WHO chief says worst of outbreak yet to come

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Tedros also alluded to the so-called Spanish flu in 1918 as a reference for the coronavirus outbreak.

Source: Associated Press

Tedros also alluded to the so-called Spanish flu in 1918 as a reference for the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo)

GENEVA: The head of the World Health Organization has warned that “the worst is yet ahead of us” in the coronavirus outbreak, raising new alarm bells about the pandemic just as many countries are beginning to ease restrictive measures.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn’t specify why he believed that the outbreak that has infected nearly 2.5 million people and killed over 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, could be even worse.

Tedros also alluded to the so-called Spanish flu in 1918 as a reference for the coronavirus outbreak.

“It has a very dangerous combination and this is happening in hundred years for the first time again, like the 1918 flu that killed up to 100 million people,” he told reporters in Geneva. “But now we have the technology, we can prevent that disaster, we can prevent that kind of crisis.”

“Trust us. The worst is yet ahead of us,” he said. “Let’s prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand.”

LONDON: British treasury chief Rishi Sunak says some 140,000 firms have applied to take part in a government program meant to help companies keep paying workers who have been furloughed amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The program, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, opened Monday. The grants will help pay the wages of more than a million people.

Sunak says that “a million people who if they hadn’t been furloughed would have been at risk of losing their job. Firms applying today should receive their cash in six working days.”

The program allows employers to claim cash grants worth up to 80% of wages, capped at 2,500 pounds ($3,100) a month per worker.

ROME: Italy has marked the two-month anniversary of its coronavirus outbreak by registering its first-ever drop in the number of currently infected patients.

Civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli said Monday the 108,237 currently infected was 20 fewer than a day earlier, “another positive point” in Italy’s general trend of easing pressure on the health care system.

Overall, Italy has had a total of 181,228 confirmed cases, up just 1.2% from a day earlier in one of the lowest day-on-day increases. Another 484 people died, bringing its toll to 24,144, the highest in Europe and second only to the U.S.

Italy’s outbreak began two months ago when a 38-year-old Unilever employee tested positive in the Lombardy city of Codogno. After the test was confirmed Feb. 21, the man spent weeks in intensive care as his pregnant wife tested positive and his father died. He was released from the hospital in time to be home to welcome baby Giulia.

ATHENS: Health authorities in Greece say a third migrant camp on the country’s mainland has been placed in isolation after a pregnant woman at the site tested positive for COVID-19.

The facility at Kranidi, in southern Greece, hosts 470 asylum seekers and was isolated Monday for emergency testing procedures, according to the Health Ministry and the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, which runs the camp.

Two other camps have also been sealed off in recent weeks, but no cases have so far been recorded at much larger facilities on Lesbos and other Greek islands where conditions of serious overcrowding persist.

The potential threat of contagion on the islands is a major concern for Greek authorities, who have managed to keep the general rate of infection low with tough restriction measures.

The Health Ministry reported 10 new confirmed cases Monday to bring the total to 2,245, while the death toll stood at 116 — still similar to the rate of fatalities attributed to seasonal flu in Greece.

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations says a survey of over 40,000 people in 186 countries on global trends that will most affect the future put climate and the environment at the top followed by conflicts and health risks, which increased as the coronavirus pandemic was felt around the world.

The survey, part of an initiative marking this year’s 75th anniversary of the United Nations, also found that 95% of respondents said international cooperation is “essential” or “very important” to tackle those trends, with a noticeable uptick from late February when COVID-19 was spreading.

Preliminary results of the online survey from Jan. 1 to March 24 released Monday also showed the global public’s priorities for “the world we want to create”: protecting the environment, protecting human rights, less conflict, equal access to basic services and zero discrimination.

The U.N. launched the initiative, which will continue throughout the year, to get feedback from people around the world on their major concerns, how they see the world in 2045 and prospects for global cooperation.

WASHINGTON: The U.S. says it will continue to quickly expel migrants it encounters along the border for at least another month in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

An order issued by the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday says the policy should be kept in place for another 30 days to help reduce the spread of the virus. The new order extends the policy until May 20.

U.S. officials last month launched the new policy, saying it would be dangerous for Customs and Border Protection to detain people because of the potential spread of the virus in detention facilities.

As a result, CBP has been turning away thousands of migrants, including asylum seekers.

Adults from Mexico and Central America make up most of the border crossers and they are being sent immediately back to Mexico.

Unaccompanied minors from Central America are being quickly flown back to their home countries.

CBP has said it allows people to seek asylum on a case by case basis but has not said whether any have been allowed into the country.

Critics including the American Civil Liberties Union say the policy amounts to an abandonment of longstanding international commitments to protect refugees.

BRATISLAVA: Slovakia has sent 300 thousand face masks and disinfection to Italy, a European country that has been seriously hit by the pandemic of the coronavirus.

The aid onboard of a Slovak government plane took off from Bratislava’s international airport on Monday.

Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok tweeted that aid is a symbol of European solidarity in the fight against COVID-19.

His Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio has thanked the aid.

Slovakia has only 1,173 positive coronavirus cases and 13 deaths.

BATON ROUGE: A 69-year-old inmate of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola is the first state prisoner to die after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Corrections officials said the unidentified man was serving a live sentence for first-degree murder when he died Saturday.

Corrections officials said Monday he had an underlying health condition. He had been hospitalized in Baton Rouge since April 15.

MINNEAPOLIS: President Donald Trump said he got a “very nice call” from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Monday.

Walz tried calling Trump on Friday but couldn’t get through at the time to the president or the vice president.

Walz placed that call after Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” in support of a protest outside the governor’s residence in St. Paul against Minnesota’s stay-at-home order, which is meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The president’s tone was different in a tweet Monday morning: “Received a very nice call from @GovTimWalz of Minnesota. We are working closely on getting him all he needs, and fast. Good things happening!”

Walz plans to discuss the call at a previously scheduled news conference.

While he has expressed frustration with the state’s difficulties with the federal government in securing personal protective equipment and testing supplies, he’s been measured in his criticism of Trump.

WASHINGTON: The U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada will be closed to non-essential travel for at least another month.

Acting Secretary Chad Wolf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that the three nations have agreed to extend restrictions initially imposed in March that are aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Wolf says the restrictions would be extended for 30 more days. Canada announced the agreement between Ottawa and Washington on Friday.

Commercial traffic continues over both borders.

In addition, citizens of all three nations are not being turned away if they are trying to return home. But it does mean a further ban on trips for tourism, shopping, and recreation as well as any other activities deemed “nonessential.”

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has put off two major global events for the Catholic Church in the coming years, postponing its international family rally in Rome until 2022 and World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, until 2023.

The Vatican on Monday cited the coronavirus pandemic for the schedule changes.

Both weeklong events are usually held every three years and generally draw hundreds of thousands of Catholics from around the world. Many pilgrims who attend camp or bunk in dormitories. Those close quarters will have to be rethought in any post-pandemic period where social distancing is still the norm.

The family rally had been scheduled for June 2021, while World Youth Day was planned for August 2022.

Both events require intensive planning at the Vatican, in the host country and in dioceses around the world. Their lengthy delays suggest a realization that not only travel but all matter of church activities will be upended for the foreseeable future.

The Vatican, which has been in virus lockdown along with the rest of Italy for six weeks, has nine positive cases so far.

NEW YORK: New York City won’t allow public events in June, including three of the city’s major annual celebrations. It includes the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Celebrate Israel Parade and the Pride parade on its 50th anniversary.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says the events would be canceled or at least postponed, saying Monday it was a painful but necessary step as the city continues to fight the coronavirus.

“They will be back, and we will find the right way to do it,” he said.

The Pride parade began in 1970 as a way to commemorate the Stonewall rebellion the year before, when a police raid at the Stonewall Inn bar sparked resistance by gay men, bisexuals, lesbians, and transgender people and led to the development of more extensive and militant LGBTQ activist groups than the U.S. had seen before.

The Puerto Rico and Israel parades are also touchstones in a city that has the largest Jewish population outside Israel and the biggest Puerto Rican community of the island.

JOHANNESBURG: South African authorities say at least 12 police officers have been arrested for violating lockdown regulations.

Police spokesman Vish Naidoo says five officers were arrested for drinking alcohol at a local tavern. The sale and distribution of alcohol is banned under South Africa’s lockdown.

In a separate incident, six police officers were arrested in the capital Pretoria for allegedly stealing the equivalent of $1,500 from passengers in a vehicle they had stopped at a roadblock. The officers had allegedly demanded a bribe from the passengers as they did not have the required permits to be on the road during the restrictions.

Naidoo said the police officers were found with the money in their possession.

Another officer was arrested for allegedly hosting a gathering at the police barracks in Pretoria. Large gatherings have been banned under the lockdown regulations, with funerals only allowed up to 50 people.

MIAMI: Police said they dispersed crowds violating social distancing guidelines during David Guetta’s coronavirus relief concert in Miami.

There were no arrests made when police broke up groups on sidewalks located far below the two-hour rooftop concert played by the DJ on Saturday. Florida has prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people during the pandemic.

While some residents in downtown Miami were able to see the concert from their balconies, the relief benefit also drew in over 9 million views on Facebook and nearly 2 million views on YouTube.

The concert raised $700,000, Guetta said in a Facebook post-Sunday. The money will go towards four organizations, including Feeding South Florida and the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Response Fund.

Florida’s coronavirus caseload reached 26,314 with 774 deaths as of Sunday evening.

 

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