Virus-hit British cruise ship docks in Cuba

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The British cruise ship MS Braemar docked, after it was stranded for more than a week in the Caribbean due to several confirmed cases of COVID-19, in the Port of Mariel, Cuba. (Reuters)
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The British cruise ship MS Braemar docked, after it was stranded for more than a week in the Caribbean due to several confirmed cases of COVID-19, in the Port of Mariel, Cuba. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 March 2020

Virus-hit British cruise ship docks in Cuba

  • The MS Braemar has more than 1,000 people aboard including five confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 50 people in isolation
  • The ship operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and carrying 682 passengers and 381 crew docked at 7:00 am (1100 GMT) in the Port of Mariel

MARIEL, Cuba: A British cruise ship that was turned away from Barbados and the Bahamas over coronavirus infections docked in Cuba on Wednesday.
The MS Braemar has more than 1,000 people aboard including five confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 50 people in isolation due to showing flu-like symptoms.
The ship operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and carrying 682 passengers and 381 crew docked at 7:00 am (1100 GMT) in the Mariel industrial port 45 kilometers (30 miles) west of the capital Havana, AFP reporters at the scene said.
Cuba’s government had agreed to allow the ship to dock for “humanitarian reasons.”
“We are very grateful to the Cuban government for swiftly enabling this operation and for their close co-operation to make sure it could be successful,” said British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab.
After disembarking, the passengers and crew will be taken to Havana’s Jose Marti international airport before they are transported to Britain in four planes.
“We’ve applied all the measures for a secure, hospitable and rapid transfer of the ship’s passengers and crew,” foreign ministry head of press, Juan Antonio Fernandez said on Tuesday.
According to the Fred Olsen Internet page, those that have contracted the virus and those displaying flu-like symptoms, alongside their families, will be repatriated on a separate flight with “medical professionals available.”
On arrival they will be obliged to “self-isolate for 14 days.”
“Any guests who are considered not to be well enough to fly will be offered support and medical treatment in Cuba,” the UK-based but Norwegian-owned company added.
Cuba has recorded just seven coronavirus cases but unlike much of the rest of Latin America has so far kept its borders open.
The Caribbean island nation is largely reliant on tourism revenue.


Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

Updated 15 August 2020

Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

  • Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio is still endemic
  • Since Jan., Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health officials on Saturday launched a seven-day vaccination campaign against polio as part of efforts aimed at eliminating the crippling disease amid a steady decline in fatalities and infections from the coronavirus, which had recently overwhelmed the country’s fragile health system.
The anti-polio campaign, which began amid tight security, aims to vaccinate as many as 34 million children across Pakistan, including former Taliban strongholds bordering Afghanistan, a government statement said.
Medical workers participating in the drive against polio were seen adhering to social distancing regulations as they wore face masks and gloves while going house-to-house to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases.
“I am hopeful that parents will continue to realize the importance of vaccinating their children during this campaign,” said Faisal Sultan, an adviser to the prime minister on health issues.
According to Rana Safdar, who heads the government’s polio program, similar campaigns against polio will be launched in October, November and December.
Earlier Saturday, Pakistan’s military said Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist, praised Islamabad’s success in the fight against coronavirus in a telephone call to the country’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. It said Gates also discussed the resumption of the drive against polio.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio — a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the polio virus — is still endemic. The nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has helped Pakistan and other places worldwide fight the disease.
Pakistan had hoped to eliminate the disease by 2018, when only 12 cases were reported. But there was a surge in new cases the following year. Since January, Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country, including the northwestern region bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistani Taliban and other militants regularly stage attacks on polio teams and security forces escorting them because they claim the anti-polio drive is part of an alleged Western conspiracy to sterilize children or collect intelligence. Attacks on polio teams increased after it was revealed that a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign was used as a ruse by the CIA in the hunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in 2011 in Pakistan.
Pakistan halted the drive against polio in March and resumed it last month amid a decline in infections and fatalities from COVID-19.
On Saturday, Pakistan reported only 9 new deaths from the new virus in the past 24 hours, increasing the country’s total of COVID-19 deaths to 6,162. So far, Pakistan has reported 288,047 cases and officials say about 93% of the patients recovered since February, when the country reported its first confirmed case.