Pakistan shuts schools, suspends Iran flights to curb coronavirus spread

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Residents buy facemasks from a roadside vendor along a street in Karachi on February 27, 2020 as Pakistan has detected its first two cases of coronavirus. (AFP)
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Customers buy masks at a medical supply store to wear as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Feb. 26, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Pakistan shuts schools, suspends Iran flights to curb coronavirus spread

  • Latin America sees its first confirmed case of coronavirus in Brazil
  • Two countries in Europe - Estonia and Germany - have announced on Thursday their first cases of the virus

ISLAMABAD/RIO DE JANEIRO: Pakistan on Thursday shut schools in several areas and suspended flights to and from Iran to try to stop the spread of new coronavirus, after reporting its first cases of the infection, officials said.
The South Asian nation bordering China and Iran, both of which have been hit hard by the virus, reported its first two cases on Wednesday.
Both people had recently traveled to Iran as part of large groups of pilgrims from Pakistan’s Shi’ite Muslim community. Health officials have said both were “stable.”

In Italy, two more people died from the virus, bringing death toll to 14.
In Britain, the number of coronavirus infections has risen to 15 cases. Elsewhere, two countries in Europe - Estonia and Germany - have announced on Thursday their first cases of the virus.
Latin America meanwhile saw its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus spreading worldwide when Brazil’s government announced that a 61-year-old man who traveled to Italy this month had the virus.
The Brazilian man had spent two weeks in northern Italy’s Lombardy region on a work trip, where he contracted the contagious virus, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland has risen to four, the country’s health authority said on Thursday.
In the western canton of Geneva one person was tested positive for the virus while it was also confirmed in a couple in the southeastern Alpine canton of Grisons, it added.
“All three patients are isolated in the hospital. Their condition is good,” the Federal Office of Public Health said.


Brazil’s national health agency Anvisa has been working to map all contact the man had with others, and on Tuesday requested the manifest of the flight he took to investigate other possible cases.
The Health Ministry said that the man received some 30 family members at his home after returning to Sao Paulo on Feb. 21. Those people are under observation, as are with passengers from the plane.
In Sydney, Australia’s prime minister said the country considered the new coronavirus to be a pandemic Thursday, going a step beyond the WHO as he extended a travel ban on visitors from China.
Announcing a national emergency response plan to the contagion, Scott Morrison said he was considering “additional measures” for monitoring travelers arriving in the country.
“We’re effectively operating now on the basis that there is one — a pandemic,” Morrison said. “We believe the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us.” Australia has reported 22 infections, but none that were contracted or passed from person-to-person inside the country.
Morrison’s warning comes as he scrambles to burnish his leadership credentials after fierce criticism of his handling of the months-long bushfire crisis. His government is also embroiled in a deepening political scandal over the funneling of taxpayer money into areas his coalition targeted in last year’s election.
Meanwhile, South Korea reported 171 more cases of the new virus on Thursday, bringing its total number of infections to 1,766.


UK PM Johnson says groups of 6 people can meet outside from Monday

Updated 28 May 2020

UK PM Johnson says groups of 6 people can meet outside from Monday

  • The prime minister also confirmed that schools will start reopening from Monday, initially for some younger students
  • Outdoor-based shops, such as car showrooms, can also reopen

LONDON: Outdoor gatherings of six people from different households will be allowed from next week as part of another easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday.
But the government's chief scientific adviser cautioned that Britain was at a “fragile" point in its fight against the virus, with some 2,000 new infections still being reported each day.
Johnson, who has faced days of scorn for keeping his top aide Dominic Cummings in post following his controversial travels during the lockdown, said families and friends in groups of up to six can meet from Monday in outdoor spaces, including public parks and private gardens.
Johnson said at a news conference that this was potentially a “long awaited and joyful moment” for parents and grandparents but stressed that people must remain 2 meters (6.5 feet) apart.
The prime minister also confirmed that schools will start reopening from Monday, initially for some younger students. Outdoor-based shops, such as car showrooms, can also reopen.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also easing lockdowns, in slightly different ways.
Johnson said the “limited and cautious” changes were possible because five government-imposed tests have been met. These include “sustained and consistent” falls in virus infections and the daily death rate.
Though the number of people dying after testing positive for COVID-19 has fallen since the peak in early April. The UK still recorded another 377 deaths in all settings including hospitals and care homes, taking the total to 37,837.
“This is not a time to say ‘Everything’s OK, we’re relaxing measures, everything’s going to be rosy," said the government's chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance. "We are at a fragile state.”
Johnson continued to brush aside questions about Cummings, and said that the issue was now closed after police will not take any action on the matter
Johnson has been urged to sack Cummings by political opponents as well as a number of his own Conservative lawmakers after his adviser drove 250 miles (400 km) to his parents’ house in Durham, northeast England, at the end of March while the country was under a “stay-at-home” order. Cummings made a later journey to a scenic town 30 miles (50 km) away.
Following an investigation, Durham Constabulary said the drive to Durham did not breach the rules but the second trip, to the town of Barnard Castle, might have been “a minor breach” of lockdown rules “that would have warranted police intervention." But the force said “there is no intention to take retrospective action" because no one else has been fined retrospectively.