Tag Archives: #Covid

Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for U.S. during its longest war

Some 200 Afghans were set to begin new lives in the United States on Friday as an airlift got under way for translators and others who risk Taliban retaliation because they worked for the United States during its 20-year war in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.

The operation to evacuate U.S.-affiliated Afghans and family members comes as the U.S. troop pullout nears completion and government forces struggle to repulse Taliban advances. The first planeload of 200 evacuees arrived at Fort Lee, a military base in Virginia, for final paperwork processing and medical examinations.

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Bicycle riding volunteers deliver medicines in indonesia’s Semarang.

Bicycle riding volunteers deliver medicines in indonesia’s Semarang says reporters.

According reporters Indonesian city of Semarang Arrahman Surya Atmaja stops at a pharmacy to pick up some vitamins before hitting the road again to deliver them to a person isolating at home.

The 35-year-old is part of a small group of volunteer cyclists running errands for people in the city of 3 million, which along with the rest of the country, has been hit hard by the pandemic.

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Australia’s largest city posts record daily rise in COVID-19 cases, seeks military help

54 are in intensive care, 22 of whom require ventilation. Two new deaths were recorded, taking the total number of deaths in the latest outbreak to 13. The outbreak in Sydney leaves many with little to do but watch the Olympics, and Australian athletes said they hoped they could provide a little bit of joy with their performances.

“Just extremely grateful and happy that we
maybe sparked some joy in some people’s living
rooms or something for people to celebrate in
the time of lockdown,” Spencer Turrin, Australian Rower and Gold Medallist in the Men’s Four at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics told reporters in Tokyo.

Australia’s biggest city Sydney posted a record one-day rise in local COVID-19 cases on Thursday and warned the outbreak would get worse, as authorities sought military help to enforce a lockdown of 6 million people poised to enter its sixth week.

Australia has struggled to contain an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in and around Sydney in recent weeks, which threatens to push the country’s A$2 trilion ($1.5 trillion) economy into its second recession in as many years. Despite an extended lockdown of Sydney, the state capital, New South Wales recorded 239 locally acquired cases in the past 24 hours, the biggest daily rise since the pandemic begun.

Read what Gladys Berejiklian the New South Wales Premier said below…

“We can only assume that things are likely to get worse before they get better given the quantity of people infectious in the community.

Berejiklian said one more person had died from
COVID-19, taking the death toll from the current outbreak to 13 and the overall national total to 921 With little sign that recent restrictions are reducing case numbers, Berejiklian said new curbs would be imposed on the southwestern and western areas of Sydney where the majority of COVID-19 cases are being found.

More than two million residents in eight Sydney
hotspots will now be forced to wear masks
outdoors and must stay within 5 km (3 miles) of their homes.

With even tighter restrictions set to begin on
Friday, New South Wales Police said it had asked for 300 military personnel to help enforce lockdown orders.

“With an increase in enforcement activity over
the coming week, I have now made a formal
request to the prime minister for (Australian
Defence Force) personnel to assist with that
operation, New South Wales Police
Commissioner Mick Fuller said.

All adults in Sydney have now been urged to
seek an Astraženeca vaccine. But citing rare
blood clots, many are reluctant and would prefer
to wait several months when Australia is
expected to receive additional Pfizer supplies.
Only about 17% of people above 16 years fully
vaccinated in New South Wales.
More than 2,800 cases have been detected so
far, with 182 people hospitalised.

Berejiklian on Wednesday extended the Sydney
lockdown by another month, but allowed the
majority of construction projects to resume as
long as workers do not come into contact with
residents.

The restrictions are likely to take a heavy
economic toll, with New South Wales accounting for more than a third of Australia’s economy. Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he xpected the national economy to shrink in the September quarter but the ability to avoid a technical recession would depend on whether New South Wales can avoid a longer lockdown.

Berejiklian has said restrictions need to remain
as too few people in Sydney are vaccinated amid tight supplies of Pfizer vaccines, which Canberra had hoped to inoculate everyone under 60 years old.

“With respect to the December quarter, that does depend to a large extent how successful New South Wales, our largest state economy, is in getting on top of this virus,” Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Amid pandemic, Argentine couples ask ‘can I bring a child into this world?”

“Things have begun to get back into some order and there are fewer restrictions on social
activities and medical appointments,” said
Becerra. “So this year we are going to make the decision about having a baby”

In the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, a city famed for its passionate tango dancing and romance, the pandemic is putting a dampener on couples making babies, with birthrates down by a quarter since COVID-19 struck early last year. Claudia Becerra and her boyfriend Agustin Cacciola have long dreamt of having a child, but strict quarantines and economic malaise from the impact of the virus have made them put off their plans.

“Uncertainty is the most difficult thing we face” Cacciola, a 32-year-old lawyer, told reporters alongside Becerra, an accountant, at their home in the Belgrano neighborhood.

He lost his job earlier in the pandemic, which hit their finances. Becerra, 38, cited worries about getting medical appointments during lockdowns. “Being a mother had to be postponed a bit due to our professional issues, and last year due to an economic issue for both of us and just everything that happened” she said.

Argentina has seen birthrates dip since 2016, but that accelerated sharply during the pandemic. In the populous city and surrounding province of Buenos Aires, births fell 25% at the start of this year versus the start of 2020, official data show.

“I hear a lot of people say: ‘How can I bring a
child into this world?,” gynecologist and
sexologist Silvina Valente told reporters, adding that chronic stress from economic issues and the fear of the pandemic led to the drop in births.

The trend has been reflected in Latin America
and beyond. Mexico registered a 15.1% drop in January-May 2021 versus the same period in 2020, while Brazil had the lowest number of births in the first half of 2021 since data began to be compiled in

Argentina has seen birthrates dip since 2016, but that accelerated sharply during the pandemic. In the populous city and surrounding province of Buenos Aires, births fell 25% at the start of this year versus the start of 2020, official data show.

“I hear a lot of people say: ‘How can I bring a
child into this world?,” gynecologist and
sexologist Silvina Valente said, adding that chronic stress from economic issues and the fear of the pandemic led to the drop in births. The trend has been reflected in Latin America and beyond.

Mexico registered a 15.1% drop in January-May
2021 versus the same period in 2020, while
Brazil had the lowest number of births in the first half of 2021 since data began to be compiled in 2003. In Colombia, the birth rate fell 17.4% in 2020 from the previous year, though it has started to bounce in 2021.

“The pandemic impacts a lot of decisions in
family life and obviously it impacted the decision to have children,’ said Patricio Zalabardo, director of Buenos Aires province’s registry of persons.

Argentina has loosened some restrictions,
administered over 30 million vaccines for its 45
million people, and seen case numbers ease
from recent peaks, spurring hopes that couples
may return to home making. Cacciola recently found a new job and the couple are planning to move to a larger apartment, which they say is making conditions easier to decide to start a family.

China starts blocking paid after school tutoring by public-school teachers

China’s Ministry of Education said on Wednesday that it had begun implementing a campaign to stop paid after school tutoring services provided by teachers working for public primary and middle schools. China issued sweeping rules last week that bar for-profit after-school tutoring in core school subjects, in an effort to boost the birth rate by lowering family living costs.

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The policy also restricts foreign investment in the sector. The ministry said in a statement on its website that it would also tackle teachers illegally receiving bribes, and show “zero tolerance” towards teachers who “teach only after classes but not during classes”.

The new rules threaten to decimate China’s $120 billion private tutoring industry and triggered a heavy sell off in shares of tutoring companies traded in Hong Kong and New York, including New Oriental Education & Technology Group and Koolearn Technology Holding Ltd.
Under the new rules, all institutions offering
tutoring on the school curriculum will be
registered as non-profit organisations.

Australia’s biggest city, Sydney adds four weeks to lockdown as Australia COVID-19 cases grow

Australia’s biggest city, Sydney, extended a lockdown by four weeks on Wednesday after an already protracted stay-at home order failed to douse a COVID-19 outbreak, with authorities warning of tougher policing to stamp out non-compliance says reporters.

Far from a planned exit from lockdown in three
days, the city of 5 million were told to stay home until 28 of Aug following persistently high case numbers since a flare-up of the virulent Delta variant began last month. The state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, reported 177 new cases for Tuesday, from 172 on Monday.

That is the biggest increase since an unmasked,
unvaccinated airport driver was said to have
sparked the current outbreak. The state also
reported the death of a woman in her 90s, the
11th death of the outbreak. Of particular concern, at least 46 of the new cases were people active in the community before being diagnosed, raising the likelihood of
transmission, said authorities.

The extension turns what was initially intended
to be a “snap” lockdown of Australia’s most
populous city into one of the country’s longest
since the start of the pandemic, and may spark
the second recession of the A$2 trillion ($1.47
trillion) national economy in two years,
according to economists.

According to State Premier Gladys Berejiklian statement, they have cautioned that active community transmission must be near zero before rules are relaxed.

Read what she said below…

“I am as upset and frustrated as all of you that we were not able to get the case numbers we would have liked at this point in time but that is the reality.

She also added that police would boost enforcement of wide-ranging social distancing rules and urged people to report suspected wrong doing, saying “we cannot put up with people continuing to do the wrong thing because it is setting us all back”. In one case, a mourning ceremony attended by 50 people in violation of lockdown rules resulted in 45 infections.

It was later reported that Australia has kept its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 33,200 cases and 921 deaths, out of a population of about 25 million, since the pandemic began.

To minimise the economic impact, the NSW
government said it would lift a ban on non-
occupied construction in most of Sydney.
However, it expanded a list of local government
areas within the city where the ban would stay
because of the prevalence of COVID-19 cases
there.

“It’s getting really difficult, day in and out, day by day, for us to continue running the same
business,” said Raihan Ahmed, a convenience
store owner at Bankstown, one of the main
affected suburbs. “Somehow we have to survive,
and we are trying our best.

Opinion polls have showed slipping support for
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government
amid criticism of a slow vaccination roll-out that has been blamed on changing regulatory advice and supply shortages

“There is no other shortcut, there is no other way through, we have to just hunker down and push through,’ Morrison said during a televised news conference in the national capital Canberra. All Australians who wanted to vaccination would receive it by the end of the year, and “l would expect by Christmas that we would be seeing a very different Australia to what we are seeing now’ he added.

Government said it was redirecting Pfizer Inc vaccine doses, which have so far been
restricted to people aged 40-60, from relatively unaffected regional areas to final-year school students in the worst-affected Sydney neighbourhoods.

The state and federal governments also said
they were expanding relief funding to enable
affected companies to keep paying wages
through the closure. In contrast to New South Wales, the states of Victoria and South Australia began their first day out of shorter lockdowns that halted outbreaks there.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro turns to center-right senator for political Survival

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has asked Senator Ciro Nogueira to be his chief of staff to shore up supporting Congress in the face of falling popularity and growing outrage over his handling of the world’s second-deadliest COVID-19 outbreak.

Nogueira, a leader of the center-right Progressives Party(PP), tweeted on Tuesday that he has accepted the job and is expected to be sworn in this week as Bolsonaro’s closest
minister, replacing a retired general.

He will be the first heavyweight politician to enter Bolsonaro’s inner cabinet as the embattled president seeks allies to shield himself from calls in Congress for his impeachment and a Senate investigation of irregularities in the government’s purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.

Nogueira belongs to the same PP party as
House Speaker Arthur Lira, who has refused to
take up any of the dozens of impeachment
requests filed against Bolsonaro. “The appointment solidifies the presence of this
key party in the government and gives Bolsonaro Some peace of mind, said LUcas de Aragao, a partner at Brasilia consultancy Arko Advice.

Bolsonaro has yet to decide which party he will
join to seek re-election next year and the PP wil
likely become the main component of any
coalition he will try to build, Aragao said.
Recent opinion polls show Bolsonaro’s popularity plummeting over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as he has minimized the gravity of the situation despite the deaths of 550,000 Brazilians.

The polls also show him being defeated handily by former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva if the election were held today. To make matters worse, the Senate probe has
implicated the government’s chief whip in the
lower house of Congress, Ricardo Barros, also of the PP party, in a scandal surrounding a
purchase contract for 20 million doses of the
Covaxin vaccine made by India’s Bharat Biotech.

A health ministry whistle-blower accused the
president of ignoring warnings about the 1.6
billion-real ($316 million) deal. Bolsonaro and
Barros have denied all wrongdoing, and the
government has since canceled the contract.

Nogueira is a leader of the “centrao” or big center coalition that Bolsonaro has embraced to survive politically, even though dozens of their lawmakers have faced graft investigations.Critics say Bolsonaro has joined corrupt politicians he vowed to bring down when he campaigned for office in 2018.
In an interview on Monday, Bolsonaro said he
Would lose the support of “almost half of
Congress” if he did not deal with lawmakers
under investigation. “For now, this is what I have to work with, he told Radio Arapua.

Anthony Blinken starts India meetings with address to civil society group

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to meet his Indian counterpart and other officials on Wednesday before heading to see Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the China rivals seek to deepen their cooperation and iron out differences.

Blinken, in his first visit to the country since
joining U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, is expected to discuss supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, the security situation in Afghanistan as well as India’s human rights record. Speaking to a group of civil society leaders at a New Delhi hotel, Blinken said that the relationship between the United States and India was “one of the most important in the world”.

“The Indian people and the American people
believe in human dignity and equality of
opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental
freedoms including freedom of religion and
belief… these are the fundamental tenets of
democracies like ours”‘ he said. “And of course, both of our democracies are works in progress. As friends we talk about that.”

Attendees included religious leaders such as
Geshe Dorji Damdul of New Delhis Tibet House,
a cultural centre of the Dalai Lama. Indian foreign ministry sources said ahead of Blinken’s visit that the country was proud of its pluralistic traditions and happy to discuss the
issue with him.

Modi’s government has faced allegations it has
suppressed dissent, pursued divisive policies to
appeal to its Hindu nationalist base and
alienated Muslims, the country’s biggest
minority. Blinken arrived in India on Tuesday night and leaves for Kuwait later on Wednesday.

South Korea reports highest COVID-19 daily count amid fourth wave

South Korea on Wednesday reported 1,896 new COVID-19 cases for Tuesday, its highest-ever daily increase, as the country struggles to subdue a fourth wave of outbreaks fanned by the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The daily tally broke a previous record set on
July 22 as infections are spreading beyond the
capital Seoul and its neighbouring regions where the toughest social distancing rules are in place.

There were 1,823 domestically transmitted
cases on Tuesday and 33.5%, or 611, of the were
from areas outside the capital regions, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). This is the first time the number of cases outside the Seoul metropolitan region has exceeded the 600 mark since the first COVID-19 wave emerged
from a church in the southeastern city of Daegu.

Tighter social distancing curbs took effect
across most of the country on Tuesday and will
last for two weeks. Those areas will be under
Level 3 curbs on a four-level scale, which will
mean a 10 p.m. (1300 GMT) dining curfew and
ban on gatherings of more than four people.
The tighter curbs were enacted to prevent the
further spread of the coronavirus during South
Korea’s peak summer holiday season.

The great Seoul area region remains under Level
4 curbs that include a ban on gatherings of more than two people after 6 p.m.

Britain reports highest deaths from COVID-19 since March as Johnson urges caution

Britain reported its highest number of deaths and people in hospital with coronavirus since March on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging caution despite a week of lower reported numbers of infection.

Britain reported 131 new deaths from COVID-19,
the highest daily total since March 17, though it came after just 14 deaths were reported on
Monday, suggesting the weekend might have
impacted when deaths were reported. The number of COVID-19 patients in British
hospitals has also steadily risen to 5,918, also
the highest since March, following a spike in
cases earlier this month.

The number of new infections has fallen each
day for the last seven days, though Johnson
stressed the pandemic was not over. “It is very, very important that we don’t allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions about (lower case numbers),” Johnson told broadcasters, noting it would take a while for the lifting of restrictions in England to feed through to the data.

“People have got to remain very cautious and
that remains the approach of the government.”
Johnson has lifted restrictions in England and is betting he can get one of Europe’s largest
economies firing again because so many people
are now vaccinated, a decision which marks a
new chapter in the response to the novel
coronavirus.

Imperial College epidemiologist Neil Ferguson
said the effective end of Britain’s pandemic
could be just months away as vaccines have so
dramatically reduced the risk of hospitalisation
and death.

“We’re not completely out of the woods but the equation has fundamentally changed” Ferguson, whose modelling of the virus’s likely spread at the outset of the pandemic in early 2020 alarmed governments across the world said.

“Im positive that by late September, October
time we will be looking back at most of the
pandemic.” ON THE WAY DOWN

Johnson lifted COVID-19 restrictions in England
on July 19. New daily cases in the current wave
peaked two days earlier at 54,674 and have
since fallen dramatically, to 23,511 new cases on
Tuesday. The closure of schools for summer, the end of the Euro 2020 soccer championships and warmer weather are among factors
epidemiologists say might have reduced social
mixing indoors and therefore cases, even as
England’s economy has fully reopened.

Case numbers have been falling for longer in
Scotland, where the recent peak in new
infections was on July 1, than in England
corresponding to an earlier elimination from the Euros. “Both of them seem to coincide in some ways with the end of activity in the Euro 2020 tournament,’ Rowland Kao, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, told reporters, adding that changes in testing patterns might mean that the sharpness of the drop is overstated in daily testing figures.

Cases may go up again, because we’re only
Just going to be starting to see the effect of the complete release of restrictions associated with July 19 in England. So there may still be rises yet to come. Britain has one of the highest official fatality rates from COVID-19 in the world, with 129,303 deaths, but vaccinations and lockdowns have greatly slowed the rate since March.

Scotland’s National Clinical Director Jason
Leitch said a gradual return to usual social
activity would help smooth the end of the current wave, but that the next few weeks would be unpredictable. “On the way down is always bumpier than the exponential rise on the way up, he said.

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