…30 million pushed into poverty- UN

….Global infection surpasses 1.2m

By Henry Ojelu with agency report

Africa could become the next epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned. The warning is coming as the global coronavirus infection hit 1.231,438 on Friday with 150,836 deaths and 564,718 recoveries.

UN officials also say it is likely the pandemic will kill at least 300,000 people in Africa and push nearly 30 million into poverty.

The past week in Africa has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

There have been almost 1,000 deaths and almost 19,000 infections across Africa, so far much lower rates than in parts of Europe and the US.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa – which warned 300,000 could die – called for a $100bn (£80bn) safety net for the continent, including halting external debt payments.

The WHO says the virus appears to be spreading away from African capitals.

It has also highlighted that the continent lacks ventilators to deal with a pandemic. More than a third of Africa’s population lacks access to adequate water supplies and nearly 60% of urban dwellers live in overcrowded slums – conditions where the virus could thrive.

Italy’s daily death toll rise by 575

Coronavirus deaths in Italy rose rose by 575 on Friday, up from 525 the day before, while the number of new cases declined slightly to 3,493 from a previous 3,786.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 rose to 22,745, the Civil Protection Agency said, the second highest in the world after that of the United States.

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The number of officially confirmed cases climbed to 172,434 the third highest global tally behind those of the US and Spain.

Spain’s daily death toll rises to 585

Spain’s overnight death toll from coronavirus rose to 585, up from 551 on Thursday but still far off figures of over 900 registered during the peak of the outbreak in early April.

It was unclear why the difference in the government’s death toll from Thursday and Friday did not reflect the overnight death rate.

The number of overall coronavirus cases rose to 188,068 on Friday from 182,816 on Thursday, a 2.9 percent increase.

UK’s death toll reaches 14,576, total cases 108,692 

Britain’s death toll from the coronavirus has reached 14,576, up from 13,729 the previous day, the health ministry said.

“341,551 people have been tested of which 108,692 tested positive,” it added.

Dubai extended 24-hour curfew by one week 

Dubai has extended by one week a 24-hour curfew imposed as part of the emirate’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the government’s media office said in a Twitter post.

The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is part, declared night-time curfew on March 26 but the city government expanded it to a 24-hour lockdown for 2 weeks.

So far, 5,825 cases of the highly infectious disease have been detected while 35 people have died.

Turkey cases rise by 4,353 to 78,546, total deaths 1,769

Turkey’s coronavirus cases have risen by 4,353 to 78,546 in the past 24 hours, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca  said.

Fatalities reached 1,769 while a total of 8,631 people have recovered.

Almost half of French aircraft carrier crew test positive

Roughly half of the 2,300-strong crew aboard France’s sole aircraft carrier test positive for the coronavirus, the Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said.

Parly told lawmakers that of the 2,010 test carried out, 1,081 came out as positive. She added that 545 sailors had shown symptoms and 24 were in hospital.

Food prices rocket amid DRC lockdown 

Swarms of black flies cover a festering slab of meat on Patrick Bwira’s stall in Goma’s sprawling Virunga market. Business for the 21-year-old butcher has dried up dramatically as a lockdown imposed in the city due to the coronavirus pandemic has ramped up pressure on the economy and seen food prices rocket.

“It’s very difficult,” said Bwira. “For now, I only just scrape enough money to eat. But no more than that – I can’t afford to do anything else in my life.”

For Bwira, the wholesale price for a small cut of beef has risen by a third, up to 8,000 Congolese francs ($4.66), all but wiping out his meagre daily earnings.

“I can’t go on like this,” he said.

Netherlands cases rise to 30,449 

The Netherlands has reported 1,235 new coronavirus cases, bringing its total number of infections to 30,449, the Dutch Institute for Public Health said.  Meanwhile, the death toll rose by 144 to 3,459.

Qatar reports 560 cases in past 24 hours

Qatar has reported 560 new COVID-19 cases, taking its total number to 4663, with 49 people recovering in one day. No new deaths were reported.

Pakistanis Muslims  defy coronavirus advisory

A lack of consensus between religious leaders and the Pakistani government has seen Friday congregational prayers still being held at some mosques across the country, in defiance of government guidelines on social distancing amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

In the capital, Islamabad, hundreds gathered at the Red Mosque, led by hardline religious leader Abdul Aziz, to offer prayers, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and filling the mosque’s main hall to capacity.

Saudi insists Ramadan night, Eid prayers to be done at home

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, said that Muslim prayers during Ramadan and for the subsequent Eid al-Fitr feast should be performed at home if the coronavirus outbreak continues, Saudi’s Okaz newspaper reported.

“Ramadan’s Taraweeh (evening) prayer can be performed at home if it cannot be performed at mosques due to the preventive measures taken to fight the spread of coronavirus,” he said in response to a question, adding that same applies for Eid prayers, according to the paper.

Myanmar to release 25,000 prisoners

Myanmar will release almost 25,000 prisoners in an amnesty to mark the traditional New Year, the president’s office said on Friday, as the government also grapples with the spread of the coronavirus.

President Win Myint said 24,896 people jailed across the country, including 87 foreigners, would be freed unconditionally “to bring delights to the citizens of Myanmar and taking into consideration humanitarian concerns”

Concerns have been raised about the spread of the virus among prisoners in Myanmar jails.

Pope prays for pregnant women during pandemic

Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for pregnant women as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Speaking to an audience of a few priests and nuns at morning mass in his residence at the Vatican, the pope said “I would like us to pray for women who are expecting a baby”, to give them “courage to carry these children” in a world that “will certainly be a different world”.

The pope has been conducting all his events within the Vatican walls as the pandemic continues to spread around the globe.

Smokers 14 times more likely to contract coronavirus

Smokers are 14 times more likely to contract coronavirus compared with those who do not, the head of a Turkish anti-addiction group told Anadolu Agency.

Professor Mucahit Ozturk, president of anti-addiction group Turkish Green Crescent, on Thursday urged those who smoke to quit to protect themselves from the contagion.

“Using tobacco and tobacco products increases the risk of catching the coronavirus, therefore, avoiding all addictive substances plays an important role in protecting ourselves against the virus,” Ozturk said.

Iran to resume low-risk economic activities amid pandemic crisis

Iranian authorities are concerned that measures to limit public life to contain the virus could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said “low-risk” economic activities will resume from April 11 amid a global coronavirus pandemic in the worst-affected Middle Eastern country.

“Under the supervision of the health ministry, all those low-risk economic activities will resume from Saturday,” Rouhani said in a televised meeting on Sunday, adding that “those activities will resume in the capital, Tehran, from April 18”.

Iran has been struggling to curb the spread of the highly infectious COVID-19 disease, but authorities are also concerned that measures to limit public life to contain the virus could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy.



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