Hungary, Slovenia report first coronavirus cases

first_imgHungary and Slovenia reported their first confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday in two Iranian students and a third patient who recently travelled back from Morocco via Italy. “Two patients have been taken into medical care due to coronavirus infections,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a Facebook video message.”Two foreigners, students studying in Hungary, Iranians, they are currently symptom-free it seems, but confirmed as infected,” he said. While caseloads have steadily declined in the virus epicentre China, infections and deaths are rising in Asia and Europe, with cases appearing in new countries almost every day.More than 90,000 people have been infected and around 3,200 have died worldwide from the virus, the vast majority in China where COVID-19 first emerged late last year. The World Health Organization (WHO) has so far stopped short of declaring a pandemic, though has said the world must prepare for the possibility.  The virus has reached over 80 countries and territories around the world, with South Korea, Iran and Italy emerging as hotspots outside China. Topics : Dr Janos Szlavik at the Central Hospital of Southern Pest told reporters at a news conference that both patients had visited family in Iran recently and that their roommates were being taken into quarantine.Authorities were making efforts to establish their travel history within Hungary and who they had been in contact with, Szlavik said.In neighbouring Slovenia, Health Minister Ales Sabeder told reporters the country’s first case involved a “patient, aged around 60 who returned from Morocco via Italy” a few days ago.The patient had visited a family doctor before being tested and was currently in hospital in the capital Ljubljana, he added.last_img read more

Pence disregards Mayo Clinic face mask requirement in visit

first_imgThere have been nearly 1 million cases of covid-19 in the U.S. and more than 57,000 deaths, the largest outbreak in the world.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people wear face masks in public areas. And at the White House briefings, top medical advisers have explained that wearing a face mask isn’t intended to protect the person who wears it, but the people around them.But Pence’s boss has likewise declined to set an example for Americans looking for guidance from their leaders on how to curb the outbreak. President Donald Trump has said he doesn’t intend to wear a mask.The White House has defended the decision by Trump and other senior administration officials to forgo masks by noting that they are tested regularly for coronavirus infection. Members of the vice president’s entourage in Minnesota — including reporters who accompanied him aboard Air Force Two — were tested for infection before the trip.Topics : Vice President Mike Pence disregarded a Mayo Clinic policy requiring face masks as he discussed the coronavirus outbreak with top doctors at one of the nation’s leading hospitals on Tuesday.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing face coverings in public, and Pence has repeatedly implored Americans to follow public health guidance. But he was conspicuously the only participant in a round-table discussion at the hospital on Wednesday who didn’t wear a mask.After photographs of Pence talking with masked health workers circulated on Twitter, the Rochester, Minnesota-based hospital tweeted: “The Mayo Clinic had informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today.” As Pence toured the hospital before the discussion, the only people not seen wearing masks were the vice president and some of his staff. Other participants, including Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, were all masked.Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, followed his boss’s lead early in the day, but was later seen complying with Mayo’s policy.Pence chairs the White House’s coronavirus task force and is regularly tested for the disease. He plays a prominent role in White House news conferences and frequently encourages Americans to follow guidelines from medical professionals about how to slow the spread of coronavirus.center_img The tweet was later deleted.last_img read more

‘Slow response’: How Britain became worst-hit in Europe by virus

first_imgBut criticism has intensified that his government’s response has been slow and muddled.”It’s extraordinary [to be] approaching 30,000 deaths in this country now,” David King, the top scientific advisor from 2000 to 2007, told BBC television last week.”What we see is a whole panoply of actions that need to take place to manage a pandemic of this kind, and yet there seems to have been an absence here. “We seem to be in a very reactive mode. So I am very critical of the slow response.” Strategy shift  Johnson, who spent three days in hospital intensive care battling the virus, has faced accusations of initially not taking the outbreak seriously enough.In early March, with the World Health Organization warning of a potential pandemic, his government was promoting rigorous hand-washing as the best defense, alongside limited contact tracing.Johnson proclaimed he was still shaking people’s hands after meeting patients on March 3.Two days later, officials announced Britain’s first COVID-19 death.As case numbers started to spiral by mid-March, contact tracing — which involves finding and testing people who have been in proximity with those infected — was largely abandoned.The strategy has been used intensively by countries such as South Korea and New Zealand to keep transmission rates and death counts low.Instead, the UK government said it would try to suppress case numbers to stagger demand on the state-run National Health Service (NHS) through social distancing measures. That followed a dire warning from Imperial College London that suppression was “the preferred policy option” to curb the virus’s spread and prevent hundreds of thousands of potential deaths.The shift appeared to acknowledge that the transmission of COVID-19 in Britain was out of control, but Johnson initially stopped short of ordering a lockdown.Meanwhile, Vallance sowed confusion after he suggested allowing some “herd immunity” to develop in the population.Ministers swiftly denied this was their intent, calling it “a scientific concept, not a goal”. It releases weekly updates for periods up to two weeks prior and, alongside updated numbers from health agencies in Britain’s devolved regions, showed 32,313 deaths from the virus.That compares with nearly 68,700 who have died in the United States and more than 29,000 in Italy.The government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance had said limiting Britain’s toll to 20,000 would be “a good outcome”.Johnson maintains that expert advice has been followed throughout. Britain now has the world’s second-highest cumulative coronavirus death toll, behind only the United States, after updated official figures released on Tuesday showed it had surpassed Italy.The grim milestone seemed unthinkable just two months ago, when the country recorded its first fatality and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “extremely well prepared [for] all eventualities”.Britain’s toll has jumped dramatically on several occasions as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) — which tallies all deaths, including those from the virus outside hospital — has updated the count.center_img Topics : Ramped up response On March 20, with cases and deaths surging, schools, pubs, restaurants, gyms and other social venues were ordered to close.Three days later Johnson said people should go outside only to buy food, exercise once a day or travel to work if they could not do so from home. But on deaths alone, Britain — and the global city of London in particular — became an epicenter of the outbreak.There were 10,000 hospital deaths by mid-April — including nearly 1,000 on April 8 — and the toll doubled again within two weeks.Debate continues over the true extent of fatalities in Britain, given different reporting methods internationally and comparisons of per capita rates of infections and mortality.Meanwhile, with the lockdown crippling the economy and no easing date yet announced, Britain is aiming to revert to the contact tracing tactics which critics argue it should never have abandoned. Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged to increase tests to 100,000 a day by the end of April and hire more than 18,000 tracers to work alongside a new tracing app due out mid-May.Although he met the target and trials of the app are taking place this week on the Isle of Wight, experts have criticized the government for taking so long to reach this point.Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet medical journal, described the overall UK response as “the biggest science policy failure in a generation”.”If we had used February to scale up capacity for testing and contact tracing, and to begin surge capacity for intensive care bed use, it’s absolutely clear we would have saved lives,” he told the Financial Times recently.last_img read more

Former Disney exec named TikTok boss

first_imgHis new realm will include TikTok and global development at the app’s parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, according to the business.He will report directly to ByteDance founder and chief executive Yiming Zhang.”Kevin’s wealth of experience building successful global businesses makes him an outstanding fit for our mission of inspiring creativity for users globally,” Zhang said in a release.Mayer’s job at Disney included managing Hulu, ESPN+ and Hotstar operations on the direct-to-consumer platform, according to ByteDance. Former Disney executive Kevin Mayer will become the head of TikTok and chief operating officer of the popular video app’s parent company, the group announced Monday.Mayer’s surprise jump from one of the entertainment industry’s most venerable companies is another victory for buzzy upstart TikTok, which has seen a surge in popularity among people locked down during the coronavirus pandemic.Mayer headed Disney’s direct-to-consumer offerings, where he oversaw the successful rollout of Disney+ television streaming service. “I’m excited to help lead the next phase of ByteDance’s journey,” Mayer said in the release.ByteDance owns TikTok, whose kaleidoscopic feeds of 15 to 60-second video clips feature everything from hair-dye tutorials to dance routines and jokes about daily life.Since launching in 2017, TikTok has been downloaded more than two billion times, according to US-based research agency SensorTower. It has huge followings in India, the US, Indonesia and elsewhere.The platform, already a favorite of teens, has increasingly been used by adults looking for ways to pass the time during the coronavirus lockdowns.TikTok saw 65 million worldwide downloads in March alone, according to SensorTower.Marketing analysts have suggested part of the app’s popularity is due to the approachability and levity of the platform’s aesthetic.Unlike Instagram, which favors idyllic vacation views and perfectly framed artistic shots, the most popular TikTok stars make videos at home in loungewear.Plus, the inherent levity of TikTok videos provides a change of pace from the pandemic.Kelly Zhang and Lidong Zhang will continue as chief executive and chairman, respectively, of ByteDance business in China, according to the company.They manage ByteDance products including Douyin, Toutiao, and Xigua.Topics :last_img read more

UK lockdown a week earlier could have halved COVID-19 death toll, scientist says

first_imgBritain’s death toll from COVID-19 could have been halved if lockdown had been introduced a week earlier, a former member of the UK government’s scientific advisory group said on Wednesday.Britain has an official death toll from confirmed COVID-19 cases of over 40,000, rising to over 50,000 cases when deaths from suspected cases are included.Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed the lockdown on March 23. His comments echo those of another scientific adviser, John Edmunds, who said at the weekend that Britain should have gone into lockdown earlier.Johnson said it was too early to say what regrets he had or lessons he could learn over the handling of the pandemic.”We made the decisions at the time on the guidance of SAGE, including Professor Ferguson, that we thought were right for this country,” he told reporters.Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the one issue he would choose to look at was how to speed up testing earlier.”Many of the problems that we had came because we were unable to work out exactly where we were ..,” he said. Topics :center_img Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson told lawmakers that Britain had taken the right measures but too late.”The epidemic was doubling every three to four days before lockdown interventions were introduced. So had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier, we would have then reduced the final death toll by at least a half,” Ferguson said.”So whilst I think the measures … were warranted … certainly had we introduced them earlier, we would have seen many fewer deaths.”Ferguson, a professor at Imperial College in London, produced a model which influenced Britain’s response to the pandemic, but later stood down from Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) after he was accused of breaking lockdown rules.last_img read more

COVID-19 pandemic a ‘wake-up call’ for multilateralism, Indonesia’s top diplomat says

first_imgA top diplomat from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry says the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the multilateralism approach of diplomacy.The reason was that many countries had chosen to be reactive and protectionist at the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak, but later realized they needed to work together in a spirit of solidarity to battle the pandemic, said the ministry’s multilateral cooperation director general, Febrian Ruddyard.“It is a little bit contradictory, on one side [countries] tend to exclude themselves, but on the other side [they are aware that] collaborations are needed,” he said during a webinar on Thursday. “Thanks to the pandemic, we now know that our system is not ideal. It is crumbling amid the pandemic […] This will encourage us to look for a new format, which may not be a totally different one, but maybe something that can give dynamics [of the model of cooperation],” Febrian added.The coronavirus, which surfaced in China late last year, has killed nearly 420,000 people and infected some 7.4 million worldwide, according to pandemic has put half of humanity under some form of lockdown as countries scramble to counter the economic fallout from the coronavirus, which has also taken its toll on healthcare systems across the globe.Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) executive director Philips J. Vermonte agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted vulnerabilities in various aspects of global and regional governance, particularly on the prevailing national interests linked to weaknesses that international institutions have.“Every country comes up with their own agendas to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic,” he said in the discussion on Thursday, calling on international communities to push cooperation and put nationalism and protectionism at bay.In this context, Febrian suggested an optimistic idea to shift the basis of multilateral cooperation, which traditionally was made and determined through historical factors, to move forward and become more practical and future-oriented.“In the past, many [international] organizations were established after a problem, not to mitigate potential problems. This kind of way of thinking must change,” he said.Topics : “We can call it a wake-up call for multilateralism, where the old system [of multilateralism] that had been built is forced to remain effective [amid the pandemic] to fulfill the needs of the people, while at the same time, the global panic has caused many countries to push forward domestic interests,” Febrian explained, citing the protectionist mindset in global trade as an example.Indonesia would remain consistent in promoting multilateralism to find equitable solutions, particularly for mitigating the global pandemic, he added.Moreover, Febrian said he believed the pandemic could give added value to multilateral cooperation as it provided room for countries to conduct a “reality check” on the readiness of their approach in response to the health crisis.“It also provided [countries] with an opportunity to revitalize multilateral cooperation, for instance, in the realm of global health management,” he said, adding that the reality check would allow the international community to evaluate whether the current system was ideal.last_img read more

House to question attorney general on ‘light’ sentence sought for suspects in Novel case

first_img“We will ask the attorney general in a hearing at the end of this month. It will be one of the agenda points,” the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician said.Herman, however, refused to comment on the sentence demand, noting that the judges handling the case had yet to hand down the verdict.”We don’t have access to the police investigation report. We cannot interfere with the case. The investigator is also not allowed to give the material to us,” he said, “But since this [case] has sparked controversy, we will ask the attorney general later.”The one-year prison sentences sought for the defendants, Chief Brig. Ronny Bugis and Brig. Rahmat Kadir, has left many people disappointed. Some expressed their bewilderment over the short imprisonment demanded by the prosecutors through sarcastic videos and memes in social media. Read also: 1-year prison sentence demanded for cops who allegedly attacked Novel BaswedanRonny and Rahmat have been accused of attacking Novel with acid because of the latter’s work as an investigator for the KPK, which saw several powerful and corrupt politicians and government officials, as well as police officers, end up behind bars. Shortly after he was arrested, Ronny said he considered Novel, who previously served as a police officer, a traitor.Noting that the attack had left the KPK investigator disabled for the rest of his life, Commission III lawmaker Habiburokhman said the prison sentence demanded for the alleged attackers was “too light”.“The one-year sentence hurts our sense of justice,” the Gerindra Party politician said.He contrasted the sentence demand with at least three acid attack cases that had been brought to trial before, in which prosecutors demanded 10-year prison sentences each for defendants in the Bengkulu District Court in Bengkulu and the Pekalongan District Court in Central Java. Prosecutors demanded 3.5 years of imprisonment for the defendant in a similar case at the Denpasar District Court in Bali.”I will not interfere in the case, but logically, the sentences for Novel’s [attackers] should be heavier than the three aforementioned cases,” he said.Topics : House of Representatives Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, is set to question Attorney General ST Burhanuddin regarding the one-year prison sentence demanded by prosecutors for two police officers accused of attacking Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan.Commission III chairman Herman Hery said on Monday that lawmakers would invite ST Burhanuddin for a hearing and demand an explanation.last_img read more

French Catholic Church counts over 3,000 child victims of sex abuse

first_imgTopics : At least 3,000 children have fallen victim to sex abuse in the French Catholic Church since 1950, a commission set up to examine claims estimated Wednesday, adding that the real number may be much higher.The commission’s president Jean-Marc Sauve said preliminary figures suggested some 1,500 clergy and other Church officials carried out the abuse.The commission was set up last June at the request of French bishops after a series of pedophilia cases that rocked the Church in France and abroad. A hotline urging victims to come forward has received 5,300 calls over the past year, Sauve told journalists in a video conference.The number of estimated victims represents more than 40 cases per year on average over the past seven decades.”I am deeply convinced that there are many more victims,” Sauve said.”What we do not know is how to consolidate these two sources” of potential cases — the hotline and the commission’s own inquiries, he said.  The call for witnesses has been extended to October 31 and reviews of Church archives have resumed after being suspended during France’s coronavirus lockdown.Pope Francis has vowed to confront criminal offences in the Church’s ranks, including several cases in which top officials knew of sexual assault but failed to inform the authorities.Last year, Francis passed a measure obliging those with knowledge of child sexual abuse to report it to their superiors, a move that was expected to bring numerous new cases to light.The commission headed by Sauve, a high-ranking civil servant, includes legal experts, doctors, historians, sociologists and theologians.It is expected to produce a final report next year with recommendations on how to prevent abuse. Payouts planned Victims’ associations have applauded the French Church’s pledge of transparency, having long accused its senior officials of covering up pedophilia cases to protect priests from prosecution.In the most recent high-profile case, a defrocked Catholic priest was given a five-year jail term in March for sexually abusing boy scouts in his care several decades ago.Bernard Preynat, 75, had confessed at his trial in the southeastern city of Lyon to “caresses” he knew were forbidden after victims testified of the abuses they suffered at his hands.He faulted the Church hierarchy, saying “They should have helped me… They let me become a priest.”The scandal became the subject of an acclaimed film last year titled “Grace a Dieu” [By the Grace of God] by director Francois Ozon, who worked with some of the victims.But in January, an appeals court overturned the conviction of Preynat’s superior, Lyon’s former archbishop Philippe Barbarin, for not reporting the abuse despite knowing about it for years.The court said that while Barbarin should have informed the authorities, he was not criminally liable for his lack of action.French bishops agreed last November to provide financial compensation to victims of sex abuse by priests.The potential sums were set to be discussed in April, with priority for victims from several years ago whose cases are beyond the statute of limitations for prosecution.But the coronavirus lockdown halted such meetings until further notice.last_img read more

Govt owes construction SOEs Rp 5.6t for land acquisition expenses

first_imgThree state-owned construction companies, PT Waskita Karya, PT Hutama Karya and PT Wijaya Karya, are seeking repayments from the government for Rp 5.6 trillion (US$390.9 million) in accumulated land acquisition expenses for infrastructure projects.Waskita Karya president director Destiawan Soewardjono said on Wednesday that the government still owed the company Rp 3.71 trillion for land acquired for its ongoing toll road projects, including the Pemalang-Batang toll road in Central Java, the Bekasi-Cawang-Kampung Melayu told road in Greater Jakarta and the Cimanggis-Cibitung toll road in West Java.A combination of mounting unpaid expenses by the government and the company’s dwindling income due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused cash flow issues for the company, according to Destiawan. “Our cash situation is currently in the red. However, we’re increasing our efforts to improve the situation by collecting unpaid reimbursements,” he said during a presentation at the House of Representatives, adding that the company had suffered from a 50 percent decline in toll road traffic.He urged the Finance Ministry’s State Asset Management Agency (LMAN) to make the repayments, as the company’s data showed it was eligible to receive Rp 1.35 trillion from the agency as of Wednesday.The LMAN previously stated it would continue to reimburse companies to help them endure the impacts of the drop off in toll road traffic. It has reimbursed Rp 53.3 trillion to state-owned companies for land acquired for 77 strategic national projects, of which Rp 11.88 trillion had gone to Waskita Karya, as of June 24.Destiawan said Waskita Karya planned to asked the State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Ministry for additional funds. The government also owes Hutama Karya Rp1.86 trillion for land acquisition costs that were paid upfront by the company for several projects dating back to 2016.“The debts have been accumulating since 2016,” Hutama Karya president director Budi Harto said during the hearing.Hutama Karya is in charge of several sections of the trans-Sumatra toll road, including Medan-Binjai, Bakauheni-Terbanggi Besar and Pekanbaru-Dumai.According to Hutama Karya, the company was owed Rp 494 billion from last year and Rp 369 billion from this year, on the top of outstanding repayments from 2016 to 2018.“[The debts] are yet to be paid even though the land has been acquired and the project is underway,” Budi added.Hutama Karya’s Budi blamed the delays on the absence of a Finance Ministry decree (PMK) to regulate repayments to companies involved in completing the government’s National Strategic Projects (PSN).The government recently changed the payment verification scheme via Presidential Regulation No. 66/2020, which appointed the Finance Ministry to verify repayments, taking over from the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP).“The Finance Ministry isn’t ready to verify our claims,” Budi complained.Meanwhile, Wijaya Karya claims it is entitled to Rp 59.9 billion in outstanding repayments from the government for land acquired for the Serang-Panimban toll road project.“As of June, the government has paid Rp 1.27 trillion for the land acquisition costs for the Serang-Panimban toll road project. However, it’s still Rp 59 billion short,” the company’s president director Agung Budi Waskito said.The construction firms are the latest SOEs seeking debt repayments from the government, despite recent reimbursements from the LMAN.State-owned oil and gas giant Pertamina also reported on Monday to lawmakers that the government had yet to pay Rp 96.5 trillion in compensation for fuel subsidies between 2017 and 2019.center_img Topics :last_img read more

South Africa 59% excess deaths imply hidden COVID-19 toll

first_imgSouth Africa witnessed some 17,000 extra deaths from natural causes or 59% more than would normally be expected between early May and mid-July, scientists said, suggesting many more people are dying of COVID-19 than shown in official figures.New data by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), released overnight, showed that just in the week to July 14 – the latest figures available – there was an excess of 5,022 deaths by natural causes, about half more than usual.Africa’s most industrialized nation is in the middle of a runaway epidemic of the coronavirus, with cases increasing by more than 10,000 day and the current total approaching 400,000. Lockdown eased before peakPresident Cyril Ramaphosa implemented a tough lockdown at the end of March, shutting shops, ordering people to stay home and sending the army on to the streets to enforce it, back when South Africa had only 400 recorded cases.But a surge in poverty and unemployment in a country that already had too much of both spurred the government to lift restrictions well before the peak of infections.The council’s data showed 17,090 extra deaths, 11,175 were people over the age of 60, a telltale sign of COVID-19, which is overwhelmingly more deadly for older people.Addressing parliament by teleconference on Thursday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize acknowledged the SAMRC figures, adding that they were “comparable to countries like India and Russia, but significantly lower than the UK or Spain.”Ramaphosa said this month that scientists had predicted up to 50,000 coronavirus deaths in South Africa, a figure which seems possible based on Thursday’s findings by the council. Topics : But its recorded death toll is low, at 5,940 deaths or less than 1.5 percent of cases.Debbie Bradshaw, chief specialist scientist at the government-funded research council, said the figures revealed “a huge discrepancy” between the confirmed COVID-19 death toll and the excess natural deaths.Richard Lessells, an infectious disease specialist at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform in eastern South Africa, said the figures were not surprising because the same pattern could be seen in other countries.It could partly reflect other knock-on effects in the health system, such as “if I have a stroke at home and my family decide they don’t want to take me to hospital because it’s too risky and I die at home.”last_img read more