Coronavirus: EU Calls For Calm In Europe Despite Death Cases

 

The novel coronavirus is concerning for Europe but there is no reason for alarm, the EU’s health commissioner said on Wednesday as Italy battles the world’s third-biggest outbreak.

“This is a situation of concern but we must not give in to panic,” Stella Kyriakides told reporters in Rome after meeting Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

“We must also be vigilant when it comes to misinformation and disinformation as well as xenophobic statements which are misleading citizens and putting in question the work of public authorities.”

On Wednesday Italian authorities announced a 12th death linked to the outbreak and another jump in the number of cases, which now stand at 374.

The new toll published by the civil protection department is a jump from the 322 cases and 10 deaths recorded on Tuesday evening — the most serious outbreak so far in Europe.

Several cases in other European countries have been reported among people who had recently visited Lombardy, the region of northern Italy worst-hit by the outbreak.

AFP

Coronavirus: France Records First Death, Says Victim Is A Teacher

Medical staff from the IHU (Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire) Mediterranee Infection Institute are at work in the laboratory to analyse samples on the possible presence of the COVID-19 on 26 February 26, 2020 in Marseille.  GERARD JULIEN / AFP

 

A 60-year-old teacher has become the first French casualty of the coronavirus, the health ministry announced on Wednesday.

The man died overnight in a Paris hospital, bringing the coronavirus death toll in the country to two, said the ministry’s deputy head Jerome Salomon.

The first victim was an 80-year-old Chinese tourist who died in hospital in mid-February.

The latest victim, who worked at a junior-high school in the town of Crepy-en-Valois, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Paris, is not believed to have travelled to an area affected by the global coronavirus outbreak, the education ministry said.

Le Parisien newspaper quoted the mayor of the teacher’s hometown of Vaumoise as saying he had “begun to feel ill at the start of the (mid-term) holidays and had been quickly hospitalised.”

Classes are due to resume in northern France on Monday.

France has reported four other new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours — two in people returning from hard-hit Italy — bringing the total number of infections to 17.

Eleven other people have recovered in France from the disease which has killed more than 2,600 people worldwide and infected almost 80,000 others, mainly in China.

One of the four people still being treated in hospital, a 55-year-old man, is in a critical condition in the northern city of Amiens.

Two of the four had recently returned from the Lombardy region of Italy, which is at the centre of Europe’s biggest outbreak of the disease, the health ministry said.

The French government has asked citizens returning from Lombardy and the neighbouring Veneto region to avoid “all non-essential outings” and keep their children home from school.

The same recommendations have been issued for people returning from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and South Korea.

 Death of Hong Kong tourist probed 

Meanwhile, 30 tourists have been confined to their hotel in the Burgundy town of Beaune after the as-yet unexplained death of a tourist from Hong Kong, the regional health department said.

The department said a tour group, which had been due to travel to Paris Wednesday, was being kept at the Ibis hotel while tests are carried out “to banish all suspicion of a case of coronavirus”.

The agency did not say where the other members of the group were from.

The Beaune town hall said the dead man had a heart condition.

Other guests who had not been in contact with the group were allowed to leave.

AFP

Andy Murray May Undergo Another Operation After Pelvic Injury

Andy Murray of Britain reacts during his men’s singles second-round match against Cameron Norrie of Britain at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing on October 2, 2019. LEO RAMIREZ / AFP

 

Britain’s former world number one Andy Murray faces a crucial few weeks to find out if he requires another operation in order to return to top-level tennis.

The 32-year-old three-time Grand Slam winner has only just returned to training after being out of action since November due to bruising on his pelvic bone.

He capped a remarkable comeback from a hip-resurfacing operation he underwent in January 2019 by winning the European Open in October.

But Murray may need an operation to remove bone growth associated with the surgery though he could be back in action at the end of March in Miami.

The Scot believes his lack of progress is caused by a common side-effect of his operation.

“I have not had lots of clarity as to what the issue actually is, because it is difficult to tell,” he told the British media.

“What I need to do just now is build up in these next couple of weeks to really test it. Hopefully, it responds fine. I should know by the end of next month whether I’m good to play or not with it.”

An operation would likely see him miss Wimbledon and also potentially scupper his bid for a third successive Olympics singles title.

Murray has slipped to 130th in the world after missing a succession of Grand Slams in recent years.

“I want to play in the Slams again,” he said. “That is the thing that I have missed over these last few years. Missing the Australian Open for me this year was rough.”

He said the operation would be difficult for him due to the timing.

“The thing for me that would be tough is if I would have to go ahead and have something done about this,” he said.

“It’s not that long an operation really in terms of the rehab and stuff.

“But it’s just if I wasn’t able to have it until May or whatever, with six to eight weeks’ rehab, then that would mean missing that period (the grass-court season).”

AFP

Griezmann Rescues Barcelona First Leg Draw At Napoli

Barcelona’s French forward Antoine Griezmann (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg football match between SSC Napoli and FC Barcelona at the San Paolo Stadium in Naples on February 25, 2020. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Antoine Griezmann rescued a 1-1 draw for Barcelona at Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Frenchman Griezmann struck just before the hour mark for Barca in Naples after Dries Mertens had put the hosts ahead in the 30th minute with his 121st Napoli goal, equalling the club all-time top scorer Marek Hamsik.

Barcelona ended the game with 10 men after Arturo Vidal was sent off with two minutes to go after picking up two yellow cards, following an angry clash with Napoli defender Mario Rui.

Lionel Messi failed to score on his first appearance at the Stadio San Paolo where Napoli legend Diego Maradona reigned supreme three decades ago.

The 32-year-old Messi scored four goals at the weekend in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Eibar that put the Spaniards back the top of La Liga, but could not add to his 114 Champions League goals.

The clash was the first between the two teams and also a Champions League debut for Barcelona coach Quique Setien and Napoli’s Gennaro Gattuso, who both took over after the group stage.

Messi fired over on nine minutes after combining well with Frenkie de Jong but Gattuso’s side piled the pressure on the Catalans.

Their pressing paid off on the half-hour mark, with Piotr Zielinski breaking free down the right before finding Mertens, who curled a magnificent finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

He equalled Hamsik’s record and is now six goals clear of Maradona, but was forced off in the second half after a Sergio Busquets tackle for which the Spaniard will be suspended for the second leg.

Barcelona did not waste much time in getting on level terms, as Messi and Busquets combined to send Semedo into the box in the 57th minute.

The Portuguese full-back crossed low for Griezmann to power home right-footed.

Ter Stegen denied Lorenzo Insigne with Jose Callejon also missing a chance for a second, as did Messi with eight minutes to go.

Vidal was sent off after a sliding tackle on Rui before appearing to headbutt the Napoli defender.

The Chilean will also miss the return leg at the Camp Nou on March 18.

AFP

Gnabry Stars As Bayern Rock Chelsea

Bayern Munich’s German striker Serge Gnabry (C) scores their first goal during the UEFA Champion’s League round of 16 first leg football match between Chelsea and Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge in London on February 25, 2020. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Serge Gnabry fired Bayern Munich to the brink of the Champions League quarter-finals as the German’s double inspired a superb 3-0 rout of Chelsea in the last-16 first leg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Gnabry had tormented Tottenham Hotspur with four goals in Bayern’s 7-2 victory in north London earlier this season and the former Arsenal winger returned to the English capital to push Chelsea to the brink of elimination.

The 24-year-old’s time with Arsenal was a disappointment and he even flopped during a loan spell at West Bromwich Albion.

But he has been reborn with Bayern and his two goals in the space of three minutes left Hansi Flick’s side within touching distance of the last eight.

Robert Lewandowski got Bayern’s third before Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso was sent off in the 83rd minute.

Chelsea will need another Munich miracle in the second leg on March 18 to overturn the deficit at the Allianz Arena, where they famously beat the German club in the 2012 Champions League final.

“I have a lot of friends here. A lot of them were in the stands and I think they were giving me good power,” Gnabry told BT Sport of his London goal streak.

“Three goals should give us a lot of confidence. But we need to be prepared for the second leg and we can’t take it serious enough.

“We saw last season with Liverpool beating Barcelona, we know we have to be careful and focus.”

This hasn’t been a vintage year for Bayern, but they have been energised since the exit of disliked boss Niko Kovac and out-classed Chelsea in all phases.

None of the previous six teams to have won all of their Champions League group games have lifted the trophy that season, but five-time winners Bayern will fancy their chances of breaking that duck if they can maintain this form.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard admitted his young team were “underdogs” against a club of Bayern’s vast European experience and his pre-match prediction proved spot on in a chastening defeat.

Bayern set the tone when Thomas Muller forced a save from Willy Caballero inside the first minute after stealing possession from Jorginho.

Flick had warned Chelsea that Lewandowski was in the “form of his life” and the Bayern striker escaped Andreas Christensen for a stinging shot that Caballero blocked with his face.

Ross Barkley surrendered possession carelessly deep inside his own half and Muller pounced with a reverse pass to Lewandowski, whose toe-poked effort was well saved by Caballero.

 Irresistible Bayern 

Bayern’s pressure was mounting and Muller drifted onto Gnabry’s cross to flick a back header against the bar.

Lampard had kept faith with Olivier Giroud after the 33-year-old marked his first start since November with a goal in Saturday’s win against Tottenham.

But retaining Giroud at the expense of Tammy Abraham was a big gamble and the Chelsea striker’s muscular but immobile presence offered little to unsettle Bayern.

Bayern remained the dominant force to such an extent that they may have rendered the second leg irrelevant.

They deservedly took the lead in the 51st minute with a superbly crafted goal.

Gnabry’s deft control and pass sent Lewandowski into the Chelsea area and when he cut the ball back, his team-mate made a perfectly-timed run to fire low past Caballero.

Moving the ball with pace and precision, Bayern were irresistible and they increased their lead three minutes later thanks to another impressive combination from the Gnabry and Lewandowski double act.

Lewandowski nodded onto Gnabry, took the return pass from the winger and played a sublime through ball to Gnabry, who had accelerated away from the Chelsea defence to guide a cool finish into the far corner.

Bayern weren’t finished yet and Lewandowski became the first Bayern player to score in six consecutive Champions League matches when he tapped in from Alphonso Davies’s 76th-minute cross for his 39th goal of the season.

Alonso’s frustration at Chelsea’s plight boiled over when he was sent off for whacking Lewandowski with his arm.

AFP

SERAP Condemns Bill Seeking Immunity For Lawmakers

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has condemned the passing of a bill seeking to give leaders of federal and state legislatures immunity from prosecution for corruption.

SERAP in a statement issued by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare on Tuesday, said the move is tantamount to ripping up the nation’s constitution.

READ ALSO: Bill Seeking Immunity For Lawmakers From Persecution Scales Second Reading

The organization, therefore, called on the lower chamber to immediately withdraw the bill, vowing to challenge the decision.

“Providing immunity for presiding officers against crimes of corruption is tantamount to ripping up the constitution. It’s a blatant assault on the rule of law and breach of public trust.

“The leadership of the House of Representatives must immediately withdraw this obnoxious bill. We will vigorously challenge this impunity,” the statement read in part.

Speaking further, SERAP recalled that “countries like Guatemala has voted unanimously to strip their president of immunity from prosecution for corruption, our own lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction.”

The group warned that if the lawmakers have their way by passing the bill into law, they will succeed in denying Nigerians of their rights to make leaders accountable to the people.

This comes shortly after the lawmakers sought to extend immunity to cover Presiding Officers of Legislative Institutions.

The bill which was sponsored by Representative Odebunmi Olusegun was supported by the majority of the lawmakers who say it is important to safeguard the sanctity of the National Assembly.

In supporting the bill, Majority Leader, Ado-Doguwa said: “It should be passed for the simple reason that it provides protection for leaders of the legislature considering the important work of the legislature.”

Switzerland Records First Coronavirus Case

Team leader of the joint mission between World Health Organization (WHO) and China on COVID-19, Bruce Aylward shows graphics during a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on February 25, 2020. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Switzerland reported its first case of new coronavirus on Tuesday after outbreaks were identified in its main neighbours Austria, France, Germany and Italy.

The case is a man in his 70s who was infected near Milan where he attended an event on February 15, federal health office chief Pascal Strupler told reporters.

The man is from the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino on the border with Italy and has been with his family since suffering the first symptoms on February 17.

He is now in isolation in a hospital and anyone who has come into contact with him since his return from Milan will be tested and placed in quarantine for 14 days.

“His state of health is good,” the health officials said in a statement, adding that the risk of contagion for Switzerland as a whole remained only “moderate”.

But it also said that, because of the proximity to Italy, “the probability is growing that other cases will be diagnosed”.

Prior to this case, Switzerland had tested some 300 suspect cases that were all found to be negative.

The government said on Monday that it had stepped up testing on patients with flu-like symptoms and was working to raise awareness at all border points.

AFP

13 Killed, 15 Injured In India Riots

Police personnel march on a road scattered with stones following clashes between supporters and opponents of new citizenship law, in Delhi on February 25, 2020.  Amarjeet Kumar Singh / AFP

 

Thirteen people have been killed and more than 150 injured in sectarian violence that erupted in India’s capital New Delhi for the third day, a hospital official said Tuesday.

“I can now confirm 13 deaths. At least 150 people have come to our hospital with injuries,” Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital official Rajesh Kalra told AFP, adding that a dozen people were in critical condition.

“We are still receiving some people with injuries, most of them firearm injuries today.”

AFP

Pompeo Asks Iran To ‘Tell The Truth’ On Coronavirus

In this file photo taken on December 11, 2019 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday demanded that Iran “tell the truth” about a coronavirus outbreak, voicing alarm at allegations of a cover-up.

“The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country,” Pompeo told reporters in Washington.

“All nations including Iran should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations,” he said.

Iran has reported 15 deaths from the epidemic, more than in any country other than China. Both countries are considered top adversaries by President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Iranian government has pledged greater transparency after a lawmaker alleged that the clerical regime was playing down the outbreak and that the toll could be as high as 50.

Pompeo said that both China and Iran could have better-contained coronavirus if they allowed free expression and he saluted foreign journalists who have reported on the epidemic.

“If China permitted its own important journals and medical personnel to speak and investigate freely, Chinese officials and other nations would have been far better prepared to address the challenge,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said that the United States had quarantined all people known to have contracted the virus and that Washington would take further “appropriate action” if needed.

AFP

Wikileaks: Assange Stripped Naked, Lawyer Tells Court

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 19, 2017 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Justin TALLIS / AFP

 

A lawyer for Julian Assange on Tuesday accused the United States of “boldly and blatantly” misstating facts about the Wikileaks founder’s conduct, on the second day of his extradition hearing in Britain. 

Assange faces charges under the US Espionage Act for the 2010 release of a trove of secret files detailing aspects of US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Washington claims the 48-year-old Australian helped intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal the documents before recklessly exposing confidential sources around the world.

But defence lawyer Mark Summers argued much of the 18-charge US indictment Assange will face if extradited was “provably wrong”, adding elements were “lies, lies and more lies”.

“It’s difficult to conceive of a clearer example of an extradition request that boldly and blatantly misstates the facts as they are known to be to the US government,” he told a packed courtroom in southeast London.

“You will have to determine in due course whether it is fair, accurate and proper,” Summers told the judge.

Assange spent much of the past decade holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid separate legal proceedings in Sweden but Washington is now seeking his transfer to stand trial.

The extradition hearing at Woolwich Crown Court, next to the high-security Belmarsh prison where he is being held, is expected to last five days before reconvening in May.

Assange, wearing a grey blazer and a sweater over a collared shirt in court, listened impassively Tuesday as dozens of protesters rallied for a second day outside.

‘Knowingly inaccurate’ 

WikiLeaks initially worked with newspapers to publish details from the leaked State Department and Pentagon files, which caused a sensation — and outrage in Washington.

Summers said the partnership with media outlets had led to a rigorous redaction process that included liaising with US officials to ensure sources names were not revealed.

“That process involved the US government and state department feeding suggested redactions to the media,” he added.

But Summers said a 2011 book by a journalist from The Guardian revealed the password needed to access the database of unredacted source names and ensured the cache eventually found its way online.

He told the court Assange had made a phone call to the White House alerting US officials of the imminent release on various websites, allegedly warning: “Unless you do something, then people’s lives are put at risk.”

“The notion that Mr Assange deliberately put lives at risk by dumping an unredacted database is knowingly inaccurate,” Summers said.

The Guardian later said in a statement that “it is entirely wrong” to say the 2011 book led to the publication of unredacted US government files.

“The book contained a password which the authors had been told by Julian Assange was temporary and would expire and be deleted in a matter of hours,” it said.

“The book also contained no details about the whereabouts of the files.”

On Monday James Lewis, a lawyer for the US accused Assange of risking the lives of intelligence sources by publishing classified documents.

“The United States is aware of sources whose unredacted names and/or other identifying information was contained in classified documents published by Wikileaks who subsequently disappeared,” he said.

 ‘Stripped naked’ 

Earlier Tuesday, lead defence lawyer Edward Fitzgerald complained that Assange had been stripped naked twice and handcuffed 11 times coming and going from the court proceedings.

Fitzgerald warned that his treatment could “impinge on these proceedings” and asked judge Vanessa Baraitser to give “an indication to prison authorities” that the regime should be relaxed.

Baraitser said it was a matter for prison officials, saying she did not have the authority to instruct them on how to treat detainees.

She added that she would expect Assange to be treated fairly and like anyone else.

Assange could be jailed for 175 years if convicted on all 17 Espionage Act charges and one count of computer hacking that he faces.

AFP

Van Dijk Praises Liverpool’s Mental Strength

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk acknowledges supporters during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Huddersfield at Anfield in Liverpool, north-west England on April 26, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Virgil van Dijk says Liverpool’s ability to stay calm under pressure is the key to their astonishing Premier League title charge after they came from behind to beat West Ham 3-2.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are 22 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City and need just four more wins to guarantee to win their first top-flight title for 30 years.

Despite the huge points gap, Liverpool have had to overcome some threats to their season-long unbeaten record in recent weeks.

They were 2-1 down to the Hammers on Monday with 22 minutes to go while they beat Norwich with a solitary 78th-minute goal earlier this month.

Defender Van Dijk praised the mental strength of his teammates, who have won 26 and drawn just one of their 27 Premier League matches.

“Not being nervous, that is the main thing,” he said. “Keep going and keep playing and keep pressing. There will be moments when the opponent is going to have problems if we keep doing the same thing.

“They (West Ham) were a little bit better in the second half than the beginning, they played quite well but I think not being nervous is the main thing.”

West Ham’s opening goal by Issa Diop was the first conceded at Anfield in 11 hours and 27 minutes.

“We all want the clean sheet, we all want eight goals, that is what every footballer wants but in reality sometimes you have difficult nights,” said the Dutch international.

“We had a difficult night but we kept our cool.”

Since returning from their mid-season break, Klopp’s side appear to have lacked some of their previous fluency, labouring to beat Norwich and West Ham and losing to Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Spain.

But Van Dijk said the time off had not dulled their fire.

“I think we should take advantage of the break we had,” he added. “Everyone had their time off, we all enjoyed it and we are all ready for the second part of the season.”

AFP

Iraq Shuts Schools, Shrines Over Coronavirus

Iraqi Flag

 

Shrines have shuttered, streets are deserted and schools closed in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf, where only pharmacies draw crowds after a novel coronavirus case triggered widespread panic.

Najaf is popular among Shiite Muslim pilgrims from Iran, which has recorded 15 deaths from COVID-19, the highest death toll outside China, the epidemic’s epicentre.

It is also where Iraq confirmed its first novel coronavirus infection in an Iranian national studying in a Shiite seminary in the city, located around 200 kilometres (124 miles) from Baghdad.

Since he was diagnosed on Monday, authorities have beefed up precautionary measures.

Thirteen students who attended the same seminary school as the patient are being checked for the virus, Najaf governor Louai al-Yasseri told AFP.

In an exceptionally rare move, religious officials on Tuesday closed down the Imam Ali mausoleum in Najaf, allowing visitors access only to its surroundings.

The mausoleum where the Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law is buried is one of the holiest sites for Shiite Muslims and is frequented yearly by millions of pilgrims.

Visitors, including millions of Iranians, kiss and caress the tomb, making the area especially vulnerable to contamination.

Amid the growing alarm, students remained at home on Tuesday after schools and universities temporarily closed their doors.

“The 1,028 schools in Najaf province have closed following the detection of the first novel coronavirus case,” said a spokesman for the province’s education department.

The health ministry said this would remain the case for at least 10 days.

Najaf is home to the Wadi al-Salam (Valley of Peace) cemetery, the world’s largest, where millions of people from Iraq’s Shiite majority are buried.

The health ministry on Tuesday advised against non-essential travel to Najaf and urged citizens to refrain from holding large gatherings.

Inside the city, life has come to a stand-still, according an AFP correspondent.

The few that brave the streets seek out pharmacies to purchase disinfectants and medical masks which have become more expensive and increasingly difficult to find.

“There have been no masks for two days. How will I protect my children and my wife,” laments Hussam al-Khafaji, 29.

“Either there are no masks or they sell at four dollars,” nearly four times the price before the outbreak, he told AFP from outside a pharmacy in central Najaf.

With most people staying indoors, the main anti-government protest camp in Najaf was left nearly deserted.

Demonstrators, who had gathered there daily since rallies in the capital and the south began in October, refrained from protesting over fears of a coronavirus outbreak among their ranks.

AFP