‘Endemic Racial Discrimination’ Exposed In US – UN Rights Chief

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 flags of the United Nations and the United States of America are seen in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 flags of the United Nations and the United States of America are seen in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

 

The UN rights chief said Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic’s disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities in the US and protests triggered by George Floyd’s death had laid bare “endemic inequalities” that must be addressed.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, raised the situation in the United States and a range of countries, saying data shows the COVID-19 crisis has had a worse impact on racial and ethnic minorities.

“This virus is exposing endemic inequalities that have too long been ignored,” she said in a statement.

Similar inequalities were also fuelling the widespread protests in hundreds of US cities over the police killing in Minneapolis last week of Floyd, an unarmed black man.

“In the United States, protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd are highlighting not only police violence against people of colour, but also inequalities in health, education, employment and endemic racial discrimination,” Bachelet said.

She noted the virus death rate for African Americans is reported to be more than double that of other racial groups in the United States.

READ ALSO: New York Under Curfew As Looters Hit Luxury Stores

Her statement also highlighted the situation in Britain, where government data for England and Wales shows a death rate for blacks, ethnic Pakistanis and Bangladeshis that is nearly double that of whites.

And she pointed to Brazil, where people of colour in Sao Paulo are 62 percent more likely to die from the virus than whites, and in France’s heavily minority-inhabited Seine Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, which has reported higher excess mortality than other areas.

– ‘Urgent steps needed’ –

“The appalling impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities is much discussed, but what is less clear is how much is being done to address it,” Bachelet said.

“Urgent steps need to be taken by states, such as prioritising health monitoring and testing, increasing access to healthcare, and providing targeted information for these communities.”

She said the disparities likely resulted from a range of factors linked to marginalisation, discrimination and access to healthcare, along with economic inequalities, overcrowded housing and environmental risks.

“People from racial and ethnic minorities are also found in higher numbers in some jobs that carry increased risk, including in the transport, health and cleaning sectors,” the statement said.

Bachelet stressed that such factors were likely playing a devastating role in many countries, but lamented that a vast majority of states do not disaggregate data by ethnicity, making it difficult to get to the root of the problem.

“Collection, disaggregation and analysis of data by ethnicity or race, as well as gender, are essential to identify and address inequalities and structural discrimination that contribute to poor health outcomes, including for COVID-19.

“The fight against this pandemic cannot be won if governments refuse to acknowledge the blatant inequalities that the virus is bringing to the fore,” Bachelet warned.

AFP

La Liga’s New Reality To Bring Optimism, Discomfort

La-Liga-Logo
File: La Liga logo

 

La Liga president Javier Tebas said Spanish football’s return will allow people to feel a sense of normality again but it may also serve as a reminder of an uncomfortable new reality.

Spain’s top division is set to restart on June 11 and to be completed on July 19, yet the expectation is players will be subjected to safety protocol for several months and stadiums will not be full again until next year.

In the short-term at least, its reemergence could offer some comfort. “There is no doubt the resumption of football will contribute to a general sense of relief among certain groups of people, who have been struggling with the pandemic,” David Moscoso, a specialist in sports sociology, told AFP.

“The return of football is a sign that society is progressing to the new normal,” agreed Tebas earlier this month, adding “it will restore a part of life that people in Spain know and love.”

Spain has managed to bring the number of infections under control in recent weeks, with the government reporting no deaths from coronavirus on Monday for the first time since the beginning of March.

But with more than 27,000 confirmed fatalities, the country has been one of the worst-hit in the world and it is no surprise the approach to football’s return has been cautious and the attitude of some fearful.

READ ALSO: WHO Warns Of Pressure On Latin American Health Systems

“It is possible that by losing the passion and intensity, which is really the essence of football, it will also lose that emotional centre that is the hook for so many people,” said psychologist Adelaida Navaridas.

Many are adamant that, without fans, the campaign should not resume at all.

“We understand we cannot go to the stadium due to the risk of infection,” said Joseba Combarro, president of the Eskozia La Brava, the most significant supporters’ club at Eibar, whose squad members have expressed reservations about playing too soon.

“But the players share the same risk as the fans, the risk is for everyone. The league should be suspended.”

– ‘Social heart’ –

It is not only the atmosphere inside stadiums that will be lost.

“The social heart of football comes from people getting ready for the game with friends, with family, and then staying together afterwards. All that is broken,” adds Guillermo Fouce, a professor of psychology at Madrid’s Complutense University.

“But between having it back at 100 per cent or nothing at all is something in between that helps us to adapt. I think it’s still better to move closer to what was normal before.”

La Liga have been eager to point to the economic benefits too, for people’s jobs and livelihoods.

“Football’s return means the revival of a very relevant economic sector,” said Tebas.

“It contributes 1.37 per cent of GDP and generates 185,000 jobs at a time when the economic situation is already the main concern.”

“It is the primary service export industry in our country,” adds Moscoso. “It’s economic role is self-evident.”

Television companies like Movistar, the biggest broadcaster of games in Spain, have also been promoting the idea that football’s revival amounts to progress.

Every Sunday night this month, Movistar has hosted a programme called “Volver Es Ganar”, “To Return is To Win”, a slogan that has also been carried by players and clubs alike.

First and foremost, the game is coming back because of its own financial needs, with Tebas admitting clubs stood to lose around 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) if the season was cancelled.

Fans will have football again but, for a while at least, in a very different way to before.

“Perhaps we have to consider that our new normal is going to be different,” Fouce said. “That nothing is going to be exactly the same as before.”

AFP

Indonesia Pulls Out Of Annual Mecca Pilgrimage Over COVID-19 Fears

Health officials observe health protocols at an emergency installation at a hospital in Surabaya, East Java, on May 29, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Juni Kriswanto / AFP.

 

Indonesia is pulling out of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca over coronavirus fears, the religious affairs ministry said Tuesday, removing the largest contingent of worshippers.

More than 220,000 people from the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country were set to take part in this year’s hajj, which all Muslims must perform at least once in their lives if able.

The global pandemic has plunged the ritual into doubt, but Riyadh has yet to announce a final decision on whether it will go ahead with the end-of-July celebration.

On Tuesday, Indonesia said it was pulling out of the pilgrimage, which last year drew about 2.5 million Muslims to Saudi Arabia from across the globe.

“This was a very bitter and difficult decision,” religious affairs minister Fachrul Razi told a televised press briefing.

“But we have a responsibility to protect our pilgrims and hajj workers.”

Last month, Indonesia pressed Riyadh to announce its decision and President Joko Widodo later held a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on the matter, Razi said.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Deaths In Russia Surpass 5,000

Jakarta had considered allowing half the usual number of pilgrims to travel in order to limit the risk, but instead opted to keep them all at home, he added.

The hajj is a key revenue earner for the kingdom but risks becoming a major source of contagion if millions flock to Mecca’s religious sites.

Indonesia’s decision was a disappointment for some who have been on a pilgrimage waiting list for years.

“I knew this was a possibility, but now that it’s official I can’t help but be heartbroken — I’ve been waiting for years,” 37-year-old civil servant Ria Taurisnawati told AFP as she sobbed.

“All my preparations were done, the clothes were ready and I got the necessary vaccination. But God has another plan,” she added.

AFP

French Economy To Shrink 11% This Year – Minister

French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire (C) gives a press conference following his meeting with employers and professionals organisations at the Economy Ministry in Paris on December 3, 2018. ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

 

The French economy is expected to shrink 11 percent this year because of the coronavirus crisis, a “brutal” shock and worse than the government’s previous forecast of an eight percent contraction, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday.

“The shock is very brutal,” Le Maire told RTL radio, though he said that “I am absolutely certain that we are going to bounce back in 2021.”

The business closures and confinement orders to halt the COVID-19 pandemic had left the economy gasping for air, he said, warning that “the hardest part is still ahead of us.”

The government has progressively revised upwards the damage caused by the pandemic and the latest estimate will be included in a recovery budget which will be submitted to ministers on June 10.

Last week, the official statistics agency INSEE warned that the economic contraction would be much larger than the government’s previous estimate of eight per cent, because the pickup as the virus lockdown was eased would only be gradual across the second half of the year.

READ ALSO: WHO Warns Of Pressure On Latin American Health Systems

The government has launched a series of massive aid packages, complete with billions of euros for key sectors such as tourism, the auto industry and aviation, to keep the economy afloat and plans a major programme by September to speed up the recovery.

Officials are progressively easing the restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus outbreak, and Le Maire also announced that traditional mid-year sales by retailers would be pushed back to July 15 instead of June 24.

He said the delay had been requested by small-business owners who needed more time to prepare after being closed for more than two months.

AFP

The Return Of La Liga: What’s At Stake?

La-Liga-Logo
File: La Liga logo

 

La Liga resumes on June 11 after a three-month absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have been unable to pull away from each other at the top of the table while Atletico Madrid are involved in what looks like a four-way fight for Champions League qualification.

AFP Sport takes a look at some key issues ahead of the run-in.
Turbulent title race

When Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 1, it seemed they had halted a dip in form and seized control of the title race.

But a week later, they handed the initiative back as Barca regained first place by beating Real Sociedad and Madrid lost away at Real Betis.

A three-month break means a fresh start but Barcelona’s two-point lead reflects badly on their challengers, given Barca’s own problems off the pitch, including the switch to Quique Setien as coach in January.

Both sides’ imperfections mean there will be more slip-ups to come but if this Barca make it five league titles in six years, Madrid will only have themselves to blame.

Unfamiliar homes

Real Madrid have been given permission by La Liga to play their remaining home games at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium at their training ground to allow planned construction work to go ahead at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer.

With games being held behind closed doors there would have been little advantage to playing at their usual home and the players might even be better off avoiding an empty 81,000-seater stadium that they are used to being almost full.
Unexpected returns

READ ALSO: EU Tells UK Post-Brexit Deal Vital During COVID-19 Crisis

Neither Eden Hazard nor Luis Suarez expected to play much, or perhaps any, part in the run-in after Hazard underwent surgery on a broken foot in March and Suarez had an operation on his right knee in January.

The break has allowed both players to recover and the question now is whether either can find peak form and fitness in time to make an impact in the remaining 11 games.

Suarez’s return could be particularly helpful for Barcelona but Setien has said the Uruguayan, who has often taken time to regain sharpness, is not yet ready.

Real Madrid’s Hazard, plagued by injuries in recent months, has had a nightmare first year in Spain but has an unexpected chance to turn things around.
Fight for Atletico

Atletico Madrid’s momentous win over Liverpool in the Champions League offered Diego Simeone some relief after what has been a disappointing season in La Liga.

His team sit sixth in the table, having long fallen out of the reckoning for the title and facing a fight even to make the top four.

Ahead of them between fifth and third are Getafe, Real Sociedad and Sevilla, and with only two points between the four, Atletico could still scrape in.

But the resilient Getafe and free-flowing Real will both be eager to finish off brilliant campaigns while Sevilla appeared to be hitting their stride before games were suspended.

Atletico cannot afford to be complacent.

Pressure at the bottom

At the other end of the table, Espanyol look doomed, sitting in last place, six points adrift of safety. Leganes, who still have to play away at Barcelona before hosting Real Madrid on the final day, are only three points better off.

One point then separates Mallorca, Celta Vigo and Eibar, whose players have expressed concerns about the safety of football returning too quickly. Real Valladolid in 15th have a four-point cushion over the bottom three but two wins in their last 10 games suggests they could easily be pulled in too.

The economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic means the stakes are even higher for these clubs, as they battle to avoid the considerable financial blow of relegation. For all of them, the pressure is on.

AFP

Brazil Leader Wants Football Back Despite Pandemic

View of a crowded street in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina state, Brazil, on May 12, 2020 amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. EDUARDO VALENTE / AFP
View of a crowded street in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina state, Brazil, on May 12, 2020 amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. EDUARDO VALENTE / AFP.

 

The right-wing populist president of Brazil wants the football season to resume even though the five-time World Cup winning country is a hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic.

Brazil is for many synonymous with football and many of the all-time greats, from Pele to Neymar, hail from the nation.

But Brazil is also the epicentre of Latin America’s coronavirus outbreak.

The death toll from coronavirus in Brazil has hit 27,878, official figures showed on Friday, surpassing the toll of hard-hit Spain and making it the country with the fifth-highest number of fatalities.

Football has been suspended in Brazil since mid-March but President Jair Bolsonaro recently told Radio Guaiba that footballers would likely not fall very ill with COVID-19.

“As footballers are young athletes the risk of death if they catch coronavirus would be dramatically reduced,” Bolsonaro said.

Back in March Bolsonaro also claimed that thanks to his own sporting past, he would only suffer a slight cold if he caught the virus.

READ ALSO: 100-Year-Old Indonesian Woman Beats COVID-19

The president says his chief motivation for wanting football to get back underway is to curb unemployment and the misery that accompanies it.

“The players have to survive somehow,” he said, explaining that while some top footballers earn a fortune, those from smaller regional leagues need to play “to feed their families”.

The way Brazilian politics works, it is not in Bolsonaro’s remit to restart football. This must be done by the regional states and municipalities.

When football was suspended, seasons at the regional level were underway, but the national championship had been due to start in May and as yet there are no solid plans to begin.

Bolsonaro and his son held meetings on May 19 with the presidents of two Rio superclubs, Vasco da Gama and Flamengo.

Photos of Bolsonaro and his son wearing the shirts of the two clubs stunned social media, with official supporter groups claiming their image had been sold out to politics.

“This is just political intolerance,” said Flamengo president Rodolfo Landim, explaining that Bolsonaro just wants football back as soon as possible and he himself “is defending the interests of Flamengo.”

The day after the meeting Flamengo were filmed by a TV Globo helicopter breaking the Rio lockdown rules by training without permission.

Rio state health secretary Ana Beatriz Bush said the act of defiance set a terrible example.

“Imagine all the young people who see Flamengo training, they’ll want to go out of their homes and that is not possible,” she said.

Rio mayor Marcelo Crivella, however, has authorised training to resume in June and sees matches taking place behind closed doors sometime in July.

Rio’s two other major clubs, Fluminense and Botafogo, are on record as saying this seems premature.

One of Brazil’s top sports journalists, Mauro Cezar Pereira, of ESPN Brazil also feels it is too soon.

“It reflects the fact that some clubs are deeply in debt and dependant on broadcasting income. The Bundesliga restart intensified the rush. But unlike in Germany, the infection curve is still climbing in Brazil.”

Players may have little say in the matter, with the president of the Internacional club saying any player refusing to come back to training should instead resign.

AFP

Pope Calls For End To ‘Pandemic Of Poverty’ After COVID-19 Outbreak

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

“Everything will be different” after the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said Saturday, calling for a fairer society and action to “end the pandemic of poverty in the world”.

Speaking in Spanish in a video message to mark the feast of Pentecost, the pontiff said there was a duty to build a new reality, particularly for the poorest.

“Once we emerge from this pandemic, we will not be able to keep doing what we were doing, and as we were doing it. No, everything will be different,” he said.

“From the great trials of humanity — among them this pandemic — one emerges better or worse. You don’t emerge the same.

“I ask this of you: how do you want to come out of it? Better or worse?” said the 83-year-old Argentinian.

The pope led a prayer in the Vatican gardens for all those affected by the pandemic, which has killed nearly 370,000 people worldwide and devastated the global economy.

He will also address the faithful on Sunday from his window overlooking Saint Peter’s Square for the first time since March, as the city-state further eases its virus lockdown.

READ ALSO: EU Tells UK Post-Brexit Deal Vital During COVID-19 Crisis

For weeks his traditional Angelus prayer has been live-streamed each weekend to the world from inside the Apostolic Palace.

People need to open their minds and hearts to learn the central lesson from this crisis, he said on Saturday, declaring: “We are one humanity.”

“We know it, we knew it, but this pandemic that we are living through has made us experience it in a much more dramatic way,” he said.

“All the suffering will be of no use if we do not build together a more just, more equitable, more Christian society, not in name but in reality.”

AFP

English Premier League To Return On June 17

(Files) Everton’s Brazilian striker Richarlison (3rd L) celebrates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Crystal Palace at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on February 8, 2020. Everton won the game 3-1. Oli SCARFF / AFP.

 

The Premier League season is set to restart on June 17, three months after it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was widely reported on Thursday.

No matches have been played in the English top-flight since Leicester’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa on March 9, with Liverpool just two wins away from securing the title.

The BBC reported that the first two matches would be Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal. Those matches are the two games in hand.

A full fixture list would then be played on the weekend of June 19-21, the reports said, with matches to be played behind closed doors.

The Premier League suspended all fixtures in March after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for COVID-19.

There are still 92 matches to play and although Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool appear certain to be crowned champions, the relegation and European qualification still need to be resolved.

– Training return –

Top-flight clubs voted unanimously on Wednesday to return to contact training and were meeting again on Thursday to discuss issues including the restart date and the rebate to broadcasters.

It is predicted that clubs face repaying up to £340 million ($419 million) to broadcasters.

So far, just 12 people have tested positive for coronavirus after 2,752 tests across the Premier League.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Do Not Cut Health Spending During Downturn, WHO Warns

Germany’s Bundesliga resumed earlier this month and La Liga in Spain hopes to return from June 11, while a crucial summit between Italian football officials and the country’s sports minister will be held later on Thursday.

Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the table while Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City are in the relegation places.

The leaders could clinch the title with victory in their first game back should second-placed Manchester City lose to Arsenal.

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho spoke this week of his desperation to get playing again after seeing football resume elsewhere.

“Honestly, since the moment the Bundesliga started, the Portuguese league and Spanish league announced a date to start, I think it is the most difficult moment for us, because we want to play,” he told Sky Sports.

Some players have voiced fears over their safety and that of their families due to the virus.

Watford captain Troy Deeney has revealed that people have told him they want his baby son to contract coronavirus after he chose not to return to training.

Deeney has been absent from training since Watford and other Premier League clubs returned to non-contact sessions last week.

“I saw some comments in regards to my son, people saying: ‘I hope your son gets corona’,” Deeney told CNN Sport.

“That’s the hard part for me. If you respond to that, people then go: ‘Ah, we’ve got him’ and they keep doing it.”

Deeney is understood to be due to resume training next week.

AFP

Israel Tests 100,000 To Prevent Pandemic ‘Second Wave’

 

Israel has launched a campaign to test 100,000 people for novel coronavirus antibodies as the country prepares for a possible “second wave” of cases, a top official said Thursday.

The initiative is one of the world’s largest schemes and aims to test Israel’s “collective immunity” against the COVID-19 disease.

“We have started… It should not be too long before we see some interesting trends,” said Yair Schindel, a senior official on the government’s task force tackling the pandemic.

The government is trying to determine how widely the virus has spread and who is most at risk going forward.

In parallel to the national campaign, authorities are also running separate surveys of “high-risk areas”.

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, while other focus groups include hospital staff treating coronavirus patients.

READ ALSO: US COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 100,000 As Pandemic Rages In Latin America

“We need to understand how many of them were actually exposed and created antibodies,” said Schindel, who co-founded aMoon, a venture capital firm specialising in biomedical start-ups.

The World Health Organization, however, said last month there is no evidence that those who have recovered from COVID-19 are protected from future infection.

– Low death rate –

Israel has gradually relaxed its anti-coronavirus measures in recent weeks, reopening schools, beaches and restaurants.

The country has registered 281 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 16,800 cases in a population of around nine million, according to official figures.

But despite Israel faring relatively well compared to some countries, the government is already preparing for a spike in cases that could hit this winter or even sooner.

The government has bought around 2.5 million tests for the antibodies scheme, Schindel said.

These are being distributed to the country’s four health insurance companies, before the samples are brought together for analysis.

“I have not heard about another large-scale national survey yet,” said Schindel.

Israel’s blood testing scheme, which Schindel hoped would be taken up by other countries, was first revealed earlier this month by the New York Times newspaper.

Around 70 percent of Israel’s novel coronavirus infections are linked to a case from the United States, according to a Tel Aviv University study, while the rest can be traced to European cases.

Israel enforced strict measures at the start of the pandemic, shutting its borders to visitors and ordering residents to stay at home.

The use of telemedicine, allowing healthcare workers to monitor patients from a distance, also had a positive impact, according to specialists who spoke to AFP.

“Another thing that is unique… is that the Israeli population is very used to going from routine day-to-day to an emergency situation,” said Schindel.

“Usually it is not because of a pandemic, it is because we have missiles coming in,” he added, referring to rockets fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza.

The enclave has been under a crippling Israeli blockade for more than a decade.

AFP

COVID-19: Do Not Cut Health Spending During Downturn, WHO Warns

This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

European governments should not cut healthcare spending during the current economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns, the World Health Organization warned on Thursday.

“We are concerned that countries will respond to this crisis in the same way they did to the recession 10 years ago… by cutting public spending on health,” WHO regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, told a press conference.

“Those cuts prevented many people from accessing the healthcare that they needed.”

According to WHO Europe, public spending on healthcare per capita fell in about half of European countries between 2008 and 2013.

Healthcare needs that could not be met increased in 19 of 28 EU countries, with three million more people affected in 2013 than in 2008, the UN agency said.

Also, up to nine percent of households were pushed into poverty as a result of having to pay for healthcare.

READ ALSO: US COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 100,000 As Pandemic Rages In Latin America

With the EU’s economic output expected to contract by 7.5 percent this year, the agency warned that health cuts would not only put lives at risk but also be counter-productive.

“Countries that took the path of cuts to health spending struggled to recover from the economic shock and we must learn from the mistakes of the past,” Kluge said.

More than two million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed and over 175,000 deaths recorded in the 53 countries in the WHO European region.

AFP

US COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 100,000 As Pandemic Rages In Latin America

An elderly lady who had been affected by the new COVID-19 coronavirus is discharged from hospital, in Santiago, on May 18, 2020. Martin BERNETTI / AFP
An elderly lady who had been affected by the new COVID-19 coronavirus is discharged from hospital, in Santiago, on May 18, 2020. Martin BERNETTI / AFP

 

The US coronavirus death toll passed 100,000 as the pandemic tightened its grip on South America, which is outpacing Europe and the United States in daily infections.

Global cases have surged to nearly 5.7 million, with more than 354,000 deaths, and in a grim signal to other countries hoping to exit lockdown, South Korea re-imposed social distancing rules after a spike in new cases.

Deaths in Brazil topped 25,000 on Wednesday, and its caseload is second only to the United States, where authorities have moved to ease lockdowns and help the battered economy, despite experts recommending they remain on guard for a resurgence of the disease.

“Don’t start leapfrogging over the recommendations of some of the guidelines because that’s really tempting fate and asking for trouble,” Anthony Fauci, one of the top US health advisers, told CNN.

Nearly 1.7 million Americans are known to have been infected with the disease, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

Lockdowns in some form will remain necessary until a vaccine or treatment is available, experts have warned, but many governments are under immense pressure to provide relief as businesses and citizens grow weary and resentful of mass confinement.

READ ALSO: UK Has Highest COVID-19 Death Rate – FT Analysis

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president and a Trump ally, has slammed stay-at-home orders and played down the threat of the virus, saying the economic fallout of lockdowns causes more damage than the disease itself.

But infections in Brazil have surged past 411,000, and similar bad news continues to emerge from other South American countries.

Peru logged a record 6,154 new cases in a 24-hour period, with its virus response coordinator Pilar Mazzetti warning that “difficult days, difficult weeks are coming.”

Worried relatives outside the Sabogal Hospital in the capital Lima were unable to enter to see loved ones suffering from COVID-19, with some begging the guards for information.

“I want to talk to a doctor and they don’t let me know,” said Liset Villanueva, granddaughter of a coronavirus patient.

“They don’t say anything, they don’t call, they don’t explain anything… What is he suffering from?”

The 79 new cases in South Korea come as life appeared to be returning to normal following an extensive “trace, test and treat” program.

Social distancing rules had been relaxed earlier this month, but following the spike — centred around the densely-populated capital Seoul — authorities ordered some of them be re-imposed, and for museums, parks and galleries to close again from Friday.

– France bans controversial drug –

While scientists around the world are racing to develop a vaccine, parallel trials are underway to test treatments for COVID-19 symptoms.

France said Wednesday it was banning the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment after the World Health Organization suspended its testing over fears of dangerous side effects.

The drug has proved controversial and divisive, with some leaders and governments still backing it — including President Trump, who said he had taken a course as a preventative measure because he had “heard a lot of good stories” about it.

Health authorities in Brazil and Senegal, and India’s top biomedical research body have said they will continue to use it for COVID-19 patients, but the US Food and Drug Administration has warned of serious side effects and poisoning.

The urgency of the coronavirus crisis has prompted some doctors to prescribe the drug despite a lack of research to demonstrate its effectiveness against the new coronavirus.

– Fans at the French Open? –

As South America and parts of Africa and Asia scramble to deal with their worsening outbreaks, Europe has taken tentative steps to reopen economies and ease lockdowns as new infections slow.

As the continent — which has lost more than 175,000 people to COVID-19 — grappled with the human tragedy and economic destruction, the European Union unveiled a 750-billion-euro ($825 billion) recovery plan to get countries back on their feet.

It follows other emergency measures introduced around the world to rescue economies shattered by the virus, which has also shredded the global sports calendar and brought international travel to a standstill.

Britain’s EasyJet became the latest airline to announce huge redundancies Thursday, when it said it will axe almost a third of its 15,000-strong workforce.

While German top-flight football has resumed in empty stadiums, Roland Garros chiefs insisted Wednesday that the French Open will have fans attending even if they still have to abide by social distancing rules when the delayed Grand Slam tournament is held in September.

There was a reminder, however, of the threat still posed by the coronavirus in England, where the globally popular Premier League announced that four more people at its football clubs had tested positive.

– ‘We are starving’ –

Far from the mega-rich sports leagues of the world, millions are simply trying to survive, having lost their livelihoods during the lockdowns.

In South Africa, millions of refugees and migrants mostly depend on day-to-day informal work, which has catastrophically dried up because of strict confinement measures to contain the lockdown.

Now many are left with few options, as the government called for locals to be favored for jobs as the economy emerges from the crisis.

“As foreign nationals, we are contributing so much to the South African economy, it’s totally unfair from the South African government not to help people living on its own soil,” said Collin Makumbirofa, a 41-year-old Zimbabwean who has been living in Johannesburg for more than a decade.

“It’s very tough, we are starving. Life has become unbearable here.”

AFP

Austrian Airlines To Resume Flights On June 15

(FILES) This file photo taken on May 19, 2020 shows an airplane of Austrian Airlines taking off from Vienna’s International Airport in Austria. – Austrian Airlines said Thursday, May 28, 2020 that it would resume flights from June 15, 2020 after almost three months of being grounded due to the new coronavirus pandemic, which has heavily restricted international travel. JOE KLAMAR / AFP.

 

Austrian Airlines said Thursday that it would resume flights from June 15 after almost three months of being grounded due to the new coronavirus pandemic, which has heavily restricted international travel.

Flights will resume to destinations in Europe, including London, Paris and Brussels, as well as Tel Aviv from June 15, the carrier, a subsidiary of the German giant Lufthansa, said in a statement.

More cities, including in Austria, will be added from June 22 bringing the total number of destinations up to 37, it said.

The airlines said the flights, mostly serviced by smaller planes such as the Embraer 195 and Dash 8, represented about five percent of the capacity offered during the same period last year.

The carrier said it was considering adding long-distance flights in July depending on demand for short- and medium distance flights.

Passengers will have to wear masks covering their mouths and noses, the airlines added.

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The carrier is currently in negotiations with Austria’s government for state aid.

Initially, it demanded 767 million euros ($844 million), but recent media reports suggested the amount could have gone down after the airline’s employees accepted pay cuts.

Politicians from the Green party, the junior partner in conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government, have said that any state aid should be tied to policies to combat climate change.

Suggestions for what that could mean in practice have included slashing the number of short distance flights and using alternative fuels.

Coronavirus-stricken airline group Lufthansa wavered Wednesday on grabbing a nine-billion-euro German state lifeline, throwing up new turbulence for a rescue that could decide the fate of the historic company.

AFP