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Tuesday, May 26, 2020, 21:49
UN: Child labor, marriages on rise in Yemen as virus spreads
By Agencies
Tuesday, May 26, 2020, 21:49 By Agencies

A man walks while clad in mask due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic along an alley at an open-air market in Yemen's capital Sanaa on May 20, 2020, as Muslims shop ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

DAMASCUS / CAIRO / SYDENY / DUBAI / GENEVA / MUMBAI - The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday its work in Yemen was near a “potential breaking point” as coronavirus spreads in the war-damaged country, with rising numbers of families resorting to begging, child labour and marrying of children.

Around 80 percent of Yemen’s malnourished population relies on humanitarian assistance, making it the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis even before coronavirus.

As the number of COVID-19 cases is rising in Nepal, the country plans to increase testing for the COVID-19 substantially to identify the cases early, Nepali PM KP Sharma Oli said

Last week, the United Nations said its health care system “has in effect collapsed”, with the virus thought to be spreading throughout the country, and appealed for urgent funding.

“We are reaching a potential breaking point in our programmes where if we don’t receive further funding soon, many of our programmes and particularly our cash assistance programmes to internally displaced Yemenis may have to stop,” said Charlie Yaxley, UNHCR spokesman, at a virtual briefing.

“We are seeing a growing number of families resorting to harmful coping mechanisms such as begging, child labour and marrying of children to survive,” he added.

UNHCR provides cash assistance programmes to some 1 million people who are internally displaced and rely on the money for food, medicines and shelter, he said.

The country, whose population has among the world’s lowest immunity levels to disease, is divided between the Saudi-backed government based in Aden and its foe, the Iran-aligned Houthi group, in the north.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Tuesday it had received around 15 percent of the funding required for the US$3.38 billion 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen with the United States the top donor.

READ MORE: Virus: India among 10 worst-hit nations, air travel resumes

Australia

Australia will not open the country’s borders “anytime soon”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday, but added the country will continue its discussions with neighbouring New Zealand for a trans-Tasman safe travel zone.

Morrison will on Tuesday outline his government’s plans to revive the sputtering economy, but is expected to warn a recovery will take between three to five years.

Australia has reported just over 7,100 COVID-19 infections, including 102 deaths.

Morrison will say in a speech that tax reform, deregulation and lower energy costs will be central to stimulating economic growth as Canberra begins to unwind its more than A$250 billion worth of stimulus.

Australia has committed to removing the vast majority of social distancing restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 by July, while nearly A$70 billion of government aid is scheduled to finish in September.

Bangladesh 

Bangladesh Tuesday reported 21 more deaths and 1,166 new COVID-19 cases, a senior health ministry official told a television media briefing.

Prof. Nasima Sultana, additional director general of Directorate General of Health Services under the Ministry of Health, said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh has reached 36,751.

With 21 new deaths, she said, the toll due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country reached 522 on Tuesday.

India

India on Tuesday recorded a total of 145,380 coronavirus infections and a death toll of 4,167, comparatively low figures for the world’s second-most populous country.

But separate states witnessing millions of migrant labourers returning from the big cities were recording rising infections, officials said, fearing that the pandemic could spread through villages where medical care is basic at best.

Health ministry officials said that India’s death rate stood at 0.3 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to what they said was a world average of 4.4.

“We have surprisingly found a low fatality rate in India, which is very good,” said Balram Bhargava, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, in New Delhi.

Officials from the home and railway ministries said at least 4.5 million workers had migrated home from economic hubs in the two months since Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a lockdown.

The eastern state of Bihar registered more than 160 infections on Monday, its highest one-day rise, taking its tally to more than 2,700 cases. In the past 48 hours, more than 75 people tested positive in Odisha and 176 in different districts in the desert state of Rajasthan.

The latest cases have forced authorities to stretch limited testing resources.

Economists studying reverse migration patterns said India’s poorest migrant labourers have been the worst hit by the lockdown.

Passengers wearing face masks, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, prepare to get off a ferry at Ulee Lheue port in Banda Aceh on May 26, 2020. (CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP)

Indonesia

Indonesia’s military ordered the deployment of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police on Monday to enforce rules on wearing masks and safe distancing after reports of people in the world’s fourth-most populous nation flouting them.

Even as cases of the coronavirus have continued to spike in the Southeast Asian nation, now reaching nearly 23,000 infections and 1,391 deaths, people have often been seen ignoring measures to stop the spread of the pandemic.

From Monday, about 340,000 officers will be deployed across four provinces to ensure the country’s transition to the “new normal”, Indonesian military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said Monday.

Iran

The Iranian authorities on Monday allowed partial reopening of the Muslim Shi'ite shrines across the country after more than two months of closure over the coronavirus pandemic.

During the opening hours between an hour after dawn and an hour before dusk, the worshippers, however, were still not allowed to enter the interior covered spaces where the saints' tombs lie, according to a statement by the health authorities.

In most of the shrines, the worshippers were checked for their body temperatures upon entrance and were asked to wear masks, the local media reported.

The reopening coincided with the Eid al-Fitr holiday, the Muslim festival of breaking the fast at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The Iranian health ministry on Monday confirmed a total of 137,724 cases of the COVID-19 in the Islamic republic, including 7,451 deaths. 

An Iranian woman visits the Shah Abdol-Azim shrine in the capital Tehran on May 25, 2020, following the reopening of major Shi'ite shrines across the Islamic republic, more than two months after they were closed over the novel coronavirus outbreak. (PHOTO / AFP

ALSO READ: Australia calls on younger people to get virus tests

Iraq

An Iraqi parliamentary crisis committee on Monday demanded to re-impose full curfew after the end of Eid al-Fitr holiday to curb the latest increase of COVID-19 cases, as the authorities announced 163 new cases during the day.

The crisis committee warned of "a health disaster if people do not adhere to the preventive measures of the Ministry of Health and the curfew instructions," according to a statement by Ali al-Lami, a lawmaker and a member of the committee, which is tasked with following up the government measures to contain the outbreak of coronavirus.

Also in the day, the Ministry of Health recorded 163 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 4,632 in the country.

Israel

The Israeli health ministry reported 17 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the total number in the country to 16,734.

After four consecutive days without death cases, the ministry reported two new fatalities, bringing the death toll from the COVID-19 to 281.

The number of patients in serious condition decreased from 44 to 41, out of 115 patients currently hospitalized, the lowest number of hospitalized patients since March 12.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli transport ministry announced the full resumption of the state's railway system on June 8.

Japan

A day after Japan ended its state of emergency, Tokyo residents took to the streets with a mixture of relief and trepidation as they prepared for a “new normal” of living with the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency in the capital and four remaining prefectures on Monday, claiming victory for managing to keep total infections relatively low, at about 16,600 cases.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Tuesday it may be hard for life to return to pre-coronavirus pandemic ways even after the virus is contained, as the hit from the health crisis on global travel and service activity may persist.

Jordan

Both the public and private sectors in Jordan will resume work on Tuesday after more than two months of stoppage as part of the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, the government said Monday.

The working hours for the public sector will be from 8:30 am until 3:30 pm, the prime minister's office said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian health ministry said three cases of coronavirus were reported on Monday, bringing the overall number to 711.

Malayisa

Malaysia reported 187 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 7,604.

The health ministry said no new deaths were recorded. The total number of coronavirus fatalities in Malaysia stands at 115.

Mongolia

Mongolia reported four COVID-19 recoveries, with the total recoveries in the country standing at 37, the country's National Center for Communicable Disease (NCCD) on Tuesday.

The NCCD conducted 193 tests for COVID-19 on Monday and the results were all negative.

As of Tuesday, Mongolia has confirmed 141 COVID-19 infections, including four foreign nationals.

Nepal

As the number of COVID-19 cases is rising in Nepal, the country plans to increase testing for the COVID-19 substantially to identify the cases early, Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli said on Monday.

In an televised address to the nation on Monday evening, Oli said that the Nepali government planned to conduct a test among 2 percent of the country's total population.

The Nepali government confirmed on Monday that as many as 682 people had so far been tested positive for the COVID-19 while four persons died of the virus.

New Zealand

The New Zealand government announced a COVID-19 vaccine strategy on Tuesday, which will enable New Zealand scientists to contribute to global research efforts and explore the potential of vaccine manufacturing capability in New Zealand.

New Zealand reported no new case of the COVID-19 on Tuesday for four consecutive days, with the combined total of confirmed and probable cases staying at 1,504, according to the Ministry of Health.

This picture taken on May 24, 2020 during the early hours of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday which starts at the conclusion of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, shows an aerial view of the Grand Mosque and Kaaba in the centre of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca. (PHOTO / AFP)

Qatar

Qatar's Health Ministry on Monday announced 1,751 new infections of the COVID-19, increasing the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 45,465.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia will revise curfew times this week, and lift it entirely across the Kingdom with the exception of the holy city of Mecca starting June 21, state news agency reported in a statement early on Tuesday.

Bans on domestic travel, holding prayers in mosques, and workplace attendance in both government and private sector will be lifted, starting May 31, the statement added.

For Mecca, the curfew time will be adjusted to 3 pm-6 am and prayers will be allowed to be held in mosques from June 21.

The health ministry announced on Monday 2,235 new coronavirus cases, raising the number of infections to 74,795 while the death toll rose to 399 after nine fatalities were reported in the last 24 hours.

Singapore

Singapore rolled out its fourth multi-billion-dollar stimulus package in as many months on Tuesday, as it forecast a deeper recession than previously expected with the COVID-19 pandemic battering the bellwether economy.

The new S$33 billion (US$23.25 billion) package, unveiled by its finance minister in parliament takes the city-state’s support for households and businesses to nearly S$100 billion, or 20% of its GDP.

Singapore’s economy will probably contract 4% to 7% this year as the coronavirus outbreak and measures to contain it pummel the trade-reliant city state.

Singapore’s health ministry confirmed on Tuesday 383 more cases of the new coronavirus, taking the city-state’s tally to 32,343.

South Korea

South Korea began the so-called "no mask, no ride" policy on buses and taxes on Tuesday to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 while using public transportation.

South Korea reported 19 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Tuesday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,225. Nightclub-linked coronavirus cases rose to 255 on Tuesday from 247 at midnight, the country’s Centers for Disease Control said.

Two more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 269. The total fatality rate stood at 2.40 percent.

Syria

Syria said on Monday it would lift an overnight curfew starting Tuesday and allow movement between governorates, easing coronavirus lockdown measures even as the health ministry reported the largest single-day increase in cases.

The government also left the door open to the possibility of re-imposing a total curfew, depending on developments with the virus.

The ministry reported 20 new infections of the novel coronavirus on Monday, bringing the country’s tally to 106 cases and four deaths.

Syria has seen an uptick in infections in recent days, which it has attributed to the return of Syrians from abroad.

Damascus said on Monday that while it was easing lockdown measures as part of steps to reopen the economy, it would halt flights repatriating Syrians for the time being as it treats those that have recently returned.

Thailand

The Thai government extended the country’s state of emergency for a second time, to the end of June, despite opposition calls to scrap it after novel coronavirus cases dwindled.

The step is needed to lower the risk of another wave of illness as a lockdown is eased, spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said after the Cabinet backed the move. 

Thailand on Tuesday reported three new coronavirus cases and no new deaths, bringing its total to 3,045 confirmed cases and 57 fatalities.

All three new cases were Thai nationals who recently returned from overseas and are currently in quarantine, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s coronavirus task force said.

Muslim worshippers gather despite the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic inside a mosque for the prayers of Eid al-Fitr in Binnish in the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib early on May 24, 2020. (OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP)

The Philippines

The Philippines’ Trade Department wants lawmakers to pass a 1.3 trillion peso (US$26 billion) stimulus package that will aid the recovery of industries and workers.

Of the total stimulus being discussed at the House of Representatives, about 628 billion pesos is planned for wage subsidies and loans for businesses hit by the lockdown, the Trade Department said in a statement. The remaining half of the proposed package will be used to build facilities for health, education and food security.

The Philippines on Tuesday reported 350 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 14,669 since the highly infectious disease emerged in the country in January.

The Department of Health (DOH) said the death toll also increased to 886 after 13 more patients have succumbed to the viral disease.

Turkey

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey reached to 157,814 on Monday, with 987 new daily cases, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

The death toll surged to 4,369 after 29 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the minister tweeted. 

Turkey conducted 21,492 tests for the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of tests carried out to 1,853,754, he stated.

UAE

The emirate of Dubai will resume economic activities and ease lockdown restrictions starting Wednesday, the emirate’s media office said in a statement.

Travel will be allowed from 6 am to 11 pm local time. The airport will operate only for residents leaving Dubai, some clinics will reopen and elective surgeries that take up to 2 1/2 hours will be allowed, the statement said.

Training academies, indoor sport venues, gyms and movie theaters will be open with social distancing in place.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday announced 822 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 30,307.

Yemen

The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus in the Yemeni provinces controlled by the government has increased to 233 as health authorities confirmed 11 new cases on Monday.

The war-torn Arab country recorded also two more deaths among the people being treated for COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 44 in the Yemeni areas under the control of the government.

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