Italian PM Giuseppe Conte promises new funding to three international organisations

Italian PM Giuseppe Conte promises new funding to three international organisations

Rome: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte used social media to state that Italy was "proud" to contribute to the three multilateral medical organisations including the World Health Organization (WHO).

Conte's remarks came after a broader event called by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen raised 7.4 billion euros (US $8.07 billion) to help find a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

Italy pledged 140 million euros for the three organisations, according to a communique from von der Leyen's office.

Italy will donate 120 million euros to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private group that focuses on immunisations in the developing world.

Additionally, Italy will contribute 10 million euros each to the WHO and to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a public-private foundation that helps fund research projects.

Conte used social media to express his support: "Italy is proud to contribute to accelerating the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics by supporting" the three organisations, he wrote.


Russia virus cases surge past 100,000

Russia virus cases surge past 100,000

Russian Defence Ministry to discuss response to coronavirus outbreak

Russian Defence Ministry to discuss response to coronavirus outbreak

Moscow [Russia]: The Russian Defence Ministry board will discuss the response to COVID-19 outbreak and the construction of medical centres.

"Today, a meeting of the Russian Defence Ministry board will be held in the Russian National Defence Control Centre in the format of a video conference," the ministry said.

"The meeting participants will discuss issues relating to the fight against coronavirus infection, providing assistance to Serbia and Italy by Russian military specialists, as well as the construction of multi-functional medical centres," it added.

Russia's overall number of coronavirus cases has topped 93,500. The country's COVID-19 death toll has exceeded 860. Over 8,450 people have recovered.


Passion for reading gains momentum across China

Passion for reading gains momentum across China

SHENYANG-- Live streaming has provided a lifeline to brick-and-motor bookstores while most people are trapped indoors and finding ways to kill time.

"Few people visited bookstores during the coronavirus period, but we kept in touch with our readers on popular live-streaming platforms," said the couple Gao Ming and Sun Xiaodi who own a bookstore in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province.

While retreating online to seek orders, the couple has seen immediate results with a spike in sales to offset the losses crippled by the epidemic.

Apart from live-streaming, Gao said they also came up with fun ideas to spice up the reading experience. One of the popular choices is the "blind box of books."

Inspired by the blind box toy, the book box leaves readers intrigued about what popular books they will receive. "The uncertainty of what books you will get is a thrill," said a customer.

Best-selling books among young readers include those with unique designs, especially those that provide an "immersive reading experience," said Gao, adding that their procurement closely follows what books are in demand.

A prime example is the interactive novel "S. Ship of Theseus," a popular book worldwide due to its unique way of unfolding a story. The book has also gained popularity in the Chinese market since its Chinese version was published.

"With all the accessories that came along with the novel, it's more of a game than a paper book," said He Xinchen, a new reader of the book.

While bookstores and authors strive to make reading more interesting, fast-paced life often leaves urbanites too busy to choose a good book to start.

According to the latest survey by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, Chinese adults read an average of 4.65 print books in 2019, slightly lower than 4.67 in 2018.

Fan Deng, a previous well-known TV host, can sense the potential in the new business of recommending books to busy office workers and "reading" the books to interested readers via a mobile application.

Early in 2013, Fan began to share his book notes with fans and friends on a social media group noticing that people were increasingly squeezed for time to read.

As his fan base grew, Fan quit his job and set up a book club to invite both ordinary readers and industry experts to share their reading experience.

Fan's Spiritual Wealth Club now has 35 million members worldwide, mostly Chinese readers and overseas readers interested in Chinese culture. Fan said, "most club members are born in the 1980s and 1990s as they are more willing to pay for new knowledge and skills."

Leisure reading can bring people with life-long benefits, Fan said. "If you are too busy to read, a simpler way to start might be to listen to an audio-book, so it's never a bad time to start."

Oxford university kicks off human trials of COVID-19 vaccine in the UK

Oxford university kicks off human trials of COVID-19 vaccine in the UK

Human trials of an eagerly-awaited vaccine, developed by the prestigious Oxford University, against the novel coronavirus began in the UK on Thursday, with scientists giving it an 80 per cent chance of success.

The UK government has pledged 20 million pounds to support the "ChAdOx1 nCoV-19" coronavirus vaccine trial programme, with UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying the government would "throw everything at" finding a vaccine against the deadly virus.

"After all, the upside of being the first country in the world to develop a successful vaccine is so huge that I am throwing everything at it," he said.

The vaccine being trialled is made from a harmless chimpanzee virus that has been genetically engineered to carry part of the coronavirus to be tested on volunteers aged between 18 and 55 who are in good health.

Volunteers in the UK are being offered 625 pounds to take part in the landmark research, with a target of 500 to be enrolled by the middle of next month.

The Oxford vaccine project is headed by Professor Sarah Gilbert and other immunity and human genetics scientists who started work on designing a coronavirus vaccine in January this year.

"Although it seems like a very long time since the work started, in reality, it is less than four months since we first heard of an outbreak of severe pneumonia cases, and began to plan a response," the team said in a statement.

"Our brilliant team has been working tirelessly to get to this point using our skills and experience in vaccine development and testing, and will do the best job possible in moving quickly whilst at all times prioritising the safety of the trial participants," the statement added.

The trial for ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 will be carried out through a collaboration between the Oxford Vaccine Group's clinical teams and the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute.

The time it would require to determine if the vaccine is effective would be "heavily dependent" on how much virus transmission there is in the community - initially focussed on trial areas of Oxford and Southampton.

If there's very low virus transmission among the volunteers that are vaccinated, the would have to wait a long time to get the result, explains Professor Gilbert. Therefore, the healthcare workers in hospitals, most likely to have been exposed to COVID-19, will be among the focus groups.

Meanwhile, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine manufacture is already being scaled up in preparation for larger trials.

"We really don't want to find ourselves in a situation where the vaccine can show it's safe, it gives strong immune responses and it protects people, but we haven't got any doses to vaccinate anyone else with," Gilbert said.

The optimistic time-frame being looked at for around a million doses is by September. Deals have been done with the UK and overseas manufacturers to make the vaccine at scale, should it prove effective.

Finding a vaccine that works against COVID-19 is a race against time as it is the only secure option for governments to ease the severe lockdown measures in place around the world to curb the rapid spread of the pandemic.


US was attacked: Donald Trump on coronavirus

US was attacked: Donald Trump on coronavirus

Washington: Struggling to restore normalcy in the US where COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 47,000 people and infected over 8,52,000, President Donald Trump has said that the the country was "attacked".

"We were attacked. This was an attack. This wasn't just the flu by the way. Nobody has ever seen anything like this, 1917 was the last time," Trump told reporters at his daily White House news conference on Wednesday.

He was responding to a question about the growing US national debt as a result of the multi-trillion dollars stimulus packages that his administration has come up with to help people and businesses in distress as a direct fallout of the pandemic.

"We have no choice. Do we have a choice? I'm always concerned about everything. We had to fix this problem," he said.

"We had the greatest economy in the history of the world... Better than China, better than any place," he said.

"We built it in the last three years and then one day, they came and they said you have to close it. Now, we're going to open it again and we're going to be just as strong or stronger but you have to spend some money to get it back open," he said.

"We saved our airlines. We saved numerous companies that are great companies that two months ago were having the best year they've ever had. Now all of a sudden, they're totally shut out of markets," he added.

Trump said the number of new positive cases continue to decline nationwide.

"Recent hotspots appear to be stabilising. They are going in the right direction. Cases in the Boston area are now declining. The Chicago curve appears to have flattened, which is terrific... Detroit has passed its peak," he said.

"These trends demonstrate that our aggressive strategy to battle the virus is working and that more states will soon be in a position to gradually and safely reopen. That's very exciting," he asserted.

Trump said that his administration is working closely with governors to ensure that they have the testing infrastructure in place to reduce further spread of the virus if they're so inclined to use the testing apparatus, including strategies for older individuals, low income Americans, minorities, and Native Americans.

"I'll not rest until that prosperity has been fully restored. I really believe that we're going to lift those numbers higher than ever before, and it will be as long as people might think," he said.

"A lot of very smart people are looking at that and they're betting. You just have to look at what's going on with the stock market," he added.

The administration so far has directed more than USD 7 billion in federal funding to support the development of treatments, diagnostics, and therapies.

The FDA, the NIH, and industry leaders are establishing master clinical trial protocols to test multiple promising new drugs at the same time.

More than 1600 locations across the country have signed up to administer convalescent plasma to patients, infusing them with antibodies of those who have recovered, he added.

Dubai government announces to perform Ramadan prayers at home amid coronavirus lockdown

Dubai government announces to perform Ramadan prayers at home amid coronavirus lockdown

Dubai [UAE]: People can perform Taraweeh prayers at home during the holy month of Ramadan to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Dubai government announced on Friday.

The Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) of the Dubai Government said people who pray Taraweeh to finish reading the Holy Quran can hold on to the book in their hands and recite while praying.

Taraweeh is the evening prayers performed after Isha prayers every night during the fasting month of Ramadan.

Dubai is under 24-hour lockdown to stem the spread of the infection. The IACAD had announced on Monday the extension of the closure of Dubai's mosques until further notice.

The China-originated coronavirus has swept the world, including the Middle East and Gulf countries.

UAE has reported over 70000 coronavirus case and 37 people have died due to the infection.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, on Friday said that worshippers should offer Taraweeh during Ramadan and subsequent Eid prayers at home.


UK stares at life without boozing amid coronavirus lockdown, pubs unlikely to open before December 2020

UK stares at life without boozing amid coronavirus lockdown, pubs unlikely to open before December 2020

While the UK grapples with issues like an imbecilic PM who insisted on shaking hands with COVID-19 patients, shortage of NHS kits and people not understanding the concept of social distancing (forcing Piers Morgan to be the voice of reason), there’s even more shocking news,

It has been reported that UK’s national pastime – drinking in pubs till one can’t stand – will be on hold till December!

A report in The Sun quotes pub trade insiders saying that many pubs could actually go under.

Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, recently said that UK’s 48,000-plus pubs would be open and running ‘before winter’.

Mr Gove said: “The other inference that I draw from your question, which is that areas of hospitality will be among the last to exit the lockdown — yes, that is true.”

Frank Maguire, from Truman’s Brewery, told The Sun: “Things are looking pretty dire."

He said he feared that pubs might be hit big by the postponing of Euro 2020.

In Britain, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson -- who is himself recovering from the virus -- faced fresh criticism over his early response to the crisis and shortages of protective equipment.

itish Prime Minister Boris Johnson has begun taking charge of the government even as he convalesces at Chequers in south-east England, following his hospitalisation after testing positive for coronavirus.

'The Sunday Telegraph' reports that Johnson began giving directions to his Cabinet, including to his deputy UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, from his prime ministerial countryside retreat as he prepares to resume full charge in the coming days.

The 55-year-old issued some directives to Raab as well as senior aides in a series of calls last week, followed by a three-hour meeting with his deputy and staff on Friday.

"He [Johnson] has had some contact with ministers, but mostly with his private office here at Downing Street," Robert Jenrick, UK Communities Minister, had told reporters at the daily Downing Street briefing on Saturday.

The newspaper quoted sources to say that while the Prime Minister was still recovering from Covid-19, following his discharge from hospital a week ago, he has been getting "more involved", including to set out a "direction".

Raab reportedly visited the UK prime minister at Chequers, along with Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings - also back after his self-isolation following symptoms of coronavirus - and Lee Cain, his communications director, on Friday.

With inputs from agencies


Ancient marine life fossils on pavements add beauty to central China heritage

Ancient marine life fossils on pavements add beauty to central China heritage

CHANGSHA-- Paleontological fossils dating back 470 million years have been found in Zhangjiajie, a World Natural Heritage site, in central China's Hunan Province.

The fossils, in shapes of spirals, arcs, cones and ripples, are visible on public buildings, slate roads or steps, with some of their shells and microstructures discernible.

Similar fossils also appear on the tour path in the Zhangjiajie Huanglong Cave, the Tianzi Mountain and the Jinbian Stream, which are found and described by tourists online.

"Some are like small shrimps, some snails. Big ones stretch across the whole stone step, while some are only thumb-sized," a netizen called Ami said in a travel blog at

Xing Lida, an associate professor from the Beijing-based China University of Geosciences, recognized the fossils mostly as Sinoceras fossils, which originated in the Ordovician limestone layer in south China.

"These fossils can easily be found on roads, riverside paving stones in Zhangjiajie," Xing said.

According to the official website of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Sinoceras fossils, also known as "Chinese hornstones," are common in nature. Either straight or coiled, the shells of Sinoceras are usually hard with ripple marks on the surface.

As one of the most important and dominant cephalopods back then, Sinoceras lived in the Middle Ordovician age about 470 million years ago.

"In accordance with relevant regulations for paleontological fossil protection, limestone with common fossils in it can be used to pave the road," said Hu Nengyong, former curator of the Geological Museum of Hunan.

"It adds a kind of artistic beauty to the resort," Hu said.


Egypt receives anti-coronavirus materials from China's Xinjiang

Egypt receives anti-coronavirus materials from China's Xinjiang

CAIRO-- Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research received on Sunday a batch of anti-coronavirus materials donated by China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

According to the Chinese Embassy in Egypt, the materials include 100,000 surgical masks, 15,000 N95 masks, 1,000 protective suits and 1,200 testing kits.

When receiving the materials in the Chinese Embassy, Egyptian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar expressed his gratitude, calling China's handling of the coronavirus a great success.

"These materials will relieve pressure on the hospitals affiliated to Egyptian universities that are under the supervision of the ministry and will help cure more coronavirus cases in Egypt," said Ghaffar.

Chinese Ambassador Liao Liqiang expressed appreciation for the help the ministry provided for the Chinese students in Egypt, adding that Egyptian students in China are safe and sound.

"The donation of the materials reflects the deep relations between the two countries and there are solid reasons that the bilateral relations will go deeper after COVID-19," said Liao.

On the same day, the Chinese Embassy in Egypt held the seventh online press conference on COVID-19, in which Liao briefed the anti-coronavirus situation in China and cooperation between the countries in this regard.

Another batch of anti-coronavirus materials is scheduled to arrive in Egypt next Tuesday, and a third batch is under coordination between the two sides, Liao said.

"The impacts of the coronavirus on the major bilateral cooperation projects in Egypt are limited and there will be no change in the investments policy by the Chinese side in the future," Liao added.