Countries adapt to ‘new normal’ as COVID-19 infects more than 6.7 million

The virus has already infected more than 6.7 million worldwide. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 June 2020

Countries adapt to ‘new normal’ as COVID-19 infects more than 6.7 million

  • In Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Interior has reinstated restrictions in Jeddah after an evaluation of the city’s health situation

DUBAI: Many countries have started easing coronavirus restrictions in a bid to go back to normal life, as global infections reached more than 6.7 million people.

Restaurants, mosques and churches, parks and other public areas have been reopened in the region, including in the UAE which is set to allow 100 percent of companies’ workforce to resume working on site.

In Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Interior has reinstated restrictions in Jeddah after an evaluation of the city’s health situation. It will last for 15 days.

Saturday, June 6, 2020 (All times in GMT)

16:15 - Global cases of the novel coronavirus topped 7 million on Saturday, as case numbers surge in Brazil and India, according to a Reuters tally.

14:00 - The United Kingdom's death toll from confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen by 204 to 40,465 as of 1600 GMT on June 5, according to government data published on Saturday.

12:39 - Saudi Arabia announced 34 more deaths from the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and 3,121 new cases of the disease on Saturday.

10:08 – Afghanistan is running out of hospital beds as suspected cases of coronavirus surge, officials said. READ THE STORY

10:08 - 2,269 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Iran, raising total infections to 169,425 with 8,209 deaths.

09:59 – Oman has registered 930 new coronavirus cases.

09:13Malaysia has reports 38 new coronavirus cases and 8,304 in total with one death.

09:00 – Kuwait has recorded 1,005 new coronavirus recoveries, raising total to 19,282.

08:48Indonesia has confirmed 993 new coronavirus infections, bringing total to 30,514 with 1,801 fatalities.

08:21 – The Philippines’ health ministry reported seven new coronavirus deaths and 714 additional infections.

Customers make their transactions while maintaining social distancing in a pharmacy in Mandaluyong City of the Philippines on June 3, 2020. (Reuters)

08:14Pakistan reported 97 more coronavirus deaths, the highest 24-hour increase to its fatalities, as authorities urged volunteers to motivate people to adhere to social distancing regulations to contain the spread of the virus.

07:57Russia has reported 8,855 new coronavirus cases and 197 deaths in the past 24 hours.

04:52 India surpassed Italy as the sixth worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic after another biggest single-day spike in confirmed infections.

04:50 – Thailand has reported two new cases COVID-19.

03:20 – Germany has reported 507 new cases of coronavirus, bringing total to 183,678. The death toll in the country stood at 8,646.

01:59 – President Jair Bolsonaro threatened to pull Brazil from WHO over ‘ideological bias’.

Friday, June 5, 2020 (All times in GMT)

22:56 – Sudan has reported 151 new COVID-19 infections, and 14 fatalities. The country’s total coronavirus cases stood at 5,865, with 347 deaths.

22:40 – 930 new infections have been reported in Turkey, with 18 new deaths.

22:02 – Yemen has confirmed 16 new cases of the coronavirus, and six new deaths in the government-controlled areas.

22:02 – Egypt has reported 1,348 new cases of the virus, with 40 new fatalities.

18:47 – The UAE has confirmed 624 new cases of coronavirus, taking total to 37,642 infections. The number of deaths in the country stood at 274.

18:21 – Lebanon has reported six new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 1,312.

17:49 – Jordan has confirmed 19 new COVID-19 cases.

Political novices drawn to rally against Netanyahu

Updated 13 August 2020

Political novices drawn to rally against Netanyahu

  • The boisterous rallies have brought out a new breed of first-time protesters — young, middle-class Israelis

JERUSALEM: In a summer of protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the accusations of corruption and calls for him to resign could be accompanied by another familiar refrain: “I’ve never done this before.”

The boisterous rallies have brought out a new breed of first-time protesters — young, middle-class Israelis who have little history of political activity but feel that Netanyahu’s scandal-plagued rule and his handling of the coronavirus crisis have robbed them of their futures. It is a phenomenon that could have deep implications for the country’s leaders.

“It’s not only about the COVID-19 and the government’s handling of the situation,” said Shachar Oren, a 25-year-old protester. “It’s also about the people that cannot afford to eat and cannot afford to live. I am one of those people.”

Oren is among the thousands of people who gather outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem several times a week, calling on the longtime leader to resign. The young demonstrators have delivered a boost of momentum to a movement of older, more established protesters who have been saying Netanyahu should step down when he is on trial for corruption charges.

The loose-knit movements have joined forces to portray Netanyahu as an out-of-touch leader, with the country’s most bloated government in history and seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax benefits for himself at a time when the coronavirus outbreak is raging and unemployment has soared to over 20 percent.

Many of the young protesters have lost their jobs or seen their career prospects jeopardized. They have given the protests a carnival-like atmosphere, pounding on drums and dancing in the streets in colorful costumes while chanting vitriolic slogans against the prime minister.

Netanyahu has tried to dismiss the protesters as “leftists” or “anarchists.” Erel Segal, a commentator close to the prime minister, has called the gatherings “a Woodstock of hatred.”

Despite such claims, there are no signs that any opposition parties are organizing the gatherings. Politicians have been noticeably absent from most of the protests.

Israel has a long tradition of political protest, be it peace activists, West Bank settlers or ultra-Orthodox Jews. The new wave of protesters seems to be characterized by a broader, mainstream appeal.

“The partisan issue is totally missing, and the party organizations are not present,” said Tamar Hermann, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank and expert on protest movements.

Hermann said the protesters resemble many other protest movements around the world. “They are mostly middle class,” she said. “And they were kicked out of work.”

Oren, for instance, said he used to survive on a modest salary as a software analyst thanks to training he received in an Israeli military high-tech unit. Then he moved into tutoring — offering lessons in English, computers and chess to schoolchildren.

He said things were not easy, but he was “too busy surviving” to think about political activity. That changed when the coronavirus crisis began in March.

Oren’s business crashed.

With unemployment soaring, Netanyahu and his rival, Benny Gantz, formed a coalition with 34 Cabinet ministers, the largest government in Israel’s history. Beyond the generous salaries, these ministers, many with vague titles, enjoy perks like drivers, security guards and office space, and can hand out jobs to cronies.

A Netanyahu ally dismissed reports that people were having trouble feeding their families as “BS.”

Oren said he became “furious,” and about two months ago, he went to his first protest against the nation’s leaders. “They are there because we gave them the power and want them to help us. And they’re not doing anything,” he explained.

Oren now treks to Jerusalem from his home in the city of Kfar Saba in central Israel, about an hour away, three times a week. He is easily recognizable with his poster that says “House of Corruption,” depicting Netanyahu in a pose similar to Kevin Spacey’s nefarious “House of Cards” character, Frank Underwood.

Oren says he does not belong to any political party or any of the movements organizing the rallies, but that the diverse group of activists all want similar things. “No to the corruption, the poverty, the detachment. We’re just saying enough,” he said.

University student Stav Piltz went through a similar evolution. Living in downtown Jerusalem near Netanyahu’s residence, she quickly noticed the demonstrations in her neighborhood when they began several months ago. She talked to protesters as well as local residents at the cafe where she waitressed before she was laid off.

She said she noticed a common theme. “They feel that something is very critical now in the political climate and no one is listening to the citizens and the pain we are experiencing,” she said.

But Piltz said the spark that drew her to protest was a national strike last month by the country’s social workers.

Piltz, herself a social work student, said she has a history of social activism but has never been involved with party politics. The collection of women, coming from different religious, political, ethnic and racial backgrounds, was a powerful sight. “This is where I saw how much power we have when we are together,” she said.

The demonstrations, which have gained strength in recent weeks, are the largest sustained wave of public protests since hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in 2011 to draw attention to the country’s high cost of living. While those protests ultimately fizzled, two of their leaders entered parliament, and one, Itzik Shmuli, is now the country’s welfare minister.

Both Piltz and Oren said they are determined to keep up their activities in the long term.

“People have nothing to lose. So it’s very easy to go demonstrate these days, especially if you’re young and you see no future here,” Piltz said.

Hermann, the political analyst, said too many Israeli youths have been “politically ignorant” and that it is a “very good sign” for the country’s democracy that people are becoming involved.

The leaders, however, may not be so pleased to face a politically aware young generation.

“They are much more difficult to be controlled while they gain political views and confidence,” she said.