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UK to introduce quarantine for international arrivals from June 8

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Britain will introduce a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving from abroad from June 8, interior minister Priti Patel said, with the government warning that anyone breaking the rules would face a fine or prosecution.

All international arrivals, including returning Britons, will have to self-isolate and provide details of where they will be staying under the plans, which were criticised by airlines, business groups and politicians alike.

“Now we are past the peak of this virus, we must take steps to guard against imported cases triggering a resurgence of this deadly disease,” Patel said at a news conference.

“We are not shutting down completely. We are not closing our borders.”

Those who breached the quarantine in the United Kingdom could be fined 1,000 UK pounds ($1,218), and spot checks would be carried out by health and border officials.

The quarantine will not apply to those arriving from the Republic of Ireland, nor to freight drivers, medical professionals or seasonal agricultural workers. The measures will be reviewed every three weeks.

The UK has recorded the highest number of deaths in Europe from coronavirus, with more than 36,000 people who have tested positive having died so far.

But the quarantine move is controversial, especially with the aviation sector, where flights have been grounded and passenger numbers slumped during lockdown measures.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary this week branded a proposed quarantine plan “idiotic” and accused ministers of “making it up as they go along”.

Virgin Atlantic said quarantine would prevent services from resuming and claimed there “simply won’t be sufficient demand to resume passenger services before August at the earliest”.

Trump predicts coronavirus vaccine by years end, vows plague will pass

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As some states loosen lockdown restrictions in a bid to set the nation’s battered economy on the road to recovery, President Trump endorsed a state-by-state approach while predicting at a Fox News virtual town hall on Sunday that a coronavirus vaccine could be available by December.

“I think we’ll have a vaccine by the end of the year,” Trump told the moderators, Fox News’ Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, saying he was “very confident” in the assessment. “We’ll have a vaccine much sooner rather than later.”

Asked by MacCallum if he was concerned about the potential risks of accelerating a vaccine and human trials, Trump responded: “No, because they’re volunteers. They know what they’re getting into … They want to help the process.”

That timeline was dramatically ahead of previous estimates from both public and private sector experts at the outset of the pandemic, which had said a vaccine could take up to 18 months, if not longer. But, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this weekend it was “doable if things fall in the right place” to have a vaccine by January.

CORONAVIRUS TIMELINE SHOWS SHIFTING RHETORIC ON THE PANDEMIC

Trump also predicted that the U.S. would be self-reliant on antibiotics, without needing to rely on China, within two years. Republicans have said it’s “crazy” that America is reliant on China, a communist adversary, for critical supplies including antibiotics.

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However, Trump predicted that as many as 100,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus, in a significant increase from his estimate of 60,000 last month. “Were going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” Trump said, calling it a “horrible” situation. Without his administration’s actions, Trump asserted, “the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, thats the minimum.”

Trump generally backed the efforts of America’s governors to manage the crisis, saying that each state will have a different approach to reopening their economies.

“It’s going to pass,” he assured, repeatedly referring to the outbreak as the “plague.”

Trump went on to assert that Democrats and media organizations, who have mocked him for touting the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine in fighting coronavirus, were motivated by politics and “don’t want to see a good result.” Some media organizations even reported that an Arizona couple had consumed fish tank cleaner because they believed it contained hydroxychloroquine. The woman in that case had claimed she was following Trump’s advice despite openly attacking Trump on social media. Her husbands death after ingesting the liquid is now under investigation.

Italy eases out of lockdown as 4 million people head back to work

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By Matt Bradley, Bill O’Reilly, Yuliya Talmazan and Lidia Sirna[contfnewc]

ROME — Italy is turning “a new page,” the countrys prime minister said ahead of some 4 million Italians returning to work Monday as Europes longest coronavirus lockdown eased.

“A new page is beginning, and we will have to write it together with faith and responsibility,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italians in a Facebook post Sunday. “The risks of having more infections are numerous, but we will be able to avoid them with responsibility.”

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With factories and construction sites reopening, the government is enforcing new rules for traveling on public transportation by marking available seats on buses and subways.

Image: People flow out of San Giovanni subway station in Rome
People flow out of San Giovanni subway station in Rome on Monday as lockdown restrictions are relaxed. Cecilia Fabiano / AP

Italians will also have the chance to feel the fresh air with parks and public gardens for the first time in eight weeks. They will be able to travel locally to see their families and order take-out, the government said.

These are small changes that will mean big lifestyle improvements for 60 million people who have rarely left their homes in nearly two months thanks to a virus that has killed more than 28,880 in the country.

The easing of the lockdown offers a much-needed boost for Italy’s economy, with big-name, export-oriented brands like Ferrari reopening for business.

The government first relaxed its lockdown measures last month, reopening some stores. But this prompted fears among business owners and employees that the country was moving out of the lockdown too early.

On Sunday, health officials said coronavirus deaths climbed by 174 — the smallest daily increase since March 10, when the country went into nationwide lockdown. The daily number of new cases also fell to 1,389 from 1,900 the day before.

But despite the promising numbers, many restrictions will still remain in place, with restaurants, bars, schools and museums still closed, as the prime minister cautioned Italians against lowering their guard.

Private parties and family gatherings are also still be banned, and social distancing is necessary even when visiting family members, the government said.

Coronavirus: UK hospital trials new treatment drug

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BBC:A new drug developed by UK scientists to treat Covid-19 patients is being trialled at University Hospital Southampton.

Developed by UK bio-tech company Synairgen, it uses a protein called interferon beta, which our bodies produce when we get a viral infection.

Initial results from the trial are expected by the end of June.

There are currently few effective treatments for coronavirus with doctors relying on patients’ immune systems.

What is the new drug?

Interferon beta is part of the body’s first line of defence against viruses, warning it to expect a viral attack, explains Richard Marsden, chief executive of Southampton-based Synairgen.

He says the coronavirus seems to suppress its production as part of its strategy to evade our immune systems.

The drug is a special formulation of interferon beta delivered directly to the airways when the virus is there, with the hope that a direct dose of the protein will trigger a stronger anti-viral response even in patients whose immune systems are already weak.

Interferon beta is commonly used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Synairgen has already shown its preparation can stimulate the immune response in the lungs of patients with asthma and other chronic lung conditions.

But we can only know whether it works for Covid-19 patients after it has been through a rigorous clinical trial.

Coronavirus stokes Middle East boiling points

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BBC:The Middle East has many reasons to fear the coronavirus pandemic, but it has one big advantage when it comes to resisting it. Most people in the region are young.

A rough average is that at least 60% are under the age of 30. That makes them less susceptible to developing Covid-19, the illness that has killed so many people in countries with older populations.

Most governments in the region saw what was happening elsewhere and had time to impose curfews and social distancing measures.

But that is where the Middle East’s advantages end. Years of strife in the world’s least stable region have left weaknesses that the pandemic is sure to deepen.

Medical capabilities vary widely. The best hospitals in Israel are as good as any in the world. The healthcare systems in Yemen, Syria and Libya – never strong – have been severely damaged, and in places destroyed, by years of war.

Yemen was already in the grip, the UN said, of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Now it has cases of Covid-19, which could spread fast in impoverished, overcrowded communities.

Aden, in the south, is in political turmoil. Even after two Covid-19 deaths were announced last week local residents were reported to be ignoring a curfew, still flocking to markets and mosques.

Troubled outlook

Those same young people who have the best chance of resisting the virus were, before it hit, leading demonstrations against their governments.

Every country has its own grievances, but in the Arab Middle East the protests have centred on corruption, cronyism and reform. Corrupt elites are accused of siphoning off public money that should have gone into public services, not least hospitals.

In Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq they forced out a president and two prime ministers. Protesters who refused to budge occupied the main squares of capital cities. In Iraq, they stayed put even after around 600 protesters were shot dead and thousands more were wounded.

More than 200,000 Libyans displaced amid fighting as COVID-19 threat increases

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Tripoli – More than 200,000 people have been displaced in the year since the conflict reignited in Libya according to new data compiled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Tripoli accounts for approximately 150,000 of recorded new displacements, but people were also forced to leave their homes in other conflict-affected areas in the country, including Murzuq, Sirt and Abu Gurayn.

Hostilities continue unabated in the capital Tripoli this week, damaging civilian infrastructure, including one of the few functioning health facilities in the city, Al Khadra hospital, where COVID-19 patients are being treated. A health worker was also injured in Mondays attack.

“A year into the conflict, the humanitarian situation in Libya has never been worse,” said IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda. “The needs have never been greater and the conditions have never been more challenging. Despite calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, the fighting continues amid serious fears of a COVID-19 outbreak.”

Since April 2019, the conflict has caused widespread damage to health facilities and other infrastructure in the capital, leaving tens of thousands of internally displaced Libyan families and migrants, some of whom are detained, in very difficult living conditions. Most of these vulnerable people are living in overcrowded accommodation with limited access to health services, at constant risk of shelling.

The security situation is increasing humanitarian needs and making it more difficult for aid workers to reach vulnerable populations. Security challenges are now coupled with grave health concerns posed by the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus, especially in detention centres. Libya recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 24. Twenty people have so far tested positive.

While at least 1,500 people are in detention in Libya, thousands of others remain in the hands of smugglers and traffickers in even worse conditions where humanitarian aid cannot be provided.

IOM reiterates that civilian lives must be protected and safe passage provided to those fleeing conflict, and to allow humanitarian workers access, especially amid the fast-spreading global pandemic.

All vulnerable populations must be included in the health response and measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19, including prevention, testing and treatment.

IOM has been conducting regular disinfection and fumigation campaigns in detention centres and disembarkation points and providing hygiene items to detained migrants. These efforts are coupled with awareness raising and health education sessions conducted for migrants and displaced people. Through its mobile clinic, IOM medical teams continue to provide emergency and primary health assistance, including screenings for COVID-19 symptoms.

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Guinea: Violence During Referendum

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(Nairobi) – Guineas security forces violently cracked down on opposition supporters in the lead up to and during the March 22, 2020 constitutional referendum and legislative elections, Human Rights Watch said today.

Security forces have killed at least eight people, including two children, and wounded over 20 others. Since mid-February, security forces have also arrested scores of suspected opposition supporters, and forcibly disappeared at least 40. Government officials said protesters injured at least nine members of the security forces, vandalized polling stations, burned election materials, and threatened voters on election day. On March 22, armed soldiers, gendarmes, and police officers in pickup vehicles and on foot deployed across Guineas capital, Conakry, fired teargas and live rounds on protesters, killing at least six people, including one woman, and injuring at least eight men.

“Guinean security forces have confronted popular protests with brutal violence,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “With protests likely to continue in the lead-up to elections, the Guinean government should immediately rein in the security forces, and opposition leaders should do what they can to help stop abuses.”

At the heart of the protests is President Alpha Condés perceived plan to run for a third presidential term in elections scheduled for later in 2020. In December 2019, Condé, 81, released the text for the proposed new constitution, which his supporters and opponents said would pave the way for his third term agenda. A coalition of civil society groups, labor unions, and political parties has organized regular protests since mid-2019 and boycotted the referendum. On March 27, 2020, Guineas electoral commission announced that the proposed new constitution passed with over 90 percent of the vote.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 60 victims, family members, and witnesses, as well as 15 medical workers, journalists, lawyers, opposition party members, and civil society representatives. Human Rights Watch analyzed photographs and video footage to corroborate victim and witness accounts. Human Rights Watch contacted Albert Damatang Camara, the security and civilian protection minister, by phone and WhatsApp and shared its findings via email on March 23, requesting responses to specific questions. Camara has not replied.

Several witnesses said that on March 22, security forces were at times accompanied by persons in plain clothes wielding knives and machetes who attacked protesters, killing at least one young man, Diallo Nassouralaye. Some opposition supporters threw stones and other projectiles at security forces. Violence also erupted outside the capital, including in Kindia, northeast of Conakry; Kolaboui; and Sangaredi, in the west; and Nzérékoré, in southeastern Guinea.

A witness said that a gendarme shot Issa Yero Diallo, a 28-year-old woman in Conakrys Ansoumanyah Plateau neighborhood at close range: “The gendarme threatened the woman before shooting her. People around tried to dissuade him, but he shot her in the neck.” Residents said the woman was targeted because she had helped negotiate the release of a man whom gendarmes arrested earlier that day. Minister Camara told the media the following day that a gendarme suspected of killing the woman had been arrested.

Security forces killed two teenage boys, one on February 20 and one on March 5, and on March 6 arrested two prominent opposition members in Conakry. On February 11 and 12, security forces arbitrarily arrested 40 people, including at least two children and three men with intellectual disabilities, during raids in Conakry and took them to a military base about 700 kilometers away in Soronkoni, in eastern Guinea. They were held without any contact with the outside world and without the authorities acknowledging their detention until March 28, when the authorities released 36 and transferred 4 others to Conakry central prison where they remain.

Minister Camara said in a news release on March 22 that the referendum “took place in peaceful conditions throughout the territory,” but that “certain activists have tried to sow terror” in Conakry and other cities and towns.” In a media interview on March 31, he confirmed that six people died in Conakry on March 22, including one due to stroke, and said that the authorities had opened investigations.

With more protests expected in the lead-up to elections later this year, Guinean authorities should instruct security forces to exercise restraint and abide by the Guidelines for the Policing of Assemblies by Law Enforcement Officials in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. Under these principles, law enforcement officers may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required to achieve a legitimate policing objective.

Sudan: A Year On, Justice Needed for Crackdowns

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(Nairobi) – Sudans transitional government should accelerate efforts to investigate and prosecute crimes against protesters by government security forces since December 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. December 2018 was the start of the wave of protests triggered by price increases that forced president Omar al-Bashir to step down on April 11, 2019.

“Scores of protesters, including teenagers and children, paid with their lives to force al-Bashir out, but a year on, the families of those killed are still searching for justice,” said Jehanne Henry, East Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Sudanese authorities should step up their efforts to do right by these victims. Justice should not be denied or delayed.”

Government security forces, particularly the National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS), used lethal, excessive force including live ammunition to break up the protests, killing dozens of unarmed protesters every month. While the exact death toll of protesters is not known, independent groups estimated that over 100 people were killed between December 2018 and April 11, 2019, and Amnesty International verified at least 77 killings during that period.

On April 11, a transitional military council took power and announced that al-Bashir and several of his allies in the ruling National Congress Party were in detention. Salah Gosh, the former head of the NISS, was not detained and reportedly fled to Egypt in May.

Protesters remained at the sit-in demanding that military authorities hand over the government to civilian rule. On June 3, security forces violently dispersed the sit-in, killing over 120 protesters between June 3 and 18, according to doctors groups. The security forces were led by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which have a documented record of abuses and attacks on civilians in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile.

On August 17, opposition groups and the military agreed on a transitional government, forming a sovereign council composed of military and civilian leaders but led by military for the first 22 months, with a civilian prime minister and cabinet. Gen. Abdelfattah al-Bourhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, “Hemedti,” commander of the RSF, are chair and deputy chair of the sovereign council respectively. Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, a former United Nations official, is prime minister.

Human Rights Watch concluded after documenting the events on June 3 and the following days that the killings and abuses could qualify as crimes against humanity because they were part of a government policy of using excessive, lethal force against unarmed protesters. Human Rights Watch recommended that the authorities should establish an independent entity to investigate abuses committed since December 2018, including sexual violence.

Despite the transitional governments promises to ensure justice, it has made slow progress in the face of many serious problems, including a collapsing economy. In September, the authorities appointed a committee to investigate the June 3, 2019 crackdown. However, the committee has attracted wide criticism for its slow pace and inaccessibility, especially for victims of gender-based violence.

The authorities have not established a body specifically to address the crimes against protesters since December 2018, but are handling cases alleging violations against protesters in an ad hoc manner, if and when victims families come to them with evidence. Legal aid groups told Human Rights Watch that prosecutors, who lack resources and technical capacity, do not actively investigate but rather rely on victims families to collect evidence.

“It is very disappointing to protesters, victims, and their families, to see that justice is not moving one step further one year after ousting al-Bashir,” said Rifat Makkawi, a prominent human rights lawyer and director of PLACE legal aid center.

Newly confirmed Ebola case in the DRC creates a triple emergency for local communities – IRC

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Beni, DRC, April 10, 2020 — Kate Moger, International Rescue Committees Regional Vice President of the Great Lakes, said, “The confirmation of a case of Ebola in Beni is tragic and comes just as the people of DRC were preparing to celebrate on Sunday the end of this disease after nearly two years. This is a devastating development for the communities in eastern DRC who are also under threat from the corona virus outbreak, in addition to ongoing conflict and displacement. This is now a triple emergency: vulnerable populations facing ongoing humanitarian crises, the spread of COVID-19, and now again potentially a re-emerging Ebola crisis. The International Rescue Committee continues to respond to both Ebola and COVID-19 and will ensure that infection, prevention and control support is provided to health centres, as well as sharing critical information on both diseases with the affected populations. The reality of needing to address both Ebola and COVID-19 in a conflict zone is, and must remain, of grave concern to the entire international community and DRC government.”

​The IRC has been responding to the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri since its declaration in August of 2018 working in more than 90 health facilities in Beni, Mabalako, Butembo, Goma and in southwest Ituri, leading on infection prevention and control (IPC). The IRC is also working in womens and childrens protection and community engagement, and integrating Ebola-related protection concerns in areas where the IRC supports primary health care services. The IRC has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996 responding to the humanitarian crisis in the east. It has since evolved into one of the largest providers of humanitarian assistance and post-conflict development, with life-saving programming in health, economic recovery, womens and childrens protection, and livelihoods.

The IRC has launched a US $30 million appeal to help us mitigate the spread of coronavirus among the worlds most vulnerable populations. We are working across three key areas: to mitigate and respond to the spread of coronavirus within vulnerable communities; protect IRC staff; and ensure the continuation of our life-saving programming as much as possible across more than 40 countries worldwide.

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More than 15 million children and their families in Yemen, Syria and Gaza set to face COVID-19

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Save the Children calls for an easing of restrictions on aid for hard to reach areas

Fewer than 730 ventilators and 950 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are available for more than 15 million children and their families in areas that are hard for aid agencies to reach in Yemen, northern Syria and Gaza – meaning they are critically underequipped to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19, Save the Children is warning.

The Gaza Strip has been under blockade for 13 years, Syria has just entered its tenth year of conflict – with the Northern front currently the most active – and Yemen is in its sixth year of war. Healthcare systems across all three areas have been decimated, in some cases to the point of paralysis, and have minimal do not have nearly enough medical resources to respond to ongoing needs, let alone a global pandemic. As of March 29, Syria had confirmed 9 COVID-19 cases and one death, Gaza 9 cases, and Yemen is yet to declare any.

  • In North West Syria, there are a total of 153 ventilators and 148 beds in ICU, while nearly a million recently displaced people are living in overcrowded areas. In North East Syria, there are fewer than 30 ICU beds, only ten adult ventilators and just one paediatric ventilator.
  • In Gaza, there are 70 ICU beds and 62 ventilators for 2 million people. It is also one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with a high proportion of the population living in refugee camps with limited access to water and other basic services.
  • In Yemen, where only half of the hospitals are still fully functional, there are 700 ICU beds, including 60 for children, and 500 ventilators.

The continued support of humanitarian organisations to people in need is vital to slow the spread of coronavirus in this critical phase, but access to children and their families is often hampered by conflict, movement restrictions and other challenges. Preventive measures such as social distancing and hand washing are difficult if not impossible in overcrowded areas like Gaza and displacement camps in Northern Syria. Water sources are unreliable across all three locations, and shortages can occur daily. In Gaza, 96 percent of the available water is unsuitable for human consumption.

Children in Gaza told Save the Children about their fear. Raafat*, 13, said: What Im most afraid of is that Gaza is highly populated and doesnt have enough resources to face the virus. Jood, 11, said: This pandemic affects us, because we have to stay home and there is no income for the family.

In Yemen, Moneer*, 17, from Taiz said: I have heard about Corona. People in my family said that it was very dangerous and we wouldnt survive it if it came to Yemen. Every day, my mother walks for 15 minutes to the well to fill the container with water and then walks back for another 15 minutes. The water doesnt look clean, but it is the nearest source for us. We use it for cooking, drinking, and washing. We try to use as little as possible so we dont have to go fetch it again.

Jeremy Stoner, Save the Children’s Regional Director, said: In places where medical care is scarcely available, prevention is critical. Yet measures like social distancing are hugely challenging in countries in conflict. If people need to stay two metres apart, for Palestinians living in Gaza to comply with this, the territory would have to be ten times larger than it currently is; for Syrians living in displacement camps, families would need to spread out in numerous tents currently unavailable; and for Yemenis, of whom about 2 million children suffer from acute malnutrition, the priority would be getting food.’

Many children in Gaza, Syria, and Yemen suffer from pre-existing health concerns caused by childhoods consumed with war. They will be malnourished, injured, or will not have been properly vaccinated. The same is true for their parents, many of whom have little or no family support and cannot afford to become ill. It is literally a matter of life and death to support these areas in their efforts to contain a COVID-19 outbreak, he added.

Save the Children is calling on the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the de-facto authorities in Gaza to uphold their international responsibilities by ensuring the right to health is fully provided to children in the West Bank including Jerusalem, and Gaza. Restrictions on humanitarian and medical relief items entering Gaza must be lifted, and people in need of medical care must be afforded access to it.

We are also calling on warring parties in Syria to observe a complete ceasefire in the North West to allow for the full and unhindered access to people in need. In Yemen, all warring parties must fully and truly implement the recently announced ceasefire to help the country prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak. As an aid agency, Save the Children is already facing a slowdown in its response because of closure of international borders, grounding of flights, and new limitations to movements in country. Teams on the ground need to be able to reach people in need with existing humanitarian aid, and distribute for example hygiene products, awareness sessions, sim cards, and cash without any impediments.

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