Nigerian Father Searching For ‘Miracle’ Daughter After Sea Rescue

 

His wife was three months pregnant when Peter Enyinnaya was ambushed in Libya.

When he eventually returned from captivity, she had disappeared, likely believing him to be dead. Today, at the gates of Europe, the 38-year-old Nigerian is nearing his goal: to find his family.

As he sits on an upturned crate onboard the Ocean Viking rescue ship, which pulled him and 46 other migrants to safety from their dinghy on Tuesday, Enyinnaya said he hopes beyond hope that Italy will provide a port of safety.

He says he knows his family is there. He had written the address down on his mobile phone, but the people smuggler who packed him onto the small blue dinghy in Libya stole it.

The mechanic, who wears a gold chain and a green T-shirt distributed by SOS Mediterranee, the charity which runs the Ocean Viking, says that won’t stop him.

Disaster struck in 2017 when Enyinnaya, who had left home to try his luck in Libya, was on his way by taxi to work in Sabha, over 600 kilometres (370 miles) south of Tripoli.

‘Tortured for months’

“I fell into a trap,” he told an AFP journalist onboard the Ocean Viking.

Men “dressed like the military, but they were not the army, stopped my taxi, put me in their trunk, and brought me in a building, I don’t know where, where they locked me up with four other black Africans,” he said.

There, he says with his head bowed, he was “tortured for months… they beat me, beat me with an iron bar, electric shocks too”.

The ordeal, he said, lasted nine months, during which two of his fellow prisoners died.

AFP was not able to independently verify Enyinnaya’s story, but human rights groups have long spoken about rampant abuse of migrants in Libya.

He said the price of his freedom had been set at 27,000 dinars by his captors — more than 17,000 euros.

And since he could only give them 5,000 dinars, he had to work for free as their mechanic until one day he was thrown “on the side of a road, half-dead”.

After a stay in the hospital, he realised that his wife had gone, leaving no trace behind.

“She probably thought I was dead. Lot of people thought I was dead,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.

Finding her and finally meeting their child has been his obsession ever since, Enyinnaya said, opening his wallet and pulling out a photograph of his wife, “the love of my life”.

‘End of the journey’

He managed to track her down via Facebook: she was in Italy, along with their two-year-old daughter.

But the Mediterranean sea still separated them. So Enyinnaya went back to work and made enough money to buy himself a seat on a dinghy, hoping to reach Italy.

When he saw the Ocean Viking rescuers after three days and nights at sea, he thought it was “a miracle”.

On Friday the ship was seeking a port of safety to disembark the 180 people it has pulled to safety over the last week.

“Find them (his wife and daughter) would be my greatest desire. I could have died for that. My journey will only end when I will hold my daughter” Enyinnaya said.

He was not around to name her when she was born but admits his wife could not have chosen better, for she is called Miracle.

Europe Demands Better Pandemic Plan, As Moscow Exits Lockdown

A nurse puts on his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before starting to work in the Intensive care unit for patients infected by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 at the Policlinico di Tor Vergata hospital, in Rome on April 8, 2020. Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

 

Europe’s most powerful countries urged the European Union to better prepare for the next pandemic after chaotic responses to the coronavirus, as Moscow emerged from lockdown despite Russia still being in the grip of a surging epidemic.

There should be a “common European approach” to challenges like COVID-19 in future, leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote in a letter and policy paper to the European Union’s top official.

Europe has been the hardest-hit continent with nearly 185,000 people killed, and the leaders said a lack of coordination had left nations short of crucial medical equipment when the coronavirus arrived.

Worldwide, COVID-19 deaths have passed 407,000, with more than seven million infections.

The United States recorded 819 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing its own grisly toll to more than 111,000 out of 1.9 million cases — leaving it the country hardest hit by the pandemic in terms of both the number of fatalities and the number of cases.

And the crisis continued to escalate in Latin America, which by late Tuesday had almost 1.4 million cases and nearly 70,000 deaths.

READ ALSO: Elevated Extreme Poverty To Persist Through 2021 – World Bank

Brazil’s health ministry cited figures late Tuesday indicating the death toll had risen by 1,272 to over 38,400 killed by the virus — the third highest toll in the world after the US and Britain.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s government had stopped publishing the total number of virus deaths on Friday, saying it was adopting new methodology.

However, the government was forced into a U-turn by a Supreme Court ruling on Monday that it must return to the old format, which government critics said is more transparent.

On Tuesday Peru, second only to Brazil as the region’s worst-hit country, announced it had passed 200,000 cases of the virus, adding more than 4,000 cases in a single day.

In Nicaragua, at least eight public health doctors were sacked for criticizing the lack of a serious response to the crisis from the government of President Daniel Ortega, an independent medical body said.

Nicaragua has been criticized for an almost complete absence of measures to contain the virus.

– Europe’s Exit –

Despite Europe’s dire record, most countries on the continent continued to exit their punishing lockdowns on Tuesday, with Cyprus welcoming its first tourist flights in almost three months and French officials announcing the Eiffel Tower will reopen on June 25.

Residents of the Moscow flocked to parks after officials lifted restrictions in place since March 30, even though 8,595 new cases were registered in Russia on Tuesday and the death toll passed 6,000.

“It’s nice out and there are a lot of people on the streets,” said marketing manager Olga Ivanova, walking in the Russian capital. “It’s a beautiful day, in every sense of the word.”

Russia has the third-highest number of confirmed infections in the world after the United States and Brazil, but officials say this is due to a huge testing campaign and point to a relatively low mortality rate.

However, critics say the death rate is being under-reported and accuse officials of rushing to lift restrictions for political reasons.

In further signs that a new normal is taking hold in Europe, officials in Spain said mask-wearing in public would be compulsory until an effective treatment or vaccine can be found.

Britain, which on Tuesday announced its death toll had passed 50,000, has imposed a two-week quarantine for anyone coming into the country, British nationals included.

– Life-saving lockdowns –

The World Health Organization has warned that complacency is the biggest threat in countries where the pandemic seems to have abated.

Globally, it does not appear to be abating at all: the WHO said a record number of new coronavirus cases were recorded worldwide on Monday, the majority of them in South Asia and the Americas.

Underlining the warning, deaths and infections continue to climb sharply in India even as the government lifted some curbs after a 10-week lockdown.

Authorities in the capital Delhi warned on Tuesday that cases in the city could shoot up almost 20 times to more than 500,000 in the coming weeks.

The disease emerged in China late last year before sweeping the globe, subjecting billions to some form of lockdown that paralysed economies.

Those restrictions prevented 3.1 million deaths in 11 European countries alone, according to an Imperial College London study published on Monday.

AFP

Europe Moves Ahead With Reopening As Global COVID-19 Cases Top 7 Million

A passenger wearing a face mask and gloves as a preventive measure pushes a trolley at the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport in Barajas on March 20, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.

 

European countries experimented with further lifting coronavirus restrictions Monday as New Zealand declared victory over the pandemic, even as global cases topped seven million and deaths mounted in Latin America.

The number of COVID-19 fatalities has now passed 403,000 worldwide since the disease emerged in China last year before sweeping the globe, subjecting billions to some form of lockdown and paralysing economies.

But even the hardest-hit countries are lurching back to a new kind of normal, with bars and restaurants coming back to life and travel restrictions lifted from London to Brussels to Moscow.

But in some places, it was far from business as usual.

Britain on Monday rolled out a 14-day quarantine for all travellers entering the country, prompting uproar from the badly hammered aviation industry which is eager to see travel revived.

Pubs and eateries flung their doors open in Belgium, but with social distancing measures in force, while Ireland opened shops and allowed gatherings and travel, also with limits.

READ ALSO: Lockdowns Averted Three Million Deaths In 11 European Nations – Study

New Zealand meanwhile buoyed hopes for the rest of the world as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that her country had beaten the virus and lifted all restrictions, though strict border controls remain.

The country’s measures were lifted after its final coronavirus patient was declared recovered, prompting the leader to dance around her living room in celebration.

“We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now,” Ardern said, adding that Kiwis had “united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus”.

New Zealand Rugby also announced its top-flight domestic competition would restart this week, with fans allowed to pack into the stadiums for the first time in months.

– Belgian bar ‘invaded’ –

Governments around the world are cautiously peeling back punishing lockdown measures to resuscitate economies while trying to avoid a resurgence of infections.

Moscow said Monday it would ease border restrictions and lift lockdown measures in the Russian capital from Tuesday, while Ireland said it would permit gatherings of six people and allow citizens to travel up to 20 kilometres (12 miles) from home, an extension from the previous five-kilometre limit.

In Brussels, thirsty patrons lined up in the early morning for a cold beverage at L’Union, eager to drink in a pub again after three months of closures — much to the relief of manager Bart Lemmens.

“I was a bit worried beforehand,” he said, as some 50 people crowded into the pub.

“We work to create a convivial atmosphere. I was afraid we’d lose that. But what happened? We were invaded.”

Britain embarked on a more cautious reopening, imposing a two-week quarantine for anyone coming into the country by land, sea or air — British nationals included — sparking legal action by airlines.

British Airways and low-cost carriers EasyJet and Ryanair said in a joint statement the measure would devastate tourism and destroy even more jobs.

At London’s Heathrow Airport, where only two of the five terminals are operating, the quarantine measures were welcomed by some.

“It’s a good idea,” said Sandy Banks, 45, returning to Britain with her three children from Jamaica via the United States.

“Other countries are doing it.”

– Chile death count –

But across the Atlantic, countries were gearing up for the worst as the outbreak escalated in Latin America, the new virus hotspot, with Brazil, Mexico and Peru particularly hard hit.

Brazil has the world’s third-highest death toll at more than 36,000, but President Jair Bolsonaro continues to play down the impact of the virus and has urged regional officials to lift lockdown measures.

And in Chile the confirmed death toll reached 2,290 after miscalculations from March and April were corrected, adding 1,541 to the figure, officials said.

Meanwhile in Asia, fears that the virus may not be under control persist, with the death toll and infection rate climbing sharply in India.

Still, after a 10-week lockdown, the government is risking lifting some curbs to ease the devastating impacts on the economy, and malls and temples reopened in several Indian cities on Monday.

AFP

Italy Reopens To Tourists From Europe

In this file photo taken on November 04, 2019 tourists walk across St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) by St. Mark's Campanile (Rear L), St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica San Marco, Rear R) and the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale, R) in Venice. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 04, 2019 tourists walk across St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) by St. Mark’s Campanile (Rear L), St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica San Marco, Rear R) and the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale, R) in Venice. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

 

Italy reopened to travellers from Europe on Wednesday, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown, with all hopes pinned on reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.

Gondolas were ready to punt along Venice’s canals, lovers will be able to act out “Romeo and Juliet” on Verona’s famed balcony, and gladiator fans can pose for selfies at Rome’s Colosseum.

But there were fears many foreign tourists would be put off coming to a country still shaking off a vicious pandemic.

“Come to Calabria. There’s only one risk: that you’ll get fat,” the southern region’s governor Jole Santelli said on Sunday as the race began to lure big spenders — or any spenders — back to Italy’s sandy shores.

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,000 deaths.

It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its contagion numbers drop off dramatically.

With the country facing its deepest recession since World War II, it needs foreigners to return, and quickly.

But it is still reporting hundreds of new cases a day, particularly in the northern Lombardy region, and experts warn the government may be being hasty in permitting travel between regions and abroad.

READ ALSO: UK PM Johnson Condemns George Floyd killing, Calls For ‘Lawful’ Protests

“We hoped to see some movement from today, but have no foreign tourists booked in for this week or next,” said Alessandra Conti, receptionist at the Albergo del Senato hotel which overlooks the Pantheon in Rome.

“We’ve got a few reservations from mid-June… (but) are still getting lots of cancellations for this summer”.

– ‘Like a leper’ –

International flights were only expected to resume in three main cities: Milan, Rome and Naples.

And there were concerns that those who usually come in by car, train or ferry from neighbouring countries would go elsewhere on their holidays.

Switzerland has warned its citizens that if they go to Italy they will be subject to “health measures” on their return. The country will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15, but not with Italy.

Austria is lifting restrictions in mid-June with Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — but again, not Italy, described last week by Vienna’s health minister as “still a hotspot”.

Other countries, such as Belgium and Britain, are still advising against, or forbidding, all non-essential travel abroad.

In response to perceived anti-Italian sentiment, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has warned countries not to treat Italy “like a leper”.

He said Saturday he would be travelling to Germany, Slovenia and Greece to persuade them Italy is safe for foreign tourists.

Arrivals in Italy from Europe will not be required to self-isolate unless they have recently travelled from another continent.

At the border between the town of Ventimiglia in Italy and Menton in France, more people were trying to enter France from Italy than the other way round early Wednesday, but controls on the French side were very strict.

“The situation is a bit complex. There is a total reopening of the Italian borders, but the situation is not the same on the French side,” a police source told AFP, as drivers stuck in long queues sounded their horns.

– Too expensive –

Italy’s lockdown has had a particularly devastating effect on the tourism sector, which amounts to some 13 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Historic sites were shut, restaurants closed, and hotels were used to care for coronavirus sick.

Restaurants, cafes and beach establishments have slowly reopened over the past two weeks — although the government has said it reserves the right to impose localised lockdowns if it sees contagion numbers rise.

But only 40 of Rome’s 1,200 hotels have reopened, the Corriere della Sera newspaper said Monday, and just a dozen in Milan. It costs too much to open them if they will just stand empty.

“My hoteliers all want to reopen, but as long as the borders remain closed, it’s not possible,” Marco Michielli, deputy head of hoteliers’ association Federalberghi, said Saturday.

Italy’s national tourism agency (ENIT) said some 40 per cent of Italians traditionally travel abroad for their holidays, but could be forced this year to vacation at home, helping local businesses.

That may be little comfort to those running the country’s costly historic sites, because most of the tens of thousands of visitors that usually flock daily to the Tower of Pisa, Pantheon or Pompeii come from abroad.

AFP

COVID-19: Europe Keeps Easing As US Bans Travellers From Brazil

JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.

 

Europe inched up its coronavirus shutters a little further Monday as nightclubs, museums and swimming pools re-opened in parts of the continent.

While a post-pandemic life was gradually taking shape in what was formerly one of the worst-hit regions, the virus continued its rampage across Latin America, sparking a US travel ban for people coming from Brazil.

Rocketing infection rates in South America have pushed the worldwide caseload to nearly 5.4 million, with deaths approaching 350,000, but with the global economy battered, governments are scrambling to provide relief however they can to businesses and citizens wearying of mass confinement.

Hard-hit Spain eased restrictions in Madrid and Barcelona, with the capital’s popular Retiro Park opening its gates Monday for the first time in 10 weeks.

“The reopening of Retiro brings me a feeling of serenity, gives me comfort,” said Rosa San Jose, a 50-year-old schoolteacher who had come to the park to walk, wearing a white mask.

Meanwhile, restaurants, bars and swimming pools were among several types of businesses set to reopen in the Czech Republic, which has reported nearly 9,000 cases.

READ ALSO: Italy Proposes 60,000 Volunteers For Post-virus Vigilance

The nation will even allow events with up to 300 people, and Czechs are no longer obliged to wear face masks in public except in shops and on public transport.

Elsewhere in Europe, cafes and restaurants in Greece were gearing up to reopen on Monday — but only those with outdoor service.

Nightclubs and bars were set to resume business in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, while zoos and museums will welcome visitors again in Copenhagen, and Rome’s swimming pools and sports centres will also reopen.

In Asia, Japan lifted its state of emergency on Monday as new cases slowed to a crawl in the world’s third-biggest economy.

AFP

COVID-19: France, Germany Propose $542bn Recovery Plan For Europe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, who attends via video link, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on May 18, 2020 on the effects of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Kay NIETFELD / POOL / AFP
German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, who attends via video link, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on May 18, 2020 on the effects of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Kay NIETFELD / POOL / AFP

 

France and Germany proposed Monday a 500-billion-euro ($542-billion) fund to finance the recovery of the European Union’s economy from the devastation wrought by the coronavirus crisis.

Putting aside past differences and seeking to prove that the Franco-German core of Europe remains intact, President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the unprecedented package after talks by video conference.

With the European economy facing its biggest challenge since World War II, Macron also acknowledged that the EU had fallen short in its initial response to the virus and needed to coordinate more closely on health.

Financed by “borrowing from the market in the name of the EU,” the 500 billion euros will flow to the “worst-hit sectors and regions” in the 27-member bloc, the two countries said in a joint statement.

“We are convinced that it is not only fair but also necessary to now make available the funds… that we will then gradually repay through several future European budgets,” Merkel said.

Countries benefitting from the financing would not have to repay the money, Macron added, emphasising that the funds “were not loans.”

The eurozone economy overall is forecast to contract by a whopping 7.7 percent this year, with the damage set to be most severe in southern members like Italy and Greece.

‘More solidarity’

The agreement of such borrowing marks a major shift by Germany, which has until now rebuffed calls by Spain and Italy for so-called “coronabonds” for joint borrowing on financial markets to provide stimulus cash.

Germany, the Netherlands and other rich countries had seen them as an attempt by the indebted south to unfairly take advantage of the north’s fiscal discipline.

The Merkel-Macron plan now faces a potentially painful negotiation with all 27 member states and then a vote in European Parliament, which had been eyeing an even larger package.

In the first signs of cracks within the EU, Austria insisted that any help should be in the form of loans, not grants.

“We will continue to show solidarity and to support those countries which have been worst affected by the corona crisis, but this has to be in the form of loans not grants,” a statement from Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said.

On the other side of the spectrum, a source in the office of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the plan as a “good starting point”, but said a package that should not be “revised downwards, but rather expanded.”

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who would have to help implement the package, hailed the plan as a “constructive proposal.”

“It acknowledges the scope and the size of the economic challenge that Europe faces,” she said.

Merkel said the seriousness of the crisis meant that “solidarity” must be the order of the day.

“The aim is to ensure that Europe comes out of the crisis more cohesive and with more solidarity,” she said, calling the proposal “courageous.”

Traditionally seen as the engine that powers Europe, the French-German alliance had until the announcement appeared to be stumbling in recent months.

Paris wanted Germany to show more fiscal flexibility and some reports suggested Berlin was irritated by Macron grandstanding on the European stage.

‘Learn the lessons’

Macron said stronger European coordination on health issues must be a priority, admitting that the EU fell short in its initial response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Europe was without doubt put at fault at the beginning of this crisis,” Macron said.

He added that unilateral steps by some EU countries to close borders — without consulting their neighbours — had given a “sad image” of Europe, with some members showing “nationalist reflexes”.

He said Europe needed “very concrete capacities” to handle health crises with shared stocks of masks and tests, and prevention plans to combat epidemics.

“A Europe of health — which has never existed — has to be our priority,” he said. “We need to learn all the lessons from this pandemic.”

In a sign of how the pandemic has changed global diplomacy, their joint press conference saw them stand at lecterns in cities hundreds of kilometres (miles) apart, with Merkel in Berlin and Macron in Paris.

European Landmarks Reopen But COVID-19 Hits Hard Elsewhere

People shop at the outdoor market and walk about in central Rome on May 9, 2020, during the country’s partial lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Tiziana FABI / AFP.

 

Major landmarks including Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Acropolis in Athens reopened Monday as Europe accelerated its lockdown easing, but mounting coronavirus infections in Brazil, India and South Africa showed the worst is still to come in many countries.

The relaxation of curbs in Europe comes as governments walk the tightrope of struggling to repair the vast economic damage unleashed by the pandemic while preventing new infections that would force another round of restrictions.

The World Health Organization has warned that reopening too quickly without a vaccine could trigger a second devastating wave of infections in the pandemic that has already infected 4.7 million people.

The UN agency on Monday starts a virtual global health assembly to help chart a course out of the crisis, which has seen Japan becoming the latest to slump into a recession while the Fed warned of a severe US downturn.

Once the worst-hit country in the world, Italy on Monday took its latest step in a cautious, gradual return to normality, allowing businesses and churches to reopen after a two-month lockdown.

In a live-streamed prayer Sunday, Pope Francis spoke of the “joy” of restarting services, calling it a “sign of hope for all society” as Saint Peter’s Basilica threw its door open to visitors.

– ‘Not ready’ –

The Vatican, an independent enclave in the heart of Rome, has applied the same anti-virus measures as Italy, which imposed strict lockdowns after a dizzying rise in COVID-19 deaths and infections that overwhelmed hospitals.

While restaurants, bars, cafes, hairdressers, and stores will be allowed to re-open in Italy on Monday, not all proprietors have jumped at the opportunity to receive customers again.

READ ALSO: UN Says COVID-19 Is ‘Wake-up Call’ For The World

“Either they’re not ready to go or they don’t have the economic strength to do so,” said Mauro, a construction worker sipping a coffee at the only cafe open at Rome’s Piazza Navona.

In Greece, President Katerina Sakellaropoulou was among the first to visit the historic Acropolis of Athens as archaeological sites across the country reopened after two months.

Spain is also set to further ease its lockdown measures, while Germany has already taken several steps towards a return to normality, including the resumption of its top football league — but with empty stadiums.

With an eye on dampening the economic storm unleashed by the crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would present plans to kick-start European Union activity later Monday.

– South America, Africa hit hard –

Despite the optimism in parts of Europe, the deadly pandemic remains on the march having claimed more than 315,000 lives.

The latest data has focussed fears on South America and Africa.

Deaths in Brazil have risen sharply in recent days, and with more than 241,000 infections reached over the weekend, South America’s largest country now has the fourth-highest caseload in the world.

While President Jair Bolsonaro has been a staunch opponent of lockdowns, claiming they have unnecessarily hurt the Brazilian economy, experts and regional leaders have warned that healthcare infrastructure could collapse.

The far-right leader alongside several ministers greeted hundreds of supporters in the capital Brasilia on Sunday in defiance of social distancing measures, telling the crowd that the virus restrictions were too much.

Latin America and the Caribbean have recorded more than half a million infections, almost half of them in Brazil, and there is growing alarm about the impact of the virus on the least privileged in the region.

Ecuador reported the first COVID-19 case in one of its indigenous Amazon tribes, deepening the crisis in one of South America’s hardest-hit countries.

Nicaraguan hospital staff have said the country’s health system is overwhelmed with patients suffering from respiratory illnesses and relatives say the bodies of loved ones are being carted off in pick-up trucks for “express burials” without their consent.

“Mourners are forced to chase trucks with the coffin to find out where their loved ones are being buried,” the opposition National Coalition said in a statement denouncing government secrecy.

Relatives “are threatened by police or paramilitaries so that they do not tell the truth about the causes of death,” it said.

There was also grim data in Africa, where the number of infections rose rapidly.

South Africa on Sunday reported 1,160 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily number since the first case was recorded in March, taking the total to 15,515 — the highest on the continent.

In Asia, India extended its lockdown covering 1.3 billion people to the end of May as it reported its biggest single-day jump in infections on Sunday.

– Deep economic pain –

The pandemic has left the world economy facing its worst downturn since the Great Depression, with Japan announcing its first recession since 2015 — new evidence of the deep economic damage.

Among the hardest hit sectors is travel as borders slammed shut to curb transmission, and no-frills airline giant Ryanair warned it expects almost 50 percent fewer passengers this year at below 80 million.

The world’s biggest economy is also going to suffer a massive downturn, US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned.

“The data we’ll see for this quarter, which ends in June, will be very, very bad. There’ll be a big decline in economic activity, big increase in unemployment,” Powell said.

He added that a full recovery may not happen without a COVID-19 vaccine.

In American virus hotspot New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo urged the public to safeguard the state’s tentative reopening by proactively seeking coronavirus tests, himself undergoing a nasal swab on live TV Sunday.

In one Brooklyn park, circles were spray-painted on the grass to encourage social distancing among people basking in the spring sunshine.

AFP

Over 160,000 Coronavirus Deaths Recorded In Europe – AFP Tally

An Iranian medic treats a patient infected with the COVID-19 virus at a hospital in Tehran on March 1, 2020. A plane carrying UN medical experts and aid touched down on March 2, 2020, in Iran on a mission to help it tackle the world’s second-deadliest outbreak of coronavirus as European powers said they would send further help.
KOOSHA MAHSHID FALAHI / MIZAN NEWS AGENCY / AFP

 

The coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 160,000 people in Europe, according to an AFP tally at 1300 GMT Wednesday.

Nearly three-quarters of the 160,455 victims died in the four worst-hit European countries: Britain, Italy, Spain and France. So far, 1,798,209 cases have been recorded across Europe.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Europe Steps Up Reopening, Unveils Plans For Summer Travel

People shop at the outdoor market and walk about in central Rome on May 9, 2020, during the country’s partial lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Tiziana FABI / AFP.

 

Europe moved ahead with its emergence from coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday and laid out plans for summer tourism, but the pandemic gathered pace elsewhere and America’s virus pointman warned against reopening the United States too quickly.

Britain followed France, Italy and Spain in easing its lockdown but only in England, where people were given more freedom to leave their homes and return to their jobs if they cannot work remotely.

Austria said its borders with Germany would reopen from mid-June and Berlin said it aimed to end virus checks at its land borders in about a month.

Desperate to save millions of tourism jobs, the European Union set out plans for a phased restart of travel this summer, with EU border controls eventually lifted and measures to minimise the risks of infection, like wearing facemasks on shared transport.

“Today’s guidance can be the chance of a better season for the many Europeans whose livelihood depends on tourism and, of course, for those who would like to travel this summer,” EU Commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager told reporters.

– Second wave fears –

But with the global death toll from the coronavirus exceeding 292,000, the picture was grim in other parts of the world.

Russia, now the country with the second-highest number of virus cases, recorded more than 10,000 new infections after authorities this week eased restrictions to allow some people back to work.

READ ALSO: New Resolution On Pandemic Truce Presented To UN Security Council

Brazil registered its highest virus death toll in a single day, with 881 new fatalities bringing the total to 12,400, and the country was emerging as a new global hotspot despite President Jair Bolsonaro dismissing the pandemic as a “little flu”.

Fears were growing of a second wave of infections in China, with the northeastern city of Jilin put in partial lockdown and Wuhan, where the virus first appeared last year, planning to test its entire population after clusters of new cases.

– ‘Risk of uncontrollable outbreak’ –

And the United States, which has confirmed more than 1.36 million cases, saw a sharp rise in fatalities, with 1,894 new deaths reported on Tuesday after daily tolls fell below 1,000.

The country’s top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci issued a stark warning about the dangers of resuming normal life too soon, saying a run of 14 days with falling cases was a vital first step.

“If a community or a state or region doesn’t go by those guidelines and reopens… the consequences could be really serious,” he said Tuesday.

“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control.”

Fauci said the true number killed by the epidemic in the US is likely greater than the official toll of over 82,000 — the world’s highest.

Facing a re-election campaign later this year, President Donald Trump is pressing for rapid steps to get the US economy moving again, despite warnings from health officials.

– Moves to reboot economies –

Countries around the world are grappling with how to reopen businesses after the pandemic forced half of the planet into some form of lockdown and ground the global economy to a near-halt.

US Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a $3 trillion virus response package, the largest yet, to fund efforts to fight the pandemic and provide emergency payments to millions of American households.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a $270 billion economic stimulus as the Asian giant’s economy lumbers back to life after a prolonged shutdown.

Its giant railway network also restarted, despite a recent surge in infections.

The country of 1.3 billion imposed a strict lockdown in late March, which Modi’s government has credited with keeping cases to a modest 70,000, with around 2,300 deaths.

Health experts have warned of the potentially devastating consequences as the virus spreads through the developing world, where health care systems are under-funded and isolation regimes are often not possible.

– Nigeria hospitals shut –

In northern Nigeria, surging death tolls have sparked fears that the virus is spreading, with a team of government investigators saying hundreds of deaths were suspected to be linked to the pandemic.

Making the problem worse, hospitals have shut their doors to the sick out of fears over the virus — meaning treatment for a raft of ailments has stopped.

Civil servant Binta Mohammed said that she had to watch her husband die from “diabetic complications” after he was turned away for treatment.

“The four private hospitals we took him to refused to admit him for fear he had the virus,” she said.

Lesotho, the last African country to have been unaffected by the pandemic, on Wednesday announced it had detected its first coronavirus case.

But there were stories of hope amid the gloom.

A 113-year-old woman, believed to be the oldest person living in Spain, was reported to have beaten the coronavirus at a retirement home where several other residents died from the disease.

Maria Branyas became infected in April but fought off the illness during weeks of isolation in her room.

Her daughter said her mother was “in shape, wanting to talk, to explain, to reflect — she has become herself again.”

AFP

Europe Emerges From Confinement, But Asia Infections Spike

hong-kong
People wearing face masks as a preventative measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus cross a street in the Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong on May 1, 2020. DALE DE LA REY / AFP.

 

Swathes of Europe began the long process of re-opening from coronavirus lockdowns on Monday, but the first new infections in weeks at China’s ground zero offered a sobering reminder of the dangers of a second wave of cases.

The mixed fortunes illustrated the high-wire act governments face across the globe as they try to get economies moving while keeping in check a pandemic that has now killed more than 280,000 people.

As Britain plotted a path to normality and France and Spain basked in relaxation of restrictions, the Chinese city where the pandemic was born reported a second day of new cases after a month without sign of the virus.

And neighbouring South Korea announced its highest number of infections for more than a month driven by a cluster in a Seoul nightlife district.

With millions out of work and economies shattered, governments are desperate to hit the accelerator, but most are choosing a gradual approach as fears about a resurgence of the virus linger.

READ ALSO: AIDS Deaths Could Double In Sub-Saharan Africa Due To COVID-19 – UN

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was too soon for the country to lift its lockdown but he offered hope by unveiling a “conditional plan” to ease curbs in England during the months ahead.

Johnson said the restrictions had brought “a colossal cost to our way of life” but it would be “madness” to squander the nation’s progress by moving too early.

Almost seven weeks after a nationwide stay-at-home order was put in place, more than 31,800 have died in Britain — a figure second only to the United States.

Elsewhere in Europe, however, officials have been emboldened by declining death rates, with France’s toll dropping to 70 on Sunday — its lowest since early April — and Spain’s daily fatalities falling below 200.

The French were able to walk outside without filling in a permit for the first time in nearly eight weeks on Monday, while teachers began returning to primary schools and some shops were set to re-open, causing a surge in the numbers using the Paris metro.

“If it’s like this at 6:00 am, imagine how it’s going to be in two hours — this is going to be impossible,” said one rider named Brigitte early Monday morning on a crowded train.

Many Spaniards, meanwhile, made plans to meet friends and family at outdoor bars and restaurants, although virus hotspots such as Madrid and Barcelona remain under wraps.

Germany too has set in motion the re-opening of shops, eateries, schools and gyms, but the process was thrown in doubt Sunday by official data indicating the virus appears to be picking up speed again.

Chancellor Angela Merkel only days ago declared the country could gradually return to normal, but the figures showed the reproduction rate of the virus had exceeded the critical figure of 1.0, meaning one person infects on average more than one other.

As recently as Wednesday, the number had stood at 0.65.

– Second wave fears –

With governments across the world trying to avoid a second wave, Asian nations that were among the first engulfed by the virus but have since brought it to heel are being keenly watched.

Much of China has begun to get back to a form of normality, and on Monday Shanghai Disneyland threw open its gates following a three-month shutdown.

“We are very much looking forward to the first day of re-opening and wondering what’s the difference inside today compared to before,” said one eager visitor named Kitty.

But enthusiasm in China was tempered by news on Sunday that one person had tested positive for the virus in Wuhan. There were five more cases on Monday.

Local health officials said the new infections were all from the same residential compound in the city and were mostly older people.

South Korean officials ordered nightclubs and bars closed after a fresh burst of transmission linked to an entertainment district in the capital.

At first it was thought to have been triggered by a 29-year-old man who tested positive after spending an evening at five clubs and bars in the Itaewon in early May.

But officials said there appeared to be multiple origins for the cluster, with Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun adding they are struggling to trace “thousands of people” who visited the area.

Cautious re-opening nevertheless continues around Asia, with one of the world’s largest train networks set to gradually restart operations from Tuesday as India eases its lockdown despite the nation reporting its biggest single-day jump in cases.

The vast rail system — which usually carries more than 20 million passengers a day — was halted in late March, leaving millions of rural migrant workers unable to return home after losing their jobs in cities.

– ‘Be vigilant’ –

New Zealand, meanwhile, will phase out its lockdown over the next 10 days, although some restrictions will remain.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned “none of us can assume COVID is not with us”, but said the country had only 90 active cases after a seven-week lockdown.

“Your efforts, New Zealand, have got us to this place ahead of most of the world and without the carnage that COVID has inflicted in many other places,” she said in a televised address.

“But there are risks ahead, so please be vigilant.”

Extended periods at home have given some people a chance to gather testimony on life in confinement, with the Museum of London launching an appeal for items that reflect the experience.

“When we knew there was going to be a lockdown, we started straight away talking about what we needed to collect something for the future,” Beatrice Behlen, the museum’s senior curator, told AFP.

“It could be something that gives you comfort — one example mentioned often is maybe your favourite slippers — you’ve been wearing them every day.”

AFP

African Migrants Push On Toward Europe Amid Pandemic

A police officer watches a group of illegal immigrants protesting on the roof of the Aluche Immigration Detention Center
A police officer watches a group of illegal immigrants protesting on the roof of the Aluche Immigration Detention Center (CIE) during a riot on March 17, 2020, in Madrid. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP.

 

Many Africans are managing to evade coronavirus lockdown barriers in Niger, the Sahel’s migrant crossroads, as they press on with their perilous desert trek to the Mediterranean Sea and ultimately Europe.

The migrant flow has slowed down but not dried up despite tight checks in the capital Niamey, and an increase of desert security patrols that have detained hundreds of people as desperate as ever to reach Europe, officials and former smugglers said.

“Gambians, Senegalese, Malians, they are all determined to head there,” said Alassane Mamane, a retired civil servant who lives in Agadez, a desert crossroads and departure point for many migrants heading to Libya on the Mediterranean.

“One migrant said to me: ‘I would rather die from coronavirus than live in misery,” Mamane said.

Slipping through the holes of the net is becoming increasingly difficult.

Since the anti-migrant plan set up in 2015 to reinforce patrols, security forces “have intensified further their surveillance to enforce border closing measures aimed at fighting the coronavirus,” a local official said.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Cases In Russia Surpass 200,000

Former people smuggler Idrissa Salifou confirmed it was now much harder for migrants.

“Before we could cross little by little but because of the anti-coronavirus measures (like border closures), the road is really blocked,” Salifou said.

“Soldiers comb the entire length of the border day and night. And on the other side, the Libyans have become very vigilant,” he said.

Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, has officially only recorded 781 coronavirus infections, with 42 people who have died from the COVID-19 disease.

Niger has already decreed a state of emergency, closed its borders with Libya and its other neighbours as well as cut off the capital Niamey from the rest of the country.

– ‘Skirt checkpoints’ –

Libya, where migrants have suffered from the violence and lawlessness that followed Moamer Kadhafi’s overthrow in 2011, is also affected by the coronavirus.

Nonetheless, migrants are heading to the Niger border communities Dirkou and Madama in hopes of entering Libya but measures have been taken to block them, according to Bourkari Mamane, the mayor of Agadez, a large town in northern Niger.

But the flow is far from drying up.

Migrants “are trying in large numbers to enter Libya. They manage to skirt the checkpoints. The unlucky ones are picked up by military patrols,” Boubakar Jerome, the mayor of Dirkou, a city close to Libya, told AFP.

In less than two months, more than 300 migrants have been caught by Niger’s army along the border with Libya, the mayor said.

In the past week, 33 migrants were detained in the same area, the mayor said.

Bachir Amma, who heads an association of former people smugglers, said the migrants are as determined as ever.

“They don’t care about the coronavirus. In Agadez, some ‘ghettos’ have reopened and the migrants look for any chance to bound into the desert,” Amma said.

The “ghettoes” are courtyards of buildings where migrants are housed.

Idrissa Salifou, the former people smuggler, said: “Recently around 60 vehicles transporting migrants managed to enter Libya, but they were quickly picked up by Libyan border guards who drove them to a city in that country.”

In Niger, migrants who are detained or rescued in the desert are placed in quarantine for 14 days at temporary sites in the north where the International Office of Migration (IOM) has welcomed 1,600 migrants stranded in the desert since borders were closed at the end of March.

– New routes –

For example, 764 migrants — including 391 from Niger, 140 from Mali and 101 from Guinea — have been put in quarantine in Assamaka, on the border with Algeria.

Among them are children, pregnant women and injured people, the UN agency said.

“As soon as they emerge from isolation, some migrants try their luck again,” Boubakar Jerome said.

Last week, the UN agency launched an urgent appeal to donors for supplementary aid of 10 million dollars to meet the needs of migrants.

It said it has rented extra facilities and reinforced prevention measures in six transit centres which are currently at the maximum capacity.

In a bid to discourage smugglers, the government in Niamey adopted a law in 2015 to make migrant smuggling a crime, with sentences of up to 30 years in prison.

At the start of 2019, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou credited the anti-migrant plan, backed by the European Union, with causing the number of migrants passing through Niger to drop sharply from 100,000 to 150,000 a year before 2016 to 5,000 and 10,000 migrants per year today.

During a visit to Niamey the same year, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hailed an 80 percent reduction in 2018 of clandestine migrant arrivals on Italian shores.

More than the desert patrols, the game changer has been the decision to cut Niamey off from the rest of the country by banning anyone from entering or leaving without permission.

Many migrants from west Africa used to travel through Niamey before heading to Agadez or the desert gateways.

“With Niamey cut off, more and more migrants changed their itinerary: they now travel through Nigeria whose borders are more porous,” said Bachir Amma, the former smuggler.

Boubakar Jerome, the mayor of Dirkou, agrees: “There exist one thousand and one routes: some of the lucky ones manage to weave their way into Libya.”

AFP

COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 150,000 In Europe

Health workers wearong protective gear transport a patient on a stretcher in front of the emergency services of the Aix Hospital Centre (Centre Hospitalier du Pays d’Aix) in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, on April 3, 2020.  CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

 

The number of people killed by the new coronavirus in Europe has surpassed 150,000, most of them in Britain, Italy, Spain and France, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources at 0910 GMT Thursday.

With a total of 150,138 deaths out of 1,640,799 cases, Europe is the continent hardest hit by the virus which has claimed the lives of 263,573 people around the world.

Britain has registered the most deaths in Europe at 30,076 along with Italy at 29,684, followed by Spain (26,070 fatalities) and France (25,809).

 

AFP