China coronavirus death toll rises to 56, total cases near 2,000

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Medical staff members wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the city, work at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on January 25, 2020. (AFP)
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Pictures uploaded to social media on January 25, 2020 by the Central Hospital of Wuhan show medical staff attending to patients, in Wuhan, China. (Reuters)
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Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus as they arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport, California, on January 22, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 26 January 2020

China coronavirus death toll rises to 56, total cases near 2,000

  • The country’s most important celebration has been all-but canceled for people in a dozen cities who have been ordered to hunker down
  • China has launched a massive quarantine effort across much of Hubei province, affecting more than 40 million people

WUHAN, China: The death toll from a virus in China has risen to 56 and the number of people infected across the country is nearing 2,000, authorities said Sunday.
Fifteen more people have died and at least 688 new cases of the coronavirus have now been confirmed, according to the National Health Commission.
Among the new deaths, 13 were in Hubei, the province at the heart of the outbreak, while Shanghai reported its first death.
At least 52 people have now died in total in Hubei, two in central Henan province, one in Heilongjiang in the northeast and one in Hebei in the north.
Hubei’s health authorities separately reported 323 new confirmed cases of the virus, which first emerged in the provincial capital, Wuhan, in late December.
Chinese authorities have so far reported 1,975 cases nationwide.
President Xi Jinping warned Saturday that China faced a “grave situation” as authorities raced to contain a respiratory illness that has caused the widespread abandonment of Lunar New Year celebrations nationwide and overwhelmed health facilities in Hubei.
The contagion remained centered on the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan, which accounted for seven of the new deaths and 46 of the new confirmed cases, said the Hubei Health Commission.
Wuhan and more than a dozen other cities in the province have been locked down in a rapidly expanding quarantine effort marked by transport shutdowns and other restrictions on movement.
The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
It also has struck at possibly the worst time for China, when hundreds of millions of people are traveling across the country or overseas to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s most important festival.
Hundreds of military doctors have been sent to Hubei and authorities are rushing to build a pair of field hospitals to deal with the crisis as patients swamp local medical facilities.
The virus has spread nationwide in China and cases have been reported in several other countries as far away as the United States, France and Australia.
 


Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 31 min 33 sec ago

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”