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March 22, 2020

Four ministers infected as Burkina Faso reports new virus deaths


March 22, 2020

­ABIDJAN: Four government ministers are among the latest cases of coronavirus in Burkina Faso where two new deaths were reported by the country’s health emergency response operations centre on Saturday.

According to press releases issued by their respective departments, the ministers of foreign affairs, interior, education, and mines and quarries have all tested positive for COVID-19.

“Two deaths (have been) recorded today, bringing the number of deaths since the start of the epidemic to three,” the report from the operations centre known as Corus said. “Twenty-four (new) cases were confirmed on March 20, including 19 in Ouagadougou, two in Bobo-Dioulasso, two in Boromo and one in Dedougou.” Burkina Faso now has a total of 64 confirmed cases (29 women and 35 men), according to the report. A poor and landlocked country in West Africa, with a population of 20 million, Burkina Faso recorded the first death linked to the coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa on Wednesday.

Five cases of recovery, including the first infected couple, were also recorded, according to the Corus.

Burkina Faso announced on Friday evening the closure of its land and air borders and the introduction of a curfew starting on March 21, to fight against the coronavirus epidemic.

Hungary proposes sweeping new virus emergency powers: BUDAPEST: Hungary’s government has submitted a bill to parliament that would enable sweeping rule-by-decree powers to tackle the coronavirus under an extended state of emergency, as well as introducing jail terms for spreading “fake news”.

According to the draft posted on the parliament website late on Friday, the bill would enable the government to indefinitely extend the state of emergency and its associated powers of rule by decree, removing the current requirement for MPs to approve any extension.

Hungary ordered a state of emergency on March 11 as part of protective measures aimed at stemming the spread of the Covid-19 virus, which have included the closure of borders to non-national passenger traffic.

According to the draft bill, during the period of the state of emergency the government could “by decree suspend the use of certain laws, diverge from statutory provisions, and introduce other extraordinary measures, in the interest of guaranteeing the stabilisation of the lives, health, personal and material security of citizens, as well as the economy”. Critics of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government worry that this clause might allow it to arbitrarily regulate by force of decree.

Another clause in the draft raises the possibility of a “forced parliamentary break,” prompting concerns that the government could suspend the current assembly session. The draft also proposes criminal code changes to levy stiff jail terms for violating quarantine orders or for spreading what Budapest has called “fake news” about its measures and the coronavirus. The penalties include eight-year sentences for causing death by breaching disease control measures, and five years for “anyone publicly disseminating a false fact or falsifying an actual fact (...) preventing or frustrating the effectiveness” of anti-virus orders.

The bill could come before parliament next week where it will need a two-thirds supermajority to pass. Hungary has so far reported 103 cases of the infection, and four virus-related deaths.

Don’t come here! UK tourist hotspots tell people to stay away: LONDON: UK regions traditionally desperate for tourists, on Saturday pleaded for people not to visit the coast or the countryside for fear of spreading the coronavirus. Cornwall, in the far south-west of England, has urged people to stay away amid fears there could be a mass exodus from London by people with second homes in rural regions following the UK government’s decision to close down large parts of the capital. Steve Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, tweeted and told Sky TV that people should keep away.

“Please do not travel to Cornwall, we do not want to spread this virus any further,” he said, amid “endless reports” that people were heading to the region. He said such journeys could “cost lives”. Double’s constituency, famous for its surfing, is one of the most highly-visited regions by UK holidaymakers. Official figures calculate that some four million tourists visit Cornwall every year.

Tourism body, Visit Cornwall, also tried to dissuade people from heading there, saying potential visitors should stay at home “to protect themselves” as well as others. Cornwall County Council said people should be aware of the pressures they were adding to overstretched local public services by relocating.

The British government has advised against non-essential contact or travel and ordered the closing of pubs and restaurants on Friday.

However, walks are not prohibited and with the imminent return of sunny days, many are tempted to get some fresh air on the coast.

The fears of people moving en masse to the countryside have been prompted by the numbers who have second homes in Cornwall, calculated by the council to be around 14,000 addresses.

In Wales, MP Liz Saville Roberts urged on Twitter that anyone tempted to self-isolate in rural parts of the country should “think again”, claiming it would put extra pressure on health services. So far, 177 people in the UK have died from COVID-19, and the numbers of those diagnosed as infected is nearing the 4,000 mark.

Palace star Zaha offers health staff free accommodation: LONDON: Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has offered free accommodation to medical staff in his London properties as they treat patients with coronavirus. The 27-year-old Ivory Coast international is the latest football personality to offer a free bed, following in the footsteps of former Manchester United star Gary Neville and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Zaha, reported to earn £130,000 ($150,000) a week at the Premier League club, willingly took up the baton saying he had friends working in the National Health Service and he could provide accommodation for the hard-pressed staff who could not return home after their shifts.

He has built up a property portfolio of around 50 properties in London, including in trendy Notting Hill. The flats are usually used by corporate clients but with global travel severely restricted there is not much call for them at the moment. “If you do good, good will come to you,” said Zaha cited in The Times on Saturday. “It is clear that my intentions are that all I want to do is help at every opportunity, especially in the crazy period we are going through. “Health workers please reach out. We have already had feedback — this is exactly what we wanted to achieve.”

His business partner Obi Williams said they had already been contacted by staff at two London hospitals. “Anyone who can help and do their bit needs to stand up and help,” said Williams. Neville, now a TV pundit, has offered free use of 176 rooms in two Manchester hotels he co-owns — including one opposite Old Trafford Stadium — and has called on footballers to follow his lead, while Russian tycoon Abramovich has invited medical staff to 72 rooms in the hotel at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground.