Covid-19 wrap: Global deaths top 170 000, Singapore extends curbs and Pamplona bull run called off

2020-04-21 14:26

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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Global coronavirus deaths top 170 000 - AFP tally

Paris – The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 170 000 people globally, close to two-thirds of them in hardest-hit Europe, according to an AFP tally on Tuesday at 09:35 (GMT).

In total, 170 226 people have died from the virus around the world, including 106 737 in Europe. With 42 364 deaths, the United States has the highest mortality rate, followed by Italy with 24 114 fatalities and Spain's 21 282. France has 20 265 deaths and Britain 16 509.

There are 2 483 086 recorded cases around the world, though the number of actual infections is believed to be higher since many countries are only testing the most serious cases.

The figures have been compiled by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

 - AFP

Singapore extends coronavirus curbs as cases surge

Singapore – Singapore on Tuesday extended restrictions to fight the coronavirus until early June, the city-state's leader said, as cases surged past 9 000 due to a growing number of infections among migrant workers.

Health authorities reported 1 111 cases on Tuesday taking the total to 9 125, with the vast majority of new infections in foreign worker dormitories, which have become the epicentre of the city's outbreak.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that restrictions – which include closures of businesses and schools, and asking people to stay home – would be extended to 1 June. They were imposed at the start of April and had originally been due to end on 4 May.

"Many will be disappointed by the extension," said Lee in a televised address, acknowledging that businesses and workers were "hurting greatly". "But I hope you understand that this short-term pain is to stamp out the virus, protect the health and safety of our loved ones, and allow us to revive our economy."

 - AFP

Spain's Pamplona bull-run festival called off over virus

Madrid – Spain's best-known bull running festival in the northern town of Pamplona, held annually between 6-14 July, has been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, city hall said on Tuesday.

Over one million people attend the centuries-old San Fermin celebration, which sees half-tonne fighting bulls chase hundreds of daredevils, many wearing traditional white shirts and scarves, though the narrow streets of the city each morning.

 - AFP

Indonesia locks virus quarantine violators in 'haunted house'

Sragen – Fed up with people breaking virus quarantine rules, one Indonesian politician has decided to scare rulebreakers straight by locking them in a "haunted house".

Sragen regency head Kusdinar Untung Yuni Sukowati says she issued the unusual edict this week to deal with an influx of people to the area after lockdowns in the capital Jakarta and other major cities.

Some newcomers, however, weren't respecting orders that they isolate themselves for 14 days to prevent the spread of coronavirus across the region on Indonesia's densely populated Java island.

So Sukowati instructed communities to repurpose abandoned houses that were feared to be haunted – tapping widespread beliefs in the supernatural, which play a key role in Indonesian folklore. Five people have been tossed into Sragen's spooky jails so far.

"If there's an empty and haunted house in the village, put people in there and lock them up," Sukowati told AFP on Tuesday when asked about the rule.

 - AFP

Time short for avoiding African 'food crisis' - UN's IFAD

Paris – Africa must move swiftly to prevent a looming food crunch caused by coronavirus disruption for small-scale producers, the head of a UN agency says.

"People in lockdown no longer have access to public transport systems, to seeds, to informal markets, to sell their goods or buy inputs such as seed and fertiliser," said Gilbert Houngbo, head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

"The closure of major highways and bans on exports could also harm food systems," he told AFP in an interview.

"The breaking of logistical chains is one of the biggest problems to resolve," he said. "We have to act right now to prevent a health crisis from becoming a food crisis."

IFAD specialises in help for poor rural populations, seeking to strengthen food security and employment through low-interest loans and grants.

 - AFP

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