Deadliest Catch: Thailand’s ‘Ghost’ Fishing Nets Help COVID-19 Fight

 

Underwater divers in plastic-choked waters off the coast of Thailand snip through discarded nets tangled around a reef — a new initiative helping protect marine life and aiding the fight against coronavirus.

The “ghost nets” discarded from the country’s lucrative fishing industry are a deadly source of plastic pollution, ensnaring turtles and cutting into delicate coral beds.

Left unattended, “they could stay adrift for decades, either entrapping or becoming the food of marine animals,” says Ingpat Pakchairatchakul of the London-based Environmental Justice Foundation.

Ingpat was speaking to AFP during a recent boat trip off the coast of Chonburi province, as a team of more than 30 divers hacked away at stubborn threads enveloping a reef 27 metres (90 feet) below the vessel.

She is part of Net Free Seas, a project that fetches used nets and turns them into new plastic products — in this case meeting the burgeoning demand for protective gear like face shields to guard against the pandemic.

It aims to prove that protecting sea creatures can be commercially viable in Thailand, one of the world’s biggest producers of ocean waste.

The initiative also comes in the wake of a growing local outcry over the lethal effects of plastic on marine life.

In one infamous example, a sick baby dugong named Mariam washed up in shallow waters two years ago and later died from an infection caused by plastic lining its stomach.

It prompted an online outpouring of grief among Thais who had spent months watching a live web broadcast of rescuers trying to nurse the creature back to health.

Mariam was among the nearly two dozen dead or injured large marine animals found beached on Thailand’s shores each year, according to Chaturathep Khowinthawong, the director of the kingdom’s marine park management agency.

“More than 70 percent of them are injured from the ghost nets and have cuts deep into their bodies,” he says.

“Once they get stuck, the chance of survival is less than 10 percent.”

– ‘We want to save the ocean’ –
Net Free Seas has salvaged 15 tons of waste netting from sea waters in its first year of operation.

That accounts for a tiny fraction of the 640,000 tonnes of lost and discarded fishing gear the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says finds its way into the oceans annually.

But the scheme has met enthusiastic support from local fishing communities.

“It’s a win-win situation,” says Somporn Pantumas, a fisherman in seaside Rayong city.

“The fishing community gets to have another source of income, the beach and the sea are clean, and the fishermen find a sense of camaraderie.”

The 59-year-old is one of 700 people in fishing communities across Thailand selling worn out nets to the scheme.

Somporn was easily convinced to participate, knowing the extent of marine pollution in the waters off Rayong — he says his nets often collect more plastic debris than actual fish.

“The more waste I collect from the sea, the more the current sweeps my way,” he tells AFP.

Collected nets are sent to be washed, shredded, mixed with other discarded plastics and melted into shape at Qualy Design, a small business that moulds homewares out of recycled goods.

Qualy is using the nets to make face shields, alcohol spray bottles and table divider screens used in restaurants around Bangkok since the onset of the pandemic.

The breakthrough product has been plastic push-sticks, which allow people to press elevator buttons or public touchscreens like ATM consoles without risking infection.

Compared to other materials, nets are the hardest to work with and the most expensive, says the firm’s marketing director Thosphol Suppametheekulwat tells AFP.

“But we really jumped on it because we want to save the ocean as well,” he says.

Sri Lanka Sets Visitor Restrictions As It Reopens For Foreign Tourists

People watch an elephant standing behind an electric fence marking the boundary of a wildlife sanctuary in Udawalawe on January 16, 2021. (Photo by Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI / AFP)

 

Sri Lanka will restrict daily visitor numbers to 2,500, authorities said on Thursday, as it cautiously opened its doors to foreign tourists again after a 10-month coronavirus shutdown.

The reopening comes despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, as authorities seek to revive a once-lucrative tourism sector devastated by the deadly 2019 Easter bombings and the pandemic.

The cap on visitors will help stop the island nation’s coronavirus testing facilities from becoming overwhelmed, according to the Tourism Promotion Bureau.

“We have placed a daily limit of 2,500 tourists to make sure that there are enough PCR tests for repatriating Sri Lankans,” tourism chief Kimarli Fernando told reporters in the capital Colombo.

 

People watch an elephant standing behind an electric fence marking the boundary of a wildlife sanctuary in Udawalawe on January 16, 2021. (Photo by Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI / AFP)

Qatar Airways, Emirates and several other airlines currently operate repatriation and transit flights, and have brought home some 40,000 Sri Lankans since late July.

But another 68,000 are waiting to return, according to the government.

Sri Lankan doctors have called for a ramp up in PCR testing amid a surge in infections since October, that has seen the number of cases spike from 3,300 to more than 55,000.

Fernando said the immigration department has issued 75 tourist visas since officials announced the reopening on Monday.

“Not big numbers, but we have to make a start. Hotels are getting a lot of inquiries,” she said.

The government has set strict Covid-19 protocols for visitors, including limiting them to 55 designated hotels, requiring a negative PCR test result before arrival and insurance to cover Covid-19 related illnesses.

Some 2.3 million tourists visited the sun-soaked country in 2018 — the highest-ever.

But foreign visitor numbers fell to 1.9 million the following year after the deadly Easter bombings in April.

Spain’s Chief Of Defence Staff Resigns For Getting COVID-19 Vaccine Before Allowed

Spain’s Chief of the Defence staff, General Miguel Angel Villarroya, resigns.

 

Spain’s chief of the defence staff resigned on Saturday, the armed forces said, after a row over him getting the coronavirus vaccination despite not being on a priority list.

General Miguel Angel Villarroya’s resignation came as a scandal brews over Spanish military and political officials getting early vaccinations supposedly reserved for health workers and people in retirement homes.

“In order to preserve the image of the armed forces, General Villarroya today presented his resignation request to the defence minister,” the armed forces said in a statement.

The 63-year-old general was quoted as saying he had “never intended to take advantage of unjustifiable privileges”.

His resignation was accepted by Defence Minister Margarita Robles, a source told AFP.

His departure came just a day after the interior ministry sacked a lieutenant-colonel who served as a staff liaison to the civil guard, because an internal report found he had received the shot without being a priority.

The report accuses several other defence staff members of improperly receiving the vaccine, and Robles has warned more resignations could follow.

Politicians have also resigned over receiving the vaccine out of turn, including Manuel Villegas, health advisor for the southeast Murcia region.

But Javier Guerreron, health advisor to the Spanish north African enclave of Ceuta, refused to resign, saying he had not violated any protocol.

“I didn’t want to be vaccinated,” he said, adding that he “doesn’t like vaccines”.

Spain has been hard-hit by the pandemic, having recorded 55,441 deaths from nearly 2.5 million cases so far.

Portugal To Close Schools For 15 Days Over COVID-19

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa gives a press conference at Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon on January 21, 2021.Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)

 

Portugal said Thursday it will close schools for two weeks in a bid to contain a surge in coronavirus cases with concerns over the spread of a more contagious UK strain.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said the closures will begin Friday, speaking after a cabinet meeting just a week after the government imposed a second lockdown that did not require shutting schools or universities.

“Precaution requires us to interrupt all teaching activities for the next 15 days,” Costa said, adding that the decision had become necessary because of “this new strain and the speed of its transmission.”

READ ALSO: US Resumes WHO Support, Launches $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Plan

Portugal has this week been breaking daily records in virus death tolls, with an extra 221 fatalities in 24 hours announced Thursday by the national health authorities.

After having hit Wednesday a record 14,647 new infections in one day, the country of around 10 million people registered 13,544 cases on Thursday.

The explosion in new infections is mainly the result of the spread of the British strain, which is much more contagious than original novel coronavirus.

“There is a sharp increase with this variant,” the prime minister said, adding it now accounted for 20 percent of infections and could make up 60 percent of them as soon as next week.

Italy Threatens Legal Action Over Pfizer Vaccine Delays

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Italy has threatened to take legal action against pharma giant Pfizer over delays in deliveries of the coronavirus vaccine.

“Protecting the health of Italian citizens is not negotiable,” Domenico Arcuri, the special commissioner for the pandemic, said in a statement late Tuesday.

A meeting with ministers and regional leaders considered how to protect Italians “in all civil and criminal venues where possible”, he said.

“It was unanimously decided that these actions will be taken starting in the next few days.”

Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which was developed at record-breaking speed, was approved for use in the European Union in late December and has been quickly rolled out.

But Pfizer said last Friday it would delay shipments of vaccinations over the next three to four weeks due to works at its key processing plan in Belgium.

READ ALSO: Biden Plans Immediate Orders On Immigration, COVID-19, Environment

The following day, in a joint statement with German vaccine partner BioNTech, the US drugmaker said it had a plan to limit delays of deliveries to one week.

The delays have sparked concern across Europe, which has suffered badly from the pandemic — with Italy among the worst.

Arcuri said that 29 percent of promised doses were not delivered this week.

“The vaccination campaign cannot be slowed down, even less so for the administration of the second doses for the many Italians who have already been given the first.”

Italy has so far recorded more than 83,000 deaths from coronavirus and vaccinated more than 1.2 million people.

A Year After First Death In China, Coronavirus Source Still A Puzzle

Passengers wearing face masks wait for their train at Changsha railway station in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province on March 10, 2020. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Wuhan on March 10 for his first visit to the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic since the crisis erupted in January -- a major sign that officials believe the outbreak is under control. Noel Celis AFP
Passengers wearing face masks wait for their train at Changsha railway station in Changsha, China’s central Hunan province on March 10, 2020.  (Photo by Noel Celis / AFP)

 

It is the world’s most pressing scientific puzzle, but experts warn there may never be conclusive answers over the source of the coronavirus, after an investigative effort marked from the start by disarray, Chinese secrecy and international rancour.

January 11 marks the anniversary of China confirming its first death from COVID-19, a 61-year-old man who was a regular at the now-notorious Wuhan wet market.

Nearly two million deaths later, the pandemic is out of control across much of the world, leaving tens of millions ill, a pulverised global economy and recriminations flying between nations.

Yet China, which has broadly controlled the pandemic on its soil, is still frustrating independent attempts to trace the virus’ origins and the central question of how it jumped from animals to humans.

There is little dispute that the virus which brought the world to its knees sparked its first known outbreak in late 2019 at a wet market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where wildlife was sold as food, and the pathogen is believed to have originated in an undetermined bat species.

But the trail ends there, clouded by a mishmash of subsequent clues that suggest its origins may predate Wuhan as well as theories — amplified by US President Donald Trump — that it leaked from a Wuhan lab.

Establishing the source is vital for extinguishing future outbreaks early, leading virologists say, providing clues that can guide policy decisions on whether to cull animal populations, quarantine affected persons, or limit wildlife hunting and other human-animal interactions.

“If we can identify why they (viruses) keep emerging, we can reduce those underlying drivers,” said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a global NGO focused on infectious disease prevention.

– Doubts about Wuhan market –
China won early kudos for reporting the virus and releasing its gene sequence in a timely manner, compared with its cover-up of the 2002-03 SARS outbreak.

But there has also been secrecy and shifting stories.

Wuhan authorities initially tried to cover up the outbreak and later spent precious weeks denying human-to-human transmission.

Early on, Chinese officials declared flatly that the outbreak began at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan.

But Chinese data in January 2020 showed that several of the first cases had no known links to the now-shuttered market, suggesting a source elsewhere.

China’s story morphed again last March when top Chinese disease control official Gao Fu said the market was not the source, but a “victim”, a place where the pathogen was merely amplified.

But China has since failed to publicly connect any dots, releasing scant information on animal and environmental samples taken at the market that could aid investigators, experts say.

And it has kept foreign experts at arm’s length. A planned mission by World Health Organization virus sleuths was in limbo after China denied them entry.

After a rare rebuke from the head of the WHO, China announced on Monday the 10-strong team would be allowed in this week.

– Cold case –
What the scientists will be allowed to see or may expect to find a year on is also in doubt. Experts say authorities may have destroyed or scrubbed away crucial evidence in a panicked initial response.

“Every outbreak goes the same way. It’s chaotic and dysfunctional,” said Daszak.

“They didn’t do a great job on the animal investigation early on,” he added.

“In some ways, they were quite open, in others they were less than open.”

The reasons for China’s secrecy are unclear, but the ruling Communist Party has a history of suppressing politically damaging information.

Whistleblowers and citizen reporters who shared details of the terrifying early weeks of the virus on the internet have since been muzzled or jailed.

Beijing may want to hide regulatory or investigative lapses to avoid domestic embarrassment or global “blowback”, said Daniel Lucey, a Georgetown University epidemiologist who closely tracks global outbreaks.

The Wuhan market might not even be the issue, Lucey adds.

He notes that the virus was already spreading rapidly in Wuhan by December 2019, indicating that it was in circulation much earlier.

That’s because it may take months or even years for a virus to develop the necessary mutations to become highly contagious among humans.

The market-origin theory is “just not plausible whatsoever”, Lucey said.

“It occurred naturally and it had to have been many months earlier, perhaps a year, perhaps more than a year.”

Augmenting the doubt, in December China said the number of coronavirus cases circulating in Wuhan may have been 10 times higher early in the epidemic than revealed by official figures at the time.

The trail has now gone cold, with the drip of subsequent clues only adding to the confusion, including findings that the virus may have existed in Europe and Brazil before Wuhan’s outbreak, unconfirmed suggestions which China has seized upon to deflect blame.

– ‘We’ll never know for sure’ –
Daszak remains hopeful the source can be found, especially after US President Donald Trump’s re-election loss.

He blames Trump for killing cooperation with China by politicising the virus — typified by his “China virus” label –- and his administration’s promotion of the theory that China created it in a lab, a claim that has not been backed by scientific evidence.

“I’m confident we will eventually find out the bat species it came from and the likely pathway,” Daszak said.

Others are less certain.

Diana Bell, a wildlife disease expert at the University of East Anglia who has studied the SARS virus, Ebola and other pathogens, said focusing on a particular origin species is misguided.

She says the overarching threat has already been exposed: a global wildlife trade that fosters a “combustible mix” of trafficked species, a known breeding ground for disease outbreaks.

“(The species) actually doesn’t matter. We don’t need to know the source, we just need to stop that sodding mixing of animals in markets,” she said.

“We need to stop the wildlife trade for human consumption.”

Two US Lawmakers Test Positive For COVID-19 After Capitol Riot

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest outside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. PHOTO: ALEX EDELMAN / AFP

 

Two members of the US Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus, with one on Tuesday accusing Republicans of refusing to wear masks and mocking those who did during a riot at the legislature last week.

In a tweet, Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said she had taken a test after being trapped in a secure room with fellow lawmakers, and that she had tested positive.

“Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic — creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack,” Jayapal, who is now self-isolating, she said.

READ ALSO: 22 Trapped After Explosion In Chinese Gold Mine

“The duration in the room was multiple hours and several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one.”

Hours earlier, fellow Democratic congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman said she too had contracted the virus and that she believed she had been exposed to it during last week’s violence.

“She believes she was exposed during protective isolation in the U.S. Capitol building as a result of insurrectionist riots,” her office said in a statement.

Top Congressional doctor Brian Monahan warned lawmakers over the weekend that they could have been exposed to the virus after taking shelter in an isolation room last Wednesday.

Just hours after pro-Trump protestors stormed the US Capitol to demand Congress overturn the November 3 election victory of President-elect Joe Biden, Congressman Jake LaTurner tested positive for the virus.

The US is the world’s hardest-hit country and some 375,000 people have died from the coronavirus — with about 3,000 more dying every day.

In her statement following her positive diagnosis, Congresswoman Jayapal said colleagues that refused to wear masks were guilty of “selfish idiocy” and should not be allowed to take their seats in the chamber.

AFP

WHO Warns COVID-19 Herd Immunity Unlikely This Year

Municipal workers carry the coffin of an unclaimed body of a Covid-19 coronavirus victim to a crematorium in Colombo on December 10, 2020. Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI / AFP
Municipal workers carry the coffin of an unclaimed body of a Covid-19 coronavirus victim to a crematorium in Colombo on December 10, 2020.
Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI / AFP

 

Scientists at the World Health Organization warned that mass vaccinations would not bring about herd immunity to the coronavirus this year, even as one leading producer boosted its production forecast.

Infections numbers are surging around the world, especially in Europe where nations have been forced to ramp up virus restrictions even as vaccines are rolled out.

The WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan warned Monday that it would take time to produce and give enough shots to halt the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 90 million people worldwide with deaths approaching two million.

“We are not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021,” she said, stressing the need to maintain physical distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing.

Experts are also concerned about the rapid spread of new variants of the virus, such as the one first detected in Britain which is feared to be significantly more transmissible.

England opened seven mass vaccination sites Monday to fight a surge fuelled by that variant, which is threatening to overwhelm hospitals.

But England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty told the BBC: “The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS (National Health Service).”

Elsewhere in Europe, Portugal was facing a new lockdown because of a spike in cases and deaths, as the President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa tested positive for the virus.

The 72-year-old was asymptomatic and isolating in the presidential palace in Lisbon, his office said.

Slovakia was preparing to start a new round of mass testing, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said late Monday, following a first nationwide screening in November.

“From next weekend at the latest, we will run a mass test every week until we get the situation under control. There is no other way,” said Matovic, who tested positive himself in December after an EU summit.

‘Endemic disease’ warning

German company BioNTech, which partnered with Pfizer to produce the first vaccine approved in the West, said it could produce millions more doses than originally expected this year, boosting the production forecast from 1.3 to two billion.

The announcement was a boost to countries struggling to deliver the shots, but the company also warned that Covid-19 would “likely become an endemic disease”, with vaccines needed to fight new variants and a “naturally waning immune response”.

Officials in Russia said they would trial a one-dose version of country’s Sputnik V vaccine as part of efforts to provide a stopgap solution for badly hit countries.

India, with the world’s second-highest number of infections, is set to begin giving shots to its 1.3 billion people from Saturday in a colossal and complex undertaking.

US President-elect Joe Biden, who has pledged to devote all available resources to fight the pandemic, received his second vaccine dose on Monday.

Environmental impact

There have been surges in Asia as well, where many nations avoided the high death tolls and infection rates seen in Europe and the United States in the early months of the pandemic.

Malaysia’s king declared a nationwide state of emergency Tuesday to fight a coronavirus surge that is overwhelming hospitals, but critics charged it was a bid by an unstable government to cling to power.

The last time an emergency was declared nationally in Malaysia was in 1969, in response to deadly racial riots.

With more than a year gone since the first known outbreak of the coronavirus, the fallout from the worst pandemic in a century has become clearer — from the economy and society to culture and the environment.

The masks that have become ubiquitous and necessary to save lives, for example, are proving a deadly hazard for wildlife, with birds and marine creatures ensnared in the staggering number of discarded facial coverings littering animal habitats.

Single-use surgical masks have been found scattered around pavements, waterways and beaches worldwide since countries began mandating their use in public places to slow the pandemic’s spread.

Worn once, the thin protective materials can take hundreds of years to decompose.

“Face masks aren’t going away any time soon,” Ashley Fruno of animal rights group PETA told AFP.

“But when we throw them away, these items can harm the environment and the animals who share our planet.”

Pope Francis’ Personal Doctor Dies From COVID-19 Complications

A file photo of Pope Francis leading a Christmas Eve mass to mark the nativity of Jesus Christ on December 24, 2020, at St Peter’s basilica in the Vatican amidst the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus.
Vincenzo PINTO / AFP / POOL

 

Pope Francis’ personal doctor, Fabrizio Soccorsi, has died from health complications related to the coronavirus.

According to the Catholic News Agency which quoted Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the 78-year-old physician, who was being treated for an “oncological pathology”, died at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

Soccorsi had trained in medicine and surgery at Rome’s La Sapienza University.

In August 2015, Pope Francis named him his personal physician, after not renewing the term of papal doctor Patrizio Polisca, who was also head of the Vatican’s healthcare services.

Since the pontificate of St. Pope John Paul II, the two positions had been tied together, but Pope Francis diverged from this custom by choosing Soccorsi, a doctor from outside the Vatican.

While he was alive, Soccorsi travelled with the pope on many of his international trips.

In May 2017, on one of the visits to Fatima, Portugal, the Pope laid two bunches of white roses before the statue of the Virgin Mary for Soccorsi’s daughter, who was critically ill, and died the following month.

Aston Villa Suffer COVID-19 Outbreak As Concerns Grow For Premier League Season

Aston Villa’s Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez throws the ball during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Sheffield Utd at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on September 21, 2020. Tim Goode / POOL / AFP

 

Aston Villa became the fourth Premier League club to suffer a coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, adding to growing concerns over whether English football’s top-flight can complete the season on schedule.

Villa were forced to cancel training and close their training ground after two rounds of testing returned multiple positive cases of Covid-19 among players and staff.

Britain is battling a highly infectious strain of the virus which has forced a new nationwide lockdown after cases soared in recent days.

“A large number of first-team players and staff returned positive tests after being routinely tested on Monday and immediately went into isolation,” Villa said in a statement.

“A second round of testing was carried out immediately and produced more positive results today.”

The Birmingham-based club’s FA Cup third-round tie against Liverpool on Friday is now at risk of being postponed.

“First-team training ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup match with Liverpool was cancelled,” Villa’s statement added.

“Discussions are ongoing between medical representatives of the club, the Football Association and the Premier League.”

Premier League Southampton’s FA Cup home match against Shrewsbury has already been postponed because there have been a number of positive cases at the League One club.

Wayne Rooney’s Derby will fulfil their fixture at minnows Chorley with a youth team after nine positive tests among first-team players and staff.

– Fixture pile-up –

On Tuesday, a record high of 40 positive tests were detected among Premier League players and staff in the week between December 28 and January 3.

Three Premier League matches were postponed last week due to outbreaks at Manchester City and Fulham.

Due to the late end to last season, the league is less than halfway through the 2020/21 campaign.

The packed fixture schedule, with domestic leagues, cup and European competitions having to be finished before the delayed Euro 2020 starting on June 11, leaves little room for manoeuvre.

Despite the rising case numbers and calls from some within the game for a circuit breaker to buy time and bring infection rates down, the Premier League has so far been adamant that the season will proceed.

“With low numbers of positive tests across the overwhelming majority of clubs, the league continues to have confidence in its Covid-19 protocols, fully backed by the government, to enable fixtures to be played as scheduled,” the league said on Tuesday.

However, a number of embarrassing incidents have come to light in which prominent players have flouted coronavirus restrictions, doing little to aid English football’s case to keep going while movements in the rest of the country are highly restricted.

Pictures of Tottenham trio Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso and West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini attending a Christmas party with family and friends emerged over the weekend, prompting Spurs to promise internal disciplinary proceedings.

Manchester City have also launched an investigation after left-back Benjamin Mendy admitted to breaching Covid protocols by hosting a New Year’s Eve party.

Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic also broke the rules to attend a New Year’s Eve party.

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow has been among those calling for tougher sanctions for players who break the regulations and put the season at risk.

Villa captain Jack Grealish was fined two weeks’ wages by the club for a breach of the rules last year.

“There are moments when young people will stray from the rules and, whether you’re a parent or the chief executive of a football club, that’s a time when you have to be very strict and remind people of their responsibilities,” Purslow said earlier this week.

Despite the new national lockdown that came into force in England on Wednesday, the British government has said elite sport can continue despite the tighter restrictions.

AFP

England Cricket Team Passes COVID-19 Tests

Graeme Robertson / AFP / POOL

 

The England cricket team all passed coronavirus tests after all-rounder Moeen Ali was found to have Covid-19 and have been cleared to start restricted training in Sri Lanka on Wednesday, a spokesman said.

Moeen was found to have the coronavirus shortly after the squad arrived in Sri Lanka on Sunday and has been put in isolation in a hotel away from the other players.

The result was an early blow to preparations for the two Tests in Sri Lanka that start in Galle on January 14. But the plans in the secure bubble in Hambantota in the south of the island are now largely back on track.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Records Highest Single-Day Record Of 1,354 Fresh COVID-19 Cases 

“Good news from the camp all PCR tests from yesterday are negative except for Moeen Ali, and we can start controlled training this afternoon,” said an England spokesman.

Chris Woakes, who had been a close contact of Moeen, tested negative but will continue to isolate in his room. The tourists must undergo a third test on Thursday.

Sri Lanka have just finished a tour in South Africa where they lost two Tests and are due to return home on Friday. They will also have to go into a biosecure bubble.

Joe Root and his players arrived on a charter flight as nearly all international flights to Sri Lanka are banned and flights from Britain have been halted following the discovery of a new, more infectious coronavirus strain.

The 18-man England squad, with seven reserves, are resuming a Sri Lanka tour halted by the pandemic in March. England’s tour of South Africa was also cut short last month over coronavirus fears.

Senegal Announces COVID-19 Curfew On Capital

Senegal, officially the Republic of Senegal, is a country in West Africa
Senegal, officially the Republic of Senegal, is a country in West Africa

 

Senegal has announced a night-time curfew on two regions including the capital Dakar to help combat the spread of coronavirus.

President Macky Sall, in a television announcement late Tuesday, said a 9pm-5am curfew would be imposed on Dakar and Thies.

The measure would take effect from Wednesday, Sall said.

Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said the two highly-populated regions “account for nearly 90 percent of coronavirus cases” in the West Africa nation.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Records Highest Single-Day Record Of 1,354 Fresh COVID-19 Cases 

Senegal has recorded 19,803 cases of coronavirus since March, of which 424 have been fatal, according to figures as of Tuesday.

After a slowdown lasting several months, it began to be hit by a second wave of infections in mid-November, the authorities said.

The government has warned against public fatigue with anti-Covid measures.

Restrictions include the requirement to wear a mask in public buildings and transport, and a ban on gatherings in public areas, including beaches.