International News

International News (385)

03
April

 

The World Bank on Thursday (Apr 2) said it had approved an initial US$1.9 billion in emergency funds for coronavirus response operations in 25 developing countries, with more than half the aid earmarked to help fight the fast-spreading disease in India. Action on projects in scores of emerging market countries is expected in the coming days and weeks, the World Bank said. In addition, the bank said it was working to redeploy resources in existing World Bank financed projects worth up to US$1.7 billion. The bank has said it is prepared to spend up to US$160 billion over the next 15 months to combat the pandemic. World Bank Group President David Malpass said the institutional lender was moving quickly to strengthen the ability of developing countries to respond to the virus, and shorten the time to economic and social recovery//Reuters

03
April

As many as 10 million people globally may have been infected by the new coronavirus, Australia's chief medical officer said on Friday, with the under-reporting due to a lack of testing in some countries for the highly contagious respiratory disease.

A Reuters tally of official data on Friday pegged the number of COVID-19 cases caused by the virus at 1 million, but Australia's chief medical officer said the true size of the global outbreak may be up to 10 times higher.

"Worldwide we have passed 1 million infections. But we believe the true number is five or 10 times as much," Brendan Murphy told reporters.

Murphy said the mortality rates vary so much around the world that he believes many infections are going undetected.

The World Health Organization has called on countries to significantly increase testing for coronavirus, while some critics have also highlighted differences in how some countries count coronvirus cases.

China - where the outbreak began late last year - has only recently started counting asymptomatic cases of coronavirus, prompting criticism from some international experts.

Without criticizing China or any other countries, Murphy said he did not trust any data beyond Australia's.

"The only numbers I have total faith in are the Australian numbers, frankly."

02
April

 

China on Wednesday said it has more than 1,300 asymptomatic coronavirus cases, the first time it has released such data following public concern over people who have tested positive but are not showing symptoms.  As quoted by AFP.com (01/4), Health officials also reported the first imported case from abroad in Wuhan -- the epicentre where the virus first emerged late last year -- heightening fears of infections being brought into China from other countries. Of 36 new cases reported Wednesday, 35 were imported from abroad. The National Health Commission (NHC) said 1,367 asymptomatic patients were under medical observation, with 130 new cases added in the last day. The NHC announced Tuesday that it would respond "to public concerns" by starting to publish daily data on asymptomatic cases, which it said were infectious. There were mass calls online calls for the information after authorities revealed over the weekend that an infected woman in Henan province had been in close contact with three asymptomatic cases//AFP

02
April

The US Navy is evacuating thousands of sailors from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam after its captain warned a coronavirus outbreak was threatening the lives of the crew. As quoted by AFP.com (02/4) Ninety-three COVID-19 cases have been discovered among the 4,800-strong Roosevelt crew so far, according to the US Navy. Pentagon officials said Wednesday they were rapidly arranging hotel rooms on the Pacific island for many of the crew, while organizing a skeleton team of uninfected sailors to keep the ship operational. Rear Admiral John Menoni, commander for the Marianas region, told reporters in Guam on Wednesday that the plan at this time is to remove as many people off the Teddy Roosevelt as the government can, understanding that we have to leave a certain amount of folks on-board to perform normal watch-standing duties that keep the ship running. Speaking in Washington, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said that almost 1,000 of the crew had been removed, and the number would rise to 2,700 within a couple days, and more after that//AFP

02
April

As a leader in global health and humanitarian response to COVID-19, the United States (US) has acted swiftly to support ASEAN partners in combating the spread of the virus.According to a statement from the U.S. Mission to ASEAN received by Antara News Agency in Bekasi West Java, Wednesday, since the outbreak occurred, the US government has offered approximately US$18.3 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to ASEAN member states.Globally, as of March 26, 2020, the US has offered an initial investment of nearly $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to help countries in need, over and above the funding already provided to multilateral organizations, such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF//ANT

02
April

Iran's death toll from the coronavirus has passed 3,000, the health ministry said on Wednesday, as President Hassan Rouhani accused Washington of missing a "historic opportunity" to lift sanctions.

Tensions between the arch-foes have soared since President Donald Trump abandoned a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions.

Tehran has repeatedly called on Washington to reverse its policy, which has been opposed by US allies, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the coronavirus death toll in Iran now stood at 3,036 following 138 new fatalities in the past 24 hours.

He added that 2,987 new cases had been confirmed, bringing the total to 47,593, with 15,473 of those hospitalized having recovered and been discharged.

"This was the best, historic opportunity for the Americans to reverse their wrong path and for once, tell their nation they are not against the Iranian people," Rouhani said in televised comments at a cabinet meeting.

They "did not learn their lesson even during this difficult global situation," he said.

"This was a humanitarian issue. No one would have blamed them for retreating."

Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the US sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process purchases for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.

Countries including Azerbaijan, Britain, China, France, Germany, Japan, Qatar, Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have all sent shipments of medical aid to Iran.

European nations have also delivered medical goods to Iran in the first transaction under the Instex financing mechanism set up to get round US sanctions, Germany said on Tuesday.

It is more than a year since Britain, France and Germany announced the creation of Instex, a delay that has prompted Iran to question European governments' commitment to seeing it through in defiance of the Trump administration.

02
April

He doesn't wear a mask but he is helping save lives from coronavirus just the same. Meet Tommy, the robot nurse.

Tommy is one of six new robots helping flesh-and-blood doctors and nurses care for coronavirus patients at the Circolo Hospital in Varese, a city in the northern Lombardy region that is the epicenter of the outbreak in Italy.

"It's like having another nurse without problems related to infection," said Doctor Francesco Dentali, director of intensive care at the hospital.

The child-size robots with large blinking eyes are wheeled into rooms and left by a patient's bedside so doctors can look after others who are in more serious conditions.

They monitor parameters from equipment in the room, relaying them to hospital staff. The robots have touch-screen faces that allow patients to record messages and send them to doctors.

Most importantly, Tommy and his high-tech teammates allow the hospital to limit the amount of direct contact doctors and nurses have with patients, thus reducing the risk of infection.

More than 4,000 Italian health workers have contracted the virus treating victims in Italy and 66 doctors have died.

The death toll in Italy, the world's hardest hit country in terms of deaths, topped 13,000 on Wednesday, more than a third of all global fatalities.

"Using my abilities, medical staff can be in touch with the patients without direct contact," Tommy the robot, who was named after a son of one of the doctors, explained to a visiting reporter on Wednesday.

It takes a while for patients to realize that, given the enormity of the task of combating coronavirus and the toll it is taking on overworked medical staff, robots may be just what the doctor ordered.

"You have to explain to the patient the aim and function of the robot," Dentali said.

"The first reaction is not positive, especially for old patients. But if you explain your aim, the patient is happy because he or she can speak with the doctor," he said.

The robots also help the hospital limit the number of protective masks and gowns staff have to use.

"These days, they are a scarce resource," said Doctor Gianni Bonelli, the hospital's director.

The shortage of masks has been one of the biggest problems dogging the national health system since the contagion surfaced at the end of February.

The national commissioner for the emergency has said it will take Italy at least two months to become self-sufficient in producing protective masks.

Tommy and his fellow robot nurses have one more advantage - they are not subject to exhaustion. A quick charge of batteries and they are back at work in the ward. 

 
01
April

U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held out the possibility on Tuesday that the United States may consider easing sanctions on Iran and other nations to help fight the coronavirus epidemic but gave no concrete sign it plans to do so. The comments reflected a shift in tone by the U.S. State Department, which has come under withering criticism for its hard line toward sanctions relief even in the face of a call by the U.N. secretary-general to ease U.S. economic penalties.

Pompeo stressed that humanitarian supplies are exempt from sanctions Washington reimposed on Tehran after President Donald Trump abandoned Iran’s 2015 multilateral deal to limit its nuclear program.

However, broader U.S. sanctions deter many firms from humanitarian trade with Iran, one of the nations hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic.

Asked if there might come a point at which Washington might reevaluate its stance on easing sanctions, Pompeo told reporters: “We evaluate all of our policies constantly, so the answer is - would we ever rethink? - Of course.”

Asked about such relief on March 20, Pompeo simply said U.S. sanctions do not apply to medical and other humanitarian goods.

Washington is pursuing a “maximum pressure” policy to try to force Tehran to curb its nuclear, missile and regional activities.

Iran has accused the United States of “medical terror,” prompting Pompeo’s spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, on Monday to tweet: “Stop lying. ... It’s not the sanctions. It’s the regime.”

France, Germany and Britain have exported medical goods to Iran in the first transaction under a trade mechanism set up to barter humanitarian goods and food, Germany said.

Jon Alterman, a Middle East analyst at Washington’s CSIS think tank, said Pompeo’s shift in tone might be a response to the European move.

“There is an Iranian effort to peel off Europe ... Holding open the possibility of reconsidering is an effort to keep Europe on side,” he added, though he saw little chance of a U.S. policy shift. “In the current environment, the chances are very low, but the environment keeps changing.”

Pompeo has been sharply criticized for the administration’s stance on Iran sanctions. In recent weeks, the United States has repeatedly tightened sanctions on Iran, notably seeking to make it harder for it to export oil. (REUTERS)

31
March

 

English football's major stakeholders will meet on Friday to discuss their options to rescue a season derailed by the coronavirus outbreak. The Premier League campaign has been postponed until at least April 30 because of the pandemic, but the chances of a return in May look bleak. As quoted by AFP.com (31/3) ,  AFP Sport takes a closer look at the various scenarios that are likely to be considered in the talks over if and how to finish the season. One option is for clubs to converge on a neutral location in which all remaining games are played behind closed doors, with only essential personnel and broadcasters allowed to attend.There is believed to be growing support among clubs for this plan, with nine rounds of matches potentially in line to be staged in June and July//AFP

31
March

 

Harsh lockdowns aimed at halting the march of the coronavirus pandemic extended worldwide Monday as the death toll soared past 37,500 amid new waves of US outbreaks. Despite slivers of hope in stricken Italy and Spain, the tough measures that have confined some two-fifths of the globe's population to their homes were broadened. As quoted by AFP.com (31/3), Moscow and Lagos joined the roll call of cities around the world with empty streets, while Virginia and Maryland became the latest US states to announce stay-at-home orders, followed quickly by Washington DC, leaving three-quarters of Americans under some form of lockdown. A US military medical ship steamed into New York, where it will relieve pressure on the city's badly stretched health system. A field hospital set up in Central Park was due to go online later Tuesday. The scale and speed of the US pandemic continued to expand, with the death toll topping 3,000 out of 163,000 known infections -- the highest case count for any country. President Donald Trump sought to reassure Americans that authorities were ramping up distribution of desperately needed equipment such as ventilators and personal protective gear. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world is now above three-quarters of a million, with around 37,000 deaths.The toll on health systems is staggering, with medical professionals under enormous strain//AFP