Covid-19 wrap | Australia gets 10 million test kits, newborns named after coronavirus, and UK honours frontline healthcare workers

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Australia nets 10 million Chinese virus tests despite diplomatic row

An Australian mining magnate on Wednesday unveiled a deal to import 10 million coronavirus tests from China to Australia, despite a bitter diplomatic spat between the two countries.

Andrew Forrest, head of mining giant Fortescue, said he had used contacts to secure an order for the tests with Chinese genomics firm BGI Group at a significantly lower cost than from rival providers, amid fierce competition.

Australia, which has been one of the most successful countries in containing Covid-19, has so far carried out around 500 000 tests in a population of 25 million people.

Delivery of the new tests would dramatically improve the country's track-and-trace programme and help build the kind of monitoring needed to reopen the country's economy, said Health Minister Greg Hunt.

"What that says to Australians is we have the supply lines, we have the health capacity and we have the pathway back (to normality)," he said.

The deal comes with Australia and China at loggerheads over the pandemic.

China's ruling Communist Party has angrily dismissed Australian calls for an independent investigation into the spread of the disease from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Beijing's ambassador Down Under this week threatened a trade boycott if calls for an investigation continued, leading to a public rebuke by Australian authorities.


Covid, Corona and Lockdown: the newborns named after a pandemic

First there was Corona Kumar, then Covid Marie: parents have taken to naming newborns after the coronavirus, apparently unperturbed by the prospect of their children being forever associated with a deadly pandemic.

When Colline Tabesa gave birth to a healthy baby girl in the central Philippine city of Bacolod on 13 April, she and the father John Tupas decided to mark the occasion with a show of gratitude.

"This Covid-19 has caused great suffering around the world," said 23-year-old Tupas, expressing relief after the uneventful delivery.

"I wanted her name to remind us that Covid did not only bring us suffering. Despite all of this, a blessing came to us," he added.

And so, Covid Marie it was.

Weeks earlier, two mothers in south-eastern India had had similar ideas, apparently encouraged by a doctor in the hospital where their babies were delivered.

One was called Corona Kumar and the other Corona Kumari.

"I told them this would help create awareness about the disease and remove the stigma around it," said SF Basha, the doctor.

"To my surprise, they agreed."

Not to be outdone, a migrant-worker couple in India's northeast stranded thousands of kilometres from their home in the desert state of Rajasthan decided to name their child Lockdown.

"We named him Lockdown remembering all the problems we had to face during this tough time," local media reports quoted the father Sanjay Bauri as saying.


Malawi court indefinitely bars virus lockdown

Malawi's High Court on Tuesday extended indefinitely an order barring the government from imposing a 21-day coronavirus lockdown which was announced by President Peter Mutharika earlier this month.

The court had initially placed a temporary block on the stay-at-home order, after a human rights groups filed a petition against the lockdown.

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) argued that the government had failed to announce any measures to cushion the poor and vulnerable from the effects of the lockdown which had been due to start on 19 April.

But in an address to the nation late on Tuesday, Mutharika caved and announced an emergency cash transfer programme targeting 172 000 households with a monthly $50 grant for six months beginning in May.

"Coronavirus is... also an economic problem. It is affecting our businesses and livelihoods," Mutharika warned.

He added that those who deny its existence "must be sent to the mental hospital or to a lunatic asylum".

The initial order blocked the shutdown for seven days, pending a judicial review.

Following that review, High Court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda extended the ban for a further five days.


Nicaragua to introduce preventive measures against virus

Nicaragua announced on Tuesday that it would encourage citizens to practice preventative measures against the coronavirus, including hygiene and social distancing, a major shift for a country that had previously refused to enact such measures.

"We are going to strengthen all the information on hand-washing, social distancing, the use of masks," in line with the campaign in other parts of the world to prevent the spread of Covid-19, vice president Rosario Murillo said during a press conference.

"We are drawing up posters and explaining the measures" that will be implemented in the country.

In addition to the new measures, the country will also begin disinfecting modes of public transportation, bus stops, markets, study and work centres, as well as in homes and neighbourhoods, Murillo said.


Indonesians soak up sun to fight coronavirus

From shirtless soldiers to teens sun-tanning on their parents' driveways, Indonesians are soaking up rays like never before in the hope that plentiful sunshine will ward off coronavirus.

The rush to take up a practice usually associated with Bali-bound foreigners has been driven by unfounded claims on social media that sunlight - and the vitamin D it supplies - can slow or kill the virus.

That hope got a boost last week when a senior US official said new research showed sunlight quickly destroys the virus.

The study has yet to be evaluated independently, but US President Donald Trump spoke about it enthusiastically during a press conference.


Moment of silence for the fallen frontline workers in the UK

People across the United Kingdom have been paying tribute to healthcare workers who have lost their lives to Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Tuesday 22 351 people died in England and Wales in the week ending 17 April, a third of those deaths, in elderly care homes.

Meanwhile, In Europe, both France and Spain have announced how they plan to ease restrictions if they can keep a handle on new infections.

- Al Jazeera

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