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Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 23:10
UK's Johnson promises inquiry to learn lessons of pandemic
By Agencies
Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 23:10 By Agencies

Ambulances and other emergency response vehicles sit parked outside the ExCel conference center, which has been converted into an NHS Nightingale hospital to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, in this aerial view of the Docklands district in London, UK on April 22, 2020. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

RIO DE JANEIRO / CARACAS / BUENOS AIRES / ALGIERS / NEW YORK - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country will hold an independent inquiry into its handling of the pandemic, after months of criticism of his coronavirus response.

“Of course we will seek to learn the lessons of this pandemic in the future and certainly we will have an independent inquiry,” Johnson told Parliament during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. He did not set a date, and said it shouldn’t happen in the middle of the crisis.

Such inquiries are always difficult for governments, as decisions made under pressure are interrogated with the benefit of hindsight.

Health Minister Matt Hancock said that the government would not be recommending that people wear face masks in offices, after speculation that rules for work places could follow shops.

“We will not be recommending masks in the office,” Hancock told Sky News on Wednesday.

Shoppers in England will have to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets from July 24 to help reduce the risk of a new pick-up in the spread of the coronavirus, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.

Hancock told the BBC that the government had looked at making wearing masks in offices but rejected the idea on the basis that if people spend a long time together, face coverings do not offer protection.

Face coverings are already compulsory on public transport in England.

Another 138 COVID-19 patients have died in Britain as of Monday afternoon, bringing the total coronavirus-related death toll in the country to 44,968, the British Department of Health and Social Care said Tuesday.

The figures include deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.

As of Tuesday morning, 291,373 people have tested positive for the disease in Britain, a daily increase of 398, according to the department.


Bolivia’s government has been rocked by the novel coronavirus, with the president and at least seven of her Cabinet ministers testing positive, straining the interim leadership and casting a shadow over a slated election rerun in under two months.

Conservative caretaker President Jeanine Anez, who is also a candidate in the planned Sept. 6 ballot, tested positive for the virus last week, though she said she was doing well and would continue to work from isolation.

The ministers for economy, foreign affairs, mining, health, hydrocarbons and the presidency are also infected, the most recent confirmed on Tuesday. Others include Senate leader Eva Copa, who has said she was stable, and dozens of junior officials.

In Bolivia, confirmed cases have topped 50,000, with the lowland city of Santa Cruz the hardest hit. The death toll stands near 1,900.

This phot shows Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock attends a remote press conference in London on June 22, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)


The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed 3.4 million on Tuesday, reaching 3,406,945 as of 4:38 p.m. local time (2038 GMT), according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, the national death toll from the disease rose to 136,244, according to the CSSE.

New York state remains the hardest-hit with 403,175 cases and 32,408 fatalities. Other states with over 150,000 cases include California, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and Illinois, the CSSE data showed.  

ALSO READ: France to make wearing masks in public spaces mandatory


Canada and the United States have agreed to keep the border between the two countries closed to non-essential travel until Aug. 21, CTV News reported Tuesday.

The ban, which has to be reviewed each month, was set to expire on July 21. It is now being renewed for the fourth time since the border was closed to non-essential traffic on March 21.

The ban, as it stands, exempts the flow of trade and commerce, as well as temporary foreign workers and vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border. Tourists and cross-border visits remain prohibited.

The reported new extension came after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump spoke on the phone Monday about a range of issues that included the border closure.

As of Tuesday, Canada has reported 107,590 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 8,783 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. 


The German government is considering travel restrictions for domestic regions affected by COVID-19 outbreaks, the head of the Chancellery Helge Braun told the German broadcaster RTL/n-tv on Tuesday.

German citizens living in such regions would not be allowed to leave the country. "We are discussing this as a measure to see whether this is not, in the end, a better option than arriving at the holiday destination and then being refused," said Braun.

Following a recent COVID-19 outbreak in Germany's largest meat processing company Toennies, regional restrictions on public life have been temporarily re-imposed. Several German states have imposed accommodation bans for people arriving from the affected districts.

According to Braun, the government would consider asking German citizens to stay at home in case of an "unclear infection situation" in a given region so that large-scale testing could be carried out to quickly identify all infection chains.

Eventually, citizens could "quickly return to normality" and at the same time COVID-19 infections would be "completely detected," added Braun.

Germany recorded a slight increase in the number of new coronavirus cases, and the infection rate climbed further above the key threshold of 1.0.

There were 276 new cases in the 24 hours through Wednesday morning, bringing the total to 200,456 according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That compares with 261 the previous day and almost 7,000 at the peak of the pandemic in late March.

Fatalities increased by four to 9,078. The daily death toll has remained below 50 since the end of May. The reproduction factor of the virus, known as R-naught, rose to 1.06 on Tuesday from 1.0 the day before, according to the latest estimate from the Robert Koch Institute.


The Italian government will extend existing COVID-19 containment measures through July 31, Health Minister Roberto Speranza told both houses of parliament on Tuesday.

These measures include a ban on the "entry and transit in Italy of anyone who has spent time in or transited through Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Kuwait, North Macedonia, Moldova, Oman, Panama, Peru and the Dominican Republic," Speranza said.

"Direct and indirect flights to and from these countries will be suspended," Speranza said, adding that "we will constantly update this list based on the evolution of the (epidemiological) data."

"We also confirm a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals from non-European Union and non-Schengen countries," Speranza continued.

Italy, said Speranza, "has not yet reached a safe harbor" and this is shown by the "several active hotbeds" which have driven the Rt index (the transmission rate of the virus) above 1 in five of Italy's 20 regions.

Besides travel bans, the containment measures include mandatory use of masks in enclosed spaces, social distancing, penal sanctions for whoever violates their quarantine, and stricter checks at airports, ports, and border crossings, Speranza said.

He added that "particular attention is focused on the arrivals (of undocumented migrants) on our shores, with strict health checks and mandatory quarantine for everyone who arrives."

Italy has seen an increase in the number of migrant arrivals on its southern coasts, with many of them testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

It has sparked an outcry among local residents and regional leaders, who have threatened to shut down their coasts unless the central government steps in to help them.

A man wearing a mask as a precaution against the transmission of the novel coronavirus rides a scooter on Oxford Street in London on July 14, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)


Brazil on Tuesday reported 1,300 deaths from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in a single day, taking its death toll to 74,133.

In the past 24 hours, tests detected 41,857 new cases of infection, taking the total to 1,926,824, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has the world's second-largest outbreak after the United States, in both numbers of deaths and infections.

The southeast state of Sao Paulo, the country's most populated, is the epicenter of the national outbreak, with 386,607 cases and 18,324 deaths, followed by Rio de Janeiro, with 132,822 cases and 11,624 deaths, and Ceara, with 139,437 cases and 6,977 deaths.  


Venezuela's government on Tuesday decided to reimpose strict lockdown measures in the capital Caracas and the central state of Miranda, after a recent spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.

"President Nicolas Maduro communicated the decision to take the capital district and Miranda state to level one of strict lockdown, starting tomorrow July 15, to the presidential commission on COVID-19, due to the rise in cases and for the sake of the people's health," Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Twitter.

The government is confident that the measure can "sever the chains of transmission from the outbreak these central regions are undergoing," said Rodriguez.

Venezuela has so far reported 9,707 people have contracted the disease, with 2,671 recoveries. 


Argentina is preparing for the return of face-to-face classes in August in nine of the country's 24 provinces, Education Minister Nicolas Trotta announced on Tuesday.

Trotta said that areas with the appropriate epidemiological conditions would reopen in a phased manner, and that schools would combine face-to-face classes with distance learning.

The official announced during a videoconference that the government will also invest 2.3 billion pesos (around US$32.26 million) in repairing and updating school buildings and infrastructure in accordance with the new health safety protocols.

The minister added that the return to classes in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area, where over 91 percent of the country's cases are concentrated, will depend on the evolution of infections. 


The total COVID-19 cases in Algeria exceeded 20,000 on Tuesday after 527 new cases were added in the past 24 hours.

The tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 20,216, while 10 new fatalities were reported, bringing the death toll to 1,028 in Algeria. 

Algeria has resumed economic and commercial activities since June 7 as part of the efforts to return to normal life. 

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced last Thursday to implement new measures to curb the outbreak of COVID-19 amid the resurgence in COVID-19 cases in several provinces. 


Egypt on Tuesday confirmed 929 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total cases to 83,930, said Egyptian Health Ministry.

It is the fifth consecutive day for the country's daily COVID-19 infections to fall below 1,000 since May 28.

Meanwhile, 73 patients died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 4,008, Egyptian Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.

He added that 569 patients were cured and discharged from hospitals, taking the total recoveries to 25,544.


A total of 161 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Morocco on Tuesday, bringing the total infections in the country to 16,097.

The number of recovered patients rose to 13,442 with 508 new recoveries, Hind Ezzine, head of the Department of Epidemic Diseases of the Ministry of Health, told a regular press briefing.

The COVID-19 death toll rose to 257 after two new fatalities were recorded in the last 24 hours, Ezzine said.

The death rate from the coronavirus in Morocco is kept low at 1.6 percent, while the recovery rate is at 83.5 percent, the official noted.

Meanwhile, Moroccan Minister of Health Khalid Ait Taleb urged the citizens to stay alert and increase vigilance as the epidemic is not over yet.


Albanian Minister of Health and Social Protection Ogerta Manastirliu said on Tuesday that health authorities have decided to make it mandatory for people to wear masks indoors.

During a visit to a health center in the capital city Tirana, Manastirliu said the decision to make the use of masks mandatory is a necessary measure, which will enter into force to protect the health of citizens and limit the spread of COVID-19.

"With the decision of the Technical Committee of Experts we have decided that the use of protective masks or barriers to be mandatory in public transport or high-risk activities, and from now to be used indoors as well," she said.

All those individuals who will not use a protective mask or barrier, according to the instructions of the Health Ministry, will be penalized, the minister said.

Manastirliu appealed to all those people who are skeptical about the coronavirus, saying that, in order to be convinced, they must take into account the suffering of the patients hospitalized at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, where currently there are 90 people under treatment.

The obligation to put on masks indoors will be determined by a Normative Act from the government, which will also determine the penalties for non-compliance with this obligation.

On Tuesday, health authorities in Albania reported 96 new coronavirus cases and two COVID-19 related deaths over the last 24 hours.

READ MORE: WHO reports record daily spike in global cases, up over 228,000


Tunisia said on Tuesday that 1,200 passengers arriving by a French ship from the port of Marseille will be placed in quarantine after eight cases of COVID-19 infection were found among its crew.

The Tunisian authorities had to take precautionary measures, including refusing to unload passengers from the ship at the port of La Goulette until necessary places are found to put them in mandatory confinement, Nissaf Ben Alaya, director general of the National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases, was quoted by Tunis Afrique Presse as saying.

As of Tuesday, Tunisia reported four new COVID-19 cases, including one local case, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 1,306.


Armenia on Tuesday reported 339 new COVID-19 cases in the previous day, bringing its total to 32,490, according to the National Center for Disease Control.

Data from the center showed that 864 more patients have recovered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries to 20,729.

Meanwhile, eight people died in the period, raising the death toll to 581.


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Tuesday that COVID-19 is taking the world further away from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Even before the coronavirus crisis hit, the world was not on track to deliver the goals by 2030, Guterres told the opening of the ministerial segment of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which meets to review progress on the SDGs.

"At a time when we desperately need to leap ahead, COVID-19 could set us back years and even decades, leaving countries with massive fiscal and growth challenges. The crisis is taking us further away from the SDGs," he said.

COVID-19 struck as the world was already facing many challenges: unacceptably high levels of poverty, a rapidly worsening climate emergency, persistent gender inequality, and massive gaps in financing, he noted.

South Africa

South African Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe tested positive for COVID-19 as the nation struggles to end a new round of power cuts and curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mantashe will remain in isolation with his wife and work from home, South Africa’s presidency said in a statement late Tuesday. He is the first cabinet minister in the country to be diagnosed with the disease.

“The minister remains committed to a course of ensuring security of energy and petroleum products supply,” it said.

State-owned Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd is set to continue rotational blackouts for a sixth day on Wednesday after outages at its unreliable coal-fired power plants. This electricity cuts are taking place during the coldest month of the year and as Covid-19 patients rapidly fill the nation’s hospitals.

Mantashe has pledged to ensure security of electricity supply, but efforts to procure emergency power have been hamstrung by policy and regulatory delays. His department didn’t immediately reply to an email sent Tuesday on the progress of the emergency procurement of 2,000 megawatts of power.

The minister is a key ally of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who stressed the importance of boosting power generation in his February state-of-the-nation address.


Georgia reported four new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, taking its total to 1,003.

Three of the new cases are imported, while the source of the fourth one is unknown, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) said.

As of Wednesday, 873 of the 1,003 patients have recovered, while 15 others have died, the center said.


A Russian military hospital discharged the first group of 18 volunteers in a vaccine trial after a 28-day observation period, calling the initial phase a success, according to an emailed statement from the Defense Ministry.

The group had no health complaints, complications or adverse reactions to the vaccine, according to the statement. They will come back for further tests on the 42nd day after their first vaccination.

Russia has registered 6,422 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing its total to 746,369, the country's COVID-19 response center said in a statement Wednesday.

The country's death toll has risen by 156 to 11,770, while 523,249 people have recovered, including 10,424 over the last 24 hours, according to the statement.

Moscow, the country's worst-hit region, reported 628 new confirmed cases, taking its tally of infections to 231,270.

On Tuesday, 270,980 people were still under medical observation, while over 23.7 million tests have been conducted nationwide, Russia's consumer rights and human well-being watchdog said Wednesday in a separate statement. 


Sweden’s public health authority says despite the absence of a full lockdown, immunity to Covid-19 is far from levels that could halt its destructive powers.

Far greater numbers of Swedes have tested positive to Covid-19 than elsewhere in the Nordic region. But Sweden remains a long way off achieving so-called herd immunity, according to the latest data.

“We know that large parts of the population are unprotected, as they haven’t been infected,” Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of the Public Health Agency’s microbiology department, said on Tuesday. That means there remains a “large susceptibility in the population,” she said.


A total of 55,607 COVID-19 cases, with 1,427 deaths and 28,131 recoveries, have been registered in Ukraine as of Wednesday, according to the country's health ministry.

A total of 836 people tested positive for the virus in the country in the past 24 hours, while 977 patients have recovered, the ministry said.


Armenia on Wednesday reported 515 new COVID-19 cases, taking its nationwide tally to 33,005, according to the National Center for Disease Control.

Official data showed that 619 more patients recovered in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of recoveries to 21,348.

Meanwhile, 11 people have died from the disease in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 592.


Namibia on Wednesday recorded 96 positive COVID-19 cases, the highest since the virus was reported in the country on March 14 this year.

In a statement, Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula said the figure brings the total number of positive cases to 960 from cumulative tests of 16,305.

The coastal town of Walvis Bay, which is the epicentre of the virus, recorded 91 cases in the last 24 hours.


Belarus reported 174 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, taking its tally to 65,443, according to the country's health ministry.

There have been 580 new recoveries in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 56,379, the ministry added.

So far, 480 people have died of the disease in the country, including six in the last 24 hours, it said.


Senegalese Ministry of Health and Social Action reported on Wednesday 126 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of COVID-19 infections to 8,369 in Senegal.

According to the spokesperson of the health ministry Dr. Mamadou Ndiaye, among the 804 tests done in the past 24 hours, the health authorities detected 90 follow-up contact cases, 34 community transmission cases and two imported ones at Dakar's international airport.

Three deaths were registered, bringing the death toll of COVID-19 to 153 since the outbreak of the pandemic in Senegal, Ndiaye said during the daily briefing.

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