Covid-19 wrap | China opens top political meeting, and 100 infections in French slaughterhouse

2020-05-21 11:56

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis.

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China's top political meetings open with minute's silence for virus victims

China's annual high-level political meetings opened on Thursday with a minute's silence for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed over 4 600 lives in the country since emerging late last year.

Delayed by two months because of the outbreak, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) - a largely ceremonial advisory body - began its first session a day before the start of the country's most important legislative congress.

More than two thousand delegates from across the country bowed their heads in silence after singing the national anthem in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

The virus began in the central city of Wuhan before spreading around the world, infecting more than five million people and killing over 328 000.

President Xi Jinping and the rest of the 25-member Politburo - the Communist Party's top leadership body - were in the middle of the central stage, the only attendees not wearing face masks.

State television showed hundreds of masked delegates in black business suits walking up the steps of the Great Hall shortly before the session began.

- AFP


More than 100 virus infections in French slaughterhouse

More than 100 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus at a slaughterhouse in western France, the regional health authorities said on Wednesday.

The cases follow coronavirus outbreaks at meat plants not only in France but also in Germany, Spain, Australia, the United States and Brazil - where people tend to work in close proximity.

A total of 109 personnel have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, at a slaughterhouse in Cotes d'Armor following a second wave of testing, the ARS regional health authority said in a statement.

Some 818 people have been tested at the plant, it added.

Those diagnosed as having the disease are being contacted by employee insurance firms that have identified all their contacts at risk of catching the illness, requiring them to respect two-week quarantines, take tests and wear masks, the ARS said.

- AFP


Only 1% of Danes have virus antibodies: study

A study shows that only about 1% of Danes had contracted the coronavirus, Danish officials said on Wednesday, raising concerns Denmark is vulnerable to a new wave.

The report was released by the Danish health agency SSI, which operates under the health ministry and is responsible for the surveillance of infectious diseases.

Out of 2 600 randomly selected Danes, 1 071 had so far agreed to be tested for antibodies.

Only 12 of those tested positive, corresponding to a rate of about 1.1%.

SSI cautioned that the results were preliminary and there were several factors that made it difficult to say whether the results were indicative of the entire Danish population.

They had only been able to carry out tests at five locations, meaning they had been limited to people living in those, or neighbouring, municipalities.

"Furthermore, whether the figures can be applied to the entire Danish population can also be affected by whether groups with different patterns of infection choose or not choose to accept the offer to be tested," Steen Ethelberg at SSI said in a statement.

Experts interviewed by broadcaster DR said the results were concerning and showed that the country was vulnerable to the spread of the virus picking up speed again.

- AFP


How coronavirus cases reached five million worldwide

More than five million people have now been infected by the new coronavirus worldwide.

The landmark figure was reached on Thursday, almost five months after the first reported case in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December.

More than 328,000 people have also died of COVID-19, the highly contagious disease caused by the new coronavirus, while nearly 1.9 million have recovered, data collated by the Johns Hopkins University showed.

The United States, Russia and Brazil have emerged as the countries with the highest number of confirmed cases.

Europe, where France reported the continent's first case on January 24, continues to see a rise in infections, but at a slower daily rate than its peak in March.

Cases in China have dwindled, with the country reporting its lowest number of new coronavirus patients since January.

Iran, the first country in the Middle East to confirm the presence of the coronavirus on February 19, remains the worst hit in the region.

- Al Jazeera


'Insensitive' Japan Olympic coronavirus logo pulled after row

A satirical mock-up depicting the Tokyo Olympics logo as the new coronavirus has been pulled after Olympic organisers branded it "insensitive" and said it infringed copyright.

The design combines the distinctive, spiky image of the coronavirus cell with the blue-and-white Tokyo 2020 logo, and appeared on the front page of an in-house magazine published by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ).

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed until next year because of the coronavirus, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and halted sport worldwide.

FCCJ president Khaldon Azhari said on Thursday the club had decided to withdraw the image and remove it from its website after advice that its legal defence against a potential copyright breach was "not strong".

"More importantly, we are all in this coronavirus crisis together and clearly the cover offended some people in our host country Japan," said Azhari, voicing "sincere regret".

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto hailed the move, telling reporters: "We believe their response was appropriate and this is what we were hoping for as an outcome."

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Tokyo 2020's chief spokesperson Masa Takaya had blasted the emblem as "very disappointing".

He said it was also an infringement of the copyright owned by Tokyo 2020, and revealed that top Olympic bosses had requested that the FCCJ remove the image.

- AFP


Doctors race to understand new illness afflicting children

When the first children of the pandemic's newest syndrome needed paediatric ICU beds in Bergamo, Italy, Dr Lorenzo D'Antiga only had a few left.

The Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital's paediatric intensive care unit is one of Italy's largest: 16 highly-equipped beds to support recovery from all types of illness and injury. Children from across the country come to Milan to see their specialists, track their improvements, or receive organ transplants.

By late March, 500 of the hospital's nearly 1 000 regular beds were given to adults with Covid-19, and all but a couple of the paediatric ICU beds had been reassigned.

The paediatric team had been caring for adults with the respiratory illness while continuing interventions on children whose appointments could not be postponed.

Dr D'Antiga, the chief paediatrician at the hospital, had been working tirelessly. He had not seen his family since the beginning of the epidemic.

When two, and then three, children presented to the emergency room showing symptoms of an inflammatory syndrome that looked familiar, D'Antiga's team put the remaining paediatric ICU beds to use immediately.

"We were expecting respiratory symptoms. We were wondering where the children were? Were they also involved [in Covid-19 cases] and to what extent? We were not thinking about Kawasaki disease at all."

Some of the new children were experiencing a shock. They were presenting with myocarditis, endangering the circulation of their blood; they had high fevers and rashes.

Some needed ventilation. But they were not sick with SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that had spread from China to Italy in February and exploded.

Only two of them tested positive for the virus, yet many had produced antibodies to fight it. Coronavirus had reached them, but they were ill with something new.

Doctors in cities that had just surfaced from the full force of a Covid-19 outbreak addressed doctors in cities that were at the peak of the wave.

They named the new illness paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PMIS) or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) - the name is still evolving - described its symptoms, and prescribed a course of treatment. Each case would require a team of specialists and the facilities of a well-resourced city-based children's hospital.

- Al Jazeera


Japan exports plunge by the most since 2009 on virus shutdowns

Japan's exports fell the most since the 2009 global financial crisis in April as the coronavirus pandemic slammed world demand for cars, industrial materials and other goods, likely pushing the world's third-largest economy deeper into recession.

The ugly trade numbers come as policymakers seek to balance virus containment measures against the need to revive battered parts of the economy, with the risk of a second wave of infections only complicating this challenge.

The central bank will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to work out a scheme that would encourage financial institutions to lend to smaller, struggling firms. Policymakers are also considering cash injections for companies of all sizes.

Ministry of Finance (MOF) data on Thursday showed Japan's exports fell 21.9% in April year-on-year as United States-bound shipments slumped 37.8%, the fastest decline since 2009, with car exports there plunging 65.8%.

Global automakers are struggling to cope with the health crisis, which has pummelled car sales due to lockdowns in many countries.

Toyota Motor Corp expects an 80% drop in full-year operating profit while Mitsubishi Motors Corp has reported an 89% drop in annual profit.

- Al Jazeera

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