Lebanon s President Michel Aoun on Monday called on international donors to provide financial assistance to the crisis-hit country as it grapples with a severe economic downturn compounded by the coronavirus. Speaking during a meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon, he specifically urged donors to unlock $11 billion in grants and loans they pledged during a Paris conference in April 2018. The call comes as his government prepares to launch a long-awaited reform plan demanded by international partners. "Given the danger of our current financial situation, and its significant economic impact on nationals, residents, and refugees, our reform programme will need external financial support," Aoun told ambassadors from countries in the support group at the presidential palace in Baabda. Lebanon is in the throes of its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. The Lebanese pound has lost more than a third of its value on the black market, consumer prices have skyrocketed and unemployment is on the rise at a time when the entire country is on lockdown due to virus fears. Making matters worse, foreign currency reserves have plummeted amid a grinding liquidity crunch, forcing the cash-strapped government in March to default on its sovereign debt for the first time. Prime Minister Hassan Diab s cabinet, nominated in January to tackle a financial meltdown and unprecedented anti-government protests, has pledged a far-reaching reform plan to address the crisis as it seeks to enter restructuring negotiations with creditors. But the coronavirus pandemic has added to the country s difficulties, complicating reform efforts, Aoun said, appealing for help. "Today we are confronting all these crises and their consequences and we welcome any kind of international assistance," he said. He said international partners had a responsibility to help Lebanon shoulder the burden of hosting tens of thousands of Palestinians and at least 1.5 million Syrians, warning of a health catastrophe if the virus hits refugee camps. "The threat of COVID-19 is knocking on the doors of the camps," he said. So far just one Palestinian, who lives outside a camp, and three Syrians have tested positive for COVID-19 compared with 541 infections and 19 deaths across Lebanon, according to officials. Diab said the government was putting the "final touches" to the reform plan, which he said would be "ready soon."
It took Silvia Bertuletti 11 days of frantic phone calls to persuade a doctor to visit her 78-year-old father Alessandro, who was gripped by fever and struggling for breath. When an on-call physician did go to her house near Bergamo, at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, on the evening of March 18, it was too late. Alessandro Bertuletti was pronounced dead at 1:10 a.m. on March 19, 10 minutes before an ambulance called hours earlier arrived. The only medication he had been prescribed, over the phone, was a mild painkiller and a broad-spectrum antibiotic. "My father was left to die alone, at home, without help," Bertuletti, 48, said. "We were simply abandoned. No one deserves an end like that." Interviews with families, doctors and nurses in Italy s stricken Lombardy region indicate that Bertuletti s experience is not uncommon, that scores are dying at home as symptoms go unchecked and that phone consultations are not always enough. In Bergamo province alone, according to a recent study of death records, the real death toll from the outbreak could be more than double the official tally of 2,060, which only tracks hospital fatalities. As the global fight to save lives centres on boosting the supply of hospital ventilators, some doctors say a lack of primary healthcare is proving just as costly because medics cannot or will not make home visits, in line with a worldwide tactic of switching to remotely delivered medical advice. "What led to this situation is that many family doctors didn t visit their patients for weeks," said Riccardo Munda, who is doing the work of two doctors in Selvino and Nembro, two towns near Bergamo, after a colleague caught the virus. "And I can t blame them, because that s how they saved their own skin." He said many deaths could be avoided if people at home received prompt medical help, but doctors were swamped, lacked enough masks and suits to protect themselves from infection and were discouraged from making visits unless absolutely necessary. "Doctors give people at home a treatment. But if this treatment doesn t work, if there is no doctor who checks and changes or adjusts the medicines, then the patient dies." While hospital workers were given priority access to masks, some family doctors say they went without and so felt unable to visit patients safely. A spokeswoman for the state-run ATS health agency in Bergamo said authorities in the Lombardy region, rated among the world s most efficient for health services, told family doctors to "deal with patients by phone as much as possible", limiting home visits "to reduce contagion and waste of protective equipment". She said 142 doctors in the Bergamo area were either sick or in quarantine but they had all been replaced. Authorities are now moving to reinforce primary care in line with recommendations by the World Health Organization, which says that delivering primary healthcare safely should be a priority for governments right after intensive care capacity. In Bergamo province six special units of doctors started operating on March 19, each equipped to visit sick people at home. In nearby Milan, where deaths at home and in centres for the elderly more than doubled in the second half of March, similar units began operating only on March 31. HIDDEN DEATH TOLL Italy s official death toll reached 15,362 on Saturday, almost a third of the global total, but there is growing evidence that this vastly understates the real total because so many people are dying at home. A study by local newspaper L Eco di Bergamo and research consultant InTwig, using data provided by local municipalities, estimates that 5,400 people died in the Bergamo province during the month of March, or six times more than a year ago. Of these, it reckons that as many as 4,500 people succumbed to the coronavirus - more than double the official tally. This took into account 600 people who died in nursing homes and evidence provided by doctors, it said. The ATS did not respond to a request for comment on the study s findings. Pietro Zucchelli, director of the Zucchelli funeral home that serves several villages in the Seriana Valley around Bergamo, said over the past two weeks more than 50 percent of his job had been collecting bodies from people s homes. Before, most of the dead were in hospitals or nursing homes. Munda, the doctor working in Selvino and Nembro, said he had been visiting patients at home since late February, administering antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia and oxygen therapy if required. He said that although antibiotics were no cure for the virus, they could treat some of the debilitating complications and help patients recover without hospitalisation. To protect himself, he bought 600 euros worth of face masks which he sterilises at home with steam every evening. More than 11,000 health workers have contracted the virus in Italy and 80 have died, many of them family doctors. BE PATIENT The Bertuletti family s ordeal shows how primary care, a health system s first line of defence, has sometimes buckled in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. In several European countries and in the United States, doctors are encouraged to carry out phone consultations whenever possible, rather than seeing patients face to face. With her own family doctor in hospital, Bertuletti says she repeatedly phoned his replacement, who at first told her to give her father a paracetamol-based painkiller used to reduce fever. As her father got worse, Bertuletti called him back. "He said: I am not forced to do house visits, be patient ," she said. The doctor who dealt with Bertuletti, contacted by Reuters, declined to be identified, but said through tears that medics had to make terrible choices. He said that he had been receiving between 300 to 500 phone calls a day and was covering for a sick colleague. "I had to make a selection, I couldn t visit those who had a cough and fever, I could only go to see the most serious cases." The association of family doctors in the province of Bergamo estimates that 70,000 people in the area may be infected. "Despite our best efforts, it s not possible to take everyone to hospital and sometimes families prefer to keep the sick at home out of fear they may not have another chance to say goodbye," Bergamo s mayor, Giorgio Gori, said. Like him, mayors across Lombardy are crying out for help. "We have citizens who are sick at home and feel abandoned, I could give you hundreds of examples," Giovanna Gargioni, mayor of Borghetto Lodigiano, wrote in a March 27 letter to regional health authorities on behalf of a group of local mayors. Even in Milan, Lombardy s main city and Italy s financial capital, doctors say that pledges by regional authorities to provide protective gear like face masks and to give swabs to medical personnel had yet to materialise for some. "We are working without protection, and no one tested us," said Roberto Scarano, a surgeon and family doctor in the city. "Meanwhile, the virus is spreading in people s homes, entire families are getting infected and no one s taking care of them." Ambulances that used to arrive within minutes of a call to emergency services now can take hours, medics say. Oxygen bottles are so scarce that nurses rush to claim them back from bereaved families as soon as patients die. "We are used to seeing people die, but normally it feels like you are accompanying them at the end of the road," said Maura Zucchelli, a nurse at Itineris, a private company which provides medical assistance at home in the Bergamo area. "Now you go to people s homes, and within 48-72 hours the patient is dead. It s draining. It s like war."
As the world battles the coronavirus pandemic, the main question for most is simply: “When will it end?”. But other, troubling questions are starting to be asked of governments. Why did Western governments not predict the risk of an epidemic in their territories after the novel coronavirus first emerged in China? Were sufficient preparations made to secure masks and test kits? Did lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus start too late? Such questions have burning importance at a time when the world is at a political crossroads. The United States in November is set to decide if Donald Trump gets another term as president, autocratic and semi-autocratic societies across the world are increasingly challenged, and the EU is seeking to prove its credibility post-Brexit. Politicians around the world have made statements they may live to regret as they sought to reassure supporters in February and early March that the virus would have little impact on their countries. Trump described concern over the coronavirus in late February as a “hoax” perpetrated by Democrats. British Premier Boris Johnson, who later tested positive for the virus, boasted in early March that he “shook hands with everyone” even at a hospital. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro downplayed the virus as a “little flu”. – People weren t scared – Carine Milcent, Professor of Health Economics and Econometrics at the Paris School of Economics, said that in February and even in early March some experts doubted the pandemic would reach such magnitude. “When public opinion is not convinced of the gravity and if scientists themselves were relatively divided, it is difficult for a political decision-maker to create consensus,” she told AFP. “The figures announced by China at the start did not scare people and many asked why so many actions were being taken.” In France, where the government imposed a lockdown on March 17 in a bid to get a grip on soaring cases and deaths, calls for national unity have been mixed with scathing criticism of the government, particularly over a shortage of face masks. The head of the right-wing opposition Republicans in the Senate, Bruno Retailleau, described the government s response as “chaotic”. Several criminal complaints have been lodged against members of the French government, accusing them of endangering lives, even of manslaughter. Legal experts do not think they have much chance of succeeding. – Waited too long – Charles Kupchan, professor of international affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, said it would have helped Western leaders if China had been more forthcoming with information at the start of the outbreak late last year. But “even so, democracies on both sides of the Atlantic were slow off the mark… Europe and the United States should have taken more urgent steps. “They waited way too long when it came to procuring, allocating, and distributing medical equipment and to sharing best practices on testing and isolation.” In Europe and America, there are clear signs of public anger. “We don t have enough money, we don t have enough tests and we don t have enough protective equipment. Everyone in the hospital is extremely exposed,” seethes Andrew who works as an intern in a New York hospital. “People we could have saved are dying, as they could not be admitted into intensive care,” said Sara Chinchilla, who works at a Madrid hospital. Some look at relative success stories elsewhere, especially in South Korea where a massive campaign of testing, isolating and identifying potential virus carriers helped flatten the infection curve but also raised questions about civil liberties. “It s a level of surveillance state that I don t think any Western country is comfortable with,” said Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations. Much is also at stake in countries that have been dominated by a single ruler for decades, where the public will expect political stability to deliver some kind of sanctuary from the crisis. The Turkish government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was boasting in early March that the country had not a single confirmed case. By now it has registered over 200 deaths. President Vladimir Putin said on March 17 that the situation was “under control” in Russia but the increasing number of COVID-19 cases has since forced a lockdown in much of the country. And an escalating crisis in Iran belies early statements by its leadership that the epidemic would soon end. China, meanwhile is now offering help to Western countries after largely quelling the epidemic within its own borders, leaving a bitter taste for some who accuse Beijing of having withheld information at the start. “It s like if you shoot somebody and then offer them a discount on dressing the wound,” said Shapiro.
Japan s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday the government was expanding a ban on the entry of non-Japanese people to cover 73 countries as policymakers try to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The number of countries was increased by 49, including the United States, China and South Korea, he said. Abe also said that everyone entering the country, including Japanese nationals, will be asked to go into a voluntary two-week quarantine. Both measures will be effective from Friday. The premier said he has asked airlines to curb the number of international flights.
Spain s coronavirus deaths jumped by a record number Tuesday as the country s medical system strained to care for its tens of thousands of infected patients and the world total climbed to more than 800,000 case. In the United States, where the spread of the coronavirus has been accelerating, New York s governor begged for health care reinforcements, saying up to 1 million more workers were needed. Spain and Italy are still struggling to avoid the collapse of their health systems, with Spain saying hospitals in at least half of its 17 regions are at or very near their ICU bed limits and more than 13,000 medical workers are among the country s reported 94,417 infections. Dozens of hotels across Spain have been converted into recovery rooms for patients in less-serious condition, and authorities are building makeshift field hospitals in sports centers, libraries and exhibition halls. So far they have added 23,000 beds. Overnight, Spain recorded 849 new deaths, the highest daily toll since the pandemic hit the southern European country. It has now claimed the lives of 8,189 people in Spain, forcing Madrid to open a second temporary morgue this week after an ice rink pressed into service last week become overwhelmed. Authorities are shifting ventilating machines to regions with the highest number of ICU patients, and moving the patients themselves between regions "has not been ruled out," said Dr. María José Sierra of Spain s health emergencies center. Deaths climbed rapidly in the United States, which was poised to overtake China s reported virus death toll of 3,300. But experts say all numbers reported by governments and states in this pandemic are faulty in different ways, due to the lack of testing, mild virus cases that are missed or the determination of some governments to try to shape their pandemic narrative. "This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard," cautioned Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the World Health Organization s regional director for the Western Pacific. "We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation." Hard-hit Italy and Spain now account for more than half of the 38,714 COVID-19 deaths reported worldwide and the U.S. has the most confirmed cases at 164,610, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Italy s death toll rose to nearly 11,600 - the highest in the world by far - but its rates of new infections were slowing. A 12-year-old girl became the youngest person to die in Belgium, which has counted 705 deaths so far, including 98 in the last day. It was not disclosed whether she suffered from any underlying condition. The country of about 11.5 million people has reported more than 12,705 infections. National crisis-center coronavirus spokesman Emmanuel Andre said Belgian authorities expect the disease to reach its peak in coming days, and that "we will arrive at a point where we re close to saturation point at our hospitals." To the east, Russia registered 500 new confirmed cases in the biggest spike since the beginning of the outbreak, bringing its total to 2,337. Moscow, the capital, has been on lockdown since Monday and the government is edging toward to declaring a national state of emergency. In New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and health officials warned that the crisis unfolding there is just a preview of what other U.S. cities and towns will soon face. New York state s death toll climbed by more than 250 people in a day to over 1,200. "We ve lost over 1,000 New Yorkers," Cuomo said. "To me, we re beyond staggering already." Even before the governor s appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals were volunteering in New York, and a Navy hospital ship arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on the city s overwhelmed hospitals. In California, officials put out a similar call for volunteers as coronavirus hospitalizations doubled over the last four days and the number of patients in intensive care tripled. Experts maintain the pandemic will be defeated only by social distancing measures that have put billions of people on lockdown and upended the world s economy. Dr. Chiara Lepora in the virus hotspot of Lodi in northern Italy said the pandemic had revealed critical health care problems in developed countries. "Outbreaks cannot be fought in hospitals," she said. "Hospitals can only deal with the consequences." In the southern state of Florida, officials were meeting later Tuesday to decide whether to let the infection-plagued cruise ship Zaandam dock after more than two weeks at sea. In a South American dream trip that turned into a nightmare, dozens on the ship have reported flu-like symptoms and four people have died. The company said eight people have tested positive but 2,300 other passengers and crew are in good health. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the state s health care resources are stretched too thin to allow the ship to dock. More than 235 million people - about two of every three Americans - live in the 33 states where governors have ordered or recommended that residents stay home. Worldwide, 800,049 people have been infected and 166,768 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia and even death. China on Tuesday reported just one new death from the coronavirus and 48 new cases, claiming that all new infections came from overseas. In Wuhan, people were ready to jump, cry and "revenge shop" as the Chinese city once at the center of the outbreak reopened. About 75% of the shops reopened at the Chuhe Hanjie pedestrian mall. Shopkeepers limited the number of people allowed in, dispensing hand sanitizer and checking customers for signs of fever. In Serbia, Hungary and other nations, concerns were rising that populist leaders were using the situation to try to seize more power and silence critics. A human rights expert said while she understands the need to act swiftly to protect lives, the new states of emergency must include time limits and parliamentary oversight. "A state of emergency - wherever it is declared and for whatever reason - must be proportionate to its aim, and only remain in place for as long as absolutely necessary," said Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The economic devastation continued, with British Airways suspending all its flights at Gatwick Airport amid a collapse in demand as nations close borders and airlines slash flights. In Japan, the countdown clocks were reset and ticking again for the Tokyo Olympics. The clocks now read 479 days to go, with the games scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021.
Leaders of the world s most powerful economies will convene virtually on Thursday to try and coordinate a response to the fast-spreading coronavirus, which has shuttered businesses and forced well over 1.5 billion people into home isolation. The meeting for the Group of 20 nations will be chaired by Saudi Arabia s King Salman. The kingdom, which is presiding over the G20 this year, said it organized the extraordinary meeting to advance global efforts to tackle the pandemic and its economic implications as people lose their incomes amid closures, curfews and lockdowns. The meeting comes amid criticism that the world s wealthiest countries have not taken cohesive action to combat the virus or its economic impact on people around the world. The global death toll from the new coronavirus, which causes an illness called COVID-19, has climbed past 21,000 and the number of infections has surpassed 472,000, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The number of dead in the U.S. rose to 1,041 as of late Wednesday, with nearly 70,000 infections. Spain s death toll has risen past 3,400, eclipsing that of China, where the virus was first detected in December. There was sparring this week among foreign ministers from the Group of 7 leading industrialized democracies over whether to call out China as the source of the coronavirus. The ministers were unable to agree on a U.S. push to identify the coronavirus as the ``Wuhan virus,`` in reference to the city in China where it first appeared. As a result, the foreign ministers opted against releasing a group statement. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among the heads of state who will take part in Thursday s G20 leaders summit. The virtual summit will also include leaders from the World Health Organization, the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Labor Organization and others. Officials from Spain, Jordan, Singapore and Switzerland will also take part in the call, as well as chairs of regional bodies like the African Union, the Association of South-East Asian Nations and the Gulf Cooperation Council. The International Labor Organization says nearly 40% of the world s population has no health insurance or access to national health services and that 55% _ or 4 billion people _ do not benefit from any form of social protection whatsoever. It said the current health crisis makes clear that not nearly enough progress has been made by governments in the years since the 2008 financial crisis to expand access to health services, sickness benefits, and unemployment protection. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank IMF issued a call on G20 countries ahead of the Thursday s meeting, warning of severe economic and social consequences for developing countries, home to a quarter of the world s population and where most of the world s poorest people reside. The lenders called for a suspension of debt payments from these countries and asked G20 leaders to task the World Bank and IMF with making the needed assessments on which countries have unsustainable debt situations and immediate financing requirements. ``It is imperative at this moment to provide a global sense of relief for developing countries as well as a strong signal to financial markets, the lenders said in a joint statement. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has said the lender stands ``ready to deploy all our $1 trillion lending capacity.`` She said earlier this week the IMF expects a recession at least as bad as during the 2008 global financial crisis or worse. Nearly 80 countries are requesting IMF help. Ethiopia s government told G20 finance ministers and Central Bank chiefs in a call ahead of Thursday s summit that Africa needs a $150 billion emergency financing package due to the impact of the virus. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged G20 leaders to adopt a ``wartime plan including a stimulus package ``in the trillions of dollars for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi air defences intercepted ballistic missiles over Riyadh and a city on the Yemen border late Saturday, leaving at least two civilians wounded in the capital that is under curfew in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Multiple explosions shook Riyadh in the attack, which the Saudi-led military coalition blamed on Yemen s Iran-aligned Huthi rebels who have previously targeted Saudi cities with missiles, rockets and drones. It was the first major assault on Saudi Arabia since the Huthis offered last September to halt attacks on the kingdom after devastating twin strikes on Saudi oil installations. "Two ballistic missiles were launched towards the cities of Riyadh and Jizan," the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing the coalition fighting the rebels. Their interception sent shrapnel raining on residential neighbourhoods in the cities, leaving two civilians injured in Riyadh, a civil defence spokesman said in a separate statement released by SPA. There was no immediate comment from the rebels. At least three blasts rocked the capital, which is under a 15-hour coronavirus curfew, just before midnight, said AFP reporters. Jizan, like many other Saudi cities, faces a shorter dusk-to-dawn curfew. The assault comes despite a show of support on Thursday by all of Yemen s warring parties for a United Nations call for a ceasefire to protect civilians from the coronavirus pandemic. Saudi Arabia, the Yemeni government and the rebels all welcomed an appeal from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for an "immediate global ceasefire" to help avert disaster for vulnerable people in conflict zones. The call coincided with the fifth anniversary of Saudi Arabia s military intervention in Yemen s civil war, which was launched to shore up the internationally recognised government against the Huthi rebels. Escalating conflict The Yemen government condemned the attack, which it said undermined efforts to scale down the conflict amid the coronavirus outbreak. Information Minister Moammer al-Eryani said in a tweet that the strikes also confirmed the "continued flow of Iranian weapons" to the Huthi militias. "This militia lives only on wars and doesn t understand peace language," he said. Yemen s broken healthcare system has so far recorded no case of the COVID-19 illness, but aid groups have warned that when it does hit, the impact will be catastrophic. The country is already gripped by what the UN calls the world s worst humanitarian crisis. Saudi Arabia is also scrambling to limit the spread of the disease at home. The kingdom s health ministry has reported 1,203 coronavirus infections and four deaths from the illness so far. Fighting has recently escalated again between the Huthis and Riyadh-backed Yemeni troops around the strategic northern districts of Al-Jouf and Marib, ending a months-long lull. The warring sides had earlier shown an interest in de-escalation, with a Saudi official saying in November that Riyadh had an "open channel" with the rebels with the goal of ending the war. The Huthis also offered to halt all missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia after strikes on its oil installations last September, which were claimed by the rebels but widely blamed on Iran, despite its denials. But those efforts seem to have unravelled. Observers say the rebels may have used the lull to bolster their military capabilities. Riyadh had expected a quick victory when it led a multi-billion dollar intervention in 2015 to oust Huthi rebels, under a newly assertive foreign policy led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But the costly intervention has failed to uproot the rebels from their northern strongholds, while pushing the Arab world s poorest nation into a humanitarian crisis.
Moscow will close cafes, shops, parks and other non-essential services for one week starting Saturday, its mayor said Thursday, in an "unprecedented" move to fight the spread of coronavirus. President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced a non-working week from March 28 to April 5 to keep Russians at home. But the measures imposed by Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin take the president s measures a step further. Sobyanin had already ordered Muscovites aged over 65 to stay home starting Thursday, but stopped short of ordering a strict quarantine. The closures announced Thursday "are not a holiday, it is a serious measure to prevent COVID-19," the mayor said in a statement on his website. All cafes and restaurants must stop admitting customers and may only deliver food or prepare orders to go, according to the decree. Stores selling non-essential items must close, as well as beauty salons and spas. Moscow s parks will also shut. The mayor first hinted at the new measures in a televised interview Wednesday evening, saying "there will be nothing to do in Moscow" next week. "The restrictions ordered today are unprecedented in Moscow s modern history and will create many inconveniences," Sobyanin said in his message Thursday. "But trust me, they are absolutely necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus infection and decrease the number of the ill," he said, also asking Russians from other regions to put off travel to the capital. Moscow registered two coronavirus-linked deaths on Wednesday, the first nationally. A total of 840 cases have been recorded nationwide, according to official statistics on Thursday.
For European governments battling to brace economies pummelled by the coronavirus, there might be no better time to go green. Normally thrifty countries, such as Germany, accept they will have to spend heavily to weather the economic shock of the coronavirus. Many also face the challenge of ploughing billions of euros into climate schemes to keep carbon reduction pledges. Could "green stimulus" be the answer? For budget hawks preparing to throw out the traditional fiscal rule book to fight the pandemic, green bonds - raising debt for funding projects such as renewable energy and public transport - might be a palatable option. Coronavirus has taken some focus away from environmental issues but pressure is now mounting to design spending around climate change. On Tuesday, UK government adviser Chris Stark urged governments to "look to green stimulus". Germany is pulling out the stops, eyeing around 350 billion euros of new debt to finance stimulus. Europe s biggest economy separately aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030. Britain, meanwhile, has promised to pay 80% of wages for employees facing layoffs as a result of lockdown measures, to be funded by selling more debt. It has also previously pledged to bring carbon emissions to almost zero by 2050. Simon Bond, director of responsible investment portfolio management at London-based Columbia Threadneedle, wrote last year to the UK Treasury urging it to issue "green gilts". He said now was the time to roll them out given the pressing need for stimulus due to the virus outbreak. "The rationale for green gilts is to target projects which actively contribute to the aspiration to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050," Bond told Reuters. "Those projects should be part of green infrastructure spending and associated with fiscal stimulus." GREEN YIELD CURVE So far governments have been relatively slow to embrace green debt; there are just 12 sovereign green bond issuers worldwide, amounting to less than a tenth of the green bond market, which also includes debt from companies and other entities and saw $250 billion in new issuances last year. But debt agencies say change is on its way. Germany plans to issue a green bond in the second half of 2020 as does Italy; other candidates are Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Britain. Germany s debt agency told Reuters its green bond plans would go ahead despite the coronavirus outbreak. It has just published an update, announcing Germany would "substantially strengthen and decisively develop" the green and sustainable investment market. It also hopes to establish a green yield curve for the euro area, as its chart below shows. GREEN AGENDA GROWING Green bonds currently comprise less than 0.1% of total sovereign debt, according to S&P Global. Given governments have some $9 trillion of outstanding debt worldwide, going green on even a small portion of that would give the market a huge boost. What s held them back so far is fear that green bonds will damage mainstream issuance programmes by stealing trading volumes from those markets, eventually raising overall borrowing costs, officials from five European debt agencies told Reuters. It could also further fragment a market already thinned out by the European Central Bank s asset purchase programme. Even in Britain, home to a $2 trillion gilt market, debt agency chief, Robert Stheeman, has expressed doubts that issuing green gilts would be cost effective. But debt agencies have come up with strategies that could allow green borrowing without the associated risks. Denmark is considering an issue whose proceeds may not be earmarked directly for environmental projects but would come with a pledge for equivalent green spending, said Thorsten Meyer Larsen, head of monetary policy operations and government debt at Denmark s central bank. Under this idea, it would attach a green certificate to a standard government bond. "Everyone can see that the green agenda is growing and we want to be part of that, but not in a way that s detrimental to our existing bonds and bondholders," Meyer Larsen said. "So if you buy that (equivalent spending) idea then that s a bit more straightforward." INVESTMENT CLAMOUR Germany is, meanwhile, exploring an option to sell twin bonds: so a green issue with the same maturity and coupon as its conventional peer and replacing part of the conventional bond s auction volume, according to a market participant with knowledge of the country s plans. The person said that during a crisis, perhaps like the ongoing volatility, investors could switch from the green bond to the conventional issue, which would have better trading volumes. Liquidity tends to be less concerning for companies as they rely less on bond markets for their funding, said Geraint Thomas, EMEA head of green loans and bonds at MUFG. But concerns of green bond programmes boosting borrowing costs may be unfounded, according to some analysts and investors. The investment industry is clamouring for green securities, as pension funds, sovereign investors or family offices request more environmentally friendly securities. Demand for top-rated sovereign names is likely to be high. Bram Bos, lead portfolio manager of green bond strategy at NN Investment Partners, also expects the stimulus programmes to bring more governments to the market, raising its size. "More green expenditure could lead to more green bond issuance and less concerns around liquidity of green bonds."
The new coronavirus continued its spread across some of the most-vulnerable nations of the Mideast on Tuesday as the International Monetary Fund warned that a lack of medical supplies in Iraq, Sudan and Yemen could lead to a surge in prices. There are some 30,000 confirmed cases of the virus across the Mideast, the vast majority in the hard-hit nation of Iran. While most recover from the virus and the COVID-19 illness that it causes, bottoming crude oil prices have put additional strain on even the wealthiest countries of the region. The IMF, which traditionally has urged governments to implement greater austerity measures, now urges Mideast governments to offer temporary tax relief and cash transfers. ``Given the large numbers of people employed in the service sector, there will be wide reverberations if unemployment rises and wages and remittances fall, the IMF s director for the Middle East, Jihad Azour, said in statement. In Egypt, tourist cancellations have reached 80%, while retail and hospitality sectors have also been hard-hit in countries like the United Arab Emirates where tourism is a pillar of the economy, according to the IMF. The arrival of the global pandemic in Syria with one positive case, as well as in the Gaza Strip, has raised concerns the virus could run rampant in some of the most vulnerable areas in the Middle East. War-torn Libya and Yemen, which have yet to report any cases, are also a source of concern. The worst outbreak in the Mideast is unfolding in Iran, where authorities reported another 127 deaths on Monday, bringing the total number of fatalities to more than 1,800 amid more than 23,000 confirmed cases. The dead included the mother-in-law of the son of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the state-run IRNA news agency said. Lines have formed outside grocery stores, banks and gas stations across the Syrian capital, Damascus, as people braced for wider closures. The government has already closed restaurants, cafes and other businesses, and has halted public transportation. In Egypt s Mediterranean city of Alexandria, dozens of people early Tuesday prayed to God for help against the virus. Online video showed people praying from their windows and balconies. Others showed some three dozen people marching in a side street and chanting: ``There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Messenger, drawing criticism from people who said the demonstrators should have stayed at home.
As coronavirus deaths surge in Britain, a group of London volunteers has set up a catering service to provide free meals for hard-pressed nurses at a major public hospital fighting the pandemic. The group, called Critical NHS, gets food from local businesses and delivers it three times a day to nurses and other frontline staff at St George s Hospital in south London. Many British people revere the National Health Service and the free care it provides. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday that the NHS could be "overwhelmed" by the coronavirus in just two weeks. As of Sunday, 281 people with COVID-19 had died in the United Kingdom. The government said there are 5,683 confirmed cases, with London hardest hit. Critical NHS, the volunteer group, was set up on Thursday by husband and wife Niall Barrett and Janneke Diemel, who were responding to an appeal from a senior nurse at St George s to "drop off a box of biscuits or something the staff can snack on." "Our first run was 20 pizzas," said Barrett. "The nurses loved that, they were so appreciative. And then it kept growing and growing." Barrett and Diemel, who run a golf travel company, were quickly joined by two part-time coaches from Battersea Ironsides, a local rugby club. Other local people have offered to drive, donate and run the Twitter account. A crowdfunding account set up on PayPal raised 22,000 pounds ($25,500) in just four days. Barrett said many nurses were too busy to buy food, or found their usual eating places had closed. BEYOND INCREDIBLE Local pubs and restaurants donate meals or sell them cheaply. Then the volunteers at Critical NHS deliver the meals to the hospital s general intensive care unit, where it is distributed to nurses, ambulance crew, porters and other staff. By sourcing the food locally, he said the group hopes to help hard-hit small businesses stay afloat. "Part of the ethos is to buy from local businesses," said Barrett. "Then we can support them and support the nurses at the same time." A Chinese restaurant and a pizzeria sold the group food at half price, while a pub gave it 40 Sunday roasts - a British tradition - at cost. "The support has been beyond incredible," wrote Anthea Allen, the senior nurse at St George s who made the original appeal, in an email thanking the community. She said the staff "have been kept afloat by this support. They no longer have to bring their meals to work. We have shared food with the wards who are also caring for Covid patients." Covid is short for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Flush with donations, the volunteers plan to to set up a food bank at St George s where nurses can get pasta, eggs, milk, tampons and other basic supplies. Last week a video on social media showed an exhausted nurse driven to tears after finding shelves bare after her shift at a critical care unit in York. Critical NHS is also earmarking money to pay for hotels for nurses who can t get home between shifts, and said it had received requests to extend its services to another London hospital. With over 9,000 staff, St George s University Hospitals, the NHS trust that runs the hospital, says it is the largest healthcare provider in southwest London. At the back of its sprawling grounds in Tooting is a special unit to deal with cases of the coronavirus. Another group, called Clap For Carers, is calling for all Britons to applaud at 8 p.m. on March 26 to show NHS staff "our appreciation for their ongoing hard work and fight against this virus." ($1 = 0.8624 pounds)
Iran on Sunday announced 129 new deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, raising to 1,685 the official death toll in one of the worst-hit countries along with Italy and China. Health ministry spokesman Kianouche Jahanpour said more than 1,028 new cases had been recorded in the past 24 hours and a total of 21,638 people had now tested positive for the virus.
Michel Barnier, the European Union s chief negotiator for the bloc s future relationship with Britain after Brexit, has been infected with the new coronavirus. The 69-year-old Barnier said in a Twitter video message Thursday that he is doing well and is in good spirits, while the EU s executive arm said negotiations with British officials can continue. ``I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team,`` Barnier said from his home, where he has been confined. ``For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together. Barnier s announcement prompted a series of good wishes messages, including from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel. European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said von der Leyen will be tested following Barnier s positive result. Barnier and the EU chief last met two weeks ago. So far she has not shown any symptom of illness. Michel s press service said he is well, too, but will ``telework at home for another two days`` as a matter of precaution after meeting with Barnier 12 days ago. Even before Barnier s tweet, the second round of post-Brexit trade negotiations that was due to take place in London this week had already been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak. London is the epicenter of Britain s virus infections. The pandemic has scuttled face-to-face negotiations between the two sides and has increased speculation that the U.K. government will have to extend its self-imposed Dec. 31 deadline to strike a deal with the bloc. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is refusing to discuss that idea, at least in public. On Wednesday he said the Dec. 31 date was enshrined in British law, and ``I have no intention of changing it. Johnson s spokesman, James Slack, said ``we send Michel Barnier our best wishes. He would not comment on whether the transition period could be extended beyond the end of 2020. ``We ve been in close conversation with the EU about looking at ways to continue progressing the negotiations, and I believe both sides have shared their texts of potential agreements, Slack said. The coronavirus pandemic has infected 219,000 people around the world and killed more than 8,900. About 84,000 have recovered. Aside from the elderly and the sick, most people only have mild or moderate symptoms, like a fever or cough. Negotiating teams from both sides have looked at alternative ways of continuing the negotiations during the outbreak, including by video conferencing. Mamer said on Thursday talks can continue, insisting that the two sides remain in contact remotely. Although Britain left the political institutions of the EU on Jan. 31, it remains part of the bloc s tariff-free single market and customs union until the end of this year. Johnson has said he wants a comprehensive trade deal completed this year. The Conservative leader said he won t seek an extension to the country s current transition period, insisting that 11 months is more than enough time to secure a wide-ranging deal with the EU for goods and services. Under the terms of Britain s departure from the EU, the country can request a one-time extension to the transition for up two years. The coronavirus outbreak, though, has raised questions as to whether a Brexit trade deal can now be completed in time, given the increasingly onerous restrictions on travel and work being put in place as a result of the outbreak. Opposition lawmakers from the Labour Party have said the Johnson should ask for an extension given how an already tight timetable has been made even tighter by the virus. The talks began earlier this month in Brussels, and are due to alternate between the EU s headquarters and London.
African countries have been among the last to be hit by the global coronavirus epidemic, but as cases rise, many nations are now taking strict measures to block the deadly illness. Here is a snapshot of the situation on a continent plagued by weak health systems and shortages of doctors and hospital beds, but where many countries have top-level expertise in fighting contagious disease. Slow to arrive, but now spreading The first case in Africa was recorded in Egypt on February 14, and by early March there were only two more cases in Algeria and Nigeria. Experts initially wondered why the continent appeared to have so few cases -- and some speculated whether the virus was spreading undetected. Since then, confirmed cases have spread steadily and in a little over a week, more than 20 new countries have been infected, bringing the total to 30 of 54 African nations with 450 known cases of the virus. The worst-affected countries are in North Africa, where local transmission is now taking place and 10 deaths have been confirmed. Egypt has recorded 166 cases and four deaths, and Algeria 60 cases and also four deaths. Sudan and Morocco each have one death. Economic powerhouse South Africa has 62 cases, many of which were imported, although the virus is now spreading in the community. In East Africa, home to hubs Ethiopia and Kenya, there are a total of 20 cases across six countries. Senegal is the worst-affected in West Africa with 27 cases -- most of whom were infected by a single citizen who had returned from Italy. Travel restrictions Watching from afar as disaster unfolds in Asia and Europe -- where many are suffering the consequences of being slow to act -- some African countries have wasted no time in taking drastic measures. Air traffic in particular has been hard hit as nations across the continent realised their first cases had come from citizens returning from travel abroad in infected countries. In comparison to many countries in the West, measures have been decisive and very strict. Morocco has stopped all international flights "until further notice", aside from special planes authorised to repatriate European tourists. Somalia, a country riven by decades of conflict, also banned all international flights -- including for cargo -- after confirming its first case. Humanitarian flights, however, will be allowed to proceed. Chad, where no cases have been reported, has also shut its airports and borders with affected Sudan and Central African Republic. Similarly, neighbouring Mali, also with no confirmed cases, has announced all commercial flights from virus-affected countries will be stopped. Guinea-Bissau is also set to halt all flights in and out of the country. Cape Verde is due to stop flights too, from virus-hit European countries, as well as Senegal, Nigeria, Brasil and the United States. Others are banning flights and travellers depending on their origins. Senegal has blocked air links with seven European countries and the Middle East. Togo and Madagascar have taken similar measures. Others like Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Ivory Coast have blocked foreigners from high-risk countries -- in some cases allowing those in who hold resident permits. Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana and Equatorial Guinea are among those insisting on self-quarantine for travellers from high-risk countries. Tourism has been hard-hit, including the cruise industry, with ships blocked by many countries including Madagascar, Senegal, Seychelles and Mauritius. Bans and cancellations At least 13 countries on the continent have closed or are preparing to shut down their school systems all the way up to university level. This includes Kenya, Rwanda, Morocco, Egypt, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast. To add to this measure, Kenya has encouraged working from home, which has seen thousands streaming from the capital to their rural houses. Some countries have also taken strong measures regarding religious gatherings. In Senegal, the powerful Muslim brotherhoods have suspended religious festivities planned for this month. Tunisian authorities have suspended group prayers, including on Fridays. Major sporting and cultural events have also been hit by the wave of bans. The annual Bushfire music festival in Eswatini has been cancelled, while in South Africa, the popular AfrikaBurn festival will also not go ahead, while a plethora of sporting events have been blocked. Tunisia meanwhile is continuing with sporting events without spectators.
Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners in response to the coronavirus epidemic, a judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday, The death toll in Iran from the coronavirus has reached 853 and a total of 14,991 people have been confirmed infected across the country, one of the worst national outbreaks outside China, where the new virus originated. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said only those serving sentences of less than five years had been freed, while political prisoners and others charged with heavier sentences linked to their participation in anti-government protests remained in jail. "Also in the jails we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak," Esmaili said. He did not elaborate on when those released would have to return to jail. On March 10, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, said he had asked Tehran to free all political prisoners temporarily from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails to help stem the spread of coronavirus. Iran has released at least a dozen political prisoners in the past days, according to activists and rights groups. But prominent political prisoners still remain in jail. The United States has called for the release of dozens of dual nationals and foreigners held mainly on spying charges in Iran, saying that Washington will hold the government directly responsible for any American deaths. Iran s clerical rulers have rejected locking down cities despite the rising death toll and the rate of new cases but they have urged people to avoid travelling ahead of Iranian new year on March 20 amid concerns over further spread of the virus. Many Iranians have ignored calls by the health authorities to stay at home, and shops and restaurants remained open in the country. In a rare move, the establishment has closed the holy Shi ite Muslim sites and shrines in Mashhad and Qom, the epicentre of Iran s coronavirus outbreak. Police dispersed a group of hardline demonstrators who gathered on late Monday at Imam Reza Shrine in Mashahd and Masumeh Shrine in Qom to protest against their closure, state media reported. Two protesters had been arrested. Officials have blamed U.S. sanctions, reimposed on Tehran since Washington quit Iran s 2015 nuclear agreement with six powers, for hampering Tehran s fight against the coronavirus. Tehran has called on other countries to back its call for lifting of U.S. sanctions. Sources told Reuters on Monday that Washington was unlikely to ease sanctions on Iran despite an appeal from China that it do so because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, Iran said it had asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $5 billion in emergency funding to combat the outbreak. The United Arab Emirates, a rival of Iran, has put aside differences to lend support by sending two planes carrying 32 tonnes of medical supplies, including gloves and surgical masks. Other countries in the Middle East have imposed strict measures such as closing their borders and suspending flights. Kuwait’s health ministry on Tuesday reported seven new cases, all among Kuwaitis who had been to Britain to take the country’s toll to 130. Bahrain on Monday reported the Arab Gulf region’s first death from the disease as the number of infections in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council crossed 1,000. Oman, which lies across the Gulf from Iran, said anyone entering the sultanate as of Tuesday would be quarantined. It had earlier imposed restrictions on entry to allow only Gulf Arab citizens.
Turkey identified 12 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its total to 18, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Monday, marking the highest daily rise since the country announced its first case last week. Koca said two of the new cases were related to the first case reported in the country, seven had travelled from Europe and three from the United States. Last Wednesday, Turkey became the last major economy to report an outbreak after taking what the World Health Organization (WHO) described as "vigilant" measures to delay it. Since then, the government has ramped up measures to halt the spread of the virus, closing schools and universities, holding sports events without spectators and halting flights to many countries. The Istanbul governor s office said on Monday that Turkish citizens who request to return from nine European countries will be brought back until midnight on March 17 on condition that they are quarantined. They will be housed for 14 days in three student dormitories in Istanbul, the city s governor said. The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) warned on Monday that the real number of cases may be higher than officially reported, and the recent trend indicated that the epidemic could reach serious levels. "We are hearing from doctors all around the country that the number of cases is much higher than 18," TTB head Sinan Adiyaman told a news conference. "The picture emerging in the last few days suggests that the epidemic could reach serious levels, we advise those older than 65 to stay at home," he said. Separately, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said on Monday that all non-emergency court hearings will be delayed. Thousands of Muslims returning to Turkey from a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia were taken into quarantine on Sunday and the Interior Ministry said that bars and nightclubs will be closed from Monday to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu s corruption trial has been postponed until May 24 due to concerns about coronavirus, Jerusalem s District Court said Sunday. Netanyahu, the first Israeli premier ever to be indicted in office, had been scheduled to stand trial from Tuesday over alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust. In a statement, the court noted that given the coronavirus pandemic it had been instructed to hear "only urgent matters". "We have decided to postpone the first hearing (in Netanyahu s trial) until May 24," the court said. Israel has 200 confirmed cases of the virus with tens of thousands of people in home quarantine. Netanyahu has been charged with a range of offences including receiving improper gifts and offering a media mogul lucrative regulatory changes in exchange for favourable coverage. He denies wrongdoing. Despite the indictments, Netanyahu s right-wing Likud party won the most seats in March 2 elections and he is aiming to form a new government. But Likud and its allies fell short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the Knesset, or parliament. It was Israel s third inconclusive vote in less than a year. Netanyahu has called on his main challenger Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party to form an emergency, national unity government to tackle the coronavirus crisis. Gantz has said he is open to discussing the proposal, with negotiations set for this week.
European Union leaders vowed Tuesday to stand united in combating the spread of the coronavirus ravaging member country Italy, and agreed to draft a plan to address any medical shortages and set up a fund to help overburdened health care systems. The pledges came at a rare video conference among national heads of state and government as COVID-19, which is now present in all 27 EU member countries, took its toll on European politics, forcing meetings to be canceled, a parliamentary session to be cut short, and even sending some senior officials home to work.
Algeria s government has cancelled political gatherings because of the coronavirus, it said on Tuesday, though it was not immediately clear if this would entail a ban on the mass protests that have convulsed the state for more than a year. Health Minister Abderrahmane Benbouzid said in comments broadcast on state television that the government was acting to slow the spread of the disease, with 20 confirmed cases in the country. "All sports, cultural, political and economic gatherings are cancelled. We do not take any risk," he said. There was no immediate comment from leading figures in the political opposition, known as the Hirak, over the move. However, one student demonstrator, Riad Mekrez, 25, said: "I disagree with it. Hirak must goes on even if I acknowledge that we need to protect people from corona." Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad said the country faced an unprecedented "multi-dimensional crisis" and urged people to make fewer demands of the government and reduce their street presence. The demonstrators are demanding wholesale changes in the political establishment, including the departure of the entire ruling elite and the army s withdrawal from politics. The protests forced the ousting last April of Abdelaziz Bouteflika after 20 years as president, and the arrest of many senior figures on corruption charges. Algeria s authorities have publicly praised the protest movement as a moment of national renewal and pledged to meet its demands, while using a big police presence and arrests to put pressure on demonstrators. In December, the authorities held a presidential election to replace Bouteflika despite vehement opposition from the protest movement, which said any vote held while the old ruling elite remained in power would be illegitimate. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was elected in the vote, has promised to change the constitution in order to satisfy public demand for change. Algeria s 20 confirmed coronavirus cases so far are mostly from one family in the town of Blida south of the capital.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday made his first visit to Wuhan since a coronavirus outbreak forced an unprecedented lockdown of the central city of 11 million people, in a sign that authorities efforts to control the virus are working. Xi s arrival came on the same day that Wuhan shut the last of 14 makeshift hospitals opened to manage a surge in coronavirus patients that had overwhelmed the city s health care system, news website The Paper reported.. Earlier on Tuesday, China announced that it had just 19 new coronavirus infections on Monday, down from 40 a day earlier. That also marked the third straight day of no new domestically transmitted cases in mainland China outside of Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, even as the disease spreads rapidly in other countries, including Italy and the United States. News of Xi s Wuhan visit gave a lift to Chinese stocks, with the blue-chip index ending the day 2.1% higher after falling into negative territory in morning trade. "It is obvious that Xi could not have visited Wuhan earlier because the risk of him contracting the virus there was initially too high," Zhang Ming, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told Reuters. "He is there now to reap the harvest. His being there means the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) may declare victory against the virus soon," Zhang said. China came in for criticism at home and globally over its early response to the outbreak, suppressing information and downplaying its risks, but its draconian efforts at control, including the lock-down of Wuhan and Hubei province, have been effective at curbing the spread. Also on Tuesday, Hubei said it would implement a "health code" system to allow people in areas at medium or low risk to start travelling. Qianjiang, another city in Hubei, said that all traffic checkpoints will be removed, public transportation will restart and firms will resume work in the near future, according to a report on an official website. IMPORTED CASES During his trip to Wuhan, Xi will "visit and express regards to medical workers, military officers and soldiers, community workers, police officers, officials and volunteers who have been fighting the epidemic on the front line, as well as patients and residents during the inspection," state news agency Xinhua said. Separately, Taiwan s government said a second round of evacuations of its citizens stranded in Wuhan had begun, after weeks of arguments between the Chinese-claimed island and Beijing over the arrangements. Of the new coronovirus cases announced by China on Thuesday, 17 were in Wuhan. Two others - in Beijing and Guangdong province - involved people who had arrived from Britain and Spain, respectively. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,754. Chinese authorities have ramped up warnings about the risks from foreigners and Chinese nationals travelling to China from viral hot spots abroad such as Iran and Italy. As of Monday, there were 69 imported cases. Globally, more than 114,300 people have been infected by the coronavirus and over 4,000 have died, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements. Since the outbreak, 59,897 patients have been discharged from hospitals in China. Recently discharged patients need to go into quarantine for 14 days. Xi, who was mostly absent from Chinese state media coverage of the crisis in its early days, has become for more visible in recent weeks. The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the official People s Daily, on Tuesday detailed the various instructions and actions Xi had given and taken between Jan. 7 and March 2 to combat the epidemic. "Xi personally commands the people s war against the epidemic. He has been paying constant attention to the epidemic prevention and control work and made oral or written instructions every day," the newspaper said.
Sudan s prime minister survived an assassination attempt on Monday after a blast in the capital, Khartoum, Sudanese state media said. Abdalla Hamdok s family confined he was safe following the explosion, which targeted his convoy. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Hamdok was appointed prime minister last August, after pro-democracy protests led to the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir in April and replace it with a civilian-led government. Hamdok has confirmed the government will cooperate with the International Criminal Court s efforts to prosecute those wanted for war crimes and genocide in connection with the Darfur conflict in Sudan in the 2000s. Transitional authorities announced in February that they agreed to hand over al-Bashir to the ICC along with other former officials wanted by the ICC. Nearly a year after al-Bashir s ouster, the country faces a dire economic crisis. Inflation stands at a staggering 60% and the unemployment rate was 22.1% in 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund. The government has said that 30% of Sudan s young people, who make up more than half of the over 42 million population, are without jobs. *This story was edited by Ahram Online.
I wonder how could a group of businessmen demand the sacrifice of thousands of individuals in order to save the country from bankruptcy? The Corona catastrophe came to reveal the reality of human selfishness, and the survival instinct that don’t mind sacrificing others in order to save oneself. Our planet is full of hopes, aspirations, contradictions, tragedies, love and hatred, or simply good and bad. It has so