Italy coronavirus deaths rise by 889 in a day to 10,023

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 19:20

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has surged by 889, the Civil Protection Agency said on Saturday, the second highest daily tally since the epidemic emerged on Feb. 21.

Total fatalities in Italy have reached 10,023, by far the highest of any country in the world.

Italy’s largest daily toll was registered on Friday, when 919 people died. Prior to that, there were 712 deaths on Thursday, 683 on Wednesday, 743 on Tuesday and 602 on Monday.

The total number of confirmed cases in Italy rose on Saturday to 92,472 from a previous 86,498.

Italy has the second highest number of cases, behind the United States. It surpassed China’s tally on Friday.

In Italy, of those originally infected nationwide, 12,384 had fully recovered on Saturday, compared to 10,950 the day before. There were 3,856 people in intensive care against a previous 3,732.


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Coronavirus: 17 new cases, coming days ‘crucial’ (Updated)

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 17:03

Health ministry on Saturday announced 17 more confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 179, including five cases detected at the British bases.

Three of new confirmed cases concern persons who returned from a European country, 10 persons were contacts of other confirmed cases and one concerns a person from the British bases. Three cases concern persons whose contact background is under investigation.

Total deaths remain at five, with an average age of 63.

Member of the government’s advisory body on the pandemic, Dr Leontios Kostrikkis, who announced the results, said that the 179 confirmed cases were among 5,917 lab tests carried out by the Institute of Neurology & Genetics (Cing).

Kostrikkis stressed that the coming days are crucial for the outcome of the efforts to control the virus, warning that the situation could easily get out of control if the ban on movement is not strictly followed.

“We call on the public to patiently continue following the instructions so that the situation remains at manageable levels,” he said.

“The instructions are clear and simple: stay at home.”

As regards the condition of patents, Okypy’s scientific director for Nicosia, Dr Marios Loizou, said that 10 persons are on ventilators; three at the Limassol hospital’s intensive care unit, and seven in that of the Nicosia hospital.

Their condition is critical but stable, he said. There is another person at the Limassol hospital’s ICU but is not intubated.

There are currently 23 coronavirus patients at the Famagusta hospital that operates as a reference hospital, with four of them at the increased care unit.

In total, 45 people have been admitted so far at the Famagusta hospital, 15 of whom have been healed.

Two more persons died on Friday, a 76-year-old Cypriot woman with underlying health problems, and a 47-year-old man from Greece.

Meanwhile, the first coronavirus-linked death was recorded in the north, that of a 73-year-old German tourist who was in hospital in northern Nicosia. He had an underlying health condition. There are now 61 recorded cases of coronavirus in the north.

It was also announced on Saturday that all 180 samples by staff and patients of the Larnaca hospital who had come in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, were negative.

State hospitals are making arrangements for separate areas to test suspected coronavirus cases.

The executive director of the Larnaca hospital, Georgios Karotsakis, told the Cyprus News Agency that on Monday, two examination rooms will be set up for checking minors suspected of having the virus.

Paphos general hospital too will start operating on Monday a dedicated ward for suspected Covid-19 cases. The hospital’s permanent administrative head, Dr Iosif Moutiris, said that the ward will have 10 single rooms where the suspected cases will be admitted for further tests.

He told the Cyprus News Agency that after patients are thoroughly examined, will either be sent to the Famagusta hospital which is where coronavirus patients are taken, or will be asked to self-isolate.

The Paphos hospital’s intensive care unit will open on Monday.

The health ministry announced on Saturday that the Famagusta hospital and Sheba medical centre in Israel which also operates a reference hospital for coronavirus patients, have agreed to cooperate for exchange of expertise and information on the treatment methods they use. The Nicosia hospital’s ICU unit too launched cooperation with the same Israeli centre for the exchange of treatment protocols, the ministry said.


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Coronavirus: Government threatens tougher restrictions, abuse continuing (with video)

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 16:42

People are still abusing the permits for movement, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on Saturday, adding he did not rule out tightening restrictions even further.

Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC, Nouris said the government is not satisfied with the way the public have reacted to present measures.

Nouris said that everyone must realise that they should use their permits only in exceptional cases.

There has been an unjustified increase in movements and increased controls could be introduced over the weekend, he said.

He said that they might introduce restrictions to how many text messages a person will be able to send to 8998 for permission to leave their homes and changes to the printed forms.

In the meantime, police on Saturday said that persons who choose to use handwritten notes for their movements for various reasons must make sure they include all the necessary information.

The reminder comes after complaints to the Cyprus Mail over rumours that people had encountered problems for not sending text messages to 8998 for approval of purpose of movement.

Police told the Cyprus Mail there had been no changes over the procedure; the public must fill out and present either the printed forms, send text messages to 8998, or present handwritten notes.

But apparently there have been problems with handwritten notes not including all the necessary information.

The handwritten notes should include the bearer’s full name, date of birth, ID or passport number, residence address, the time of movement and the purpose of the movement which must conform to the reasons cited in the government decree. They must also sign and add the date. Bearers need to also present their ID or passport.

The interior ministry announced on Saturday that it has set up two phone lines for the public to call for clarifications on movement restrictions but also other measures concerning the decrees on measures against the spread of coronavirus. The numbers are 22 421600 and 22 495666.

Between 6pm on Friday and 6am on Saturday police booked 129 drivers and pedestrians for violating the government lockdown on free movement, a spokesman told CNA.
The violations came during 3,502 checks.

In Nicosia, there were 685 inspections and 56 bookings, in Limassol 1,289 inspections and 22 bookings, Larnaca 267 inspections and seven bookings, in Paphos 26  checks and three bookings, in Famagusta 766 checks and 38 bookings and in the government-controlled area of Morphou, 46 checks and one booking.

Premises were also checked with 1,412 inspections and three bookings for violating the closure decree.

The video below shows the empty streets of the capital.


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Russia prepares to shut all borders as coronavirus cases soar

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 16:33

Russia will close all border crossings on March 30, the government said on Saturday, tightening restrictions after the country reported its biggest one-day rise in new coronavirus cases.

The authorities said they so far had recorded 1,264 confirmed cases, an increase of 228 in 24 hours, and ordered that all vehicle, rail and pedestrian checkpoints, as well as the country’s maritime borders, be closed from Monday.

Russia has already grounded all international flights and declared next week a non-working week – which does not apply to workers from key businesses like pharmacies and supermarkets – in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

Moscow, Russia’s worst-affected area, has shut all cafes, restaurants and shops, apart from those selling food and medicine, until April 5.

Sergei Sobyanin, the capital’s mayor, on Saturday urged residents to stay at home during the extended holiday that was announced by President Vladimir Putin last week.

In a letter to users of Moscow’s online portals, Sobyanin said the week-long holiday should not be treated lightly.

“This is not an extra holiday, but a key measure in fighting the spread of the coronavirus,” he wrote.

Sobyanin warned that the week off could only help contain the outbreak if Muscovites remained home, at their apartments or dachas, their out-of-town cottages, for the next nine days.

“Do not invite guests and don’t be a guest yourself,” he wrote. “Do not go to shops without the extreme need to do so.”

He also called on Muscovites to refrain from taking walks or to make only short ones, and exclusively with family members.

“The lives of many people depend on each of us, literally,” Sobyanin said. “Please stay home.”

Pictures circulating on social media on Saturday showed Russians stocking up on construction and gardening materials at hardware stores ahead of the week-long holiday as they prepared to retreat to their dachas.

Other countries have preferred locking down cities, with people only allowed out for food and medicine.

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Portugal to treat migrants as residents during coronavirus crisis

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 15:48

All foreigners in Portugal with pending applications will be treated as permanent residents from Monday until at least July 1, authorities said on Saturday, to ensure migrants have access to public services during the coronavirus outbreak.

Applicants including asylum seekers need only provide evidence of an ongoing request to qualify – granting them access to the national health service, welfare benefits, bank accounts, and work and rental contracts.

“People should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not yet been processed,” Claudia Veloso, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, told Reuters. “In these exceptional times, the rights of migrants must be guaranteed.”

The policy also aims to reduce contagion risk by minimising contact between border control service staff and applicants, the statement said.

Portugal has reported 5,170 cases of the virus and 100 deaths, far below neighbouring Spain.

Health authorities expect cases to peak at the end of May.

It was not known how many people had ongoing residency applications, but government statistics show that a record 580,000 immigrants resided in Portugal in 2019 and 135,000 people were granted residency that year alone.

Brazilians make up the majority of immigrants, official data shows, followed by Romanians, Ukrainians, Britons and Chinese.

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Taliban says will not negotiate with team announced by Afghan government

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 15:27

The Taliban refused to negotiate with the team announced by the Afghan government, the militant group’s spokesman said on Saturday, in a potential setback to the next steps of the U.S.-brokered peace process.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group would not negotiate with the team as it was not selected in a way that included “all Afghan factions”

The Afghan government announced a team late on Thursday, which was later praised as “inclusive” by U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

The United States signed a troop withdrawal deal with the Taliban in February, but progress on moving to negotiations between the militant group and the Afghan government has been delayed by a feud between Afghan politicians and disagreement between the Taliban and the government over the release of prisoners and a possible ceasefire as preconditions for talks.

Mujahid said the fact the team was announced by the Afghan government “violated” its agreement with the United States and that not all sides had agreed to the team.

“In order to reach true and lasting peace, the aforementioned team must be agreed upon by all effective Afghan sides so that it can represent all sides,” he said.

Najia Anwari, spokeswoman for the Afghan ministry of peace affairs, said in response: “This team was made after wide consultation with different layers of the Afghan society.”

President Ashraf Ghani’s political rival Abdullah Abdullah has not yet confirmed whether he will support the delegation, a move diplomats say would be important given his camp’s strong influence in the country’s north and west.

His spokesman on Friday declined to confirm or deny whether he would support the team.

Abdullah’s spokesman and the U.S. Embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

Both men claim to be Afghanistan’s rightful leader after disputed September elections.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to mediate between the two men to create an “inclusive” government during a day-long visit to Kabul on Monday, and announced a $1 billion cut in U.S. aid to Afghanistan, which he said could be reversed.

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A minute with Rafaella Groutidou DjGrout

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 14:50

Where do you live?
I currently live in Nicosia with my family!

What did you have for breakfast?
Coffee with toast

Describe your perfect day
Generally speaking, a simple perfect day would be a nicely sunny day full of positive vibes

Best book ever read?
Hmm… I am not that kind of book person because I don’t really like reading books. The only books I have read are the ones that we used to read during school years and that because we had to.

Best childhood memory?
Playing with all of my cousins at my grandma’s house in the backyard.

What is always in your fridge?
Milk because it is the must ingredient for my coffee in the morning that I can’t do without.

What music are you listening to in the car at the moment?
Whatever music the NRJ Radio Station plays!! (99.0 FM & 94.4 FM)

What’s your spirit animal?
I would say dolphins because of their kindness and the fact that they try to help others to be happy, give others courage and achieve their goals.

What are you most proud of?
Being so energetic and full of positiveness as a person. I am really thankful that I have these and I think they are the characteristics that I have and I am proud of.

What movie scene has really stayed with you?
Oh, there are too many and I can’t choose one, but I will refer to the one that I have watched recently. A Greek movie called Eftyhia, which was about the life of the greatest songwriter in Greece, made me think that you have to fight in life, with one way or another to get what you really want but also appreciate the people that you have next you and live the best moments with them cause life is too short.

If you could pick anyone at all (alive or dead) to go out for the evening with, who would it be?
With the Queen B, Beyoncé.

If you could time travel when/where would you go?
Back to 1985 at Live Aid in London, to admire the outstanding performance of Queen.

What is your greatest fear?
The freaking disgusting cockroaches

What would you say to your 18-year-old self?
Don’t grow up

Name the one thing that would stop you dating someone

If the world is ending in 24 hours what would you do?
Try to show all of my love to my closest people and gather them with all the people I know and party hard with DjGrout on the decks till the end!

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China readies stimulus measures as local virus cases dwindle

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 14:44

China plans stronger steps to revive an economy hit by coronavirus, as the nation on Saturday reported no new locally transmitted infections for the previous day.

The ruling Communist Party’s Politburo said on Friday it would step up macroeconomic policy adjustments and pursue more proactive fiscal policy, state media reported. With the world’s second-biggest economy expected to shrink for the first time in four decades this quarter, China is set to unleash hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus.

The Politburo called for expanding the budget deficit, issuing more local and national bonds, guiding interest rates lower, delaying loan repayments, reducing supply-chain bottlenecks and boosting consumption.

“We expect government ministries to roll out more tangible measures in the coming weeks as this Politburo meeting gave them no choice but to do more,” Goldman Sachs analysts said.

The Politburo did not elaborate on plans for the central government to issue special treasury bonds, which would be the first such issuance since 2007. China should issue at least 2 trillion yuan ($282 billion) of such bonds to aid the economy, Morgan Stanley Chief China Economist Robin Xing said.

Restrictions on foreigners entering the country went into effect on Saturday, as China reported no new locally transmitted infections and a small drop in so-called imported cases.

Airlines have been ordered to sharply cut international flights from Sunday.

Beijing has in recent days emphasised the risk posed by imported virus cases after widespread lockdowns within China helped to sharply reduce domestic transmissions. The Politburo said it would shift its focus to prevent more imported cases and a rebound in locally transmitted infections.

“We must be extremely vigilant and cautious, and we must prevent the post-epidemic relaxation from coming too soon, leading to the loss of all our achievements,” the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper said in a front-page editorial.

The authorities also reversed planned reopenings of movie theatres, the state-owned China Securities Journal reported, citing sources.


With local transmission of the virus basically under control, China shifts focus toward rebooting paused businesses.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Saturday nearly all of the country’s major supermarkets, convenience stores, shopping malls and farm produce retail markets have reopened, while all e-commerce platforms are operating.

Meanwhile, 80% of restaurants and 60% of hotels are back in business, ministry official Wang Bin told a news conference.

In a sign of businesses getting back to normal, wholesale prices of vegetables have dropped 16.5% from end-February, while pork prices have fallen 7.4% from a mid-February high.

However, many street shops such as beauty salons are not yet open as “sentiment is reviving slowly, while people remain cautious about going out shopping”, Wang said.

In China’s central Hubei Province, authorities had removed all highway checkpoints except those in its capital city Wuhan – the virus epicentre – and allowed traffic to leave the province as of Friday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday.

Hubei officials vowed to help businesses re-open and people get back to work.

Gong Dingrong, mayor of Hubei’s Qianjiang, dubbed “lobster city”, said the government would promote sales across the country both online and offline, adding “there’s nothing to fear” eating lobsters from the city.


China’s National Health Commission said on Saturday that 54 new coronavirus cases were reported on the mainland on Friday, all imported cases. There were 55 new cases a day earlier, one of which was transmitted locally.

The number of infections for mainland China stands at 81,394, with the death toll rising by three to 3,295, the commission said.

Hubei province reported no new cases, and three new deaths. The province of 60 million, where the virus was first detected, has recorded 67,801 coronavirus cases and 3,177 deaths.

Shanghai reported the highest number of new cases, with 17. An additional 11 cases were reported in Guangdong, six in Fujian, five in Tianjin, four in Zhejiang, three each in Beijing and Liaoning, two each in Inner Mongolia and Jilin, and one in Shandong.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday that China would support U.S. efforts to fight the coronavirus.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States rose by at least 16,000 on Friday to nearly 102,000, the most of any country.

George Gao, the director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, urged people to wear masks to control the virus’s spread overseas.

Gao told the journal Science in an interview published on Friday that the “big mistake in the United States and Europe has been the failure to wear masks, which “can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others”.

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Coronavirus: Trapped students in UK appeal to government for support plan

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 14:20

Cypriot student organisations in the UK have sent a joint letter to the education and foreign ministries appealing for action to help the thousands banned from returning home.

The letter said that the students completely understand the pressures their home government is facing, but added the situation in the UK is dire and students need a support plan

“For the most part, we agree and applaud the measures the Republic of Cyprus has taken. However, where the students of the UK are concerned, we believe certain arrangements should be made.”

The letter was signed by all Cypriot student organisations in the UK, outlining that in certain areas, there are serious shortages in supermarkets and pharmacies.

Some universities have also informed their students that if they do not return to their home countries, they may end up stuck in the UK under a potential lockdown, the letter said.

Fearing that the situation may get worse, students are extremely concerned and have stressed that the government urgently needs to publish measures.

The first measure suggested by the letter is for help to be provided for those abroad not only in terms of pharmaceuticals but also essential items and medical supervision, particularly for people who belong to vulnerable groups.

Secondly, the students have asked that the government prepares a plan for repatriating Cypriots living abroad which at the same time is carried out based on what the Cypriot healthcare system can deal with.

“A formal announcement that a study as to how this can be done as well as an announcement of a timeframe will instantly reassure students and their families.” Vulnerable groups should receive special treatment.

The students suggest there should be a record of Cypriots currently abroad and although the help website Oikade exists, it does not do the full job as state services should know how many people are abroad, who and where they are, how many belong to vulnerable groups and how many wish to be repatriated.

To that end, flights could be carried out from airports including Glasgow, Manchester and Bristol to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus before they travel.

The letter also said that the helplines at the foreign ministry and the High Commission in the UK cannot cope with the number of people that live abroad.


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Coronavirus outbreak is stretching New York’s ambulance service to breaking point

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 13:50

The coronavirus outbreak sweeping through New York City has pushed its ambulance service close to the breaking point, with hundreds of personnel out ill and emergency calls skyrocketing, supervisors and rank-and-file emergency medical technicians said on Friday.

Some 20% of the 4,500 ambulance workers – EMTs, paramedics and supervisors – are out sick, said Dr. Lewis Marshall, board chairman of the New York City Regional Emergency Medical Services Council in an interview with Reuters.

Most of them are out of action because they either have the virus or have been exposed to it, he added.

The union representing EMS personnel said that two members of ambulance crews were on mechanical ventilators, which are used to help seriously ill patients breathe.

At the same time, ambulance calls are skyrocketing.

On Thursday, EMS received more than 6,000 calls. EMS lieutenant Vincent Variale, who also heads a supervisors’ union, said, “We’ve broken every call volume record we’ve ever seen before.”

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro on Friday asked the public to avoid making 911 calls except in real emergencies.

Marshall said even those ambulance workers who had tested positive for the coronavirus were being asked to work unless they show symptoms.

At times in recent days, up to 400 calls at a time deemed less serious had simply been left on hold, Variale said.

The number of EMS personnel out sick is increasing and may soon reach 30%, multiple EMS officials said, which would lead to a serious decline in ambulance services.

Marshall noted that the EMS has to deal with the crush of COVID-19 cases at the same time it must handle its normal workload of patients suffering from heart attacks, strokes and broken bones. The crisis is taking an emotional toll on EMS personnel.

Anthony Almojera, a Fire Department lieutenant and supervisor who goes out on EMS calls, said that even though he is a veteran, things he has seen since the pandemic hit New York have had a deep emotional impact.

For example, he said he and an ambulance team responded to a call concerning a woman in cardiac arrest. When they arrived, they were unable to resuscitate her.

He said the woman’s husband was standing at the front door crying. Almojera added that normally he would go over to a surviving husband or wife, “say I’m sorry for your loss,” hug the relative and let them cry.

But because of the virus he was not permitted to go within six feet of the husband.

“This time the man had totally broken down,” he said. Stricken by his inability to help the bereaved man, Almojera himself began to cry.

The city’s ambulance service is part of the New York City Fire Department. Two workers told Reuters that ambulance personnel who remain on the job are working 16 or 17-hour days.

“We don’t even have time to go to the bathroom,” said one emergency medical technician in Harlem while running to meet a call.

In a phone call, the Fire Department said it was not requiring ambulance personnel to work double shifts.

Variale predicted dire consequences if calls for help continue to soar and the number of emergency personnel continues to drop from illness. “If this continues we fully expect to have bodies on the street,” he said.

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Coronavirus: Medical supplies from China ready for transport

Cyprus Mail - Sab, 28/03/2020 - 13:27

The first batch of medical supplies from China is ready for transport to Cyprus, the country’s ambassador to Nicosia said on Saturday.

Ambassador Huang Xingyuan told the Cyprus News Agency that the two countries are working closely to ensure their timely arrival to aid the fight against Covid-19.

He said that the first batch of medical supplies to Cyprus includes protective suits and masks donated by the Chinese government, companies and sister cities.

It was reported earlier in the week that a Greek air force transport plane was to bring the medical equipment requested by the health ministry from China to Cyprus next week.

Government spokesman Kyriacos Koushios announced on Saturday that Aegean Air had also offered to transport medical supplies from China, free of charge, in cooperation with Hellenic Petroleum.

Koushios said that the offer was made by the head of Aegean, Eftychios Vasilakis, during a telephone conversation with President Nicos Anastasiades on Saturday.

“The president expressed his gratitude to Aegean and Hellenic Petroleum for their noble gesture,” Koushios said.


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