Eid-El-Kabir: Bola Tinubu Asks Muslims To Pray For COVID-19 Victims

 

National leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, has asked Muslims to pray for those who have contracted the COVID-19 virus as well as those who have lost their lives to the pandemic.

He appealed to them not to fret about not being able to gather to pray but rather, reflect on the lessons of Eid-El Kabir and practice it in their daily activities.

“Not gathering for the Eid for this Sallah celebration is due to the circumstance and the environment and its for the sdafety of all of us and that is crucial.

“The essence of today in our religion is about sacrifice. So, demonstrate it, to be able to pray for our health, those who have lost their lives, pray for forgiveness for them,” the APC chieftain said in an interview with Channels Television on Friday.

 

APC Chieftain, Bola Ahmed Tinubu (File Photo)

 


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[Sallah] President Buhari Marks Eid Prayers At Home, Wishes Muslims Safe And Happy Celebrations


He also reacted to the security issues in Borno State, while saluting the courage of Governor Babagana Zulum.

He assured Nigerians that the Federal Government will win the war against insurgency across the country.


Watch this video of Governor Zulum expressing his displeasure to the army after an attack on his convoy.

Domestic Flight Operations Resume In Lagos And Abuja

Flight operations resume in Abuja. Photos: Sodiq Adelakun/ChannelsTV, July 8, 2020.

 

Flight operations in Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja have resumed after over three months of being shut down following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the turnout of passengers was low as Channels Television monitored activities at the domestic wing of the Murtala International Airport, Lagos.

Passengers were seen wearing face masks, observing social distancing and adhering to other COVID-19 protocols.

It was gathered that only five airlines have been given approval to fly.

 

 

 

Read Also: Domestic Flight Operations Resume In Lagos And Abuja

Meanwhile, in Abuja, passengers were also seen arriving at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport to board flights to Lagos.

 

 

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 gave the go-ahead for the commencement of domestic flights following approval by the president.

On July 1, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika announced that the Abuja and Lagos airports will resume domestic operations on July 8, while the Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Maiduguri airports would resume on the 11th.

Other airports are also expected to resume operations on the 15th.

 

 

Sirika, however, noted that a date for the international airports will be announced in due course. See more photos here.

Malaysia Slashes Rates To Record Low To Fight COVID-19 Impact

A woman walks along the Saloma Link Bridge in Kuala Lumpur on July 3, 2020. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

 

Malaysia’s central bank on Tuesday slashed interest rates to a record low to fight the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and warned that the pace of economic recovery was uncertain.

The Southeast Asian nation has joined other countries worldwide in aggressively easing monetary policy, after the virus brought the economy to a standstill for weeks.

Bank Negara Malaysia slashed its key rate by 25 basis points to 1.75 percent, its fourth straight reduction, and warned that the economy had contracted sharply in the second quarter because of the strict lockdown.

Most businesses were closed and people were confined to their homes in mid-March as the outbreak accelerated, although authorities have been easing curbs since early May and life is gradually returning to normal.

The country’s outbreak has been small — it has recorded about 8,600 cases and 121 deaths — but the lockdown is nevertheless believed to have cost the economy billions of dollars.

The bank said in a statement that business activity was recovering and that government stimulus packages “will continue to underpin the improving economic outlook”.

It added that “the pace and strength of the recovery, however, remain subject to downside risks”, including future outbreaks and a weaker-than-expected rebound in global growth.

Southeast Asia’s third-biggest economy is highly dependent on trade, and its key exports include palm oil, crude oil and natural gas.

OCBC Bank economist Wellian Wiranto said “the bar for another cut later this year has gotten lower”, with the prospect of new virus outbreaks knocking the global economic recovery off course.

He added that “1.75 percent may not be a historic low for long… especially if global conditions suffer a relapse”.

AFP

Australia Locks Down Millions As US Struggles To Contain COVID-19

An ambulance is seen outside one of nine public housing estates locked down due to a spike in COVID-19 coronavirus numbers in Melbourne on July 6, 2020. – Australia will effectively seal off the state of Victoria from the rest of the country, authorities said on July 6, announcing unprecedented measures to tackle a worrying surge in coronavirus cases. William WEST / AFP.

 

Australia on Tuesday ordered millions of people locked down in its second-biggest city to combat a surge in coronavirus cases, as nations across the planet scrambled to stop the rampaging pandemic.

While some countries are worried about second waves of infections, the worst-hit — the United States — was still “knee-deep” in its first, its top expert warned, with cases also surging in India and Brazil.

Global COVID-19 cases have surged past 11.5 million with more than 536,000 dead, and the lingering threat was illustrated by Australia — which had largely suppressed its outbreak — locking down five million people in Melbourne to fight a recent spike.

“We can’t pretend” the coronavirus crisis is over, said Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria state, after its capital Melbourne reported 191 new cases in 24 hours.

“These are unsustainably high numbers… There is simply no alternative (to the lockdown) other than thousands and thousands of cases and potentially more.”

The lockdown of the Melbourne metropolitan area would begin at midnight Wednesday and last at least six weeks, while Victoria state will effectively be sealed off from the rest of the country a day earlier.

– Fauci warning –

The United States is still dealing with its first coronavirus wave, warned Anthony Fauci, its top infectious disease expert.

Officials have warned that hospitals in some parts of the country are in danger of being overwhelmed, with many states hit particularly hard after they eased virus restrictions.

“We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this,” warned Fauci on Monday, saying the US never managed to suppress infections to a manageable level before reopening like some European nations.

“We went up, never came down to baseline, and now we’re surging back up. So it’s a serious situation that we have to address immediately.”

The US COVID-19 death toll hit 130,000 on Monday, with confirmed infections fast approaching three million.

Some mayors have said their cities exited lockdown too early, as President Donald Trump tried to downplay the severity of the crisis, instead prioritising economic reopening.

But in the latest example of the human toll, the US government on Monday said it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country if all their classes are moved online because of the virus.

“The worst thing is the uncertainty,” said Gonzalo Fernandez, a 32-year-old student from Spain.

“We don’t know if we will have classes next semester, if we should go home, if they are going to throw us out.”

– Bolsonaro tested –

Around the world, governments are struggling to balance the need to reopen economies wrecked by weeks of lockdown measures against the risk of new infections.

Adding to the complexity of the challenge, a group of experts warned the virus can spread through the air far beyond the two metres (six feet) currently urged in many social distancing guidelines.

There have been explosions of infections across the world, from Iran and South Africa to India and Brazil — whose virus-sceptic president Jair Bolsonaro was tested for the virus after showing symptoms including fever.

The far-right leader has lashed out at social distancing measures, frequently flouting them, and on Saturday published photos in which he was not wearing a mask at a July 4 event with the US ambassador.

He has been sharply criticised for his response to the crisis, with Brazil becoming the second worst-hit country in the world with more than 65,000 deaths and 1.6 million infections.

AFP

When COVID-19 Robs You Of Your Sense Of Smell

A woman wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) stands in front of a graffiti painted on Lviv emergency hospital wall, to thanks the medical staff and healthcare fighting against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus on June 30, 2020. Genya SAVILOV / AFP.

 

“What I miss most is the smell of my son when I kiss him, the smell of my wife’s body,” says Jean-Michel Maillard.

Anosmia — the loss of one’s sense of smell — may be an invisible handicap, but is psychologically difficult to live with and has no real treatment, he says.

And it is the price that an increasing number of people are paying after surviving a brush with the coronavirus, with some facing a seemingly long-term inability to smell.

“Anosmia cuts you off from the smells of life, it’s a torture,” says Maillard, president of anosmie.org, a French group designed to help sufferers.

If you have the condition you can no longer breathe in the smell of your first morning coffee, smell the cut grass of a freshly mown lawn or even “the reassuring smell of soap on your skin when you’re preparing for a meeting”, he says.

You only truly become aware of your sense of smell when you lose it, says Maillard, who lost his own following an accident.

And it is not just the olfactory pleasures you lose. He points out that people with anosmia are unable to smell smoke from a fire, gas from a leak, or a poorly washed dustbin.

Eating is a completely different experience too, as so much of what we appreciate in food is what we can smell, says Alain Corre, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Hopital-Fondation Rothschild in Paris.

“There are dozens of causes of anosmia,” he says, including nasal polyps, chronic rhinitis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Now the new coronavirus has been added to that list, says Corre — with the symptom alone allowing a diagnosis of COVID-19 in some cases.

“When people lose their sense of smell and don’t get it back, we note a real change in the quality of life and a level of depression that is not insignificant,” he adds.

The problem is when the condition persists, he says.

“To be deprived of your sense of smell for a month, it’s not serious,” says Maillard. “Two months, it starts to become a problem. But after six months, you’re all alone under a bell jar.

“There’s a psychological aspect to this which is very difficult to live with,” he insists. “You need to get help.”

– The search for treatment –

There is no specific treatment for the condition.

You have to address the cause, says Corre, but “the problem of the anosmias linked to the virus is that often, the treatment of the viral infection has no effect on your smell.

“According to the first numbers, around 80 percent of patients suffering from COVID-19 recover spontaneously in less than a month and often even faster, in eight to 10 days.”

For others, however, it could be that the disease has destroyed their olfactory neurons — the ones that detect smells. The good news is that these neurons, at the back of the nose, are able to regenerate.

Two Paris hospitals, Rothschild and Lariboisiere, have launched a “CovidORL” study to investigate the phenomenon, testing how well different nose washes can cure anosmia.

One cortisone-based treatment has proved effective in treating post-cold instances of anosmia and offers some hope, says Corre.

Another way to approach the condition is through olfactory re-education, to try to stimulate the associations that specific smells have in your memory, he says.

His advice is to choose five smells in your kitchen that are special to you, that you really like: cinnamon say, or thyme. Breathe them in twice a day for five to 10 minutes while looking at what it is you are inhaling.

Anosmie.org has even put together a re-education programme using essential oils, working with Hirac Gurden, director of neuroscience research at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). It is based on the work of Dresden-based researcher Thomas Hummel.

“As early as March, we got several hundred phone calls, emails from people who had COVID and who were calling for help because they couldn’t smell anything any more,” says Gurden.

Maillard meanwhile finished his re-education programme last winter, using four smells.

“Today, I have 10 of them,” he says, including fish, cigarettes and rose essential oil. “I’ve even found a perfume that I can smell!” he declares.

AFP

Ukraine Battles Post-Lockdown COVID-19 Surge

Medical staff wearing personal protective equipments (PPE) treats a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit of Lviv emergency hospital on June 30, 2020. – The World Health Organisation listed Ukraine among two dozen countries in Europe that had seen resurgences of the coronavirus for the first time in months.  Genya SAVILOV / AFP.

 

Wearing full protective gear including a white suit and plastic visor, Ukrainian doctor Marta Saiko checked on an elderly patient hooked up to a ventilator.

The country has seen a surge of new COVID-19 cases following the lifting of nationwide lockdown measures.

“We’re overloaded. Over the last 24 hours we’ve admitted 18 patients with suspected coronavirus,” said Saiko, head of primary care at Lviv Emergency Hospital.

“It’s like in a war, it’s very hard. All our staff are exhausted,” she said.

Saiko’s hospital, in one of the worst affected regions of Ukraine, is still treating ordinary emergency patients but for the first time since the pandemic began is also admitting suspected virus cases.

The hospital has created 50 beds for such patients and all were full within three days, she said. “Their medical state is moderately serious or bordering on serious. One patient has died.”

Nataliya Matolinets, head of the intensive care unit, said the hospital had begun treating coronavirus patients because the city needs more beds.

“Both the psychological and physical burden has grown significantly for the doctors and all the staff,” she said.

During the first wave of contagion earlier this year, the hospital admitted some patients who subsequently tested positive and infected medics, she said.

Now, unlike in the first weeks of the outbreak, doctors have enough protective equipment, she said, remaining upbeat.

“We’re stress-resistant and understand how much hope is pinned on us.”

The facade of the hospital has a mural showing a doctor in white protective gear and the word “Dyakuyu”, meaning thank you in Ukrainian.

– ‘People forgot lockdown’ –

In June, the World Health Organization listed Ukraine among two dozen European countries that have seen resurgences of the virus.

At the highest point on June 26, Ukraine had a daily increase of 1,109 cases as authorities warned they might have to re-impose lockdown measures.

The country has confirmed more than 49,000 cases and over 1,200 deaths.

Over the past two weeks the western Lviv region has reported more new infections than any other.

Nataliya Timko, a top epidemiologist at the Lviv regional health care department, told AFP that the region had expected to have more cases in the first wave but avoided this thanks to strict lockdown rules.

But now “some people have forgotten about the lockdown”, she lamented, saying the virus is spreading because some are ditching face masks and other protective measures.

Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Lviv, a picturesque city of one million that is a major tourism destination, told AFP that the region had carried out more tests than any other, detecting more cases.

He urged residents to adhere to social distancing rules, stressing these were in place to prevent infections.

“You can’t have a coffee in a cafe in Lviv until they’ve taken your temperature and all the waiters wear masks,” Sadovyi said of the city famed for its cafe culture.

Ukraine eased its lockdown measures in late May and early June with the resumption of public transport and the reopening of parks, outdoor cafes and beauty salons.

– ‘Hard to see patients die’ –

The mayor praised the work of local medics.

“It is reassuring that the medical system is coping with the number of patients, and we have up to 40 percent (of virus beds) occupied,” Sadovyi said.

If the surge in cases continues, all the city’s hospitals will have to start treating coronavirus patients, he added, however.

He urged the government to fulfil its promise to pay all the doctors who treat COVID-19 patients a bonus of three times their monthly salary.

“It’s important to give them decent pay,” Sadovyi said.

He acknowledged that it is “psychologically difficult for the doctors to reorganise how they work” as hospitals have to hastily adapt their systems to treat virus patients.

The new caseload causes a lot of physical and emotional stress, agreed Timko.

“It is hard to work in protective suits; it’s hard to watch patients die.”

AFP

Pope Hails UN Global Ceasefire Move To Fight Pandemic

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.

 

Pope Francis on Sunday threw his support behind a UN Security Council resolution calling for a halt to conflicts to facilitate the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted the resolution after more than three months of negotiations calling for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations” on the Security Council’s agenda.

“The request for a global and immediate ceasefire, which would allow that peace and security necessary to provide the needed humanitarian assistance is commendable,” the pope said after his weekly Angelus prayer at St Peter’s in Rome.

“I hope that this decision will be implemented effectively and promptly for the good of the many people who are suffering.

“May this Security Council resolution become a courageous first step towards a peaceful future.”

The resolution was the Security Council’s first statement on the pandemic and its first real action since the outbreak started.

Repeatedly blocked by China and the United States, which opposed a reference in the text to the World Health Organization (WHO), the resolution aims to support an appeal in March by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire.

It “calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days, in order to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance”.

AFP

Greece Reopens Islands To Flights In Bid To Save Tourism Season

A street with shops near the beach in Pefkochori on Halkidiki Peninsula, Greece, on June 20, 2020. – One of Greece’s most popular tourism destinations, the Halkidiki peninsula provides hotels and apartments with around 100,000 rooms. Nearly 60 percent of business activity relies on the travel sector. Last year, some 1.5 million travellers visited the area, mainly from neighbouring Balkan countries. But for now, most of the resorts lie empty. And many operators dread an outbreak that would kill off their season for good. Sakis MITROLIDIS / AFP,

Greece prepared to welcome tourist flights to its island destinations on Wednesday for the first time in months, as it raced to salvage a tourism season shredded by the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 100 flights from other EU nations and a select group of non-EU countries are expected at 14 regional airports including Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Crete, airport operator Fraport said.

Flights from Britain, one of its most lucrative travel markets, are not due to restart until July 15 at the earliest, in line with EU recommendations. The same applies to the United States, Russia, Turkey and Sweden.

Greece halted most flights three months ago as part of restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus, but the measures have seen the sector’s revenues plummet.

All Greek airports are now receiving international flights and the ports of Patras and Igoumentsa will again receive ferries from Italy.

Fourteen non-EU countries — including Australia, Canada, Japan and Uruguay — have been deemed safe enough for visitors to be allowed back.

But travellers from China, where the virus first emerged late last year, will be allowed to enter only if Beijing reciprocates and opens the door to EU residents.

Travellers will be given scannable bar codes after they fill out a questionnaire with personal details such as their country of origin and the countries they have travelled through in the last 15 days.

Those who are tested will be told to isolate at the address provided on the questionnaire while waiting for the results.

“It will be a very difficult tourism season. We will do the best we can,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the cabinet this week.

Greece, which has a relatively low coronavirus death toll under 200, has launched a promotional campaign to revive tourism, which accounts for a quarter of its gross domestic product.

The country hopes to reassure potential travellers as well as Greeks, who fear a resurgence of the pandemic with the return of tourists.

Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis on Tuesday signed an agreement with German tour giant TUI aiming to bring in some 1.5 million tourists — 50 percent of the number the agent brought to Greece in 2019.

“We’re trying to save the season,” Amelia Vlachou, a jewellery shop owner on Corfu, told AFP.

“Of course it doesn’t compare with previous years when we had lots of people.”

According to Bank of Greece figures, the country in 2019 had more than 34 million visitors who spent over 18 billion euros.

Operators say a realistic revenue goal this year is up to five billion euros.

On land border crossings, travellers from Albania, North Macedonia and Turkey are only allowed in for emergency reasons or by special permission.

AFP

Burundi Changes Tack As President Declares COVID-19 ‘Biggest Enemy’

Evariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi’s elected President from the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), signs the book of condolences at the state house in Bujumbura on June 13, 2020. Tchandrou NITANGA / AFP.

 

Burundi’s new President Evariste Ndayishimiye has declared the coronavirus the country’s “biggest enemy”, in a major about-turn for a nation which has largely ignored the dangers of the virus.

Former president Pierre Nkurunziza, who died suddenly last month, and even Ndayishimiye himself, had until now downplayed the gravity of the pandemic, saying God had spared Burundi from its ravages.

Burundi held a full-blown campaign ahead of a May election, and unlike its neighbours which have imposed lockdowns and curfews, has taken few measures to combat the spread of the virus.

Officially the country has reported only 170 cases and one death in two months.

Ndayishimiye was speaking late Tuesday after the swearing in of his new government in parliament.

“From tomorrow (Wednesday), I declare the COVID-19 pandemic the biggest enemy of Burundians, because it is clear it is becoming their biggest concern,” he said.

“We firmly commit ourselves to fight this pandemic.”

– ‘Treated as a sorcerer’ –

He called for “the strict respect for preventative measures which the health ministry will from now on display across the country”.

He reminded citizens that coronavirus tests were free, as was treatment, warning those who did not get tested when they had symptoms.

“If in future someone does not go and get tested in such a case, it means he wants to contaminate others voluntarily… and he will be considered a sorcerer and treated as severely as one would be,” he said.

Burundi only has a single testing centre, with fewer than 10 technicians capable of carrying out tests for the virus.

Ndayishimiye promised testing centres would be installed and testing campaigns launched across the country.

“An enemy must be hunted wherever he hides and even when his presence is suspected.

“Everyone must know the coronavirus is a pandemic which transmits easily, and which kills if you take it lightly.”

A high-ranking health ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the turnaround comes after the World Bank donated $5 million (4,4 million euros) last month to help Burundi fight the virus.

In May, Burundi — which has increasingly isolated itself in recent years — expelled a team of World Health Organization experts who were supporting the country’s response to the pandemic.

Nkurunziza, who ruled the East Africa nation for 15 often tumultuous years, died suddenly in June aged 55 of what authorities said was heart failure.

However he became ill less than two weeks after his wife had been flown to a Nairobi hospital for treatment for coronavirus, according to a medical document seen by AFP, and speculation is rife he may have caught the virus.

A medical source told AFP he had suffered “respiratory distress” before dying.

AFP

WHO Says Pandemic ‘Not Even Close’ To Over As Toll Passes 500,000

Workers carry a bag with the body of a COVID-19 victim out of a refrigerated container before its cremation at the El Angel crematorium, in Lima on May 21, 2020 – Peru has become the second Latin American country after Brazil to reach 100,000 coronavirus cases, according to health ministry figures out Wednesday. (Photo by Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP)

 

The coronavirus pandemic is “not even close to being over”, the WHO warned Monday, as the global death toll passed half a million and cases surged in Latin America and the United States. 

In another grim milestone, the number of infections recorded worldwide topped 10 million, while some authorities reimposed lockdown measures that have crippled the economies worldwide.

“We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over,” he said, adding that “although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up.”

The virus emerged at least six months ago in China, where the WHO will send a team next week in the search for its origin, Tedros said.

COVID-19 is still rampaging across the US, which has recorded more than 125,000 deaths and 2.5 million cases — both around a quarter of the global totals.

US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the April-June quarter was expected to see the largest decline in GDP on record, adding that recovery would depend on government efforts to contain the outbreak.

Many of the south and west US states where the virus is most rampant are where state leaders pushed for early reopenings.

But even in New York, deemed to be in good health comparatively, the iconic Broadway theatre district announced it would remain closed through the end of the year.

And with numerous US states forced to reimpose restrictions on restaurants, bars and beaches, President Donald Trump has come under growing pressure to set an example by wearing a mask.

Trump’s health secretary has warned the “window is closing” for the US to regain control, but the president has largely turned away from the crisis, holding indoor rallies with big, largely maskless crowds against the advice of his experts and refusing to cover his own face in public.

– ‘Profound shock’ –
And while opposition Democrats have urged Trump to reissue an emergency declaration on coronavirus, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president had “no interest” in doing so.

However, he may not be able to avoid masks forever — the Florida city of Jacksonville, where Trump’s Republicans are due to hold their national convention in August, declared face masks mandatory on Monday.

Underlining Trump’s increasing isolation on the issue, Senate Majority Leader Mitch- McConnell, who is usually in lock step with the president, spoke out on the urgency of mask-wearing.

“We must have no stigma, none, about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people,” he said.

“Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves, it is about protecting everyone we encounter.”

The second hardest-hit country Brazil registered 259,105 infections in the seven days through Sunday — the country’s highest of any week during the pandemic.

Ireland’s pubs began pouring pints for the first time in 15 weeks, as Europe — still the hardest-hit continent — continues to open up after seeing numbers of new cases fall.

“Guinness is good for you,” quipped Mark O’Mahony — the first to order a pint with his breakfast at a Dublin pub. “Without it, it hasn’t been much good really for 15 weeks.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his country had gone through a “profound shock” as he prepared to unveil a large stimulus programme.

– Constant threat –
His government plans to reopen pubs, restaurants and hairdressers across England on July 4, but on Monday ordered schools and non-essential shops in Leicester, central England, to close after a localised outbreak.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron called for a “strong” and “efficient” recovery fund for the European Union.

In Merkel’s Germany, which has been praised for how it has tackled its COVID-19 outbreak, the North Rhine-Westphalia state extended a lockdown on a district hit hard by a slaughterhouse outbreak.

In neighbouring Switzerland, organisers said that 2021’s Geneva International Motor Show was cancelled, after already scrapping this year’s event.

China has imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people in a province surrounding Beijing to contain a fresh cluster.

In a reminder of the constant threat of newly-emerged pathogens, researchers in Chinese universities and the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced they had discovered a novel swine flu that was capable of triggering another pandemic.

Named G4, it is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009.

It possesses “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans,” said the authors of a study published Monday in the US science journal PNAS.

The Middle East’s most affected country Iran reported 162 more deaths on Monday, its highest single-day toll yet, a day after it also made mask-wearing mandatory for inside gatherings.

India, which is gradually easing a nationwide lockdown, registered a daily record of 18,500 new cases and 385 new deaths on Saturday.

Alka, one of the country’s million accredited social health activists, said it was difficult for the unprotected and poorly paid all-women workers to get people to heed their advice.

“People are struggling to feed their families,” she said. “What can we do?”

 

 

-AFP

COVID-19 Pandemic Could Lead To More Narcotic Use – UN

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank. HAZEM BADER / AFP.

 

The coronavirus pandemic could see a rise in the use and trafficking of narcotics as well as increased risks for users, the UN drugs and crime agency (UNODC) said on Thursday.

The virus could lead to an overall increase in drug use with a shift towards cheaper products and injecting, both of which could mean greater danger for users, the agency said in its 2020 World Drug Report.

The Vienna-based agency said there were lessons to be learnt from what happened in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.

The UNODC warned that drug consumption has already been rising at an “alarming” rate over the last decade.

It also warned that countries were more likely to further reduce drug-related budgets and to give less priority to anti-trafficking operations and international cooperation in the wake of the pandemic.

Rising unemployment and a lack of opportunities would increase the chances that poor and disadvantaged people “turn to illicit activities linked to drugs -– either production or transport”, the report said.

READ ALSO: UN Urges ‘Moratorium’ On Facial Recognition Tech Use In Protests

“The COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to compound drug dangers further still, when our health and social systems have been brought to the brink and our societies are struggling to cope,” UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly said in a statement accompanying the report.

“We need all governments to show greater solidarity and provide support, to developing countries most of all, to tackle illicit drug trafficking and offer evidence-based services for drug use disorders and related disease.”

– ‘Very alarming’ –

The pandemic comes on the back of a trend of already rising drug use, especially in developing countries, with UNODC finding 269 million people in 2018 had used drugs at least once, up 30 percent from a decade earlier.

“This is a very alarming increase. Not just the increase in the amount of people using drugs, but there are more youths, adolescents, children using drugs,” Waly told AFP on Thursday.

The UNODC said the pandemic could have a further “far-reaching impact”.

Border closures and other measures linked to the virus have already caused shortages of drugs on the street, leading to higher prices and reduced purity, the report said.

Drug traffickers seemed to be relying more on maritime routes, including continuing direct cocaine shipments by sea from South America to Europe, but also now transporting drugs via rivers rather than roads in Latin America, UNODC official Angela Me told a press conference.

The report, which mostly examined data up to early 2019, said the use of cocaine and methamphetamine was rising, with growing methamphetamine markets in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Global cocaine production again reached an all-time high, continuing its record-setting trend.

While the area under coca cultivation remained stable from 2017 to 2018, production has become more efficient, Me said.

Me also noted how the market in addictive drugs had become “bigger and more complex” because of an increasing number of substances being abused, some of which are currently legal.

Cannabis remains the most widely used drug worldwide with an estimated 192 million users in 2018.

But opioids, used by around 58 million people, remained the most harmful.

Opioids accounted for two-thirds of the estimated 167,000 deaths related to drug use disorders in 2017.

AFP

COVID-19 Crisis Sinks Global Economy In 2020, Collapsing GDP 4.9% – IMF

In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

The global coronavirus pandemic has sparked an economic “crisis like no other,” sending world GDP plunging 4.9 percent this year and wiping out $12 trillion over two years, the IMF said Wednesday.

Worldwide business shutdowns destroyed hundreds of millions of jobs, and major economies in Europe face double-digit collapses.

The prospects for recovery post-pandemic — like the forecasts themselves — are steeped in “pervasive uncertainty” given the unpredictable path of the virus, the IMF said in its updated World Economic Outlook.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a more negative impact on activity in the first half of 2020 than anticipated, and the recovery is projected to be more gradual than previously forecast,” the fund warned.

While businesses are reopening in many countries and China has seen a bigger rebound in activity than expected, a second wave of viral infections threatens the outlook, the report said.

World GDP is expected to rebound by just 5.4 percent in 2021, and only if all goes well, the IMF warned.

– Poor most vulnerable –

IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said under current forecasts, the crisis will destroy $12 trillion over two years, and cautioned, “we are not out of the woods.”

“Substantial joint support from fiscal and monetary policy must continue for now,” Gopinath said in a blog post.

The downturn is particularly damaging for low-income countries and households, and threatens to endanger the progress made on reducing extreme poverty, the Washington-based crisis lender said in its report.

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The fund made drastic downward revisions to most of the April forecasts made in the early days of the pandemic, and IMF economists fear the coronavirus will leave lasting scars on employment, businesses and trade.

Hanging over the predictions is the bill for massive government stimulus plans, which were fueled by extremely low interest rates and likely prevented the recession from turning into a depression even as they created huge and ever-increasing debt levels.

– Drastic, downward revisions –

The damage is nonetheless stunning, and more widespread than any downturn in recent decades. The recession in many major economies will be more than double that suffered during the global financial crisis in 2009, which came as major developing economies like China, India and Brazil were booming.

China will eke out growth of one percent this year, the only positive figure on the long list of key economies the IMF tracks.

The United States will shrink eight percent and Germany slightly less, while France, Italy, Spain and Britain will suffer double-digit contractions. Japan makes out a bit better with a drop of just 5.8 percent, according to the forecasts.

Mexico also will see a double-digit decline while Brazil just misses that mark, as does Argentina, which is in the middle of a massive debt crunch on top of its health and economic crises after the country once again defaulted on its foreign obligations.

The IMF pointed to International Labour Organization data estimating more than 300 million jobs were lost in the second quarter of the year.

The “sizeable” flood of government funds to support workers and businesses “have forestalled worse near-term losses,” but the IMF urged countries to avoid a situation where aid is “prematurely withdrawn or improperly targeted” since that could worsen the economic damage.

“A more prolonged decline in activity could lead to further scarring, including from wider firm closures, as surviving firms hesitate to hire jobseekers after extended unemployment,” the fund warned.

– Trade hit, recovery weak –

With transport and manufacturing shut down for weeks, the IMF projects global trade volume will collapse by just under 12 percent — and advanced economies will see an even more dramatic drop.

The IMF also warned of dangers posed by eroding relations between and within countries.

“Beyond pandemic-related downside risks, escalating tensions between the United States and China on multiple fronts, frayed relationships among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+) coalition of oil producers and widespread social unrest pose additional challenges to the global economy,” the report said.

Trade disruptions could undermine productivity as firms shift supply chains to try to protect themselves against future breakdowns, and companies also face higher costs as they adopt enhanced cleaning procedures and social distancing requirements.

Amid the uncertainty, there is a chance the recession could be less severe than forecast, the report said.

“Downside risks, however, remain significant,” it warned.

AFP