Global coronavirus cases rises to 4.8 million: Johns Hopkins University


Global coronavirus cases rises to 4.8 million: Johns Hopkins University

Washington: The overall number of global coronavirus cases has increased to over 4.8 million, while the death toll has surpassed 318,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

As of Tuesday morning, the total number of cases stood at 4,801,282, while the death toll increased to 318,465, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US currently accounts for the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 1,508,291 and 90,340, respectively.

In terms of cases, Russia has the second highest number of infections at 290,678, followed by Brazil (255,368), the UK (247,709), Spain (231,606), Italy (225,886), France (180,051), Germany (176,551), Turkey (150,593) and Iran (122,492), the CSSE figures showed.

Meanwhile, the UK accounted for the second highest COVID-19 deaths worldwide at 34,876.

The other countries with over 10,000 deaths are Italy (32,007), France (28,242), Spain (27,709) and Brazil (16,853).

 
 
 



Coronavirus update: Donald Trump to look into legislation proposing to sanctions on China


Coronavirus update: Donald Trump to look into legislation proposing to sanctions on China

Washington: US President Donald Trump has said that he will look into the legislation introduced in the Senate a day earlier that proposes sanctions on China if it fails to cooperate and provide a full accounting of the events leading up to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The coronavirus, which first emerged in China's Wuhan city last year, has claimed nearly 3,00,000 lives and infected over 4.3 million people across the world so far. The US alone has recorded close to 85,000 COVID-19 deaths.

"I will certainly look at it (the legislation), they build to sanction China so I will certainly take a look at it. I have not seen it yet," Trump told reporters on Wednesday.

The legislation was introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham and eight other senators on Tuesday. The COVID-19 Accountability Act mandates the president to make a certification to Congress within 60 days that China has provided a full and complete accounting to any COVID-19 investigation led by the US, its allies or UN affiliates such as the World Health Organization and has closed all operating wet markets that have the potential to expose humans to health risks through the introduction of zoonotic disease into the human population.

Without the certification, the president would be authorised to impose a range of sanctions such as asset freezes, travel bans, visa revocations, restricting United States financial institutions from making loans or underwritings to Chinese businesses and prohibiting Chinese firms from being listed on American stock exchanges.

Following the Senate legislation, Congressman Doug Collins on Wednesday introduced the COVID-19 Accountability Act to hold China accountable for creating a global pandemic by giving the president the authority to impose sanctions on China if they fail to cooperate.

The legislation is co-sponsored by more than two dozen lawmakers.

"While the Chinese Communist regime has inflicted harm on the US for decades, the coronavirus outbreak has shined a light on the urgent need to change course," said Collins.

"The Chinese Communist regime's coverup of the coronavirus outbreak cost hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide and caused unfathomable harm to the global economy, and they must be held accountable.

By giving the president the authority to impose a wide range of sanctions on Chinese officials, the COVID-19 Accountability Act will guarantee China is held fully accountable for the worldwide devastation they've caused and will ensure the American people get the answers they deserve," he said.

Meanwhile, Congressman Max Rose, Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, and Congressman Mark Walker, a ranking member of the subcommittee, urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) to focus on China and provide the subcommittee with details of its intelligence assessments on China's actions related to the pandemic.

"While the coronavirus pandemic travelled the world and devastated my district, China continues to hide critical information for their own benefit," Rose said.

"The Communist Chinese Government cannot be trusted, but I trust our intelligence community can help us get the facts in order to help us beat this pandemic and save lives," he said.

"China's blatant disregard for humanity during the coronavirus pandemic has endangered the lives of Americans in North Carolina's sixth district and across this nation," Walker said.

"Enough is enough. I urge the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis to fully investigate these atrocities and get to the bottom of China's apparent malpractice," he added.

Even amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese government and Communist Party's efforts to steal intellectual property and trade secrets from American companies remains an ongoing threat, Senator Marco Rubio said.

"Adjusting to the new reality caused by the pandemic, Beijing has shifted its recruitment efforts for the Thousand Talents Program online, and it has increased efforts to hack US medical research institutes for COVID-19 information.

Policymakers at every level of the US government, as well as the private sector, must be clear-eyed about this threat and work diligently to protect against it," Rubio said.

A day earlier, Senator Rick Scott sent a letter to US stock exchanges, major pension plans and underwriters urging them to review their policies and discontinue coordination with US-listed Chinese-based companies considering the growing threat of Communist China.

Separately Congresswoman Jackie Walorski called for the select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis to focus on safely getting America back to work and holding China accountable, rather than conducting partisan investigations and scoring political points.

During the panel's first public hearing, Walorski highlighted questions about China's actions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic that have gone unanswered even as Democrats in the subcommittee's first official action sent harassing letters to American businesses trying to save jobs.

A senior State Department official travelling with the Secretary of State told reporters in Germany that COVID-19 highlights the dangers of dealing with states that are not transparent, that don't have fair trade practices, that leverage trade get certain outcomes from their trade partners.

"Aside from sort of debt traps that we're seeing, we've seen in Djibouti, elsewhere, right, where you have to give China a 99-year lease on a port -- to other states. So a region where they're really in debt and it's causing major issues with the economy," the official said.

"But in particular there's the issue of strategic investment, that there is no such thing as a privately owned, independent company in China, right. If you use (Chinese technology company) Huawei, if you use any type of company that has access to your DNA, that DNA becomes property and that information becomes property of the Chinese Communist Party. And so that's a security issue," the official said.

 
 
 



Qatar Airways to give free flight tickets to 1,00,000 frontline health workers


Qatar Airways to give free flight tickets to 1,00,000 frontline health workers

In a bid to thank all the frontline healthworkers fighting the battle against coronavirus, Qatar Airways has said that it will give away 100,000 free tickets to frontline healthcare professionals to say thank you for their exemplary work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the airline’s work at the frontline of global efforts to repatriate stranded passengers, it now seeks to recognise and reward the world’s frontline healthcare workers.

How to apply?

The giveaway will open at 00.01 AM on 12 May and close at 23:59 on 18 May (Doha time). Healthcare professionals can register for this exclusive offer at qatarairways.com/ThankYouHeroes by submitting a form to receive a unique promotion code, offered on a first come, first served basis.

Who are eligible?

Healthcare professionals from every country in the world will be eligible for tickets. To ensure the application process is fair and transparent, each country will receive a daily allocation of tickets, depending on its population size, staggered over a seven day period from 12 to 18 May. The daily allocation will be released at 00:01 AM Doha time throughout the campaign period.

Healthcare professionals that receive the promotion code can book up to two complimentary Economy Class return tickets on Qatar Airways operated flights – one for themselves and one for a companion – to anywhere on the airline’s global network. Tickets must be booked before 26 November, with travel valid until 10 December 2020. The tickets will be fully flexible, with an unlimited number of destination or date changes allowed without any fees. Fare and surcharges will be waived on tickets, airport taxes apply.*

Commenting on this, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, said: “We at Qatar Airways are incredibly grateful for the commitment and hard work of healthcare professionals around the world who looked after people in these times of uncertainty. Their heroic display of kindness, dedication, and professionalism has saved hundreds of thousands of lives around the world."

He added, “We have built a strong level of trust with passengers, governments, trade partners, and airports as a reliable partner during this crisis and we intend to continue delivering on this mission by acknowledging the incredible efforts of these heroes. Our crew and operation has never given up during these past three months, never abandoned hope or their mission to help people get home to their loved ones and we do not intend to do so now."

“United in dedication, we share our gratitude. Now it is our turn to give something back to those on the healthcare frontline. There are no words or gestures that are enough to repay these brave men and women but we hope that our small offer of a complimentary return flight on Qatar Airways will allow them to enjoy a well-deserved holiday, visit family and friends or explore a destination they have always dreamed of, as travel restrictions start to ease,” he adds.

Moreover, as a further gesture of appreciation, healthcare professionals will be offered additionally a voucher with 35% discount to redeem at Qatar Duty Free retail outlets at the airline’s state-of-the-art hub, Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha, which will be valid for use up to 31 December 2020.




Pakistan minister claims New York is learning from them, leads to hilarity on Twitter


Pakistan minister claims New York is learning from them, leads to hilarity on Twitter

Pakistan Federal Minister for Communications, Murad Saeed, on Monday claimed New York is learning from them. He also said that New York is planning to follow the concept of contact tracing and 'smart lockdown' introduced by Pakistan.

According to The Dawn, On Monday, during a National Assembly session, Murad Saeed said, "The governor of New York said his state will follow the concept of 'smart lockdown' for contact tracing introduced by Pakistan."

After Murad Saeed's statements went viral, netizens took to Twitter and trolled him for saying New York is learning from Pakistan. One user said, "Bas kar pagle, ab rulayega kya." Another user said, "Murad Saeed say that New York will follow 'smart lockdown' concept introduced by Pakistan, means they will create Mass graveyards like Pakistan to fill up Corona Virus Victim dead Bodies."

Here's what netizens had to say:


DR MAHREEN BHUTTO
@DRMAHREENBHUTTO
Bas kar pagle, ab rulayega kya..




Coronavirus updates from India and the world: CRPF HQ in Delhi to be sealed for sanitisation as staff tests positive


Coronavirus updates from India and the world: CRPF HQ in Delhi to be sealed for sanitisation as staff tests positive

Bern: Switzerland has entered the second phase of relaxation measures as part of a three-phase plan to get back to normal life amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In accordance with the decision of the Swiss Federal Council, restaurants, shopping malls, markets, museums and libraries were allowed to reopen from Monday, reports Xinhua news agency.

However, according to the government rules, with the exception of families with children, no more than four persons may be served at each dining table in restaurants and the tables should be spaced at least two meters apart.

Primary and junior middle schools were also allowed to resume classes. Students were required to keep more than two meters away from the teacher.

Also on Monday, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) resumed most of its operations.

Passengers are advised to avoid rush hour travel and wear masks if they cannot maintain a safe distance. The Geneva bus company also decided to distribute masks to passengers during rush hours.

Along with the recovering public transport is the further eased entry restrictions at the country's borders.

According to the Swiss Federal Customs Administration, of the 130 border crossings closed during the pandemic, 20 have now been reopened.

Daniel Koch, the Federal Office of Public Health's Special delegate for the new coronavirus pandemic, told a press conference on Monday that the situation continued to improve in Switzerland, a trend that could be maintained if more efforts were made in contact tracing.

"We hope that the trend will continue like this. For this, it is important that anyone with flu-like symptoms, severe or mild, get tested. The chains of transmission can thus be traced and the curve continue to decrease."

Switzerland has reported a total of 30,344 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,543 deaths.

 
 
 



Coronavirus update: China reports 15 new asymptomatic COVID-19 cases


Coronavirus update: China reports 15 new asymptomatic COVID-19 cases

Beijing: China has reported 15 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases, taking their total to 836 while one new imported COVID-19 infection was confirmed, health officials said on Saturday.

According to China's National Health Commission (NHC), as for Friday 836 asymptomatic cases, including 63 from overseas, were still under medical observation.

The NHC said one imported case of coronavirus was reported on Friday and 15 new asymptomatic cases, all domestic ones, were confirmed in the country.

Most of the asymptomatic cases were being reported from first coronavirus epicentres Hubei province and its capital Wuhan where no confirmed cases were reported for the 35 days, the local health commission said.

Normalcy is returning to the province as the lockdown has been lifted and offices, business and factories have been opened since last month.

The province still has 628 asymptomatic cases under medical observation, after 13 new cases were reported on Friday, the commission said.

Death toll in China remained at 4,633 as no new fatalities have been reported on Friday while the total number of cases stood at 82,887, including 208 patients who were still being treated, the NHC said.

 
 
 



Coronavirus update: Kim Jong Un sends Vladimir Putin letter in outreach amid outbreak Publish


Coronavirus update: Kim Jong Un sends Vladimir Putin letter in outreach amid outbreak Publish

Seoul: North Korea says leader Kim Jong Un sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on the 75th anniversary of the allied victory in World War II and wishing Russia success in fighting its coronavirus outbreak.

The report by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday came a day after it reported Kim sent a personal message to Chinese President Xi Jinping to praise what he described as China's success in getting its COVID-19 epidemic under control.

Some experts say the North could intensify its diplomatic outreach to neighbors, particularly China, as it seeks economic help after closing its border for months to fend off the virus.

KCNA says Kim's message "sincerely wished the president and people of Russia sure victory in their struggle to build a powerful Russia by carrying forward the tradition of the great victory in the war and to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus infection."

 
 
 



Indian-American grocery store owner in Silicon Valley charged with price gouging


Indian-American grocery store owner in Silicon Valley charged with price gouging

Washington: The owner of a popular Indian-American grocery story has been charged with price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic, when the entire state is under stay-at-home orders.

Following consumer complaints, an investigation office revealed that Rajvinder Singh, owner of the popular Apna Bazaar in California's Pleasanton, had allegedly increased the prices of grocery items following the emergency declaration by the governor on March 4.

Based on evidence provided by customer receipts, the investigation confirmed that the pricing of several food items exceeded the 10-per cent increase allowed during a state of emergency, with some prices being as much as 200 per cent more than what was previously charged, according to a joint statement issued by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.

The food items listed in the complaint include yellow onions, ginger, green beans, instant noodles, tea, chili peppers, pomegranates and red yams.

"We take price gouging seriously and are committed to going after those who break the law during the public health emergency," Becerra said.

Singh faces imprisonment in the county jail for not more than a year and/or a fine of not more than USD 10,000. California law prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10 per cent, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency.

"The law prevents businesses from profiteering when we are in a state of emergency. All businesses throughout Alameda County must be on notice that we will not sit idly by and allow consumers to fall prey to price gouging. My office will ensure that businesses adhere to the law and do not exploit consumers," said O'Malley.

 
 



Coronavirus update: China reports 1 new virus case, no deaths


Coronavirus update: China reports 1 new virus case, no deaths

Beijing: China reported one new case of coronavirus Tuesday and no deaths, marking three weeks since it recorded a COVID-19 fatality.

The National Health Commission said 395 people remained under treatment in the hospital, while 949 were under isolation and observation for suspected cases or after testing positive despite showing no symptoms.

The latest figures come as China strikes back against accusations from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others that the pandemic may have originated in a lab in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where it was first detected late last year.

The World Health Organization has backed up China's refutations and most experts believe the virus developed naturally among bats and was transmitted to humans via an intermediary animal, most likely the armadillo-like pangolin that is sold for human consumption in wet markets, including the one in Wuhan linked to the pandemic's origin.

China has reported 4,633 deaths from the virus among 82,881 cases, but strict travel restrictions, testing, quarantining and case tracing policies appear to have stemmed the virus as warm weather arrives in much of the country.

 
 
 



PM Benjamin Netanyahu lashes out at top court, threatens new elections


PM Benjamin Netanyahu lashes out at top court, threatens new elections

Jerusalem: Israel's prime minister urged the country's Supreme Court on Monday not to interfere in his efforts to build a coalition government, threatening that a decision against him could drag the country toward an unprecedented fourth straight election in just over a year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his comments shortly after the court heard a second day of arguments in a series of legal challenges to the coalition deal.

The court's rulings, expected by the end of the week, will dictate whether Israel breaks out of its prolonged political paralysis with Netanyahu and his former political rival Benny Gantz joining forces in government, or whether the country is plunged into another election.

The court is looking into two key questions: whether a politician facing criminal corruption charges, such as Netanyahu, can form a new government; and whether his coalition deal with Gantz violated the law.

Speaking to reporters following a briefing on coronavirus developments, Netanyahu pressed the court not to get involved in the country's political affairs lest it risk forcing new elections.

"We hope the court doesn't interfere. It doesn't need to interfere. There is the will of the people, the clear expression of the will of the people," Netanyahu said.

If a court ruling picks apart the coalition deal, it "increases the chances that we will be dragged to fourth elections, something that will be a catastrophe," he said.

An unusually large panel of 11 justices, all wearing face masks and separated by plastic barriers, heard the case against the emerging coalition. Reflecting the case's importance, the court took the rare step of streaming the proceedings on its website and on national TV.

Since Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges last year, he has stepped up his attacks on the country's legal establishment and sought to portray himself as a victim.

Netanyahu and his allies have long considered the high court a liberal bastion that overreached its boundaries to meddle in political affairs, accusing it of undermining the will of the people as expressed in national elections.

His opponents regard the court as the final safeguard of Israeli democracy that has been under dangerous assault from demagogic populists.

After deadlocking in three closely contested election campaigns, Netanyahu and former military chief Gantz reached a deal last month in which they would be sworn in together for an emergency government ostensibly to battle the coronavirus and its economic fallout.

The deal calls for Netanyahu to serve first as prime minister and Gantz as the designated premier, with the two swapping posts after 18 months. The new position will enjoy all the trappings of the prime minister, including an official residence and - key for Netanyahu - an exemption from a law that requires all public officials, except the prime minister, to resign if charged with a crime.

The court will be asked to rule on this arrangement - and there is a sense of urgency as Thursday marks the deadline for presenting a new government before new elections are called.

Zeev Elkin, a Cabinet minister from Netanyahu's Likud party, warned that any court intervention could trigger a highly unpopular election.

"The coalition agreement is very complex. Moving a single brick could bring the entire structure down and force fourth elections," Elkin told Israel's Army Radio.

Attorney Dafna Holtz-Lechner, who represents one of the petitioners, countered that oversight was required precisely because "someone charged with criminal offenses is also the person who concocted the coalition agreement with all its repercussions for himself." Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals in which he is accused of offering favors to media moguls in exchange for favourable press coverage.

He denies the accusations and says he is the victim of a media-orchestrated witch hunt. His trial was postponed in March due to restrictions his hand-picked interim justice minister placed on the courts after the coronavirus crisis erupted. It is now scheduled to start later this month.

Netanyahu is eager to remain in office throughout his trial, using his position to lash out at the judicial system and rally support among his base. The coalition deal also gives him influence over key judicial appointments, creating a potential conflict of interest during an appeals process if he is convicted.

Netanyahu's attorneys, though, say he will refrain from getting involved in anything pertaining to his own case.

Israel's attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, said in an opinion to the court that while Netanyahu's indictments "raise significant problems," there was no legal basis for barring him from serving while facing criminal charges. But good governance groups have appealed against this, citing the precedent of forcing Cabinet ministers and mayors to resign if indicted.

 
 



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