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May 17, 2020

Covid-19 global toll crosses 310,000

Top Story

May 17, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The coronavirus has killed at least 310,616 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year, according to international media reports.

There have been more than 4.6 million officially recorded cases in 196 countries and territories.

The United States has recorded the most deaths at 88,930. It is followed by Britain with 34,466, Italy with 31,763, Spain with 27,563, and France with 27,529.

The Spanish government will seek a fresh extension of its state of emergency that will last "about a month" until the transition out of lockdown is completed, says Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Italy meanwhile looks to quicken its exit from lockdown, with the government announcing it will reopen to European tourists from early June and scrap a 14-day mandatory quarantine period.

Beginning on June 3, visitors within the Schengen zone will be allowed to enter Italy with no obligation to self-isolate. Italians will also be able to move between regions, though local authorities can limit travel if infections spike.

As part of a growing wave of demonstrations in Germany by conspiracy theorists, extremists and anti-vaxxers against coronavirus restrictions, thousands of people were set to mass in Stuttgart, Munich and Berlin, with police out in force.

Iran on Saturday reported 35 new deaths from coronavirus -- the lowest number since March 7 despite infections rising — and announced a further relaxation of COVID-19-related closures.

“Despite the unfortunate loss of 35 of our compatriots in the past 24 hours, this number is the lowest in the past 70 days,” health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.

The new deaths brought the overall toll to 6,937, he added.

But in an ominous sign, Iran on Friday reported its highest number of new infections in more than a month.

“We are in no way in a normal situation yet,” Jahanpour said.

He said 1,757 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed across Iran in the 24 hours to Saturday, bringing the overall total to 118,392.

Of those hospitalised since Iran announced its first cases in the Shiite holy city of Qom in February, 93,147 have recovered and been discharged, according to the health ministry.

At a meeting of Iran´s coronavirus task force on Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani announced a timetable for further relaxations.

He said that in 218 low-risk counties people would be allowed to attend Friday prayers next week. They would also be allowed to join annual Jerusalem Day rallies in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit 38 indigenous groups in Brazil, raising fears for populations that have a history of being decimated by outside diseases, the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples´ Association (APIB) said.

“The virus is reaching indigenous territories across Brazil with frightening speed,” the association said in a statement.

An APIB survey found 446 cases of the new coronavirus and 92 deaths among the affected groups, mainly in the Brazilian Amazon.

The grim news came a day after the indigenous community of Parque das Tribos, outside the northern city of Manaus, held a funeral for its chief, Messias Kokama, who died of COVID-19.

Kokama, who was 53, was buried in a closed casket wrapped in plastic to avoid spreading the virus.

Brazil, the Latin American country hit hardest in the pandemic, has seen its death toll spiral.

It has registered over 15,000 deaths and over 222,000 cases so far, though experts say under-testing means the real figures could be 15 times higher or more.

The pandemic is also creating an opening for illegal miners and loggers to encroach on indigenous lands, said rights group Survival International.

Meanwhile, Russia on Saturday recorded its highest daily death toll yet from the coronavirus while new cases fell to the lowest level in two weeks.

Russia is in third place in the world to the United States with 272,043 cases, with 9,200 new cases announced Saturday, the lowest number since May 2.

But the number of deaths announced Saturday for the last 24 hours was the highest yet in Russia, at 119.

Critics have cast doubt on Russia´s low mortality rate, accusing authorities of under-reporting deaths in order to play down the scale of the crisis.

The total number of officially confirmed deaths is now 2,537, lower than a number of other countries with fewer cases.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Association (APIB) has said that the coronavirus pandemic has hit 38 indigenous groups in Brazil, raising fears for populations that have a history of being decimated by outside diseases.

“The virus is reaching indigenous territories across Brazil with frightening speed,” the association said in a statement. An APIB survey found 446 cases of the new coronavirus and 92 deaths among the affected groups, mainly in the Brazilian Amazon, foreign media reported on Saturday.

The grim news came a day after the indigenous community of Parque das Tribos, outside the northern city of Manaus, held a funeral for its chief, Messias Kokama, who died of COVID-19.

Kokama, who was 53, was buried in a closed casket wrapped in plastic to avoid spreading the virus.

Chief Kokama, who died from respiratory problems a week after he was diagnosed as a COVID-19 case, founded the Parque das Tribus-Taruma Community six years ago.

This is the first Brazilian Indigenous neighborhood located inside Manaus city and is currently inhabited by 3,000 people from 35 different ethnic groups.

Meanwhile, Nepal has reported its first confirmed coronavirus death.

The Health Ministry says a new mother fell sick and died Thursday at a hospital near Kathmandu. Hospital results showed she tested positive for the virus.

The 29-year-old woman had given birth on May 8 in Kathmandu and returned home. She was brought to a hospital after felling sick. Authorities have sealed the hospital, her village and are contacting people she met in the past few days.

Nepal has 281 confirmed coronavirus cases. A lockdown on March 24 has been extended several times and scheduled to end Sunday.

British researchers are launching a trial to see whether dogs can use their noses to detect whether humans have COVID-19 before they show symptoms.

Britain’s health department said Saturday that disease control experts are looking into whether dogs which have been trained to sniff out certain cancers and malaria can potentially be used as a “non-invasive, early warning measure” to identify the coronavirus.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University are collaborating with the charity Medical Detection Dogs. The trial is getting 500,000 pounds ($600,000) of British government funding.

Six dogs, including Labradors and Cocker Spaniels, have started basic training for the trial. In the initial phase, researchers plan to gather odour samples from both people infected with the virus and those who aren’t.

The health department says the dogs will then undergo thorough training using the samples and will only be deployed if backed by strong scientific evidence.

Meanwhile, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) prepares to host its main annual meeting next week, fears abound that US-China tensions could hamper the strong action needed to address the COVID-19 crisis.

The UN health agency, which for months has been consumed by the towering task of trying to coordinate a global response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, will for the first time invite health ministers and other dignitaries to participate virtually in its annual meet.

The World Health Assembly, which has been trimmed from the usual three weeks to just two days, on Monday and Tuesday, is expected to focus almost solely on COVID-19.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday the event would be “one of the most important (WHAs) since we were founded in 1948”.

But the chance of reaching agreement on global measures to address the crisis could be threatened by steadily deteriorating relations between the world´s two largest economies over the pandemic.