Covid-19 wrap | Trump to take coronavirus 'victory lap', South Korea to ease social distancing rules, and European leaders push vaccine financing

2020-05-03 13:55

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

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Trump to take pandemic victory lap in TV 'town hall'

Donald Trump will wrap himself in the mantle of America's arguably greatest president with a television extravaganza on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial meant to leave the coronavirus crisis behind and relaunch his election campaign.

The businessman Republican is doing poorly in most polls ahead of the November presidential contest with his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who remains shuttered in his Delaware home.

Trump faces criticism for his bruising, divisive style during a time of national calamity, and is accused by some of having botched the early response to the Covid-19 virus.

Worse, the previously booming US economy, which was seen as a golden ticket to his second term, is now in dire straits due to the nationwide lockdown.

But with officials saying the viral spread has begun to taper, Trump is itching to declare victory and get back on the campaign trail.

- AFP


South Korea to ease social distancing rules

South Korea said on Sunday it will loosen social distancing rules this week to allow gatherings and events to take place after the number of new coronavirus cases dropped significantly in recent days.

The country endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside China and strict social distancing has been widely observed since March.

Scores of events - from K-pop concerts to sports seasons - had been delayed or cancelled, while museums and galleries were closed and religious services suspended.

But the South appears to have brought its outbreak under control thanks to an extensive "trace, test and treat" programme that has drawn widespread praise.

Its reported death toll is around 250 - vastly lower than that of Italy, Britain, Spain and France, which have each recorded at least 24 000 fatalities.

- AFP


Swiss soldiers fight Covid-19 armed with Bluetooth app

Swiss army conscripts are taking the fight to the coronavirus pandemic by field-testing a Bluetooth-based smartphone app aimed at stopping a resurgence of Covid-19.

The rapidly-created app traces people who have inadvertently crossed paths with someone infected with the virus.

It uses wireless technology with each phone registering the others it has come into close proximity with for a sustained period of time.

For the field test, the infantry recruits went through a normal day: physical training, theoretical study and shooting at targets 300m away.

"What we did before was lab tests. Now we're gathering data on how this app performs in real life," said Simon Rosch, a software engineer with smartphone app developers Ubique.

The military base makes a good testing ground because, unlike civilians, soldiers are still allowed to congregate in numbers in close proximity.

Furthermore, they are isolated from the rest of the population inside their barracks at Chamblon, overlooking Lake Neuchatel in western Switzerland.

- AFP


European leaders push vaccine financing drive

European leaders are backing an initiative from Brussels to raise €7.5 billion ($8.3 billion) to tackle the global coronavirus pandemic.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, outlined the fund-raising plan for an international effort to find a vaccine and treatment for Covid-19 on Friday.

An online pledging conference will take place on Monday to plug gaps in financing of research.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel gave their support in an open letter published in weekend newspapers.

The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, and Norway's Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, also signed and all gave their backing to the World Health Organisation in the face of US criticism about its handling of the crisis.

The funds raised will "kickstart an unprecedented global cooperation between scientists and regulators, industry and governments, international organisations, foundations and healthcare professionals", the leaders said.

- AFP


India's military salutes virus workers with rose petals, flypasts

Helicopters showered masked health workers with rose petals and jets roared across the skies on Sunday as India's military paid tribute to frontline workers battling the coronavirus pandemic.

In one of the first of several gestures on Sunday, petals fell on to the upturned faces of medical personnel clad in protective gear as an army band played patriotic tunes including "Jai Ho" (May victory prevail) from the popular "Slumdog Millionaire" film.

In several states and territories across the vast nation of 1.3 billion people, fighter jets and transport aircraft in formations took part in low-flying aerial salutes to thank the country's so-called "corona warriors".

"The entire nation stands united in these challenging times," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted on Sunday as he praised the "commendable work" of the "frontline warriors", including police which have been enforcing the nationwide virus lockdown in place since late March.

The navy will light up its ships off the sub-continent's shores when night falls as part of the tributes.

The performances were the third public show of gratitude to health and other frontline workers, after Indians took part in nationwide clapping and lamp lighting efforts led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on previous Sundays.

The lockdown was extended for another two weeks by the government on Friday, although some restrictions were lifted in regions that have lower numbers of virus cases.

India has recorded almost 40 000 coronavirus cases, including 1 301 deaths.

- AFP

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Read more on:    india  |  south korea  |  us  |  switzerland  |  coronavirus
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