the city of Leicester began a localised two-week lockdown with non-essential shops and schools shutting.

ITALY: some 700 people were ordered on 22 June to remain indoors in four council housing blocks in Mondragone, 60 kilometres north of Naples on the coast in the Campania region.

CHINA: the central city of Wuhan came out of lockdown at the start of April but authorities swiftly reimposed restrictions on 70 residential neighbourhoods following fresh outbreaks.

INDIA: the southern state of Tamil Nadu ordered new restrictions in Chennai, its capital, and surrounding districts as of 19 June in measures that affected around 15 million people.

AZERBAIJAN: reinstated a tight lockdown from 22 June to 1 August.

UNITED STATES: several states have halted plans to reopen or relax their lockdowns, with bars closing in California, Texas and Florida, as well as beach closing in California and Florida.

ARGENTINA: a toughening of lockdown measures in Buenos Aires and its surrounding area has been imposed from 1 to 17 July. The country’s second city Cordoba also rolled back on easing its lockdown measures on 19 May.

PANAMA: a return to lockdown from 8 June in the capital and a neighbouring province, Middle East

AUSTRALIA: thousands of residents in several high-rise apartments in Melbourne went into lockdown for at least five days on Saturday.

Churches have been open in England for the first time for three months. Worshippers were asked to observe hygiene and social distancing guidance, including changes to singing and Holy Communion, during services. At York Minster, which reopened for evening prayer on Saturday after being closed since 16 March, worshippers were limited in number and asked to leave their names and contact details. Staff and clergy wore face masks and visors to welcome visitors, a one-way system was in place and hand sanitiser was available.

There have been mass prayers in Bali as the Indonesian resort island prepares to reopen to tourists shut out due to the Covid-19 pandemic. More than a thousand people attended a prayer at Besakih Hindu temple in the town of Karangasem, expressing gratitude for the handling of the new coronavirus on the island and seeking blessings for the start of a “new normal”. Bali has reported 1,849 coronavirus infections and 20 deaths so far, while Indonesia as a whole has recorded 63,749 cases and 3,171 deaths since early March. The idyllic Southeast Asian island will gradually reopen this month for domestic tourists, while maintaining a “strict health protocol” to prevent the spread of the virus.

Saudi Arabia’s coronavirus infections have passed 200,000, while neighbouring United Arab Emirates has passed 50,000. The number of new cases is climbing after the Arab world’s two largest economies fully lifted curfews last month. Restrictions had been in place in both countries since mid-March, and their gradual lifting has allowed commercial businesses and public venues to reopen.

Saudi Arabia, which has the highest count among the six Gulf states, reported more than 4,100 cases on Friday and Saturday and the total number of confirmed infections has reached 209,509, with 1,916 lives lost. The daily tally first rose above 4,000 in mid-June, but had dipped.

The United Arab Emirates, where daily infection rates recently dropped to between 300 and 400 from a peak of some 900 in late May, registered more than 600 cases on Friday and over 700 on Saturday, the toll is now 51,540 and 323 people have died.

Dubai, the region’s business and tourism hub is due to reopen to foreign visitors on 7 July.

Other Gulf countries have also eased restrictions, although Kuwait has maintained a partial curfew and Qatar, Bahrain and Oman did not impose one at all.

Qatar, which has the second highest regional infection rate, has seen its daily case numbers fall from a peak of more than 2,000 in late May to around 500 on Saturday, bringing it 99,799 cases in total.

Total number of cases worldwide – 11,424,998

Total number of deaths worldwide – 534,487

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 6,473,356

Active cases:

4,417,155 active cases,

4,358,689 in mild condition,

58,466 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 7,007,843

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

Sunday 5th July by Louise Birch

“When you go through a negative situation, don’t think about it. Make it positive” (Yoko Ono)

Let’s enjoy some positive news from around the world.  Have a wonderful Sunday!

A nearly 40-year program to protect the kakī, or black stilt is paying off, with a record number of adult kakī now living in the wild. Thanks to the ongoing work of the New Zealand Department of Conservation’s Kakī Recovery Program, the population of adult kakī has increased by 30 percent to 169, the largest increase in nearly 40 years. The kakī is the ‘Man vs Wild’ of the wading bird world. After all of its friends have left New Zealand’s Southern Alps for the winter, the kakī shelters in place, toughing out temperatures as low as minus 4 degrees (-20 C).

Kakī are found only in New Zealand, where the Māori regard the bird as a taonga species, or a living treasure. The adult birds have distinct black plumage and long pink-red legs. In addition to predation, they face habitat destruction and disturbance in the South Island’s Mackenzie Basin. The kakī are a key indicator species for the future recovery of the native fauna and flora of the unique basin ecosystem.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, examining the spread, the rate of infections, the international response, and how these things have varied nation-to-nation has been a source of nothing less than bewilderment.

The amount that is known and unknown has led to all kinds of approaches and guesswork, but perhaps nothing could be considered more astonishing than the containment of the now-infamous virus in one of the most crowded slums in Asia—in Dharavi, Mumbai, where one million people live in a labyrinthine-neighbourhood of tightly packed shacks and one-room houses where social distancing is impossible.

The largest city in India, Mumbai is the epicenter of COVID-19 in India, and it has so far registered 632,998 cases. While the city at large has seen maxed-out hospital beds, Dharavi, the setting of the Oscar-Winning film Slumdog Millionaire has reported just 2,000 cases and 79 lives lost.  Throughout June, only 274 cases were reported from Dharavi.

A proactive response was initiated, with 2,450 health workers assigned to Dharavi who started going door to door every morning at nine AM to test people. After the first person tested positive in the slum, a 56-year-old garment worker who died the same day, the local and civic task forces identified the 5 highest-risk areas of the slum and started hunting the disease down, using contact tracing to find people who were at risk of being infected. In total 47,500 people were tested in the opening testing regime.

“That gave us a head start,” Anil Pachanekar, a private doctor and head of a local physicians’ association said. “If those cases had slipped through, it would have wreaked havoc.”

Credited for insuring the low rates of infection, these Mumbai health workers endured severe heat and humidity, walking through crowded streets wearing protective plastic body suits that didn’t allow for bathroom breaks.

Along with the disease, the task force encountered the paranoia and misconceptions about it. “When we went around Dharavi, we also started educating people about it,” he said. “We told them it is not a crime to be tested positive for coronavirus.”  It demonstrates that no situation is too dire for human resolve and ingenuity and that even people living in squalor have something to teach the world.

Does sweat from someone infected with COVID-19 have a unique scent? Researchers in Paris, and elsewhere, believe it does and we now know dogs can sniff it out.

A new study from researchers at the national veterinary school in Alfort, outside Paris trained 8 Belgian Malinois shepherds to identify the smell of COVID-19 in the sweat of infected individuals. The dogs’ overall success rate was near-perfect, correctly guessing an average of 95% of samples. Four dogs successfully identified a positive COVID sweat sample 100% of the time.

Many of the countries which have had the greatest success maintaining low numbers of Covid case numbers have done so with widespread use of testing. Using dogs, according to the scientists, would greatly increase the speed at which people could be tested, and they resolved to move forward with subsequent studies in case of resurgent numbers as lockdowns throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

A secluded retreat in Iceland caters to guests who want to be surrounded by nature and you will be literally immersed in it, staying in your own private bubble nestled in the forest. You can sleep under the vast sea of twinkling stars and be entirely enclosed in the glass bubble and, if you are lucky, you’ll get a once-in-a-lifetime view of the aurora borealis over your head.

Robert Robertsson, the owner and managing director of the ‘Buubble’ project based in Reykjavík summed it up saying, “Some childhood dreams stay with us for our whole lives. Sleeping under the stars or watching the aurora borealis dance is one of those lifelong dreams.”

The entrepreneur created the Buubble concept to fulfill those dreams.  With COVID-19 cases down to one or two per day in Iceland, it might be the perfect pandemic getaway.

Robert added “Forget the city, forget work, and enjoy watching the aurora borealis dance for you. We can‘t guarantee you will see the lights, but if they show up you will have a magical night”

In the USA, Saul and Keon have never missed a day of work picking up trash in Miami Beach and they’re especially glad they were covering their route recently as a special surprise awaited them. When their huge truck rolled down the street into the North Bay Road community they found scores of residents who had come out early to line the street with signs and balloons, just to say “we love you”.

Jennifer Elegant wanted to show her family’s appreciation so she organised the socially-distancing surprise ‘thank you’ celebration to honour the essential workers whom she called “extraordinary”. Even the Miami Beach Mayor, Dan Gelber, showed up to salute them because Saul Scruggs and Keon Richardson do so much more than pick up trash. “They bring an incredible, positive energy to the entire neighbourhood,” Jennifer told reporters. Simply put, they spread joy. What is particularly special about these two men is the positive energy that they bring with them. They always have smiles on their faces and never miss an opportunity to say hello and brighten someone’s day. They also go out of their way to help others and expect nothing in return.  One day, Saul spent 45 minutes helping a neighbour dig through her rubbish to help her look for her lost wedding ring. He also waited over an hour with another neighbour who was having heart issues and needed an ambulance.

 

Saturday 4th July by Louise Birch

“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please but as the opportunity to do what is right” (Peter Marshall)

Happy Independence Day America, stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong.

The 4th of July is traditionally for barbecues, fireworks, boisterous partying and various hijinks to celebrate Independence Day.

However, this year, with coronavirus cases soaring to all-time highs, medical experts warn that the normal US holiday exuberance could instead create infection “superspreader” events. The USA has recorded 2,837,681 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 131,503 people have died.  There are currently 1,514,340 active cases in the country and 15,907 of those are described as serious or critical.

Across the country, thousands of official public celebrations have been cancelled in an effort to prevent mass gatherings. Two notable exceptions are the fireworks planned by the Trump administration in the centre of Washington, and an event last night at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota where the President attended a fireworks display.

With the country repeatedly reporting record highs of new coronavirus cases, officials say the impact of the Fourth of July celebrations could be catastrophic. The circumstances of travel combined with reopening and people not necessarily following the preventative guidelines have been described as a “perfect storm.  About 40% of the USA is now changing course on reopening in an effort to stop the unprecedented surge with states pleading with people not to participate in group revelry.

In Alabama, a group of students held “Covid parties” this week, according to Tuscaloosa city councillor Sonya McKinstry, where students wagered over who would become infected. “They put money in a pot, and they try to get Covid. Whoever gets Covid first gets the pot. It makes no sense,” McKinstry told ABC News. “They’re intentionally doing it.” The parties fly in the face of advice from the Alabama department of public health, which has asked people to maintain a 6ft distance, and explained the concept of superspreader events in guidance sent out to local governmental officials. “Asymptomatic spread of Covid-19 is a major risk factor. These ‘superspreaders’ do not know they are carrying the disease,” the health department said. “It is estimated one in four infected people are ‘superspreaders’. For this reason, we strongly recommend wearing masks in public gatherings.”

California, which had been making progress on getting infections down, is now the new US’s worst hotspot. The Riverside county public health officer, Cameron Kaiser, warned that the effect of people gathering to toast Memorial Day, a public holiday in May, was stark. “We don’t want any more closures, but our numbers are going through the roof,” Kaiser told the New York Times. The California governor recently ordered the closure of all recently reopened bars, banned indoor movie theatre-going and dining at restaurants.  At the time of writing, California has registered 247,743 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 6,262 people have died.  There are currently 174,257 active cases in the state.

Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey, has also abruptly ordered bars, gyms, movie theatres and water parks to close. The state of Arizona has reported 87,425 cases of coronavirus and 1,757 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Authorities in Kansas have made the wearing of face coverings a requirement after a 46% spike in infections.  The state has reported 15,159 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 280 lives have been lost.  A total of 9,570 people have recovered so far.  Currently there are 5,309 active cases in Kansas.

Many beaches, a traditional Fourth of July rallying point, have been ordered to close. A majority of beaches in southern Florida were shut down from Friday, as were beaches in Texas and Los Angeles county.

The governor of Texas has ordered that face coverings must be worn in public across most of the state, in a dramatic ramping up of efforts to control a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations. The move marks a major reversal for Republican Greg Abbott, who had pushed Texas’s aggressive reopening of the state economy in May and had previously said the government could not order individuals to wear masks. His prior virus-related orders had undercut efforts by local governments to enforce mask requirements.

But faced with rising numbers of newly confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus and a wave of hospitalisations, Abbott changed course with this recent mask order. It requires “all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive Covid-19 cases, with few exceptions”.   Texas has reported 183,044 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the 3rd highest is the USA and 2,585 people have lost their lives. There are currently 89,739 active cases in the state.  Testing has been carried out at a rate of 76,319 tests per 1M populous.

The state of Florida continues to report exceptionally high numbers of confirmed cases with over 10,000 being registered in one day this week. The state has reported 169,106 cases to date and 3,618 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  There are currently 139,832 active cases in Florida and testing has been conducted at a rate of 94,693 tests per 1M populous.

The USA is currently on the “red list” of high risk countries that people in England have been advised not to visit for non-essential reasons because of the continued high level of coronavirus cases.

 

The top 15 US states in terms of confirmed cases are listed below:

Total number of cases worldwide – 11,032,173

Total number of deaths worldwide – 525,120

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 6,184,991

Active cases:

4,322,062 active cases,

4,264,134 in mild condition,

57,928 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 6,710,111

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

 

 

Friday 3rd July by Louise Birch

“I only hope we don’t lose sight of one thing, that it was all started by a mouse” (Walt Disney)

The Middle East has recorded a million cases of Covid-19, and is at a “critical threshold”, the World Health Organisation has warned. The global health body reported there were more than one million confirmed cases of the Covid-19 disease across the 22 countries that the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region covers, stretching from Morocco to Pakistan. Over 80% of all deaths in the region were reported in five countries: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. “We are at a critical threshold in our region,” the WHO’s Middle East head, Ahmed al-Mandhari, said in an online press conference. “The number of cases reported in June alone is higher than the total number of cases reported during the four months following the first reported case in the region on 29 January,” he said.

He attributed the rise in cases to increased testing, but also to the lifting in recent weeks of restrictions put in place to combat the virus’ spread.

Kazakhstan will implement a second, softer lockdown for two weeks from July 5 to help combat a surge in coronavirus cases, the government said on Thursday. Authorities will close some non-essential businesses, limit travel between provinces, cut public transit services’ hours of operation and ban public gatherings. The measures may be tightened or extended later, the cabinet said in a statement. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered new curbs after coronavirus cases in the Central Asian country rose more than sevenfold following the lifting of its first, more restrictive lockdown in mid-May.  There have been 42,574 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 188 people have lost their lives.

In Afghanistan, the Health Ministry has detected 186 new Covid-19 infections from 519 tests, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 32,022. There have been 16,041 recoveries. The war-torn country, which has admitted it lacks testing capacity, has tested 73,515 suspected patients since the outbreak began. The death toll in the country stands at 807. Kabul, the country’s worst affected city, recorded 23 new deaths and 61 cases. The capital has so far recorded 13,131 confirmed cases and 218 deaths. Testing capacity remains low in Afghanistan and experts warn that the actual number of infections is much higher. Health ministry spokesman, Akmal Samsour, has said: “only patients with severe symptoms go to medical centres, so the actual number may be something between 150,000 and 1.5 million.”

The Palestinian Authority has announced a five-day lockdown across the West Bank after the total confirmed coronavirus infections in the territory more than doubled following the easing of previous restrictions. Starting from Friday morning, all governorates of the West Bank… will be closed for a period of five days, government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said, adding that pharmacies, bakeries and supermarkets were exempt. The latest data from the Palestinian ministry of health reports that a total of 2,708 people had tested positive for Covid-10, compared with just 1,256 a week ago.

US President Donald Trump has said he believes the coronavirus will “just disappear”, as the US recorded 52,000 new cases on Wednesday according to Johns Hopkins figures, a new all-time daily high. Eight states had reported new single-day highs of freshly diagnosed cases this week, when the national daily total for new cases sat at just over 44,000, a record until the new figure emerged for Wednesday. The spike followed a warning by the public health expert Dr Anthony Fauci that the US is “going in the wrong direction” and infections could more than double to reach 100,000 cases a day.  At the time of writing, infection numbers are rising in around 40 US states with 14 states reporting overnight that they had experienced record daily highs.

Tokyo reported 107 new coronavirus cases in one day this week, the highest number since the state of emergency was lifted on May 25 and the sixth consecutive day that new infections have exceeded 50. 27 of the new cases were in night-time entertainment districts, where testing has been stepped up in recent weeks, and 49 of those infected were aged in their 20s or 30s, 15 were asymptomatic. Many of those cases were found at host clubs, where young men entertain female customers. The Tokyo metropolitan government said when the state of emergency was lifted that if the weekly average of new cases topped 50 it would consider asking businesses to shut down again. Despite more cases in the capital, Japan, with 18,723 cases and 974 deaths, has reported a lower overall rate of infection than many other countries.

India has now recorded 606,907 coronavirus infections, and 17,860 deaths.

The country has the fourth largest outbreak in the world, the increase in infections presents a severe challenge for its overburdened health system. Despite India’s escalating outbreak, officials have begun to ease coronavirus restrictions, allowing more economic activities to resume. Some densely populated containment zones remain under lockdown.

Indonesia reported 1,624 coronavirus infections on Thursday in its biggest jump in new cases since the epidemic began, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said. The daily increase brings the total number of infections to 59,394. The country also reported 53 new deaths, taking cumulative COVID-19 fatalities to 2,987.

Some pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in Wales will be able to reopen outdoors from 13 July.  However indoor services will remain closed for now, despite industry pressure. Pub chain Wetherspoon said it would not reopen its beer gardens ahead of pubs being able to open fully. Meanwhile the date for reopening self-contained accommodation has been brought forward to Saturday 11 July. The change from Monday 13 July means accommodation owners can let Saturday to Saturday, but it depends on the state of the pandemic. Outdoor attractions may also be able to open from Monday 6 July, international relations minister Eluned Morgan told the daily Welsh Government press conference. Wales is the only part of the UK without a restart date for indoor hospitality.

The use of face coverings will become mandatory in shops in Scotland as coronavirus restrictions are eased, Nicola Sturgeon has said. Non-essential shops have reopened in Scotland and bars and restaurants are due to open up again later this month. The First Minister said the 2m physical distancing rule would be eased for some premises when the country enters the next phase of its routemap on 10 July. Face coverings would be mandatory in shops from that date.

Sweden’s number of confirmed Covid-19 cases reached 69,692 on Thursday, while the number of lives lost reached 5,370, according to official figures. Expanded testing has seen daily new cases soar over the past month, eclipsing rates elsewhere in the European Union, but deaths and hospitalisations have tumbled from peaks in April.

The country adopted a softer approach to fighting the new coronavirus, spurning a hard lockdown, which put its pandemic strategy in the international spotlight. Sweden’s death toll (532 per 1M populous) has been many times higher relative to the size of the population than that of its Nordic neighbours, where authorities took a stricter approach, but lower than in some countries that locked down, such as Britain (647 deaths per 1M pop), Italy (575 deaths per 1M pop) and Spain (607 deaths per 1M pop).

Total number of cases worldwide – 10,849,244

Total number of deaths worldwide – 519,963

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 6,067,223

Active cases:

4,262,058 active cases,

4,204,074 in mild condition,

57,984 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 6,587,186

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.bbc.com

 

Thursday 2nd July by Louise Birch

“So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say life is good” (Helen Keller)

The Director General of the World Health Organisation Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the following remarks at a recent COVID-19 media briefing.

“Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world and our lives would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus. The pandemic has brought out the best and the worst of humanity. All over the world we have seen heartwarming acts of resilience, inventiveness, solidarity and kindness.  But we have also seen concerning signs of stigma, misinformation and the politicisation of the pandemic.  For the past six months, WHO and our partners have worked relentlessly to support all countries to prepare for and respond to this new virus.”

His comments also included the following words;

“As we have said repeatedly, national unity and global solidarity are essential to implementing a comprehensive strategy to suppress transmission, save lives and minimise the social and economic impact of the virus”

This is just an extract from the opening remarks and the content can be accessed in full at the following link:

https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—29-june-2020

The words that stood out for me are national unity and global solidarity, echoing the thoughts of many in that we are all in this together, however, are we really all in this together?  Read on and draw your own conclusions, I will keep my own counsel.

Reports in the mainstream media are that the USA has purchased virtually all available stock for the next 3 months of one of the 2 drugs proven to work against COVID-19, leaving none available for Europe or for most of the rest of the world.

Remdesivir, the first drug approved by licensing authorities in the US to treat Covid-19, is made by Gilead and has been shown to help people recover faster from the disease. The first 140,000 doses, supplied to drug trials around the world, have been used up. The Trump administration has now bought more than 500,000 doses, which is all of Gilead’s production for July and 90% of August and September.

Dr Andrew Hill, Senior Visiting Research Fellow at Liverpool University (UK) said “They’ve got access to most of the drug so there’s nothing for Europe”

The news has provoked significant reaction as the USA is reported to have repeatedly taken an “America first” attitude throughout the global pandemic.  Experts and campaigners are alarmed both by the US unilateral action on remdesivir and the wider implications, for instance in the event of a vaccine becoming available. The Trump administration has already shown that it is prepared to outbid and outmanoeuvre all other countries to secure the medical supplies it needs for the US.

Disneyland Tokyo reopened yesterday after being closed for 4 months. In order to keep the number of visitors to less than half pre-pandemic levels, the parks’ operator Oriental Land Co. will limit entry to fixed-date tickets purchased online in advance.

Operating hours at the parks, which had been closed since 29 February have been shortened. Attractions and restaurants will cater to a smaller number of visitors while most entertainment shows and parades, including the nighttime Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights, will remain cancelled. Visitors are required to undergo body temperature checks and wear a face mask to enter the park, and will be asked to keep a certain distance from Disney characters during meet and greet sessions.

The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea, as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in east Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the Covid-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around the capital Seoul.

To avoid a second major outbreak, the government in June required masks to be worn on all buses and subways and inside taxis, with drivers permitted to refuse passengers without face coverings. However, the country’s typically hot summer is making mask wearing increasingly uncomfortable, with temperatures regularly exceeding 30C last month. As a result, more people are refusing to wear them, or are positioning them across their chins so they leave their mouth and nose exposed.

Panama registered a further 765 new cases of coronavirus infection taking the total number in the country to 33,550, while deaths climbed by 11 to 631 overall, according to official figures. Over 15,700 people have recovered from COVID-19 and there are currently 17,174 active cases in the country.  Of those, 140 are described as serious or critical.

Yesterday, Dutch brothels opened in Amsterdam with sex-workers and clients having to observe new rules to prevent infection.  The government in the country ordered all sex clubs to close in mid- March and the original plan was for them to remain closed until September however, as COVID-19 cases started to drop, the date was brought forward.

While less restrictive than other countries, the Netherlands’ “intelligent lockdown” emptied the red neon-lit, street-front windows from which many of Amsterdam’s sex workers normally beckon customers. Now they are reopening but, as with Dutch hairdressers and masseurs which have already been allowed to resume operations, sex workers are encouraged to verify their clients do not have Covid-19 symptoms. “Before I make an appointment, I have to check with the client if they’re feeling OK and if they don’t have any of the symptoms, or if any of their housemates has symptoms,” sex-worker and activist Foxxy said.

Brazils government will restrict the entry of foreigners to the country for 30 days due to the coronavirus pandemic, it announced in a decree recently.  Foreigners with permanent residence in Brazil or working authorisation will be exempted from the decree, along with foreigners with Brazilian spouses or children. Passengers in transit to other countries are also exempted, as long as they do not leave the airports. The decree also exempts Venezuelan citizens arriving at the land border and allows foreigners involved in cargo transport. Brazil remains affected with the second-highest number of cases and deaths due to Covid-19, second only to the US. According to the official figures, Brazil has reported 1,408,485 confirmed cases and 59,656 people have died.

The prime ministers of Spain and Portugal participated in a ceremony to officially reopen their joint border to all travellers after a three-month closure. Elsewhere, tourists were welcomed back to Greece, Malta and Croatia on Wednesday.

Australia has locked down 300,000 in Victoria state suburbs. Authorities locked down around 300,000 people in suburbs north of Melbourne for a month from late on Wednesday to contain the risk of infection after two weeks of double-digit rises in new coronavirus cases in Australia’s second most populous state.

Burundi’s new president, Évariste Ndayishimiye, has declared the coronavirus the country’s “biggest enemy” in a major about-turn for a nation which has largely ignored the dangers of the virus. “From tomorrow, I declare the Covid-19 pandemic the biggest enemy of Burundians, because it is clear it is becoming their biggest concern,” he said recently. “We firmly commit ourselves to fight this pandemic.”   Burundi has reported 170 cases of coronavirus and 1 person has lost the battle with COVID-19.  In a country with a population of 11,886,259, testing has been woeful at a rate of 41 per 1M populous.  Just 493 tests have been conducted.

Canada’s official birthday celebrations on Wednesday for the first time were completely online. Ottawa is usually home to the country’s largest Canada Day party, with tens of thousands of foreign and domestic tourists descending on the capital to celebrate with live music and family fun, capped off with a dazzling fireworks show. However in-person festivities were cancelled amid Covid-19 restrictions, organisers instead offered an online show featuring Canadian pop stars including Alanis Morissette and Avril Lavigne, along with other artists. The night ended with Canadians holding their mobile devices to the sky to watch a virtual fireworks show.

Total number of cases worldwide – 10,631,655

Total number of deaths worldwide – 515,006

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 5,836,282

Active cases:

4,280,367 active cases,

4,222,441 in mild condition,

57,926 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 6,351,288

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

Wednesday 1st July by Louise Birch

“You can’t’ go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending” (C S Lewis)

The Covid-19 pandemic is not even close to being over, World Health Organisation Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing earlier this week. Tedros noted that, six months after China first alerted the WHO to a novel respiratory infection, the grim milestones of 10 million confirmed infections and 500,000 deaths had been reached.

Most people remain susceptible, the virus still has a lot of room to move. We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is that this is not even close to being over. Although many countries have made some progress globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up. The worst is yet to come. Im sorry to say that”.

The head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, Dr Mike Ryan, told the briefing that tremendous progress had been made towards finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection, but there was still no guarantee the effort would succeed.

In the meantime, countries could fight the spread of the disease by testing, isolating confirmed cases and tracking their contacts, he said. He singled out Japan, South Korea and Germany for their “comprehensive, sustained strategy” against the virus.

In the USA, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy has said indoor dining will no longer resume on Thursday in the state as previously planned, it will instead be postponed indefinitely. “After Covid-19 spikes in other states driven by, in part, the return of indoor dining, we have decided to postpone indoor dining indefinitely,” Mr Murphy said  He has urged the public to not become complacent, practice social distancing, wash hands and wear face coverings.  The state of New Jersey has reported 176,399 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the 3rd highest number in the country.  15,123 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Elsewhere in the USA, the governor of the Arizona announced the closure of bars, gyms, cinemas, waterparks and tubing rental for at least 30 days from 29 June. Events of more than 50 people will also be prohibited, and schools will not open before 17 August.

Los Angeles County recorded an “alarming” one-day spike of nearly 3,000 new Covid-19 infections taking its total to 100,772 cases, public health officials said, warning that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed. Kansas governor Laura Kelly has said that she will sign an executive order requiring that most state residents must wear a mask in public from Friday.

Canada is reportedly over the worst of the outbreak but Prime Minster Justin Trudeau has said that the spike in cases in the US and elsewhere has shown that everyone must remain vigilant and not become complacent. There have been 103,918 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Canada and 8,566 people have died as a result of COVID-19, the respiratory condition caused by the virus. There are currently 28,174 active cases with 2,089 of those described as serious or critical. Non-essential travel between Canada and USA remains banned until 21 July and discussions are reportedly taking place about what to do next.

Serbia has announced masks will be mandatory on public transport and in closed spaces in the capital Belgrade as the country battles a second wave of coronavirus infections.

After reining in its first outbreak of Covid-19 in early May, the Balkan state is now reporting a fresh surge, logging more than 200 cases daily in recent days compared to around 50 a month ago. The spike comes after Serbia rapidly shed its lockdown measures to allow mass gatherings such as sporting events and national elections to go ahead in June. The government has said in a statement that the masks will also be mandatory inside malls, restaurants, gyms and night clubs.  There have been 14,288 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 274 lives have been lost.

New Zealanders have been delivered the sweet words from health officials that they have been eager to hear for more than a week. On Tuesday, there were no new cases of Covid-19 reported in the country. New Zealand has effectively eliminated the coronavirus after a strict national lockdown in March and April, with no known community transmission. However cases continue to arrive over the border as New Zealanders and their families return from Covid-19 hotspots abroad. All current instances of the virus were diagnose during routine testing at government-managed quarantine facilities, where returning travellers must spend two weeks upon entering the country.  There are currently 22 active cases in the country with none of those described as serious or critical.

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, according to 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. 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.

In Thailand, the government has 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 today, 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.

As Spain prepared to reopen its borders today to countries in the Schengen group, the country’s health authorities are keeping a close eye on 11 fresh outbreaks of Covid-19, the most worrying of which are in Lleida in Catalonia and Huesca in Aragón. Local authorities in Lleida say it is difficult to isolate people with the virus as many are migrant agricultural workers with no fixed address. Overall, Catalonia has reported 621 new cases over the past seven days.

The premier of Victoria, Australia, Daniel Andrews has announced the reintroduction of stage 3 stay-at-home orders for hotspot suburbs in the state. Victoria has been battling a new outbreak of coronavirus, which has seen double-digit one-day case increases for the last several days.  Mr Andrews told residents “There will only be four reasons that you are permitted to leave your house and only if you really have to. For work or school, for care or care giving, for daily exercise, for food and other essentials. They are the acceptable reasons to leave, but only if you need to”.

In Greece there has been mounting concern over the rising number of “imported” coronavirus cases ahead of the Mediterranean country opening to holidaymakers today.

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.  Since Greece reopened its main airports in Athens and Thessaloniki on 15 June, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has crept up. Almost a third of the 110 new infections logged by 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 by health officials had arrived from overseas. Yesterday, 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. 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 today.

Total number of cases worldwide – 10,499,109

Total number of deaths worldwide – 509,112

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 5,705,445

Active cases:

4,234,552 active cases,

4,176,858 in mild condition,

57,694 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 6,214,557

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.bbc.com

 

Tuesday 30th June by Louise Birch

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great your can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”  (Anne Frank)

China has imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people in a province surrounding the capital to contain a fresh cluster, as authorities warn the outbreak is still “severe and complicated”. Health officials say Anxin county, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Beijing, will be “fully enclosed and controlled”, the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. The move comes after another 14 cases of the virus were reported in Beijing in the 24 hours preceding this report, taking the total to 311 since mid-June and spurring the testing of millions of residents.

Brazil has recorded 30,476 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 552 additional deaths, according to figures released recently by the Health Ministry. The nation has now registered 1,345,470 total confirmed cases of the virus and 57,659 lies have been lost.

Mexico’s health ministry reported 4,050 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 267 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 216,852 cases and 26,648 deaths. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

The Australian state of Victoria, which is battling a new coronavirus outbreak, has reported 75 new coronavirus cases overnight (Monday), taking the state’s total to 2,099 (four previous cases were reclassified, meaning there was a net increase of 71 cases).

The number of cases is the highest since April, and higher than Sunday’s record of 49.

While the state’s one-day case record is 106, mainly from overseas travellers, yesterday’s cases mark the highest in what is believed to be local transmission: technically most of these cases are “under investigation”, but since all returned travellers to Victoria quarantined, it is extremely unlikely any of those under investigation are from overseas.

In response to a surge in US cases, California governor Gavin Newsom has ordered bars in seven counties, an area home to 13.5 million residents, to close. California had already ordered some areas to reinstate stay-at-home orders, and San Francisco has announced a “pause” in its reopening. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis conceded there had been an “explosion” in new cases as the state notched a record 9,585 cases in 24 hours. Young people frustrated by months of confinement have poured back to the state’s beaches, boardwalks and bars, often without masks and seemingly unconcerned about social distancing. In Miami it has been announced beaches would close over the 4 July holiday weekend and bars are also shutting their doors. New coronavirus cases have been surging in more than half of US states, reaching record highs.

Sudan is extending a lockdown in the state of Khartoum aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus by one week until 7 July, the government there has announced. From 8 July there will be a gradual return to normal, though a night curfew will be imposed from 6 pm until 5 am.  Sudan has confirmed 9,257 cases of the coronavirus and 572 lives have been lost.  A total of 401 tests have been conducted which, in a country of 43,834,152, equates to just 9 tests per 1M populous.

Thailand is to allow pubs and bars to reopen on Wednesday, and will let in foreign travellers with work permits, residency and families in Thailand, subject to a 14-day quarantine. Business visitors from Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China and Hong Kong could be exempt from the quarantine, depending on their circumstances.  There have been 3,169 confirmed cases coronavirus in the country and 58 people have died. Currently, there are 58 active cases and 1 of those is described as serious or critical.

Pubs, cafes, hairdressers and gyms opened across Ireland on Monday, while all internal travel restrictions have also been lifted. The government accelerated the relaxation, which started in cautious phases on 18 May, amid signs the disease remains under control. Latest figures released showed one person in Ireland died, raising the total death toll to 1,735, and three new cases, raising the total of confirmed infections to 25,439.

At least 10 new Covid-19 clusters have been identified in Italy over the last week, including 90 employees of a delivery company in Bologna, 28 migrants in the province of Agrigento, 15 cases in a squat outside Rome, and 49 people in Mandragone, Campania, which was sealed off last week and declared a “red zone”. Massimo Galli, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Milan and director of infectious diseases at the Luigi Sacco hospital, said these clusters are proof that the virus continues to circulate.

Wearing face masks will be made compulsory on Northern Ireland’s public transport system later this week. The Northern Ireland executive at Stormont was expected to ratify the move yesterday. The counter-coronavirus measure proposed by devolved infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon is likely to be in force across the region from Friday.

Discussions have been held with both with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and trade unions representing public transport workers about how the face masks order will be enforced on buses and trains. The enforcement is likely to entail random police checks and the imposition of spot fines for those breaching the face mask rules. From yesterday, places of worship can re-open with social distancing and all hard surfaces cleansed. Elite athletes were also allowed to start training indoors and training can recommence for contact sports. Some pubs are planning to open this Friday, although many in central Belfast will only serve customers outdoors.

In the Czech Republic (Czechia), authorities expect to further ease the measures they adopted in March to combat Covid-19, though they will leave them in place in certain problem spots. From 1 July, Czechs will no longer have to wear face masks except in hospitals, retirement homes, the Prague underground and two northeastern districts where the virus is spreading among miners and their relatives. People in Prague will also have to wear face masks at indoor events attended by more than 100 people. The country is expected to open its borders to travellers from Britain and Poland, the borders were closed on 16 March.  11,604 Czechs have so far tested positive and 348 have died. Between mid-April and mid-June, daily increases never exceeded 100 cases. Czechs are being called upon to remain vigilant as the virus is still present, but the overall situation was stable with most districts reporting no incidence of the disease. The northeastern region will have to keep its night clubs shut. Public events have been restricted to 100 people there, while hospitals and retirement homes will be closed to visitors.

India reported close to 20,000 new Covid-19 cases for the second day running on Monday, as Mumbai extended its lockdown by a month. There were 19,459 new cases reported, according to data from India’s federal health ministry. That is down slightly from Sunday’s record of 19,906. India lags behind only the United States, Brazil and Russia in total cases. 16,504 people have now died from the disease caused by the virus since the first case in India in January.  Experts fear its hospitals will be unable to cope with a steep rise in cases. The western state of Maharashtra, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country, extended its lockdown by another month until the end of July, as new cases rose in key cities such as Mumbai, Pune and Aurangabad.  India has confirmed 549,991 cases of coronavirus.  There are currently 211,123 active cases and 8,944 of those are classified as serious or critical.

Abu Dhabi will allow people to enter the emirate if they have tested negative for Covid-19 within the previous 48 hours, the local government media office has said. Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest member of the United Arab Emirates federation, has had a ban on people entering since 2 June. It eased some restrictions a week ago to allow movement between its cities for all residents.

Tourists travelling to Greece will be required from Wednesday to complete an online questionnaire 48 hours in advance to determine whether they need to be tested for coronavirus on arrival. Under the new protocol, travellers are to be given scannable barcodes after they fill out a questionnaire with personal details such as their country of origin and the countries they have travelled through in the last 15 days. The questionnaire is mandatory until 31 August. Barcodes will be scanned from printed paper or mobile devices at ports of arrival, which will determine whether travellers will be directed to the exit or to a screening area. Those who are tested will be told to isolate at the address provided on the questionnaire while waiting for the results. All airports in the country will reopen to international flights by Wednesday however Greece has extended the ban on direct flights from Sweden and United Kingdom until 15 July.

Total number of cases worldwide – 10,286,435

Total number of deaths worldwide – 505,252

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 5,583,314

Active cases:

4,197,869 active cases,

4,140,390 in mild condition,

57,479 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 6,088,566

 

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.bbc.com

 

 

Monday 29th June by Louise Birch

“Laughter is the sensation of feeling good all over and showing it principally in one place” (Josh Billings)

Some of the developments across the globe from the weekend :

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States rose to more than 2.5 million on Saturday. More than 128,000 people have died of Covid-19, the highest known number of lives lost from the disease in the world. The US states of Florida, Arizona, Nevada, South Carolina and Georgia have recorded new daily highs for coronavirus infections on Saturday, highlighting the worsening spread of the virus in several southern and western states, which is prompting some of them to roll back their reopening plans.

Brazil recorded 38,693 new cases of coronavirus and 1,109 additional deaths in one day over the weekend The country has now registered 1,319,274 total confirmed cases of the virus and 57,149 deaths.

A growing number of Covid-19 infections among people under 35 years of age is a “worrying trend,” Ireland’s chief medical officer said on Saturday as the country reported the highest number of new infections for two weeks.  There have now been 25,437 confirmed infections in the country and 1,734 people have died.

 The Czech Republic (Czechia) has registered the biggest spike in Covid-19 cases in more than two months, with several centres where the disease is spreading fast, the health ministry said Saturday.  A total of 11,306 cases have been reported so far and 347 lives have been lost.

In Switzerland, Zurich’s health authority has ordered a 10-day quarantine for almost 300 guests and staff of a nightclub after a reveller tested positive for coronavirus and had been proven to have infected others.  There have been 31,617 confirmed infections in the country and 1,962 people have lost their lives to COVID-19

The governor of Bethlehem announced Saturday the temporary closure of the Palestinian city to contain the spread of coronavirus after a sharp rise in infections in the occupied West Bank. The state of Palestine has reported 1,854 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4 people have died.

Mainland China on Sunday reported 17 new coronavirus cases, mostly in the Chinese capital of Beijing. The National Health Commission said 17 new infections were confirmed on Saturday, down from 21 a day earlier. In Beijing, 14 new confirmed cases were reported, down from 17 a day earlier.

South Korea has confirmed 62 additional cases of the coronavirus over a 24-hour period as the Asian country continues to face new clusters of infections amid eased social distancing rules. The additional cases reported on Sunday took the country’s total to 12,715, with 282 deaths.  South Korea is to begin allowing a limited number of spectators at sports games as it seeks to return to normal after months of strict social distancing measures introduced to combat coronavirus.

Sri Lanka officially lifted its nationwide lockdown on Sunday, after a selective curfew was reimposed a month ago during a surge in coronavirus infections. The island nation imposed the lockdown on March 20 and lifted it gradually over the past two months, although a nighttime curfew remained in place. A total of 2,034 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed thus far and 11 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  Currently, there are 362 active cases and 1 is described as serious or critical.

In England, Leicester may be the first city in the UK to face a localised lockdown following a rise in Covid-19 cases, Home Secretary Priti Patel has confirmed. Ms Patel said that it is correct that the government is considering the move. There have been flare-ups across the country in recent weeks, in particular the last three or four weeks.  She also added “There will be support going into Leicester and in fact the Health Secretary (Matthew Hancock) was in touch with many of us over the weekend explaining some of the measures, the support on testing, resources that will go into the local authority as well. With local flare-ups it is right we have a localised solution in terms of infection control, social distancing, testing and many of the tools actually within the Public Health England space which will come together to control the virus, to stop the spread so obviously we can get on top of the infection.” Approximately 25% of Leicester’s 2,494 COVID-19 cases were reported in the 2 weeks before 16 June.

Scotland has recorded the 3rd day with zero COVID-19 deaths after the release of figures on Sunday. The total number of people who have died remains at 2,482, unchanged from Friday. Eight more people tested positive for the virus and 452 people are in Scottish hospitals with confirmed or suspected cases.There were five people in intensive care with confirmed cases of Covid-19 and eight with suspected cases.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted her response to the figures on Sunday afternoon, saying it was vital that people continued to follow the rules as the figures improved.

For the first time in months, Spain’s hardest-hit region Madrid has registered zero deaths from the coronavirus. Across Spain 28,341 lives have been claimed by the virus, with more than 8,400 in Madrid, according to the health ministry. The figure, however, includes only those who tested positive, meaning that the thousands of excess deaths recorded in the same time period are not counted, even when the cause of death is suspected to be Covid-19.

In Iran, mask wearing will be mandatory in certain areas as of next week and will remain compulsory until July 22, President Hassan Rouhani announced on Sunday. The Islamic republic has refrained from enforcing full lockdowns to stop the spread of Covid-19, and the use of masks and protective equipment has been optional in most areas. Mask-wearing would be obligatory in covered spaces where there are gatherings.

n the Australian state of Victoria, authorities are considering roadblocks and checkpoints after cases passed 2,000. The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, says the state will consider potential stay-at-home orders and suburban lockdowns to contain several coronavirus clusters in Melbourne, after another 49 cases of coronavirus were detected on Saturday, the highest daily number since April, all people coming from overseas. The state’s total is 2,028. Victoria is conducting a testing blitz in an attempt to prevent further spread of the virus. About 40,000 people have been tested since Friday.

 

In New South Wales, Australia 3 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed , the state health department reported in a statement, bringing the total number of cases in NSW to 3,177. Two of the cases are travellers in hotel quarantine, and the third case is an overseas cargo airline crew member. The crew member’s close contacts have been identified, the statement notes, and “further investigations are underway.”

The state of Western Australia has confirmed 1 new case of coronavirus, the health department announced on Sunday, to bring the state total to 609. The case is a traveller in hotel quarantine.

Queensland, Australia recorded zero new cases overnight (Saturday to Sunday) but the government will wait until Tuesday to announce any easing of restrictions. Queenslanders will have to wait 48 hours to know when and how Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted after the transport minister stonewalled questions about borders reopening.

Total number of cases worldwide – 10,146,684

Total number of deaths worldwide – 502,471

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 5,498,653

Active cases:

4,145,560 active cases,

4,087,610 in mild condition,

57,950 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 6,001,124

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.bbc.com

 

 

Saturday 27 June 2020

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is a drop in the ocean but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop” (Mother Teresa)

In Ireland, all remaining businesses will be able to reopen on Monday as the country takes a major step out of lockdown. Face masks will be made mandatory on public transport, ministers said, as commuter numbers return to normal. Air bridges will be established between countries with similarly low infection rates from 9 July, enabling people to travel without undergoing quarantine.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar hailed progress in suppressing the virus and said: “We have been able to accelerate the road map.” The number congregating indoors will be restricted to 50, the government said.

Up to 200 will be able to gather outdoors using physical distancing while families will have greater ability to meet up. Health minister Simon Harris added: “It is going to be a week of intense emotions, intense support and intense joy.”  Ireland has reported 25,405 cases of coronavirus and 1,727 people have lost their lives. There are 314 active cases and 9 people are described as being in a serious or critical condition.

Cases continue to rise in the USA, with Texas announcing it is halting its reopening after an alarming rise in infections and hospitalisations. US government experts have said they believe more than 20 million Americans could have contracted the coronavirus, 10 times more than official counts. For a second consecutive day this week, Florida reported more than 5,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19. In total, the state has reported more than 114,018 confirmed cases and at least 3,327 coronavirus-related deaths.

California has seen a 69% rise in coronavirus cases in just two days, Gavin Newsom, the governor, said recently as the state continues to battle a surge of new infections and hospitalisations.  The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in USA has reached more than 2.5 million and 126,826 lives have been lost.  California has reported 201,0004 confirmed cases and

Texas 137,152 cases. The state of New York continues to record the highest total of confirmed cases at 414,274 and 31,373 lives lost.

In Australia, supermarkets have reintroduced national rationing of essential groceries after panic buying resumed in some states, provoked by a rise in cases in Victoria.

The southern state reported its 10th straight day of new cases in double digits on Friday. Thirty new cases were reported after what was called a “suburban testing blitz” in hotspot suburbs, involving ambulances and mobile test centres.  Despite the spike in infections, Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison said on Friday he would stick with plans to further ease coronavirus restrictions. “There will be outbreaks and what matters is that we continue to build our capability to deal with those outbreaks.”

South Korea reported 39 new cases, mostly from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area where officials have been struggling to stem transmissions amid increased public activity and eased attitudes on social distancing. South Korea was considered an anti-virus success story after containing an outbreak during February and March surrounding the southeastern city of Daegu. However, the country has been seeing an uptick in new infections since authorities moved to ease social distancing guidelines and reopen schools starting in May.

Ukraine on Friday reported a record daily increase in coronavirus cases as authorities warned lockdowns may have to be reimposed if people continued to flout restrictions. Health authorities recorded 1,109 new coronavirus infections in the previous 24 hours, bringing Ukraine’s total of confirmed cases to 41,117.  The number of people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 is 1,086.  People have ceased to comply with restrictions,said the prime minister, Denys Shmygal. “If we want to preserve the economy and not quarantine the country, the only way is to adhere to restrictions together.

 

Indonesia reported 1,240 new coronavirus infections on Friday, taking the total number of cases to 51,427. There were 63 more deaths recorded, with the number of lives lost now at 2,683, according to official figures. The death toll from Covid-19 in Indonesia is the highest in east Asia, outside of China.

Italy sent soldiers to restore order in a coastal town near Naples after a coronavirus outbreak at an apartment complex illegally occupied by hundreds of migrant workers caused angry confrontations with residents. The authorities announced recently that more than 40 people living at the abandoned buildings in Mondragone, 45 km from Naples, had tested positive for COVID-19, and warned the entire town could be quarantined if the outbreak proves widespread.  Many of those living at the complex are Bulgarians working as seasonal fruit pickers in the fields around the town, they have defied orders to stay at home and marched through the town in protest at what they claim is racial discrimination.

Japan recorded on Friday more than 100 new infections for the first time since May 9, hitting its highest daily total since it eased a lockdown. The total number of confirmed cases reported in the country stands at 18,110 since the outbreak began there and 968 lives have been lost.

Thailand has confirmed 4 new coronavirus cases, all of which were imported from abroad, marking 32 days without community transmission. Thailand has reported 3,162 confirmed cases of coronavirus to date and 58 people have died as a result of COVID-19.

Yesterday, Russia reported new coronavirus cases, the first daily rise below 7,000 since late April, taking its nationwide tally of infections to 620,794. There are currently 227,861 active cases in Russia and 2,300 of those are described as serious or critical.

In Argentina doctors are predicting coronavirus cases will peak in coming weeks as the southern hemisphere winter sets in, straining hospital intensive care units after confirmed cases reached 52,457. There are currently 36,519 active cases in the country and 457 people are described as serious or critically ill.  To date, 1,150 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.

  • Total number of cases worldwide – 9,747,756
  • Total number of deaths worldwide – 492,552
  • Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 5,276,705

Active cases:

  • 3,978,499 active cases,
  • 3,921,027 in mild condition,
  • 57,472 described as serious or critical.
  • Closed cases –  5,769,257

Information and statistics from

  • www.who.int
  • www.worldometers.info
  • www.theguardian.com
  • www.edition.cnn.com

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday 25th June by Louise Birch

“ The parachute has slowed our descent, let’s ditch the parachute”

 No apologies for using the above analogy again, it is becoming increasingly obvious that as the world reopens for business, the number of coronavirus cases is on the increase.

Reports from all over the world indicate that we must remain cautious and vigilant but who’s responsibility is it? Do we, as citizens, take some responsibility by being more pro-active and following the guidance or do we blame our governments for relaxing the restrictions, many of them having done so under intense economic pressures?  That’s surely a question for a socially distanced healthy debate.

Starting with news from the World Health Organisation. The regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, has told reporters that Europe has seen a surge of Covid-19 cases since countries began easing restrictions. Last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly cases for the first time in months,he said, adding that more than two dozen countries in Europe had recorded resurgences of the deadly virus. Thirty countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks.

In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that, if left unchecked, will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe. Although Hans Kluge did not identify the countries or provide specific numbers, both Germany and Portugal have reimposed restrictions in certain areas after further outbreaks of coronavirus.

In France, the Eiffel Tower welcomed back visitors yesterday after the coronavirus outbreak forced the Paris landmark into its longest period of shutdown since the second world war. Strict hygiene and safety measures have been put in place for the reopening.

Visitors can access the 324-metre high (1,062ft) tower only via staircases until early July, with elevators off-limits for the time being because of safety considerations. They are not allowed to go any higher than the second floor and anyone over the age of 11 is required to wear a face covering. Managers say they hope to get operations fully back to normal later in the summer.

In The Netherlands brothels can reopen on 1 July after being shut for more than three months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government announced recently

The authorisation applies to “all work involving (physical) contact” Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a news conference. The government had initially targeted 1 September for the reopening of brothels. As with hairdressers and masseurs, which have already been allowed to resume operations, sex workers are encouraged to verify that their clients do not have Covid-19 symptoms.

“Everyone is very happy with the news that we can finally reopen,” said Felicia Anna, president of the union of sex workers in Amsterdam’s red light district adding “We have no more money,” The government also announced that football stadiums can once again open their doors to fans but only under conditions including a mandatory 1.5 metre (five feet) distance between occupied seats. The rule would leave stadiums operating at about one-third capacity. The Netherlands has had 49,804 reported Covid-19 infections and 6,097 people have died.

 

China has reported 19 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus amid mass testing in Beijing, where a recent outbreak appears to have been brought under control.

Of the new cases reported Thursday, 13 were in Beijing and one in the neighbouring province of Hebei. Officials say the other five were brought by Chinese travellers from outside the country.  China has reported 4,634 deaths among 83,4449 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. This month’s outbreak in Beijing saw 249 people infected, most of them with links to the city’s biggest wholesale market. Since then, 3 million test samples have been taken from 2.43 million people in the city.

There are three new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand; all returning travellers who were diagnosed during routine testing of travellers.  These are the latest in a slow trickle of cases arriving into the previously Covid-free country as New Zealanders return from other coronavirus hotspots abroad. There are 13 active cases in the country, all returning travellers. Two women arriving from Britain who were mistakenly allowed out of quarantine for returning travellers without being tested have now recovered from the virus.

Ashley Bloomfield
Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

“There is no community transmission,” said Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s top health official, who spoke to reporters in Wellington. Officials are attempting to prove this through testing: 10,436 Covid-19 tests were taken in the country of 5m people on Wednesday alone, the most tests taken in one day in New Zealand since the start of the pandemic.  Only New Zealanders, their families, and essential workers may enter the country; they must spend two weeks in government-run quarantine and are tested twice. New Zealand has recorded confirmed 1,519 cases of Covid-19 and 22 deaths, widely attributed to a swift, early lockdown of the country, which has now lifted except for border control measures.

 

The USA has recorded a one-day total of 34,700 new Covid-19 cases, the highest level since late April, when the number peaked at 36,400, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University. A coronavirus resurgence is wiping out two months of progress in the US and sending infections to dire new levels in southern and western states.

Administrators and health experts warned recently that politicians and a public that, in many cases, is tired of being cooped up, are letting a disaster unfold.  Experts urged Americans to continue following guidelines to stop the spread of coronavirus as, in total, seven states reported record-high hospitalisations and 19 others saw new cases rising compared to last week.

In Israel,  Sigal Sadetzky, the head of public health services at the country’s health ministry has said “We may have opened too quickly. The public is not disciplined or wearing masks.”  Israel is experiencing an alarming surge in new coronavirus cases which has prompted the government to approve reimposing a controversial tracking system administered by the country’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet.

Cases in the country have rocketed again after Israel eased restrictions at the end of May, a move that coincided with the Shavuot holiday and saw crowded beaches on both the Mediterranean and around the Sea of Galilee.  As of Thursday morning, the number of coronavirus cases had hit 22,139 since the beginning of the outbreak, currently there re 5,870 active cases with 49 in serious condition and 500 new cases being reported every day.

Despite successfully containing its coronavirus outbreak, Vietnam has no plans to open up to international tourists yet, the country’s prime minister said recently. Thanks to an aggressive, targeted testing programme and a centralised quarantine system, Vietnam has contained infections numbers to 352 cases, most of whom have recovered. There have been no reported deaths. “There is no story of rushing to open the doors,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in a statement posted to the government website.

Vietnam is not yet ready to welcome back international tourists. Foreign experts, high level workers and investors into Vietnam are welcomed but will be closely monitored.

Highly skilled foreign experts such as engineers have been allowed to enter Vietnam on special flights and quarantine at hotels in a bid to keep the economy afloat throughout the global pandemic. Phuc said the frequency of such flights should be increased. For over two months, Vietnam has reported no community transmission of the coronavirus. In early June, the country said it was planning to resume flights to some virus-free countries that had registered no cases of coronavirus for 30 days or more.

Other Southeast Asian countries with slowing infections are considering travel bubble arrangements in the months ahead, such as Malaysia and Thailand, to include countries such as China, South Korea and Japan.

Although the geographic region of Latin America has become the new epicentre of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, two small countries, Uruguay and Paraguay, have bucked the regional trend and can claim a near total victory against the virus.

Though they are strangely dissimilar, Uruguay is a progressive enclave with the lowest poverty index in Latin America, while Paraguay has poverty estimates of 30-50% and is reportedly rife with corruption, both nations have kept their coronavirus death rates surprisingly low. There have been just 13 deaths in Paraguay and only 26 in Uruguay at the time of writing despite the porous land borders both countries share with Brazil, where the pandemic has claimed 53,895 lives so far.

  • Total number of cases worldwide – 9,566,124
  • Total number of deaths worldwide – 485,696
  • Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 5,206,957

Active cases:

  • 3,873,524 active cases,
  • 3,815,280 in mild condition,
  • 58,244 described as serious or critical.
  • Closed cases –  5,692,600

Information and statistics from

  • www.who.int
  • www.worldometers.info
  • www.theguardian.com
  • www.reuters.com

 

Thursday 25th June by Louise Birch

“The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, love and understanding companionship” (Amelia Earhart)

More than 200 pupils and staff who returned to a boarding school in South Africa’s impoverished Eastern Cape province this month have tested positive for coronavirus.

Eastern Cape accounts for around 15% of South Africa’s 106,108, making it the country’s third-worst affected province. The province’s health department announced the outbreak at Makaula Senior Secondary School in the rural town of KwaBhaca, where 204 students and staff members were found infected with the virus. Initially, 24 learners tested positive last week with 180 others, which include hostel assistants, testing positive this week, all have been placed in isolation. National education department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said they were among 283 final-year students as well as 47 teachers and 42 support staff at the school. The 12th-grade students, as well as their middle school counterparts in the seventh grade, were the only ones allowed to return to the school because they are to take their final exams this year.

The number of lives lost in Turkey due to coronavirus has risen above 5,000 and the number of infections have exceeded 190,000, health minister Fahrettin Koca has said.

This makes Turkey the 12th most affected country. The nation of over 84 million has removed most restrictions, reopened restaurants and resumed mass prayers but officials have warned against complacency. Turkey’s daily infections have risen in recent weeks to over a thousand, and authorities have made face masks mandatory in public in several cities including Istanbul. “For a more normal life we must reduce the number of infections by following measures,” the health minster said.

A state of emergency in Bulgaria will be extended until 15 July after a jump in coronavirus cases. Bulgaria began to relax restrictions to stop the spread of the virus earlier this month, but last week it reported 606 new coronavirus cases, its highest weekly rise since the beginning of the pandemic. On Wednesday, 130 new cases were reported, bringing the total to date to 4,114, with 208 lives lost. The latest jump prompted decision by the health minister to reimpose mandatory mask wearing at all indoor public spaces, including trains and buses. “We have an increase of the intensity of the epidemic and an increase of coronavirus spread,”  Kiril Ananiev told a government meeting. There are a total of 1,689 active cases in the country and 13 of those are described as serious or critical.

A person has died in the state of Victoria, Australia, in the first coronavirus-related death in more than a month. Australia’s total death toll from the virus now stands at 103 and there have been 7,521 confirmed cases.  There are 503 active cases and 3 of those are described as serious or critical.  The news of the death came as Victoria grappled with a spike in cases in the past week, reporting double-digit rises in new cases every day for more than one week. Twenty new cases of the virus were announced by Dr Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer for Victoria, on Wednesday. The new cases include three staff members who tested positive at Hampstead dental clinic in Maidstone, 8km north-west from Melbourne city. There are now 241 cases that have been identified since the epidemic began in Victoria that indicate community transmission, an increase of eight since yesterday.

The number of people who have died from coronavirus in Latin America has surpassed 100,000 , according to official sources.  In recent weeks Latin America has emerged as the epicentre of the pandemic, with a spike in cases and deaths even as the tide of infection recedes elsewhere on the planet.  The number of confirmed infections in the region stands at 2.2 million, more than double the figures from a month ago.

Mexico announced its highest one day total for new infections registering 6,288 and has been the worse hit country in that geographic region after Brazil which reported 39,436 new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours preceding this report.

The virus also appears to be on the rise in Central America, where Guatemala recently recorded more than 700 new infections for the first time. An additional 35 deaths were registered in Guatemala, taking the total to 582. The country has recorded a total of 14,540 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the outbreak reached there. There are currently 11,061 active cases in the country and 5 of those are described as serious or critical.

Seven US states have reported their highest coronavirus patient admissions in the pandemic so far, as cases surge in the US following the easing of restrictions. Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, which also confirmed a record daily case increase on Tuesday, each admitted record numbers of infected people being hospitalised.

Israeli and Palestinian authorities have brought back some coronavirus restrictions after the number of new cases jumped in what officials fear could herald a “second wave” of infections.  A partial lockdown went into effect on Wednesday in a town in central Israel and several neighbourhoods in the city of Tiberias where infection rates were particularly high. The Palestinian Authority put the West Bank city of Hebron on lockdown as well.

Israel was one of the first countries to close its borders and impose restrictions when the global pandemic first emerged and the Palestinians quickly followed suit.  The campaign took a major economic toll, but it worked. An initial spike of hundreds of daily cases dropped to single digits. Israel has reported 308 fatalities, much less than many developed countries, and three people have died from the virus in the Palestinian territories.  The restrictions have since been gradually eased in a bid to revive businesses that had closed, however infection numbers have slowly risen.

Austria has issued a warning against travel to the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia after a coronavirus outbreak at a meatpacking plant there, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Wednesday. The move puts the German state in the same category as the Italian region of Lombardy, the epicentre of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, which was one of the worst in Europe.

Ukraine is opening more of its hospitals to coronavirus cases as the ones initially chosen to accept patients no longer have enough beds to cope with a surge in infections, the health minister has said. The daily rise of coronavirus cases hit a new high of 940 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 39,014, with 1,051 lives lost. Most new cases were registered in west Ukraine and the capital. At the start of the epidemic, Ukraine divided hospitals into categories, with the best prepared institutions taking patients in the first wave. Second-line hospitals would accept cases once the other institutions had no more places. Officials say some citizens have not stuck closely enough to guidance on social distancing and other precautions to prevent the virus spreading, leading to a surge in cases.

India has recorded its highest one-day rise in new coronavirus cases, with 15,968 infections detected in the past 24 hours. The health ministry also reported a record 24-hour increase of 465 deaths due to Covid-19 on Wednesday, driving fatalities to 14,476.

So far, 457,656 people in India have tested positive for the virus, making it the fourth hardest-hit country by the pandemic in the world after the US, Brazil and Russia. However, the true extent of the outbreak is thought to be much wider as, like elsewhere in the world, access to testing remains limited.   Maharashtra, New Delhi and Tamil Nadu are the worst-hit states, accounting for nearly 60% of all cases in the country. New Delhi is emerging as a cause of concern for the federal government and is being criticised for its poor contact tracing and a lack of hospital beds. The government estimates it will have nearly 550,000 cases by the end of July.

Total number of cases worldwide – 9,394,257

Total number of deaths worldwide – 480,598

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 5,079,145

Active cases:

3,834,514 active cases,

3,776,497 in mild condition,

58,017 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  5,559,743

 

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 24 June 2020 by Louise Birch

“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties” ( Helen Keller)

As global coronavirus infections topped nine million on Monday, the World Health Organisation has again warned that the pandemic is accelerating. Cases are still rising around the world, especially in Latin America with Brazil now registering more than 50,000 deaths.  There are fears of new clusters in Melbourne and Lisbon as well as renewed outbreaks in Beijing and other parts of Asia.

The pandemic is still accelerating,” WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual health forum organised by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Tedros said the greatest threat facing the world was not the virus itself, which has now killed over 465,000 people and infected nine million, but “the lack of global solidarity and global leadership.We cannot defeat this pandemic with a divided world. The politicisation of the pandemic has exacerbated it.

French Guiana is battling a surge in Covid-19 cases, with the head of the French South American territory’s health authority suggesting that infections are spreading from across the border with Brazil.  The R number, which indicates how many people will be contaminated on average by an infected person, has climbed to 1.8, said Clara de Bort, head of the regional health authority.

That suggests each infected person is passing the virus on to nearly two other people on average. Speaking on France-Info radio, De Bort said French authorities were considering reimposing movement restrictions on the territory’s 300,000 people to bring the outbreak back under control. The outbreak is expected to peak in July. “The peak still hasn’t been reached,” De Bort said. “We fear that we’re only at the beginning of the upswing of the epidemic.”  French Guiana has reported 2,441 confirmed cases of coronaries and 6 people have died so far.  In a country of 298,408 people, the figures equate to 8,180 confirmed cases per 1M populous. There are currently 1,505 active cases and 14 of those are described as serious or critical.

Museums, galleries and cinemas in England will be allowed to reopen from 4 July, alongside pubs, restaurants and hairdressers, the British prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday in a decisive but potentially risky easing of lockdown measures in England. Two days later, millions of people with underlying health issues will be permitted to leave their homes and mix with others for the first time in three months.  The social distancing rule in England will be cut from 2 metres to “1-metre-plus”, in a move to help the hospitality sector reopen.

Germany has for the first time put an entire district back into a localised lockdown since restrictions were eased in early May, following an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus at a slaughterhouse. Around 360,000 people in the western city of tersloh will be affected by newly enforced social distancing measures and closures of bars, museums and swimming pools, after 1,553 employees at the Tönnies meat-processing plant tested positive for the virus. The Gütersloh outbreak has caused Germany’s “R” number to shoot up to 2.76, though the head of the country’s disease control agency said he was treating the rise as a peak rather than the sign of a second wave while the overall number of infections remained relatively low.

In the USA, officials in California have implored residents to wear face masks and keep their distance from each other, after a record number of people were hospitalised with coronavirus recently. The state has reported 5,565 lives lost to COVID-19 and 184,715 confirmed  cases, with more than 3,700 hospitalised on Sunday, surpassing the previous record of 3,547 hospitalisations set at the end of April. Health officials warned that while the spread of disease seems to have stabilised in many parts of the state, metrics in some rural regions of southern and central California are cause for concern. California is seeing a surge in new cases as malls, museums, movie theatres and other public gathering-spaces reopened across the state, with 46,735 Californian testing positive for Covid-19 over the past two weeks.

South Africa now has 101,590 confirmed infections, the highest on the continent, while the number of lives lost is approaching 2,000. Despite the figures, data shows that the mortality rate in South Africa is at 2%, while 52.6% of virus patients have recovered. The worst-hit area is Western Cape, the coastal province accounting for 1,458 of the country’s deaths and more than half of its infections.

In Thailand, schools are holding rehearsals to prepare students for classes in the coronavirus era, giving lessons in hygiene and social distancing to children as young as three ahead of next week’s return. Schools across the country have been modifying classrooms, dining halls and play areas to prepare for a phased return of students, in another step towards normalcy as the country nears one month without a domestic transmission. Bangkok’s Wichutit School has since last week been putting students through a day of drills in hand-washing, playground etiquette and forming orderly lines one metre apart.

Yesterday, the school of more than 1,600 students invited children age 3 and 4 to put on masks and face shields for mock lessons in classrooms with barriers installed on desks.  They queued for temperature checks and wash basins and were introduced to hand-cleaning techniques and a new lunchtime routine of eating behinds screens. “This is going to be something new for the kids and they’re excited. They’ve been cooperative because parents also practise the same new normal at home,” said the school’s director, Pornnicha Chatapun. “It’s normal life for them now, and they won’t feel weird about it.”

In Russia, people soaked up the sun on boat cruises on the River Moskva for the first time in three months after authorities lifted many Moscow’s last remaining restrictions aimed at halting the spread of Covid-19. Officials in the city of 12.7 million, the centre of Russia’s outbreak, say new infections have been falling from a peak in May and there were just over 1,000 on Tuesday. Russia’s number of confirmed cases, the world’s third highest, is 599,705. The city, which began rapidly relaxing an array of lockdown restrictions earlier this month, on Tuesday allowed restaurants, cafes, libraries, playgrounds and gyms to open properly and for river cruises to resume.

Egypt will reopen restaurants, cafes and places of worship from the end of the week but will keep some restrictions in place to try to limit crowding, the Prime Minister has said.

Restaurants and cafes will operate at 25% capacity and shut at 10pm from Saturday, while mosques will be open for daily praying but not for weekly Friday prayers, Mostafa Madbouly said.  Smoking shisha will remain banned in Egypt even after the partial reopening. Egypt has recorded 56,809 cases of coronavirus and 2,278 people have lost their lives. There are currently 39,398 active cases and 41 of those are classified as serous or critical.

Finland will scrap travel restrictions and quarantine for European countries such as Italy and Germany from 13 July if infection rates remain at current levels. The Finnish government will allow in travellers from European countries where infections remain at a maximum eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a period of two weeks, Finland’s minister of interior, Maria Ohisalo, said. The travel restrictions and the quarantine rule will remain in place for travellers from neighbouring Sweden.

  • Total number of cases worldwide – 9,250,059
  • Total number of deaths worldwide – 475,721
  • Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 4,983,624

Active cases:

  • 3,790,714 active cases,
  • 3,732,811 in mild condition,
  • 57,903 described as serious or critical.
  • Closed cases –  5,459,345

Information and statistics from

  • www.who.int
  • www.worldometers.info
  • www.theguardian.com
  • www.reuters.com

 

Tuesday 23 June 2020

“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power but in character and goodness. People are just people, all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness”  (Anne Frank)

In France, movie fans ventured back into cinemas yesterday for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown, helped by a new safety feature: minions placed at intervals in the seats to ensure social distancing is observed. Stuffed toy versions of the yellow,

pill-shaped characters were deployed at the MK2 cinema in the south of Paris for a showing of the 2015 movie “Minions” – a spin-off from the “Despicable Me” franchise that made them famous. The minions, dressed in their trademark goggles and dungarees, were placed strategically around the auditorium to enforce a rule that viewers leave at least one place free between them and their neighbours.

France is entering phase 3 of its progressive end of lockdown and life is returning to almost near normal. All schools for pupils aged 15 and under reopened yesterday and classes are obligatory even though there are only two weeks left until the end of the school year. Since the end of the strict lockdown on 11 May, the return to school has been voluntary and subject to regulations, including a maximum of 15 pupils per class and a minimum distance of 1 metre between each student. These have now been relaxed: pupils must remain 1 metre apart each side (but not necessarily in front or behind) and wear masks, but the whole class should be present. Some parents have questioned why pupils need to return so near to the start of the two-month summer holidays, but the education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, said “two weeks of classes is important” after pupils have been distance learning since March, with mixed success. Some measures that were initially due to come into effect on Monday were brought forward because the Covid-19 figures were better than expected, but cinemas are have reopened today and public gatherings of up to 5,000 people are set to be allowed. All Paris metro stations should also reopen.

New Zealand now has nine active cases of Covid-19 as more people start arriving into the country from overseas. Over the last two days the Ministry of Health has recorded several new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases recorded across the country to 1163.  Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told the media that the latest case was a teenage girl who had arrived from Islamabad with her family. Her only symptom was a runny nose. However, her family had so far tested negative for Covid-19.

The second case was a man in his 30s who had arrived from India with his wife. Neither of them had displayed any symptoms. Over the weekend a child under 2-years-old was also found to have Covid-19 along with their parents, after recently arriving home from India.

is battling a coronavirus outbreak in its second largest city, reportedly due to  family gatherings and birthday parties, that has resulted in large parts of Melbourne being shut down in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus just weeks after authorities lifted restrictions. Yesterday, a national health committee recommended that more than one million people remain in their suburbs amid the growing health emergency in the southern state of Victoria. The state government is now considering making the stay-home advice legally enforceable. After months of lockdown, the majority of states and territories in Australia have been able to reduce their number of active cases to nearly zero, relaxing state borders and, in the case of Queensland, reopening sports stadiums. In the New South Wales capital of Sydney, life is largely back to normal, with schools and beaches open and relatively loose restrictions on social distancing. In Western Australia, crowds of 30,000 people will be allowed to attend sporting matches from Saturday and live music venues will open their doors again.

India has reported a record number of new coronavirus cases and a death toll of more than 400 people in the past 24 hours. The 15,000 new cases brought India’s total to 427,046, behind only the United States, Brazil and Russia, according to figures reported by the federal health ministry.  Amid growing concerns that there are not enough hospital beds to cope with the rising number of cases, the Delhi government has become the first in the country to requisition its hotels. Starting this week, 25 establishments will be repurposed as emergency Covid-19 care centres for patients with mild to moderate symptoms.

A two-day lockdown in which residents will be barred from leaving their homes, except for work or urgent necessities, is to be imposed in a northern city of Kazakhstan after a rise in Covid-19 cases. The move continues a trend towards weekend restrictions in the oil-rich nation with a population of 18,770,446, where the number of coronavirus cases has more than quintupled since a nationwide lockdown was lifted in mid-May.

In The Netherlands, RIVM, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment has reported zero Covid-19 deaths for the first time since early March. It reported 69 new infections and two hospital admissions. The total number of lives lost in the country remains at 6,090 and the total number of people who have tested positive has risen to 49,658. The number of people who remain seriously or critically ill from COVID-19 is 55.

Russia has reported 7,600 new cases of the coronavirus, pushing its nationwide total to 592,280, the world’s third largest tally. The country’s coronavirus task force response said 95 people had died in the past 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 8,206, figures confirmed as accurate by the World Health Organisation.

Abu Dhabi has eased restrictions to allow movement between its cities for all residents starting today, but its media office said it would extend restrictions on entry into the emirate by non-residents. Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest member of the United Arab Emirates federation, extended a ban on entering the emirate without a permit for another week, while allowing residents to exit the emirate freely.  A total of 44,925 confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in the UAE and 302 people have lost their lives.

The coronavirus is spreading in Pakistan at one of the fastest rates in the world and overwhelmed hospitals are turning away patients, according to media reports. But the government is pushing ahead with opening up the country, trying to salvage a near collapsed economy where millions have already slid into poverty from pandemic restrictions. Further complicating the dilemma, as the government pins its main hope for stemming the virus rampage on social distancing and masks, many in the public ignore calls to use them. Millions of people crowd markets and mosques. Hardline clerics tell followers to trust that faith will protect them. Many call the virus a hoax. Even some government officials dismiss warnings, saying traffic accidents kill more people.  Pakistan has recorded 181,088 cases of coronavirus and 3,590 people have died.  There are currently 106,040 active cases in the country and 3,219 of those are described as serious or critical.

African countries have pulled together to set up a one-stop shop to give the continent a fairer chance in the international scramble for Covid-19 test kits, protective equipment and any vaccines that emerge.  Covid-19 infections were first recorded in sub-Saharan Africa in March, mostly imported from Europe and the US. On Monday, Africa had registered 310,096 confirmed  cases and more than 8,176 lives lost. South Africa alone accounted for nearly a third of the recorded infections.  The average number of tests per 1 million people was 1,669, reportedly because of a worldwide shortage of kits.

After more than 100 days of lockdown, New York City residents have been celebrating their progress in curbing the coronavirus pandemic by getting their first haircuts in months, shopping at long-closed stores, and dining at outdoor cafes. Once the epicentre of the global outbreak, New York City was the last region in the state to move into Phase 2 of reopening with restaurants and bars offering outdoor service and many shops reopening. Barber shops and hair salons welcomed customers for the first time since mid-March yesterday. At the same time, a dozen states in the South and Southwest reported significant increases in new coronavirus cases and often record increases in hospitalisations as well, a metric not affected by more testing. The number of new cases rose by a record last week in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, together home to about a third of the U.S. population. Alabama, Georgia, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming also experienced record spikes in cases.  The USA has reported 2,360,593 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 122,281 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  To date, a total of 28,532,735 tests have been conducted throughout the country which equates to 86,213 tests per 1M populous.

Total number of cases worldwide – 9,087,969

Total number of deaths worldwide – 471,401

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 4,865,550

Active cases:

3,751,018 active cases,

3,693,174 in mild condition,

54,844 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  5,336,951

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.reuters.com

 

Monday 22 June 2020

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content”  (Helen Keller)

Some of the key developments from around the world over the weekend

Brazil continues to report significant numbers of lives lost as the country’s total number of known Covid-19 fatalities reached 50,058 over the weekend. The number of confirmed cases has now been recorded 1,070,139. The rising numbers have sparked an outcry against Brazil’s far-right leader, Jair Bolsonaro, who continues to play down the coronavirus as a “bit of a cold” and is urging Brazil to get back to work, against expert advice.

The reproduction rate (R) of coronavirus in Germany has jumped to 1.79, according to reports on Saturday, far above what is needed to contain the outbreak over the longer term. The rate, published in the Robert Koch Institutes’s daily situation report, compares with a value of 1.06 on Friday. Germany has reported 191,216 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 8,961 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Reports over the weekend suggest that the state of North Rhine Westphalia of Germany may reinstate lockdown measures after more than 1,000 employees at the Tönnies meat processing plant in Rheda-Wiedenbruck tested positive for coronavirus.  One German politician has said this is the largest outbreak in the EU and the German army has been called into help

The Palestinian Authority said on Saturday it was temporarily closing the cities of Hebron and Nablus in the occupied West Bank to contain the spread of coronavirus after a sharp rise in infections.

Spain’s foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez has said that British tourists can visit the country from Sunday without facing quarantine. “We’re discussing with the UK authorities to see if they would do the same on their side. We nevertheless are doing this out of respect for the 400,000 British citizens that have a second residence in Spain and are hoping to benefit from their homes in our country”.

Although the Madrid government had previously said it was considering a two-week quarantine for UK visitors in response to Britain’s decision to require all international arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days, it announced on Saturday evening that they would be “freely” welcomed back to Spain. Travellers from the EU and Schengen area are allowed back into Spain from yesterday as the country’s three-month state of emergency ends.

From 1 July, visitors from so-called “third countries”, those outside the EU and the Schengen area, will be allowed back to Spain. Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, has urged people not to lower their guard as the country’s coronavirus state of emergency comes to an end and the borders to European visitors are reopened.

Chile’s government increased its estimated number of fatal cases to more than 7,000 on Saturday, from a previously confirmed number of 4,265.

As the number of coronavirus cases in Israel keeps growing since a number of lockdown measures have been eased, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering resuming to allow the Shin Bet secret service to track confirmed and suspected cases. There have been 20,686 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 305 people have lost their lives.  Out of 4,717 active cases, there are 43 that are described as serious or critical.

Iran is considering making it mandatory within days to wear masks in public places and covered spaces, president Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday, as the tally of confirmed coronavirus cases continued to rise above 200,000.

Greece has announced another extension of the coronavirus lockdown on its migrant camps, hours after 2,000 people protested in central Athens to mark World Refugee Day and denounce the government’s treatment of migrants.

The Philippines reported 578 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, the highest daily number so far. This includes test results that were released to patients over the past three days, according to media reports. The country has so far reported 29,400 coronavirus cases, and 1,150 deaths.

Portuguese prosecutors said on Saturday they had launched an investigation into a birthday party attended by scores of people in the town of Lagos on 7 June, which could have led to many new coronavirus infections.

Morocco has opened a field hospital after a spike in coronavirus cases. The new hospital, in eastern Morocco, will receive around 700 patients from yesterday

The country reported more than 500 cases on Friday, mainly in Kenitra, having recorded on average fewer than 100 new coronavirus infections daily since it confirmed his first case in March. There have now been 9,839 confirmed cases in the country and 213 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  With a reported population of 36,897,193, testing in Morocco has been conducted at a ratio of 14,152 tests per 1M populous.

South Korea has reported 48 new cases of Covid-19 as health authorities struggle to contain a resurgence that’s erasing some of the country’s hard-won gains against the virus. Figures released by the Korea Centres  for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday brought the national caseload to 12,421 confirmed infections including 280 lives lost, figures which have been confirmed by the World Health Organisation.

The report  said 24 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which have been the centre of the country’s outbreak since late May. Ten others were reported from the central city of Daejeon, indicating that the virus was beginning to spread more broadly, apparently as a result of increased public activity and complacency in social distancing.

Mainland China reported 26 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday, driven largely by the latest outbreak of Covid-19 in the Chinese capital. Of the new infections, 22 were in Beijing, the National Health Commission said in a statement. The city of more than 20 million people reported its first case in the latest wave on June 11. The resurgence has been linked to a wholesale food centre in the southwest of Beijing. So far, 227 people in the city have been infected in the latest outbreak.

Mainland China reported six new asymptomatic cases, those who are infected with the coronavirus but show no symptoms, down from seven a day earlier. Beijing accounted for three of the new cases. China does not count asymptomatic patients as confirmed cases and as part of the official infection tally. To date, China has 83,378 confirmed cases. According to official sources, there are 331 active cases in the country and 13 of those are described as serious or critical.

Two new Covid-19 cases have been detected in New Zealand, according to the Ministry of Health. Both cases are linked to overseas travel and were detected within quarantine facilities.

The number of daily infections of coronavirus is dropping in Afghanistan, the health ministry said, as it recorded 409 new infections. This takes the total number of confirmed cases to 28,833. The lives lost total  also rose by 11, to a total of 581. The country, which has admitted it has a lack of testing capacity, has tested 64,958 suspected patients since the outbreak began. There have been 8,764 recoveries and 19 patients out of 19,488 active cases are in critical condition. In a press conference on Sunday in Kabul, Ahmad Jawad Osmani, the country’s acting health minister, said: “The number of daily infections is dropping and if people cooperate, we can control the spread of the virus.”

Cyprus began to reopen crossing points between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides on Sunday after being shut for more than three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the two sides have different sets of regulations in place. Cyprus’s internationally recognised government, which in effect controls only the south of the island, said it would only allow those who can produce a negative test for coronavirus to cross. Turkish Cypriot authorities also made the tests a requirement, and said only certain groups of individuals could cross.  There have been 985 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cyprus and 19 people have died.  Out of 142 active cases, there are 4 described as serious or critical.

Indonesia has reported 862 new coronavirus infections and 36 new deaths, a health ministry official has said. This takes the total number of cases to 45,891, and increases the number of lives lost to 2,465. This is the highest coronavirus death toll in East Asia, outside of China.  There are currently 25,022 active cases in the country where the recorded population is 273,437,170.

  • Total number of cases worldwide – 8,944,481
  • Total number of deaths worldwide – 467,282
  • Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 4,757,885

Active cases

  • 3,719,314 active cases,
  • 3,664,739 in mild condition,
  • 54,575 described as serious or critical.
  • Closed cases –  5,225,167

Information and statistics from

  • www.who.int
  • www.worldometers.info
  • www.theguardian.com
  • www.reuters.com

Sunday 21 June 2020

“I want to congratulate all the men out there who are working diligently to be good fathers, whether they are stepfathers, biological fathers or spiritual fathers”  (T D Jakes)

Happy Fathers Day (UK)!

Let’s start Sunday with a stunning sunrise taken by a very good friend of mine.  He lives in Nuneaton, United Kingdom.  Taken at 0500hrs Saturday 20 June. Thank you Neil Rice for allowing me to share with Safe Communities Portugal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to stay with the theme of photographs today, you may recall some weeks ago I featured some window art on Instagram from around the world.  Here are some more examples and I hope you enjoy the artistry.

This one is by @runaway_antelope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are by @zuzi11_ from

British Columbia Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From @richairbrush

Sacramento, California

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This beautiful image is from Portland, Oregon

@leelamariel_art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit to @this_travelling_family Jerusalem

for this lovely rainbow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful birds all the way from Michigan @brushmonkeys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 20 June 2020

“Respect is one of life’s greatest treasures. I mean, what does it all add up to if you don’t have that?”  (Marilyn Monroe)

Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

All non-essential shops in Wales (UK) will be able to reopen from Monday so long as physical distancing can take place, as part of the devolved government’s cautious easing of lockdown restrictions. But the administration is not expected to change its guidance that people should not travel more than five miles. The devolved government will review the requirement to stay local by 6 July.

At the daily Welsh government press conference, the health minister Vaughan Gething said he did not want to see a repeat of scenes in England where crowds of people were pictured standing close together outside stores when high streets reopened “in complete breach of what social distancing guidance is supposed to deliver. I don’t want to see workers put at risk, I don’t want to see shoppers put at risk.” First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the “R” rate in Wales continues to be below 1 and the number of deaths reported every day is at the lowest point since lockdown began.

Non-essential shops in England and Northern Ireland have reopened while the Scottish government have announced that all shops would be allowed to reopen from 29 June. The approach from the Welsh government has been to announce one major change in each of the regular three-week review periods and then carefully study the impact. Unlike in England, where shops have been trading since Monday, physical distancing is written into law in Wales, and compels all employers to make provisions for their workers to keep 2 metres apart.

A total of 2,470 people have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, Nicola Sturgeon said. Speaking at the Scottish government’s virtual coronavirus briefing, the first minister said 18,104 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 27 from 18,077 the previous day. There are 904 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a decrease of 25 in 24 hours. Of these patients, 19 were in intensive care, down by four.

The United Kingdom’s chief medical officers have agreed that the Covid-19 threat level should be lowered one notch to “epidemic is in general circulation” from “transmission is high or rising exponentially.  In a statement the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said:

“There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues. It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, localised outbreaks are likely to occur.”

In New York plans have been announced to reopen hairdressers, shops and outdoor dining spaces. The city will begin phase two of reopening on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said recently. Offices, in-store retail, outdoor dining, hair salons and barbershops are among the businesses allowed to reopen their doors during phase two.  The state of New York has reported 408,426 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 31,092 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Tokyo lifted all remaining restrictions on businesses on Friday, although officials urged caution over a possible second wave of the coronavirus. The measure, the final phase of a three-step easing of preventive measures in the Japanese capital, means live music venues, nightclubs and similar establishments where it is difficult to avoid the “three Cs” (closed spaces, crowded places and close contact) will be allowed to reopen with the blessing of local authorities.

Many had remained open during the pandemic because Japan is legally unable to force businesses to shut down, even during a state of emergency. Restaurants will no longer be required to close at 10pm.  Restrictions have been eased despite a recent rise in cases in Tokyo, with the capital recording more than 130 new infections so far this week. That included 48 on Monday alone, the highest daily number since 5 May.  However, a significant number of those cases have been traced to host clubs and similar establishments in the Kabukicho entertainment district, where employees are being encouraged to undergo testing.

People in Singapore reunited with lovers and friends on Friday as the city-state lifted strict curbs on socialising, shopping and dining out after more than two months of lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. Jerry, 22, and his girlfriend, who had been apart for weeks, queued for bubble tea in a reopened neighbourhood mall at mid-morning. “We came early. We wanted to avoid the crowds,” said Jerry, adding that the couple planned to spend the rest of the day at his home chilling out and catching up.

A nearby coffee shop serving kaya toast, or bread slathered with coconut jam and served with runny eggs, was full of masked patrons who had scanned QR codes on their telephones before entering, to help with contact tracing. Some restaurants set up plastic screens between tables while retailers used yellow tape to keep people apart in long queues that formed outside their shops.

Many residents have been forbidden from mixing with those outside their families since early April under measures to contain infections that have reached 41,615.  There are currently 8,877 active cases in Singapore and 2 of those are described as serious or critical.

The Czech Republic (Czechia) reported its biggest one-day jump in new coronavirus cases in two months on Friday, with the daily rise exceeding 100 for only the third time since mid-April. The number of new cases was 118 on Thursday, the Health Ministry said, the largest daily rise since April 21. The central European country has since May been relaxing rules to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The country had reported 10,283 cases as of Friday morning, of which 7,446 are reported to have recovered. 334 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  There are currently 2,503 active cases in the country and 9 of those are described as serious or critical.  According to health officials, the country has two hot spots in Prague and the eastern mining region of Karvina.

Yoga Balaji

In India, officials have reimposed a lockdown in the southern city of Chennai and three neighbouring districts. According to reports, only essential services and neighbourhood grocery shops will be permitted to function under the 12-day lockdown, set to end on 30 June. Chennai is India’s sixth-largest city and the capital of Tamil Nadu state.

It has more than 37,000 of Tamil Nadu’s confirmed 50,000 infections, making it one of India’s largest hotspots. With just over 600 deaths in total, the state has a relatively low mortality rate but its death toll is being reviewed after reports suggested that at least 200 deaths in Chennai were not included in the official tally. It is the only city to reimpose a lockdown to curb the rise in infections. India has the fourth-highest caseload in the world, with 382,281confirmed cases of the disease. According to official figures, 12,615 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Denmark has said it will not allow entry to travellers from Portugal despite opening up to most other European nations from 27 June.  “Naturally, if the current situation doesn’t change, Portugal reserves the right to apply the principle of reciprocity,” the Danish ministry said in a statement.

Scanpix Denmark/Reuters

Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Lithuania have already placed conditions on re-entry of travellers from Portugal such as quarantine, testing and self-isolation.

Portugal has a relatively high testing rate in Europe, at over 101,000 tests per million inhabitants. The number of coronavirus deaths and infections are far lower than in neighbouring Spain, even considering its smaller population.

On Friday, the health ministry in Spain updated the country’s Covid-19 lives lost total to 28,313 after leaving the figure frozen at 27,136 for almost two weeks while it checked and analysed the data. The government had been widely criticised for “pausing” the death figures on 7 June, but had defended the move on the grounds that it needed to “review the information on deaths” and establish the date of death, rather than when the death was reported.

Statistics on infections and deaths are collected by each of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions and then given to the central government in Madrid. Towards the end of May, the health ministry changed its methods for collecting data on cases and deaths, leading to a sharp drop in daily cases and some days when no deaths were reported, despite regional governments reporting fatalities over the same period.  There have been a total of 292,348 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Spain.  Currently, 617 people are described as being in a serious or critical cases. Testing in Spain has been carried out at a ratio of 103,232 tests per 1M populous.

  • Total number of cases worldwide – 8,614,984
  • Total number of deaths worldwide – 457,029
  • Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 4,562,342

Active cases:

  • 3,595,613 active cases,
  • 3,540,887 in mild condition,
  • 54,726 described as serious or critical.
  • Closed cases –  5,019,371

Information and statistics from

  • www.who.int
  • www.worldometers.info
  • www.theguardian.com
  • www.reuters.com

 

Friday 19th June 2020 by Louise Birch

“ I’ve never claimed to be a great singer but I’ve always given my best, I’ve loved what I’ve done and had a very good life” ( Dame Vera Lynn –  20th March 1917 – 18 June 2020)

Rest in Peace. We’ll meet again.

 

Argentinas President Alberto Fernández has gone into voluntary isolation amid growing concerns over a surge of coronavirus infections, including several cases among the country’s political elite. The decision to quarantine the president – whose popularity is riding high on his no-nonsense response to the pandemic – was taken due to the “significant increase in the circulation of the virus,” presidential doctor Federico Saavedra said. Until now, Argentina’s strong coronavirus lockdown, had been a standout success in the containment of the pandemic that is ripping through its South American neighbours Brazil and Chile. That may start changing after Argentina’s reported cases more than quadrupled in the last month following the gradual lockdown relaxation that began on 10 May.  There have been 34,159 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Argentina and 886 people have lost their lives.  Over 22,000 cases are still active and 274 of those are classified as serious or critical.

In Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernández announced this week that he and his wife had tested positive for the virus. Just hours later he was hospitalised after doctors determined he had pneumonia. From March to 7 June, Honduras confirmed 6,327 coronavirus infections. In the 11 days since, it added 3,329 more bringing the total to 9,656 at the time of writing, a surge that has come after the government began a gradual reactivation of the economy. Currently there are 8,251 active cases in the country and 13 of those are described as serious or critical.

Peru has now reported 240,908 cases of coronavirus, surpassing hard-hit Italy (237,828), even as the pace of infections has begun to moderate in the South American nation.

Peru moved quickly to lock down its citizens as the pandemic took hold in early March. However cases exploded in May, reaching a peak of more than 8,000 per day late in the month. More than 7,000 Peruvians have died from the disease. Peru has the second highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Latin America, behind Brazil, and the seventh highest globally.  There are currently 105,029 active cases in the country and 1,111 of those are considered serious or critical. A nation lockdown in the country has been extended until 30 June.

Germany will ban large events until at least the end of October, it has been confirmed.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel recently met the premiers of the country’s 16 states and they all agreed to extend the ban on big gatherings, such as festivals and fairs, to avoid another wave of Covid-19 infections.  In Germany’s western state of North Rhein Westphalia, around 7,000 people have been placed in quarantine and schools and kindergartens have been closed after an outbreak of coronavirus. The spread is believed to have come from Tönnies, a meat processing plant in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, where there have been 657 confirmed cases of the virus. Germany has reported 189,027 confirmed coronavirus infections since the outbreak began in the country and 8,918 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  Testing in the country has been conducted at a ratio of 56,033 tests per 1M populous.

Kazakhstan has announced a tightening of restrictions for this coming weekend amid fears that the coronavirus outbreak is worsening.  Shopping malls, markets and parks will be closed in big cities on 20-21 June and additional hospital beds will be made available for Covid-19 patients, the government said. It also ordered all provinces to broaden testing for the disease. The spread of the virus has accelerated in the nation since it ended a nationwide lockdown last month. Kazakhstan had confirmed 15,877 cases and 97 people have lost their lives. The number of confirmed cases has risen from about 5,000 at the end of its lockdown.  The confirmed population is the country is 18,767,992, testing has been conducted at a ratio of 66,024 tests per 1M populous.

 Indonesia reported 1,331 new coronavirus infections yesterday, the biggest daily increase in the country since the outbreak started locally, taking its total number of cases to 42,762. Another 63 people have lost their lives, the total number of lives lost now stands at 2,339, the highest coronavirus death toll in east Asia outside of China. Indonesia recently overtook Singapore with the largest number of Covid-19 cases in south-east Asia.

Vietnam has reported seven new coronavirus infections, all among Vietnamese citizens held in quarantine upon their arrival from Kuwait. The Southeast Asian country has been 63 days without a domestically transmitted infection due to successful programmes to contain the virus. Vietnam has registered no deaths and a total 342 cases, about 90% of which have recovered.

Beijing has brought its latest coronavirus outbreak under control, a Chinese medical expert said on Thursday, although the capital can still expect sporadic new cases.

The city has recorded 158 infections since confirming the first on 11 June in its worst outbreak since early February, which has been traced to the sprawling wholesale food centre of Xinfadi in the south-west of the city.  Despite just a few cases compared to numbers outside China, authorities have acted quickly to curb contagion risks in the capital, which had recently won praise for its tough countermeasures. Just a few days after the first case, the city returned to a level two alert, the second-highest in a four-tier virus emergency response system, leading to new curbs on residents’ movements.

One more case has been confirmed in New Zealand after two women who had travelled to the UK tested positive earlier this week. More reports have emerged in New Zealand of people leaving isolation without being tested and going on to meet friends, placing government officials under increasing scrutiny over the rigour of their Covid-19 quarantine rules. Police revealed that six people absconded from managed isolation after being granted compassionate leave from Covid-19 quarantine to attend a funeral in Hamilton.

Thailand reported six new coronavirus infections yesterday and no new deaths, bringing its total to 3,141 confirmed cases, of which 58 were fatalities. The new cases were quarantined Thais returning from Saudi Arabia and India. Thailand has eased many of its restrictions and has recorded no new local transmissions for 24 days in a row, while 2,997 patients have recovered.

On Thursday, Iran announced a further 87 people have lost their lives to COVID-19  as authorities moved to tighten measures to stop its spread in some of the country’s worst-hit provinces.  The number of lives lost in the country is now 9,272. The number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus is 197,647 since the outbreak emerged in the country almost four months ago. Five of Iran’s 31 provinces – Bushehr, East Azerbaijan, Hormozgan, Kermanshah and Khuzestan – were currently “red”, the highest level on the country’s colour-coded risk scale.

Total number of cases worldwide – 8,475,824

Total number of deaths worldwide – 452,051

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 4,443,974

Active cases:

3,579,801 active cases,

3,525,333 in mild condition,

54,468 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  4,895,990

 

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.reuters.com

 

Thursday 18th June 2020 by Louise Birch

“ I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose” (Woody Allen)

The director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, has praised the UK scientists behind the first successful clinical trial of a treatment for coronavirus. Writing on Twitter, he said they had made a “lifesaving breakthrough” with their discovery that Dexamethasone, a low-cost anti-inflammatory drug, can save lives and be used immediately to treat patients. He added it was important that governments continue to track, trace and isolate every case and quarantine every contact.

Brazil has had its worst day for new confirmed cases, recording 34,918 in 24 hours to bring its overall total to 929,149 total infections.The health ministry said the country has also suffered over 1,200 deaths since the last update on Monday, bringing the number of confirmed fatalities there to 45,467. In nominal terms, Brazil is the second-worst hit country in the world in both respects.

Mexico has recently recorded its 3rd highest daily number of lives lost as 730 deaths were recorded recently. Even as Mexico announced plans for reopening churches and religious events, the country posted near-record numbers of newly confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 on Tuesday. The Health Department reported that confirmed cases rose by 4,599, the second-highest daily increase to date, to reach an accumulated total of 154,863.  There have been 18,310 lives lost in the country as a result of COVID-19.

New coronavirus infections hit record highs in six US states recently, marking a rising tide of cases for a second consecutive week as most states moved forward with reopening their economies, according to reports. Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas all reported record increases in new cases in the 24 hours preceding this report after recording all-time highs last week. Nevada also reported its highest single-day tally of new cases on Tuesday, up from a previous high on May 23. Hospitalisations are also rising or at record highs. Health officials in many states attribute the spike to businesses reopening and Memorial Day weekend gatherings in late May. Many states are also bracing for a possible increase in cases stemming from tens of thousands of people attending protests for the past three weeks.  The USA has confirmed 2,209,260 cases of coronavirus and 119,161 people have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19.  There are 1,186,963 active cases in the country and 16,695 of those are classified as serious or critical.

There has been swift action in New Zealand after the new cases involving 2 women from the UK.  PM Jacinda Ardern has appointed Assistant Chief of Defense Air Commodore Digby Webb to oversee the country’s quarantine and isolation facilities. New Zealand has cancelled exemptions from quarantine for compassionate reasons, after the two women who had flown in to see a dying relative tested positive after they had been released on compassionate grounds. Ms Ardern has described the situation as an unacceptable failure stating it should never have happened and it cannot be repeated.  The NZ government is still scrambling for answers as to why the 2 women were not tested for coronavirus before being allowed to leave the quarantine hotel.

After three months of empty squares and alleys, and gondoliers stranded on dry land, Venice is welcoming tourists back to the city.

Visitors are lining up to enter St Marks Tower and enjoying gondola rides through the canals as Italy continues to relax the lockdown.

 

Around 9% of Guinea-Bissau health workers have been infected with Covid-19. More than 170 of the country’s 2,000 health workers have contracted Covid-19, a World Health Organisation expert said recently warning that hospitals were close to being overwhelmed. The tiny West African nation’s under-equipped healthcare system has been struggling to curb the spread of coronavirus, which has infected 1,492 people.  Health authorities have raised the alarm over a lack of oxygen to treat patients.  To date, 15 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. There are 1,324 active cases in the country and 5 are described as serious or critical. With a population of 1,965,778, testing has been woeful with just 1,500 tests conducted, a ratio of 763 per 1M populous.

India’s coronavirus death toll has seen a record jump of 2,000 and reached 11,954 lives lost on Wednesday. Mumbai revised its toll up by 862 to 3,165 because of unspecified accounting “discrepancies” while New Delhi saw a record jump of more than 400 deaths, taking its total to more than 1,800. It was not immediately clear how many of the deaths had occurred in the past 24 hours and how many were from adjustments over a longer period.  A total of 356,372 confirmed cases have been reported since the outbreak started in the country. There are currently 156,700 active cases and 8,944 of those are described as serious or critical.  In India which is the world’s second most populous country, the government has recommended that three markets in each city be pedestrianised and more bicycle lanes added. City authorities must select the markets by the end of this month and begin implementing short-term measures by 1 October, according to media reports.

In Afghanistan the health ministry has detected 564 new Covid-19 infections, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 26,874. The number of deaths has risen by 13 to 504. The war-torn country, which has admitted it has a lack of testing capacity, has tested 60,298 suspected patients since the outbreak began. There have been 6,158 recoveries.  Most of the new cases (192) have been reported in the capital, Kabul. It is the country’s worst-affected area so far, with 10,924 cases and 109 deaths. Health officials in the southern province of Kandahar recorded 27 new cases out of 45 tests. The eastern province of Nangarhar recorded two deaths overnight, as 6 out of 8 tests came back positive.

Sweden will lift its advice against non-essential travel to 10 European countries from 30 June, the country’s foreign ministry has said. The countries are Greece, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, France, Iceland, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

For other European countries – including the UK as well as neighbouring Denmark, Norway and Finland – the advice against non-essential travel will still apply.

A recommendation against travel to countries outside the EU and the Schengen open-border zone, which groups most EU member states and some non-members, will be extended to 31 August, according to reports.  Sweden has taken a softer approach to fighting the coronavirus, leaving most schools, shops and restaurants open and relying on voluntary measures focused on social distancing and good hygiene. The number of deaths in Sweden has been far higher relative to the size of the population than in Denmark, Norway and Finland, where authorities have taken a stricter approach.  The number of lives lost in the country has now passed 5,000 which is far higher than its Nordic neighbours.

Taiwan is planning to relax controls on some foreign business visitors to the island from countries deemed low-risk, including New Zealand, Australia and Thailand. Despite its close proximity and trade links with China, Taiwan has contained its own outbreak to just 445 cases, including 7 deaths. Thanks to strict arrival controls and efficient trace and testing programmes it has recorded no local infections for 66 days. Media reports state that from 22 June the self-quarantine period will be reduced from 14 days to five days for short-term business visitors from 14 “low-risk” places including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Thailand. “Mid-to-low risk” countries including South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore will have their quarantine periods cut to seven days, according to the government. Visitors will need to provide proof of being tested negative for Covid-19 up to three days before departure and have no other travel history in the last two weeks.

They also have to test negative at the end of their shortened quarantine period before they can conduct business activities. Business visitors who want to stay in Taiwan for more than three months still must undergo a full 14-day quarantine.

Total number of cases worldwide – 8,310,185

Total number of deaths worldwide – 447,362

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 4,348,990

Active cases:

3,513,833 active cases,

3,459,308 in mild condition,

54,525 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  4,796,352

 

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 17 June 2020 by Louise Birch

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible” (Dalai Lama)

Some news from “Transylvania Now” to get your teeth into!

President Klaus Iohannis (Romania) announced recently that the current state of emergency in the country is likely to be extended but with fewer restrictions. There has not been a significant change in the number of new cases but it has been noted that the last easing did have a small impact which makes the authorities cautious. On June 15, shopping malls bigger than 15,000 square meters reopened, but the restaurants and playhouses inside the malls would remain closed. Starting next week, 20 people can attend indoor events, while 50 people can attend outdoor private parties (birthday parties, baptisms, etc.). Meanwhile, private kindergartens and nurseries might reopen, with school programs potentially restarting. People will be able to enjoy outdoor pools and go back to the gym as long as they respect the rules of social distancing. President Iohannis stressed that several restrictions will not be eased, such as mandatory mask-wearing when in supermarkets, in enclosed public places and when using public transportation.

He did not specifically talk about the relaxation of safety measures at border crossings, but he did say that they would treat more “mildly” those countries where the number of new cases per million inhabitants has not exceeded five in the previous 14 days. “This category does not yet include France, Spain, Italy, Belgium or Sweden,” he stated.  Romania has reported 22,165 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,427 people have lost their lives. Over 15,800 people have recovered and there are currently 4,921 active cases with 175 of those classified as serious or critical.  In a country with a population of 19,242,506, testing has been carried out at a ratio of 29,325 tests per 1M populous.

The principality of Andorra is a sovereign landlocked state on the Iberian Peninsula. Situated in the eastern Pyrenees, it is bordered by France to the north and Spain to the south.  It is the 6th smallest nation in Europe with an area of 468 square kilometres and a recorded population of 77,260.  The country reportedly adopted a unique way of easing lockdown restrictions.  Pay special attention to these conditions, they could be quiz questions in the future!  Those who live in even-numbered homes are allowed to go out on even dates, while those who reside in odd-numbered homes on all other days. Houses without a number will go out on even dates if the name of occupants begins with A-M, and odd days if it starts with N-Z.  As well as an orderly system for allowing citizens out of their homes, they also have to respect strict time slots for various activities. Running or walking fast can take place between 6 am and 9 am or from 6 pm to 9 pm. Andorrans can shop or stroll between 9 am and 11 am or between 2 pm and 7 pm. The time between 11 am and 2 pm is reserved for vulnerable and elderly populations to get out of the house.

When they leave the house, Andorrans must maintain a distance of four metres from others and wear face masks.   There have been 853 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 51 people have lost their lives. There are currently 21 active cases in Andorra and 8 of those are classified as serious or critical.

In Monaco, with the Prince’s Government having assessed the development of the health situation as satisfactory, business resumed in several sectors of the economy on 2 June, provided that barrier measures and physical distancing are implemented. This includes restaurants and bars.

In restaurants: Staff need to wear masks, but this will not apply to customers. Booking is recommended. Tables are limited to 10 people (maximum), and there must be a distance of 50cm between people and 1.5 m or a physical separator (Plexiglas) between tables. Menus must be available digitally on smartphones. Individual condiments must be provided for each table to limit physical contact. Ambient music will need to be at a moderate level so that people do not have to raise their voices, thus limiting respiratory droplets

In bars: Customers compulsorily need to be seated. Tables are limited to a maximum of 10 people. Ambient music need to be at a moderate level so that people do not have to raise their voices, thus limiting respiratory droplets.

Theatres and cinemas reopened 12 June subject to compliance with the preventative measures laid down by the government.  Groups booking together to arriving together can be placed side by side to a maximum of 10 people.

There have been 99 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Monaco and 4 people have died.

New Zealand has broken a 24-day streak of no new cases of Covid-19 in the country, recording two new infections from returning overseas travellers. Both of the new cases, which are related, have been diagnosed “as a result of recent travel from the UK,” health officials announced yesterday.  The two women who had travelled from the UK were released from government quarantine and allowed to drive 650km from Auckland to Wellington on compassionate grounds. The country’s health chief, Ashley Bloomfield, said the women had not put the public at risk, however questions will be asked about why they were not tested for Covid-19 before they set out on the trip. After both women tested positive on Monday, one reported that in hindsight, she had been experiencing symptoms but had attributed them to a pre-existing health condition

New Zealands government reported that it was free of Covid-19 last week after the last remaining sufferer from the virus recovered. However, the country’s top health official said at the time that there would inevitably be more cases as new arrivals entered the country. New Zealanders, their families, and particular essential workers, are the only people currently permitted to enter the country. They must stay in government-run quarantine for two weeks, during which time they will be tested twice for the virus.

All indoor sports and entertainment venues have been shut down in China’s capital Beijing as authorities attempt to contain a coronavirus outbreak linked to a wholesale food market, with some neighbourhoods placed under complete lockdown. Tens of thousands of people were also targeted in a massive test and trace programme, as the World Health Organisation reported that more than 100 cases had been confirmed so far. “More than 100 cases have now been confirmed,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference, adding that the origin of the cluster linked to the Xinfadi market was still unclear. “A cluster like this is a concern and it needs to be investigated and controlled – and that is exactly what the Chinese authorities are doing,” WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said.

South Korea reported 34 new Covid-19 cases yesterday. It’s the third day in a row its new infections tally has been below 40. South Korea has been one of the most successful countries in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, but recent clusters around the capital have caused concern, and a two-week period of toughened prevention measures in Seoul has been extended indefinitely.

 

Two weeks after lifting most restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19, Turkey is continuing to face a sharp increase in the number of new infections, raising fears of a second wave of the virus.  From the beginning of June cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums have been allowed to reopen and stay-at-home orders for over-65s and under-20s have been eased. Some international flights resumed on 10 June.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has made several appeals to the public to follow precautions such as social distancing and wearing masks in public places. Nationwide sample testing began on Monday with an initial 50,000 people across all 81 provinces, to determine how widely the coronavirus has managed to spread again. The daily rate has increased by more than 1,000 for the last four days. Yesterday, Turkey made the wearing of face masks mandatory in five more provinces, following an increase in Covid-19 cases. The wearing of masks is now compulsory in 42 of Turkeys 81 provinces. In total Turkey has recorded a total of 178,239 infections and 4,807 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

 

The Philippines is getting back to business after one of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns spanning nearly three months, allowing restaurants to reopen this week for dine-in customers in an effort to keep people in work. Eateries in the capital Manila that can meet government safety protocols were allowed to reopen on Monday at 30% of their seating capacity, with strict hygiene and social distancing measures essential.

Metro Manila has been under lockdown since 16 March, but restrictions have been loosened since 1 June.  The Philippines has so far reported 26,420 infections and 1,098 lives lost due to Covid-19.

 

Total number of cases worldwide – 8,150,585

Total number of deaths worldwide – 439,890

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 4,258,355

 

Active cases:

3,452,340 active cases,

3,397,715 in mild condition,

54,625 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  4,698,245

 

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.reuters.com

www.transylvanianow.com

www.covid19.mc

 

 

Tuesday 16 June 2020 by Louise Birch

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection” (Leonardo da Vinci)

Hong Kong’s Disneyland theme park announced yesterday that it will reopen on 18 June to a reduced number of visitors and with enhanced health measures after the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close in late January. The majority of the park’s shopping and dining locations will restart operations with “controlled capacity,” while social distancing measures will be implemented in queues, restaurants and other facilities. Hotel services will also resume gradually. Disinfection will be carried out more frequently and hand sanitisers will be made available for visitors, who will be required to go throughtemperature screening, wear a face mask and sign a health declaration.

While many restrictions related to the coronavirus have been gradually lifted, Hong Kong’s borders remain almost fully closed and group gatherings are limited to eight people. The city has reported only a handful of new cases recently, with its total so far standing at 1,110 infections and 4 lives lost.  There are currently 39 active cases and 3 of those are described as serious or critical.

Various stores and outdoor attractions in England reopened yesterday for the first time in nearly three months, as the government continues to ease its coronavirus lockdown.

Thousands of non-essential retailers such as bookstores and electronics outlets welcomed their first customers since closing the doors for business in late March.

Leisure sites such as drive-in cinemas, safari parks and the outdoor parts of zoos also opened, while places of worship have opened their doors again for individual prayer. All sites will need to comply with social distancing rules requiring people to keep at least two metres (six feet) apart and advising them to wear face coverings such as masks or scarves when indoors. Meanwhile, the face coverings will be compulsory on public transport across England from yesterday, with operators allowed to bar travel to those not wearing them. Streets were cleaned, footpaths widened and hand-sanitising stations installed in London’s West End commercial district ahead of the reopening.

England’s coronavirus lockdown should not be further lifted until the government’s contact-tracing system has proven to be “robust and effective”, the World Health Organisation has said after widespread criticism of the first results of the new tracking operation.

Non-essential shops in Northern Ireland reopened Friday, but Scotland and Wales have not yet decided when to follow suit, as Britain’s devolved governments lift restrictions at different speeds.

The total number of confirmed cases across Great Britain stands at 294,375. The number of lives lost to COVID-19 is reported as 41,662 at the tine of writing.  The recorded population of Great Britain is 67,869,522 and testing has been conducted at a ratio of 97,609 tests per 1M populous.

Brazil continues to registered high numbers of lives lost to COVID -19 as the country’s death toll rose to 43,389, according to reports. The health ministry has also announced significant numbers of new coronavirus infections, bringing the country’s total to 867,882.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Colombia have risen to over 50,000, the country’s health ministry reported in the 24 hours preceding this report and official sources are quoted as saying that neighbouring Ecuador is rapidly approaching the same milestone. Colombia has reported 50,939 cases of the coronavirus and 1,667 lives have been lost. There are currently 29,450 active cases in Colombia and 335 of those are classified as serious or critical.  Ecuador currently has 46,751 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 3,896 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  There are 19,791 active cases in Ecuador and 230 of those are described as serious or critical.

Borders opened up across Europe yesterday after three months of coronavirus closures that began chaotically in March. But as many restrictions persist, it’s unclear how keen Europeans will be to travel this summer and the continent is still closed to Americans, Asians and other international tourists.  Border checks for most Europeans were dropped overnight in Germany, France and elsewhere, nearly two weeks after Italy opened its frontiers. The European Union’s 27 nations, as well as those in the Schengen passport-free travel area, which also includes a few non-EU nations such as Switzerland, aren’t expected to start opening to visitors from outside the continent until at least the beginning of next month with some sources saying it could be much later.

The government of the Netherlands has published advice about which countries are safe to travel to this summer, allowing Dutch people to visit Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, France, Iceland, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Poland, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Switzerland from yesterday. There is a second list of countries that have yet to allow Dutch tourists but are expected to do so soon, which includes Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Austria and Spain. However, Dutch citizens are being advised to avoid both the UK and Sweden for the foreseeable future: “This has to do with the health situation in those countries. If you do go, you are urgently advised to return to your home and quarantine for 14 days when you return to the Netherlands.”  The Netherlands has recorded 48,948 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began there and 6,065 people have lost their lives. 77 people remain serious or critically ill in the country which has a recorded population of 17,133,281.

Thailand lifted a nationwide curfew yesterday after more than two months and allowed restaurants that reopened 2 weeks ago to resume selling alcohol as the coronavirus crisis eased, after 21 days since the country recorded a case of local transmission. Other establishments allowed to reopen were schools with less than 120 students, exhibition halls, music concerts, film productions, playgrounds, amusement parks and sports competitions without spectators. Pubs, bars and karaoke outlets will remain closed. Monday was the second time in five days that Thailand reported no new cases. All new cases in the past three weeks have been found in quarantine among Thais returning from abroad.  The south-east Asian nation of nearly 70 million people was the first country outside China to report a case of coronavirus, on 13 January, and has since had 3,135 confirmed cases and 58 people have died. 2,987 patients have recovered and 90 active cases remain in the country.

Singapore will allow small gatherings and the reopening of restaurants and shops from 19 June, in a major easing of the city-state’s coronavirus restrictions. Social gatherings of up to five people will be permitted from Friday, when the majority of activities resume after more than two months of restrictions. Social distancing requirements will remain in place. Singapore has one of the highest infection tallies in Asia, with 40,818 cases, thought to be because of mass outbreaks in dormitories for its migrant workers. Singapore reopened schools and some businesses earlier this month.

Total number of cases worldwide – 8,028,342

Total number of deaths worldwide – 436,279

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 4,148,301

Active cases:

3,443,762 active cases,

3,389,224 in mild condition,

54,538 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  4,584,580

 

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.reuters.com

 

 

Monday 15 June 2020

Monday Motivation

“ Grab your coffee, raise your negativity shield and go kick butt or you could just sit quietly until the caffeine takes effect.  Whatever you do, you still rock”

Here are some key developments around the globe over the weekend.

Egypt saw a record daily rise in infections and deaths, as it confirmed 1,677 new coronavirus cases and 62 deaths on Saturday. In total, the Arab world’s most populous country has registered 39,726  cases including 1,377 lives lost.

Coronavirus cases in Turkey have been increasing since travel restrictions were lifted and facilities reopened at the beginning of the month.

Israel has noted a spike in coronavirus cases as schools, businesses, restaurants, bars, tourist attractions and other establishments reopen, leading to 177 schools and educational institutions throughout the country closing again after 493 students and teachers tested positive for the virus.

France reported 24 new coronavirus deaths over the 24 hours to Saturday, taking the total to 29,398 and marking the fourth day with under 30 fatalities.

Algeria further relaxed its coronavirus lockdown on Sunday, easing a curfew, allowing public transport to resume in the cities and reopening some more businesses.

Travellers from Germany, Iceland and Norway are to be permitted to enter Denmark from today as long as they have booked accommodation for at least six nights, as the country gradually lifts its coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

Belgium, a country that has been hit hard by the virus, is often omitted from the mainstream daily news round-ups. Belgians were able to move freely during the first weekend since restaurants and cafes were allowed to open, after the country entered the third phase of its deconfinement strategy last week. According to the latest figures from the Word Health Organisation, Belgium has had 9,646 coronavirus deaths — which, at more than 832 per 1M people, is the highest rate in the world.

Parts of Beijing have reimposed lockdown measures, after a cluster of locally transmitted coronavirus cases emerged nearly two months after the Chinese capital appeared to have stamped out the virus. The outbreak, linked to a major wholesale food market, raised serious questions about the challenges of keeping the disease at bay, even in countries such as China where authoritarian rule allows harsh containment regulations and invasive tracing systems.  The world will undoubtedly be watching the developments anxiously after this latest news given that the new cases have emerged 55 days after the last known  locally transmitted case in the city where life had virtually returned to normal.

Spain will open its borders to some countries in the European Union’s Schengen area on 21 June,  according to media reports. The Spanish government has previously said it will allow foreign tourists to enter Spain on 1 July without self-quarantining. The Balearic Islands will start receiving some tourists from Monday as part of a test programme.

 The state of Victoria, Australia has announced nine new cases of coronavirus, three of whom are in hotel quarantine. There has also been further easing of restrictions announced. In addition to 50 people being allowed in cafes, restaurants and pubs with patrons being allowed to consume alcohol without a meal, restrictions on some community sports will be eased. Non-contact community sport will return on 22 June, for   adults and children, both indoor and outdoor.

New South Wales, Australia recorded 9 new Covid-19 cases from 13,591 tests over the weekend. Eight of the cases are among returned travellers in hotel quarantine and one is a teacher at Laguna Street Public School in southern Sydney. All students at the primary school have been deemed close contacts and have been told to self-isolate. The school will stop on-site learning until 24 June. Authorities are investigating the source of the teacher’s infection. No cases are in intensive care. The 50-person limit at cafes, restaurants, and churches will be scrapped in NSW with venues instead to follow the one person per four-square-metre rule. This new rule, announced by the NSW government on Sunday, will be in place from 1 July and applies to most indoor venues including pubs and workspaces. Outdoor cultural and sporting venues with a capacity of up to 40,000 will, from 1 July, also be allowed to seat 25% of their normal capacity.

Western Australia has reported no new cases of Covid-19 overnight from Saturday to Sunday, with the state’s total number of cases remaining at 602, according to the WA Department of Health.

Uzbekistan will reopen its borders to some air travellers from today with quarantine procedures depending on their country of origin, according to reports. The borders of the Central Asian nation, closed since March, will reopen for diplomats, their family members, investors and medical tourists, as well as Uzbeks leaving the country for study or medical treatment, the cabinet said in a statement. Depending on where they are coming from, visitors will be either quarantined, placed under observation at home, or just let in; the latter will apply to those arriving from China, Japan, South Korea and Israel. The former Soviet republic has confirmed 4,837 coronavirus cases and 19 people have lost their lives. There are currently 1,118 active cases in the country and 14 of those are described as serious or critical.

Iran’s daily virus death toll has exceeded 100 for the first time in two months. In televised remarks on Sunday, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari announced 107 Covid-19 fatalities in the previous 24 hours, raising the overall number of lives lost to 8,837. Lari said: “It was very painful for us to announce the triple-digit figure. This is an unpredictable and wild virus and may surprise us at any time.”  Iran has struggled to contain what has become the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of the illness since it reported its first cases in the Shiite holy city of Qom in February. Since April it has gradually lifted restrictions to ease the intense pressures on its sanctions-hit economy. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday reproached citizens for failing to observe measures designed to rein in the virus.

In Afghanistan, at least twenty patients died overnight Saturday to Sunday, including six in Kabul, meaning the country’s Covid-19 lives lost total now stands at 471. There have been 4,725 recoveries.  Following a continued surge of transmission, the country’s capital Kabul is the worst affected area with 10,035 confirmed cases, 316 of them new.  The Afghan health ministry has said that it is not able to test for coronavirus due to a lack of laboratories and an overload of suspected patients.  According to official figures, the number of tests carried out in the country is 55,981, a ratio of 1,440 tests per 1M populous.  There are currently 19,570 active cases and 19 of those are described as serious or critical. Local officials in Kabul have warned that the actual number of infections in the capital is significantly higher than official figures show.

Total number of cases worldwide – 7,906,177

Total number of deaths worldwide – 432,977

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 4,062,659

Active cases:

3,410,541 active cases,

3,356,390 in mild condition,

54,151 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  4,495,636

 

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.reuters.com

 

Sunday 14 June 2020

“Happy Sunday, count your rainbows not your thunderstorms”

Caremongers India, which was launched at the start of lockdown, has helped connect volunteers with the people who most need their help.

Sometime in mid-March Sandhya Honawar, from Mumbai, visited her psychiatrist. The 67-year-old, who lives alone, thought it would make sense to get a repeat prescription for her anti-depressants and anxiety medication ahead of time, given that coronavirus had arrived in India and lockdown was imminent. For several days afterwards, she went from pharmacy to pharmacy on foot with the prescription but each time came back empty-handed. Some pharmacists said they did not have the drugs she was looking for; others asked her to return later. Days went by. To conserve her existing stash, she started taking half or just quarter of her usual dosage. When lockdown came into effect, she panicked and called a friend on the other side of the city asking if she could help. The friend had no way to get to her but suggested she join a Facebook group called Caremongers India.

The group, which now has about 45,000 members, was started by Mahita Nagaraj, a digital marketing professional from Bangalore, in the early days of the pandemic. She got the idea after a few friends living abroad asked her for help checking in with their elderly parents in India. In addition to people offering to help via Facebook posts, there is also a helpline and a WhatsApp number. At the beginning of the lockdown, the group was receiving more than 1000 calls and 2000 messages each day. That number has steadied now to about 150-200 calls each day, and about 600-800 messages.  Caremongers India has a mission statement of “Let’s stop spreading fear, let’s spread love instead” and fulfilled 16,000 requests since it began.

15 year-old Jeffrey Wall (Ohio USA), is just as compassionate as he is fierce. The accomplished Tang Soo Do Korean martial artist is helping his community stay fit during the coronavirus pandemic. While he shares his love of the sport with everyone, Wall holds a special group of students close to his heart—senior citizens.

“I felt like they don’t get that much love and attention. I want to make them feel like I’m their grandchild,” Wall explains.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Wall taught karate at a local nursing home. He named his program Golden Age Karate and refers to his students as “Super Nanas” and “Super Grandpas.” With social distancing, Wall had to get creative. He realised shelter-in-place orders meant his senior students would be isolated from those they love, including him.  With classes cancelled and not knowing when he would return, Wall started posting classes on YouTube. He also ramped up his Instagram page to remain digitally present to his students. “They have computers at the nursing home and they have phones.  “Wall says the transition to online class has been smooth but he’s eager to get back to one-on-one sessions with his students. “I really like being hands on and seeing my students face to face.” Wall’s students miss him, too. “Many of them were really sad. Some of them need me to be there as a companion; it gets really lonely in the nursing homes

Photo:Thomas Hübl

A digital group support service has been set up to help healthcare workers cope with emotions that have been triggered during the Covid-19 crisis

“My co-workers were contracting the virus, which made me feel unprotected and unsafe,” says Dr. Stella MonDragon, a paediatrician based in Spain. “I was also seeing young patients who were asymptomatic, but who later tested positive.”

After treating children for several weeks, Dr MonDragon recently shifted to managing care for adult Covid-19 patients. In her 28 years of practicing, which included a stint as a volunteer in Sierra Leone during the last Ebola outbreak, she says she has never worked with so many complexities in medicine: a frightening mix of unpreparedness, an invisible threat and lack of data. After one particularly grueling week, she decided to join an online group support session for healthcare workers, offered by the non-profit The Pocket Project. The sessions are run by psychotherapists and encourage participants to identify their emotions that have been triggered during the Covid-19 crisis.

“We are offering these calls as opportunities to digest the uncertainty, stress and fears that are arising for people,” explains Thomas Hübl, who launched the Pocket Project in 2016.   Dr MonDragon has now met other doctors from Germany, Argentina, India, South Africa, Mexico and the US, all dealing with similar circumstances. “In a highly stressful time like this, it’s been helpful for me to separate some of my innate fears, say from my past experience, with the reality on the ground that is actually unsafe,” she says.

A mother has revealed how she recreated Christmas during lockdown for her two children, complete with a fake tree and presents and all for just £20.  Abi Sherratt, 39, from Cheshire, (UK) surprised her sons, Noah, seven, and Alfie, four, with an incredible festive day, including plenty of presents, during the coronavirus lockdown.  The Communications & Engagement Officer for the NHS also went to town with pigs in blankets, a roast dinner with stuffing, Christmas crackers and glasses of Bucks Fizz to say thanks to her boys for being so good during lockdown.

Abi said it was a last-minute decision but the faux-festive day only cost her £20 as she had been stocking up on cheap toys during Covid-19.  Abi described Noah and Alfie’s faces as “totally excited” as they started to realise what was going on when they woke up on “Christmas” morning.

She said: “Alfie had been asking when it was going to be his birthday, which is in February, and when it was going to be Christmas and we had to keep telling them they were both a long way off.” “They kept saying they wanted a birthday party so we had thought about doing a joint lockdown party for them, but then decided Christmas would be more fun and gave us more options of things to do.  “Plus we had a large chicken in the fridge that would double up as a turkey!”

Louise Birch

 

 

 

 

Saturday 13th June by Louise Birch

“Believe there is great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest” (Beatrix Potter)

Tokyo is poised to end all restrictions on businesses next week after local authorities lifted a citywide “red alert” warning about a possible second wave of coronavirus infections.  Karaoke venues, game arcades and pachinko parlours reopened Friday, and restaurants and pubs will be able to extend their hours from 10 pm to midnight, according to Japanese media reports. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, said the city had entered “a new stage of living with the coronavirus,” adding that authorities would expand testing and ensure medical facilities were able to cope with a resurgence of the virus, which is known to have infected more than 17,000 people in Japan and killed 922.

In Beijing, a 52-year-old man who has no history of travelling outside the city or contact with anyone coming in has been diagnosed with Covid-19. He is the first local transmission case in China for several weeks. He was one of seven new cases reported in mainland China. The other six, including five people in Shanghai and one in Fujian, were all imported. Mainland China currently has 65 confirmed cases in the country. Beijing has also said it will delay primary school students returning to school after three fresh coronavirus cases emerged in the capital. To protect the capital, Beijing is redirecting international fights through other cities where passengers are quarantined and tested before being allowed to proceed.

Armenia said on Friday it had extended a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak until 13 July as the number of daily infections continues to rise.

Despite the extension of the state of emergency, almost all sectors of the Armenian economy are functioning after businesses reopened in early May.  The government has made it mandatory to wear face masks in public to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Armenia’s deputy prime minister, Tigran Avinyan, said last week the government planned to reopen international flights from mid-July to help the tourism industry. There have been 14,669 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 245 people have lost their loves.  There are currently 5,466 active cases and 10 of those are described as serious or critical.

South Korea will extend prevention and sanitation guidelines against coronavirus until daily new infections drop to single digits, the country’s health minister has said.

But he warned of a return to tough social distancing measures if needed.

The announcement came as such cases persist in the mid-double digits following a series of new clusters in the area around Seoul, the capital, taking the national tally to 12,003, and 277 lives lost. Authorities will review whether to return to intensive social distancing if 50 daily infections persist for more than two weeks, the health minister, Park Neung-hoo, told a briefing.

Thailand will lift a nationwide curfew and ease more restrictions next week, a spokesman for its coronavirus task force said on Friday, after the country reported no local transmissions of the virus for 18 days. Thailand is also planning to reopen to foreign visitors by creating so-called travel bubbles with countries that have also managed to contain the virus, though no target date was set.  The curfew will be lifted effective on 15 June along with the easing of some activities, but strict social distancing rules will still need to be observed in all public activities.  Schools with fewer than 120 students, exhibition halls, music concerts, film productions, playgrounds, amusement parks, sports competitions without spectators and sales of alcohol in restaurants can resume next Monday.  Meanwhile, pubs, bars and karaoke outlets will remain closed.  Travel could be reopened with countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and some Middle East nations, as well as neighbours like Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Deaths from coronavirus in New Delhi are almost twice as high as official figures show, a city leader said, as India became the country with the fourth-highest number of confirmed cases worldwide. With India’s lockdown being widely eased, the government has been reporting significant numbers of new confirmed cases every day with infections totalling almost 300,000, including 8,500 deaths. Densely populated megacities such as Delhi and Mumbai are the worst affected, stretching hospitals to breaking point.

Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, has tested positive for coronavirus, but her husband, president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and their two children have tested negative. Writing on facebook she said  “Today I received a positive test for coronavirus. Unexpected news, especially considering that I and my family continue to follow all the rules, masks, gloves, a minimum of contacts.” Olena Zelenska said she felt well, was not hospitalised, but was isolating from her husband and children. Ukraine has reported 29,753 coronavirus cases, including 870 deaths.  There are currently 13,567 active cases in the country and 306 of those are described as serious or critical.  Over 13,500 people have recovered from coronavirus.

Norway will allow travel to and from Finland, Iceland and the Swedish island of Gotland from 15 June, but is maintaining existing travel restrictions imposed on mainland Sweden due to its higher level of Covid-19 cases. Denmark, Finland and Norway have lifted some of the travel restrictions they imposed to slow the spread of Covid-19, but they have kept most of the ones imposed on Sweden. “I think we need to be honest and say that in the Nordics this is something of a difficult issue at the moment,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference.  Norway will assess the public health situation of each region in the Nordics separately and will review its travel advice every fortnight, starting 15 June.  The country has reported 8,608 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 242 have lost the battle with COVID-19.  There are currently 228 active cases in Norway and 4 of those are described as serious or critical.

Gotland, a Baltic island with close to 60,000 inhabitants, is the only Swedish region Norway will allow citizens to travel to without having to undergo a ten-day quarantine when going home. Sweden adopted fewer lockdown restrictions and by 12 June its Covid-19 deaths were 4,854, four times the number in the other Nordic countries combined.

French superchef Alain Ducasse is using a ventilation system similar to those in hospital operating theatres to reopen one of his Paris restaurants. Ducasse, whose restaurants have 17 Michelin stars, is installing the sophisticated system in his historic Allard bistro in the Saint Germain des Pres district of the French capital so it can open later this month.

French restaurants have been allowed to serve on their terraces for 10 days but strict social distancing rules mean the interiors remain off limits.

Diners in Paris bistros and cafes traditionally sit almost elbow to elbow on small tables, a nightmare for restauranteurs who have been told by that tables must now be at least one metre a part. “No restaurant can survive with only half of its customers,” Ducasse said as he unveiled his air filtration system at the Allard, whose tables will also be screened off with sail cloth blinds. Large white air “socks” decorated with drawings of the gods and goddesses of the wind hang over every table from the overhead ventilation pipes, gently pushing stale air away.  Customers will also be offered round transparent “separators” to be placed on their table for additional safety when French restaurants are due to fully reopen on 22 June.

New Zealand is relaxing its borders to grant exemptions for certain workers and partners of New Zealand citizens to enter the country. The relaxed rules, which will see America’s Cup sailors included, come after 21 days with no new Covid-19 cases across the country and no current live cases. Health officials have said the virus would be considered eliminated after 28 days of no new cases.

The table below shows the top 10 countries in the world by the total number of confirmed cases reported.

Total number of cases worldwide – 7,633,339

Total number of deaths worldwide – 424,498

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 3,865,385

Active cases:

3,343,456 active cases,

3,289,395 in mild condition,

54,061 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  4,289,883

 

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 12th June by Louise Birch

“Doubt thou the stars are fire. Doubt that the sun doth move.  Doubt truth to be a liar. But never doubt I love” (William Shakespeare)

Prince Joachim of Belgium has been fined €10,400 by authorities in Spain after going to a party in Cordoba while the country was under its strict coronavirus lockdown.

A scandal erupted after Joachim flew from Brussels to Madrid, then travelled to Cordoba to attend a party with 27 other guests on 26 May, at a time when gatherings were restricted to a maximum of 15 participants. He subsequently tested positive for coronavirus and all guests at the party were forced to quarantine themselves.

Joachim’s presence at the party caused an uproar in both Spain, which has one of the world’s highest death tolls, and in Belgium, which has one of the highest per capita death tolls. After the news broke,  the Belgian Royal Family said that Joachim had travelled to Spain for an internship. Since travelling for work was considered essential travel this allowed him to leave the country at a time when borders were closed. However, this was clearly not an acceptable or truthful explanation and Spanish authorities slapped Joachim with the fine, not over the party but because he did not quarantine after arriving in Madrid, as had been mandatory at the time. If he pays within 15 days he will only have to pay half.

Yesterday, Thailand reported no new coronavirus infections or deaths, maintaining the total of 3,125 confirmed cases and 58 fatalities. It was the first time in nearly three weeks that no cases were reported and the 17th day without a local transmission. All recent cases have been found in quarantine among Thais returning from abroad. A total of 2,987 people have recovered from COVID-19, 80 cases remain active and just 1 of those is considered serious or critical.

In Germany, the number of active Covid-19 cases has gone up to 5,460, the first rise in total cases in two months. On Thursday, health authorities recorded 555 new confirmed infections and 400 new patients who had recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of Covid-19 cases to be recorded in Germany so far to 186,866.  The number of people who have died of the virus in Germany is 8,844, a day-on-day rise of 26.  A total of 170,700 people are reported to have recovered from coronavirus.

However, the change in dynamic has received relatively little attention in the country as several of the 16 Länder, or federal states, took further steps towards relaxing social distancing restrictions. In the eastern state of Thuringia, social distancing measures will be scrapped altogether from this Saturday, though the wearing of masks in shops and on public transport remains mandatory.

The coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating” in Africa with more than 212,000 confirmed cases across the continent and over 5,700 deaths, the region’s World Health Organisation director Dr Matshidiso Moeti has said. According to reports, the virus is spreading from capital cities where it arrived with travellers and 10 countries are bearing the brunt of Africa’s epidemic, accounting for 75% of confirmed cases and infections. South Africa accounts for a quarter of cases. Dr Moeti states “We believe that large numbers of severe cases and deaths are not being missed in Africa,” she said. “One of the biggest challenges in Africa continues be availability of supplies, particularly test kits.”  The only countries in Africa that have not yet recorded any lives lost are Eritrea (41 cases), Namibia (31 cases) and Lesotho (4 cases).  The Seychelles had reported 11 cases and no lives lost, all cases recovered and there are no active cases in the country.

Africa will have a “steady increase” in Covid-19 cases until a vaccine is developed, the director general of the World Health Organisation’s regional office for the continent said yesterday.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Indonesia show no signs of falling, with 979 infections and 41 deaths reported in the past 24 hours. The Jakarta government has said it is confident the spread of the virus has slowed despite the number of infections reaching a record high of more than 1,200 earlier this week. Restrictions in Indonesia’s capital were partly relaxed on Monday after two months of lockdown as the world’s fourth most populous nation gradually reopens its economy. Jakarta, home to 11 million people, had been under large-scale social restrictions since 10 April. According to reports, hundreds of Indonesian children have died from coronavirus, giving the south-east Asian country one of the world’s highest child mortality rates from a disease that experts say poses little danger to the young.   To date, the number of confirmed cases in Indonesia stands at 35,295 and 2,000 people have lost their lives.  There are currently 20,659 active cases but no confirmation of the numbers classified as serious or critical.

India reported nearly 10,000 new coronavirus cases yesterday, with health services in the worst-hit cities of Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai swamped by the rising infections, according to official reports. India’s tally has reached 287,679 confirmed cases, the fifth highest in the world, with 8,115 lives lost.  The spike comes as the government moved ahead with the reopening of restaurants, shopping malls and places of worship in most of India after lockdown of more than two months. Subways, hotels and schools remain closed. The actual infection numbers are thought to be higher because of limited testing.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the latest scientific estimates are the R rate, the rate at which Covid-19 infections are spreading in the community, has fallen in Scotland to between 0.6 to 0.8, confirming a steep decline in the number of people in hospital and deaths. She told the daily coronavirus briefing “under that estimate we expect that the virus will continue to decline”. She cautioned that there was still a risk of a resurgence in infections, but added: “We should continue to celebrate the progress.”

As a result, she announced that workers would be allowed now to return to construction sites, while observing social distancing, but added “we still have some way to go” before seeing building at full capacity. In the daily summary yesterday she announced there were five deaths of those with confirmed Covid-19, with 909 people in hospital, 78 fewer than on Wednesday. Many of the key data have fallen in Scotland to the levels of mid to late March, leading Ms Sturgeon to confirm the lockdown may be eased in Scotland more quickly.  A total of 2,439 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus.

Iran reported its first Covid-19 cases on 19 February, two deaths in the Shiite holy city of Qom. Since then, the government has struggled to contain what became the Middle East’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak. Since April, however, it has gradually lifted health protocols in order to reopen its sanctions-hit economy. That has coincided with a fresh surge in cases, which the government denies amounts to a second wave, saying they are due to increased testing.  Iran has a recorded population of 83,930,199 and has conducted 1,173,208 tests.  This equates to 13,978 tests per 1M populous. The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Iran has passed 180,000, according to new figures released on Thursday, as the country’s president, Hassan Rouhani, called on Iranians to stick to public health advice aimed at curbing its spread. “If everyone follows the health instructions exactly, then all jobs can be reopened,” Rouhani said in remarks broadcast on state television, according to reports. “We are progressing slowly and step by step (because we don’t want) our people to think that the coronavirus era has passed. This would pose a major health problem for us.”

Finland will be opening borders to tourists from neighbouring Baltic and Nordic countries, excluding Sweden, from 15 June. In a similar move to Denmark and Norway, Sweden has been excluded from Finland’s list based on current rates of infection. Finnish borders are due to open to tourists from Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from 15 June. Tourists from other EU countries may be permitted after 14 July, the Finnish government is expected to review restrictions again in two weeks’ time.

Total number of cases worldwide – 7,500,341

Total number of deaths worldwide – 419,973

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 3,806,942

Active cases:

3,273,426 active cases,

3,219,467 in mild condition,

53,959 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  4,226,915

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

Thursday 11th June 2020 by Louise Birch

“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience; this is the ideal life” (Mark Twain)

South America has become the new front in the global coronavirus outbreak.  The number of confirmed cases stands at 1,219,723 and a total of 52,857 people from this region have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Argentina’s rising rate of infections continues even after lockdown measures were extended in the capital city of Buenos Aires which is the epicentre of the virus in the country.  However, numbers still remain markedly lower than neighbours Chile and BrazilOther areas have moved to “mandatory and preventive social distancing.” Much of the nation had been under a shelter-in-place order since 20 March. The country has a commercial flight ban until 1 September, one of the world’s strictest travel measures during the pandemic.  Argentina has reported a total of 24,761 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 717 people have died as result of COVID-19.  There are currently 16,476 active cases and 274 of those are classified as serious or critical.

The epidemic in Mexico is advancing toward its peak level of infections, the World Health Organization has warned. Mexico, where total confirmed cases exceed 124,0000 and the number of lives lost stands at 14,649, began a gradual re-opening of the economy at the start of June.

Brazil recently restored detailed Covid-19 data to the official national website, following a scandal about the removal of cumulative totals and a ruling by a Supreme Court justice that the full set of information be reinstated.  The latest figures released from the country showed 32,091 new infections of coronavirus in the previous 24 hours for a cumulative total of 742,084, cases, and 1,272 new deaths, bringing the toll to 38,497 dead, the third highest after the United States and Great Britain.

South Koreas new virus cases spiked again Wednesday as sporadic cluster infections continued in the greater Seoul area, prodding health authorities to consider more stringent social distancing in the densely populated area. The country added 50 new cases, including 43 local infections, raising the total caseload to 11,902, according to reports from the country. It marked a rebound after the country’s new COVID-19 cases hovered below 40 for the second straight day. All but three of the locally transmitted cases were reported from the Seoul metropolitan area.

Recently, 21 US states reported weekly increases in new cases of Covid-19. Arizona, Utah and New Mexico all posted rises of 40% or higher for the week ended Sunday, compared with the prior seven days, according to analysis by Reuters. Some of the new cases are linked to better testing. However, it is thought many stem from loosened public health restrictions that have allowed people to gather in groups and go inside stores to shop, according to public health officers in two California counties. Health officials believe other cases have been passed along by people not following social-distancing recommendations. The number of new infections in the first week of June rose 3% in the United States, the first increase after five weeks of declines, according to an analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

Arizona was among the first states to reopen in mid-May and cases there have increased 115% since then, leading a former state health chief to warn that a new stay-at-home order or field hospitals may be needed. Coronavirus cases and hospitalisations are spiking in parts of California and half of the population there now live in counties where there is a ‘watch list’.  “Many of the cases that are showing up in hospitals are linked to gatherings that are taking place in homes  such as birthday parties and funerals,” said Olivia Kasirye, public health director of Sacramento County, one of the nine counties on the state watch list that may eventually require them to roll back reopening efforts.   The USA has reported 2,046,514 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 114,185 people have lost their lives.  The states of New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois and Massachusetts have all reported over 100,000 cases and over 7,000 lives lost in each state.

France is expected to end the official “state of health emergency” introduced for the coronavirus crisis on 10 July. This “exceptional” crisis measure gave the government temporary constitutional powers to introduce restrictions during the pandemic. Now the government is planning legislation allowing it to lift the state of emergency while keeping certain measures to avoid a second wave of Covid-19. France’s external borders are currently closed to all but essential workers and those with a “compelling” reason to enter the country. The country ended its strict two-month lockdown on 11 May. Most of France has been progressively allowed to return almost to normal, but restrictions still cover the Paris region. The number of patients in intensive care units in hospitals with the virus has dropped to below 1,000, from a spike of more than 7,000 in April, and the number of deaths each day is falling. A total of 29,296 people have died in France as a result of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to official figures.

Bulgaria will extend the epidemic emergency until the end of June to fight the spread of the coronavirus after an increase in new registered cases, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has said. The country has eased most of the restrictive measures it imposed in the middle of March, allowing restaurants and shopping malls to reopen. Borissov said the government did not plan to introduce new restrictions for the time being but appealed to people to keep social distancing. Bulgaria has so far recorded 2,889 coronavirus cases, of whom 167 have died.

Hungary and Croatia will lift restrictions on cross-border travel from Friday as the pandemic has subsided and remains under control in both countries according to reports.

Hungary has recorded 4.027 cases of coronavirus and 551 people have died.  Croatia has recorded 2,249 cases and 106 lives have been lost.

Denmark, the first country outside Asia to ease its coronavirus lockdown, said on Wednesday the spread of Covid-19 has not accelerated since it entered its second phase of reopening society last month, according to official reports. The Nordic country allowed restaurants, cafes and malls to resume business during May in the second phase of easing lockdown restrictions. In April it had allowed day care centres, schools, hair dressers and some small businesses to reopen. The number of coronavirus-related deaths has hovered between zero and four per day in the last three weeks, after a peak of 22 deaths on 31 March. The number of hospitalisations has fallen to fewer than 100 since the beginning of June. On Monday, the Danish government raised the maximum limit on public gatherings to 50 from 10 and allowed fitness centres and public swimming pools to reopen. It plans a further easing of restrictions on public gatherings in July and August.

Austria is to reopen its border with Italy and allow free travel from most other European countries from 16 June, the foreign minister has said.  Last week, Austria relaxed restrictions for travel to some neighbouring states but had excluded Italy, one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe. Yesterday, the foreign minister, Alexander Schallenberg, told a press conference: “Yes, we are opening the border. Yes, travelling to Italy, to Greece, to Croatia, for example, will be possible.”

However, travel between Austria and Sweden, Spain, Portugal and the UK will remain restricted. Travellers from those countries will still have to show a negative coronavirus test or undergo a two-week home quarantine. A travel warning will also stay in place for Lombardy in northern Italy, which emerged as a coronavirus hotspot during the pandemic, the government is still urging Austrians to avoid travelling there.

On 10 March, Austria was among the first in the EU to announce that it was closing its borders with Italy to try to curb the spread the coronavirus pandemic. Austria has been spared the brunt of the health crisis. On Wednesday, it reported 26 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to 17,005, of whom 15,910 have recovered. The death toll stands at 673, with one new death announced on Wednesday.

Germany is extending its coronavirus pandemic travel warnings for more than 160 countries outside Europe until the end of August. The government agreed on Wednesday to extend the guidance, first introduced on 17 March, to almost all non-EU countries, with the exception of some that have successfully contained the outbreak. Last week, Germany downgraded its travel warning for the rest of the 27-nation EU, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and the UK. Also on Wednesday, the government announced the end of border controls for EU citizens coming to Germany. Almost all German states require travellers arriving from countries that have 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days to quarantine for two weeks. This is currently the case for fellow EU member state Sweden.

Total number of cases worldwide – 7,367,776

Total number of deaths worldwide – 414,780

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 3,637,158

Active cases:

3,315,838 active cases,

3,261,888 in mild condition,

53,950 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  4,051,938

 

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

Wednesday 10th June 2020 by Louise Birch

“I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery and death.  I think peace and tranquility will return again”  (Anne Frank)

The world has recorded its highest daily jump of cases (136,000), according to the WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said:

“More than six months into the pandemic, this is not the time for any country to take its foot off the pedal. Although the situation in Europe is improving, globally it is worsening”.

Nearly 75% of the 136,000 cases were reported from 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia.

The WHO emergencies chief, Dr Mike Ryan, said retrospective studies of how the outbreak has been addressed could wait, adding: “We need to focus now on what we are doing today to prevent second peaks.” Dr Ryan also said infections in central American countries including Guatemala were still on the rise, and that they were “complex” epidemics. “I think this is a time of great concern,” he said, calling for strong government leadership and international support for the region.

Singapore has announced its lowest number of new daily cases of coronavirus since 11 April.  According to the health ministry, on Tuesday there were 218 more cases of coronavirus, with the majority, again, found among the low-paid migrant workers who perform the city state’s basic economic functions. Singapore has so far recorded 38,514 confirmed cases of coronavirus, one of the highest caseloads in south east Asia, but just 25 deaths from Covid-19.

Russia started to lift a range of lockdown measures yesterday, including the lockdown in Moscow, the city’s mayor has announced. The capital’s restriction on movement would end on Tuesday, allowing residents to travel freely for the first time since March. Some measures have gradually eased, with some shops opening. Sergei Sobyanin said all restrictions on movement will lift on Tuesdays, with restaurants and cafes expected to start opening from mid June.  Russia continues to report thousands of new infections daily. Its nationwide tally is more than 476,000, the third-highest in the world, but the number of cases in Moscow, the original epicentre of the virus, has more than halved to around 2,000 a day.

Australia has continued to report positive news in its bid to beat the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday it reported no locally transmitted cases of Covid-19. The most populous state of New South Wales had two cases reported in returned travellers, who were in mandatory quarantine. The health minister, Greg Hunt, reiterated how important the continued closure of the country’s borders was by saying “What we have seen now is that in the last four hours, as the states and territories have made their announcements, on the advice I’ve just had from the National Incidence Centre, there have been so far no cases of community transmission. I want to repeat that. On the latest advice I have, so far, there have been no cases of community transmission, two cases overseas-acquired. That explains why our border protections remain so fundamental. Fifty-nine cases in the last seven days. Of those, 69% have been detected through the hotel quarantine or our border protection processes.” All travellers returning to Australia are required to complete two weeks in hotel quarantine. Australia has reported over 7,200 cases and 102 people have died from Covid-19.

Vietnam plans to allow a resumption of flights to and from countries that have had no cases of coronavirus for 30 days, state media cited the prime minister as saying on Tuesday, with priority destinations including Japan, South Korea and Cambodia.

In the comments broadcast by Vietnam Television (VTV), Nguyen Xuan Phuc did not specify whether inbound travellers from these places would be subject to a quarantine programme in place since mid March. Vietnam has contained its tally of infections from Covid-19 to a relatively low 332 and reported no deaths.  Tens of thousands of incoming travellers have been put in quarantine.

Copenhagen’s Tivoli amusement park reopened yesterday with limited-capacity seating in its rides as per this photo. Denmark’s lockdown is gradually being relaxed, with a wider range of leisure and social activities permitted this week.

Denmark has reported 11,962 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 593 people have died.  The recorded population is 5,790,999 and testing has been carried out at a ratio of 123,485 tests per 1M populous. There are 577 active cases in the country and 16 are considered to be serious or critical.

 

Hong Kong will let some students from mainland China return to resume classes from 15 June, the government has said, in a selective easing of coronavirus border restrictions.

School buses will be arranged and students will be subject to health checks, including temperature screening and submission of health declaration forms in Hong Kong and bordering Shenzhen as they commute to school. Hong Kong has to date reported 1,108 coronavirus cases and 4 people have died. There are currently 55 active cases with 3 of those described as serious or critical.

 Indonesia has reported its biggest daily rise in Covid-19 infections. The country’s health ministry recorded 1,043 new cases in the 24 hours preceding this report, bringing its total to 33,076. There were also 40 new deaths, bringing the total number of lives lost to 1,923. Indonesia had, as of yesterday, tested more than 281,650 people for the virus

Horse racing is due to resume in Turkey, this one must have missed the memo about social distancing.

With virus travel restrictions preventing summer holidays abroad, the Lithuanian capital city Vilnius is offering a low-cost alternative by mimicking the look and feel of different countries at weekends. France, Japan and the US are among the more than half-a-dozen nations that residents can get a taste of without leaving the Baltic city. Last weekend Italian music filled the Old Town, while local restaurants offered Mediterranean dishes as green, white and red flags fluttered nearby. Aurelija Baniulaitiene, a Lithuanian civil servant who came with a friend to an open-air restaurant, said the southern European atmosphere helped her “leave the lockdown cocoon”. In the weeks to come, the theme will change to India, the United States, France, Spain, Germany and Japan. Lithuania itself reopened for tourists from most European countries earlier this month after containing the spread of the disease. Reported Covid-19 deaths stand at 71, with case numbers at 1,720 in a nation of 2.8m people.

Fifty-two Cuban medics who flew to Lombardy (Italy) to help Italian doctors treat Europe’s first mass coronavirus outbreak have returned to a heroes’ welcome in Havana.

The medical brigade, comprising 36 doctors, 15 nurses and a logistics specialist, arrived in Milan on 22 March, when Italy had reported 53,578 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 4,825 related deaths. More than 3,300 Cuban doctors and nurses have joined medial brigades sent around the world to help treat coronavirus patients in 27 countries.

Total number of cases worldwide – 7,260,098

Total number of deaths worldwide – 410,925

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 3,571,927

Active cases:

3,227,246 active cases,

3,223,279in mild condition,

53,967 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  3,982,852

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

Tuesday 9th June 2020 by Louise Birch

“ I’ve never been to New Zealand before but one of my role models, Xena, the warrior princess, comes from there” (Madeleine Albright)

Let’s start with a little joke trending on Twitter from New Zealand:

Knock knock!

Who’s there!

Covid!

Covid who?

EXACTLY (All of New Zealand)

New Zealand has no active diagnosed cases of Covid-19 for the first time since 28 February,  according to reports from health officials. It has now been 17 days since the country last recorded a new case of the coronavirus. Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister, has announced that her government will abandon all remaining Covid-19 restrictions on the country except strict border controls, which will remain in place.  It is also reported that Jacinda Ardern did a little dance when she heard the good news about becoming COVID-19 free although she did express caution, remaining aware that the virus could re-emerge at any time. New Zealanders have eagerly awaited status reports on the last person confirmed to have the virus, who has been the sole remaining sufferer in New Zealand for the past ten days. In a statement today, the Ministry of Health said the woman, in her 50s and based in Auckland, had recovered. “The Ministry has been notified by Auckland Regional Public Health that its remaining case has been symptom free for 48 hours and is regarded as recovered,” the statement said. “The person has now been released from isolation.”  Anyone crossing the border into New Zealand will be tested twice in a 2 week period however only New Zealanders and their families will be allowed to enter the country.  Community based testing will continue with the focus being on anyone who shows symptoms of coronavirus.  The country was locked down on 25 March when case numbers were low, with restrictions gradually easing since. Fewer than 1,500 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the country and 22 have died.  I

Honduras has extended a curfew by one week until June 14 in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, security ministry spokesman Jair Meza said recently.

Meza made the announcement on national television even as the Central American country began the gradual re-opening of its economy yesterday.  The country of 9.8 million people has reported 6,155 cases of coronavirus and 250 people have died.  There are currently 5,208 active cases and 13 of those are described as serious or critical.

United Kingdom travel quarantine laws have come into force. Most people arriving in Britain from Monday will have to self-isolate for two weeks under a new coronavirus restriction that will apply those coming in by plane, ferry or train. The measures apply to both residents and foreign nationals with some exceptions. Travellers will have to provide details of their journey and the address where they will self-isolate and will face fines of up to £1,000 if they do not follow the rules.  Exemptions being made include truck drivers, “essential” healthcare workers and people travelling from Ireland who have been there for at least two weeks. The government is pushing ahead with a gradual lockdown easing that will see retail reopen on 15 June, and restaurants and bars begin limited service in early July.  The UK, comprising of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, have confirmed 286,194 of coronavirus and 40,542 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. Over 5.5 million tests have been conducted throughout the geographic area which equates to 82,239 per 1M populous.  This is a higher testing rate than, Italy (70,063),USA (64,355) and Germany (51,916).

 Health authorities in Tokyo (Japan) are to ask people working in host clubs and similar establishments to be regularly tested for Covid-19 after evidence that the virus is spreading among people who work in the capital’s night-time economy. The city reported 14 new infections on Sunday, six of which involved people working in clubs where employees pour drinks and talk to customers in close proximity.  “We want to make sure that people do not catch or transmit the virus also in night-time entertainment districts,” Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, said recently, according to reports. On Saturday, Tokyo reported 26 new infections, a dozen of which were men in their 20s and 30s who work at the same host club in Kabukicho, a red-light district of more than 4,000 bars, restaurants, cafes, pachinko parlours and commercial sex establishments. Four of the remaining cases are also thought to be connected to the city’s huge night-time economy.

The number of cases traced to host clubs, where women pay to talk to male employees over drinks and snacks, and similar establishments in Tokyo has risen since Japan lifted its seven-week state of emergency at the end of May, raising fears of a second wave in the city.

Saudi Arabia has reported that the number of confirmed virus cases has exceeded 100,000 with new spike ahead of the hajj. The total number of infections rose to 101,914, the highest in the Gulf, while the number of lives lost has climbed to 712, the health ministry said. The kingdom has seen infections spike as it eases stringent lockdown measures, with the number of daily cases exceeding 3,000 for the second day in a row on Sunday. Authorities are yet to announce whether they will proceed with this year’s hajj, scheduled for the end of July, but have urged Muslims to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage.

Vietnam has reported two imported cases of Covid-19. Both infections were in Vietnamese citizens returning from Mexico who were quarantined on arrival, according to the health ministry. The south-east Asian country has gone 53 days without a domestically transmitted infection and has a total of 331 cases, with no deaths reported. More than 90% of the confirmed cases have recovered. There are now 16 active cases in the country and 1 of those is described as serious or critical.

In Mexico, the country’s health ministry reported on Sunday 3,484 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 188 additional lives lost, bringing the total in the country to 117,103 cases and 13,699 deaths. The government has said the real number of infected people is significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Malls and temples reopened in several cities across India yesterday despite the country recording a record daily number of new coronavirus infections, with the pandemic expected to ravage the country for weeks to come according to media reports from the country. After a 10-week lockdown, the government has risked lifting some restrictions in a bid to ease the devastating blow to the economy dealt by the coronavirus. But the number of new cases rose by 9,983 to 256,611, according to government figures announced yesterday, putting the country of 1.3 billion on course to overtake Britain and Spain among nations with the highest number of infections. The reported death toll of 7,135 is much lower than reported in other badly hit countries, but the epidemic is only expected to peak locally in July, according to health experts. In the capital Delhi, shopping malls, restaurants, temples and mosques were allowed to reopen for the first time since 25 March. The response was tentative with only a trickle of people returning to some places of worship.  Many temples set up sanitisation tunnels at their entrances and barred worshippers from bringing offerings. Delhi is one of India’s worst coronavirus hotspots, accounting for more than 27,600 cases and 761 deaths, although the real figures may be much higher according to experts.  Mumbai, which accounts for around a fifth of India’s cases and where hospitals have been overrun, was more cautious. Roadside shops were allowed to reopen, but malls, restaurants and hair salons remained closed. The Indian government says the tough lockdown it ordered on 25 March has limited the spread of the coronavirus.

Total number of cases worldwide – 7,119,232

Total number of deaths worldwide – 406,655

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 3,476,246

Active cases:

3,236,331 active cases,

3,182,422 in mild condition,

53,909 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  3,882,901

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

 

Monday 8th June 2020 by Louise Birch

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world” (Desmond Tutu)

Panama’s government said it would reintroduce restrictions on the movement of people in two provinces following increases in new cases, according to reports over the weekend. From today, Panama will re-apply restrictions to stem the transit of people in the provinces of Panama, which includes the capital city, and Panama Oeste, the government said. The curbs will alternate between men and women, as well as in accordance with the numbers on identification cards. Nadja Porcell, director general of health, said in a televised address that the country was tightening its containment measures because the public was failing to uphold sanitary guidelines amid a recent surge in internal travel. Panama still has the chance to win the battle against Covid-19 because the health system has not collapsed, but if the behaviour observed this week were to continue… essential resources could run out,” Porcell said.

The curbs are a setback for Panama, which on June 1 switched from applying a total lockdown to a night curfew and began reopening the economy, allowing non-metals mining operations to restart, as well as public-sector construction. Panama has reported 16,004 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 386 people have lost their lives. In a country of 4,309,953 people, testing has been conducted at a ratio of 16,867 tests per 1M populous.

In Australia, the state that has been the second hardest-hit by coronavirus, Victoria, has reported four new cases, taking it to a total of 1,685,  according to reports.

Victoria has 70 active cases, including two in intensive care. The state’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said there was ongoing evidence of community transmission in north and west Melbourne following a  black lives protest that was attended by thousands.  Professor Sutton said on Sunday. “Our clear advice was not to attend yesterday’s protest as thousands of people flooding the city was a risk. If you attended and go on to develop any symptoms no matter how mild – it is critically important that you go and get tested.” Of the new cases, one was a household contact linked to an outbreak last month at Fawkner McDonald’s. The three other cases were reported to be travellers in hotel quarantine. Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, has reported no new cases in the past 24 hours from 9,207 coronavirus tests. The state has had a total of 3,109 cases altogether. There are 70 active cases and no Covid-19 patients in intensive care.

Throughout Australia, 7,260 cases of coronavirus have been recorded and 102 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  Out of the 455 active cases, 3 people are described as serious or critical.

Across the geographic region of Oceania, official figures show a total of 8,870 confirmed cases of coronavirus to date and 124 lives have been lost.  French Polynesia, Fiji  and Papua New Guinea have reported 86 cases between them with ZERO lives lost.  In these 3 countries, there are no active cases.

Thailand has reported eight new coronavirus cases, taking its total to 3,112 infections.

The new cases are all among returnees who remain in quarantine. Since the start of the outbreak, 58 lives have been lost but there were no new deaths reported on Sunday.

Taiwan will further ease its coronavirus restrictions, the government said on Sunday, as the island has kept the pandemic well in hand with only six active cases and no local transmission for 56 days. Taiwan has never gone into total lockdown and life has continued largely as normal due to its early and effective prevention work and a first rate public health system, but has promoted social distancing and ensured broad public access to face masks, according to reports. Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre said that it would lift restrictions limiting the number of people who could participate in “daily life and leisure events”, though people should continue to wear face masks if they were unable to socially distance.  However, border entry restrictions remain, with authorities wary of a second wave of infections coming in from countries where the pandemic is still raging. Taiwan has reported 443 cases, the majority of which were in people who got infected overseas, and just 7 people have lost their lives.

Poland’s attempts to contain the virus are hampered by outbreaks in coal mines in the southern region of Silesia, according to reports over the weekend. Like most of central Europe, Poland reacted quickly to the pandemic, closing its borders, shutting non-essential businesses and banning large gatherings. The country suffered far fewer deaths (1,155) and infection cases (26,249) than many countries in western and southern Europe as a result.  But for the past six weeks, Poland has recorded roughly 300-400 new infections a day, and more than 50% of these have come from Silesia, which accounts for just 12% of the population.  There are currently 12,239 active cases of coronavirus in Poland and 160 people are described as serious or critical.

Istanbul residents flocked to the city’s shores and parks on the first weekend with no coronavirus lockdown measures in place since 10 April, prompting a reprimand from the country’s health minister who warned that the pandemic still poses a threat. Images on social media and in the news media showed crowds picnicking and partying Saturday night without heeding social distancing or wearing masks. Restaurants, cafes, gyms, parks, beaches and museums began reopening last Monday and domestic flights resumed. A decision by the Interior Ministry to continue a weekend curfew in 15 provinces, including Istanbul, was overturned Friday by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

 

Turkey opted for short weekend and holiday curfews during the pandemic instead of a total lockdown, amid fears of the negative effects on its already troubled economy.

People aged 65 and older and minors are still barred from leaving their homes except for allotted times during the week.  There have been 169,218 confirmed infections in the country which has a population of over 84 million.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Afghanistan has topped 20,000 as the country recorded its biggest daily rise in the number of deaths from Covid-19 on Sunday.

The health ministry has detected 791 new cases from 1,427 tests, according to the latest update, bringing the total number of infections to 20,342. Thirty patients died overnight, taking the country’s Covid-19 death toll to 357. There have been 1,875 recoveries.

The capital Kabul has recorded its worst day of the crisis after 23 patients died in the last 24 hours to Sunday and 313 new cases were detected. The capital is the country’s worst affected area with 8,030 confirmed cases and 66 deaths. From Saturday, masks must be worn in public places, two-metre physical distancing must be maintained and gatherings of more than 10 people should be avoided, the health ministry announced. Elderly people have been advised not leave their homes and workplaces must be disinfected.

Malaysia will lift most coronavirus restrictions on businesses on Wednesday, including a ban on travel between its states, after a lockdown of nearly three months. However, the country’s international borders will remain closed. Prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced in a televised address on Sunday that the coronavirus outbreak was under control and Malaysia would begin a new recovery phase that would last until 31 August.

Malaysia had gradually allowed businesses to reopen with social distancing guidelines over the past month, after shutting all non-essential businesses and schools, banning public gatherings and restricting travel on 18 March. Malaysian health officials reported 19 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the cumulative total to 8,322. So for, 117 deaths have been recorded. There are currently 1,531 active cases in the country with 5 of those described as serious or critical.  Malaysia has a recorded population of over 32 million and testing has been conducted at a ratio of 17,340 per 1M populous.

Total number of cases worldwide – 7,016,024

Total number of deaths worldwide – 402,787

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 3,432,322

Active cases:

3,180,915 active cases,

3,127,165 in mild condition,

53,750 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  3,835,109

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

 

This is your Sunday reminder that you can handle anything this week will throw at you.

Joyce Richardson celebrated her 100th birthday by raising £20K for charity by standing up 100 times by her big day. Joyce, from Thirsk North Yorkshire, has nearly lost the use of her legs after developing sepsis last year, and described the challenge as a “huge struggle”.

She said: “When I started it I thought if I raised £1,000 I would do very well, but I’m absolutely amazed how generous people have been.”  Captain Sir Tom Moore tweeted his support to the centenarian saying: “Welcome to the club Joyce, 100 years young today! And congratulations on your challenge for a great cause. Stay safe”. During World War Two, Mrs Richardson served in the Women’s Land Army in Ripon.

 

 

A nine-year-old Kenyan boy has been recognised by the country’s president for building a unique hand-washing machine to help fight the spread of Covid-19. President Uhuru Kenyatta recognised Stephen Wamukota with a prestigious state commendation for his work alongside 67 others who have contributed to the country’s anti-Covid efforts. The machine is equipped with a pedal-like foot lever to allow hand-washing with zero hand contact. “I had the idea of developing this machine and after I started, I ran out of materials and approached my father who assisted me complete it,” said Stephen.


Dubai’s
Burj Khalifa was transformed into the ‘World’s Tallest Donation Box’ being illuminated bit-by-bit to represent donations coming in to fund coronavirus-hit communities. The fund reached its target of securing funding for 1.2 million meals for low-income families and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic within one week of its launch.

An NHS healthcare worker who spent more than two months away from her daughters as she joined the fight against coronavirus has finally been reunited with her family. Suzie Vaughan, 43, from Kings Lynn, Norfolk, surprised her two daughters Hettie, seven, and Bella, nine, after two months apart. “We had said it was only going to be for a maximum of a month, but nobody knew at the beginning of this how it was going to go,” she said. “It was amazing to see them again, I missed the girls terribly. When they started crying I felt so bad but so relieved I was back with them. Now they won’t let me out of their sight. When I put them to bed they said, ‘Am I dreaming mummy?’

Many of you (not me) have been flexing creative muscles in recent months, making the most of the coronavirus lockdown to get stuck into those DIY projects you’ve been putting off. Few such efforts have been as ambitious as this one. An Australian sculptor has built a 13-foot-high electronic kookaburra — which even makes the same movements and noises as the famous Australian bird.  As soon as the model starts laughing, other kookaburras start coming around to check out the new kid on the block.

Local residents have been spotted taking a “sneaky beak” at the giant bid that stands 8 and a half metres from tail to beak and a height of 4 and half metres tall.  Maybe the next project should be an old gum tree for the kookaburra to sit in!

It’s lights out and we are racing. Good news for fans of Formula 1, the 2020 season is due to start in Austria on 5 July for a run of eight races in Europe. The first two races will both take place in Austria on the 5 and 12 July, with the third in Hungary. Following a two-week break there will be two races in Britain followed by races in Spain, Belgium and Italy. All will take place ‘behind closed doors’ with no audience with participants following guidelines to minimise the rise of Covid-19 contamination. F1 bosses hope to finish a 15 to 18 race season with races in Bahrain on 6 December and Abu Dhabi on 13 December.

 

Saturday 6th June 2020 by Louise Birch

“Peace is not just the absence of conflict, peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, class, caste or any other social markers of difference”  (Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela)

I wish you all peace.

South Africa has recorded 3,267 coronavirus cases in 24 hours, the biggest increase since the pandemic hit the country. The country now has a total of 40,792 infections, the health ministry said. It saw a rise of 56 deaths, bring the total to 848. More than half of the cases are in the Western Cape region where health services are under pressure.  South Africa is the sub-Saharan African country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Turkey has imposed a weekend lockdown in 15 cities as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the interior ministry said. In a statement, the ministry said bakeries and certain shops could operate during the lockdown. Turkey has had 167,410 confirmed cases and 4,630 people have lost their lives.  Over 131,000 people have recovered and there are currently 31,002 active cases with 602 described as serious or critical.

Singapore has confirmed another 261 coronavirus cases, the city-state’s smallest increase in nearly two months, taking its tally to 37,183. The lower number of cases was partly due to the fact that fewer swab-tests were conducted, the health ministry said. Singapore plans to launch a wearable device for coronavirus contact tracing that, if successful, it will distribute to all of its 5.7 million residents, the government said on Friday.

Brazil’s total COVID-19 death toll has become higher than that of Italy, as the Health Ministry reported 1,437 deaths in the 24 hours  preceding the writing of this report and 30,925 additional coronavirus cases. The Latin American nation has now reported 34,021 lives lost from the coronavirus, trailing only the United States and the United Kingdom.  Coronavirus cases have now been detected in more than 70% of Brazilian cities, with the south-eastern states of Rio and São Paulo particularly badly hit. Despite the worsening situation in Brazil, many parts of the region are moving towards reopening, against the advice of most medical experts. Miguel Lago, the director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, said reopening was a mistake that was likely to cause an explosion of infections and pile further pressure on hospitals that were already struggling to cope with the pandemic.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico urged the country to remain calm recently as Mexico registered the second straight day of escalating coronavirus death numbers on Thursday. The Health Department announced 816 more confirmed Covid-19 deaths, one day after officials reported a toll of 1,092 deaths, which was more than double the highest previous toll reported in a single day. Officials said an additional 1,033 suspected Covid-19 deaths were awaiting confirmation, suggesting daily tolls would remain high. Newly confirmed coronavirus cases also continued to rise significantly.  At the time of writing, Mexico has confirmed 105,680 cases of coronavirus and 12,545 people have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19.  There are currently 17,687 active cases and 378 people are described as serious or critical.

Argentina has extended a mandatory lockdown in Buenos Aires, the capital, and some other parts of the country until 28 June, as confirmed coronavirus cases continue to rise, surpassing 20,000 recently. The three-week extension of the lockdown, which had been due to expire June 7, will impact the capital city, the province of Buenos Aires and some other areas that account for the highest concentration of confirmed infections. The rest of the country will move to a phase of “mandatory and preventive social distancing.”  The next phase will include new permissions, including outdoor exercise during certain hours in the city of Buenos Aires, officials said.  Argentina has been under mandatory lockdown since March 20. Argentina has a commercial flight ban until 1 September, one of the world’s strictest travel measures during the pandemic.  With a recorded population of 45,165,566, testing appears to have been limited. Just 178,448 tests have been conducted, a ratio of 3,951 per 1M populous.

The Czech Republic (Czechia) fully opened borders with Austria and Germany, as well as travel with Hungary yesterday, 10 days earlier than planned, almost three months after they were shut to curb coronavirus. Travellers are now free to enter without submitting a negative virus test or going into quarantine. However the country still requires people from  some countries including Britain and Sweden to submit negative test results before being allowed in. Having closed all borders on 16 March to stem coronavirus infections, the Czechs reopened the Slovakia frontier on Thursday and lifted all travel restrictions with their neighbour. Officials had said on Monday they would open the border for the citizens of “safe” countries, including their neighbours but also Switzerland, Finland and the Baltic states, from 15 June. “We have brought the opening forward with these countries,” the prime minister, Andrej Babiš, told reporters, referring to Austria, Germany and Hungary, without explaining why the move was being made earlier than planned. The government also announced on Monday that Czechs would be free to travel to less-safe countries including Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain. But foreigners arriving from these countries would have to submit a negative test result upon entry, just like those from the least safe countries – Britain and Sweden. Czechs returning from Britain and Sweden will have to provide negative tests too.  At the time of writing, the Czech Republic had registered 9,494 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and  326 deaths, in a population of 10.7 million people.

Sweden reported another large rise in new cases of coronavirus on Friday, with the 1,056 positive tests reported by the public health agency marking the third day the country’s caseload had increased by more than a thousand. Sweden has now recorded 42,939 cases of coronavirus, and 4,639 deaths after another 77 deaths were reported on Friday – not all of which will have occurred within the past 24 hours due to reporting delays from local areas. The Swedish approach to tackling the coronavirus has been described as “light touch”, with shops, gyms and restaurants allowed to stay open, and the public simply asked to avoid non-essential travel or venturing out if unwell. Lockdown sceptics who thought that the kinds of lockdown measures seen elsewhere in Europe had gone too far have hailed the strategy. But criticism has been mounting after the per capita death rate in the country far exceeded its close neighbours.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s coronavirus death rate surpassed that of France. However, it remains well below the UK, Italy, Spain and Belgium – all countries which have enforced restrictions on movement in attempts to contain the spread of the disease.

The Covid-19 pandemic is now “under control” in France, the head of the government’s scientific advisory council has said, as the country cautiously lifts a lockdown imposed in March.  Jean-Francois Delfraissy reported  “We can reasonably say the virus is currently under control. The virus is still circulating, in certain regions in particular … but it is circulating slowly.”  The number of lives lost each day is declining, with just 44 reported by the health ministry on Thursday. Delfraissy said around 1,000 new cases were currently being reported in France per day, down from around 80,000 in early March, before the nationwide stay-at-home orders and business closures were issued.  A total of 152,444 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the country and 29,065 people have lost their lives.  There are currently 53.403 active cases with 1,163 people described as serious or critical.

Total number of cases worldwide – 6,748,071

Total number of deaths worldwide – 394,361

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 3,277,112

Active cases:

3,076,598 active cases,

3,022,979 in mild condition,

53,619 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  3,671,473

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

 

Friday 5 June 2020 by Louise Birch

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud” (Maya Angelou)

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected late last year, has tested nearly 10 million people in an unprecedented 19-day campaign to check an entire city, according to media reports. It identified just 300 positive cases, all of whom had no symptoms. The city found no infections among 1,174 close contacts of the people who tested positive, suggesting they were not spreading it easily to others.  That is a potentially encouraging development because of widespread concern that infected people without symptoms could be silent spreaders of the disease. Wuhan was by far the hardest hit city in China, accounting for more than 80% of the country’s deaths, according to official figures.

The governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, has said today it may be necessary to a stage a “simplified” Olympics next year due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and that organisers were already discussing possible changes.  John Coates, the head of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) inspectorate for Tokyo, has said a lack of a defence against the new coronavirus threatened the Games and organisers had to start planning for what could be a “very different” Olympics if there were no signs of Covid-19 being eradicated.

Following an early and stringent lockdown, Israel was able to reduce the numbers of new daily virus cases into the low double digits. However, the country of 9 million has seen a resurgence in recent days. Dozens of schools have been closed over the past week, with several thousand students and staff told to isolate at home. Israel, which has a population of over 9 million, has reported 17,343 coronavirus cases and 290 deaths. More than 593,000 people in the country have been tested for the virus according to official figures.

Official figures show Afghanistan has more than 18,000 confirmed cases, including thousands in Taliban-controlled territories. However a shortage of testing kits and medical supplies and a dilapidated health system are compounding problems in tackling the spread, according to reports from within the country.  The virus entered Afghanistan as infected migrants returned from neighbouring Iran, the region’s worst-hit country, and the Taliban ordered hundreds of returnees into quarantine.  According to the latest update, the health ministry has detected 787 new cases out of 1,296 tests, as six patients died overnight, pushing the total number of infections to 18,054 and the death toll to 300. There have been 1,585 recoveries. According to the ministry, 19 patients are in a critical condition in hospital. Most of the new cases were reported in Kabul, the capital, where the ministry detected 323 new cases out of 513 tests. Kabul is the country’s worst affected area by number of confirmed transmissions, with 7,133 cases. The western province of Herat recorded 110 new cases out of 128 tests in the past 24 hours. Testing capacity remains low in Afghanistan and experts warn that the real figures may be much higher.

Russia reported 8,831 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, taking the total number of infections across the country to 441,108. The country’s coronavirus crisis response centre said 169 people had died from the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide death toll to 5,384.  The mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, has said that temporary hospitals for patients sick with Covid-19 will remain in place in the Russian capital until mass vaccination can be carried out.

Uzbekistan will allow many businesses, including restaurants and cafes, clothing retailers and kindergartens, to reopen on 15 June in the latest easing of its coronavirus restrictions, the government said yesterday. Bus routes will also start operating on the same date between some provinces in areas deemed low-risk, it said. A ban on mass events such as group prayers, concerts, the operation of nightclubs, colleges, universities and city public transport, will remain in place. Uzbekistan, which has been divided into green, yellow and red zones depending on the rates of newly detected Covid-19 cases, has already allowed the resumption of domestic tourism and football games behind closed doors, and domestic air flights and train services have resumed.

Central Asia’s most populous nation of 34 million has confirmed 3,874 coronavirus cases and 16 deaths. Officials from the health ministry in the country thanked health workers for their efforts in tackling the pandemic.

Casinos in Nevada have been allowed to open, for the first time since 18 March.  Safety measures being rolled out include disinfected dice, hand sanitiser and face masks, limited numbers of players at tables, temperature checks at entrances to some resorts and touchless mobile phone check-ins. “I’m optimistic that customers will see that gaming properties invested time and effort to welcome them back to a safe and entertaining environment,” state Gaming Control Board chief Sandra Douglass Morgan said on Wednesday. The regulatory board required detailed health safety plans by last week, before giving the go-ahead to reopen.

 

 

 

 

 

Hospitals in Armenia can no longer cope with the number of coronavirus patients, the country’s prime minister warned yesterday. Nikol Pashinyan, who has himself tested positive. There could be as many as 20,000 people infected but showing no symptoms in the country, which has so far registered 11,221 cases and 176 deaths. The health ministry said an additional 68 patients who tested positive for the virus had died from other illnesses. Last week, health officials warned that intensive care beds would soon be reserved for patients with the best chance of survival.  Pashinyan has acknowledged his government failed to enforce anti-virus measures and denounced widespread quarantine violations. Armenia has already lifted a state of emergency that was imposed in March to slow the spread of the virus.

Ireland hopes to be able to recommend the resumption of air travel with a select number of countries in a number of weeks, the prime minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday, telling prospective holidaymakers “summer is not yet lost.” Some European countries such as Germany, Spain and Austria plan to lift coronavirus-related border restrictions with neighbouring countries this month, something Ireland has been more cautious about as it slowly reopens its economy. Ireland requires anyone entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days and foresees making its first step back to non-essential travel via so-called “air bridges” with other countries who share low levels of coronavirus infection. Ireland has reported 1,659 deaths related to just over 25,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19. The number of cases, deaths and admissions to hospital have all been falling in recent weeks.

The government is due to review the 14-day quarantine for travellers on 18 June.

Total number of cases worldwide – 6,611,402

Total number of deaths worldwide – 388,658

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 3,194,614

Active cases:

3,028,130 active cases,

2,973,883 in mild condition,

54,247 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  3,583,272

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.reuters.com

 

Thursday 4 June 2020 by Louise Birch

“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales into insignificance in comparison to what lies inside of you” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The World Health Organization has received reports of 100,000 new cases of coronavirus every day for the past five days, as the outbreak gathers pace in various regions around the world, its director general has said.

Opening the WHO’s regular coronavirus briefing, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

“More than 100,000 cases of Covid-19 have been reported to WHO for each of the past five days. The Americas continues to account for the most cases. For several weeks, the number of cases reported each day in the Americas has been more than the rest of the world put together. We are especially worried about Central and South America, where many countries are witnessing accelerating epidemics. We also see increasing numbers of cases in the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia and Africa, although the numbers are much smaller. Meanwhile, the number of Covid-19 cases in Europe continues to decline. Yesterday saw the fewest cases reported in Europe since 22 March.”

An unwelcome record of 1,262 Covid-19 deaths have been recorded in Brazil yesterday, taking the country’s total death toll to 31,199 but the President continues to downplay the pandemic. The figures were announced by Brazil’s health ministry, which also said the number of coronavirus cases had risen to 555,383, second only to the United States. The country is now on the verge of overtaking Italy, where 33,530 deaths have been recorded, as the country with the third highest number of deaths. But President, Jair Bolsonaro, who has dismissed Covid-19 as a “little flu”, again brushed off the tragedy on Tuesday.  “I regret each of the deaths – but that’s everyone’s destiny,” Bolsonaro told supporters outside his palace in the capital Brasília. Brazil’s most populous state, São Paulo, registered a record number of deaths on Tuesday taking the total number of lives lost there to nearly 8,000. Rio de Janeiro has Brazil’s second highest death toll with 5,686 deaths, followed by the northeastern state of Ceará where 3,421 people have died.

A government minister from Bolivia has warned  “Thanos is beating us” as he made a comic book comparison whilst gripping a model of the action figure along with models of fictional rivals Hulk and Iron Man.  The analogy was made as Iván Arias called for his compatriots to comply with sanitary measures and lockdown measures during the current pandemic.  “We must all use masks, keep a metre’s distance and respect the rules, because it’s been shown that Thanos is beating us; chaos, pain, death,” Arias said.  He also expressed concern about the La Paz region where lockdown measures have been eased along with 4 other Bolivian cities at the beginning of this month.  Bolivia has reported 10,991 cases of coronavirus ad 376 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. There is a recorded population of 11,660,175 in the country and testing has been carried out at a ratio of 2,422 tests per 1M populous. Just 28,239 tests have been conducted.

India is reported to still be some way from the peak of the coronavirus outbreak as the number of confirmed infections passed 200,000 on Wednesday.  Cases increased by 8,909 from Tuesday according to official figures.  There have been 5,834 lives lost in India as a result of COVID-19. There are currently 102,456 active cases and nearly 9,000 of those are described as critical or serious.  It is believed that over 100,000 people have recovered from the virus thus far.  Official reports say that it could be later this month of even July before the numbers start to decline.

Russia has reported 8,536 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 yesterday, taking its nationwide tally to 432,277. The number of lives lost reached 5,215 after the authorities said they had recorded another 178 deaths from the virus.

Vietnam’s most gravely-ill Covid-19 patient, a British pilot who works for its national airline, has started to recover from the illness and may no longer require a lung transplant, state media said today, according to reports.  Vietnam, which has reported no deaths from the coronavirus, has mounted an all-out effort to save the 43-year-old man, who has been identified officially by the government as “Patient 91”. Until recently, the Vietnam Airlines pilot was thought by doctors and officials to be in urgent need of a lung transplant. The fate of “Patient 91” has received unprecedented national attention, with more than 50 people in Vietnam offering themselves as potential lung donors, according to state media. The man, who is being treated at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, can now smile, shake hands and respond to commands from hospital staff, the official Vietnam News Agency said yesterday. Vietnam’s second most serious case, “Patient 19”, was discharged from hospital on Wednesday. Of Vietnam’s 328 coronavirus cases, 90% have recovered.

Entry checks at land borders to Austria, introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be scrapped from today, except for those at the border with Italy, Austria’s foreign minister has announced. “As of Thursday there will be no more checks in order to enter Austria,” Alexander Schallenberg told a press conference.  The controls on the Italian border will be evaluated again next week, adding that Vienna was considering the possibility of allowing entry from Italian regions where infection figures are low. Austria said last month it would open its borders – closed in mid-March – with all countries, except for Italy and Slovenia, in the middle of June.  Positive epidemiological developments in neighbouring Germany, Hungary, Lichtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic are believe to be the reason behind the announcement of the decision to bring forward the opening. On Wednesday, Austria reported that 26 people had tested positive for coronavirus, and one person had died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. To date the Alpine EU member of nearly nine million people has escaped the worst of the pandemic, registering more than 16,759 cases, of which 15,629 have recovered and 669 have died.

The number of deaths per capita from the coronavirus outbreak in Sweden has now surpassed that of France, as the country recorded a bumper rise in infections due to the release of previously withheld statistics from a Stockholm test lab. According to the latest update from the public health agency, 74 more people have died from Covid-19 in Sweden, pushing the total death toll to 4,542. With 450 Covid-19 deaths per 1m people, it means Sweden now has a higher coronavirus death rate than France, which has recorded 443 deaths from the virus per 1m population, according to figures released from the World Health Organisation. Sweden’s unwelcome rise up the coronavirus rankings on Wednesday came after its chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, who is credited with masterminding his country’s light touch outbreak strategy, admitted there was “quite obviously a potential for improvement in what we have done”.

Belgium has announced that restaurants, cafes and bars can reopen next week, in a significant easing of lockdown restrictions.  From 8 June, an individual can see up to 10 people in a week, compared with the current four-person limit per household for home gatherings. The new rules apply to indoor and outdoor meetings. Restaurants, cafes and bars can open from Monday if they take precautions, such as banning counter service and shared menus, compulsory masks for staff and a 1.5-metre distance between tables.

Gyms can also reopen, but contact sports are banned and swimming pools will remain closed until July. Night clubs and festivals are not expected to return until late August.

Belgium will reopen its borders on 15 June. People are advised to follow six golden rules, including hand hygiene and social distancing, when meeting someone from outside the family.

Greece has already been forced to confront the risks of restarting international tourism after authorities announced that 12 out of 91 passengers aboard a Qatar Airlines flight to Athens had tested positive for coronavirus. The country’s civil protection ministry, rushing to enforce emergency health protocols, responded by suspending air links to and from the Arab state until 15 June. All 91 travellers were immediately placed in quarantine.

Pakistan recorded its largest single day increase in coronavirus infections on Wednesday.  The country reported over 4,000 new cases bringing the total to 80,463 confirmed cases.  1,688 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Total number of cases worldwide – 6,503,097

Total number of deaths worldwide – 384,184

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 3,097,342

Active cases:

3,021,571 active cases,

2,967,139 in mild condition,

54,432 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  3,481,526

 

 

Wednesday 3rd June 2020 by Louise Birch

“March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move towards perfection. March on and fear not the thorns or sharp stones on life’s path.” (Khalil Gibran)

Nursery schools in Belgium began reopening yesterday, two and a half months after they were closed down as part of measures to contain the spread of coronavirus. The reopening is the latest step in the gradual easing of lockdown measures in Belgium, which has recorded the worst per capita death rate from the coronavirus outbreak of any country in Europe. From next week, primary schools are also due to reopen.

Belgium’s national security council will meet today to decide on the third phase of lockdown easing, which will include the reopening of cafes and restaurants, and the resumption of domestic holidays and religious services, timetabled for 8 June.

A decision is also due to be taken on reopening the borders, which is expected on 15 June, in line with the schedules of Germany and France, Belgium’s biggest neighbours.  There have been 58,517 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 9,486 people have died.  The figures equate to 5,051 cases per 1M populous and 819 lives lost per 1M populous.

New Zealand’s health officials announced an 11th straight day of no new cases of Covid-19, with only one person still recovering from the virus. They are not in hospital. 22 people have died of the coronavirus in New Zealand, with no additional deaths announced on Tuesday.  Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, says her government will consider sooner than planned a move to the lowest level of Covid-19 restrictions after she said the country’s quashing of the virus had progressed “ahead of schedule. While the proposed level 1 restrictions have not been detailed by the government yet, it is believed they will entail little in the way of rules beyond a continuation of New Zealand’s strict border lockdown.  Ms Ardern said on Tuesday that a possible spike in Covid-19 cases had not happened as restrictions on New Zealanders had gradually relaxed, and she was now more optimistic that such a resurgence would not occur.  “Our strategy of going hard and early has paid off,” she said, referring to the strict national shutdown she imposed in late March, when just over 200 people had been diagnosed with the virus. There have been fewer than 1,500 confirmed cases to date.

People in Berlin tasted a little more freedom yesterday as fitness studios, casinos and dance schools are allowed to reopen their doors for the first time since Germany’s coronavirus lockdown began on 27 March. Sport with a maximum of 12 participants is also allowed to take place indoors for the first time and bars will also be allowed to reopen. The strict conditions which have to be adhered to include 3-metre physical distancing in fitness studios (the norm in Germany is 1.5 metres), and in bars people have to sit at tables, not at the counter. In almost all scenarios, from gyms to pubs, customers will have to give their name and phone number to the proprietor so that they can be contacted in case of an infection outbreak.

Germany’s travel warning for Europe will be lifted from today, the foreign minister, Heiko Maas said. “We are preparing the cabinet to pass a decree”. The worldwide travel warning still applies, but for the countries of the EU and associated states, the warning will be replaced by travel advice. This will give travellers detailed information about the situation in each individual state, which should help them to decide where they can plan to go on holiday and which regions they would be advised to avoid, Maas said.

He said the government will make a decision on countries beyond Europe at a later date.

Schools in Senegal are to remain closed after a last minute decision to postpone the resumption of classes for pupils in the last three years of secondary education.

They had been due to return on Tuesday morning, two and a half months after schools were closed down as part of measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The education ministry announced the much-awaited move was being delayed “until a later date” after a cluster of infections was detected among teachers in Casamance, a region in Senegal’s far south according to reports. By Tuesday, Senegal had counted 3,836 cases of coronavirus, and 43 deaths. As with other African countries, the pandemic has been relatively contained, but the weak state of Senegal’s health system has stirred many doubts about its ability to withstand major spread.

Over 5,000 more people across Africa have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the latest update from the World Health Organisation’s regional office for the continent.

According to the UN health agency, there had been more than 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus reported between the 54 countries in Africa on Tuesday morning, of which 63,000 patients had recovered and 4,200 had died.

Concerts have been allowed to restart in Portugal, with the country’s prime minister, Antonio Costa, attending a show performed by Bruno Nogueira and Manuela Azevedo in Lisbon last night.

In Malaysia on Tuesday, health authorities today reported 20 new coronavirus cases, bringing the cumulative total to 7,877 cases. The health ministry also reported no new deaths, keeping total fatalities at 115.

Following the news on Tuesday of the first Rohingya refugee to die of Covid-19 in Bangladesh, the country has reported 2,911 new cases, the most they have reported in a single day, from 12,704 samples tested. This takes the total number of confirmed infections in the country to 52,445.  The number of people reported to have lost their lives is 709.

Iran has recorded its second highest number of new coronavirus cases since its outbreak began, with 3,117 people in the country testing positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, according to the latest health ministry report. The number of new daily infections in Iran has now returned to levels previously seen at the peak of its outbreak in late March. Iran’s highest number of new cases in a single day was reached on 31 March, when 3,186 positive tests were reported.  So far, 157,562 people in Iran have tested positive for coronavirus, of whom 123,077 have recovered and 7,942 have died.

Shopping malls in Dubai will fully reopen for business today, in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions, the emirate’s media office has announced. The step makes the city-state the first in the Middle East to drop nearly all restrictions to combat the spread of the virus. Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, had already shortened a nighttime curfew to seven hours starting from 11pm. Businesses in the private sector had been allowed since last week to work at 50% capacity, but the authorities now say they can “fully operate”.  Across the UAE, there have been 35,788 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 269 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Total number of cases worldwide – 6,415,566

Total number of deaths worldwide – 378,747

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 2,940,122

Active cases:

3,096,697 active cases,

3,042,419 in mild condition,

54,278 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  3,318,869

 

 

Tuesday 2 June 2020 by Louise Birch

“Act as if what you do makes a difference, it does”  (William James)

Terraces throughout The Netherlands filled quickly on Monday as bars and restaurants were allowed to open for the first time in almost three months. Along with museums, cinemas and theatres, they were allowed to open their doors from Monday morning as long as they follow strict social distancing rules. They are now allowed to receive a maximum of 30 customers at a time, who have to make reservations in advance and need to be seated at tables spaced at least 1.5 metres apart. Public transport, which had been limited during the lockdown, also returned to regular service on Monday with all travellers and staff required to wear face masks. Secondary schools in the country are due to reopen today following the partial reopening of primary schools last month.  There have been 46,545 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands and 5,962 people have died.

Sweden reported 232 new cases of coronavirus on Monday. Eight more people have been recorded as dying of the virus, according to the latest update, which puts the total death toll at 4,403 and the cumulative case load at 37,814. Sweden generally reports comparatively few deaths and new infections on a Monday, given delays in reporting over the weekend.  Even taking that into account it is clear there has been a fall in the spread and mortality of its Covid-19 outbreak. A keen eye has been kept on developments in Sweden as the country did not impose the lockdowns implemented elsewhere in Europe.

Germany recorded 333 confirmed new infections and 11 new deaths linked to Covid-19, according to figures released on Monday, there have now been 183,606 confirmed cases in the country and 8,610 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. The reproduction number (R), indicating how many new cases one infected person generates on average, rose to 1.04 on Sunday, staying above the critical threshold of one for the second row in a day. The Robert Koch Institute has warned that the R was more likely to fluctuate while the overall number of new infections was low, and the latest rise might be linked to an outbreak of the virus in the city of Göttingen, in Lower Saxony.  At least 36 people were tested positive and more than 150 put into quarantine after health authorities in the city linked an outbreak to a number of private parties and an illegally opened shisha bar.

Istanbul’s 550-year-old Grand Bazaar reopened its doors on Monday for the first time in more than two months as cities across Turkey prepared to ease restrictions imposed to control the Covid-19 crisis. Cafes, restaurants, public buildings, sports facilities, childcare centres, parks and beaches have been allowed to reopen from yesterday, although in Istanbul torrential rain kept public spaces empty. An intercity travel ban was also lifted, with cross-country rail travel and some domestic flights resuming. International flights are scheduled to restart from 10 June. Turkey currently has the tenth worst coronavirus outbreak in the world by number of cases, at 163,942, but has recorded a much lower death rate than other badly-hit countries, which reached 4,540 on Sunday. People over 60 and under the age of 18 are still subject to a curfew until further notice.

Saudi Arabia has reopened its mosques after a two-month closure. Worshippers were required to take their own prayer mats and face masks and stand two metres apart. Worshippers were required to perform their ablution rite of washing their face, arms and legs before prayer, at home. The Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, which attract millions of Muslims globally, remain suspended.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi has announced it will cordon off the UAE’s capital as well as banning travel between regions within the emirate for a week from today to rein in the novel coronavirus. The announcement on Sunday means that residents of the United Arab Emirates will not be allowed to travel from the capital Abu Dhabi to the services hub of Dubai, 90 minutes on a major highway, without a permit. The decision came as the authorities said they were easing other restrictions within Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. The authorities placed “a ban on movement entering and exiting the emirate and between its regions” from 2 June.

Japan is considering re-opening its borders to travellers from selected countries which have low levels of coronavirus infections, as it begins to ease restrictions put in place earlier this year to control the outbreak, according to media reports. As schools, cinemas, sports clubs and department stores reopened in the nation’s capital Tokyo on Monday, media have reported that the government is also planning to allow travellers from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand into the country in the coming months. Japan banned entry by foreign visitors in February in an effort to limit the spread of the virus from overseas visitors.

Traffic jams and crowds of commuters returned to the Philippines capital of Manila on Monday, as the city relaxed antivirus measures in a high-stakes gamble to slowly reopen the economy while fighting the coronavirus outbreak. Public transport was still limited and many commuters waited for hours to get a ride despite the government deploying special buses. School classes remain suspended for the next two weeks. Barber shops and beauty salons can open next week at a third of their capacity. The Philippines remains a south-east Asian hotspot for Covid-19, with 18,638 infections and 960 deaths.

The good news for residents of Kolkata, India, is that hairdressers are open again. The bad news is they’ve got to look like this:

This week will see the reopening of much of France following the Covid-19 emergency. Lockdown measures have been further eased across most of the country designated “green” on the health authorities’ coronavirus map. The Paris region, however, remains “orange” on the map, meaning there are concerns that the virus is still circulating. The situation in the capital will be reassessed in three weeks. While most museums and monuments have been given the all-clear to reopen, the capital’s most popular attractions, including the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou, will remain closed for a while longer. Some will require visitors to reserve tickets online before visiting. France’s borders remain closed to foreign visitors except those with a “compelling” family or professional reason to enter the country until at least 15 June. Cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels will open on Tuesday in green areas but not until 22 June in orange areas. Until then, establishments in the Paris area will have to serve customers on terraces only. Public gardens, parks, beaches, lakes, woods, can open across the country.

Spain is reporting no deaths in a 24-hour period from the new coronavirus for the first time since March, according to reports. The emergency health response chief, Fernando Simón, said the development was very, very encouraging. He told a news conference on Monday that there had been only 71 new infections over the past 24 hours.

On Monday, South Africa moved to level three of its five-tier shutdown. The easing of measures comes despite a recent surge in coronavirus cases, with 1,674 more announced yesterday bringing the cumulative total in the country to 34,357. Of those, 705 people have died and 16,808 have recovered. People in the country rushed to off-licences as a nine-week ban on alcohol sales, brought in when the country went into coronavirus lockdown, was finally lifted. The mood was festive in Soweto, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, where customers carrying crates of empty beer bottles waited out the meandering lines, some stationed in their cars, blasting loud music from their stereos.

“We are overwhelmed, over the moon, so excited,” said queueing customer Bongani Khumalo. “This place is jamming,” he exclaimed, adding that celebrations were expected throughout the township.

“I’m here to buy my beloved beer,” said 31-year-old nurse Anele Mapoma. “It has been a while since I had a taste of that foam and I am here so early to satisfy my habit,” he said.

Another Soweto resident, who asked not be named, said she had been looking forward to “this day for an entire month”. “I had to wake up super early to be here so I’m all good now,” the 24-year-old said as she stood outside a liquor store wearing a face mask and dark hoodie.

 

Total number of cases worldwide – 6,317,412

Total number of deaths worldwide – 374,992

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 2,876,458

Active cases:

3,065,962 active cases,

3,012,392 in mild condition,

53,570 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  3,251,450

 

Monday 1 June 2020 by Louise Birch

“If a June night could talk, it would probably boast that it invented romance”

(Bernard Williams)

Welcome June,  we are ready for more happiness, good news and good times.

The more than 2 million people who have been “shielding” from Covid-19 in England because they are deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable will be allowed to spend time outdoors from today for the first time in 10 weeks. Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised their resilience as their particular lockdown measures are to be eased. Government regulations come into force  today that will allow groups of up to six people to meet up outside, including in back gardens. After the long and monotonous weeks of social isolation, it’s the news that, if not everybody, then certainly sausage and burger manufacturers have been dreaming of.  “You can even have a barbecue,” announced Mr Johnson last week in one of those Churchillian moments of national spirit-raising for which he would like to be renowned. That is to say, you can chuck lighter fuel on the charcoal as long as your gathering is socially distanced, everyone washes their hands and exercises what Johnson called “common sense”; a disputed concept, these days; it may mean that if you don’t possess a barbecue set yourself, then you can drive 260 miles to see a family member who does have one.

Parties and larger social gatherings have been blamed in Spain for spikes in infection that have caused regional problems for the country’s ongoing attempts to return to some level of normality according to reports over the weekend. In the western city of Badajoz, infections that are believed to have been picked up at a birthday party led to 18 people having to self-isolate, while there have been small cases of inter-familiar infections at other social gatherings. “An innocent party can end up with an outbreak,” said Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Centre for Health Alerts. But some of the cases were not so innocent, and occurred after clear violations of the de-escalation rules. This is why the Spanish authorities have been constantly calling on citizens not to drop their guard and to stick closely to the regulations of each phase.  He stressed the point “If we are not all already in the new normality it’s for a reason.”  Spain’s Prime Minister has said he will ask parliament to agree to a last 2 week extension fo the state of emergency lockdown until 21 June after which there will be no further restrictions on the movements of citizens.

Brazil has nearly 500,000 cases, after a record one-day increase. Brazil registered a record 33,274 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, its health ministry said, raising the total to 498,440 in a country with one of the world’s worst outbreaks. The death toll in Brazil from Covid-19 increased to 28,834, with 956 new deaths in the  24 hours preceding the writing of this report.

 Mexico on Saturday registered 2,885 new cases of coronavirus and 364 more deaths, bringing the total numbers to 87,512 cases and 9,779 fatalities, according to official figures.  The cemetery of Valle de Chalco, a Mexican municipality, had to expand as it ran out of space for graves due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque reopened to worshippers on Sunday after a two-and-a-half month coronavirus closure, but Muslim authorities imposed some precautions as health officials warn of an uptick in local infections.  Worshippers must wear face masks and bring personal prayer rugs should they wish to pray inside the shrines or on the compound’s outdoor grounds, the Council of Islamic Waqf said in a statement.

Around 700 worshippers were present on the compound for dawn prayers on Sunday, the vast majority of whom did wear face masks and brought prayer rugs. The resumption of prayers at Islam’s third-holiest site caps a sombre period for Jerusalem’s Muslims, who this year marked the holy fasting month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday without their usual daily visits to Al-Aqsa and the adjoining Dome of the Rock.  There have been 16,887 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Israel and 284 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  There are currently 1,836 active cases in the country and 14,727 people are reported to have recovered.  Israel has a recorded population of 9,197,590 and testing has been conducted at a ratio of 61,463 tests per 1M populous.

Thailand reported four new coronavirus cases on Sunday and no new deaths, taking the total number of infections to 3,081 with 57 deaths since January. The new patients had arrived in Thailand from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia and have been in state quarantine, said Panprapa Yongtrakul, a spokeswoman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration. Local infections have slowed and, over the last two weeks, around 80% of new cases were Thais who had returned from abroad.  Thailand will today begin reopening more businesses classified as medium to high risks, including cinemas and gyms.

Russia has reported 9,268 new cases of the novel coronavirus, raising the national tally to 405,843. Officials said 138 people had died of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, in the last 24 hours preceding writing, pushing to nationwide toll up to 4,693.  Testing in Russia has been conducted at a ratio of 52,216 per 1M populous.  There are currently 229,267 active cases reported in the country and 171,883 people have beaten COVID-19.

Hong Kong’s 17-day run without a local coronavirus infection ended on Sunday as a woman with no recent travel history tested positive. Her husband also tested “preliminary” positive, according to reports.  The city’s total of confirmed cases stands at 1,085 and 4 people have died.   There are currently 44 active cases in Hong Kong and 2 of those are described as serious or critical. With a recorded population of 7,491,755, testing has been carried out at a ratio of 27,087 per 1M populous.

In Ireland, the government is considering moves to speed up plans to ease the national lockdown, including bringing forward plans to scrap limits on how far the public can travel from home. Museums, galleries, hairdressers and other amenities could also reopen by the end of June, while hotels could be allowed to operate with limited occupancies subject to the spread of Covid-19 remaining suppressed, according to reports over the weekend.  Further reports, yet to be confirmed, state that the current 5km limit on travel is expected to be replaced by a new 20km limit from next Monday.  Ireland has reported a total of 24,929 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began and 1,651 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.   With a population of 4,932,957, testing carried out in the country equates to 66,045 tests per 1M populous.  The number of people who have beaten this disease is 22,089 and there are currently 1,189 active cases, 36 described as serious or critical.

Total number of cases worldwide – 6,190,785

Total number of deaths worldwide – 371,465

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 2,758,977

 

Active cases:

3,060,343 active cases,

3,006,862 in mild condition,

53,481 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  3,130,442

 

ILouise Birch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Situation Report Sunday 31th May 2020 by Louise Birch 

“Your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you” (Les Brown)

Here are the Sunday Smile Stories, a welcome break from the dark side.

A Surrey pensioner has become the oldest coronavirus survivor in the United Kingdom. Freda Hodgson, aged 106, contracted the infection in April and has been nursed back to health at the Whiteley Village care home. Freda, who also survived the Spanish flu as a child, has no fewer than 52 great-grandchildren. Freda is back to drinking her favourite tipple of brandy and ginger and is about to have her memoirs published.  Way to go Freda!

 

No patients in New Zealand are in hospital with coronavirus for the first time since the country went into lockdown on March 25. Only 1 case remains still active, according to official figures, as the country continues to make plans to move to the next alert level and relax restrictions further.  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has become the country’s most popular leader in a century according to a recent poll.

 

Her heroic COVID-19 response has undoubtedly helped but I think the main reason was down to declaring the Easter Bunny an essential worker!  Yes Easter seems a lifetime ago but who can resist cute Bunny photos and mentions of chocolate!

The Colosseum, which is Italy’s most visited tourist destination, will welcome visitors from Monday for those looking to enjoy Roman ruins from a social distance.

 

 

 

 

An online sermon being delivered by the Dean of Canterbury was derailed when an intrepid cat wandered between his legs and disappeared into his cassock!

Robert Willis, was forced to press paws on his speech when the creature sauntered across the shot and vanished into the folds of his robes, Leo is not adverse to attempting to cause a cat-astophe, it’s not the first time his behaviour has been less than purrfect when the Dean has been attempting to deliver his address online.

For the first time since the new coronavirus hit New York, it claimed no lives in a Montefiore hospital on last Thursday. “Zero COVID patient deaths yesterday!” said Montefiore Medicine CEO Dr. Philip O. Ozuah. “First time since pandemic hit.” The Montefiore hospital system in The Bronx was among the hardest hit by the virus, which arrived in New York City more than two months ago.

But that didn’t stop doctors and nurses from finding and celebrating moments of victory. Whenever a COVID-19 patient is taken off a ventilator or discharged from the hospital, Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind” is blasted through the hospital’s public address system. Click on picture to watch.

Have a great Sunday and stay happy, healthy and safe.

Louise Birch.

 

 

 

Situation Report Saturday 30th May 2020 by Louise Birch 

“Keep love in your heart.  A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead” (Oscar Wilde)

No new cases in China reported on Friday by the country’s National Health Commission.  Just 5 new asymptotmatic cases have been reported which is down from 23 on Thursday.

Paris is no longer a “red” coronavirus danger zone, the risks posed by the virus  have moved down a notch to “orange”, according to France’s prime minister, Edouard Philippe. The rating means Paris is not yet as free as the majority of French regions designated “green”.

 The president of Namibia and several of the country’s top officials have been fined after breaching coronavirus regulations last month by hosting a celebration to mark his party’s 60th anniversary. The South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo) birthday party took place in parliament on 19 April, when Namibia was under lockdown and group gatherings were banned to limit the spread of coronavirus. As well as the president, Hage Geingob, the guests included vice-president Nangolo Mbumba, prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and SWAPO secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa. All have since been fined N$2,000 (£92.34).  Namibia has recorded 23 cases of coronavirus and ZERO deaths since the outbreak began there.  There is a recorded population of 2,536,452 in the country and testing has been carried out at a ratio of 1,345 per 1M populous.

Residents in Manila will see their lockdown, one of the toughest and longest in the world, ease from Monday, despite the Philippines seeing its biggest spike in coronavirus cases on Thursday. Health Minister, Francisco Duque, said 90% of the country’s Covid-19 cases were “mild” and only less than 2% are “severe and critical”. Manila’s lockdown will this weekend surpass the 76-day quarantine of Wuhan, where the first outbreak of coronavirus was detected. From Monday in Manila, gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed. Workplaces, shops and some public transport will reopen and movement in and out of the city will be permitted, provided the people wear masks and observe social distancing. Schools, universities, tourist destinations and dine-in restaurants will stay closed, however, and stay-at-home orders will remain for the elderly and children.  There have been 16,634 cases of coronavirus confirmed in the country and 942 people have died as a result of COVID-19.

In Mumbai’s Sion hospital emergency ward there are two people to a bed. Patients, many with coronavirus symptoms and strapped two to a single oxygen tank, were captured lying almost on top of each other, top-to-toe on shared stretchers or just lying on the floor, in footage shared on social media in India this week. Mumbai, a city of more than 20 million people, is weeks into the pandemic, but with new cases showing no sign of slowing down the city’s already weak healthcare system appears to be on the brink of collapse. State hospitals such as Sion, overcrowded in normal times, are overrun. With frontline doctors and nurses falling sick with the virus in their droves, it is also leading to a shortage of medical staff.  There have been 169,011 confirmed infections in India and 4,820 people have died.  Currently there are over 91,000 active cases with 8,944 of those described as serious or critical.   In a country where the recorded population excess 1.3 billion, testing has been carried at a rate which equates to 2,527 tests per 1M populous.

Greece is to reopen its airports in Athens and Thessaloniki to arrivals from 29 countries from 15 June, the start of the tourist season, according to recent reports. Visitors will be allowed from 16 EU countries, including Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Czech Republic, Baltic countries, Cyprus and Malta, the tourism ministry said in a statement.

Countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic such as France, Spain, UK and Italy are not on the list. Outside the European Union, holidaymakers from Switzerland, Norway, and neighbouring Balkan countries such as Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia will be allowed to land. Also on the list are Australia, Japan, Israel, Lebanon, China, New Zealand and South Korea.  Further countries could be added before 1 July when the regional airports in the country are due to reopen.  Visitors will be tested for coronavirus when they land.

As other European countries begin to restart tourism, with shops, bars, restaurants and attractions reaping, a round up of lockdown measures and restrictions country by country can be found at this link:

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2020/may/18/europe-holidays-which-european-countries-are-easing-coronavirus-travel-restrictions-lockdown-measures

Originally compiled 18 May, the list is up to date as of 5pm Friday 29 May.

As Sweden is excluded from the plans announced by Denmark and Norway to reopen their borders to tourists from some countries next month, what has been described as “Nordic rift” appears to have opened.  The Danish Prime Minister and the Norwegian Prime Minister have both said that tourists form Sweden will not be able to travel to their respective countries with the Danish PM saying that the 2 countries were in different places when it came to coronavirus.

On Friday Sweden’s public health authority reported a further 84 deaths from Covid-19. The country’s total death toll from the outbreak now stands at 4,350, about four times the combined total of the other Nordic countries.

People in Turkey have held their first communal Friday prayers in 74 days after the government reopened some mosques as part of its plans to relax measures put in place to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Prayers were held in the courtyards of selected mosques, to minimise the risk of infection.  Authorities distributed masks at the entrance to the mosques, sprayed hand sanitiser and checked temperatures. Worshippers were asked to bring their own prayer rugs, but some mosques offered disposable paper rugs which were placed 1.5 metres apart.  Turkey has confirmed 160,979 cases of coronavirus and 4,461 people have lost their battle within COVID-19.

Russia recorded its biggest increase yet in coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, with 232 more deaths in the past 24 hours pushing the nationwide total to 4,374.

Officials said 8,572 new infections had been confirmed, bringing the national tally to 387,623, according to reports.  According to Tass, a Russian news agency, 50 deaths were recorded in Dagestan, 20 in the Moscow region and 11 in St Petersburg, while the North Ossetia, Krasnoyarsk and Oryol regions reported six coronavirus deaths each.

In the face of questioning over the country’s comparatively low coronavirus death toll, given its high infection rates, Russian officials have said its low virus death figures are also down to mass testing which has identified many cases with mild or no symptoms.   Russia has recorded 387,623 cases and 4,374 lives have been lost.  Over 10M tests have been conducted and with a population of 145,928,996, that equates to 68,527 tests per 1M populous.

 

Egypt’s Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly, has told the country’s embattled medical syndicate that doctors who die on the job will be viewed as “martyrs” and their families compensated, in the same manner as security forces who die in battle, 23 Egyptian doctors have died and 350 have contracted Covid-19.  Egypt recently recorded 20,793 cases of Covid-19, and 845 deaths in one day and government officials had hoped that an extended five-day curfew over the Eid al-Fitr holiday that began last weekend would help stop the surge in numbers. However each day has brought a new record number of cases, and increasing alarm from the medical syndicate who say the government should reconsider plans to begin reopening the country after the Eid holiday, and implement a full lockdown.  Egypt has reported 20,793 confirmed cases and 845 people have died.   There are currently 14,589 active cases with 41 described as serious or critical.

 

South Korea has postponed the planned reopening of more than 800 schools as it battles a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus, with cases now at their highest level for almost two months. The country’s easing of lockdown measures has gone into reverse, with museums, parks and art galleries closed again on Friday for two weeks. Kindergarten pupils, and some primary and secondary school students were due back from Wednesday, in the last phase of school reopenings. According to the education ministry, however, 838 schools out of 20,902 nationwide remain shut. They are located in areas hard hit by the latest wave of infections, including the capital Seoul and the cities of Bucheon and Gumi. South Korea has been praised for its deft handling of the Covid crisis. It seemed to have brought the virus under control only to record 79 new cases this week, the highest daily figure for two months. As I reported yesterday, the government has responded by bringing back lockdown measures in the Seoul metropolitan area.

 

Total number of cases worldwide – 5,962,280

Total number of deaths worldwide – 363,898

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 2,628,359

 

Active cases: Currently Infected

2,970,023 active cases, 2,916,340 (98%) in mild condition, 53,683 (2%)

described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  2,992,257

 

 

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

 

Situation Report Friday 29 May 2020 by Louise Birch

“There are moments in our history so grim, so heart-rending, that they’re forever fixed in each of our hearts as shared grief. Today is one of those moments. 100,000 lives have now been lost to this virus. To those hurting, I’m so sorry for your loss. The nation grieves with you.” (Joe Biden)

Words of compassion from Joe Biden as the number of lives lost in the USA passed 100,000 recently.  Even as this sombre milestone was passed, many more states in the country are continuing to relax measures put in place to try and curb the spread of coronavirus.

The 1st coronavirus cases in the US was noted 20 January, the same day that the 1st case was confirmed in South Korea.  Whilst the US increased testing capacity in the country, it has yet to implement a national plan for contact tracing, South Korea did this immediately.   South Korea has recorded a total of 269 lives lost which equates to 5 per 1M populous. The numbers in the USA equate to 305 per 1M population.

Following my report yesterday about the spike in infections in Seoul, officials in South Korea have re-implemented lockdown measures in that metropolitan area which is home to almost half o the country’s 52 million population. Museums, parks and art galleries will all be closed again from Friday for two weeks, said health minister Park Neung-hoo, while companies have been urged to reintroduce flexible working among other measures.

“We have decided to strengthen all quarantine measures in the metropolitan area for two weeks from tomorrow to June 14,” he said. Residents of Seoul have also been advised to avoid social gatherings or going to crowded places, including restaurants and bars, while religious facilities have been asked to be extra vigilant with quarantine measures. There were no new delays, however, to the phased re-opening of schools that is currently underway.

Colombia will begin easing restrictions put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus starting from June, President Ivan Duque recently, though he asked the public to continue isolating at home and keep using measures to contain the disease.

Colombia has reported more than 24,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, as well as 803 deaths. The country began a nationwide quarantine in late March. As part of the relaxed rules, children aged 2 to 5 years old will be allowed out three times a week for 30 minutes from the 1st June, while those aged 6 to 17 will be permitted outside three times a week for up to an hour. Adults under 70 years old will be allowed out three times a week for up to two hours at a time. People aged 70 and over are considered a high-risk population and should remain at home, though they may go out for 30 minutes three times a week.

In Europe’s red-light capital Amsterdam, sex work is due to officially resume in September. Prostitution in the Netherlands is legal and regulated, which allows for more support and structure during the coronavirus lockdown.  There have been 45,768 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 5,871people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  The death rate equates to 343 per 1M populous.

In Finland, schools and daycare centres started to reopen on 14 May for the first time in nearly two months. Today, Finnish officials gave some reassuring news, saying there was no evidence of Covid-19 spreading faster since schools started to reopen.  Finland has reported 6,692 cases of coronavirus and 313 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  With a population of 5,539,916, the number of cases per 1M populous is 1,208 and deaths equates to 56 per 1M populous.  Testing in the country has been conducted as a ration of 31,284 per 1M.

 

The UK government wants primary schools in England to reopen 1 June for some pupils. It looks like most schools will stick to this date but thousands have said it is too soon to reopen, amid concerns about social distancing especially in areas where infection rates are higher than in London.  The UK has reported 267,240 cases of coronavirus and 37,460 people have lost their lives.  The number of tests carried out in the UK is 3,798,490 equating to 55,982 tests per 1M populous.

There have been more than 159,000 excess deaths in Europe since early March, during the height of the coronavirus epidemic, the head of the World Health Organization’s regional office for the continent has said. In his weekly briefing coronavirus briefing, Hans Kluge, director of WHO Europe, said that 2 million people had been confirmed to have caught the coronavirus since it was first detected on the continent four months ago. About 175,000 had died of Covid-19.

“Perhaps a less reported, but equally alarming figure is that since early March, more than 159,000 excess deaths, coinciding with the pandemic, have been reported from 24 European countries,” Kluge said. “These are deaths above and beyond what we would have expected normally at this time of the year.”

Kluge said that across Europe, 94% of all Covid-19 deaths were of people aged 60 or over, and nearly six in ten were men. Nearly all – 97% – of those who died had at least one underlying condition, with cardiovascular disease being the most common, he said.

Despite the WHO saying that the worst affected region is now the Americas, Europe still accounts for 36% of the world’s confirmed cases of coronavirus, and half of all deaths.

Afghanistan is in immediate need of masks and ventilators, health authorities said, as the number of confirmed infections passed 13,000 despite no tests being carried out in Kandahar for two weeks according to reports. The Afghan health ministry announced on Thursday that it has run out of facilities and equipment for Covid-19 patients. Wahid Majroh, deputy health minister said that the ministry had received nothing in the past 30 days.

The coronavirus news can be relentless, depressing and grim.

Let’s enjoy this extract from a postcard from Denmark written by Helen Russell (The Guardian), where schools, cafes, restaurants, shops and hairdressers have reopened as the country returns to a semblance of normality.

“Under the shade of umbrellas, pensioners eat cake at a cafe, children slosh cups of juice, and students clink beer bottles, smoking, laughing and talking loudly enough to be heard above the buzz of people who are now everywhere.

On 18 May, the doors of cafes, restaurants and shops were flung wide in Denmark and the high streets are bustling again. Even hairdressers have reopened (what did we learn during lockdown? How many Danes are natural blondes?).

 There are no face masks in sight, few gloved hands, and little sign of any seismic global interruption. The only visible difference between the throng pre-lockdown and now is that pedestrians walk in lanes, depending on their direction of traffic, and mobile hand sanitiser stations are parked at intervals along the high streets.

 Sanitiser pumps grace every shop doorway and smaller retailers display signs instructing customers how many are allowed in at any given time. But Danes are happy to comply for the most part, if there are already four people buying ice-cream, theyll just come back later.”

 Danes have now been advised they can see and hug grandparents but the very elderly or those in high risk groups continue to be isolated.

Total number of cases worldwide – 5,822,571

Total number of deaths worldwide – 358,126

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 2,522,999

Active cases: Currently Infected 2,941,446 active cases, 2,888,431  (98%) in mild condition, 53,015 (2%) described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  2,881,125

 

Thursday 28 May 2020 by Louise Birch

“My optimism wears heavy boots and is loud” (Henry Rollins)

New Zealand has reported a fifth consecutive day of no new cases of Covid-19 recorded in the country. There is no longer anyone in hospital with the virus, health officials have told reporters at a news conference in Wellington, only 21 cases across the nation are still considered active. Fewer than 1,500 people have been confirmed infected with Covid-19 in New Zealand. 21 people have died of the coronavirus since it arrived in the country, a result widely attributed to a swift, strict national lockdown that began in late March before any deaths had been recorded.

Vietnam will resume issuing e-visas to citizens from 80 countries from 1 July, the government said Tuesday, though it was unclear whether quarantine measures would be lifted. The country imposed a blanket ban on foreigners entering the country in March as part of its aggressive response to the pandemic, which has also involved mass quarantines and expansive contact tracing.

Thailand’s state of emergency laws have been extended for another month until the end of June, despite the kingdom reporting a relatively low virus toll at just over 3,000 cases and 57 deaths. The sweeping laws – which include muzzling the media over coronavirus reporting – are needed as the country starts to gradually reopen businesses, a government spokeswoman said Tuesday. Malls and restaurants reopened on 17 May with social distancing rules in place, and now commuters have started packing into Bangkok’s public sky train during rush hour.

Uruguay’s capital city of Montevideo turned its Carrasco international airport, closed because of the coronavirus lockdown, into a drive-in-cinema Tuesday evening. Some 100 cars turned up for the opening night, although authorities say the airport could potentially accommodate up to 1500 cars. All entertainment venues, including cinemas, have been closed in Uruguay since its lockdown on 13 March.  There have been 787 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 22 people have died.  Uruguay has a population of 3,472,561 and has carried out testing at ratio of 11,143 per 1M populous.

 

Bulgaria will allow restaurants, bars and cafes to reopen at full capacity on Monday, further easing restrictions imposed in mid-March to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The health minister, Kiril Ananiev, issued a new order on Tuesday night allowing bars and restaurants in the tourism-dependent country to go fully back to business ahead of the summer season. Ananiev also allowed the resumption of cultural and entertainment events, including theatres, concerts and stage performances. Dance classes could also resume, using up to 30% of their indoor capacity and up to 50% of the outdoor capacity.

According to the order, however, discos, piano bars and night bars must stay closed as the country remains under a declared epidemic situation because of Covid-19 until 14 June. Ananiev had already given the green light for restaurants, bars and cafes in the Black Sea state to resume operations in their outdoor sections on 5 May.

Bulgaria has 2,460 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 133 deaths, a relatively low number in Europe.  The country still requires social distancing in public places.

Russia has confirmed that 161 people with coronavirus died in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report, bringing the nationwide death toll to 3,968. Officials have also reported 8,338 new infections, pushing the country’s overall figure of confirmed cases to 370,680.

Countries across the Middle East are cautiously eyeing a return to normality following the end of Eid al-Fitr.

In Turkey, a four-day nationwide lockdown over the holiday lifted at midnight on Tuesday. Malls and hairdressers, which were allowed to partially reopen earlier this month, were again open for business on Wednesday morning as the country now focuses on the challenge of how to reopen safely for the peak summer tourism season. Turks under the age of 20 and over 65 remain under curfew.

Government-held Syria, struggling with a crippling economic crisis, cancelled its night-time curfew from Tuesday, reopening mosques and allowing inter-city travel. According to official figures, there has been 121 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 4 people have died.

Major Shia shrines in Iran were allowed to open over the Eid holiday, more than two months after they were closed, as the country recently reported its lowest deaths from coronavirus since March.  There have been 139,511 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Iran and 7,508 people have lost their battle with COVID-19.

Health authorities in Germany reported a further 362 confirmed cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, taking the cumulative total in the country to 181,062, the reported number of lives lost has risen to 8,448 according to official figures.  On Tuesday, the chancellor’s office said it was extending social distancing rules until 29 June. Angela Merkel’s government had been embroiled in disagreements with the least-affected states, some of which wanted to ditch the measures and open up entirely.

South Korea may need to reimpose social distancing measures that were eased in April as coronavirus cases rose in Seoul.  Jeong Eub-kyeong, the director of the country’s centre for disease control and prevention has said it is becoming increasingly difficult for health workers to track the spread of the virus.  South Korea reported 40 new cases on Wednesday, the biggest daily rise in almost 50 days.  Officials are attempting to trace hundreds of infections linked to nightspots, restaurants and a huge e-commerce warehouse new Seoul.

People in Poland will be allowed to go outside without face masks from 30 May, the government said on Wednesday. However, they will be required to maintain social distancing if they are not wearing masks. The announcement is part of a steady lifting of restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus. It also included the reopening of cinemas, theatres and gyms on 6 June. In the coming days, public gatherings of up to 150 people will be allowed, and limits in the number of people in churches will also be relaxed.

Some 96 more people have died from Covid-19 in Sweden, according to the latest figures, increasing the total death toll from the country’s coronavirus outbreak to 4,125. The number of confirmed cases in the country, which did not implement the kind of coronavirus lockdown measures imposed elsewhere in the world, has now reached 34,400, after 648 more people tested positive for coronavirus.

Cyprus hopes to regain lost ground in its tourism sector from July and expects to be able to readmit British and Russian visitors by then after weeks of lockdown.The Mediterranean island moved swiftly to contain the outbreak, ordering a broad lockdown within days of its first registered case on 9 March. It started easing it on 4 May and hotels will reopen on 1 June. Cyprus has emerged relatively unscathed by the pandemic. It has reported fewer than 950 cases, and 17 deaths. It will open on 9 June to travellers from countries including Germany, Greece and Israel. A group from mainly central Europe will be added on 20 June, though the list is being reviewed continuously.

 

Total number of cases worldwide – 5,728,277

Total number of deaths worldwide – 353,664

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 2,461,345

Active cases: Currently Infected

2,913,268 active cases, 2,860,168  (98%) in mild condition, 53,100 (2%) described as serious or critical.

Closed cases –  2,815,009

 

Wednesday 27 May 2020 by Louise Birch

No matter what you’re going through, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It may seem hard to get to but you can do it, just keep working towards it and you’ll find the positive side of things”   (Demi Lovato)

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem reopened to the public yesterday after closure for nearly three months. The Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said that mosques, churches and businesses would be allowed to reopen today in an easing of anti-pandemic curbs, given the slow pace of infections.

“The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ gave hope to people more than 2,000 years ago, and opening the church today will, I think, give hope to the whole world that hopefully this pandemic will end – not only in Palestine but in the whole world,” Palestinian tourism minister Rula Ma’ayah said.

The picture shows a clergyman sitting in the Church of the Nativity as it reopened.

 

Countries where coronavirus infections are declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak, the World Health Organization said on Monday. The world is still in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, WHO emergencies head Dr Mike Ryan told an online briefing, noting that while cases are declining in many countries they are still increasing in Central and South America, South Asia and Africa.

Dr Ryan said epidemics often come in waves, which means that outbreaks could come back later this year in places where the first wave has subsided. There was also a chance that infection rates could rise again more quickly if measures to halt the first wave were lifted too soon.

“When we speak about a second wave classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time,” Dr Ryan said.

“But we need also to be cognisant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time. We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.”

He said countries in Europe and North America should “continue to put in place the public health and social measures, the surveillance measures, the testing measures and a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don’t have an immediate second peak.”

Iceland eased its national alert against the coronavirus on Monday, allowing for public gatherings of up to 200 people and night clubs and gyms to reopen as the country nears complete recovery from the outbreak.  Gyms can now reopen, though only at half capacity, while bars and restaurants can serve customers until 11pm.  Public gatherings of up to 200 persons will be allowed and a two-metre social distancing rule has become optional, but still recommended by authorities.  Iceland limited the virus spread through a meticulous test and trace strategy and a full lockdown, the country has confirmed 1,804 infections and 10 deaths.  There have been only 5 reported new cases in May, and more than 99% of infected persons have recovered.

In Argentina, one of the poorest slums in the province of Buenos Aires has been sealed off from the rest of the country after what has been described as explosion of coronavirus cases in the Villa Azul. Around 100 tests were conducted and 83 came back positive.  Inhabitants are now dependent on the authorities for food supplies and other essentials.  The measures are being enforced in order to bolster social distancing and minimise circulation with other nearby poor communities.  Villa Azul is one of 1800 slum areas in Buenos Aires and plans are being made to cordon off other slums where the virus has started to spread rapidly due to cramped living conditions, lack of public services including running water and proper sewage facilities.  Argentina has reported 12,628 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 471 people have died.   With a population of 45,154,246, testing has been conducted at a ratio of 2,956 tests per 1M populous.

In the Philippines the health ministry has reported 13 deaths and 350 new cases of Covid-19 today, the largest single-day increase in infections in seven weeks. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 14,669 and deaths have reached 886.

The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, said late last Tuesday night that he will not allow students to go back to school until a vaccine is available. Children were due to return to school at the end of August after classes for more than 25 million primary and secondary students were shut down in March. But Duterte said he believed the risk was too great, even if it held students back academically. “Unless I am sure that they are really safe it’s useless to be talking about opening of classes,” the president said.  “For me, vaccine first. If the vaccine is already there, then it’s OK. If no one graduates, then so be it.”

Saudi Arabia has announced that it will end its nationwide coronavirus curfew from 21 June, except in the holy city of Mecca, after more than two months of stringent curbs. Prayers will also be allowed to resume in all mosques outside Mecca from 31 May, the interior ministry said in a series of measures announced on state media. A phased lifting of restrictions will start this week, with the curfew relaxed between 6am and 3pm between Thursday and Saturday. From Sunday, until 20 June, the curfew will be further eased until 8pm, the ministry added, with the lockdown to be lifted entirely from 21 June.

Saudi Arabia has reported 76,726 cases of coronavirus and 411 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

An interesting glimpse of the future of air travel from Hamad International Airport in Qatar.

Staff are now using advanced thermal screening helmets, which enable contactless temperature checks to screen staff and travellers.  Disinfectant robots are roaming the corridors, emitting concentrated UV-C light “known to be effective in eliminating majority of infectious microorganisms”, an airport spokesperson said. All passengers will be provided with hand sanitisers readily available at key locations and the airport will continue to maintain 1.5m social distancing, with every other seat in waiting areas cordoned off.

Total number of cases worldwide – 5,631,831

Total number of deaths worldwide – 348,965

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 2,399258

Active cases: Currently Infected

2,883,608 active cases, 2,830,447 (98%) in mild condition, 53,161 (2%) described as serious or critical.

Closed cases: Cases which had an outcome

2,748,223

2,399,258 (87%) recovered or discharged.

348,965 (13%) deaths.

 

 

Tuesday 26 May 2020 – by Louise Birch

“ I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles”  (Audrey Hepburn)

The healthcare system in Chile is reportedly close to breaking point as the number of the confirmed coronavirus cases in the country approaches 70,000 following a rapid rise in numbers recently.  President Sebastian Piera has said that the system is very close to the limit due to a very large increase in the need and demand for medical care together with intensive care beds and ventilators.  He made his comments during a visit to a hospital in Santiago which has suffered the highest concentration of cases. A third of Chile’s population, which totals about 19 million, is under mandatory quarantine after the government put Santiago and several other cities under lockdown.  Chile has reported a total of 65,393 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 673 people have died.  Testing has been poor in the country with only 457,332 tests conducted, a ratio of 23,945 per 1M populous.

Japan is set to lift the state of emergency imposed due to coronavirus.  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that the country has managed to get the spread of the virus under control in less than two months.  Physical distancing restrictions were relaxed for most of the country on 14 May as the number of new infections fell but Tokyo and 4 other prefectures were kept under watch. Japan has reported 16,536 cases of the virus and 808 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Greece reinstated ferry links with islands on Monday and allowed restaurants, cafes and bars to reopen as the country takes more steps towards creating the new normal.  The further relaxation of restrictions comes after almost 3 months of enforced closure due to coronavirus and is designed to kick-start the country’s tourist industry ahead of seasonal hotels reopening on June 15.  The Greek Isles have remained remarkably virus free and therefore restarting ferry links is risky and questions are being asked about the ability of rudimentary health services on popular islands to deal with any outbreak of the virus.  Greece has reported 2,878 cases of coronavirus thus far and 171 people have died.  Greece has conducted 152,998 tests which equates to 14,672 tests per 1M populous.  The recorded population of Greece is 10,428,054.

In France, 2 weeks after the end of the strict 8 week lockdown, parks and gardens in Paris remain closed to residents of the city, many of whom spent the confinement cooped up in apartments with no outside space.  Despite an ongoing battle between the city’s Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the government to have the spaces opened which has been unsuccessful so far, an unlikely hero has emerged.  An anonymous lock picker is spending his evenings cracking the padlocks to enable people to use the parks!  He says the smiles on the faces of children who discover the green space open is well worth it even though he risks 5 years in prison and a maximum €75,000 fine if he is caught.

Vietnam reported a new case yesterday, the second in a week bringing the total in the country to 325, there have been no deaths in Vietnam as a result of COVID-19.  It is reported that the new case is a 20yr old Vietnamese student who has recently returned from France.  There have been no cases of local transmission reported in the country for 39 days, the success of Vietnam is tackling the virus has been based on a fast, aggressive and comprehensive response.  There are currently more than 15,400 being monitored and quarantined in the country.

Mongolia is to remain under coronavirus lockdown until a vaccine is found, its prime minister said on Monday. The landlocked country, wedged in the heart of Asia between Russia and China, was one of the first to close its borders to protect itself against the pandemic. Other measures to curb the spread of the virus include a ban on children under 12 in malls and restaurants, mandatory face masks in public, and the closure of universities, schools and early years education until September.  “The country will keep the quarantine rules until a vaccine becomes available,” Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa told reporters in the country’s parliament. Thousands of Mongolians remain stranded abroad after the country said only vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, seniors, children with their parents, and people with serious health issues could return.  Mongolia has reported 141 confirmed cases of coronavirus and zero deaths.  With a population of 3,272,517, the country has conducted testing at a rate of 3,791 per 1M populous.

According to reports, the Czech Republic has lifted its rule requiring face masks to be worn in public, a symbolic landmark in the country’s relatively successful battle against Covid-19. The long-awaited lifting of the regulation, imposed in March shortly after a state of emergency was declared, coincided with the final phase of an easing of lockdown restrictions, in which pubs, restaurants, hotels and museums have been fully reopening their doors.  There have been 8,891 confirmed infections in the country and 315 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  Testing in the country, with a recorded population of 10,706,960, has been reported as 399,349 tests conducted, 37,349 per 1M populous.  The country was among the first countries in Europe to close borders on 12 March, following rapidly with the order to close most businesses just days later.

The Netherlands reported 209 more confirmed cases of coronavirus on Monday, taking its cumulative total to 45,445, as officials said a second Dutch worker may have been infected by a mink. According to the latest update from the Dutch national institute for public health and the environment, eight more people have died from Covid-19, taking the country’s total death toll from the outbreak to 5,830. It came as the agriculture minister said on Monday that another person had been infected while working on a mink farm. The case follows a reported infection last week on one of two farms near the southern city of Eindhoven, where the disease was discovered in April among mink that are bred for their valuable fur. “A second case has become known where on one of the mink farms SARS-CoV-2 has been passed from a mink to a human,” Carola Schouten said. “The case is similar to the previous one,” she said in a letter to the Dutch parliament. The infection happened before it was known the mink were carrying the virus, meaning workers did not wear protective clothing at the time.

Spain will lift its quarantine requirement for those entering the country from 1 July, the government has just confirmed. At the moment, travellers from overseas are required to undergo a 14-day self-isolation on arrival.

On Saturday the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said the country would reopen to tourists from July.

There were 92 new coronavirus deaths in Italy on Monday, the lowest daily rate since early March. New infections grew by 300, down from 531 on Sunday, with zero new cases registered in five regions including Bolzano, Umbria, Calabria, Molise and Basilicata, according to figures from the civil protection authority. There are 55,300 people who are currently suffering from the virus in Italy, 541 of whom are in intensive care.  The country is planning to ask 60,000 people to volunteer to help enforce social distancing rules amid concerns infections will rise again following scenes of group gatherings over the weekend.  There have been 229,327 confirmed infections in Italy and  32,735 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  Over 138,000 people have recovered from the disease.

Total number of cases worldwide – 5,438,783

Total number of deaths worldwide – 344,585

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 2,274,227

Active cases: Currently Infected

2,819,971 active cases, 2,766,835 (98%) in mild condition, 53,136 (2%) described as serious or critical.

Closed cases: Cases which had an outcome

2,618,812

2,274,227 (87%) recovered or discharged.

344,58  (14%) deaths.

 

 

Monday 25 May 2020 by Louise Birch

“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray” (Lord Byron)

Yesterday’s report was positive news about good things that have happened as a result of COVID-19 so I thought why not carry on today with positive news specifically about COVID-19, the tremendous moves forward that are being taken as different nations start to get the better of this dreadful virus.  There is some encouraging news, we all need some of that so let’s start Monday with a smile, with hope and belief that we will come though this.

Guernsey reached its 22nd consecutive day of no new coronavirus cases recently and as such will move into phase 4 of the lockdown exit strategy on Saturday 30 May.  Hairdressers, beauticians and cinemas can reopen from next weekend. The government there has said “there is clear evidence that the community is working together”  There are now just 2 active cases having entered phase 3 on 16 May and there have been no new cases of unexplained community transmission since 21 May 2020. Bars and nightclubs stay closed but restaurants, hotels, cafes, and pubs serving food can reopen.  Sports and leisure facilities are set to throw open their doors as well as children’s pay areas.

Non-essential travel may be permitted but is subject to 14 day self isolation non return.

Restrictions on contact between households and those outside households are also being lifted allowing families to reconnect and, in some cases, meet new family members who arrived during the lockdown.

Australia has announced that zoos, reptile parks and aquariums will reopen in New South Wales from 1 June.Physical distancing measures will apply and tickets  available online only and must be purchased in advance, there will be limited number of visitors at any one time.  Shows such as the seals and birds shows will continue but must be pre-booked. There will not be any live keeper talks or animal interactions such as giraffe feeding for now and cafes will offer takeaway service only.  Also in New South Wales, which is Australia’s most populous state, health minister Brad Hazzard announced that beauty, tanning, nail and waxing salons would all be open from 1 June.

Again in Australia, Victoria state premier, Daniel Andrews, has said Victorians will be allowed to have 20 people in their homes as well as overnight stays in hotels from 1 June.

New Zealand has reported no new cases in the 24 hours preceding this report. New Zealand’s health ministry has announced there were zero new coronavirus cases confirmed in the last 24 hours. According to NewsHub, there are now only 27 active cases left in New Zealand, with one more patient recovered, bringing the country’s total to 1,154, with 21 deaths.

Thailand reported no new coronavirus cases and no deaths on Sunday, the fourth day this month with no new cases.  Out of 3,040 reported cases of coronavirus, 2,921 people have recovered and returned home.

In Iran, A 107-year-old woman who was infected with coronavirus has recovered, according to reports from Fars news agency. The woman, Saltanat Akbari, was admitted to the Khansari hospital in the central city of Arak. She was released from the hospital after spending “some time” in isolation. “She defeated the virus with the help of doctors and nurses at the hospital,” the report said.

Yesterday in Italy, Italians were able to celebrate mass in church with the community for the first time since 8 March. In this picture, chairs are sanitised before mass is celebrated by the parish priest Don Carlo Chiomento, of Candiolo near Turin.

In Germany, there were more football matches in the country’s top division, the Bundesliga, yesterday. It restarted last week behind closed doors amid intense scrutiny and, thus far, things appear to have gone relatively smoothly. Medics in protective suits checked the temperatures of those entering the stadium at Schalke 04 before the match with Augsburg which indicated the strict measures being taken to ensure the safety those in attendance at the match.

And finally, the following nations have reported that all the coronavirus cases in their respective places have recovered from infection and there are currently no active cases.  The figure in brackets is the total reported.

Faeroe Islands (187)

French Polynesia (60)

Macao (45)

Eritrea (39)

Timor-Leste (24)

New Caledonia (18)

St Lucia (18)

Dominica (16)

St Kitts and Nevis (15)

Falkland Islands (13)

Greenland (11)

Seychelles (11)

Papua New Guinea (8)

Caribbean Netherlands (6)

St Barth (6)

Western Sahara (6)

Anguilla (3)

Saint Pierre Miquelon (1)

 

Stories for a smile on Sunday 24 May

Something as simple as a cup of tea and a piece of cake can always raise spirits. In the United Kingdom, a new initiative called Project Wingman, set up by two pilots and fronted by furloughed airline staff as volunteers, is providing NHS workers with a first class lounge experience between shifts. Staff can relax with a nice cup of tea, handmade sandwiches, specially crafted sweet treats plus browse a selection of luxury magazines. So far, there are 60  lounges open run by 4000 volunteers.

With many weddings put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, other ways of ensuring people can still get married have been enacted around the world. In California (USA), a pop-up socially distanced wedding service has been erected where only one witness is allowed. This wedding, held on May 19th,  between Rodney and Monica Cosby was set up by the Orange County Clerk-Recorders in Anaheim at the Honda Centre, and was performed by a Clerk inside the pop up.

According to the New York Times, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor Dr Cornelia Vertenstein is continuing to teach piano to students from her home in Denver. The music teacher has been delivering the lessons via FaceTime from her iPad.

‘It helped me know more about my students — what kind of life they have,’ Vertenstein told the newspaper. ‘It’s not much, just one room, but it is illuminating to me because I know where they come from. I know a little bit better who they are.’

Three-year-old Sansa, a black dog with a white spot on her belly, spent nearly a year in a Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) animal shelter before the coronavirus pandemic restricted visitors, making her odds of being adopted even dimmer.  But then she had a lucky break. The shelter’s new ‘pet delivery’ service found Sansa a home, bringing company to Maria Fatima Cordeiro Marques, a 73-year-old retired nurse isolating in her house alone. “We’re going through a very difficult moment… It’s hard for everyone, right?” said Marques, embracing Sansa after she arrived in the shelter’s white van. “I’m sure she’ll give me a lot of love and so will I, because it’s a sincere kind of love demanding nothing in return.”

For Rio residents seeking a furry friend to pass the long days in isolation, but unable to visit the shelter, the city will now provide a delivery service. It said it has delivered more than 50 pets since early April. After the online screening, workers identify and suggest the most suitable pets, before spaying, vaccinating and delivering them to the doorstep.

Matt Owens of New Zealand was out minding his own business recently when he came across an injured magpie on the side of the road. The poor bird looked completely alone, so Matt decided to take him home and rehabilitate him. After spending plenty of time caring for his new friend, whom he named Swoop, Matt helped him walk and even fly. Finally, the time came to release Swoop back into the wild, but the grateful bird opted to stay with Matt and his cat instead!

 

Saturday 23rd May by Louise Birch

Saturday 23 May 2020

“ All you need is the plan, the road map and the courage to press on to your destination” (Earl Nightingale)

Iceland is set to lower its national emergency rating on Monday, as authorities said there were just two people left in isolation waiting to recover from their coronavirus infections.

The North Atlantic island state, which acted quickly to contain its outbreak, has so far recorded 1,803 confirmed cases of coronavirus. 10 people have died and 1,791 have recovered. Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, Þórólfur Guðnason, has reportedly submitted proposals to now significantly ease Covid-19 restrictions, including reopening bars and permitting gatherings of up to 200 people.

Brazil’s death toll from Covid-19 has passed 20,000, after a daily record of 1,188 deaths announced recently. The country’s surge in cases and fatalities comes despite President Bolsonaro’s assertion that the virus was nothing more than “a little flu”.

South America has become a new epicentre of the pandemic, with Brazil hardest-hit, while cases are rising in some African countries that so far have a relatively low death toll, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. “In a sense South America has become a new epicentre for the disease,” Dr Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, told a news conference, adding Brazil is “clearly the most affected”.

More than 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus have now been reported across Africa, according to figures collated by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the interactive coronavirus dashboard hosted on the African Union health agency’s website, there have so far been 3,101 deaths across the continent from Covid-19, while 39,416 people have recovered. Unlike other regions, the coronavirus has been slow to spread across Africa. After the first confirmed case was reported in mid-February in Egypt, many countries responded with strict lockdowns. The figures show the burden of the pandemic is mainly being felt in north Africa, followed by the western and then southern nations.  East and Central Africa have far fewer cases.

Indonesia recorded its biggest one-day jump in cases with 973 new infections. It now has the highest death toll in Asia outside China, at 1,278.  The figures come as millions of people in the world’s fourth most populous country mark the festival of Eid al-Fitr without the usual celebrations.

Austria’s hotels will reopen as planned on 29 May, chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced this week. Austria has reported 16,436 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 635 people have lost their lives.  Over 15,000 are reported to have recovered and 796 people remain classified as active infections.

Puerto Rico will cautiously reopen beaches, restaurants, churches, malls and hair salons next week under strict new rules as the US territory emerges from a two-month lockdown.  Puerto Rico has confirmed 2,805 cases of coronavirus and 124 people have died.

As Canada’s most populous province moves forward with its reopening plans, concerns are growing that coronavirus cases in Ontario are not yet under control. For a brief period in May, new cases showed a steady decrease, leading to optimism that an easing of the province’s lockdown was on the horizon and justified. In response, Ontario has given the green light to retailers, golf courses and pet groomers to resume operations. Lawmakers in the governing Progressive Conservative party have also pushed for restaurant and bar patios to reopen, with modifications. But in recent days, the province’s infection numbers have trended upwards, averaging more than 400 new cases per day this week, a figure the province’s chief medial officer called “disappointing”. The province had also aimed for 20,000 tests per day. But this past week, an average of less than 10,000 were conducted daily including only 5,813 on Monday. I will be like an 800-pound gorilla on their backs every single day if I have to be until I see these numbers go up, said the Ontario premier, Doug Ford.

In Spain the Madrid region and the Barcelona metropolitan area will be able to move into the next phase of lockdown de-escalation from Monday, the Spanish government has announced. The two regions have been the areas hardest hit by Covid-19.

The loosening of the restrictions in both areas, and in parts of Castilla y León, means that all of Spain is now in at least the second phase of the lock down exit plan.

From Monday, people in the three areas will be able to meet in groups of up to 10 individuals, and restaurant and cafe terraces will reopen at 50% capacity. Places of worship will also be able to operate at 30% capacity. The health minister, Salvador Illa, said 47% of the country will move to the third and penultimate stage of the de-escalation on Monday. People in the Balearic Islands, the Canaries, and some parts of the mainland will then be able to visit shopping centres and eat inside restaurants, both of which will operate at 40% capacity.

Saudi Arabia has reported 2,642 new cases of coronavirus, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the kingdom to 67,719. However, in the same update the country reported that even more people had recovered from their infections, with 2,963 more given the all clear taking its total number of recoveries to 39,003. So far 364 Saudis have died from Covid-19.

Total number of cases worldwide – 5,264,205

Total number of deaths worldwide – 337,956

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 2,126,664

Active cases: Currently Infected

2,799,585 active cases, 2,754,417 (98%) in mild condition, 45,168(2%) described as serious or critical.

Closed cases: Cases which had an outcome

2,464,620.

2,126,664 (86%) recovered or discharged.

337,956 (14%) deaths.

Good news stories from overseas:

Although prom night for high school seniors and juniors across the USA has been cancelled, students at Carlisle High School in Pennsylvania were treated to a night like no other proving that the party wasn’t over.   Partygoers were surprised by a night like no other as local DJ and professional photographer Preston Griffin, helped by a group of local businesses, created a special night for them. A socially distanced night of good fun on their front lawns. More than 70 high school students signed up for “Prom on Wheels” and were able to request 3 songs on an online questionnaire.   Corsages were supplied by local florists and Burger King donated some of their signature crowns to be worn a Prom regalia.  Students described it as “magical” “the best prom ever” and “spectacular”.

 

In India, a 52-year-old woman who recovered from a brain tumour and a man with a struggling business were among beneficiaries of unexpected generosity from an anonymous Aizawl-based businessman, who discreetly paid off their loans amounting to hundreds of thousands of rupees while refusing to take credit. The woman had taken a loan from the State Bank of India’s main branch in the city for treatment in Kolkata. The widow, who has two daughters, had run into difficulty in repaying the sum, months after her treatment, an official at SBI said. Likewise, the man had borrowed money to start a poultry farm. The business, however, ran into trouble and he found it difficult to pay off his loan. Both of them were among four people who found themselves free of debt earlier this week.

Friday 22nd May 2020 by Louise Birch

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement, nothing can be done without hope and confidence” (Helen Keller)

Cyprus took an important step towards “life in the new normal” yesterday as the 2nd phase of the gradual lifting of lockdown measures was implemented.  All restrictions o movement have been lifted as well as the SMS system that was used to request permission for any movement under the justifiable reasons set out by the government.  The 10pm — 6am curfew has also been scrapped, gatherings of no more than 10 people are allowed and that is also the maximum number of people allowed at a table in a restaurant, cafe or bar as these premises opened their doors yesterday.   Phase 2 will run until June 8 and also includes the resumption of some education for primary and secondary school students.

Denmark has accelerated its exit from the coronavirus lockdown after a deal was reached in the parliament late on Wednesday.  Museums, zoos, theatres, cinemas and similar cultural institutions began reopening yesterday.  Director of the Natural History Museum of Denmark Peter Kjargaard remarked “It was pure cheer, finally we can get started”. The Danish border remains closed but starting next week, the list of exceptions allowing travel to the country will expanded to include permanent residents of all Nordic countries and Germany who want to visit relatives, relatives, loved ones or homes they own in Denmark.

Serbia has announced that travellers entering the country from today will not need coronavirus tests or spend time in quarantine. Air Serbia has become one fo the first European commercial airlines to resume commercial passenger fights and had 12 international flights planned as of Thursday to various destinations including Zurich, Frankfurt and Abu Dhabi.  Strict hygiene measures will be obligatory including the wearing of gloves and facemasks.  Passengers will also be required to arrive 3 hours before the flights for enhanced screening measures.  There have been 10,919 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 237 people have died.  Serbia has a recorded population of 8,741,130 and has conducted 203,799 tests, a ratio of 23,515 per 1M populous.

According to reports from Ireland, 44% of the pubs in Dublin plan to reopen as restaurants on 29 June under the 3rd phase of the lifting of coronavirus restrictions otherwise they would be required to wait until August when the 5th and final phase allows pubs to reopen.

Scotland will begin “a careful easing” of coronavirus lockdown restrictions next week with the reopening of some outdoor activities after a “significant and sustained” reduction in cases, the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said. “The time is right to move towards a careful easing of the lockdown restrictions,” Ms Sturgeon said as she announced that sports such as golf, tennis and fishing would be allowed from 28 May, while people would be permitted to meet one other person from outside their household. Travel restrictions will be eased for people to visit locations near their homes for recreation purposes. Outdoor businesses such as garden centres and construction sites will also reopen, although non-essential indoor shops, cafes and bars will remain closed.  These changes will bring Scotland more in line with other parts of the United Kingdom where similar easing of restrictions has already been implemented.

In China, the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak has officially banned eating wild animals. A notice on the Wuhan municipal government’s website on Wednesday said that it is now prohibited to eat, hunt or breed wild animals, including terrestrial animals deemed as protected, as well as those that exist in the wild or are bred.

Afghanistan’s health ministry has said it has run out of hospital beds for Covid-19 patients in most parts of the war-torn country. Officials warned of a human catastrophe on the eve of Eid with the potential for streets “full of dead bodies” amid a continued surge of transmission across the nation, as Kabul recorded its worst day of the crisis for the second day running.

Bangladesh has reported its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases, as it begins cleaning up after the fiercest cyclone to hit the country since 1999. The institute of epidemiology, disease control and research said 1,773 more people had tested positive for the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 28,511. Of those, 5,602 have so far recovered, while 408 have died – 22 of them in the past 24 hours.

One more person has died of Covid-19 in Singapore, taking the city state’s total death toll from the epidemic to 23, out of 29,812 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection.

The latest death was reported by the health ministry on Thursday, as it announced another 448 coronavirus cases, mostly among migrant workers who live in dormitories.

In Italy, the prime minister has told off his compatriots for taking to the streets and having fun now that the country is easing its coronavirus lockdown. Giuseppe Conte said in the Italian parliament on Thursday “It’s not the time for parties, nightlife or gatherings. During this phase, more than ever it’s fundamental to respect security distances and wear masks, where necessary.” From Palermo to Turin, images of partygoers gathering in piazzas and outside bars have caused panic among regional leaders and mayors, according to the French news agency AFP. They worry that crowds of people celebrating their freedom from quarantine may bring about another rise in infections of a disease that has already killed more than 32,000. Luca Zaia, the regional president of Veneto, was enraged after photos showed dozens of young people packed together without masks outside a bar in Padua. “In 10 days, I’ll see the infection rates. If they rise, we’ll close bars, restaurants, beaches and we’ll lock ourselves back up again”.

Total number of cases worldwide – 5,149,260

Total number of deaths worldwide – 331,950

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 2,055,127

Active cases: Currently Infected

2,762,183 active cases, 2,716,261 in mild condition, 45,922 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases: Cases which had an outcome

2,387,077.

2,055,127 (86%) recovered or discharged.

331,950 (14%) deaths.

Smile with these stories.

On Monday, Ismael Fernández, who lives in Málaga, took advantage of a loosening of lockdown restrictions in Andalucía to travel to his hometown of El Borge to see Baldomera., the beloved family donkey. Fears that Baldo – as the animal is affectionately known – wouldn’t remember him after their eight-week separation proved unfounded.

She trotted over to be stroked when he called her name, prompting sweet words and tears from Fernández and honks of joy from her (although, to be fair, it’s tricky to decipher donkey song). In his absence, the five-year-old donkey had been looked after by his brother. Baldo was originally bought as a present for their father, Antonio, when he retired.

(To see the video of the emotional reunion, search Baldo The Donkey reunion online.)

Everyone reaches a point when they just have to do something in quarantine. For Teresa Michell, that moment came sooner rather than later. Her boyfriend was in the hospital for an emergency unrelated to COVID-19, and since she couldn’t visit him, she needed to find something to take her mind off things. Inspired by some other artists, she decided to set up a fine art museum for her guinea pig Maisie, and it’s just incredible!  “I kept thinking about the Met in New York City,” she wrote. “The creaky hardwood floors and tall ceilings. Heavy gold frames.

That’s what I tried to emulate as I created The Piggenheim”. Teresa didn’t just draw random scribbles for Maisie! she took famous works of art and recreated them to meet the needs of her adorable guinea pig audience. Now, the museum features tiny animal versions of masterpieces by Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, and more. As silly as the concept might seem to some, Teresa said the project helped her get through a really difficult time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday 21st May 2020 By Louise Birch

“For all those finding it difficult, the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away” (Captain Sir Tom Moore)

Arise Sir Tom, thank you for your words of encouragement and your inspiration.

Schools in South Korea reopened yesterday for the first time since the pandemic began. Senior school students returned wearing masks as part of a phased plan to reopen all schools under strict protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus.  The beginning of the Spring term has been postponed several times since March.  With daily case numbers down sharply, teachers with thermometers and hand sanitisers welcomed students back to classrooms where windows are open to improve airflow and desks are 1 metre apart.

 

Elsewhere in the country, Football Club FC Seoul is apparently facing penalties and possible expulsion from their own stadium for putting sex dolls in empty seats but the efforts designed to increase the atmosphere would appear to have spectacularly backfired! Somewhat of an own goal perhaps?  FC Seoul has expressed remorse after the public backlash but said they’d been assured by the manufacturer that they’d supplied mannequins not sex dolls to mimic a home crowd.

 

 

Mexico has reported 51,633 confirmed cases of coronavirus thus far and 5,332 people are believed to have died as a result of COVID-19.  However, a registry of death certificates in Mexico City suggests that the figure could be more than 3 times higher than the official total attributed to Mexico City where the federal government reports only 1,332 deaths. An anti corruption group claims to have gained access to a database that shows mention of SARS,COV2,COV, COVID-19 or new coronavirus on the notes attached to 4,577 death certificates.  Mexico CIty Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has accepted that there are more deaths than officially reported and a special team of epidemiologists will review the figures.

Canada and USA have announced that the border between the 2 countries will remain closed to non-essential travel until 21 June.  The closure was due to expire this week after the 2 governments announced a 30 day extension to current restrictions last month.

Reports from Canada say that more than half of the confirmed cases in the country are considered resolved or recovered.  The vast majority of COVID-19 related deaths have been linked to care homes or long-term care facilities with deadly outbreaks occurring in several provinces including Alberta.  Canada has reported 78,072 confirmed coronavirus infections with just over another 1,000 presumed cases.   Over 40,000 cases are believed resolved but 5,842 people have lost the battle with COVID-19. Public Health officials have warned that the official figures do not capture people who haven’t been tested or those cases that are still under investigation.  Canada is reported to have conducted 1,323,371 tests which equates to 35,100 per 1M populous.

In the USA, President Donald Trump has claimed a badge of honour for the US by having the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world.  He says it means the US is conducting the most tests and that their testing is much better than elsewhere.  Recently, President Trump was reported as saying that the USA only has confirmed cases of coronavirus because of testing, if the country didn’t test, there would not be any cases.   There have been 1,554,951 confirmed infections in the country and 92,188 people have died.  Testing in USA totals 12,343,334 which equates to 37,316 per 1M populous.

Across Africa, more than 90,000 people are now believed to be infected with coronavirus according to official figures.  World Health Organisation Regional Office spokesman for the continent Antonio Guterres has praised the brave preventative measures imposed by African governments to slow the spread of the virus. Serious concerns had been expressed that there would be a widespread outbreak across the region but this failed to materialise, yet!  However there has been widespread and constant criticism of civil rights abuse and police brutality.

In Nigeria, the largest medical union has instructed its health staff in Lagos to end their hospital shifts at 6pm each day, 2 hours before the city-wide curfew amid rising reports of police harassment.  Currently, the curfew is 8pm but there have been numerous incidents of abuse by police officers to essential workers after 8pm.  Doctors have been stopped from going home after the 8pm curfew and have now been advised to remain home after 6pm to prevent further incidents which have been described as instances of molestation.  The curfew in Lagos does exempt essential workers but apparently there is insufficient clarity as to who qualifies as an essential worker.  There have been 6,401 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nigeria, 2,750 of these in Lagos. 192 people have died in the country where testing is woefully inadequate.  Just 36,899 tests have been conducted which, in a country with 205,500,163, equates to 180 per 1M populous.

Total number of cases worldwide – 5,018,657

Total number of deaths worldwide – 325.679

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 1,980,306

Active cases: Currently Infected

2,712,672 active cases, 2,667,222 in mild condition, 45,450 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases: Cases which had an outcome

2,305 985.

1,980,306 (86%) recovered or discharged.

325,679 (14%) deaths.

 

Stories with a smile

Joshua Crowell, a postal worker for only 6 months in New Hampshire (USA) has become a big hit in the neighbourhoods he visits when delivering mail.  He noticed signs popping up in gardens celebrating the graduations of high schools seniors and decided to go above and beyond in showing his support for these students who were not going to be able to walk out on stage and get their diplomas.  Using his own money, he bought graduation cards, a bunch of $5 Dunkin gift cards and leaving them in the mailboxes of about 25 students.  The reaction from the recipients has been awesome and other posties have now joined in.  Joshua says he always carries a fews extras so that no-one misses out.

An elderly Welsh woman now living in USA has spoken Welsh for the first time in 40 years after a lockdown social media appeal connected her with other Welsh speakers.  Having moved more than 70 years ago, Ray McDermott (96yrs) was worried she would never speak the language again but her son Keith asked for help online and within 30 minutes he was inundated with offers.  Keith said the pandemic has imposed the greatest loneliness on people and his Mum was feeling that loneliness.  She suffers with short term memory loss and as it gets worse, her long-term memory comes more focussed.  Once she starts discussions about her past and Wales, her memory is totally sharp.  ray has even had phone calls from fluent Welsh speakers and says she has been overwhelmed by the kindness of people talking to her in her Mother tongue.

 

 

 

Wednesday 20 May 2020

“Dark & difficult days may lie ahead.  But guided by science, together we will overcome.

Let hope be the antidote to fear.

Let solidarity be the antidote to division.

Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat.

Now, more than ever”

Wise and encouraging words from World Health Organisation Chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as he addressed the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

President of the European Commission Ursula von de Leyen has said international co-operation should be a no-brainer during a global pandemic adding that the greatest act of courage is to play as team.

The Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, will reopen next week after weeks of closure.  In light of the relative decline of the spread of corovavirus, the Islamic endowment overseeing the site under Jordanian custodianship will reopen the mosque after the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

 

Chinese authorities have sealed off the north-eastern city of Shulan, after an outbreak of coronavirus in the city.  About 700,000 people live in the city and are now under similar restrictions as those that were in imposed in Wuhan. All villages and residential compounds in the city are closed off and one person from each household in allowed out for 2 hours every other day for essentials.

From today, people living within 1 kilometre of beaches in Barcelona (Spain) will be able to make full use of the sand and sunbathe.  Recreational use of the beaches is permitted as long as people respect the social distancing measures. Swimming is not allowed and a time limit of one hour is also in force. There are also time slots for different age groups and activities. The government in Spain has also announced that the wearing of facemarks is to become compulsory in the country.  Masks are already obligatory on public transport but they will become mandatory in enclosed spaces and on the streets if the minimum safety distance of 2 metres cannot be observed.

Greece is reported to be set to announce plans to revive the tourism sector today.  Media reports have suggested that the borders may be reopened in mid June, 2 weeks earlier than expected. Travellers from across the EU and Israel could be allowed to travel to Greece but as yet it is not clear of they would be subjected to COVID-19 testing or be asked to adhere to other health protocols upon arrival. On Monday, 200 archaeological sites that had been closed were reopened to the public as Greece began preparing for the tourist season.

Afghanistan has recorded the biggest one day rise in new infections of COVID-19 as half of tests came back positive in the 24 hours preceding this report.  The capital Kabul is the country’s worst affected area and the province of Nangarhar is also causing concern as the virus is reported to have spread into prison there.  Despite a government imposed lockdown in several provinces, streets are still crowded and the deputy health minister has warned that there will be another wave of coronavirus across the country if people continue to break the lockdown measures. There have been 7,072 recorded confirmed cases in the country and 173 deaths.  However, in a country with a population of 38,814,948 testing has only been at a ration of 605 per 1M populous.

One of the first countries outside China to suffer a major outbreak was Iran. Nearly every day this month, the number of people who have died as a result of COVID-19 is around 60.  The total number of confirmed cases in Iran is 122,492 and 7,057 people have lost the battle with the virus.  There are currently 19,774 active cases in the country and 2,294 of those are classified as serious or critical.  Over 95,000 people have recovered form COVID-19 in the country.

Despite claims from Russia that the situation there has stabilised, the country continues to record significant numbers of new infections with the latest figures bringing the total to 299,941, the second highest globally behind USA. Several senior officials in Russia have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began in the country.

France has said the country hopes to begin easing border restrictions with other EU counties from mid June.  The borders have been closed to all but essential crossings since early April but any changes would be on the basis of a reciprocal arrangement with neighbours of the country.  From today, French nationals returning from outside the EU will be asked to self quarantine for 2 weeks but this will be voluntary.  According to official sources there are currently fewer than 2,000 in intensive care in the hospitals, the lowest numbers since March.  There are currently over 90,000 active cases of coronavirus in France and 28,108 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Total number of cases worldwide – 4,928,701

Total number of deaths worldwide – 320,964

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 1,929,951

Currently Infected – 2,677,786 active cases, 2,632,641 in mild condition, 45,145 described as serious or critical.

A healthcare worker has written this incredibly moving first-hand piece about caring for a Covid-19 patient on a ventilator in hospital.

“Why was she so special to me? Despite having done this job for a few years, sometimes it is impossible to predict which patients will be the ones you take home with you, the ones you think about as you cry yourself to sleep.

 Maybe it’s because she was one of us – a healthcare worker. I know this could happen to me or any of my loving colleagues. I am aware of this risk every time I get into my car to come to work, every time I put on my personal protective equipment (PPE) – I wonder, “Will this mask protect me this time?”

 Or maybe it’s because she is a mother, whose family cannot be there for her, to sit by her; to cheer her on with soft words of encouragement and love, to hold her hand, to cry over. Is this what would happen if my mother became ill right now? Who would hold her hand?”

 And finally, let’s end with a smile

A bar in Maryland USA has come with a new fun way fo keeping customers apart from each other by using rubber rings on wheels!

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 19 May 2020

“A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows” (Francis of Assisi)

Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican has reopened to visitors after being close for over 2 months.   Visitors queued up whilst observing social distancing rules and had their temperature taken before entering the church.  Churches in Rome were closed in early March, a decision that faced much opposition including from Pope Francis. However, most opened shortly afterwards but only for prayer.  During his live-streamed prayer on Sunday, Pope Francis said “I share the joy of those communities who can finally reunite as liturgical assemblies, a sign of hope for all society”.  Monday saw the resumption of public masses and as well as the reopening of restaurants , bars, cafes, shops and hairdressers.

75% of Spain has moved to the second phase of reopening yesterday and the measures saw millions of people able to meet up in groups of 10 and to have a drink or a meal on cafe and restaurant terraces. The region of Madrid and the Barcelona metropolitan area remain in the preliminary phase of what the government has called “the transition towards the new normality”.  Despite huge progress in and around the capital, the region has to stay in “phase-0 for now.  Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has announced that a final month-long extension of the existing state of emergency will be sought.

In France, the 2 lower secondary school years returned to the classroom but only in the green areas on the COVID-19 map, meaning areas where the virus has stopped circulating widely and the hospital intensive care units are not under pressure.  Children aged 11-12 and 12-13 returned at a ratio of one desk in two, all staff and students must wear masks and schools are required to enforce strict health measures including social distancing.  A decision whether to open other school yers will be taken at the end of May.  France has reported around 25 COVID-19 clusters since the ending of the strict lockdown a week ago but authorities say it will be another 2 weeks before it is known if the easing of measures has resulted in a second wave of coronavirus cases.

Russia has announced that the under 9,000 new cases had been recorded for the first time since early May and officials say the situation there is stabilising.  Nationwide lockdown measures started to ease last week and the national football league will restart in late June.  Russia has reported 290,678 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 2,722 people have lost their lives.  Doubt has been cast on the mortality figures and authorities have been accused of under reporting in order to play down the scale of the crisis in the country.  However, health officials say that only deaths caused directly by COVID-19 are included and that since the virus came later to Russia, there was time to prepare hospitals and launch wide-scale testing in an effort to slow the spread of infection. Russia has conducted 6,916,088 tests which equates to 47,394 per 1M populous.

In Qatar, 1,365 new cases of the virus have been reported with officials saying the affected persons are expatriate workers who have been in close contact with previously infected persons.  Cases have also increased among citizens and residents as a result of contact with family members also infected.  The Ministry of Public Health has said that the high number of new cases is due to some people failing to comply with precautionary measures.  Officials in Qatar say the country has now entered the peak of the outbreak there and residents are being reminded it is more important than ever to maintain vigilance and follow all the recommended protocols.  There have been 32,604 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 15 people have lost their lives.   Qatar has a recorded population of 2,874,781 and has carried out 157,570 tests which equates to 54,811 tests per 1M populous.

The Ministry of Health in Oman has reported a further 157 new cases of coronavirus, 76 of these were expats and 81 were Omanis. According to official figures, there have been 5,186 confirmed cases and 22 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19.  Residents in Oman are being urged to comply with social distancing instructions issued by the supreme court as well as staying at home with only essential ventures outside recommended.

Singapore recorded 682 new cases of coronavirus taking the total number to 28,343 since the outbreak began there.  99% of the new cases are linked to known existing COVID-19 clusters.

Denmark is being hailed as one of the greatest success stories in Europe in its dealing with COVID-19. The country has recently announced that all adults will be able to book a coronavirus test this week.  Denmark began easing the lockdown measures 4 weeks ago and has not reported any obvious adverse effects.  Cafes and restaurants are now open.  It has been reported that the quick shutdown and the fact that Danes listened and adhered to advice about good hygiene and social distancing are the main reason the country has come so far.  Apparently Danes are less likely to hug and kiss as a form of greeting unlike some of their European counterparts such as French and Italians.   A total of 10,968 confirmed cases have been reported in Denmark and 548 people have lost their lives.  Denmark has carried out 463,016 tests, in a country with a population of 5,789,776 this equates to 79,971 tests per 1M populous.

Hungary and Slovenia have agreed a plan towards a gradual reopening of the border between the 2 countries by 1 June.  Hungary has started lifting restrictions in Budapest though residents returning to shops or travelling on public transport will be required to wear facemarks.  A lockdown in both countries has helped prevent a large scale spread of the virus.  Hungary has reported 3,535 cases of coronavirus and 462 people have died as a result of COVID-19.  The country has a population of 9,663,190 and testing has been conducted at a ration of 14,203 per 1M populous.  Slovenia has recorded 1,466 cases of the virus and 104 lives have been lost .  69,842 tests have been carried out in the country which equates to 33,596 per 1M populous.

Total number of cases worldwide – 4,833,610

Total number of deaths worldwide – 317,234

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 1,871,917

Currently Infected – 2,644,459 active cases, 2,600,104 in mild condition, 44,355 described as serious or critical.

Information and statistics from

Positive news

Gondoliers return to the Grand Canal in Venice, obviously observing social distancing.

In the US, 2 members of the National Symphony Orchestra treated their neighbours to a rendition of “Baby Shark” while on lockdown.  NSO trombonist David Murray teamed up with violinist Elise Blake for the performance.

In Japan, one prefecture amongst 47 has not reported any cases of coronavirus among the 1.3 million residents.  Iwate was hit by a tsunami in 2011 but has been spared the ravages of COVID-19.

 

 

Monday 18 May 2020

“Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day” (Dalai Lama)

Ireland reported its lowest number of new coronavirus cases for 9 weeks over the weekend.  It is the first time the daily total of new confirmed cases has fallen below 100 since mid-March according to Tony Holohan, Chef Medical Officer in the Department of Health.  Acknowledging that the last 9 weeks has been particularly difficult, Mr Holohan says the figures give reassurance that people have learned and adopted new behaviours of hand washing, respiratory etiquette and social distancing.  These lessons will serve Ireland well as businesses, retail premises and society begin to reopen.   Ireland has reported a total of 24,048 cases of coronavirus and 1,533 people have lost their lives.  Ireland has a population of 4,930,848.

The number of lives lost in Italy has risen to 31,763, as a further 153 deaths were reported, but this is the lowest 24-hour increase in deaths since 9 March. Lombardy, the region most severely affected by coronavirus, registered 39 deaths, down from 115 on Friday, according to official sources.  New infections rose by 875, up by 86 from Friday, with 399 of the cases in Lombardy.   To date, a total of 122,810 people have beaten COVID-19.   All shops, bars, restaurants and hairdressers are reopening from today, from 25 May, gyms, swimming pools and sports centres will be able to open but there will be strict safety protocols in place. There will be unrestricted travel to Italy for those arriving from other EU countries from 3 June.  Those arriving will not have to undergo quarantine.

Turkey has also registered its lowest daily loss of life total since the end of March. 15 provinces, including Istanbul, have been on a 4 day lockdown, just one of a series of temporary and regional lockdowns implemented in the country in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.  People under 20 and those over 65 have been staying at home for weeks but are now allowed to leave their houses for a few hours on specifically allocated days.  Shopping malls, barbershops and hairdressers have been allowed to reopen and the number of provinces that are locked down over weekends and national holidays has dropped.  Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy has said he hopes for a return to domestic tourism after 28 May subject to the maintenance of the current downward trend in coronavirus statistics.

Nepal has reported the first 2 deaths in the country due to coronavirus over the weekend.  According to reports, one was a 29 year old woman who recently gave birth.  There have been 292 confirmed cases of the virus in the country and 36 people are reported as having recovered. Nepal has a reported population of over 29 million people.

Greece is likely to announce that restaurants and other eateries can reopen 25 May, one week ahead of schedule.  Shopping malls and department stores have also be allowed to reopen today, 2 weeks ahead of schedule.  By law, staff and customers will be obliged to wear face coverings.   Greece has recorded 2,819 confirmed coronavirus cases and 162 lives have been lost. In a country with a population of 10,429,023, the number of tests carried out is 126,283 which equates to 12,109 tests per 1M populous.

Shopping centres in Thailand reopened on Sunday and there were plenty of customers willing to shop.  Restrictions included passing through a sanitising gate, limitations on the numbers of shoppers and social distancing measures.

Viligance is being called for in the Philippines after hordes of people flocked to shopping malls ignoring safety protocols after the easing of a 2 month lockdown in the country.  Following images from the capital Manila, the government issued fresh warnings that the malls would be closed again if physical distancing and crowd control measures were not implemented and adhered to.  There have been 12,513 confirmed cases in the country and 824 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. The recorded population in the Philippines is 109,395,919.  Testing has been exceptionally limited with only 215,060 tests conducted which equates to 1,966 per 1M populous.

Madagascar has reported the first death in the country, a 57 year old medical worker with underlying health conditions has lost his battle with COVID-19.  There have been 282 confirmed infections in the country to date.

In the USA, some places are starting to ease restrictions with New Orleans taking the first steps one day after the rest of Louisiana did the same.  The city is restricting buildings to 25% capacity and requires restaurants, nails salons and other businesses to only take customers with reservations. The number of people allowed in houses of worship and theatres is capped at below 100.

Malls and retails stores can reopen but casinos, video poker, live entertainment and bars remain closed.  Some restauranteurs will reopen but others plan to remain closed or stick with the takeaway option. In New York, horse racing and the Watkins Glen International auto track will be allowed to reopen but there will be no crowds, no fans.  Governor Andrew Cuomo has said there may be a return to major league baseball in New York but again, without spectators.  The USA has recorded 1,509,341 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 90,134 lives have been lost.  The states of Vermont, Wyoming, Hawaii, Montana and Alaska are the only ones to have record fewer than 1000 confirmed coronavirus.

Brazil now has more confirmed cases than Italy and numbers are also rising in Mexico and Peru as the geographic region struggles to contain the rapid outbreak of coronavirus there.   Efforts in Brazil have been hampered by the resignation of 2 successive federal health ministers in the last month, both of whom complained about the lack of action and interference by Prime Minster Bolsonaro.   The true number of infections in Brazil is believed to be higher than the official figures as testing in the country is considered inadequate.  Brazil has reported 233,511 confirmed cases and 15,662 lives lost to the virus.  With a population of over 212 million, just 735,224 tests have been conducted equating to 3,462 per 1M populous.  Mexico and Peru have 47,144 and 88,541 confirmed coronavirus infections respectively.

Total number of cases worldwide – 4,750,124

Total number of deaths worldwide – 313,797

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 1,830,174

Currently Infected – 2,606,153 active cases, 2,561,358 in mild condition, 44,975 described as serious or critical.

Positive stories

African Masks, a non profit venture supported by crowd funding was launched last months and is distributing cloth face masks across the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Senegal, Benina and Nigeria through teams of volunteers.  Almost 7,000 masks have been made using colourful African textiles and have been produced by African tailors.  Although a fairly inexpensive and useful tool, many people cannot afford to buy them as the economy has almost stopped.  The masks are made up of 2 layers and include a pocket to insert a disposable filter.

More than 1 million seagrass seeds are being planted around the British Isles as part of a project to restore sea meadows which are thought to capture carbon faster than tropical rainforests whilst also providing habitats for marine life.

Photo by AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

A Belgian maintenance company with a fleet of cranes is using the machines to reunite families with relatives living in high-rise care homes. Residents of nursing homes have been isolated from their families for weeks to protect them from Covid-19, and while those living on ground floors have been able to chat to loved ones through windows, this hasn’t been possible for residents living higher up. Offering a solution to that is Tristan Van den Bosch, manager of Group-f maintenance company, which has given families in the city of Watermael-Boitsfort a lift by raising them to the upper floors to see their relatives.

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

Sunday 17 May 2020

“Let this Sunday be a rainbow for the entire upcoming week”

Stories with a smile this Sunday.

New York has been treated to a perfect rainbow in the midst of the pandemic.   The full rainbow appeared over the Hudson River.

Romeo and Juliet have been found alive and well, living in Verona, Italy.  The real love story has developed after a couple found each other from across the balconies during lockdown, Paola Agnelli and Michele D’Alpaos noticed each other and then looked to social media to connect.  They’ve been messaging ever since and are now planning their first real date.   Yes, I know there wasn’t a balcony in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wouldn’t have know what one was but don’t spoil the romance, there’s nothing better than a good love story on a Sunday.

In the United Kingdom, some postboxes have been painted blue as a token of thanks to the National Health Service battling the coronavirus outbreak.  The postboxes also have the words “Thank you NHS” written in white on the side.

It has been widely reported that with less humans about, animals have been roaming in unexpected places.  Thousands of pink flamingos have flocked to a lake in Mumbai lighting it up in a wonderful shade of pink.  According to The Hindustan Times, there are currently 25% more flamingos in Mumbai than normal at this time of year.

In New Zealand where the control of coronavirus has been extremely successful, some activities have been resumed, professional surfing champion Ava Henderson has returned to the waves.

A small family business in Pembrokeshire, Wales (UK) that normally specialises in guided tours using llamas has
changed their daily routine since being unable to conduct their normal business.  Many of the people nearby live in remote areas so using llamas to make essential food deliveries seemed an obvious choice to make. Llamas are adept at navigating tricky terrain whilst carrying heavy loads and Max (pictured on the right) certainly looks quite happy with his new role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 16 May 2020

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn” (Harriet Beecher Stowe)

This tide will turn, we are navigating stormy waters but we must keep going, we must keep believing and we must come through this.

The number of confirmed cases in Brazil has now passed 200,000 and 13,999 people have succumbed to COVID-19.  This equates to 957 cases per 1M populous and 66 deaths per 1M population.  President Jair Bolsonaro has been very vocal against a lockout in the state of São Paulo, the industrial heart of Brazil despite the fact that this area leads the nation in numbers of confirmed cases and deaths.  President Bolsonaro hopes that business owners will “lobby hard” against the idea of a lockdown.  However, Governor João Doria, although reluctant, has said that a lockdown could be enforced unless social isolation rates go up.  On May 13, only 43% of the population obeyed the current confinement rules, the target is 55% compliance.

Colombia has closed its triple border with Brazil and Peru in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus in the country.   The Colombian army have been deployed in the city of Leticia to prevent the movement of people between the 3 countries. Colombia went into full lockdown on 24 March.  There are currently 13,610 confirmed infections in the country and 525 people have died.  The recorded population of Colombia is 50, 811,863.

President Martin Vizcarra of Peru has said that the rate of coronavirus cases in the country is peaking and will begin a gradual decline as the country moves into the final stage of lockdown which began more than 2 months ago. Until 24 May, Peruvians will remain under a nightly curfew and social distancing will continue to be enforced at markets, other businesses and on public transport.  Mining, fishing and construction industries have already resumed operations albeit in a measured restart.  In Lima, some markets have closed after more than half the traders in the capital city tested positive for coronavirus.  Peru has recorded 80,604 confirmed cases and 2,267 lives have been lost.  The population of Peru is 32,910 878.

Elsewhere in the region,  Argentina has begun loosening the strict lockdown that appears to have helped control the virus and keep the number of lives lost to one of the lowest in South America.  Restrictions were imposed more than 7 weeks ago in and around the capital of Buenos Aires and will remain in place however, provincial mayors and governors have been given the go-ahead to open businesses and restore free movement if the coronavirus case numbers remain low. Argentina’s borders and schools will remain closed and public gatherings remain prohibited.  There have been 7,134 confirmed coronavirus cases in Argentina and 353 people have died. The recorded population of the country is 45,141,794.

COVID-19 has now reached the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. The camps are reported to be home to almost 1 million people, 2 people have tested positive and have been taken to an isolation centre.  Confirmed cases have continued to rise in the county with a total of 20,065 infections and 298 reported deaths. In a country with a recorded population of 164, 475, 123, officials warn that coronavirus could devastate the country.  A nationwide lockdown was enforced on 26 March in an effort to curb the spread of the virus but the number of cases has risen sharply recently.

In Kenya, testing for COVID-19 has been increased in the worst affected areas but it is believed many people are reluctant to be checked for fear of being forced into quarantine.  It is reported that there is a stigma attached to coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.  There have been 758 confirmed cases reported in Kenya and 42 lives lost according to official figures.  36,918 tests have been carried out which equates to 689 per 1M populous.  Kenya has a recorded population of 53,608, 695.

Slovenia has proclaimed itself as the first European country to end the coronavirus epidemic.  As of Friday, the spread of the virus is under control and there’s no longer a need for extraordinary measures according to the government there.  EU residents are now free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at predetermined checkpoints and most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14 day quarantine.  Prime Minister Janez Jansa said “Slovenia has the best epidemic situation in Europe which enables us to call off the general epidemic”.  Some general and special measure will remain in force in the country to prevent a resurgence in cases. Slovenia recorded its first case on 4 March in someone returning from Italy.  There have been 1,465 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 103 people have lost their lives.  Slovenia has a population of 2,078,902.

Italy could allow free travel across the country from June 2 according to reports.  Rigid restrictions were implemented in March and the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is now easing measures to relax the lockdown and revive the economy.  The draft decree which is yet to be formally approved could also allow travel within separate Italian regions from 18 May.

From today, Greece is reopening beaches with strict terms and conditions including a ticket entrance to record the number of attendees, maximum number of beachgoers will be 40 people per 1,000 sq.m, 2 sunbeds per umbrella and the minimum distance between the poles set a 4 metres with a minimum of 1 meters between the actual shades.    There are also several other distancing measures that must be complied with.  The list also prohibits the sale or distribution of alcohol, coffee bars can only operate with the sale of packaged goods for takeaway service.

Berlin restaurants are reopening with strict rules governing what is described as the new normal in the world of gastronomy.  Reservations are strongly advised and restaurants are advised to keep names and contact details of guests for 4 weeks in order to enable tracing should cases of infection arise.  Staff are required to wear face coverings, with the exception of chefs and other kitchen staff members who do not come into contact with diners.  People visiting the restaurant are not obliged to wear face coverings but it is advisable, not entirely sure how that works with eating and drinking though. People from 2 separate households will be allowed to share a table but must keep a distance of 1.5 metres from each other.

Total number of cases worldwide – 4,562,916

Total number of deaths worldwide – 304,384

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 1,723,948

Currently Infected – 2,534,584 active cases, 2,534,573 in mild condition, 45,440 described as serious or critical.

 

Stories to make you smile on a Saturday:

One German cafe has come up with a novel idea to ensure social distancing, customers must wear swimming noodle hats when seated at tables!

 

In Bangkok, Thailand, Maison Saigon has decided that customers dining alone might welcome a little company.  Owner Nattwut Rodchanapanthkul said that having one chair at the tables for single diners felt a little strange, enter the cute Panda to sit opposite.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 15 May 2020

“I challenge you to let every day be a Friday. Give yourself permission to be happy every day” (Joel Osteen)

It is all too easy to get “hung-up” on the figures that are constantly thrown at us during this pandemic.  We all feel shocked and saddened by the dreadful loss of life that has been caused by coronavirus and COVID-19, tens of thousands of families bereaved all over the world.

Much has been written and said about who has the most cases, the highest number of lives lost and the number of tests carried out, comparisons continually being made about who’s got the highest numbers, who’s carried out the most tests etc etc etc.

But sometimes, it is important to look a little deeper than just the individual totals and see a different picture. That is some of what today’s report will cover, it is my way of rebalancing and maybe it will help you rebalance a little and perhaps you will see some of that different picture.

This is the list of the top 10 countries, described as the worst affected in terms of the official number of confirmed infections.

US cases: 1,390,406

Russia cases: 242,271

United Kingdom cases: 230,986

Spain cases: 228,691

Italy cases: 222,104

Brazil cases: 190,137

France cases: 178,184

Germany cases: 174,098

Turkey cases: 143,114

Iran cases: 112,725

 

When the number of cases per 1M population is considered, it is a different picture.  Food for thought perhaps?

Spain:       5,798

USA:         4,263

Italy:          3,659

UK:           3,384

France:     2,730

Germany:  2,071

Turkey:      1,677

Russia:      1,660

Iran:           1,342

Brazil:         838

Hong Kong has announced plans to test hundreds of families after a 23 day run of no local infections was broken after a 66 year old woman and her 5 year old granddaughter were diagnosed with COVID-19. Neither has any recent travel history.

China has now started testing every resident in Wuhan, the city in Hubei province where the virus is believed to have originated. There has been a small outbreak reported this week that has caused concern as there have been few daily cases recorded since early March and none since early April.

Japan has announced the lifting of the state of emergency for 39 of the 47 prefectures.  A nationwide state of emergency was declared over a month ago which included encouraging people to reduce person to person contact by 80% in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Armenia has extended the state of emergency in the country until June 13 after the number of new infections began rising at the end of April.  In early May, nearly all sectors of the economy were opened to allow people to return to work.  The country with a population of 2.9 million has reported 3,860 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 49 deaths.

France has been divided into 2 colours, “red” where the virus is still circulating and some restrictions remain in place, namely the east and the Paris region and “green” where it is not and more restrictions have been lifted.  France ended its strict lock down this week allowing shops to reopen and children returned to school.  Everyone was allowed to leave home without the need to carry a sworn declaration saying the outing was necessary.  On Wednesday, it was announced that more than 10 people can gather in a private home but only if it’s primary use is as a residence.  People are still being called upon to exercise caution and continue with hygiene measures.  President Macron has said it is still too early to clan victory but the country is heading in the right direction.

In the southern region of Italy known as Molise, there has been a coronavirus cluster reported.  Until now the region had recorded the lowest number of cases in the country. The infections are believed to have developed from a funeral procession that took place on 30 April in the regional capital of Campobasso.  The mayor said that no funeral or procession had been authorised, funerals had been banned during the lockdown but were allowed to resume May 4 with no more than 15 people present.

Cyprus has reported that a member of British Forces Cyprus community has tested positive for COVID-19 and this brings the total number of positive tests within the British bases to 12.  Nearly 6,000 British military personnel and their families are based in Cyprus.

Schools in Poland will be closed until the end of the school year (June 26) as efforts are maintained to curb the spread of the virus in the country.  Recently, Poland has sought to loosen some of the restrictions in place, restaurants and hairdressers will reopen on Monday.

Total number of cases worldwide – 4,482,974

Total number of deaths worldwide – 300,397

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 1,684,714

Currently Infected – 2,497,863 active cases, 2,451,984 in mild condition, 45,879 described as serious or critical.

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

Positive news stories

A group of migrants, former addicts and ex-prisoners have formed a collective which grows and delivers food to isolated villagers in Spain.  The community of 23 have been working the land in abandoned areas for years growing food for themselves and others. Local women use what has been grown to make meals that are delivered to older people living in villages to enable them to remain independent.

In India, Police Inspector Munish Pratap Singh received an unusual request just as he was about to finish his shift.  A helpless father called and pleaded for help with getting a birthday cake for his son.  Inspector Singh was not going to allow the little boy to be sad on his birthday so he called a baker he knew (all the shops were shut) and a cake was available.  The smile on the boys face made it all worthwhile.  Many other police officers in India have delivered birthday cakes to children, given food to the homeless and provided essential medicines to those in need as well as singing popular Bollywood songs over loudspeakers to entertain and motivate people.

In Los Angeles (USA), Kjetil and Zoe Noten attended a social distancing street party with their 10yr old son Monty.  Imagine their surprise when they discovered that someone living 4 houses from them shared their Norwegian roots.  Not only that, they all had ancestors from the same tiny island in Norway and after doing more research, it transpired that Kjetil and the near stranger Erik Storm shard the same great-great-grandfather.    Certainly a bright light in uncertain and worrying times.

 

      

 

 

 

Thursday 14 May 2020

The body is a sacred garment” ( Martha Graham)

Talking of garments, authorities in South Africa have published a list of clothing items that people are allowed to buy under the restrictions currency in place in the country.  Produced at the request of clothing retailers, the list seems to include mainly winter clothing items and, although quite specific in some areas, has caused confusion in others. For example, crop bottoms worn with boots and leggings are allowed.  If you’re vertically challenged (short) such as me, crop bottoms are long trousers for me so can I buy them? Other items listed include short sleeved knit tops where promoted and displayed as worn under cardigans and knitwear, short sleeved t-shirts, where promoted and displayed as worn under garments for warmth and shirts (long and short sleeved) where displayed and promoted to be worn under jackets, coats and/or knitwear.

Every country in Africa is now affected by coronavirus as Lesotho has reported its first case of coronavirus.  The virus was confirmed in a Lesotho national who was one of a number of people tested after arriving in the country from Saudi Arabia and neighbouring South Africa.  Lesotho went into lockdown on 29 March to protect itself from the potential spread of the virus from South Africa which has the highest number of confirmed cases on the continent.  The restrictions were eased on May 6 allowing all non-essential shops and businesses to temporarily reopen.

Across this geographic region there have been 69,394 confirmed cases and 2,358 people have succumbed to COVID-19.   Mauritius has no active cases at present having had 332 confirmed cases and 10 lives lost.  Western Sahara had 6 confirmed cases all of which are shown as recovered.

Iceland is making plans to ease the immigration restrictions currently in force.  Professional including scientists, filmmakers and athletes will be eligible for a modified quarantine from this Friday and more widespread changes are expected by 15 June.  The strategy of large scale testing, tracing and isolating has been effective thus far and the country wants to build on that to create a self place for those seeking a change of scenery after what has been a tough time for everyone.  Visitors are expected to be given a choice of either a coronavirus test on arrival or a 2 week quarantine as well as the official tracing app.  Iceland has reported 1,801 confirmed cases of the virus and 10 people have died.  Total tests number 54,195 and with a population of 340,940, that equates to 158,816 tests per 1M populous.

Poland has announced an extension of the strict border controls currently in place until 12 June.  Having closed the borders to foreigners in March, the restriction has now been extended 4 times.  Polish citizens, diplomats, foreigners with a legal right to reside and foreign professional drivers can enter the country at specific checkpoints.  Poland has relaxed some measures by reopening shopping malls, hotels and outdoor playgrounds.  It is expected that the government will lift further restrictions on schools, restaurants and hairdressers imminently.  Poland has reported 16,561 confirmed cases and 827 people have died as a result of COVID-19.

According to reports from Germany, some border controls introduced to slow the spread of coronavirus will start to eased from Saturday, the aim being to have free travel in Europe from 15 June.  Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said that general border controls agreed with France, Switzerland and Austria that were due to end 15 May could be extended until 16 June but as many crossings as possible would be reopened.  He added that controls would be re-imposed if new outbreaks of the virus occurred.   The border with Luxembourg will be open and free from any controls and similar arrangements are being negotiated with Denmark.  Austria has already announced its borders with Germany would be reopened with random checks on vehicles and passengers taking place.

In Spain, it is anticipated that borders will remain closed to most travellers from abroad until July in an attempt to prevent a second wave of infections.  Land borders with France and Portugal have been closed since mid March.  Whilst easing the lockdown for Spanish residents, the implementation of the 2 week quarantine for foreign travellers has effectively closed air and maritime travel to avoid the importation of new cases from other countries.  The current state of emergency is due to expire May 24 and the quarantine measure would also expire then however both can be extended.  It is likely that the restrictions on travel are likely to remain in place for much longer.

In the Netherlands, there have been a further 227 confirmed cases and another 52 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.   This brings the total number of cases in the country to 43,211 and 5,562 lives lost.  Experts have agreed that not all the conditions for relaxing the “intelligent” lockdown implemented have been achieved but the primary aims of ensuring the health service is not overloaded and protecting the vulnerable are central to the strategy in the easing of measures.  Initial steps will give individuals more freedom in terms of local activity and person to person contact. Subject to monitoring, success would lead to allowing regional and group activities.  Officials say everything depends on people maintaining the basic hygiene measures such as hand washing and maintaining social distancing.  The population of the Netherlands is recorded as 17,129,666 and testing in the country equates to 16,091 per 1M populous.

In Belgium, schools, museums and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen under strict conditions next week.   This is phase 2 of the lockdown lifting plan in the country.  From 18 May, primary and secondary schools will reopen to selected years with extra hygiene measures in place.  Marriages and funerals will be allowed with a maximum of 30 guests and adherence to social distancing rules.  Markets will be allowed to take place with a maximum of 50 stall holders who must wear masks.  Hairdressers and beauticians can also reopen with customers having appointments, staff and clients will have to wear face coverings.  Museums and zoos can also reopen but tickets must be sold online and steps have to be in place to ensure social distancing. Authorities in Belgium have emphasised the everything can be reversed if the pandemic worsens.  The country has reported 53,981 cases of coronavirus and 8,843 people have died.  Per 1M capita, Belgium has one of the worse confirmed outbreaks of coronavirus in the world.

Total number of cases worldwide – 4,374,779

Total number of deaths worldwide – 294,406

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 1,622.067

Currently Infected – 2,458,306 active cases, 2,411,979 in mild condition, 46,327 described as serious or critical.

Good news stories:

Maria Branyas, 113 years old and Spains oldest person, has become the oldest survivor of coronavirus in the country.  Having tested positive for the virus in April at the care home where she has resided for 20 years, she was put in isolation in her room until she returned a negative test result.  Maria celebrated her 113th birthday 4 March 2020.

In New York, a virtual telethon has raised more than $115 million to support New Yorkers impacted by COVID-19.  All donations received will be used to provide food, shelter, cash assistance, mental health, legal services and education.

Continuing with the art theme I reported on previously, street art in the United Kingdom has raised smiles especially with this one featuring Bruce Forsyth emphasising the 2 metres social distancing measure

For those of you not familiar with Sir Bruce, his catch phrase was “ Nice to meet you, to meet you nice”

 

 

Wednesday 13 May 2020.

“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground” (Theodore Roosevelt)

At the moment, we don’t have any choice but to keep our feet on the ground but maybe take the time to look for the stars, the skies are so much clearer and the world is blooming. Look for that silver lining in these dark clouds and keep believing we will get through this.

In Iran, mosques reopened temporarily on Tuesday indicating a further step in the plan to ease restrictions currently in place.  According to reports, the decision to reopen mosques was made in consultation with the Ministry of Health and they would only be open for 3 days commemorating specific nights for the holy month of Ramadan.  Although some parts of Iran have seen a rise in infections and a county in the southwest has been placed in lockdown, schools will reopen next week and a ban on inter-city trips has been lifted.  Iran has reported 109,286 confirmed cases and 6,685 people have died.

After a spike in infections from China at the weekend, specifically in the city of Wuhan where the pandemic first emerged, there have been no new domestic cases reported on Tuesday.  China has reported 82,919 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak and 4,633 people have lost their lives.  China is no longer on the list of the 10 countries with the highest number of cases confirmed.  China has plans to test all 11 million Wuhan residents for coronavirus.

Singapore has reported a further 884 coronavirus cases taking the total to 24,671 confirmed infections.  There have been 21 deaths from COVID-19.   Although the number of “community” cases is falling and the general situation has started to improve, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has warned of a rise as measures are gradually lifted.  Singapore has to remain very careful, vigilant and minimise the risk of any sharp rise in cases or large clusters in the community according to Mr Gan.

Russia has reported 10,899 new cases in the country in the 24 hours preceding this report.  The total number of infections in the country has reached 232,243 and 2,116 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  Russia has carried out 5,805 404 tests which equates to 39,781 per 1M populous.  According to reports, a fire in a hospital in St Petersburg has killed coronavirus patients who had been attached to ventilators.  A further 150 people were evacuated.  Last week, a fire at a Moscow hospital killed one person. Russia has continued to ease lockdown restrictions despite the rise in cases.

Italy has announced that bars, restaurants, hairdressers and beauty salons will reopen across the country from May 18.  Safety measures will need to be implemented before the businesses can open, restaurants will be required to have a distance of 4 metres between diners.  Retailers, museums and libraries are also set to reopen from May 18.

Spain has announced that a 2 week quarantine will be mandatory for all overseas travellers entering the country from 15 May.  The incoming travellers will have to remain indoors and will only be allowed to go out for grocery shopping, visits to health centres and situations of dire need.  These measures will apply to all travellers including Spanish citizens returning to the country and will be enforced until at least 24 May when the existing state of emergency is due to end.  The number of newly diagnosed cases in one day fell to its lowest in more than 2 months on Tuesday.

Denmark has announced it will significantly increase testing and roll out a contact tracing system in an effort to prevent a second wave of infections in the country.  Denmark has reported 10,591 confirmed cases and 533 people have lost their lives.  A total of 334,260 tests have been conducted which equates to 57,709 per 1M population.  The recorded population of Denmark is 5,789,387.   Denmark has one of the highest testing rates per capita in Europe. The country was also the first in Europe to relax the lockdown nearly a month ago.

In Paris, France, people have now been banned from drinking alcohol on the banks of the Saint-Martin canal and the Seine river just hours after an 8 week lockdown in the country was eased.  Police were forced to dispel crowds that had gathered, many without wearing masks.  The prefect of police was said to deplore the fact that on the first day of deconfinement, he has had to take such measures, reminding everyone that the success of the easing of the lockdown rested on the principle of each citizen’s individual responsibility.  Following the pictures of Parisians hugging and sharing meals despite being urged to maintain social distancing, the French government has denied a request by the Mayor of Paris to reopen parks and public gardens.

Germany reported that 4 municipalities are trying to contain new outbreaks of more than 50 cases coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants in 7 days, this being the threshold for more localised lockdown measures announced by Angela Merkel last week.  Abattoirs and food processing plants have been identified as the centres of the new outbreaks although authorities believe the virus may not have spread into the processing plants themselves.  It is more likely that the virus spread in cramped accommodation where Eastern European workers share rooms and washing facilities.  Germany has recorded 172,626 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 7,661 people have died.  Over 2.7 million tests have been conducted in Germany equating to 32,891 per 1M populous.

Algeria will extend the restriction of movement measures currently imposed until 29 May to cope with rising cases of coronavirus.  Just days after being allowed to reopen, the authorities ordered the closure of businesses, including shops, for not observing social distancing rules.  Restrictions on movement include a nationwide night time curfew and closure of universities, schools and mosques. There have been 5,891 confirmed cases in Algeria and 507 people are reported to have died.  In a country of 43,735,443 people, just 6,500 tests have been conducted, equating to 148 per 1M populous.

  • Total number of cases worldwide – 4,287,041
  • Total number of deaths worldwide – 288,218
  • Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 1,544,667
  • Currently Infected – 2,454,156 active cases, 2,407,338 in mild condition, 46,818 described as serious or critical.

Positive news stories –

New York will begin a phased reopening this week that allows industries at low risk of spreading the virus to reopen.  Businesses such as landscaping and drive-in movies will be allowed to resume operations as infections and hospitalisations continue to decline.

Here comes the sun (we hope) as researchers from Trinity College Dublin, the University of Liverpool and the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing found the vitamin D can help support the immune system in fighting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  Research has shown that the highest infection and death rates have been recorded among those populations with low vitamin D concentrations.  Don’t forget to wear sunscreen though.

The lockdown has significantly reduced human activity, which is good news for the seismologists studying our planet. The sudden reduction in human activity, including transport, construction works and industrial machinery, due to Covid-19 lockdowns has caused a significant drop in what geoscientists call ‘background seismic noise’ – the vibrations of energy in the Earth’s crust. This allows scientists to build a more detailed picture of how the Earth’s crust works.

Seismologist Thomas Lecocq, from the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, found that vibrations in the planet’s crust have decreased by between one third and one half since Belgium went into total lockdown on 18 March. “The shift was almost immediate – at midnight on the first day of full lockdown, seismic noise was noticeably reduced and by midday the next day it decreased after the final big rush for supermarket shopping,” Lecocq said.

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

 

Tuesday 12 May 2020

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started” (Mark Twain)

Should I stay or should I go?  The million dollar question being asked everywhere especially in the United Kingdom where an announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to cause confusion as to what message was being promoted and also seemed to bring him into conflict with the First Ministers of the devolved governments in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.  The plans announced by Mr Johnson have been described a vague, confusing and divisive.  The UK has recorded the second highest number of lives lost in the world due to COVID-19.

I’ll leave the politicians and the media to thrash that one out but here’s an interesting thought  (and it is just my thought) – Common sense – sound practical judgment concerning everyday matters or a basic ability to perceive, understand and judge, shared by (common to) nearly all people.

In India, one of the world’s largest train networks will gradually restart operations today as India continues to ease restrictions.  It will be mandatory for passengers to have their faces covered and everyone will undergo screening before departure.  Only passengers who are asymptomatic will be allowed to board the trains.  There have been 65,021 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 2,152 people have died thus far.

A traditional market on the island of Java, Indonesia, has moved outdoors and stalls have been set a least 1 metre apart as the country tries to maintain the markets where most people go to buy affordable food.  The 857 stallholders at the Salatiga market and the shoppers are required to wear masks and avoid physical contact with each other.  One vegetable seller said that the social distancing measures made him feel safe and comfortable.  Indonesia has been reluctant to implement a nationwide lockdown with many cities adopting large scale local restrictions that resulted in the closure of businesses and people staying at home.  Indonesia has recorded 14.032 confirmed infections and 973 people have died.

Japan could lift the state of emergency currently enforced in many regions this week subject to new coronavirus cases being under control, this being another step in the inching forward towards a gradual return of economic activity.   The state of emergency that has been in place since last month gives governors of the 47 prefectures stronger legal authority to urge people to stay at home and businesses to close but there are no penalties for non-compliance.  Japan has been able to avoid an explosive outbreak of the virus with 15,663 confirmed cases and 607 deaths.

Ghana has seen the number of confirmed cases double recently since lockdown measures were eased. The government insists that the fairly robust testing and tracing measures allow the spread of the virus to be tracked with precision and therefore focus lockdown restrictions on specific locations rather than entire cities.   The sharp rise in cases has been partly attributed to the results from a backlog in testing.  Ghana has reported 4,263 cases of coronavirus and 22 people have died.  The number of tests carried out in the country is one of the highest in Africa at 155,201 which equates to 4,995 per 1M populous.  The recorded population of Ghana is 30, 973,441.

Elsewhere in Africa, Zambia has reported no new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours preceding this report.  Kenya has reported 28 new cases bringing the total there to 700 confirmed infections and 32 lives lost.

Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape province have become the coronavirus hotspot for South Africa accounting for more than half of the confirmed cases there.  South Africa has the continents highest number of confirmed cases and has eased restrictions to allow an estimated 1.6 million people to return to work in selected mines and factories.  The number of confirmed cases in South Africa is 10,652 and 206 people are reported to have died.

According to official figures from the World Health Organisation, there have been more than 63,00 confirmed cases across Africa and 2,283 lives have been lost.  However, due to relatively limited testing, there are fears that the numbers could be underestimated

New Zealand has moved to level 2 lockdown meaning that shopping malls, playgrounds and gyms will reopen.  On Monday 18 May all schoolchildren will be return and nurseries will also be open.  On 21 May, bars will reopen.

Switzerland has announced several measures to ease lockdown restrictions in the country.  From Monday, primary and lower secondary schools reopened meaning that children up to the age of 15 can resume education.  Shops, markets, museums, libraries and restaurants will also be allowed to reopen provided they comply with precautionary measures.  The government in the country still classifies the threat from coronavirus as ‘extraordinary”.  Switzerland has reported 30,305 cases of the virus and 1,830 people have succumbed to COVID-19.

Kosovo implemented tight restrictions on movements, acted early to shut down public activities and appears to have prevented a widespread outbreak of the virus among the population of 1.8 million.   The caretaker Prime Minster Albin Kurti is reported to be in self-isolation after an official in the government had close contact with someone who has since tested positive for coronavirus.  Official figures from Kosovo report that 884 cases has been confined and 28 people have died thus far.

In the United States of America, some southern states including Florida, Georgia and Texas have started to reopen in moves that have earned praise from President Trump. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott has accepted that his decision is likely to cause an increase in coronavirus cases.  US President has said “Texas is opening up and a lot of places are opening up.  And we want to do it and I’m not sure we have a choice. I think we have to do it”.  Texas has reported 39,890 cases of infections and 1,133 people have died in the state as a result of COVID-19.  Across the USA, there have been a total of 1,369,994 confirmed cases and 80,848 people have lost their lives.

Total number of cases worldwide – 4,218,049

Total number of deaths worldwide – 284,748

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 1,506,743

Currently Infected – 2,426,558 active cases, 2,379,506 in mild condition, 47,052 described as serious or critical.

Good news stories –

Canada is boosting the pay of frontline and essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in a $4 billion Canadian ($2.85 billion US) deal.  The federal government will contribute nearly 75% and the remaining 25% will be funded by territories and provinces.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “If you’re risking your health to keep this country moving and you’re taking minimum wage, you deserve a raise”.

American Airlines and Hyatt Hotels have joined up to show their appreciation to one of the hardest hit hospitals in USA (New York City Health+ Hospitals/Elmhurst).  More than 4,000 staff including doctors, nurses, facilities and food service teams have been surprised with free round -trip tickets to a destination of their choice and a 3 night stay in the location.

Volunteers working for “Tree for Life” have been isolating themselves at the charity’s rewilding estate in Glenmoriston (Scotland UK) in order to save more than 100,000 native trees that risked being lost due to the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.  The saplings including Scots pine, rowan, juniper, hazel, holly and oak, as well as rare mountain species such as dwarf birch and woolly willow, were all grown from seed and were due for planting out on the hills this spring as part of an initiative to restore the ancient Caledonian Forest in Scotland.

 

Monday 11 May 2020

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence” (Helen Keller)

Europe remains in a state that is far from normal as a new week begins with tentative steps being taken to ease restrictions.

In Spain, about half the population will be allowed out today for limited socialisation and restaurants will be allowed to offer some outdoor service in a phased transition that will last thought June.

In France, a new cluster of COVID-19 infections has been reported in the Dordogne region, hours before France was due to end the strict lockdown that has been in place for 7 weeks.  The cluster has been linked to a funeral where about 20 people gathered to pay their respects.  Many more turned up at the cemetery, some from Switzerland and Portugal.  The deceased man did not die from COVID-19.

Belgium continues to ease restrictions today and in some parts of Germany, some bars and restaurants reopened over the weekend. However, the rate of new infections in Germany seems to be accelerating raising concerns that control of the virus could slip out of control again.

Sweden has failed the elderly

Sweden implemented a soft response to coronavirus, keeping primary schools, bars and restaurants open and encouraging people to practice social distancing and hygiene recommendations.  Authorities have now recognised that they failed to protect the elderly with around half all of COVID-19 deaths occurring in nursing homes.  Although Sweden claimed to have the shielding of those aged 70 and over as top priority, 90% of those who have died are were over 70 and half were residents in nursing homes according of figures from the Swedish Board of Health. Many of the staff in the nursing homes in Sweden work without any protection and they take care of Covid infected and not infected in the same time.

Italy reported 194 lives lost at the weekend and the number of active infections fell to 84,842.  The country started easing lockdown measures last week with people being allowed to visit relatives and partners within their regions, exercise in the park and going for a walk also became possible.  Images have emerged of busy parks in Milan and Turin over the weekend as well as pictures of people gathering for drinks in the Navigli canal district of Milan.  Mayor of Milan Beppe Sala has said he is “pissed off” at the scenes and had warned he will not hesitate to close the area completely if people did not respect the rules.  Bars and restaurants across the country can provide takeout shrives but people are not allowed to gather outside.  With travel between regions still prohibited, the majority of Italians are respecting the rules but it seems there will always be a minority who spoil things for the majority.

Belgium has given residents the four-person puzzle.  From yesterday, every household in Belgium can invite up to 4 guests to their home.  Two sets of 4 make a coronavirus bubble who can visit each other´s homes.  No-one else is allowed into this domestic social circle.  Who would you choose to invite into your bubble?

Senior citizens in Turkey were allowed to venture outside yesterday as restrictions were eased.  Those aged 65 and over have been under a stay at home curfew since 21 March.  As part of a rolling program, they were allowed out for 4 hours, people aged under 20 who have also been under curfew will be allowed out for a similar time later this week.

Greece will extend the lockdown restrictions imposed on migrant camps in March until 21 May. No reason has been given for the extension.  Greece started easing restrictions last week with people being able to leave home without authorisation and today, some hope will re-open and final year school pupils will return to the classroom. There have been 2,710 confirmed cases in the country and 151 people have lost their lives.

In Seoul, South Korea, bars and clubs have been closed amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus.  This comes after more than 24 cases were linked to a 29 year-old man who tested positive and had spent time in bars and clubs last weekend.

Mexico hospitals, both public and private, are reportedly turning away COVID-19 patients as facilities quick filled up. The number of new infections continues to rise with confirmed cases now standing at 33,460.  The number of lives lost in Mexico is 3,353.

China has reported what is suspected to be a new wave of coronavirus cars in the north-east of the country with one city being classified as high-risk.  The city of Shulan has now raised the risk level from low on Thursday to high on Saturday.

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil continues to brush off the risk of coronavirus, attacking COVID-19 “neurosis” in the country. As the number of lives lost in the country climbs over 10,000 and the number of confirmed cases rose by over 2,000 to 148,670, the president took a ride on a jet ski to a floating barbecue.

Lebanon has reported that 13 soldiers at a military court have tested positive for coronavirus.  As a result, lawyers and judges will now be tested for the virus and buildings will be disinfected.   Lebanon started the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions last week by allowing restaurants and hairdressers to reopen although the number of cases has increased in recent days.  Lebanon has reported a total of 809 confirmed cases thus far and 26 deaths.

Total number of cases worldwide – 4,142,104

Total number of deaths worldwide – 281,660

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 1,458,191

Currently Infected – 2,402,253 active cases, 2,354,815 in mild condition, 47,438 described as serious or critical.

Good news stories!

Flamingos are flourishing in an Albanian costal lagoon as the drop in air and marine traffic offers wildlife some respite.  Bird watchers have also noticed more pelicans, herons and other species at Narta Lagoon.

Slovakia has recorded no new cases since March 10.

Over 4,000 people have been discharged from hospitals in Italy in just one day over the weekend.

Louise Birch.

Information and statistics from:

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com