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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Airborne transmission

Hundreds of scientists say there is evidence that the novel coronavirus in smaller particles in the air can infect people and they are calling for the World Health Organization (WHO) to revise its recommendations, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

However, the health agency said the evidence for the virus being airborne was not convincing, according to the NYT.

“Especially in the last couple of months, we have been stating several times that we consider airborne transmission as possible but certainly not supported by solid or even clear evidence,” Dr Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead of infection prevention and control, was quoted as saying.

World’s third-highest

India now has the world’s third-highest number of novel coronavirus cases behind Brazil and the United States, at nearly 700,000, according to the latest data, as the outbreak shows no sign of slowing.

India has seen eight times the number of cases as China, which has a similar-sized population and is where the virus originated late last year.

Late on Sunday, India cancelled the planned reopening of the Taj Mahal, citing the risk of coronavirus infections spreading in the city of Agra from visitors flocking to see India’s most famous monument.

Agra, site of one of India’s first big clusters of the virus, remains the worst-affected city in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state.

Not since the Spanish flu

Officials are closing the border between Australia’s two most populous states from Tuesday for an indefinite period as they scramble to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus in the city of Melbourne.

The decision marks the first time the border between Victoria and New South Wales has been shut in 100 years. Officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic. Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia state, is already closed.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has surged in recent days, prompting authorities to enforce strict social-distancing orders in 30 suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown.

Hydroxychloroquine and HIV drugs off the table

The WHO said on Saturday that it was discontinuing its trials of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and combination HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 after they failed to reduce mortality.

The setback came as the WHO also reported more than 200,000 new cases globally of the disease for the first time in a single day.

The U.N. agency said the decision, taken on the recommendation of the trial’s international steering committee, does not affect other studies where those drugs are used for non-hospitalised patients or as a prophylaxis.

Kicking in place

Soccer-mad Argentines in the farmbelt city of Pergamino have devised a clever way to keep playing while avoiding risk of spreading COVID-19: a human foosball pitch with zones for each player to avoid physical contact.

The game, known as “metegol humano” divides the pitch into rectangular zones with white lines limiting where a player can move – helping to enforce social distancing, though limiting slide tackles or pitch-length dribbles with the ball.

Two teams of five players – a goalkeeper, a defender, a midfielder and two forwards – can take part, said Gustavo Cuiffo, a creator of the project.

Seen from above, the demarcated court resembles a large foosball table – though with real people and no swivel handles.

“It is the first time I have kicked in several months,” said Gustavo Santapaola, who took part in a match at the Play Fútbol ground. “I honestly tell you, I am excited.”

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Nathaniel Veltman who killed Muslim family members to face terror charges

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Nathaniel Veltman who is accused of deliberately running over a Muslim family with his truck, killing four of them, now faces terrorism charges in addition to those for murder, prosecutors said on Monday.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was arrested shortly after the June 6 attack in a parking lot in London, Ontario, a short distance from the city’s oldest mosque. He was wearing what appeared to be body armor and a helmet at the time, police said.

Due to a publication ban, details from a hearing in which Veltman appeared by Zoom on Monday from jail cannot be revealed.

However, provincial and federal prosecutors provided their consent to commence terrorism proceedings against him, alleging that the killings of Salman Afzaal, his wife, their daughter and Afzaal’s mother, and attempted killing of the couple’s son constituted terrorist activity, according to a statement from London police.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland reacted to the new charges afterward, saying: “It is really important for us to name it as an act of terror … and it is important for us identify the terrible threat that white supremacism poses to Canada and to Canadians.”

The members of the Afzaal family were out for an evening walk near their home when they were mowed down. The one survivor of the attack – a nine-year-old boy, remains in a hospital with serious injuries.

It was the worst attack against Canadian Muslims since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

So far, few details have emerged that would shed light on why police say it was a pre-meditated, hate-motivated crime. Veltman is due in court again on June 21.

(Reporting by Steve SchererEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao)

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Trudeau called for concerted G7 approach to China

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led a Group of Seven discussion of China on Saturday and called on leaders to come up with a unified approach to the challenges posed by the People’s Republic, a source said.

G7 leaders – who together control about $40 trillion in economic clout – reached broad alignment on building a concerted approach to China, the source with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters.

“Trudeau’s message today was that we really need to work to build a consensus on a unified approach to the challenges that China presents all of us,” the source said. “We have to show solidarity as a group and show action as a group as well.”

“There is a general alignment” at the G7 on China, the source said.

 

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kate Holton and Michael Holden)

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Ukraine’s president thanks G7 nations for support

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Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, thanked the G7 group of wealthy industrial nations on Sunday after it voiced support for Kyiv and called on Russia to withdraw troops and weapons from near Ukraine’s eastern border.

Leaders of the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan reaffirmed their backing for Ukraine and called on Moscow to stop its destabilising behaviour in a communique issued after a three-day summit in the UK.

“Commend the unwavering support by #G7 states in the Summit’s communiqué,” Zelenskiy wrote in Twitter.

“Grateful to leaders for the continued support for Ukraine’s independence & sovereignty & the call to the aggressor to withdraw troops from Ukraine’s borders & Crimea. #Crimea is Ukraine!”

Kyiv hopes pressure from Western allies could force Moscow to withdraw tens of thousands of its troops deployed in April near Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

The West expressed concern about the worsening of the situation in the eastern region of Donbass, where Ukrainian troops fought Russian-backed forces in a conflict that Kyiv said had killed 14,000 people since 2014.

 

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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