Gatherings banned, travel restricted as coronavirus cases grow worldwide

1 / 6
Flight crew from Korean Airlines, wear face masks to protect against the spread of the COVID-19, coronavirus, as they arrive at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California on February 29, 2020. (AFP)
2 / 6
Pedestrians wearing face masks cross a square in western Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP)
3 / 6
South Korean soldiers wearing protective gear move to spray disinfectant as part of preventive measures against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at Dongdaegu railway station in Daegu on February 29, 2020. (AFP)
4 / 6
Kathy Lofy (L), Seattle Health Officer, Washington State Department of Health, David Knoepfler (C), Chief Medical Officer Overlake Medical Center and Ettore Palazzo of Evergreen Health listen to speakers following the death of a a King County, Washington resident due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) during a press conference in Seattle, Washington on February 29, 2020. (AFP)
5 / 6
A woman disinfects to prevent new coronavirus infections at a department store in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo taken on February 28, 2020. (REUTERS)
6 / 6
Medical members wearing protective gear take samples from a driver with suspected symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a "drive-through" virus test facility in Goyang, north of Seoul, on February 29, 2020. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 01 March 2020

Gatherings banned, travel restricted as coronavirus cases grow worldwide

  • The majority of infections in other Gulf countries have been linked to visits to Iran or involve people who have come into contact with people who had been there

WASHINGTON: Leaders in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas rolled out bans on big gatherings, and stricter travel restrictions as cases of the new coronavirus spread around the world.
The United States on Saturday reported its first death from the disease, a Washington state man in his 50s. Two of the state’s three cases have links to a nursing home, state officials said, where dozens of residents have symptoms of the disease.
US President Donald Trump and top officials said in a White House press briefing that travelers from South Korea and Italy would be subject to additional screening, and warned Americans against traveling to coronavirus-affected regions in both countries.
US Vice President Mike Pence said a ban on travelers from Iran entering the country would be expanded to include any foreign nationals who have visited Iran in the last 14 days. The United States may also restrict travel on its southern border with Mexico, officials said.
However they encouraged Americans to travel around the country, including to states where some of the country’s more than 60 cases of the disease have been recorded.
The outbreak is disrupting demand for flights and many airlines have suspended or modified services in response. After Saturday’s press conference, the White House held a call with airlines to discuss new travel restrictions.

NEW CASES

 

Armenia reported its first coronavirus infection on Sunday, in a citizen returning from neighbouring Iran, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a post on Facebook.


The 29-year-old, who arrived in the former Soviet nation on Friday, went to a doctor because he was not feeling well, the prime minister added.
“He is now in good condition,” Pashinyan said, adding that authorities planned to isolate those had been in contact with him.
Armenia closed its border with Iran for two weeks and suspended air traffic a week ago.
Ecuador on Saturday reported its first case, in a woman who had traveled from Madrid, while Mexico reported four cases, all in people who had visited Italy.
Brazilian officials confirmed that country’s second case, a patient in São Paulo who recently visited Italy.
As governments worldwide stepped up efforts to halt the spread of the virus, France announced a temporary ban on public gatherings with more than 5,000 people in confined spaces. It reported 16 new cases for a total of 73, and canceled a half-marathon of 40,000 runners scheduled for Sunday.
Switzerland said it is banning events expected to draw more than 1,000 people.
More than 700 tourists remain quarantined at a hotel in the Canary Islands, after several Italian guests there tested positive for coronavirus.
Schools and universities in Italy, which is experiencing Europe’s worst outbreak of the disease, will stay closed for a second consecutive week in three northern regions. The country has reported some 900 cases and 21 deaths.
Analysts have warned that the outbreak looks set to shunt Italy’s fragile economy into its fourth recession in 12 years, with many businesses in the wealthy north close to a standstill and hotels reporting a wave of cancelations.

FOCUS ON IRAN
Iraq reported five new cases of the disease, bringing its total to 13, and Qatar reported its first Saturday, leaving Saudi Arabia as the only Gulf state not to have signaled any coronavirus cases.
The majority of infections in other Gulf countries have been linked to visits to Iran or involve people who have come into contact with people who had been there.
Tehran has ordered schools shut until Tuesday and extended the closure of universities and a ban on concerts and sports events for a week. Authorities have also banned visits to hospitals and nursing homes as the country’s case load hit nearly 600.
One Iranian lawmaker, elected in Feb. 21 polls, has died from the disease along with more than 40 other Iranians, and several high-ranking officials have tested positive for the virus.
Azerbaijan said on Saturday it had closed its border with Iran for two weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Two Azerbaijanis who traveled to Iran have tested positive for the disease and quarantined.
Mainland China reported 573 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Feb. 29, up from 427 on the previous day, the country’s health authority said. The number of deaths stood at 35, down from 47 on the previous day, and bringing the total death toll in mainland China to 2,870.
The epidemic, which began in China, has killed almost 3,000 people worldwide, the ministry said.
 
78-year-old is Australia's first coronavirus fatality

SYDNEY: A 78-year-old man evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan died at a Perth hospital Sunday, becoming Australia’s first fatality from the disease, officials said.
His 79-year-old wife was also infected with the disease during the cruise and remains in a Perth hospital, a spokeswoman for the Western Australian state health department told AFP.
The couple were among about 160 Australians evacuated from the Diamond Princess last month and they tested positive for the coronavirus during their flight home.
They were immediately transferred to isolation units in the Perth hospital on February 21 while the rest of the evacuees were quarantined in a former miners’ camp near the northern city of Darwin.
Andrew Robertson, Western Australia’s chief medical officer, said the couple initially seemed to have only a mild version of the illness, but that the man’s condition subsequently deteriorated.
He insisted both had been isolated early and that their cases posed “no risk to the general community or (medical) staff.”
Earlier Sunday, health authorities in New South Wales state confirmed a 26th case of coronavirus in Australia after a man in his 40s who had traveled from Iran was diagnosed with the disease.
He was the second Australian infected in Iran. All other cases of the disease in Australia other than the Perth couple involved people who had come from China’s Hubei province, where the virus was first reported.
 

 


Protests in US put racial discrimination in Canada under scrutiny

Updated 47 min 10 sec ago

Protests in US put racial discrimination in Canada under scrutiny

  • Discrimination against Canadian blacks and Arabs ranges from higher unemployment to hate crimes
  • Trudeau’s reputation as a diversity champion was punctured last year by multiple images of him in black makeup

DUBAI: The protests across the US over the death of George Floyd while in police custody have prompted its northern neighbor with a nicer image to acknowledge discrimination within its own borders. Only time will tell, though, whether Canada’s next step will be honest self-searching and concrete action to defend its reputation — especially among Arabs and Muslims — as a fair and tolerant society.

So far, what Canada has mainly shown is that a history of moral posturing greatly diminishes a politician’s ability to provide credible leadership on the problem of anti-black racism. Otherwise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not have reacted the way he did during a news conference in Ottawa when asked to comment on US President Donald Trump’s call to use military action as violence and looting eclipsed protests over Floyd’s death.

The former drama teacher paused for 21 seconds, opening his mouth a few times to speak. The pregnant pause caused many to wonder whether Trudeau was making a deliberate point with his silence, fearful of taking on Trump, or he was literally at a loss for words, perhaps recalling his own blackface scandals.

On Friday, Trudeau made a dramatic appearance at a protest in Ottawa (pictured above), where he joined the crowd in kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds — which is how long a Minneapolis police officer held down Floyd with his knee on his neck before he died — clapped to chants of “Black lives matter” and collected a T-shirt emblazoned with the same slogan on the front.

Such gestures are perhaps only to be expected of a white politician whose carefully crafted image as a champion of inclusivity and diversity was punctured last year by the appearance of multiple images of him in black makeup, laughing, making faces and sticking his tongue out.

The tradition of brownface and blackface — white people painting their faces darker — was common in North America until it came to be viewed by the turn of the 21st century as a racist caricature. However, systemic inequalities that plague Canada’s black and indigenous communities have proved far more resistant to change.

Last weekend in Toronto, protesters held a rally over the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a black woman who fell to her death last week while police were in her apartment, an incident that is being probed by the province’s Special Investigations Unit.

People who were identified as family and friends of Regis Korchinski-Paquet (no names provided) lead protesters as they march to highlight the deaths in the U.S. of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and of Toronto's Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who died after falling from an apartment building while police officers were present, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada May 30, 2020. (Reuters)

A CBC News investigation of fatal encounters with police found that black people made up 36.5 percent of the deaths involving Toronto police from 2000-2017, while accounting for only 8.3 percent of the city’s population.

Canada is also no stranger to prejudice against Arabs and Muslims. Most recently, some cities’ decision to suspend their noise bylaws during Ramadan to permit mosques to broadcast the sunset call to prayer sparked a backlash, drawing some racist rants on Twitter. 

In 2017, university student Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six Muslims in a Quebec City mosque, in what Trudeau called “a despicable act of terror.”

In 2017, university student Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six Muslims in a Quebec City mosque. (Facebook)
Montreal mayor Denis Coderre (L-R), Quebec City mayor Regis Labeaume, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pay their respects during a funeral ceremony for three of the victims of the deadly shooting at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, in Montreal, Quebec on February 2, 2017. (AFP/File Photo)

That year there was a spike in hate crimes reported by police, a 10-year high of 2,073 criminal incidents, according to Statistics Canada.

While the most recent stats show a slight decrease in 2018 to 1,798 incidents, the number was still the second highest of that period.

Of those hate crimes, 44 percent were motivated by race while 36 percent were based on religion.

Then there is a less visible form of systemic discrimination, such as the issue of unemployment among Arabs, Canada’s fastest-growing immigrant population.

ISNA Canada building. (Supplied)

“A lot of people here think that Canada isn’t racist,” Faith Olanipekun, an organizer of a Canadian protest in support of Black Lives Matter, told the CBC, the national public broadcaster, this week.

“So it’s important for us to come out, voice our concerns and let people know that we are suffering in Canada just as much as people in the US are suffering.”

A report last year by the Canadian Arab Institute, a non-partisan research and policy group, showed that based on its analysis of the country’s last census in 2016, the unemployment rate among Arabs was 13.5 percent, higher than the total visible minority population at 9.2 percent.

“That’s more than double the national average, so this is based on 2016 data, very important to note, because with COVID-19 it means it’s going to get much worse,” Shireen Salti, the institute’s interim executive director, told Arab News. 

“We know there are employment barriers. We’re looking into why … Is there discrimination in the labor market, on university campuses etc.? There are some preliminary results from our research that show this, and we want to dive deeper to better understand.”

IN NUMBERS

ARAB CANADIANS

- 947,820 people in Canada reported having Arab ethnic origin.

- 90% reside in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta provinces.

- Highest numbers: Lebanese, Moroccan, Egyptian.

- Over 60% are first generation.

- Over 60% have post-secondary education.

Source: Canadian Arab Institute, based on country’s last census in 2016.

Despite being a highly educated community, she said figures show Arabs’ average annual income is about $33,000, below the national average of $47,000.

“There’s a lot of work that we still need to do to ensure the integration of Arabs in Canada,” said Salti, who was born in Palestine and moved to Canada with her family in 2009.

“There’s a lot of government support in place for newcomers and immigrants, but we need to move beyond that and better understand how to cater to various communities with various inequities.”

While standing in solidarity with black Americans, Salti said the US situation has opened up a window for Canadians to talk about all forms of discrimination.

A man walks past Vancouver's Chinese Cultural Centre, which was targeted with vandalism during the Covid-19 pandemic, prompting police to erect mobile surveillance cameras, on May 21, 2020 in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AFP)

“It’s important to take a moment to pause and listen to the important messages that are being shared right now,” she added.

“We need to be anti-racist in a society where we have multiple communities, and diverse communities, and multiculturalism is literally at the heart of what we do here in Canada.”

Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, who was Canada’s prime minister for more than 15 years, had the vision to make the country the first in the world to adopt an official policy of multiculturalism in 1971, later enshrined in law.

This allowed its citizens to preserve their own cultural heritage while being protected from discrimination.

In this file photo Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill to attend a sitting of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, May 20, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. (AFP/File Photo)

Justin has had a harder time convincing people that he walks his talk as Canada’s woke leader. He got points for introducing the first gender-balanced Cabinet in the country’s history in 2015, which was also ethnically diverse.

He offered apologies to Canada’s aboriginals for their abuse dating back more than a century, and he welcomed Syrian refugees at the airport with open arms.

Then, while running for re-election last year, two “blackface” photos and a video raised troubling questions about the character of a politician who rose to high office on a platform of social justice, gender equality and indigenous and minority rights.

At the June 2 news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau said he had "spoken many times about how deeply I regret my actions hurt many, many people," before going on to state: “There’s systemic discrimination in Canada, which means our systems treat Canadians of color, Canadians who are racialized, differently than they do others.”

Protesters march to highlight the deaths in the U.S. of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and of Toronto's Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who died after falling from an apartment building while police officers were present, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada May 30, 2020. (Reuters)

Not everyone was impressed. Jagmeet Singh, the outspoken leader of Canada’s NDP Party, said Trudeau’s government could immediately take actions that “go beyond the pretty words of a prime minister who says that he cares.”

Trudeau’s own cabinet minister, Ahmed Hussen, a Somali Canadian, was more specific: He lamented that black Canadians were disproportionately followed in stores by shop owners fearing theft, while black drivers had every reason to be anxious when they are pulled over by a police officer.

Racism is “a lived reality for black Canadians,” Hussen said, as he urged other Canadians to “step up” and “raise your voices and ensure that real inclusion accompanies the diversity of our country.”

The mood in Canada’s black, indigenous and immigrant communities was perhaps summed up best by Salti, of the Canadian Arab Institute, thus: “Now more than ever, we hope that all our political leaders and elected officials will do more than simply pay lip service, and instead act and invest in strategies that promote an inclusive, integrated and fully respectful society for all Canadians.”