Philippine centenarians beat the odds in virus battle

Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) staff pose for a photograph with their 106-year-old COVID-19 recoveree in Baguio City on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy: BGHMC)
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Updated 21 October 2020

Philippine centenarians beat the odds in virus battle

  • Hospital hails ‘inspirational’ COVID-19 recoveries of two 106-year-old men

MANILA: Health workers have said the recent recoveries of two 106-year-old coronavirus patients in the Philippines is proof that the disease can be beaten, but warned the public to remain cautious.

The first centenarian is a man from Cagayan De Oro City in northern Mindanao, who recovered on Sunday after a month-long treatment at an administration-run facility for virus patients. The second survivor was discharged on Tuesday after 11 days at a hospital in Baguio City.

“Our patient is living proof that coronavirus can be beaten,” Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) infectious disease specialist Dr. Thea Pamela Cajulao said during a ceremony.

Dr. Ricardo B. Runez Jr., BGHMC chief, added that the 106-year-old’s return to health was a “testament to our adaptation to the pandemic and striving towards resilience in everyday life.”

He added: “A tribute is given to our doctors and nurses, and the rest of the health care team for their dedication to work as translated to the challenges that were battled and surpassed.”

When the patient’s daughter arrived at the hospital, she said: “God made you as an instrument. I hope that my father would be an inspiration for all coronavirus patients.” The hospital did not release the name of the man.

The patient “now serves as the epitome of a coronavirus fighter in the Baguio and the Cordillera region,” the hospital said. “Despite all the difficulties during his admission, he was able to prove that age is just a number.”

However, doctors warned that despite the recovery of the elderly man, who is part of the most vulnerable age group, Filipinos must still remain vigilant about health measures.

“Remember that prevention is better than cure, but in instances that we cannot prevent it, early detection, treatment and isolation can help decrease the risk of death,” Cajulao said.

In Cagayan De Oro, city epidemiologist Dr. Teodulfo Joselito Retuya Jr. also called on the public to continue following health precautions.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health reported 1,509 new virus cases in the Philippines, the lowest daily rise in more than six weeks. Total case numbers have now reached 362,243, with 6,747 coronavirus-related deaths.

Belgium tries Iranian diplomat over bomb plot

Updated 2 min 13 sec ago

Belgium tries Iranian diplomat over bomb plot

  • In June 2018, Belgian authorities thwarted what they said was an attempt to smuggle explosives to France to attack a meeting of one of Iran’s exiled opposition movements

BRUSSELS: An Iranian diplomat goes on trial in Belgium on Friday accused of plotting to bomb an opposition rally outside Paris, in a case that has stoked tensions with Tehran.
The case shines another uncomfortable light on Iran’s international activities just as it hopes to ease tensions with the United States after President Donald Trump tore up the 2015 nuclear deal signed by both countries and other world powers.
It also comes a day after a prisoner swap that saw the release of three Iranians jailed over a 2012 bomb plot in Thailand, in exchange for the freeing of an Australian-British lecturer imprisoned by Tehran for alleged spying.
In June 2018, Belgian authorities thwarted what they said was an attempt to smuggle explosives to France to attack a meeting of one of Iran’s exiled opposition movements.
Later that year, the French government accused Iran’s intelligence service of being behind the operation, a charge the Islamic republic has furiously denied.
Assadollah Assadi, a 48-year-old Iranian diplomat formerly based in Vienna, faces life in prison if convicted.
The National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), which includes the People’s Mojahedin of Iran or (MEK), organized a rally in Villepinte outside Paris on June 30, 2018.
Several well-known international figures — including former US and British officials and Franco-Colombian former senator Ingrid Betancourt — and NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi were to attend.
On the same morning, Belgian police intercepted a Belgian-Iranian couple driving from Antwerp and carrying half-a-kilo of TATP explosives and a detonator.
The arrested couple, 36-year-old Nassimeh Naami and 40-year-old Amir Saadouni, join Assadi in the dock, alongside another alleged accomplice, Mehrdad Arefani, 57.
All four are charged with attempting to carry out a terrorist attack and taking part in the activity of a terrorist group. All face life sentences.
Assadi was arrested while he was traveling through Germany where he had no immunity from prosecution, being outside of the country of his diplomatic posting.
Arefani, an Iranian poet who had lived in Belgium for more than a decade, was arrested in France in 2018 after Belgium issued a European arrest warrant.

Counsel representing those targeted by the alleged attack say Arefani was close to Assadi, said to be the architect of the plot, and point to an Austrian SIM card found in his possession.
The two men deny any connection.
“We are looking at a clear case of state terrorism,” said lawyer Georges-Henri Beauthier, who is representing the interests of the NCRI, along with French colleague William Bourdon.
Dimitri de Beco, defense counsel for Assadi, has accused the civil plaintiffs of trying to turn the case into a political trial on behalf of the opposition movement.
According to Iran expert Francois Nicoullaud — a former French ambassador to Tehran — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was surprised to learn about the failed attack.
“Visiting Europe at the time, he was absolutely furious to learn about this intelligence service operation, on which he hadn’t been consulted,” the diplomat told AFP.
At the time of the alleged plot, Rouhani was trying to maintain the support of European capitals for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal abandoned by the Trump administration.
When Paris pointed the finger at Iranian intelligence, an Iranian spokesman voiced denial and alleged that opponents of the deal in “certain quarters” were attempting to frame Tehran.
That idea was dismissed by observers like Nicoullaud as a smokescreen. “It’s not serious,” he said.
The trial is scheduled to take two days, Friday and then Thursday next week. The court is then expected to adjourn to consider its verdict before ruling early next year.