Brazil now second in virus deaths, as US states see rising cases

A COVID-19 patient prepares to be transfered by ambulance boat to a hospital in Breves city, Para state, after been hospitalized for five days in Melgaco, southwest of Marajo Island, in Brazil on June 10, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 13 June 2020

Brazil now second in virus deaths, as US states see rising cases

  • Brazil’s health ministry recorded 909 deaths in the past 24 hours
  • Latin America has recorded more than 1.5 million infections and 76,000 deaths

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil on Friday claimed the unenviable position of having the second-highest coronavirus death toll worldwide behind the United States, where several states have posted record daily case totals, signaling the crisis is far from over.
US and European stocks ended the week on an upswing after a rout sparked by the US data and fresh evidence of the economic damage caused by virus-related lockdowns, with British GDP shrinking by a record 20.4 percent in April.
Meanwhile, in several European countries, the focus shifted to the courts, and who might eventually be pinned with the blame for the global financial and health crisis.
Brazil’s health ministry recorded 909 deaths in the past 24 hours, putting the total at 41,828 — meaning the country of 212 million people has now surpassed Britain’s death toll.
Experts warn the actual number of cases in Latin America’s biggest economy could be many times higher than the confirmed figure of 828,810.
“Some areas are at a critical stage” in Brazil, with intensive care unit occupancy levels of more than 90 percent, World Health Organization emergencies director Mike Ryan told journalists in Geneva.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who threatened last week to quit the WHO over “ideological bias,” has dismissed the virus as a “little flu,” and berated state officials for imposing lockdowns.
Latin America is the latest epicenter in the world’s battle with the novel coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year.
The region has recorded more than 1.5 million infections and 76,000 deaths, with no signs the virus is slowing.
In the US, which has confirmed the most COVID-19 deaths — over 114,000 — more than a dozen states, including two of the most populous, Texas and Florida, reported their highest-ever daily case totals this week.
“It’s important that we remember that this situation is unprecedented. And that the pandemic has not ended,” Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a media briefing on Friday.
Nevertheless, US President Donald Trump and many local officials remain determined to get the world’s biggest economy back on track.
The virus and resulting lockdowns have caused a spike in US unemployment — 44.2 million people have filed claims for jobless benefits since mid-March.
Worldwide, the pandemic has killed more than 425,000 people and infected more than 7.6 million.

In Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, prosecutors questioned Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte over his government’s initial response.
In the country’s northern Lombardy region, an investigation has been launched into why a quarantined “red zone” was not enforced around two towns sooner.
And in Bergamo province, 50 victims’ family members filed complaints this week over how the crisis was handled.
“All investigations are welcome. The citizens have the right to know and we have the right to reply,” Conte said this week.
Elsewhere, British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair launched legal action against the British government over a “flawed” 14-day coronavirus quarantine system introduced this week.

Europe is pushing ahead with its exit from lockdown, with a number of countries preparing to reopen borders on a limited basis on Monday after the EU Commission urged a relaxation of restrictions.
France said it would gradually reopen its borders to non-Schengen countries from July 1.
Greece said it would welcome tourists again, though Britons remain barred — and passengers from Italy, Spain and the Netherlands must undergo tests on arrival.
Germany said it would end land border checks on Monday.
And Italy said it would allow amateur contact sports — including team sports — from June 25.

Yet world health officials have warned that the virus is far from contained.
“The fight is not over,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.
In evidence of the continued threat, eleven residential estates in the southern part of the Chinese capital were locked down due to a fresh cluster of coronavirus cases linked to a nearby meat market, officials said Saturday.
Seven cases have so far been linked to Xinfadi meat market, six of them confirmed on Saturday, officials added. Nine nearby schools and kindergartens have been closed.
China has largely brought domestic infections under control, and the majority of cases in recent months have been among overseas nationals returning home.
In India, experts are warning the worst is far from over.
Deaths from coronavirus in New Delhi are almost twice as high as official figures show, a city leader said.


Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”