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coronavirus outbreak

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Starting with October 6, Paris will shut all bars completely as the French government raises the city’s coronavirus alert to maximum following a sustained period of high infection rates.

The restrictions will last two weeks, with full details to be announced on October 5, PM Jean Castex’s office announced.

On October 4, France reported 12,565 cases of Covid-19.

The southern city of Marseille closed bars and restaurants last week.

France’s maximum alert level comes into force when the infection rate in a locality exceeds 250 per 100,000 people and at least 30% of intensive care beds are reserved for Covid-19 patients.

The prime minister’s office explained in a statement: “These measures, indispensable in the fight to curb the virus’ spread, will apply to Paris and the three departments immediately surrounding it, for a duration of two weeks.”

Paris restaurants will have to put in place new sanitary arrangements in order to stay open and university lecture halls must be no more than half-full.

Restaurants and bistros that serve food as well as alcohol can stay open, as long as they register contact details from customers and shut their doors at 22:00.

Working from home must be prioritized “now more than ever”, the statement said.

On September 26, Marseille, France’s second city, closed all bars, restaurants and gyms for two weeks. Public venues including theatres, museums and cinemas have also had to close unless they could introduce strict anti-viral measures.

The measure prompted anger from local officials who said they were not consulted.

Coronavirus: Partial Lockdown Imposed on Madrid

On October 4, France reported nearly 17,000 infections, its highest rate since the country started widespread testing.

The French government says it doesn’t want to order another nationwide lockdown, but will enforce tougher measures in those cities where the virus is concentrated.

Elsewhere in Europe, a state of emergency has been introduced in the Czech Republic as the government struggles to control a resurgence in coronavirus. From Monday new measures will be in place for two weeks, including closing secondary schools and limiting restaurants and bars to six customers per table. Primary schools will remain open. Over the past two weeks the Czechs had the second highest number of new cases per 100,000 in Europe after Spain, and the fourth highest number of deaths.

The US economy will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic for almost a decade, according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The CBO forecasts the outbreak will cut US economic output by 3% between this year and 2030, a loss of $7.9 trillion.

The warning comes as tens of millions of people are out of work due to lockdown measures.

The CBO is a federal agency within the US government that provides budget and economic information to Congress.

America’s historic downturn comes even after trillions of dollars have been pumped into the economy.

Image source Wikimedia

Coronavirus: 33.3 Million Americans Filed Unemployment Claims in Last Six Weeks

The CBO said the majority of the loss was caused by the sharp contraction in economic activity this year, which it had not predicted in its last 10-year report, published in January.

CBO director Phillip Swagel wrote in response to an inquiry from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer: “Business closures and social distancing measures are expected to curtail consumer spending, while the recent drop in energy prices is projected to severely reduce US investment in the energy sector.”

“Recent legislation will, in CBO’s assessment, partially mitigate the deterioration in economic conditions,” he added.

Since the virus pandemic hit the US the government and the Fed have provided trillions of dollars of support for the world’s biggest economy.

Still, unemployment has soared to levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s as more than 40 million Americans have already been put out of work.

The US unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April and on June 5 the Labor Department is expected to confirm that it reached 20% in May. In March that figure stood at just 4.4% having risen from a 50-year low from the month before.

There is an ongoing debate in the Congress over a new $3 trillion a new stimulus plan as well as a proposal to renew several federal aid programs that would otherwise lapse, including a temporary increase to jobless benefits that is set to expire in July.

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Prince Joachim of Belgium has contracted coronavirus after attending a party during lockdown in Spain, the country’s royal palace says.

The 28-year-old prince traveled from Belgium to Spain for an internship on May 26, the palace said.

Two days later, Prince Joachim went to a party in the southern city of Córdoba, before testing positive for Covid-19.

According to Spanish reports, the prince, a nephew of Belgium’s King Philippe, was among 27 people at the party.

Under Córdoba’s lockdown rules, a party of this size would be a breach of regulations, as gatherings of no more than 15 people are currently permitted.

Image source: alchetron.com

Coronavirus: VP Mike Pence Appears Without Face Mask While Visiting Mayo Clinic

Spanish police have launched an investigation into the party. Those found to have flouted lockdown rules could be fined up to €10,000 ($11,100).

Everyone who attended the party is said to be in quarantine. Prince Joachim, the youngest son of Princess Astrid and 10th in line to the Belgian throne, is said to have mild coronavirus symptoms.

Rafaela Valenzuela, a representative of the Spanish government in Córdoba, condemned the party, calling those who attended “irresponsible”.

She said: “I feel surprised and angry. An incident of this type stands out at a moment of national mourning for so many dead.”

The party was first covered by Spanish newspaper El Confidencial, which cited a document from the Andalucian authorities but did not name the prince.

Belgian media have since confirmed with the palace that Prince Joachim was in Spain, where he remains.

Prince Joachim is known to have a long-standing relationship with a Spanish woman, reported to be Victoria Ortiz.

Spain is in the process of emerging from one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. It outlined a four-stage plan on May 4 to start easing the lockdown, which saw children under 14 confined to their homes for six weeks.

The country said it was moving to a second phase from June 1 for 70% of Spaniards, leaving only major cities under tighter restrictions.

Spain has among the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the world. As of May 30, the country had 239,228 infections and 27,125 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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“Rather than being a human, be a humanitarian” – Kowtham Kumar

Are you pondering the importance of giving of your time and money to charitable organizations like NGOs and Non-Profits?

This quotation by Kowtham Kumar highlighted above, describes the raison d’etre of being human. Ergo, being human is to espouse humanitarian acts and principles.

What is a humanitarian?

 By way of answering this question, let’s examine the following definition:

A humanitarian is defined as a“person actively engaged in promoting human welfare and social reforms, as a philanthropist.”

Photo Source: www.tampabay.com

The new normal: Navigating the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19

The world first heard of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the last days of 2019. Fast forward to May 2020, and very little is known about this virus. Consequently, scientists and medical professionals are struggling to predict the virus’s behavior.

What is internationally accepted is that one of the only ways to control its rampant spread is social isolation or social distancing. Therefore, over 50% of the world’s population is currently under a stay-at-home or lockdown order. All non-essential businesses have closed, and millions of people have either lost their jobs or been furloughed. As a result, the COVID-19 is responsible for a total shutdown of the global economy, costing the world at least $7 trillion (USD).

NGOs and non-profits like yadezra.net are still continuing to feed the vulnerable, poor, and needy during these challenging times. However, it is a challenge because they are feeling the financial strain from the economic challenges of the fallout from COVID-19. Thus, they need donations even more than before the world woke up to the “new normal.”

Reasons why donating to charities is an imperative

Now that we have established that donating to NGOs, non-profit organizations, and charities is an imperative, let’s consider two of the most important benefits of supporting NGOs and charities during this crisis.

Helping people less fortunate

It is our social, moral, an ethical imperative to help people less fortunate than ourselves. It does not matter how much we give, what matters is that we give. Many religious organizations espouse the edict of giving at least 10% of all income to a charitable organization.

The website, nonprofitsource.com, notes that “giving to religion (defined as giving specifically to congregations, denominations, missionary societies, and religious media) has consistently remained America’s single largest recipient of charitable giving.”

Thus, irrespective of what our personal beliefs are because this article’s intent is not to discuss religion, let’s consider a simple case study of giving to charity during these challenging times.

If by way of example, we use the principle of giving 10% of our income to charity, then the following figures apply:

For every $10 we earn, we only need to give $0.10 to charity.

Therefore, if we only earn $40 per month ($10 per week x 4), then the maximum amount that we need to donate to charity for a particular month is $0.40.

Image source: PxHere

Statistics show that, in 2017, the median US weekly salary was $857. Thus, an average American employee earned $3428 per month ($847 x 4 weeks). Therefore, 10% of $3428 is $342.80. Thus, the maximum amount suggested based on the 10% rule is $342.80.

While this sounds like a lot of money, in the bigger scheme of things it is only 10% of your salary. And, from personal experience, it is essential to make the donation as soon as you get paid; otherwise, it is easy to spend this money on something else.

Improves our mental, emotional, and physical health

The health benefits associated with generosity include increased self-esteem, improved mood, less depression, lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, and greater happiness.

Why?

Research studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health have found that giving to charitable organizations boosts the feel-good chemicals or endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are manufactured by the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands. They act as a pain reliever and a happiness booster.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that endorphins have a similar function in your body as opioids. In other words, endorphins act as natural opioids. The human body has special receptors that bind to the synthetic opioids when taken on prescription by a medical professional to manage short-term pain. And, the combination of the opioids and the body’s receptors blocks pain signals from reaching the brain.

Consequently, the more you give and help people who are less fortunate, the more endorphins your body will manufacture, the happier you will be. And, the happier you are, the healthier you are.

Final thoughts

It’s vital to remember that, while philanthropic behavior is essential to your health and happiness, it’s equally important to manage your budget carefully, save as much as you can, and not overspend on anything. Otherwise, you will end up in financial difficulties.

The consequences of overspending are directly juxtaposed to the positive benefits of giving and managing your finances properly. And, if you overspend, you will no longer be in the position to support charitable organizations. Thus, everyone concerned, including yourself, will lose out on the overall benefits of your charitable actions. 

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Spain, Italy and other European countries are further easing their coronavirus lockdown restrictions starting with May 18.

Spain has slightly eased restrictions on some of its least affected islands.

In Italy, most businesses, including bars and hairdressers, are reopening after more than two months of nationwide lockdown measures.

The measures follow consistent drops in the number of daily recorded deaths.

On May 17, Italy recorded the fewest daily deaths since it entered lockdown in March.

According to Italian officials, 145 people had died with the virus in the previous 24 hours. This marked a significant drop from its highest daily death toll, which was more than 900 on March 27.

In Spain, the daily death toll fell below 100 for the first time since it imposed its lockdown restrictions.

Coronavirus: Number of Confirmed Cases Worldwide Passes 4 Million

However, officials are warning that complacency over the virus could lead to a second wave of infections.

Restaurants, bars, cafes, hairdressers and shops have been allowed to reopen in Italy, providing social distancing is enforced.

Almost 32,000 people in Italy have died in the pandemic, and the economy is expected to shrink by nearly 10% this year.

Catholic churches are resuming Mass, but there is strict social distancing and worshippers must wear face masks. Other faiths are also being allowed to hold religious services.

However, health officials have warned of the continued dangers of large social gatherings.

Pope Francis held a private Mass at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, which has been disinfected ahead of its reopening to tourists.

The Mass honored the late Pope John Paul II, 100 years after his birth in Poland.

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President Donald Trump has said a sobering warning by Dr. Anthony Fauci, his top infectious diseases expert, about lifting pandemic restrictions too soon was unacceptable.

The president accused Dr. Fauci of wanting “to play all sides of the equation” in his testimony to lawmakers on May 12.

He said he was especially dissatisfied with Dr. Fauci’s caution around reopening schools too quickly.

Nearly 1.4 million people have been infected with Covid-19 in the US. Another 84,000 people have been killed by the new coronavirus, while ravaging the economy.

Image source Wikipedia

Coronavirus: Dr Fauci and Other Members of White House Task Force Self-Isolate

Coronavirus: Number of Confirmed Cases Worldwide Passes 4 Million

Coronavirus: 33.3 Million Americans Filed Unemployment Claims in Last Six Weeks

Speaking on May 13 at the White House, President Trump took issue with Dr. Fauci’s comments to a Senate hearing a day earlier about the risks to children of reopening and his assessment that a vaccine was unlikely before classes could begin this autumn.

He said: “Look, he wants to play all sides of the equation.”

“I was surprised by his answer actually, because, you know, it’s just to me – it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools,” the president told reporters.

The president said “the only thing that would be acceptable” is giving older teachers and professors a few more weeks before they return.

“Because this is a disease that attacks age, and it attacks health,” he said.

“But with the young children, I mean, and students, it’s really – just take a look at the statistics. It’s pretty amazing,” he added.

President Trump is keen to get Americans back to work and has praised governors who are moving to do so while criticizing others for not acting aggressively enough.

The US is split over President Trump’s focus on protecting livelihoods, critics accuse him of gambling with lives to serve his own political interests ahead of November’s re-election bid.

His latest comments come amid reports of some young children being severely affected by an inflammatory syndrome that could be linked to the virus.

Speaking to lawmakers on May 12, Dr. Fauci, a White House task force coronavirus expert, warned that relaxing stay-at-home rules too quickly could bring more “suffering and death”.

The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases emphasized the importance of not being “cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects” of the disease.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said: “We just have to see on a step-by-step basis as we get into the period of time with the fall, about reopening the schools, exactly where we will be in the dynamics of the outbreak.”

He also said the real US death toll is probably higher than the official figure.

On May 12, Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan said he was lifting that state’s stay-at-home measure, replacing it on May 15 with a “safer-at-home” order.

The Republican, who has been critical of President Trump, cited a two-week decline in severe cases and deaths that federal guidelines recommend.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci and two other members of the White House coronavirus task force are self-isolating for two weeks after possible exposure to the illness.

Dr. Fauci has become the public face of the fight against the virus in the US.

His agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he was at “relatively low risk” due to the degree of his exposure.

However, the 79-year-old has tested negative.

Dr. Fauci will work from home for the time being and will be regularly tested, the institute said.

VP Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller, the wife of President Donald Trump’s aide Stephen Miller, tested positive for the virus on May 8.

Katie Miller’s diagnosis came after a valet for President Trump was also confirmed to have the illness.

CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield and FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn are also self-isolating.

In a statement, the CDC said Dr. Redfield, 68, had no symptoms and was not feeling unwell, but would also be working from home for two weeks after “low risk exposure” to someone at the White House. It is unclear who this person is.

Image source Wikipedia

Coronavirus: Number of Confirmed Cases Worldwide Passes 4 Million

Coronavirus: 33.3 Million Americans Filed Unemployment Claims in Last Six Weeks

An FDA spokesman told Reuters on May 8 that 60-year-old Stephen Hahn was also self-isolating. He has also tested negative, the spokesman said.

The three men were due to address a Senate committee on May 12.

Before the news about Dr. Anthony Fauci became public, committee chairman Senator Lamar Alexander said Dr. Redfield and Dr. Hahn would be allowed to testify by videolink.

The US has 1.3 million confirmed cases and has recorded 78,794 deaths – by far the highest total in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Many states brought in lockdown measures in March to try to contain the outbreak. But now some have lifted restrictions to allow people to return to work, a move health officials fear could further spread the virus.

Former President Barack Obama has sharply criticized his successor’s response to the crisis. During a private phone call to former staffers, Barack Obama called the response “an absolute chaotic disaster”.

Last week, President Trump said he would refocus the White House task force on kick starting the US economy, a day after suggesting he would disband it.

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide has passed 4 million milestone, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University.

The global death toll has also risen to above 277,000.

The US remains the worst-hit country in the world, accounting for over a quarter of confirmed cases and a third of deaths.

Experts warn the true number of infections is likely to be far higher, with low testing rates in many countries skewing the data.

Daily death tolls are continuing to drop in some nations, including Spain, but there is concern that easing lockdown restrictions could lead to a “second wave” of infections.

In addition, governments are bracing for economic fallout as the pandemic hits global markets and supply chains.

A senior Chinese official has told local media that the pandemic was a “big test” that had exposed weaknesses in the country’s public health system. The rare admission, from the director of China’s National Health Commission, Li Bin, comes after sustained criticism abroad of China’s early response.

Coronavirus: Global Cases Pass 1 Million

This week, some lockdown measures have begun easing in Italy, once the global epicenter of the pandemic. Italians have been able to exercise outdoors and visit family members in their region.

France has recorded its lowest daily number of coronavirus deaths for more than a month, with 80 deaths over the past 24 hours. Authorities are preparing to ease restrictions from May 11, as is the government in neighboring Spain.

Meanwhile, lockdowns are continuing in countries like South Africa, despite calls from opposition parties for it to end.

In South Korea, renewed restrictions are being imposed on bars and clubs after a series of transmissions linked to Seoul’s leisure district.

Russia also canceled a military parade in Moscow, planned as part of the country’s Victory Day celebrations. Instead, President Vladimir Putin hosted a subdued event on May 9, laying roses at the Eternal Flame war memorial.

However, despite scientific evidence, leaders of several countries have continued to express skepticism about the virus and the need for lockdowns.

In Belarus, thousands of soldiers marched to celebrate Victory Day, as President Alexander Lukashenko rejected calls for tougher measures.

British medical journal The Lancet has written a scathing editorial about Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, calling him the biggest threat to his country’s ability to contain the spread of coronavirus. Brazil is currently reporting the highest number of cases in Latin America – over 10,000 more on May 9, bringing the national total to nearly 156,000. But despite the outbreak, President Bolsonaro continues to dismiss the virus’ severity and has clashed with governors over lockdown measures.

The number of US unemployment claims has hit 33.3 million since mid-March amid coronavirus lockdown, about 20% of the US workforce.

A further 3.2 million Americans sought unemployment benefits last week as the economic toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to mount.

The number of new claims reported each week by the Department of Labor has subsided since hitting a peak of 6.9 million in March.

However, they remain extraordinarily high.

The number of Americans collecting benefits has continued to rise, despite recent moves to start re-opening in some parts of the country.

Photo Getty Images

Companies such as Lyft, Uber and Airbnb are amongst the companies that have announced cuts in recent weeks, as shutdowns halted significant amounts of travel.

The impact has been felt across the economy, affecting medical practices, restaurants and administrative workers among many others.

Economists say the monthly unemployment rate for April, which will be released on May 8, is likely to reach 15% or higher.

Just two months ago, the unemployment rate was at 3.5%, a 50-year low.

Since the coronavirus has taken hold in the US, the country has suffered its worst growth numbers in a decade, the worst retail sales report on record and declines in business activity not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

Meanwhile, weeks of elevated unemployment claims have far surpassed the prior record of 700,000.

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Food pantries have seen spikes in demand, and homeowners and renters have delayed monthly payments.

The National Multifamily Housing Council – an industry group for apartment owners – reported last month that nearly a third of renters did not make their full payment by the first of the month.

Economists are hoping the pain will ease as businesses gradually restart.

Retailers such as Gap have already announced plans for re-opening some stores. Others, including J Crew and department store Neiman Marcus, have been pushed into bankruptcy.

Moody’s Investors Service has predicted that the US unemployment rate could fall back to 7% by the end of the year, but that forecast depends on the virus. The longer the shutdown persists, the harder it will be for the economy to rebound.

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Germany is to reopen all shops as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Meanwhile, Bundesliga soccer has been given the green light to resume and schools will gradually reopen in the summer term.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany’s goal of slowing the spread of coronavirus has been achieved.

Germany’s 16 federal states, under an agreement with the government, will take control of timing the reopening.

They will operate an “emergency brake” if there is a new surge in infections.

General contact rules involving will continue for another month. A limited resumption has already begun, but this easing of restrictions is far broader.

Two households will be able to meet and eat together, and elderly people in nursing homes and facilities for the disabled will be able to have visits from one specific person.

Chancellor Merkel said: “I think we can safely state that the very first phase of the pandemic is behind us. But we need to be very much aware we are still in the early phases and we’ll be in it for the long haul.”

Germany has seen fewer than 7,000 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic – a much lower figure than in other Western European countries including the UK, Italy, France and Spain.

Image source Wikimedia

On May 6, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a federal public health body, reported 165 deaths in the past 24 hours and some 947 new infections.

The rate of infection has been consistently low for some time, and Angela Merkel said she was very pleased that the number of new, daily infections was into three digits. She praised the responsibility of German citizens in sticking to lockdown measures to protect the lives of others as well as themselves.

Shops of up to 800 square meters (8,600ft) in size have already been allowed to open. All restrictions on shops will now be lifted, although masks must be worn and social distancing maintained.

Schools have already begun opening for older children; all pupils will be allowed to return to class gradually during the summer term.

Germany, in common with other countries, is wary of a second surge in infections. If new infections rise to above 50 people in every 100,000 in a district over a seven-day period, then it will be up to the local authority in the affected area to re-impose restrictions.

A number of the 16 lands have been less affected by the crisis, so some are more eager to ease restrictions than others.

Bavaria in the south plans to reopen restaurants on May 18 while Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the north plans to do that on May 9.

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Reopening restaurants and hotels is seen as a particular risk because it will heighten the number of people travelling across Germany and raising infection rates. Large public events will remain banned.

The German soccer league, the Bundesliga, has been given the green light to kick off for the first time since March.

So-called ghost games without spectators could start again as early as May 15 or 21 as long as a two-week quarantine is put in place for the players, in the form of a type of training camp. A decision on the date will be made by the football authorities on May 7.

The Bundesliga will be the first major football league in Europe to resume after the pandemic. However, it is not without risk. Ten positive cases were revealed this week by the German football league out of 1,724 tests across the top two divisions.

Meanwhile, tourism commissioner Thomas Bareiss has held out the hope that Germans will be able to go on holiday this summer.

If the outbreak remained under control, he suggested they could go away in Germany and in neighboring countries that had seen a similar drop in infections.

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President Donald Trump has confirmed the White House coronavirus task force will be winding down, with Vice-President Mike Pence suggesting it could be disbanded within weeks.

He said during a visit to a mask-manufacturing factory in Arizona: “We are bringing our country back.”

New confirmed infections per day in the US currently top 20,000, and daily deaths exceed 1,000.

However, US health officials warn the virus may spread as businesses begin to reopen.

Image source Wikipedia

The US currently has 1.2 million confirmed coronavirus infections and more than 70,000 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, which is tracking the pandemic.

During a visit to the plant in Phoenix after weeks holed up at the White House, President Trump told journalists: “Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job, but we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form is safety and opening. And we’ll have a different group probably set up for that.”

President Trump – who wore safety goggles but no face mask during his tour of the facility – was asked if it was “mission accomplished”, and he said: “No, not at all. The mission accomplished is when it’s over.”

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Critics have accused the president of sacrificing Americans’ public health in his eagerness to reopen the economy ahead of his re-election battle in November.

Acknowledging a human cost to the plans, President Trump told reporters: “I’m not saying anything is perfect, and yes, will some people be affected? Yes.

“Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”

However, it will be up to individual states to determine how they reopen.

Some Democratic governors in badly hit states have been cautious, calling for more testing and other safeguards before easing lockdowns. Other states, many led by Republicans in the south and mid-west, have already begun lifting restrictions.

The White House coronavirus task force was set up on January 29. VP Mike Pence became its chairman four weeks later and its members include more than 20 experts and leading administration officials. The White House said the task force’s duty was to “lead the administration’s efforts to monitor, contain and mitigate the spread of the virus” and provide the public with information.

President Trump’s once-daily task force briefings became increasingly scarce after he was widely condemned by the medical community for pondering at the podium last month whether injecting disinfectant might kill the virus.

The FDA has authorized emergency use of the Ebola drug remdesivir for treating the coronavirus.

The authorization means the anti-viral drug can now be used on people who are hospitalized with severe Covid-19.

A recent clinical trial showed remdesivir helped shorten the recovery time for people who were seriously ill.

However, the drug did not significantly improve survival rates.

Experts have warned remdesivir – which was originally developed to treat Ebola, and is produced by Gilead pharmaceutical company in California – should not be seen as a “magic bullet” for coronavirus.

Remdesivir interferes with the virus’s genome, disrupting its ability to replicate.

During a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Gilead Chief Executive Daniel O’Day said the FDA authorization was an important first step.

Gilead would donate 1.5 million vials of the drug, he said.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn also said at the meeting: “It’s the first authorized therapy for Covid-19, so we’re really proud to be part of it.”

Emergency FDA authorization is not the same as formal approval, which requires a higher level of review.

Remdesivir did not cure Ebola, and the producing company says on its website: “Remdesivir is an experimental medicine that does not have established safety or efficacy for the treatment of any condition.”

Gilead also warns of possible serious side-effects.

However, President Trump has been a vocal supporter of remdesivir as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.

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Coronavirus: VP Mike Pence Appears Without Face Mask While Visiting Mayo Clinic

In its clinical trial, whose full results are yet to be released, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) found that remdesivir cut the duration of symptoms from 15 days down to 11.

The trials involved 1,063 people at hospitals around the world – including the US, France, Italy, the UK, China and South Korea. Some patients were given the drug and others were given a placebo (dummy) treatment.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who runs NIAID, said that remdesivir had “a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery”.

However, although remdesivir may aid recovery – and possibly stop people having to be treated in intensive care – the trials did not give any clear indication whether it can prevent deaths from coronavirus.

As much remains uncertain about the treatment regime, Gilead suggests a 10-day dosing duration for patients on ventilators and five days for patients who are not.

The FDA’s jurisdiction does not stretch overseas so the authorization only applies to US. Experts also stressed that the emergency use is not the same as full approval.

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The coronavirus has affected nearly every aspect of modern life. From movie theaters, to sporting events, to bars and restaurants, virtually no industry has been spared from lockdowns and cancellations. Of course, most gyms and fitness centers have also closed down for the time being. However, it’s still important for health-conscious individuals to exercise –– even during this pandemic. Fortunately, it is possible to stick to a fitness regimen without putting yourself or others at risk. Here are a few ways how:

diet
Dumbells green apple and tape measure isolated on white.

Work Out Indoors

Though you may not be able to go to the gym, it’s still possible to engage in a solid exercise session in your own home. Individuals can use treadmills, weights, or yoga mats to exercise on their own at home. Make sure to designate a space for exercise inside of your house, and try to avoid any unnecessary distractions. Don’t try and watch television while working out, and avoid busy areas like your kitchen, for instance.

Go on Walk, Run, or Jog

If you or someone you know has been exposed to COVID-19, or if you or someone you know has experienced COVID-19 symptoms, it’s important to maintain a stringent self quarantine for several weeks. However, for others who haven’t been exposed, it’s still possible to take a walk, run, or jog around their neighborhood or local park. Just ensure that you maintain proper social distancing while outside of your home. Also, wash your hands thoroughly after you work out –– especially outside of your home. Lastly, don’t join up with friends or neighbors for a work-out session in the park or elsewhere.

Avoid Overexertion

If you’re bored and tired of staying inside, you might find yourself motivated to push yourself during your next work out. While it’s great to be excited about physician fitness, it’s also important not to overexert yourself during workouts, particularly during quarantine. Always stretch and warm up before you begin a workout in earnest, and give yourself plenty of time to recover. Rest days can be crucial for your physical and mental well-being.

Speak to a Doctor

If you experience pain or discomfort during any of your workouts, then don’t hesitate to speak to a doctor. They may be able to recommend a number of treatments, such as minimally invasive bunion surgery for individuals with foot issues, for example.

Conclusion

Staying safe during the lockdown is tough, but necessary. That’s why developing a winning exercise program is so important. It will help you stay fit and reduce stress during this difficult time. Keep these tips handy for future reference!

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President Donald Trump has suggested he has seen evidence coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory.

Earlier the US national intelligence director’s office said it was still investigating how the virus began.

However, the office said it had determined Covid-19 “was not manmade or genetically modified”.

China has rejected the lab theory and criticized the US response to Covid-19.

Since emerging in China at the end of 2019, the new coronavirus has killed 230,000 people worldwide including 63,000 in the US.

The pandemic has seen at least 3.2 million people infected, a million of them Americans, since the virus spread from the city of Wuhan.

At the White House on April 30, President Trump was asked by a reporter: “Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this virus?”

“Yes, I have. Yes, I have,” said President Trump, without specifying.

“And I think the World Health Organization [WHO] should be ashamed of themselves because they’re like the public relations agency for China.”

Asked later to clarify his comment, the president said: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”

President Trump also told reporters: “Whether they [China] made a mistake, or whether it started off as a mistake and then they made another one, or did somebody do something on purpose?

“I don’t understand how traffic, how people weren’t allowed into the rest of China, but they were allowed into the rest of the world. That’s a bad, that’s a hard question for them to answer.”

Image source Flickr

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In a rare public statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees US spy agencies, said on April 30 it concurs with the “wide scientific consensus” regarding Covid-19’s natural origins.

The statement said: “The [intelligence community] will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

It was the first clear response from American intelligence debunking conspiracy theories – both from the US and China – that the virus is a bio-weapon.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was founded in the 1950s, houses China’s first Biosafety Level 4 laboratory.

Such labs handle the most dangerous pathogens for which there are few available vaccines or treatments, and one of the areas the Wuhan facility studies is coronaviruses from bats.

President Trump has recently been escalating his war of words with China over the pandemic after what officials within the president’s administration had described as a truce with Beijing.

On April 29, he suggested China wanted him to lose his re-election bid in November.

President Trump has formerly accused Chinese officials of covering up the virus early on and saying they could have stopped the disease from spreading.

He has similarly criticized the WHO and withdrawn US funding for the global body.

China’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, has accused the Trump administration of trying to distract from its own problems tackling the crisis.

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The Coronavirus outbreak has affected virtually everyone on earth in some way or another, redefining social interaction, work productivity and our capacity to enjoy something as simple as the outdoors. With nationwide lockdown expected to go on for some time in countries inflicted severely by the outbreak, such as the UK and US, many people are looking at their governments and public health organisations as a source of complete truth and accountability.

Whilst research into the relationship of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 has been somewhat cloudy and inconclusive, the real facts and evidence on the virus are constantly being discovered and debated. Scientists and health professionals all over the globe are working across the clock to not just try and find a vaccine but to explore the intricate details of the virus and why it has become so deadly. Whilst this has been resoundingly applauded across society, the release of findings, guidelines and stance of governments have been an embarrassing mismatch of contradictory information.

We examine some of the claims voiced by experts and government officials regarding COVID-19 over the course of the last few months, whilst shedding light on certain lifestyle choices which could impact contracting the virus.

Clear As Mud

Let’s rewind back to the start of the year, when regular routine was operated across the globe, except in China where a newfound virus threatened to damage normality in all senses. With news bulletins partially mentioning the outbreak of this unknown virus, government officials played down the prospect of it having a catastrophic effect.

As the virus spread across the world, In the UK PM Boris Johnson ignored advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) to refrain from shaking hands by boasting he was in close contact with those affected, “”I’m shaking hands continuously. I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were actually a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know. I continue to shake hands.” He went on to assert, “I want to stress that for the vast majority of the people of this country, we should be going about our business as usual.”

A large proportion of the news relating to COVID-19 over the course of early March, when the outbreak began to hit western nations, was that the disease only really affected elderly people and that younger, fit adults and children shouldn’t need to worry. Going by what we know now, this was greatly underestimated as despite the majority of deaths attributed to older people with underlying health conditions, younger people who are deemed healthy have still experienced severe symptoms of the virus and have required intensive care. A staggering 40% of patients requiring medical attention were in the age bracket of 20-54 in the US, according to CDC statistics.

Whilst the initial hypothesis that this disease affects older people far greater than younger age groups, there’s no denying that governments miscommunication on the severity of the virus on all age groups has potentially costs thousands of lives.

Furthermore, isolation and social distancing guidelines have become an increasingly contentious and confusing issue. In the UK under the sanctioned lockdown, citizens are required to self-isolate except to:

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home).
  • If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times.

Despite the resounding nature of these measures, the clarity of rhetoric used can be construed in many ways. For example, it’s stressed that a person can go out to exercise once daily alone or with members of their household, but no time measures are attached. This essentially means under law, a person or family could stay outside for as long as they wish over a 24 hour period as long as they’re staying active.

As well as this, the fact that most unessential businesses have been forced to close highlights the seriousness of the situation, however construction workers are deemed to be key workers and obviously cannot conduct their work from home in the majority of circumstances. This has led many labourers having to go to work to make ends meet, whilst the 2m social distancing measure implied is nigh on impossible for many who have to work in close proximity. This complete lack of disregard for a huge sector of the economy has again put thousands of people at risk of contracting the virus.

Up In Smoke

Whilst governments and public health officials have been inconsistent in their approach to tackling the pandemic, in regards to smokers (who make up over 1 billion worldwide), the message has been resoundingly clear.

The WHO states, ‘Smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth. Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase risk of serious illness.’

This is further echoed by UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock who says, “It is abundantly clear from the research into previous coronaviruses that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse.”

It’s also highly evidenced that smoking causes the immune system to weaken, whilst the fact that Coronavirus is a respiratory disease clearly highlights that smoking can have huge effects on those who have contracted the virus or developed symptoms.

This resonant assertion whilst respected, doesn’t cover the borderline product of e-cigarettes. Vaping is seen by many, including PHE, NHS, Cancer Research and The British Lung Foundation as a viable harm-reducing alternative to nicotine consumption. Yet many believe vaping could transmit COVID-19, especially through vape clouds.

Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs at PHE refutes this logic, “Public Health England’s 2018 independent evidence review found that to date, there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders. There is currently no evidence that coronavirus can be caught from exposure to e-cigarette vapour.”

In line with this, Leading academic Physician and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, Dr Neal Benowitz states,” It is my understanding that exhaled e-cigarette vapor consists of very small particles of water, propylene glycol and glycerin and flavor chemicals, not droplets of saliva. The vaping aerosol evaporates very quickly, while particles that are emitted when coughing or sneezing are large particles that persist in the air for a relatively long period of time. Thus, I would not think that vapers present any risk of spreading COVID-19, unless they are coughing when they exhale the vapor.”

Whilst vaping is only recommended for smokers looking to make the switch over, now could be the ideal time for those who smoke cigarettes to change over their habit. Vape Club’s dedicated guide section provides an extensive knowledge on all aspects of vaping for those unsure of the harm-reducing benefits when compared to tobacco.

Summing Up

Of course, many of us can feel like we’re left out in the cold with all of the differing opinions and claims floating around. It’s essential to be able to use common sense in the majority of social situations, with a large proportion of the population across the world adhering to guidelines and ultimately taking pressure of health services.

It’s also worth pointing out whilst the public couldn’t really conceive what was about to come in the early stages of Coronavirus, governments and health experts were briefed on the grimness of the situation about to hit as early as last year. This complete unpreparedness and lack of initiative has unfortunately paid dividends at the cost of thousands, potentially millions of lives, in what will inevitably come to be the biggest health crisis of our generation.

There is still a lot more to discover regarding COVID-19 and its existence, which will no doubt come to light in the ensuing months and years.

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Vice-President Mike Pence has appeared without wearing a face mask while visiting the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota despite the medical centre’s own rules that visitors wear personal protective equipment.

In a deleted tweet, the Mayo Clinic said Mike Pence had been notified in advance of its policy requiring masks.

The vice-president leads the White House coronavirus taskforce.

Image source Twitter

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The government’s own coronavirus-prevention advice is that people should wear face coverings “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain”.

The Mayo Clinic itself requires all patients and visitors to its medical centers to wear a mask or face covering.

VP Pence’s visit came on the same day that the US coronavirus caseload topped one million and the number of deaths surpassed 57,000.

President Donald Trump has himself previously said he has no plans to wear a mask.

The vice-president defended his decision to flout hospitals rules as necessary in order to meet with staff and patients.

He said: “As vice-president of the United States, I’m tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus.

“And when the CDC issued guidelines about wearing a mask, it was their recognition that people that may have the coronavirus could prevent the possibility of conveying the virus to someone else by wearing a mask.

“And since I don’t have the coronavirus, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible healthcare personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.”

According to news website Axios, Mike Pence has never once worn a mask while in public since the pandemic began while continuing to travel throughout the country.

A Mike Pence aide was the first White House member to test positive for the virus in late March.

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New Zealand claims it has stopped community transmission of Covid-19, effectively eliminating the virus.

With new cases in single figures for several days – one on April 26 – PM Jacinda Ardern said the virus was “currently” eliminated.

However, officials have warned against complacency, saying it does not mean a total end to new coronavirus cases.

The news came hours before New Zealand moved out of its toughest level of social restrictions.

From April 28, some non-essential business, healthcare and education activity will be able to resume.

Most people will still be required to remain at home at all times and avoid all social interactions.

PM Ardern said at the daily government briefing: “We are opening up the economy, but we’re not opening up people’s social lives.”

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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New Zealand has reported fewer than 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths.

The country’s Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, said the low number of new cases in recent days “does give us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination”.

Ashley Bloomfield warned that “elimination” did not mean there would be no new cases “but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from”.

PM Ardern said there was “no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand”, adding: “We have won that battle.”

However, the prime minister said New Zealand “must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way”.

New Zealand brought in some of the toughest restrictions in the world on travel and activity early on in the pandemic, when it only had a few dozen cases.

The country closed its borders, started enforcing quarantine of all arrivals in the country, brought in a stringent lockdown and mounted an extensive testing and contact tracing operation.

Beaches, waterfronts and playgrounds were shut on March 26, as were offices and schools. Bars and restaurants were also closed, including for takeaway and delivery.

PM Ardern said modeling indicated New Zealand could have had more than 1,000 cases a day if it had not brought in the lockdown so early.

She said New Zealand could never know how bad it would have been but that “through our cumulative actions we have avoided the worst”.

The country’s remote location and easily sealable borders played in its favor when the virus broke out, experts say.

However, the government has also been praised for the clarity of its messaging throughout the crisis.

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New York, the epicenter of the US Covid-19 outbreak, will allow pharmacies to carry out tests for the virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo says.

He said some 5,000 pharmacies would be able to carry out testing, with the aim to provide 40,000 per day.

As of April 25, the US has more than 938,000 confirmed cases. Almost a third of the 53,751 deaths happened in New York City alone.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump did not hold his daily briefing, saying it was not worth his “time or effort”.

Speaking on Twitter on April 25, the president blamed the media for asking “nothing but hostile questions”. Donald Trump was heavily criticized after suggesting at the previous White House news conference that injecting disinfectant could potentially be used as a treatment for the virus.

The president’s remarks have been condemned as dangerous by doctors and manufacturers, as disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested.

In NYC, calls to the hotline for exposure to certain household chemicals more than doubled in the 18 hours after President Trump’s remarks – 30 cases compared to 13 for the same time frame last year.

Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

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President Trump’s tweet appears to confirm reports that the conferences may be coming to an end because polls suggest they have not bolstered his popularity among voters.

On April 24, his briefing was unusually short – lasting just over 20 minutes – and he took no questions from the media.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on April 25 that antibody screenings would be expanded at four hospitals, beginning with frontline medical workers.

He also said independent pharmacies would be allowed to collect samples for diagnostic tests.

It is part of a drive to find out how widely the virus has spread across the state of 20 million people.

He said: “Twenty-one days of hell, and now we are back to where we were 21 days ago. Testing is what we are compulsively or obsessively focused on now.”

New York healthcare staff and essential workers – such as police officers, firefighters, bus drivers and shop assistants – would be able to get tests even if they did not have any symptoms of infection, he said.

According to Governor Cuomo, this was important not just for their own safety but also to protect the public.

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According to recent figures from Johns Hopkins University, more than 200,000 people worldwide have now died with the coronavirus.

There are more than 2.8 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, the tally shows.

It comes after the US death toll passed 50,000, as Americans endure the world’s deadliest outbreak.

Chinese state media reported the first known death linked to the virus on January 11. More than 210 countries and territories have since reported cases.

Five countries have now reported death tolls above 20,000 although the way fatalities are counted varies widely.

The US, Spain and Italy have seen the highest number of reported fatalities.

France, which does include deaths in care homes in its statistics, said its toll had risen by 369 on April 25.

There have been 22,614 virus deaths in France since the start of March, but health officials say the mortality rate in hospitals is falling, and the number of people in intensive care has dropped for the seventeenth consecutive day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says patients who have recovered from the virus may not be protected against re-infection.

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Earlier this week, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted upward trends in Covid-19 cases in Africa, Eastern Europe, Central America and South America.

Dr Tedros said that while most of the epidemics in Western Europe appeared to be stable or in decline, for many countries the disease was just getting started.

He said: “And some (countries) that were affected early in the pandemic are now starting to see a resurgence in cases.”

One such country is Singapore, which was initially praised for its success in containing the virus, but has since seen a surge of infections linked to industrial worksites and tightly packed worker dormitories.

Elsewhere in Asia, Chinese authorities reported no new deaths for the tenth consecutive day on April 25, and South Korea had its second day without a death.

Statisticians have cautioned that a reported death toll may not always give the full picture of a country’s epidemic.

The US has seen the most coronavirus deaths of any individual country, for example, but also has a far larger population than most.

With 330 million people, the US population exceeds the total number of people living in the five largest countries in Western Europe – the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Many European countries have reported more deaths per head of population than the US, and Europe as a whole has reported more deaths overall.

Death rates also depend on who is counted. Some countries are including deaths in care homes in their data, giving a fuller picture, whereas others only count deaths in hospital where Covid-19 has been confirmed.

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Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska have allowed some stores to reopen after measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as the US death toll passed 51,000.

Salons and spas could reopen in Georgia and Oklahoma while Alaska lifted restrictions on restaurants.

On April 24, President Donald Trump walked out of a shorter than usual briefing, refusing to take questions.

The president has faced criticism after suggesting that injecting household disinfectant into patients could be beneficial.

Donald Trump’s remarks have been condemned as dangerous by doctors and manufacturers. Disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested and even external exposure can be dangerous to the skin, eyes and respiratory system.

President Trump said on April 24 that the comments – made at a news conference one day earlier – were sarcastic and taken out of context.

Customers visiting the newly reopened businesses in Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska will be expected to continue adhering to social distancing measures. However, some cities and areas have decided to keep their lockdowns in place.

In Georgia, which has one of the fastest reopening timetables in the US, bowling alleys, spas, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors and other personal care businesses will be allowed to resume operations. On April 27, dine-in restaurants and theatres will be allowed to re-open.

With unemployment claims reaching 26 million people – or around 15% of the population – since mid-March, many states are feeling the pressure to resume trading.

“Donald Trump” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

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However, health experts have warned that the steps might be happening too soon, amid fears they could spark another wave of infections.

After being criticized by President Trump, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp tightened some of the sanitation and social distancing requirements for restaurants.

In the April 24 White House briefing that lasted just over 20 minutes, President Trump asked people to continue to follow rules around social distancing and the use of face masks.

Also on April 24, President Trump signed a $484 billion economic stimulus bill into law, saying he wanted to “rush economic relief to our citizens”. It is the fourth Covid-19 relief package passed by Washington, and allocates funds towards greater testing, hospitals and a small business loan program.

The US has by far the highest death toll and case count in the world. But despite recording more than 890,000 cases, the US population of 330 million is much higher than other countries badly hit by the virus, such as Spain and Italy.

Recent steep rises in the daily US death toll are also partly due to the inclusion of “probable” virus deaths – on April 14, the CDC said their case counts would include both confirmed and probable cases and deaths.

A probable Covid-19 death is one that meets clinical and epidemiological criteria but has not been confirmed by testing.

It is also important to note that many mild cases remain unreported, so the death rate from confirmed cases is not the same as the disease’s overall death rate.

Testing efforts are key to tracking the actual mortality and spread of the disease. VP Mike Pence, the Covid-19 taskforce leader, said the US had conducted 4.9 million tests thus far, and that the government was working with governors to expand testing.

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American medical community has lambasted President Donald Trump for suggesting research into whether coronavirus might be treated by injecting disinfectant into the body.

The president also appeared to propose irradiating patients’ bodies with UV light, an idea dismissed by a doctor at the briefing.

Another of the president’s officials had moments earlier said sunlight and disinfectant were known to kill the infection.

Disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested.

Even external exposure can be dangerous to the skin, eyes and respiratory system.

During April 23 White House coronavirus task force briefing, an official presented the results of US government research that indicated coronavirus appeared to weaken more quickly when exposed to sunlight and heat.

The study also showed bleach could kill the virus in saliva or respiratory fluids within five minutes and isopropyl alcohol could kill it even more quickly.

William Bryan, acting head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, outlined the findings at the news conference.

While noting the research should be treated with caution, President Trump suggested further research in that area.

He said: “So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light.”

“And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting,” he continued.

“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?

“So it’d be interesting to check that.”

Pointing to his head, President Trump went on: “I’m not a doctor. But I’m, like, a person that has a good you-know-what.”

The president turned to Dr. Birx and asked if she had ever heard of using “the heat and the light” to treat coronavirus.

“Not as a treatment,” she said.

“I mean, certainly, fever is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond. But I’ve not seen heat or light.”

“I think it’s a great thing to look at,” President Trump said.

Image source Wikipedia

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However, doctors warned the president’s idea could have fatal results.

Pulmonologist Dr. Vin Gupta told NBC News: “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous.

“It’s a common method that people utilise when they want to kill themselves.”

John Balmes, a pulmonologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, warned that even breathing fumes from bleach could cause severe health problems.

He told Bloomberg News: “Inhaling chlorine bleach would be absolutely the worst thing for the lungs. The airway and lungs are not made to be exposed to even an aerosol of disinfectant.

“Not even a low dilution of bleach or isopropyl alcohol is safe. It’s a totally ridiculous concept.”

President Trump has previously hyped a malaria medication, hydroxycloroquine, as a possible treatment for coronavirus, though he has stopped touting that drug recently.

This week a study of coronavirus patients in a US government-run hospital for military veterans found more deaths among those treated with hydroxychloroquine than those treated with standard care.

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Germany has announced plans to make face masks compulsory to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Bremen became the final federal region to back the measures, with its senate set to confirm the decision on April 24.

Face mask use will be compulsory on public transport throughout Germany, and nearly all states will also make face coverings mandatory when shopping.

Last week, when she announced the ease of lockdown measures, German Chancellor Angela Merkel strongly recommended the use of face masks.

Different European countries have issued different guidance on the use of face masks.

Austria made them compulsory when shopping at the start of this month.

On April 22, Switzerland confirmed it would not make its citizens wear masks as it loosened its restrictions.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has confirmed 145,694 cases and recorded 4,879 deaths in total.

April 22 data showed a second consecutive day that new infections rose, with 281 deaths compared with 194 reported on April 21. Johns Hopkins University in the US puts the number of German deaths at 5,117.

Germany’s federal vaccines institute approved clinical trials for a possible vaccine involving humans on April 22. About 200 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 will be tested with variants of the drug, developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German company BioNTech.

Scientists at the University of Oxford are set to start trials on humans on April 23, the UK government says. Separate trials are also taking place in Seattle.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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The new rules come into force in most German lands from April 27, once they pass in local legislatures. However, where face masks will be required differs from state.

All 16 lands will make facial coverings a necessity on public transport. However, in Berlin, it will not be compulsory to wear a mask when shopping.

This is also the case in the northern land of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: that land has announced a fine of €25 ($27) for anyone caught without one on public transport. Other states have yet to specify punishments.

Rhineland-Palatinate in the south-west says pupils will be given reusable masks as they slowly start to return to school at the beginning of May, while in Bavaria masks are mandatory for everyone aged seven and over from April 27.

Even the type of mask is not consistently specified. PM Winfried Kretschmann of Baden-Württemberg has said medical masks should be reserved for health workers, while scarves or cloth covers would be sufficient for people on the street.

Many land leaders had previously questioned the need to impose the measures on residents.

Thuringia’s premier, Bodo Ramelow, said that as neighboring lands Bavaria and Saxony had announced measures, his eastern state had decided to follow suit.

Since the outbreak began, the World Health Organization (WHO) has consistently said only the ill and those caring for the ill need to wear masks.

Research suggests face masks are not as effective as frequent hand washing with soap and water, and can give users false confidence.

A number of European countries are starting to make masks compulsory on public transport and in shops, including Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The price of US oil has dropped to a level not seen since 1999, as demand dries up and storage runs out.

The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the benchmark for US oil, dropped 14% to $15.65 in Asia trading on April 20.

The oil market has come under intense pressure during the coronavirus pandemic with a huge slump in demand.

US storage facilities are now struggling to cope with the glut of oil, weakening prices further.

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The oil industry has been struggling with both tumbling demand and in-fighting among producers about reducing output.

Earlier this month, OPEC members and its allies finally agreed a record deal to slash global output by about 10%. The deal was the largest cut in oil production ever to have been agreed.

However, analysts said the cuts were not big enough to make a difference.

Meanwhile, concern continues to mount that storage facilities in the US will run out of capacity, with stockpiles at Cushing, the main delivery point in the US for oil, rising almost 50% since the start of March, according to ANZ Bank.

“We hold some hope for a recovery later this year,” the bank said in its research note.

The drop was also driven by a technicality of the global oil market. Oil is traded on its future price and May futures contracts are due to expire on April 21. Traders will be keen to offload those holdings to avoid having to take delivery of the oil and incurring storage costs.

Brent oil, the benchmark used by Europe and the rest of the world, was slightly weaker, down 0.8% to $27.87 a barrel.

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Spain will allow children outside after six weeks of confinement, the country’s prime minister has announced.

Spanish children have been kept at home since March 14, under strict measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Now PM Pedro Sánchez aims to relax the rule on April 27 so they can “get some fresh air”.

Meanwhile, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who has young children herself, this week pleaded with the government to allow children outside.

Spain has seen more than 20,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic and almost 200,000 reported cases.

In a TV briefing on April 18, PM Sánchez said Spain had left behind “the most extreme moments and contained the brutal onslaught of the pandemic”.

However, the prime minister said he would ask parliament to extend the country’s state of alarm to May 9 as the achievements made were “still insufficient and above all fragile” and could not be jeopardized by “hasty decisions”.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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Another 410 deaths were reported on April 19 – fewer than the previous day. The latest death toll is well down from the peak of the pandemic, and the government allowed some non-essential workers to resume construction and manufacturing on April 13.

However, the main lockdown measures remain in place, with adults only allowed out to visit food stores and pharmacies or work considered essential. Children have been barred from going outside their homes completely.

Spain’s eight million children have already spent five weeks in confinement and there has been growing unease at the risk to their health.

The Spanish Children’s Rights Coalition has warned of mental and physical health problems for children as a result of such measures and called for boys and girls to be allowed outside to play and do some physical activity.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau demanded: “These children need to get out. Wait no more: Free our children!”

Orthodox Christians from all over the world are celebrating the most important festival in their calendar this weekend amid a series of restrictions and bans on traditional observance.

Authorities in Eastern Europe and the Middle East have said congregations must not attend services.

However, in Georgia, worshippers will still be able to attend churches.

Russia’s Orthodox Church has agreed to break from its annual traditions and is urging millions of believers not to attend church. Worshippers usually attend late-night processions to receive blessings. This year Mass will only be held in the presence of priests and other clergy.

In Greece, restrictions on movement have so far been widely praised for curbing the spread of coronavirus.

This Easter authorities have banned attendance of church services, which would normally attract hundreds of thousands of worshippers.

When the Holy Fire arrives in Athens on Saturday evening it will be taken to the Jerusalem patriarchate in Athens and unusually will not be distributed to churches elsewhere.

The Church has backed the ban and thousands of police have been deployed to prevent Greeks using the holiday to visit relatives or second homes.

Image source: kremlin.ru

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In Romania, people have been told they will not be allowed to leave their homes to receive the Holy Fire on Easter night or take bread splashed with holy water and wine, as is traditional. However, the Holy Light will be distributed to the homes of believers who request it.

The neighboring country, Bulgaria, has imposed a curfew on the capital Sofia to stop traffic in and out of the city to stop people heading off on holiday.

Churches in Serbia and Montenegro have told worshippers to celebrate Easter at home.

However, North Macedonia’s Orthodox Church says it will not use force to prevent people going to church.

InUkraine, officials have said riot police will be deployed if believers start gathering at churches in big numbers.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II held a Good Friday service without a congregation at a monastery north-east of Cairo. The service was televised live on Coptic Orthodox TV channels and showed deacons and priests gathered with gaps between them to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The Holy Flame was taken on Saturday, April 18, to the Church of the Holy Nativity in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

The traditional Holy Fire ceremony went ahead in a near-deserted Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The church was closed last month and only a handful of Orthodox clergy, some of them wearing black masks, were allowed in for the ceremony.

A candle is traditionally lit with the Holy Fire in the crypt of the Holy Sepulchre by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus.

Instead of the flame being passed on to thousands of pilgrims, this time the ceremony was attended by the Armenian Orthodox patriarch, four assistants and Coptic and Syrian archbishops, Israeli media report.

The church bells tolled and the flame was carried out of the church by Theophilos III and others to be taken to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv and flown to 10 countries.