International Covid-19 update: US sets 'reopening date', Malaysia to use ‘robot doctor’

2020-04-13 09:46

Ecuador said police have removed almost 800 bodies in recent weeks from homes in Guayaquil, the epicenter of the country's coronavirus outbreak, after the disease overwhelmed emergency services, hospitals and funeral parlours, AFP reports. 

Mortuary workers in the Pacific port city have been unable to cope with a backlog, with residents posting videos on social media showing abandoned bodies in the streets.

"The number we have collected with the task force from people's homes exceeded 700 people," said Jorge Wated, who leads a team of police and military personnel created by the government to help with the chaos unleashed by Covid-19.

WATCH | Families kept apart during Covid-19 lockdowns

He later said Sunday that the joint task force, in operation for the past three weeks, had retrieved 771 bodies from homes and another 631 from hospitals, whose morgues are full. Wated did not specify the cause of death for the victims, 600 of whom have now been buried by the authorities.

Ecuador has recorded 7 500 cases of the coronavirus since the first diagnosis was confirmed on 29 February.

The coastal province of Guayas accounts for over 70% of those infected in the country, with 4 000 cases in the capital Guayaquil, according to the national government.

The military and police began removing bodies from homes three weeks after the mortuary system in Guayaquil collapsed, causing delays in forensic services and funeral homes under a 15-hour long daily curfew.

US to reopen in May?

Despite now having the highest Covid-19 death toll, the US may be ready to start gradually reopening next month, the government's top infectious diseases expert has said, AFP reports. 

Anthony Fauci, the veteran pandemic expert who has quietly sought action to stem infections, said in a televised interview that parts of the country could begin easing restrictions in May.

President Donald Trump had earlier wanted the world's largest economy to be "raring to go" by Easter Sunday, but most of the country remained at a standstill and churches took celebrations online to halt the spread of the virus that has killed more than 22 000 people in the US.

Trump has cast the decision on when to ease the lockdown as the biggest of his presidency as he faces competing pressures from public health experts and businesses along with some conservative allies who want a swift return to normality.

Spain showing hope, as some sectors of economy set to restart

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has slowed in some of the worst-hit countries, with Spain readying on Monday to reopen parts of its economy as governments grapple with a once-in-a-century recession, AFP reports.

Italy, France and the US have all seen a drop in Covid-19 deaths - the entire European nation most afflicted - reporting its lowest toll in more than three weeks.

Some factory and construction workers in Spain were set to return to work on Monday, with police to hand out face masks at metro and train stations.

The fortnight of "economic hibernation" is about to be lifted, drawing criticism from some regional leaders and unions, but the rest of the lockdown restrictions in the nation of around 47 million people will remain in place.

Meanwhile there were also worrying signs the virus could be taking hold in new, and vulnerable, parts of the world.

Spain's death toll has fallen in recent days, but as a small bump in deaths was reported on Sunday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned that the locked-down country was "far from victory".

Malaysian hospitals to use robot doctor

Malaysian scientists have created a barrel-shaped robot on wheels that they hope will make the rounds on hospital wards to check on coronavirus patients, reducing health workers' risk of infection, AFP reports

"Medibot" is a 1.5 metre tall white robot, equipped with a camera and screen via which patients can communicate remotely with medics.

The invention, built by scientists at the International Islamic University Malaysia, is also fitted with a device to check patients' temperatures remotely.

It is aimed at helping nurses and doctors working on the wards with social distancing, Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, a member of the team behind the invention, said.

It cost about 15 000 ringgit ($3 500) to develop, and the university plans to trial it soon in their own private hospital, which does not treat virus patients, said Zulkifli.

If that proves a success, the scientists hope it can be used in government hospitals where people with Covid-19 are sent.

Malaysia has reported 4 683 coronavirus cases, including 76 deaths.


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