Countries in guarded transition to normalcy amid coronavirus pandemic

Shoppers walk through an open air market in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire on June 4, 2020, as coronavirus lockdown measures are eased. (AFP)
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Updated 05 June 2020

Countries in guarded transition to normalcy amid coronavirus pandemic

DUBAI: The global community continues its return to normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic, with countries further opening up battered economies and resuming activities from business to sport.

In the UK, scientists are running a drugs trial to test if ibuprofen is an effective treatment for hospital patients with COVID-19. The trial, called Liberate, will treat half the patients with ibuprofen on top of their usual care.

Thursday, June 4, 2020 (all times in GMT)

19:10 - Egypt announced 1,152 new cases of COVID-19 and 38 more deaths from the disease on Thursday. 

14:55 - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday warned that coronavirus could further weaken sub-Saharan Africa's ability to adapt to climate change, as measures to contain the pandemic stretch limited resources.

13:20 - Saudi Arabia confirmed on Thursday a $150 million donation to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to help international efforts to fight the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

12:45 - Spain's government says June 22 reopening of land borders is "under study," according to a source, and will be discussed with France and Portugal.

12:42Saudi Arabia announced 32 more deaths from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and 1,975 new cases of the disease on Thursday.

12:40 - Czech prome minister Babis says his government plans to cancel travel restrictions with Austria, Germany, Hungary on Friday.

12:20 - UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres backed the development Thursday of a "people's vaccine" for the new coronavirus that is available to everyone globally.

"A COVID-19 vaccine must be seen as a global public good -- a people's vaccine, which a growing number of world leaders are calling for," Guterres told a virtual vaccine fundraising summit, urging "global solidarity to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access".

11:53 Turkey plans to resume flights with around 40 countries in June and has reached preliminary agreements for reciprocal air travel with 15 countries

11:31 – Tunisians returned to mosques and cafes as the country ended most lockdown restrictions after largely containing the spread of the novel coronavirus for now. READ MORE

11:18 – Malaysia reported 277 coronavirus cases, its biggest daily increase, due to a growing outbreak at a migrant detention center, sparking accusations the government is failing to protect foreign workers.

11:14 – Jordan revised its coronavirus curfew to 12 a.m. until 6 a.m. and will now allow movement between governorates in private vehicles.

11:06 – Dubai-based carrier Emirates is resuming of flights to 29 cities and transits through Dubai.

10:55 Iran announced 3,574 new coronavirus infections, its highest daily count since the outbreak began in February.

10:48 – Kuwait confirmed 562 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infected people to 29,921.

10:29 – The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season will resume on June 20, the CBA said, becoming the country’s first major sports league to return to action after the coronavirus.

10:12 – The governor of Indonesia’s capital said on Thursday that movement restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus would be extended in Jakarta, but June would be a transition period with some rules conditionally eased.

09:58 – Oman reported 778 new coronavirus cases, increasing its caseload 14,316.

09:50Pakistan reported a record single-day spike in coronavirus-related deaths with 82 new fatalities and 4,688 cases that it says resulted from increased testing in the past 24 hours. In India, COVID-19 fatalities have passed 6,000 after registering 260 deaths overnight.

09:02Israel’s parliament told employees to remain home and canceled lawmaker meetings, after a member of the Arab-led Joint List tested positive for coronavirus.

07:36 – Russia reported 8,831 new cases of the novel coronavirus, taking the total number of infections across the country to 441,108. The country’s coronavirus crisis response center said 169 people had died from the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide death toll to 5,384.


US contractor told Lebanese port official of chemicals risk

Updated 19 min 20 sec ago

US contractor told Lebanese port official of chemicals risk

  • Concerns about the ammonium nitrate were known within the Lebanese government before the deadly blast
  • The thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate had been stored in the warehouse for more than six years

WASHINGTON: About four years before the Beirut port explosion that killed dozens of people and injured thousands, a US government contractor expressed concern to a Lebanese port official about unsafe storage there of the volatile chemicals that fueled last week’s devastating blast, American officials said Tuesday.
There is no indication the contractor communicated his concerns to anyone in the US government.
His assessment was noted briefly in a four-page State Department cable first reported by The New York Times.
The cable, labeled sensitive but unclassified, dealt largely with the Lebanese responses to the blast and the origins and disposition of the ammonium nitrate, which ignited to create an enormous explosion. But it also noted that after the Aug. 4 explosion, a person who had advised the Lebanese navy under a US Army contract from 2013 to 2016 told the State Department that he had “conducted a port facility inspection on security measures during which he reported to port officials on the unsafe storage of ammonium nitrate.”
Concerns about the ammonium nitrate were known within the Lebanese government before the deadly blast, officials said.
The contractor, who was not identified by name and is now a State Department employee based in Ukraine, was in Lebanon to provide instruction to members of the Lebanese navy. While there, he made a brief, impromptu inspection of physical security at the facility in 2015 or 2016 at the request of a port official, US officials said. The contractor was not identified.
The contractor, who has a background in port and maritime security, noted weaknesses in security camera coverage and other aspects of port management but was not assessing safety issues, according to the US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of a planned public statement.
While inside the warehouse where ammonium nitrate was stored, the contractor saw problems such as poor ventilation and inadequate physical security, which he noted to the port official accompanying him, the officials said. It is unclear whether the port official reported this concern to his superiors.
The thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate had been stored in the warehouse for more than six years, apparently with the knowledge of top political and security officials. The catastrophic explosion one week ago Tuesday killed at least 171 peoples and plunged Lebanon into a deeper political crisis.
The contractor was working for the US Army’s Security Assistance Training Management Organization, headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He provided instruction to members of the Lebanese armed forces in naval vessel traffic systems and small boat operations. His class was visiting the Beirut port as part of that instruction program when the port official asked him for the inspection, which US officials said lasted about 45 minutes.
The United States has a close security relationship with Lebanon. According to the State Department, the US government has provided Lebanon with more than $1.7 billion in security assistance since 2006. The assistance is designed to support the Lebanese armed forces’ ability to secure the country’s borders, counter internal threats, and defend national territory.
Last September a US Navy ship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, visited Beirut. It was the first time in 36 years an American warship had made a port visit there, according to the US military at the time.