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Coronavirus - 21st July


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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 06:17

Summary for Tuesday, 21st July

  • EU leaders have agreed details of a huge economic recovery fund, after four days of talks
  • The agreement will provide €750bn (£677bn; $859bn) in loans and grants to member states
  • The WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan says they are seeing "an acceleration of disease in Africa"
  • A surge in South Africa could be a "precursor" for outbreaks across the continent, he says
  • Africa has not been as badly affected as other regions but South Africa now has 350,000 cases
  • Promising early research shows an Oxford University-developed vaccine triggers an immune response
  • More countries are bringing in rules to require people to wear masks in public places
  • There have been 14.6 million infections worldwide and more than 600,000 deaths

Welcome back to our coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic. Here are the headlines to bring you up to speed this Tuesday.

  • In Europe, EU leaders have reached a breakthrough deal for a huge recovery fund to help member states deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic. After what was supposed to be a two-day summit pushed deep into the fourth night, leaders agreed on €750bn (£677bn; $859bn) worth of grants and loans
  • The World Health Organization says it is seeing “an acceleration” of the outbreak in Africa, warning that the surge in South Africa could be a precursor for more outbreaks across the continent
  • Researchers at Oxford University say a vaccine they are working on successfully triggers an immune response. Researchers in China, Europe and the US have seen similar results in separate vaccine trials
  • More countries are expanding rules to get more people to wear masks. France and Hong Kong have made masks mandatory in public indoor spaces and Malaysia is considering a similar rule

EU breakthrough deal on Covid recovery package

European Union leaders have agreed on a massive post-Covid economic recovery package after talks went into a fourth night.
It will see the 27-nation bloc offering €750bn (£677bn; $859bn) in grants and loans to counter the economic impact of the pandemic.
French President Emmanuel Macron said it was a "historic day" though details of the deal have not yet been made public.
The marathon talks had stretched far into a fourth night in Brussels - their summit was initially scheduled to last only two days.
Member states were mostly split between those hit hardest by the outbreak, and those concerned about the costs of the recovery plan.
The breakthrough came after EU Council President Charles Michel presented a new proposal which reduces the amount of money available as grants as opposed to loans.

Europe 'is a force for action'

The EU's landmark deal on the recovery plan for its pandemic-hit economies shows the bloc can stand together with a common belief in their future, European Council President Charles Michel told reporters on Tuesday morning.
"This agreement sends a concrete signal that Europe is a force for action," he said at a dawn news conference after the difficult summit went through the night into a fifth day.
"It is about a lot more than money. It is about workers and families, their jobs, their health and their well-being. I believe this agreement will be seen as a pivotal moment in Europe's journey, but it will also launch us into the future."

Oxford vaccine latest to show promise

A coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford appears safe and triggers an immune response .
The vaccine resembles the coronavirus itself and the immune system can learn how to attack it. It is still at development stage though, and will have to go through further rounds of testing.
A technique similar to the Oxford one, developed in China, also seems promising and research in Germany and the US has yielded similar results.
In total there are 23 vaccines in clinical trials around the world and another 140 in early stage development.
Even if developed by the end of the year, a vaccine will not be widely available immediately. Widespread vaccination is likely to be, at the earliest, next year even if everything goes to plan.

What's the latest in Australia?

As we've been reporting this past month, Australia is trying to get on top of an outbreak in Melbourne.
In developments today:

  • Another 374 infections were recorded in the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital and biggest concern
  • Three more people have died, taking Australia’s toll to 126 from about 12,000 cases in total
  • A new lockdown in Melbourne is "having a direct impact" despite numbers not falling as quickly as many hoped, according to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews
  • And Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australians eligible for the government’s Jobkeeper welfare scheme will receive fortnightly payments of A$1,200 from September, down from A$1,500 currently

Why did the EU deal take that long?

The breakthrough followed days of marathon talks in which tempers were often frayed.
Member states were split between those hit hard by the outbreak and keen to revive their economies, and the wealthier members states more concerned about the costs of the recovery plan.
The self-proclaimed frugal four - Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands - had opposed allowing €500bn to be offered in the form of grants. The group originally set €375bn as the limit, in addition to wanting conditions such as the right to block requests.
Other members, such as Spain and Italy, did not want to go below €400bn though.
At one point French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly banged his fists on the table, as he told the "frugal four" he thought they were putting the European project in danger.

How does the EU deal work?

The European Commission will borrow money and pass that money on to member states - either as loans that have to be repaid or as grants. With its triple-A rating, the Commission can borrow money cheaper than most of the individual member states would be able to.
Much of the quarrelling was over how the overall amount would be split between loans and grants. The wealthier member states wanted more of it as loans while the ones harder hit by the virus, wanted more of it as grants.
In the end, leaders agreed that the Commission will borrow 750bn euros. Of that, it would disburse 390bn in grants and 360bn in cheap loans.

WHO warns over Africa escalation

The World Health Organization has warned that Africa might be headed for a much larger outbreak than current numbers are suggesting.
"I am very concerned right now that we are beginning to see an acceleration of disease in Africa," WHO's emergencies chief Michael Ryan said.
So far, the continent has managed to avoid becoming a hotspot with around 15,000 deaths and 725,000 confirmed infections.
But a surge in South Africa - the continent's worst-hit country - could be seen as a warning for what might happen to the rest of Africa. There are more than 370,000 cases and 5,000 deaths in the country.
"This isn't just a wake-up call for South Africa," Ryan said. "We need to take what is happening in Africa very, very seriously."

Sailing across the Atlantic to see his parents

Coronavirus: The man who sailed the Atlantic Ocean to see his elderly parents

You wouldn't think sailing across the Atlantic alone would be the safest route from Portugal to Argentina.
But that's what Juan Manuel Ballestero did when flights were cancelled and borders shut, at the start of the coronavirus lockdown.
He spoke to the BBC at the end of an 85-day journey.

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 07:15

EU leaders praise virus deal

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French President Emmanuel Macron has praised the EU's historic deal, saying "there is no such thing as a perfect world, but we have made progress".
He said the deal followed long and difficult negotiations, during which concessions had to be made to win over member states whose objections blocked the deal.
But the concessions were necessary to deliver a recovery plan big enough to be effective, he added.
"Never before did the EU invest in the future like this," Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Williams said.
The 27 leaders were said to have bumped elbows and made jokes before finally approving the deal.
"An extraordinary situation demands extraordinary efforts," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump pushes masks as California sees record rise

The US continues to see rising cases across many states. On Monday, California recorded a daily rise of more than 11,800 new infections according to a Reuters tally.
That would make it the highest daily number the state has seen so far and if California was its own country, it would now rank fifth in the world after the US, Brazil, India and Russia.
Meanwhile, President Trump has tweeted a photograph of himself with a face mask - a rare occurrence as he has often refused to be seen wearing one.
In the accompanying text, he says many people believe it is a patriotic duty to wear a mask if they can't socially distance. Health experts in the US have long urged both the public and the president to wear face masks to get the pandemic under control.
The US has more than 3.7 million infections and 14,500 deaths have been linked to Covid-19.
tweet  Donald J. Trump:
:Left Quotes:  We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!
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Oxford vaccine trials to begin in India soon

Indian researchers partnering with those at Oxford University on the vaccine say local trials will begin soon after a license has been obtained, reported local media.
The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford appears safe and triggers an immune response. It is still at development stage though and will go through further rounds of testing.
The chief of Serum Institute of India, the firm partnering with the UK researchers, said the trials "have shown promising results" .
"We will be applying for the licensure trials to the Indian regulator in a week's time. As soon as they grant us permission, we will begin with the trials for the vaccine in India. In addition, we will soon start manufacturing the vaccine in large volumes," Adar Poonawalla told Indian media outlets.
With more than a million confirmed infections, India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the US and Brazil.

The latest from the UK

If you're just joining us from the UK, here's the latest stories this morning:

  • Almost 900,000 public sector workers, many of whom have been on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus, are to get an above-inflation pay rise
  • Misleading and harmful online content about Covid-19 has spread "virulently" because the UK still lacks a law to regulate social media, an influential group of MPs has warned
  • There could be more than 3,500 avoidable cancer deaths in England in the next five years as a result of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, researchers say

Latin America roundup: Brazilian ministers test positive

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A grave site in Brazil, where more than two million cases have been confirmed

The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged parts of Latin America, with particularly severe outbreaks in Brazil, Peru and Mexico. Here are the latest developments from the region:

  • Brazil’s coronavirus death toll passed 80,000 on Tuesday, as the country’s struggle to contain the world’s second-worst outbreak continued
  • Meanwhile, two Brazilian government ministers said on Monday they had tested positive, adding to the list of officials with the disease. One of them was Citizenship Minister Onyx Lorenzoni, a close ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, who also has tested positive for the virus
  • Dozens of infections were recorded at a mining company in the central Mexican state of Puebla on Monday. Minera Autlan said 85 people were infected, one of the worst outbreaks at a single company in the country
  • The Bahamas said it would ban travellers from the US and other countries where virus cases were surging from Wednesday
  • In Colombia, President Ivan Duque said the country’s "most challenging moments of the pandemic” were yet to come in a speech on Independence Day. Colombia's confirmed cases topped 200,000 on Monday

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 11:32

UK government deficit reaches £35.5bn in June

The UK government spent £35.5bn more than it received in taxes last month - a smaller deficit than May's £45.5bn.
This was due to less being spent on furlough schemes and more tax being taken in, as non-essential shops and other venues reopened.
But it is still the third largest deficit on record and five times as high as last June.
So far the deficit has reached £128bn this financial year. Economists reckon that over the year as a whole it will exceed £300bn - the largest as a percentage of GDP in peacetime.
Read the full story here.

India's biggest airline IndiGo to cut 10% of staff

In yet another example of just how hard the aviation industry has been hit by the coronavirus, India’s largest airline has said it will shed 10% of its staff.
Last month, the carrier said it would cut up to $533m (£420m) in costs as it grapples with a slump in revenues.
IndiGo, which has been grounded for several months as India imposed a strict lockdown, employs around 24,000 people which means some 2,400 jobs are on the line.
"It is impossible for our company to fly through this economic storm without making some sacrifices, in order to sustain our business operations", the company’s chief executive Ronojoy Dutta said in a letter to investors.

China requires passengers to take tests before boarding flights

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China has allowed flights to and from the country, but restrictions are in place

Chinese aviation authorities have said passengers who book flights to the country must prove they have recently tested negative for Covid-19 before they board.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said on Monday passengers are required take the nucleic acid tests in the five days before boarding the flight.
The tests must be carried out by institutions approved by Chinese embassies in each country, the CAAC said on its website .
It said passengers who do not provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test will not be able to board flights to China.
Commercial flights are operating to and from China, but restrictions on movement and quarantine arrangements remain for travel between different parts of the country.
China, where the coronavirus originated late last year, has largely managed to bring its epidemic under control, with localised outbreaks remaining in some regions.

Pay rise for almost 900,000 UK public sector workers is 'affordable'

An above-inflation pay rise for almost 900,000 public sector workers is affordable, the policing minister has insisted.
However, some bodies representing groups including doctors, teachers and police officers said the increase - up to 3.1% - was less than workers deserved, particularly following the increased pressures of the coronavirus period.
Concerns have also been raised that the pay rise could lead to cuts in other areas and a reduced workforce.
But Minister Kit Malthouse told BBC Breakfast the rise was recommended by independent pay review bodies, which take into account affordability, and the government had accepted all their suggestions for 2020-21.
Read more on this story here.

Minister explains why care workers miss out on pay rise

The UK government has defended not including social care workers in the 900,000 people who are set to get an above-inflation pay rise next year.
Doctors, teachers and police officers are among the public sector workers who will receive salary increases of up to 3.1% in 2020-21 , which the government says recognises their "vital contribution" during the pandemic.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said the vast majority of care workers were in the private sector and the government had increased the minimum wage to help such employees.
"We recognise the enormous value of the work of people in the care sector in very, very difficult circumstances… but we’re dealing with the mechanism that we’ve got at the moment," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 11:43

A day in the life of a contact tracer

Coronavirus in South Africa: A day in the life of a contact tracer

South Africa is currently experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases – the latest figures show more than 370,000 confirmed cases and over 5,000 deaths.
From the beginning of the pandemic, the country has been utilising contract tracers to try and slow the spread. The work of these frontline workers is rapidly becoming busier and more dangerous.
The BBC gained exclusive access to follow one small team in the city of Bloemfontein.

EU deal will ‘change face of country, Italy’s PM says

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Giuseppe Conte said the EU plan would allow Italy to "restart with strength"

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said the EU’s recovery plan will allow his government "to change the face of the country” as it seeks to reboot its coronavirus-battered economy.
About €750bn (£677bn; $859bn) in grants and loans will be distributed to the EU’s 27 member states as part of the deal.
Of those funds, €209bn - some 28% - will be made available for Italy, including €81bn in grants and €127bn in loans, Mr Conte said.
The deal centred on a €390bn programme of grants to member states hardest hit by the pandemic, including Italy and Spain.
Italy has suffered one of worst coronavirus outbreaks in Europe, recording more than 240,000 cases and 35,000 deaths to date.
Mr Conte said the EU deal would give Italy "the opportunity to restart with strength".
"Now we have to run and use these funds for investments and structural reforms. We have a real chance to make Italy greener, more digital, more innovative, more sustainable, inclusive. We have the chance to invest in schools, universities, research and infrastructures,” Mr Conte said.
Read more: EU leaders reach recovery deal after marathon summit

Police 'will not patrol shops' to enforce face covering rules

Police in England will not be patrolling shops to ensure people wear face coverings, the policing minister has said.
In response to concerns from some forces that they do not have the capacity to police the wearing of face coverings, Kit Malthouse said in the first instance the public would be encouraged to comply with the rules but if they resisted or refused to leave the premises, police could be called.
"What we hope and believe is that the vast majority of people will recognise that we all have a collective responsibility towards our individual health and will comply," he told BBC Breakfast.
From Friday, it will be compulsory to wear a face covering in shops in England, while they are already mandatory in Scotland - with the possibility of fines for those who don't follow the rules.
Read more about the rules of face coverings here.

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 11:53

EU summit - the longest ever, nearly

Gavin Lee - BBC Europe reporter
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European Council President Charles Michel hailed the deal as "historic"

After four nights and creeping into five days, the deal for the coronavirus recovery fund and EU budget was reached at 05:40 this morning. It was a marathon of negotiations, which almost became the longest in EU history.
The EU enlargement summit in Nice 20 years ago lasted only 25 minutes longer.
As EU leaders spoke to the press this morning, there was a notable difference in the way each spoke of the deal.
EU Presidents Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen used the terms “historic agreement”.
Not so, according to the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who said “that’s a word I wouldn’t use”.
The Dutch were in favour of loans, not grants. They haggled with EU leaders to change the original proposal from €500bn (£451; $572) in grants, down to €390bn.
But by keeping the “stiff leg”, as the Dutch say, they managed to negotiate a much bigger rebate in return, alongside Sweden, Denmark and Austria - te self-proclaimed "frugal four".
For leaders who were on the other side of the argument, the deep frustration, including table thumping anger from the French President during the summit, appears to have dissipated.
Earlier this morning, I asked President Macron whether he still felt that the ‘frugal four’ had damaged the European project by their hard bargaining, as he’s reported to have told them. He said “We learn a lot from each other in these conflicts… It’s legitimate that we have different sensibilities” adding “If we don’t take into account the realities, we’d put these leaders in a difficult spot and it would favour the populists."
The so called Club Med countries of Spain, Italy and Portugal appear content with the smaller size of grants available. The Portuguese PM Antonio Costa told us that “while it’s true that it could have had a slightly bigger dimension, the recovery plan is robust enough to respond to the current estimates of the coronavirus crisis.”
As for Europe’s most powerful leader, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, I asked her about the new power balance in the EU and the emergence of the frugal four as a major player. She said: “During the last negotiations (on the EU budget) David Cameron’s view loomed large. Now he is no longer with us, others have come to the fore. There is a new dynamism” she said.

EU deal - what the papers say

BBC Monitoring - The world through its media
Our colleagues at BBC Monitoring have been sampling reaction to the EU deal from around the continent.
"The EU is still alive. For a change, that's good news," says Germany’s Spiegel correspondent Ronald Nelles, capturing a general relief expressed by many in response to the agreed EU recovery plan, which is hailed in many dailies as "unprecedented" and "historic".
"Everyone can feel a little bit like a winner so that they look as good as possible at home," Nelles says.
Spain's El Pais calls it "a milestone in the budgetary evolution of the club that has never been so far on the path towards a possible fiscal union”.
But several commentators also note the deal's many compromises, including "the giving up of many of the targets [the EU] had set for itself," according to Italy's Il Foglio.
EU Council President Charles Michel "will have to justify to the EU Parliament the fact that the finished paper does not include expenditure on many research and climate projects ", agrees Austria's Der Standard.
Some see it as a particular victory for Poland and Hungary, who originally opposed the linking of loans to compliance with EU democratic principles and the rule of law.
"Given the majority required for penalties, it is extremely unlikely that the protection mechanism will ever be used effectively ," says Germany's SuddeutscheZeitung.
The Polish prime minister also “boasted that Poland had successfully resisted linking the portion of the money with a commitment to the fight against global warming”, notes a correspondent in GazetaWyborcza, quoting Mateusz Morawiecki as saying: “We won better rules than the European Commission proposed.”
"The undeniable victory that this is for Paris and Berlin... will also have a bitter aftertaste," says France's Les Echos. "Even hand in hand and without having to confront British roadblocks, this couple is no longer almighty in Europe .

The EU deal: How much will each country receive?

Several countries have announced how much of the EU’s €750bn recovery package will be made available to them.
Those that had the most severe coronavirus outbreaks, Italy and Spain for example, will receive the most financial support from the EU. Here is what we know so far about how the funds will be distributed:

  • As reported earlier, Italy has been given €209bn, including €81bn in grants and €127bn in loans
  • The deal will see €140bn sent to Spain, €72.7bn of which will be grants and the rest in loans
  • Greece said the EU would allocate it around €72bn to help deal with the fallout from Covid-19, but did not specify if that was in the form of grants or loans
  • France's government said it would get €40 in subsidies as part of the deal, with further details of its recovery plan to be announced on 24 August

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 12:02

Leicester could have avoided lockdown, mayor says

A lockdown in Leicester could have been avoided if local powers had been available sooner, the UK city's mayor has said.
A spike in coronavirus cases saw restrictions tightened again across the city on 29 June.
On Friday, Boris Johnson unveiled powers for councils to use targeted lockdowns in response to local spikes, allowing them to close shops, cancel events and shut outdoor public spaces in certain postcodes.
But Sir Peter Soulsby said these were needed "three or four weeks ago", and could have saved the city from the government's "sledgehammer" approach.

'Our neighbours made us Covid-19 pariahs'

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India has the world's third-largest case load of Covid-19.
And there's anxiety and confusion among people living in a bustling coastal village in the southern state of Kerala these days, writes the BBC's Soutik Biswas.
The 4,000-odd families of Poonthura, a hamlet of fishermen next door to the capital city of Trivandrum, have been served with strict stay-at-home orders.
Nobody can enter or leave the place. Businesses are shut and transport suspended. Commandos and policemen have patrolled the streets to enforce a stringent lockdown.
There has been a sharp spike in infections in Kerala, which earlier seemed to have tamed the outbreak.
Read Soutik's article in full here

UK deaths 6% below expected levels

Robert Cuffe - BBC head of statistics
Just under 10,000 deaths were registered in the UK during the week of 10 July, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.
That is about 600 (or 6%) below the average for that week in the preceding five years.
Some of the very elderly or vulnerable people who have died during the epidemic might have died this summer had they not been infected.
According to the ONS: "These deaths occurring earlier than expected could contribute to a period of deaths below the five-year average.”
Deaths in hospitals and care homes are now running below their expected levels in Great Britain, but we are still seeing more deaths in private homes than the five-year average would predict.
The number of death certificates mentioning Covid-19 fell to 388, its lowest since the week before lockdown was announced.

Buenos Aires reopens for business

Buenos Aires has begun lifting lockdown restrictions as Argentina balances the economic cost of the pandemic against the risk of continued spread.
The social-distancing measures are being eased despite a recent spike in new infections totalling more than 3,000 a day since early July.
Argentina's President, Alberto Fernandez, announced the phased relaxation of restrictions last week.
As part of the first phase, which runs until 2 August, outdoor exercise will be permitted and non-essential businesses, such as hairdressers and professional services, will be allowed to reopen.
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Non-essential businesses have been allowed to reopen in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta urged people to be responsible because "personal contact is by far the largest source of infection”.
In lockdown since 20 March, Buenos Aires has been badly affected by the pandemic, recording a large portion of Argentina’s total infections and deaths.
Last month the Argentine government extended and tightened a lockdown in and around Buenos Aires following a sharp rise in cases.
In total, the country has reported 130,774 infections and 2,373 deaths to date, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University

UK slow on testing and PPE - Sage member

The UK was "slow" to implement measures such as increased testing and personal protective equipment for health workers, a member of the government's scientific advisory group, Sage, has told MPs.
Describing January and February as "absolutely critical", Wellcome Trust director Sir Jeremy Farrar said countries like Korea, Singapore and Vietnam learnt from previous epidemics and acted quicker, meaning the virus did not take off in the same way there.
He also told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee that he regrets Sage was not more "blunt" and "robust" in its advice.
The committee will also hear from the government's chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, and England's deputy chief medical officers, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam and Dr Jenny Harries, later.

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 17:06

EU deal - key details

To help you understand the coronavirus recovery deal agreed by the EU on Tuesday, here are some of the key details:
How will the money be raised?
The €750bn package of grants and loans will be borrowed from financial markets by the EU’s executive, the European Commission. The Commission has a triple-A credit rating, meaning it can borrow more cheaply than most EU member states.
What will the money be spent on?
The EU will disburse €390bn in grants and €360bn in low-interest loans to EU member states. Most of the grants - about €312.5bn - will be given to national governments that present plans to strengthen their economies. The remaining €77.5bn of grants will go to EU-led programmes, such as rural development, research and the green transition.
How will the money be repaid?
The EU has agreed to repay all the new debt by 2058. To that end, leaders agreed to levy taxes domestically, including:

  • A tax on non-recycled plastic
  • A tax on goods imported from countries with lower carbon emissions standards than the EU from 2023

Government followed advice of Sage on lockdown timing - Whitty

There has been a great deal of focus on the timing of the UK government's decision to start the lockdown in March.
Last month, former government adviser Prof Neil Ferguson suggested coronavirus deaths in the UK would have been halved if lockdown had been introduced a week earlier.
The government's chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, has just told MPs that ministers followed the advice of Sage scientists on the timing.
"I am confident that the ministers at the time who were put in an incredibly difficult position, in my view followed the advice given by Sage… with a delay that was no more than you would reasonably expect for what are really very difficult things to operationalise and decide" he told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee.
He added that he did not think there was "huge delay between the advice that ministers received, given the enormity of the difficulties that we were asking of people and the practical implications of what was being done".

UK cabinet meets in person for first time since March

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has met his cabinet in person for the first time in four months, telling them his government's "radical and reforming" agenda would not be "blown off course" by coronavirus.
Senior ministers met in the Foreign Office, rather than the smaller cabinet room in Downing Street to allow for social distancing.
Warning of "bumpy months ahead", Johnson told his cabinet: "For the next few months we have to strike a balance - we have to continue to push down on this virus and keep it under control in the heroic way the British people have managed so far."
"But we must also cautiously, while observing the rules on social distancing, get our economy moving again and get our people back into work," he added.
He praised the cabinet for setting "an example" by meeting face to face while observing social distancing.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 17:14

Dr Fauci to throw first pitch as baseball returns

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Dr Fauci is an avid supporter of the Washington Nationals

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the US, will throw the first ceremonial pitch for the Washington Nationals when the pandemic-delayed baseball season restarts on Thursday.
The Nationals, the reigning World Series champions, will host the New York Yankees in the first game since the pandemic brought the season to a halt in March.
"Dr Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honour him as we kick off the 2020 season and defend our World Series Championship title," the Nationals said in a statement.
With restrictions on crowds at live sporting events in place, no fans will be in attendance to see Dr Fauci’s pitch at the behind-closed-doors game.
Reputed to be a Nationals super-fan, Dr Fauci will no doubt relish the occasion regardless.
As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Fauci has been thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic, drawing praise and criticism for his handling of the outbreak.
His sometimes tense relationship with US President Donald Trump has played out in the media throughout the pandemic.

Record daily death toll for Iran

Iran has reported 229 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours - its highest daily toll so far.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said the number of deaths now stood at 14,634. There are 278,827 infections across the country.
Iran has seen a resurgence of the virus since it eased lockdown measures in mid-April, in part to restart an economy already hit hard by US sanctions.
President Hassan Rouhani said earlier this month that Iran could not afford to shut down the economy again, and Iranians have been urged to wear face masks and refrain from holding large gatherings.

'Very low' chance of vaccine before Christmas - Whitty

Back to the Commons health committee hearing.
The UK's chief medical officer, Prof Chis Whitty, told MPs he would "very much doubt" that there would be a legal requirement to have a coronavirus vaccine in the future, and he would expect it to be free - but that is a policy decision.
“No one should be under any illusions - the chance of us getting a vaccine before Christmas that is actually is highly effective are, in my view, very low,” he says.
But his deputy, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, says he is "cautiously optimistic" that there will be a vaccine this side of Christmas.
"If we do, we will not have any data on whether it can be given at the same time as flu vaccine," he says.
He adds that the development of a combined coronavirus and flu vaccine will take "many, many years in the future to achieve".
Read more about the development of a vaccine here.

New Scotland cases linked to test and trace call centre workers

The majority of new coronavirus cases in Scotland are in Lanarkshire following an outbreak at a local call centre, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The first minister told her daily briefing that there had been 22 fresh positive results and most were in Lanarkshire.
The first minister said "at least some of them" were connected to the Sitel call centre which was carrying out Test and Trace for NHS England.
A Scottish government resilience meeting will be held later, chaired by Ms Sturgeon. She said the meeting would consider the latest situation and any further action that may be required.
"These figures are a sharp reminder that the virus is circulating in Scotland and a reminder that if we allow it to, it will spread rapidly in social settings or workplaces," she said.
The total number of positive cases in Scotland stands at 18,474. No deaths of people who tested positive were recorded between Monday and Tuesday, keeping the death toll at 2,941.

Brazil's Covid-positive president praises controversial drug

Christopher Giles - BBC Reality Check
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Jair Bolsonaro has been convalescing at the presidential palace while he has Covid-19

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has held a packet of hydroxychloroquine in front of a crowd of supporters which he claims has made him feel better.
Bolsonaro, who has tested positive for coronavirus, is taking the anti-malarial pill on the recommendation of a military doctor and has consistently touted the drug as a treatment.
However, results from the UK Recovery trial, a large randomised study, said that the drug was not effective in treating patients with coronavirus.
It concluded that "there is no beneficial effect of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised with Covid-19" and the drug has now been pulled from the trial.
Most scientist believe the biggest hope for the drug could be as a preventative measure against Covid-19, but it is so far unproven as we await results from large-scale studies.
The World Health Organization has previously issued warnings against self-medicating with the drug because of reports of heart problems.
Read more from Reality Check: What do we know about hydroxychloroquine?

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 17:20

Nurse leaves hospital after 40-day coma

A nurse who had been in a coma for 40 days with coronavirus has been given an emotional send-off from hospital by her colleagues.
Ayesha Orlanda, 52, a senior sister at Bradford Royal Infirmary, in northern England, had been in intensive care for 41 days after being admitted in May.
She had been critically ill but says she now has a "second chance at life".
You can watch the video of staff applauding Ms Orlanda as she leaves hospital below and read more on this story here .

Myanmar high schools reopen after safety inspections

Nyein Chan Aye - BBC News Burmese
More than 3,000 high schools in Myanmar have reopened today after nearly two months of delay caused by the pandemic.
Health authorities conducted inspections in high schools across the country from 17-20 July.
High schools can only reopen after thorough disinfection and enough hand-washing facilities are installed. Each classroom can only accommodate 20 students, and desks have to be at least six feet apart.
Students and teachers also have to get their temperature taken before entering school premises, and wearing a mask and a face shield is mandatory inside classrooms.
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Some 2,000 high schools could not reopen today because they weren’t able to follow all the guidelines.
“It is sad to see the students sweat while wearing protective gear in the classroom,” a teacher from Yangon told BBC Burmese. The temperature can easily exceed 30C in Myanmar, and many schools don’t have air-conditioning.
Some teachers say it is challenging to keep up with the teaching schedule because not all students can listen at the same time because of limits on class sizes.
Myanmar, which reported the first case in late March, has achieved considerable success at containing the virus so far. The country currently reports 341 cases in total.

Did 'herd immunity' change the course of the outbreak?

Noel Titheradge & Dr Faye Kirkland - BBC News
On Thursday 12 March, everyday life remained relatively normal across the UK.
Shoppers shopped, while millions drove to work or poured out of trains into city centres.
In the evening, people went out. At Wembley Arena, Lewis Capaldi sang to an audience of 12,000 fans - having urged them to bring hand sanitiser with them.
But these were not normal times. A new coronavirus was spreading across the globe.
Looking back, the question that will always be asked is - did the UK go into lockdown too slowly? Should those crowds have been out that day?
Read more here.

Round-up of the latest developments

Hello and thank you for following our coverage of the pandemic. Our team of reporters in London and around the world are bringing you the latest updates:
If you're just joining us, here are some of today's main developments:

  • The global tally of confirmed infections has risen to over 14.7m, according to Johns Hopkins University - the death toll has also risen to 610,000
  • America continues to be the worst-affected country, with over 3.8m cases, followed by Brazil, India and Russia
  • European Union leaders have struck a deal on a huge post-coronavirus recovery package following a fourth night of talks. It involves €750bn (£677bn; $859bn) in grants and loans to counter the impact of the pandemic in the 27-member bloc - the biggest joint borrowing ever agreed by the EU
  • Almost 900,000 UK public sector workers, many of whom have been on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus, are to get an above-inflation pay rise
  • Iran has recorded its highest daily death toll - 229
  • President Trump has suggested it is patriotic to wear a mask, in a further move away from his previous stance on the issue
  • The World Health Organization says it is seeing “an acceleration” of the outbreak in Africa, warning that the surge in South Africa could be a precursor to more outbreaks across the continent

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 17:25

'Good progress' on reopening schools in Scotland

"Good progress" is being made in trying to open schools full-time to children in Scotland on 11 August, the country's Education Secretary John Swinney has said.
On Thursday he will make a statement at Holyrood where he said he would outline the "practical and logistical preparations" being made for pupils to return, covering measures including a surveillance programme, outbreak management protocols and quick access to testing for all symptomatic staff and pupils.
However, he reiterated that full-time resumption of studies will only happen on 11 August if the virus continues to be suppressed, with a decision being made on 30 July.
Meanwhile, children under the age of five in Scotland with coronavirus symptoms will be able to access testing from Wednesday

Testing required an infrastructure we did not have - Whitty

MPs witnessed a heated exchange between former health secretary Jeremy Hunt and the government's chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, as the professor gave evidence to the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee.
Prof Whitty said widespread community testing earlier on in the pandemic required "an infrastructure we did not have".
Asked by Mr Hunt why he had not advised that testing be ramped up quickly in January or February, Prof Whitty said: "The idea that you can suddenly switch this on, I'm afraid, is incorrect."
He said the scientific advisers had consistently said more testing capacity was needed but agreed that, given the capacity, it was the correct advice to stop widespread community testing on March 12.
Asked about care home deaths, Prof Whitty said the UK is not alone in having "not handled this well".
He said that at the time, authorities had not recognised issues that are "in retrospect obvious" such as care staff working in multiple homes and not being paid for sick leave.
You can read more about today's proceedings at the committee in our story here - Coronavirus: 'Infection here for many years to come'

Spain’s cases rise as Barcelona reduces beach access

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Barcelona's beaches have been packed again in recent weeks

Spain has reported a marked rise in coronavirus infections over the past two weeks, health ministry data has shown, putting the country’s emergence from lockdown in jeopardy.
There are now 27.39 cases per 100,000 people in Spain, compared with 8.76 cases per 100,000 people on 3 July, the figures showed.
Such a rise in infections has not been seen since the country was in lockdown, which was eased from 11 May in most regions.
Spain is one of the few European countries where new infections are increasing this quickly, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) .
Over the previous 14 days, Spain recorded 13,487 new cases, which amounts to a cumulative rise of 160% during that period, WHO data showed.
The city council in Barcelona, a hotspot for new cases, announced on Tuesday it would reduce access to 10 beaches by 15% to mitigate the spread of the virus, El País reported .
Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, and the regions of Aragón and the Basque Country are where most of the new infections are concentrated.
“The situation in these regions is very worrying,” a spokesman for the Spanish Epidemiology Association, Fernando Rodríguez Artalejo, said. “If they are not controlled immediately and thoroughly, we will have a very complicated situation.”

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 17:34

Austria reintroduces face mask rules in supermarkets, banks

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has reintroduced a requirement that face masks be worn in supermarkets, banks and post offices due to an increase in cases around the country.
“There are areas of daily life where one cannot choose whether one goes or not - the supermarket, the bank, the post office,” Mr Kurz told a news conference, explaining his decision.
The chancellor also said controls will be increased along Austria's borders with the Balkans because many new infections around the country can be traced back to the region. Face masks are still required on public transport, in hospitals, pharmacies and at hairdressers.
Several clusters of new infections have also been linked to churches, and new restrictions will reduce the size of religious services and force churches to shut down should any worshippers or staff test positive.
Austria began loosening lockdown restriction in April, but in recent weeks virus cases have risen and over 100 were reported every day this month. The national tally stands at more than 19,800 cases and 710 deaths.

Social distance makes the heart grow fonder

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The newlyweds were overwhelmed by how many guests turned up

Separated by the pandemic, Alexander Clern, from Norway, and Camilla Oyjord, from Sweden, were determined to get married this summer.
But after taking a more relaxed approach to lockdown, Sweden has reported a much higher number of infections than its Nordic neighbours. As a result, Norway and other countries have placed restrictions on travel to and from Sweden.
Given these restrictions, Oyjord suggested, as a joke, that they conduct the ceremony on the border between Sweden and Norway, to comply with Covid-19 regulations.
To her surprise, the idea was well received by their friends and family.
So, unwilling to wait for travel restrictions to be lifted, the couple went ahead with the wedding.
''We wanted to become husband and wife! Love conquers all!'' Oyjord told the BBC.
Read our story to find out how the couple exchanged their vows across the border.

Chancellor called testing target audacious - Hancock

Health secretary Matt Hancock tells MPs he decided to set a testing target to "galvanise the system" - and that the chancellor told him it was a "big, hairy, audacious goal".
Addressing the Commons Science and Technology Committee, he says the target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April was "close to our internal goal", adding: "I thought a round number target, a little bit lower than what was our projection, and setting it quite specifically in public, would help to galvanise the system."
Some told him the target was "arbitrary" at the time, he says, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak later said it was a "big, hairy, audacious goal".
"I've been accused of over-promising and sometimes delivering," he says.
"And the point is that when you're handling a pandemic response and the response you need is to scale-up at a speed that is almost unprecedented within Government at a national scale, the tools that I found worked were to set demanding goals."
The UK government has set various targets during its efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Have they been met? Read more from the BBC's Reality Check team here.

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 17:43

NSA whistleblower tests positive for coronavirus in prison

Coronavirus - 21st July 4186cd10

A former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who admitted passing secret information to the media has contracted coronavirus in jail.
Reality Winner, 28, was sentenced to more than five years in prison for leaking an NSA report on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.
She and more than 500 other inmates at FMC Carswell, an all-women's prison in Texas, have tested positive for Covid-19. Two other inmates have died after contracting the virus.
Her sister Brittany shared the news in a tweet, and said that a guard mockingly congratulated Reality on her result.
  tweet  Brittany Winner, PhD:
:Left Quotes: Email from Reality: "Officially Covid-19 positive. I am being retaliated against harshly for articles last week and am about to take admin remedies." ALSO, the guard CONGRATULATED her for testing positive. Help us get her out. Please RT! #CompassionateRelease4Reality
Winner is currently seeking compassionate release from prison, citing underlying medical conditions. Her previous appeal was rejected in April.

Public Health England not set up as 'mass' organisation - Hancock

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Returning to the health secretary's evidence to the Commons Science and Technology Committee.
Public Health England was "designed as a scientific organisation" and "was not set up to be an organisation ready to go to mass national scale", Matt Hancock tells MPs.
He says the country was "like almost every other country in the world" in that it "didn't go into this crisis with that mass of testing capability".
Asked whether he is engaged in reforming PHE, he says: "There will be a time for that, my priority now is on controlling the virus and preparing for winter."
Mr Hancock says the "rate-limiting factor" on delivery of a vaccine is its manufacture, while the distribution itself is "not simple".
"You need a cold chain because the vaccine needs to be kept below room temperature, and then the administration of it needs to be done by people who are qualified," he says.
He adds that ministers are proposing to "broaden the range of qualifications that are allowed to do the vaccination".

LinkedIn axes 960 jobs as recruitment slumps

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LinkedIn is used to connect firms with professionals, and vice versa

Professional networking website LinkedIn has cut 960 jobs, roughly 6% of its global workforce, as demand for its recruitment products slumps during the pandemic.
In a message to staff , CEO Ryan Roslansky said the California-based tech company was “not immune to the effects of the global pandemic”.
The cuts will affect employees in the sales and talent acquisition departments of the company, which was acquired by Microsoft for $26.2bn (£20.6bn) in June.
“This is painful to go through as an organisation, but a company with a vision as bold as ours will have to make difficult decisions,” Roslansky said.
LinkedIn has offices in more than 30 cities around the world and employs 16,000 people.
The announcement comes as a wide range of sectors, from retailing to airlines, slash jobs around the world to cut costs.
Read more

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 17:48

A further 110 UK deaths

The total number of Covid-19 associated deaths in the UK has reached 45,422 - a rise of 110 on Monday's figure.
The total number of lab-confirmed cases grew by 445 to 295,817, according to the figures published by Public Health England (PHE).
Last week, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock asked PHE to urgently review the way daily statistics are reported, amid concerns deaths from coronavirus were being recorded even if people have died months after a positive test.
PHE will "very, very shortly" publish a "revised methodology", Mr Hancock told the Commons Science and Technology Committee.
“If you have Covid in March and fully recovered, or even were asymptomatic and now die of something completely different, then the way it was being measured until last week counted that as a death with Covid, that clearly is no longer appropriate and PHE are currently reviewing that time series," he said.

Oman introduces new travel ban and curfew

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Oman will undergo a "total lockdown" of all its governates from 25 July to 8 August to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the country's health ministry confirmed.
All travel between governates will be banned during the period, which includes the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. A daily curfew will also be place from 19:00 to 06:00 local time, according to state news agency ONA, and shops and public spaces will be closed during these hours.
The Gulf state introduced lockdowns in March in some regions such as Muscat and Dhofar, but these have been gradually lifted since April. Air and land borders have remained closed, except for repatriation, and last week the government said it would allow citizens to fly abroad so long as they had approval.
More than 1,400 cases of coronavirus were reported during the last 24 hours, along with 11 more deaths, bringing the national tally to 69,887 infections and 337 fatalities.

Nobel Prize banquet cancelled

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Concerns over coronavirus have led to the cancellation of the Nobel Prize banquet for the first time in more than 60 years.
The prize winners for 2020 will be announced but the event - usually held on 10 December - will not be going ahead.
Instead, the Nobel Foundation said awards and ceremonies will be held in "new forms".
"This is a very special year when everyone needs to make sacrifices and adapt to completely new circumstances," foundation director Lars Heikensten said in a statement.
"We will in different ways highlight the laureates, their discoveries and works."
The event was last cancelled in 1956 in protest at the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary, and during both World Wars.

A-level and GCSE results to be higher this summer

Sean Coughlan - BBC News, education correspondent
GCSE and A-level results in England will be slightly higher this summer, with examiners set to be more lenient.
Exams were cancelled because of the pandemic - with pupils' results to be based on predicted outcomes.
The watchdog Ofqual says the numbers getting good grades will be 2% higher at A-level and 1% at GCSE.
But they will be much lower than the "optimistic" predictions from teachers, which at A-level would have pushed up results 12% higher than last year.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 18:51

Nepal to resume international flights

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The Nepalese government says it will resume international commercial flights from 17 August as it announced an end to its coronavirus lockdown.
All arriving and departing international passengers will need to have a certificate saying they are not infected.
The country shut its airports in March to combat the spread of the virus, dealing a blow to the tourism industry.
Most other lockdown restrictions will also be lifted but schools and cinemas will remain closed and large-scale gatherings continue to be banned.

New York adds 10 more US states to quarantine list

More than half of America's 50 states are now on a quarantine list that's been introduced in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Under the rules, anyone travelling from a state on the list must self-isolate for 14 days to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters that 10 new states have been added to the list, and another removed, bringing the total to 31. Newcomers include Alaska, Virginia and Washington.
New York was once at the epicentre of America's coronavirus outbreak, and continues to report the highest number of deaths and cases. But infection rates are rising rapidly in other states including California, Florida and Texas, and more than 3.8 million cases have been confirmed nationwide.
Governor Cuomo told reporters that it's inevitable that a second wave of infections will hit New York as infection rise in other states.
"Yesterday, we had our lowest death toll since the pandemic began - and with no fatalities in New York City. While today's numbers are encouraging, we must remain vigilant," he added.

Russia report 'evidence' of need to tackle coronavirus disinformation

Marianna Spring - Specialist disinformation and social media reporter
A report into Russian activity in the UK “piles on the evidence” that government needs to tackle harmful disinformation campaigns online, according to the Digital Culture Media and Sport select committee.
The statement comes after the group of MPs today released its own report criticising the government for its lack of action when combating coronavirus misinformation and conspiracy theories online.The chairman of the committee, Julian Knight, also called on social media sites to crack down on vaccine conspiracy theories in the coming months.Social media sites Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have all defended their attempts to fight false information on their platforms - saying they do act to remove harmful content.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat on Tue Jul 21 2020, 20:27

US charges Chinese nationals with vaccine hacking

Barbara Plett Usher - BBC News, Washington
The US Justice Department has accused the Chinese government of sponsoring attempts to hack biotech firms around the world working on coronavirus vaccines and treatments.
In an indictment unsealed in Washington State on Tuesday, two former engineering students were charged with hacking, both for personal profit, and for the Chinese Ministry of State Security, a civilian spy agency.
The two men are accused of a wide-ranging conspiracy to steal trade secrets, weapons designs and other data, spanning 10 years. It says they had recently begun to probe the vulnerabilities of companies working on coronavirus vaccines and treatments.
US officials accused Beijing of protecting these alleged cyber criminals in order to benefit from their work. The Chinese government routinely denies that it conducts or sponsors economic espionage through the hacking of foreign networks.
American security agencies warned several months ago that hackers linked to the Chinese government were pursuing Coronavirus vaccine research. And last week the United States, Britain and Canada issued an unusual joint statement saying that Russian hackers were doing the same.

Coronavirus fears for Mozambicans fleeing militant attacks

Jose Tembe - BBC News, Maputo
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A top official in northern Mozambique has warned that the arrival of large numbers of people fleeing militant Islamist attacks has made it difficult to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Cabo Delgado province's Secretary of State, Armindo Ngunga, told reported that the new arrivals in Pemba were living in severely cramped conditions.
He advised people to stay outside their houses during the day because of the overcrowding and said that the government could provide people with face masks to wear on the streets.
The UN estimates that 250,000 people abandoned everything and sought refuge in safer areas from a conflict that has, so far, killed about 1,000 people.
Those who have fled are badly in need of humanitarian assistance, including proper housing, food, health and clothing. The poor level of water supply to Pemba, is another challenge for combating Covid-19 - something Mr Ngunga said the government was working on.

Barcelona's tourism industry grapples with renewed restrictions

Residents in Spain’s Catalonia region, in the north-east of the country, are facing renewed coronavirus restrictions following a spike in infections.
In the capital, Barcelona, people have been asked to stay home for 15 days. But what does it mean for the city’s tourism industry?
Maraya Perinat is the founder of Barcelona’s five-star Cotton House Hotel. Back in March, she decided to open her hotel to Covid-19 patients and has since opened it to visitors.
Speaking to BBC OS on World Service Radio, she says she remains hopeful despite the new rules.

Airlines call for joint US-EU testing program

Several major US and European airlines have called on the White House and European Union to adopt a joint US-EU testing program to boost trans-Atlantic air travel.
In a letter to American Vice President Mike Pence and Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, the heads of American Airlines, United Airlines, Lufthansa and International Airlines Group asked for "the safe and swift restoration of air travel," according to Reuters news agency.
Due to the pandemic, nearly all Europeans are barred from flying to America and restrictions are in place on travel from the US to the EU.

Thanks for joining us

We're wrapping up our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for today and will be back tomorrow.
Here's a look back at some of the biggest developments we've been bringing you from the UK and around the world:

  • EU leaders have struck a deal on a huge post-coronavirus recovery package following a fourth night of talks, involving €750bn (£677bn; $859bn) in grants and loans
  • Leading UK scientists have warned that even potentially successful vaccines and treatments will probably not be enough to eliminate Covid-19, and humanity will have to live with it for "decades"
  • The UK's chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty told MPs the government followed advice on lockdown timing, but widespread community testing earlier on in the pandemic required "an infrastructure we did not have"
  • US officials have charged two Chinese men who allegedly spied on companies doing coronavirus research and received help from state agents, amid a US crackdown on Chinese cyber espionage
  • More than half of the 50 US states are now on a quarantine list in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut
  • Fears over the coronavirus sees the Nobel prize banquet cancelled for the first time in more than 60 years
  • Iran recorded a daily death toll of 229 - its highest so far

You can continue to follow all the latest news on the BBC News website , or for coronavirus news head here .

Today's live page was written and edited by Andreas Illmer, Sean Fanning, Becky Morton, Joshua Nevett, Alex Kleiderman, Joshua Cheetham, and Hazel Shearing

    Current date/time is Sat Nov 28 2020, 08:22