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Can Europe’s restaurants survive the coronavirus lockdown? | World news



If there is such a thing as a European way of life, restaurants like Föllerei in Berlin used to give a pretty good flavour of what it would taste like.

In a crammed 40 sq metre (430 sq ft) space tucked away in a side street of scruffy but fashionable Neukölln, the owner, Christiane Föll, has for the last 10 years served up sumptuous Franco-German cuisine, darting between 10 rickety wooden tables night after night to recommend the organic entrecôte, pour another glass of Spätburgunder or share the latest locally sourced gossip.

Since Berlin went into lockdown on 14 March, however, the front door at Föllerei (a play on the German word for gluttony) has remained shut – and it is unclear if it will ever open again.

An overhead view of diners at Föllerei

Diners at Föllerei. The restaurant would struggle to cover costs if it moved tables a safe distance apart. Photograph: Föllerei

As European countries nervously begin to extricate themselves from restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19, shops are beckoning in customers, metro trains are returning to regular service, and even hairdressers are sharpening their scissors.

Only three countries – Austria, the Czech Republic and Italy – have put a tentative date on when restaurants can resume service. As such, almost an entire continent’s gastronomic culture remains in limbo.

“The future looks bleak,” said Föll, who has already had to lay off two of her four employees. If she were to remove one of the tables, the owner and maître d’ calculates, she could just about guarantee a safe distance between diners but would then struggle to cover her running costs.

Valerio Calderoni and his wife, Martina, help to test a possible plexiglass separator at Il Ciak’ in Rome

Valerio Calderoni and his wife, Martina, help to test a possible plexiglass separator at Il Ciak’ in Rome. Photograph: Fabio Frustaci/EPA

“It just feels like personal bad luck,” said the 56-year-old, whose little restaurant managed to break even at the end of last year for the first time in a decade.

Last Wednesday, the German government announced it would help the food industry by cutting VAT from 19% to 7% from 1 July, though Berlin’s chamber of industry and trade fears many restaurants will already have been forced to go into administration by then.

“People don’t just fear for their livelihood – they are increasingly panicked,” said Thomas Lengfelder, the director of Berlin’s association for restaurants and hotels. “The corona restrictions will lead to a wave of bankruptcies like we have never seen before.”

On Tuesday, German economy minister Peter Altmaier conceded his government might be forced to set up a “rescue fund for gastronomy” unless full openings could happen soon.

Chairs and tables outside a closed restaurant in Berlin

‘The corona restrictions will lead to a wave of bankruptcies’: a closed restaurant in Berlin. Photograph: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

In France, the cradle of modern European gastronomy, strict lockdown measures will end on 11 May but the government has yet to say when the country’s 240,000 restaurants and cafés can reopen. French media suggested last week that if the outbreak was under control at the end of the lockdown, they may be allowed to open in mid-June.

The government has promised to publish an “operational guide” outlining how restaurants and other outlets can maintain barrier and social distancing rules.

Roland Héguy, the president of the hotel industry union UMIH, said 2020 would be a “lost year” for members.

“It’s regrettable that we are the only sector that has no outlook for the future opening of our establishments, even when we are already working on practical guides on how to do our job while keeping our staff and customers safe,” Héguy said.

On 20 April, 18 of France’s most celebrated chefs published an open letter in Le Figaro warning that the country’s restaurants were “in danger of dying” and calling on the president, Emmanuel Macron, to allow them to open.

The shuttered Café des 2 Moulins in Montmartre, Paris

The Café des 2 Moulins in Montmartre, Paris. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images

At the time of year when tables and chairs would normally be returning to pavements and terraces outside cafes and bars in Spain, the authorities are exploring how a phased return might work.

This month, the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, said the city council was looking into reducing capacity in restaurants, enlarging outside seating areas and installing screens to separate diners.

Restaurant terraces remain closed at the usually overcrowded Plaza Mayor in central Madrid.

Restaurant terraces remain closed at the usually overcrowded Plaza Mayor in central Madrid. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP via Getty Images

“These measures are designed to allow businesses to reopen as soon as possible – while observing social distancing rules – so that they can make up their losses and the economy can be reactivated,” he told the Spanish TV programme Espejo Público.

In Austria, restaurants will be allowed to reopen from 15 May if they adhere to a set of rules, including a maximum number of four adults per table and a minimum 1m distance between groups. Waiters will be required to wear masks while taking orders and serving dishes.

Diners are advised to book tables in advance, to avoid queues and make it easier to trace possible infection chains further down the line.

Many restaurants across the continent are already improvising to adapt to the new reality. Towards the end of a normal April, the terrace at Capitano Del Popolo, a restaurant in the hilltop town of Orvieto, in Italy’s central Umbria region, would be buzzing with customers enjoying early spring.

Instead, chef Valentina Santanicchio is busy cooking made-to-order meals, packing them in boxes and delivering them to people’s homes on her bicycle.

Stefano Tedesco, one of the owners of the Naturale restaurant, prepares and delivers home made-to-order meals in Rome, Italy

Stefano Tedesco, one of the owners of the Naturale restaurant, prepares and delivers home made-to-order meals in Rome, Italy. Photograph: Cristiano Minichiello/AGF/Rex/Shutterstock

“On the day we found out about the lockdown, I cried and panicked,” she said. “At that point, we understood that the situation was really serious but we also worried about the future. For the first week I was in shock as I tried to understand what it all meant. Then I tried to have a different outlook – do I close and abandon everything, or do I try to move forward in some way?”

Neighbourhood bars and restaurants are the lifeblood of many Italians towns, but their futures are in peril after more than seven weeks in lockdown.

Other restaurant owners in Orvieto, which is heavily dependent on tourism, have also adopted home delivery services, as much to keep themselves occupied as to mitigate the risk to business.

For Santanicchio, home delivery has been a novelty, albeit a successful one. Still, the bigger challenges for Italy’s catering businesses are yet to come. The country is in lockdown until 3 May, after which restrictions will gradually be eased, with bars and restaurants scheduled to open on 1 June. But FIPE, the Italian association for bars and restaurants, warned last week that as many as 50,000 across the country may be forced to close for good.

A man wearing a protective mask walks past a closed Chinese restaurant in Milan

A closed Chinese restaurant in Milan. Up to 50,000 bars and restaurants in Italy could close for good. Photograph: Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA

The businesses are entitled to claim €600 (£520) for each month closed and can apply for subsidised bank loans, repayable after two years. But payment of taxes owed during the lockdown has merely been postponed, and business owners still have to pay rent and bills. Staff have been furloughed but many are yet to receive their unemployment benefit.

“Even though I am lucky to have many customers who live locally, the only certainty I have right now is that I will lose 60% of customers overall,” Santanicchio said.

“People may be afraid to go to a restaurant or won’t have the money to spend. Coronavirus is very much the tip of the iceberg, because underneath there will be a frightening economic crisis.”

How big money measures are helping the economy through coronavirus – video explainer

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WHO reports record global daily coronavirus cases increase: Live | News




  • The World Health Organization reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by 228,102 in 24 hours.

  • Iraqi lawmaker Ghida Kambash has died after contracting the novel coronavirus, parliament announced, its first member to succumb to the virus as its spread ramps up across the country.

  • The first coronavirus case has been confirmed in northwest Syria, aid workers have said.

Here are the latest updates.

Friday, July 10

20:13 GMT – Venezuela oil minister tests positive for COVID-19

Venezuelan oil minister Tareck El Aissami has tested positive for COVID-19, he said on Twitter, a day after the leader of the socialist party, Diosdado Cabello, tested positive for the virus as well.

“A new battle that I will take on, clinging to God and to life,” wrote El Aissami, who is also the country’s economic vice president.

Venezuela has reported 8,010 cases of the novel coronavirus so far, far fewer than other Latin American neighbors like Brazil, but its cases have risen at a brisker pace in recent weeks.

A worker of the state-oil company Pdvsa greets Venezuela's Oil Minister Tarek El Aissami during the arrival of the Iranian tanker ship

Venezuela’s Oil Minister Tarek El Aissami during the arrival of the Iranian tanker ship in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela [File: Miraflores Palace/Reuters]

19:58 GMT – Coronavirus takes greater toll on nonwhite Americans 65 and under

Coronavirus deaths among Americans ages 65 and younger are more common among nonwhites than among whites, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in a publication.

Overall, 34.9 percent of Hispanic patients who died were younger than 65, while 29.5 percent of nonwhites who died were under 65, compared to only 13.2 percent of white, non-Hispanic decedents.

Researchers analyzed 10,647 COVID-19 deaths between February 12 and April 24 from 16 public health departments in 15 states. Most of the deaths were in New York City, New Jersey and Washington state – three areas hit by the pandemic early on.

19:45 GMT – Trump postpones rally, warns China ties ‘severely damaged’ over virus

President Donald Trump was forced to cancel an election rally, further darkening his mood as he lashed out at China over the coronavirus pandemic while visiting one of the worst-hit US states.

As he jetted into Florida for a campaign fundraiser – ignoring health advice about the dangers of large gatherings – Trump warned of frayed ties with the Asian nation where the virus emerged late last year.

“(The) relationship with China has been severely damaged. They could have stopped the plague… They didn’t stop it,” he told reporters on Air Force One.


President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Tulsa [File: Sue Ogrocki/The Associated Press]

19:22 GMT – Colombian capital raises coronavirus alert level after spike

Colombia’s capital Bogota, the South American country’s coronavirus epicenter, will raise its health alert level and impose a “strict quarantine,” the city’s mayor.    

From Monday the city “will begin an orange alert with the intensive care system on red alert,” said mayor Claudia Lopez.

The capital city of eight million people has recorded 42,000 coronavirus cases, amounting to 32 percent of Colombia’s 134,000 infections, and 950 deaths.

19:03 GMT – Kuwait advises against travelling abroad due to coronavirus pandemic

Kuwait advised its citizens and residents against travelling abroad at the moment due to the instability of the coronavirus pandemic, and the spread of the virus despite strict measures applied worldwide, the health ministry announced in a statement on Twitter.

Last month, Kuwait’s communications office said that commercial flights at Kuwait International Airport will resume from Aug 1, after being suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

18:52 GMT – Disney World prepares to reopen as Florida posts another daily surge in COVID-19 cases

Florida confirmed its place as an emerging epicenter of the COVID pandemic in the United States by reporting its second sharpest daily rise in cases, while Walt Disney Co. prepared to reopen its flagship theme park in Orlando to the chagrin of some employees.

Florida recorded 11,433 new coronavirus cases, the state health department said, more evidence that the virus is still spreading largely unchecked throughout parts of the country.

The state experienced the surge after initially avoiding the worst of the outbreak that hit New York and other northeastern US states. 

Disney World Opens On Limited Basis To Pass Holders In Lake Buena Vista

Walt Disney World theme park is scheduled to reopen on Saturday despite a surge in new Covid-19 infections throughout Florida [File: Octavio Jones/AFP]

18:31 GMT – French coronavirus death toll rises above 30,000

France became the sixth country to report a total coronavirus death toll of more than 30,000, with the number of new confirmed cases above 600 for the third day in a row.

The health ministry said in a statement that 25 people had died from coronavirus infection in the past 24 hours, boosting the cumulative total since early March to 30,004.

Friday’s increase compares to an average increase of 15 in the previous seven days. In June, France counted on average 34 new deaths per day, in May 143 and in April 695.

17:51 GMT – Serbia reports record daily virus death toll

Serbia announced a record coronavirus death toll for a single day, as the government hit back at protests over its handling of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said the Balkan state recorded 18 fatalities and 386 new cases over 24 hours in what she described as a “dramatic increase.”

At the same time, Brnabic slammed as “irresponsible” protests held for a third straight day in Belgrade and other cities on Thursday, after demonstrations in the capital on the previous two days had spilled over into violence. 

17:25 GMT – Czech coronavirus cases top 13,000 after recent uptick

The Czech Republic reported 82 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing its total since the start of the pandemic above 13,000, after a recent uptick in infections caused by local outbreaks.

The country of 10.7 million has reported 352 deaths from COVID-19, far fewer than its Western European neighbours. It was one of the first European countries to impose drastic lockdown measures to fight the pandemic in March, but has lifted many restrictions since May.

Since June 18, it has reported at least 100 new cases a day 14 times, most recently on Thursday when the total was 105. The largest spike came on June 28 when 305 new cases were reported.

16:58 GMT – WHO reports record daily increase in global coronavirus cases

The World Health Organization reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by 228,102 in 24 hours.

The biggest increases were from the United States, Brazil, India and South Africa, according to a daily report.

Global coronavirus cases exceeded 12 million on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, marking another milestone in the spread of the disease that has killed more than 555,000 people in seven months.

World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan attends a news conference in Geneva

World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan attends a press conference amid the COVID-19 outbreak [File: Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters]

16:20 GMT – Lebanon records highest single day increase in coronavirus cases

Lebanon has recorded its highest single day increase in new COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row, with 71 cases in 24 hours.

It had confirmed a previous record 66 new infections the day before, some four-and-a-half months after the first case was reported in February.

Firas Abiad, the head of the country’s leading COVID-19 hospital, has warned of a “worrisome” trend that could overwhelm the country’s fragile health sector, which is suffering from funding shortages due to the country’s unprecedented economic crisis.

Al Jazeera’s Timour Azhari in Beirut

Lebanon resume international flights

Two-way scheduled flights resumed at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri Airport on July 1 [Anadolu]

15:56 GMT – Johnson says England may need stricter face mask rules

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said stricter rules on wearing face coverings may be needed and that he would like to see them worn more frequently in shops in England, where – unlike in Scotland – they are optional.

“I do think we need to be stricter in insisting that people wear face coverings in confined places where they are meeting people that they don’t normally meet,” Johnson said in a pre-recorded question-and-answer session with the public.

“So that’s why it’s mandatory already on public transport, and we’re looking at ways of making sure that people really do observe when you do have face coverings in shops for instance where … there is a risk of transmission,” he added.

Boris Johnson

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he delivers a speech [Paul Ellis/Reuters]

15:33 GMT – Iraqi MP dies of COVID-19 as cases jump 600 percent

Iraqi lawmaker Ghida Kambash has died after contracting the novel coronavirus, parliament announced, its first member to succumb to the virus as its spread ramps up across the country.

The 46-year-old was a three-time MP from Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, and helped pass laws on education reform and social welfare. 

After seeing a relatively slow spread in the first five months of 2020, cases spiked 600 percent in June alone, according to the International Rescue Committee.

Hospital built by benefactors in fighting Covid-19 in Sulaymaniyah

Health workers at a hospital in Kelar district of Sulaymaniyah, Iraq [Anadolu]

15:01 GMT – Russian Deputy PM proposes resuming international flights from June 15

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova proposed that Russia resume international flights to and from the country from July 15, two weeks earlier than the scheduled date of August 1 for resuming international air travel.

Golikova said foreigners travelling to Russia would have to have proof of a negative test for COVID-19, taken in the last three days before their arrival, in order to enter the country.

14:35 GMT – Russia registers 18,375 more deaths in May 2020 than previous year

Russia registered 172,914 deaths in May, up by 18,375 or 11.9 percent from the same month the previous year, data from the state statistics service Rosstat showed.

This included 12,452 deaths of people suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, Rosstat data showed. Of these, COVID-19 was registered as the primary cause of death in 7,444 cases. 

An Orthodox Christian attends a service in a church in Moscow

An Orthodox Christian reflected in an icon during a service inside a church in Moscow, Russia [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

14:05 GMT – UK deaths from confirmed COVID-19 cases rise by 48 to 44,650

The United Kingdom’s death toll from confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose to 44,650, up 48 on the previous day, the government said. 

13:50 GMT – China suspends imports of Ecuador shrimps on coronavirus risk

China’s customs authority said it was suspending imports from three shrimp producers in Ecuador after detecting the new coronavirus in recent shipments.

It said samples taken from shipments from Industrial Pesquera Santa Priscila SA, Empacreci SA and Empacadora Del Pacifico Sociedad Anonima Edpacif had produced six positive results. However, tests on the frozen shrimp and inner packaging were negative.

Frozen seafood products made of imported shrimps are seen inside a sealed freezer at a supermarket in Beijing

Frozen seafood products made of imported shrimps inside a sealed freezer at a supermarket following a new outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Beijing [File: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

13:30 GMT – Finland objects to EU council’s recovery plan

Finland expressed reservations to a revised budget proposal by European Council President Charles Michel, and the massive COVID-19 recovery fund plan being debated at a special meeting next week.

Michel presented an update to a proposal for a 750-billion-euro pandemic recovery fund on Friday in the hope of winning over more frugal member states.

However, Michel did not cede ground on the main point of contention: whether aid from the recovery fund should take the form of grants or loans.

Hello, this is Arwa Ibrahim in Doha, taking over from my colleague Farah Najar. 


11:56 GMT – Britain to set out its position on EU vaccine scheme later on Friday 

Britain will set out its position on the European Union coronavirus vaccine scheme later on Friday, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, adding any decision would be based on what is deemed to be in the country’s interests.

11:32 GMT – EU says UK’s refusal to join vaccine scheme not to affect talks with drugmakers

The European Commission said that a possible decision by the United Kingdom not to join an EU scheme to buy potential COVID-19 vaccines up front will not affect ongoing talks the bloc is carrying out with several drugmakers.

On Thursday, British newspaper The Telegraph reported that the UK government had decided not to join the EU scheme because of concerns there could be costly delays in securing the shots .

“The fact that the UK has apparently said they would not join up to whatever contract we are able to negotiate with producers is definitely not something that is going to influence our own negotiations with the producers,” the EU executive’s leading spokesman told a news conference.

10:20 GMT – Norway lifts many European travel curbs, including parts of Sweden

Norway will lift travel restrictions to and from more than 20 European countries from July 15, including France, Germany and Britain as well as some provinces of neighbouring Sweden, the government said.

Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but belongs to the passport-free Schengen travel zone, currently has some of Europe’s strictest limitations on travel due to the pandemic. 

09:48 GMT – WHO advance team on way to China to set up probe into virus origin 

An advance team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has left for China to organise an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, a spokeswoman said.

The two WHO experts, specialists in animal science and epidemiology, will work with Chinese scientists to determine the scope and itinerary of the investigation, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a UN briefing.

“They are gone, they are in the air now, they are the advance party to work out the scope,” she said.

The WHO will have no role in an independent panel, announced on Thursday, to review the global handling of pandemic, Harris said, adding: “From now on it is completely hands off”. 

09:25 GMT – Britain’s coronavirus quarantine rules end for many destinations

Quarantine measures for those travelling to Britain from around 70 countries and overseas territories, including France and Italy, no longer apply from Friday in a boost to the ailing aviation and travel industries hit by COVID-19.

Those arriving from higher risk countries will still have to self-quarantine for 14 days but many popular destinations are now exempt, meaning millions of Britons are able to take summer holidays without having to stay at home when they return.

The boss of Heathrow, Britain’s biggest airport, welcomed the move but said more was needed to facilitate travel from other low-risk countries and areas.

“There are some important long-haul markets that aren’t included, places like Canada and Singapore, which are low-risk, and we’d like to see those being included in the next review,” John Holland-Kaye told Sky News.

“We also need to think about how are we going to connect some of our really important trading partners such as the United States, which are high risk as a nation but some parts of the country are low risk.”

09:12 GMT – New Hong Kong cases stay high for third day

Hong Kong reported 38 new cases, edging down from Thursday’s 42 but broadly in line with a sharp increase that the city has registered over the past three days.

Amid concerns of a renewed community spread it had reported mostly imported cases for months, authorities said 32 of the new cases were locally transmitted, little changed from Thursday’s 34.

The total number of cases in the global financial hub since late January stands at 1,404, of whom seven have died.

08:56 GMT – Premier of South Africa’s Gauteng province tests positive  

The Premier of South Africa’s financial-hub and most populous province Gauteng, David Makhura, said he has tested positive for COVID-19, as infections in the country continue to soar.

South Africa’s confirmed cases increased by their most in a single day on Thursday, rising by more than 13,000 to 238,339 cases. Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, is now the epicentre of the virus with nearly 82,000 cases. 

A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, in Soweto

A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country’s first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa [File: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

08:49 GMT – Indonesia reports 1,611 new infections 

Indonesia reported 1,611 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total count to 72,347, its health ministry said.

Deaths related to COVID-19 rose by 52, taking fatalities to 3,469, ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a televised news briefing. There are 33,529 people who have recovered. 

08:32 GMT – India sees more local coronavirus lockdowns as cases near 800,000

India reported a record 26,506 new coronavirus cases as authorities re-imposed lockdowns in its most populous state and in an industrial hub, home to automakers, drug factories and brewers.

The new cases pushed India’s tally to nearly 800,000 cases, the world’s third-biggest outbreak, behind only the United States and Brazil in confirmed infections.

There have been more than 21,000 deaths in India since the first case was detected there in January, federal health ministry data showed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, anxious to jump-start an economy crippled by the epidemic and put millions of people back to work, in early June eased an initial lockdown of the 1.3 billion population imposed in March.

But rising new flare-ups of the virus has been forcing some major industrial towns and states to impose localised restrictions.

08:04 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus death toll passes 11,000 

Russia’s death toll from the coronavirus edged past 11,000, as the country reported 174 new deaths in the past 24 hours.

The country’s coronavirus crisis response centre reported 6,635 new cases, bringing its nationwide tally of infections to 713,936, the world’s fourth highest caseload.

The death toll now stands at 11,017. Russia says 489,068 people have recovered.

07:14 GMT – Kazakh president threatens to sack cabinet if COVID-19 efforts fail

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that if the coronavirus situation in the Central Asian country does not improve by the end of its second lockdown, it would raise questions about the cabinet’s ability to work in its current composition.

Tokayev said the government would allocate an additional 150bn tenge ($363m) towards combating the outbreak and urged the central bank to lower its inflation target to 8.0-8.5 percent from 9.0-11.0 percent this year. 

07:03 GMT – Vietnam says 31 million workers impacted by pandemic, risk of rising unemployment

The economic fallout from the pandemic has negatively impacted about 31 million workers in Vietnam, with 900,000 out of work and nearly 18 million people receiving less income than before, a government agency said.

If solutions to drive business activity were not immediately implemented, there could be 5 million more people out of work by the end the year, the General Statistics Office (GSO) said.

The country’s economy has suffered, with second quarter growth at its slowest pace in at least 30 years due to the impact of the pandemic, putting the government’s 2020 economic targets well out of reach.

“Workers are being negatively impacted by being laid off or having had their working hours reduced. The number of affected workers will continue to climb in the upcoming quarters,” the GSO said in a statement.

“Urban unemployment rate in the second quarter hit the highest in 10 years, at 4.46 percent mostly because of the social distancing measure in April.” 

06:46 GMT – Bulgarian Football Union could delay next season’s start

The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) may delay the start of the next domestic season, scheduled for July 24, after coronavirus infections at several clubs surged, its medical commission said.

More than half of top-flight clubs as well as second-tier teams have been hit by the virus, with Cherno More Varna reporting 16 cases and Cup winners Lokomotiv Plovdiv nine.

“The medical commission made a proposal for the championship to start one or two weeks later than planned,” commission secretary Mihail Iliev told Reuters news agency. “We believe it’s a reasonable step in view of the complicated epidemiological situation.”

Iliev, a former Bulgarian national team doctor, said the BFU’s executive committee would take the final decision in coming days.

06:34 GMT – Hong Kong to suspend all schools due to spike in cases

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau announced the suspension of all schools from Monday after a spike in locally transmitted coronavirus cases that has fuelled fears of a renewed community spread in the city.

Schools in the Asian financial hub have been mostly shut since February with many having switched to online learning and lessons by conference call. Many international schools are already on summer break.

The city reported 42 new cases on Thursday, of which 34 were locally transmitted, marking the second consecutive day of rising local infections.

Some of the recent cases involved students and parents, said Education Secretary Kevin Yeung.

Hong Kong Students Sit For Public Exam Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic

Temperature checks and social distancing measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 had been put in place in schools across Hong Kong [File: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images]

06:30 GMT – Fujifilm’s Avigan inconclusive in COVID-19 patients in Japan trial

A clinical trial of Fujifilm Holdings Corp’s Avigan drug yielded inconclusive results as a treatment of COVID-19, Japanese researchers said.

Although patients given the drug early in the trial showed more improvement than those who got delayed doses, the results did not reach statistical significance, Fujita Health University researcher Yohei Doi said.

The results, announced at a news conference, followed the completion of a clinical trial conducted between March and May on 89 patients across Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had said he hoped the drug would be approved as a COVID-19 treatment in May, but a shortage of patients in Japan delayed the progress of clinical trials. It has been approved as a COVID-19 treatment in Russia and India.

Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.

05:14 GMT – Hong Kong ‘to suspend all schools’

Hong Kong is set to announce the suspension of all schools after a spike in locally transmitted coronavirus cases, the South China Morning Post reported.

The newspaper cited a medical source as saying that at least 30 more people had tested positive for the virus on Friday. Eleven of the new cases were at a public housing estate. 

The city had reported 42 new cases on Thursday, of which 34 were locally transmitted.

05:03 GMT – Australia cuts citizen returns as virus surge worsens

Australia will halve the number of citizens allowed to return home from overseas each week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, as authorities struggle to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in the country’s second-largest city.

From Monday, only 4,000 Australian citizens or permanent residents will be allowed back into the country each day, down from about 8,000 currently, Morrison said.

Those who return will also have to pay for their quarantine stays.

“The decision that we took … was to ensure that we could put our focus on the resources needed to do the testing and tracing and not have to have resources diverted to other tasks,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra after a meeting of the national cabinet.  

04:41 GMT – Pneumonia deadlier than COVID-19 in Kazakhstan, warns China

China’s embassy in Kazakhstan has warned its citizens to take precautions against an outbreak of pneumonia in the country that it says is more lethal than COVID-19.

In a statement on its official WeChat account, the embassy said there had been a “significant increase” in cases in the cities of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent since mid-June. 

The disease’s mortality rate “is much higher than that of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus”, it said, noting pneumonia in Kazakhstan had killed 1,772 people in the first half of the year, with 628 deaths in June alone. The deaths included that of Chinese citizens.

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Almaty

People queue outside a pharmacy in Almaty, Kazakhstan on June 29, 2020 [File: Mariya Gordeyeva/ Reuters]

It remains unclear whether it is caused by a virus related to coronavirus or by a different strain. The embassy said Kazakhstan’s health ministry and other health institutions were now carrying out a “comparative study”, but no conclusions had yet been made.

Kazakhstan has recorded more than 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 264 deaths.

04:32 GMT – California lawsuit against Trump order revoking foreign student visas

The US state of California filed a lawsuit seeking to block a Trump administration rule that could force tens of thousands of international students to leave the country if their schools hold all classes online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Trump Administration’s unlawful policy … threatens to exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and exile hundreds of thousands of college students studying in the United States,” a statement announcing the lawsuit said.

03:46 GMT – US posts new daily record for infections

The United States on Thursday posted 65,551 new coronavirus cases, a record for a 24-hour period, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The previous daily record was on Tuesday, with more than 60,200 cases in one day.

02:21 GMT – Algeria tightens travel restrictions

Algeria will reimpose travel restrictions on Friday and increase testing in a bid to stop a rise in coronavirus infections, the government said.

Under the measure, citizens will be barred from travelling to and from 29 provinces including the capital, Algiers, for a week starting on Friday, the government said in a statement.

The authorities last month eased restrictions, shortening a curfew – from 7pm to 7am to 8pm to 5am – in those provinces and ending it in the remaining 19.

02:12 GMT – Venezuelan socialist party leader tests positive

Diosdado Cabello, leader of the Venezuelan socialist party, said he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Cabello is considered the second-most powerful person in Venezuela after President Nicolas Maduro and made the announcement on Twitter, stating that he is isolated, getting treatment and will overcome the illness.

“We will win!” he wrote in conclusion.


Diosdado Cabello gestures during a rally commemorating the 31st anniversary of a deadly popular revolt in Caracas on February 27, 2020 [File: Federico Parra/AFP]

01:24 GMT – Singaporeans begin voting with masks and gloves

Wearing masks and gloves, Singaporeans began casting their ballots under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is pushing the city-state’s economy towards its deepest recession and has made concerns over jobs the focus of the election.

“I think it’s ok to vote during a pandemic because the conditions aren’t that severe at this point and all necessary precautions are being taken,” said Malini Nathan, 42, a communications executive.

“Issues I am concerned about are healthcare, job security and retirement,” Nathan said.

People vote in Singapore's general election amid Covid-19

Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob (in green) joins a queue of voters at a polling station in Singapore [Edgar Su/Reuters]

Citizens have each been given a recommended voting window.

Wearing masks is compulsory in public. And voters are expected to spend no more than five minutes in a polling station, where they will self-scan identity cards, sanitise their hands and pull on disposable gloves before receiving a ballot paper.

COVID-19 patients and those under quarantine cannot vote, but a mobile polling team will bring the ballot box to the rooms of Singaporeans who have recently returned from overseas and are being isolated at hotels.

People vote in Singapore's general election amid Covid-19

A relative helps a voter put on plastic gloves, as part of preventive measures against COVID-19 at a Singapore polling station [Edgar Su/ Reuters] 

People vote in Singapore's general election amid Covid-19

Voters sanitise their hands at a polling station during Singapore’s general election [Edgar Su/ Reuters]

Sample counts are expected soon after the close of polls at 8pm (12:00 GMT) with final results due in the early hours of Saturday.

In power since independence in 1965, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is expected to carry Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to another comfortable victory.

01:08 GMT – Bolsonaro ‘in good health’ after positive test

Another update on the Brazilian president – Jair Bolsonaro’s press office is saying he is in good health after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. 

“President Jair Bolsonaro, diagnosed with COVID-19 on [July] 7, is getting on well, without complications,” the statement says.

“He is in good health and continues to be monitored routinely by the medical team of the Presidency of the Republic.”

00:54 GMT – Bolsonaro again urges reopening of Brazil              

Two days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Bolsonaro repeated his view that the looming economic crisis from the pandemic is more dangerous than the virus for Brazil.

In an online broadcast from the presidential residence, the Brazilian president said mayors and governors need to reopen the country for business. “Otherwise the consequences will be harmful for Brazil,” he said.

00:40 GMT – South Africa reports highest daily rise in new infections

South Africa announced on Thursday its highest daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 13,674.

Africa’s most developed country is now a hot spot in the global pandemic with 238,339 total confirmed cases. Gauteng province, which contains Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, is home to more than a third of the total cases.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said South Africa could run out of available hospital beds within a month.

00:18 GMT – Mexico posts record single-day rise in cases

Mexico on Thursday posted a fresh record for new coronavirus cases reported on a single day, with 7,280 cases, bringing its overall tally of infections to 282,283, health ministry data showed.

The country also recorded 730 additional deaths, bringing its overall death toll to 33,526.

Mexico’s previous one-day record was posted a day earlier on Wednesday, when 6,995 new cases were registered.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.

You can find all the key developments from yesterday, July 9, here.

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Cliffs of Fundy, Bonavista Peninsula named UNESCO Global Geoparks




Two sites in Atlantic Canada have been recognized as new UNESCO Global Geoparks, a designation that recognizes sites and landscapes of international geological significance.

The Cliffs of Fundy Global Geopark in Nova Scotia stretches along a roughly 165-kilometre drive, with about 40 designated sites from Debert to the Three Sisters cliffs past Eatonville, out to Isle Haute. The area is the only place on Earth where geologists can see both the assembly of supercontinent Pangea 300 million years ago and its breakup 100 million years later.

The Discovery Global Geopark in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Bonavista Peninsula, a rugged coastline overlooking views of caves, arches and sea stacks, features fossils from what UNESCO describes “one of the most significant transitions in Earth’s history” — the rise of animal life.

The two parks are among 15 new Global Geoparks approved by UNESCO at meetings in Paris and announced on Friday.

“I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit these outstanding places,” said Nikolaos Zouros, president of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network, who came to visit both sites last year from his home in Lesvos Island, Greece.

“We collect pieces of information about this unique book of the story of our planet. These do not belong only to the people of Canada, but is an important piece of evidence for the whole of humanity.”

Cliffs of Fundy Geopark

Beth Peterkin has just started her new role as the manager of the Cliffs of Fundy Geopark. She is pictured here at Five Islands Provincial Park. (Emma Davie/CBC)

While the announcement comes as a point of pride for those involved in Nova Scotia, it also signals the beginning of more work left to do to make sure the designation does what they want it to do — bring tourists to the area and boost the local economy.

“The beauty of the designation is that it immediately puts you on the world stage,” Beth Peterkin, manager of the Cliffs of Fundy Geopark. “It will let us reach audiences we could never, ever reach on our own.”

The New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy is already designated as the Stonehammer Geopark, located at the confluence of the Saint John and Kennebecasis rivers.

In Nova Scotia, Cumberland and Colchester counties brought together geologists, paleontologists, businesses, tourism operators, Indigenous communities and local people to bring the idea for a geopark to life.

Five Islands Provincial Park is one of 42 sites in the UNESCO Global Geopark. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

This partnership is a first of its kind, said Christine Blair, mayor of the Municipality of the County of Colchester, and that teamwork is what made this idea into reality.

“To have two municipalities form an agreement, that has never happened in the history of the two municipalities before,” she said.

“To have all of the communities and our First Nation community involved is very significant, because it’s recognizing the whole of what we have to offer — and not just part of the whole.”

The designation also comes ahead of a new Mi’kmaw cultural centre that will be built, in the next two to three years in Debert, says Donald Julien, executive director for The Confederacy Of Mainland Mi’kmaq.

“Our ancestors have been here for over 13,000 years according to archeological evidence. So it’s very exciting for the Mi’kmaq, our cultural centre and the recognition is going to be fantastic,” he said.

The Fundy region in particular, Julien said, is included in many legends about Glooscap, the most famous figure in Mi’kmaw culture who brought peace and restored balance to the world.

Donald Julien, pictured here at the Fundy Discovery site, is an executive director for The Confederacy Of Mainland Mi’Kmaq. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Julien said he hopes the UNESCO designation will help teach people about the history of the Mi’kmaq.

“At times in our history books and our histories, it sort of tended that we disappeared but we didn’t. We’re still here, alive and well,” he said.

“This is probably history in the making. Everybody is going to benefit.”

Discovery Geopark

The Discovery Geopark was recognized, in part, for the Ediacaran fossils that can be found in the area. These fossils — some of which can be accessed from the boardwalk in Port Union — are an estimated 560 million years old, and show some of the earliest multi-cell organisms.

“With over 20 taxa present, these enigmatic fossils record the oldest architecturally complex multicellular lifeforms, providing a window to study the preface to the Cambrian Explosion,” wrote the UNESCO Global Geoparks Council in nomination papers. 

“The Geopark preserves a dramatic transition in Earth history.”

Ediacaran fossils can be seen in the rock near the shoreline in Port Union, N.L. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Fossils for the Haootia quadriformis, believed to be the first example of muscle tissue in an animal, were found just two kilometres from Port Union’s museum.

“For most researchers who come here, Newfoundland is the best place in the world to come to do the research, because we’re so easy and accessible to the fossils,” said Edith Samson, a long-time volunteer with the local Geopark committee.

“They’re right at our doorstep.”

Edith Samson holds a casting, or replica, of a fossil found near Port Union on Newfoundland and Labrador’s Bonavista Peninsula. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Cliffs of Fundy needs help, councillor says

But in Nova Scotia, there’s still more work to be done.

Donald Fletcher, president of the Cliffs of Fundy Geopark and the board chair, said the province and tourism sector will need to put money forward to make this a success story.

“I’ve felt over the years that we’ve sort of been neglected,” said Fletcher, who is also a councillor for the Municipality of Cumberland.

“This area and we have so much to offer. And as I mentioned before, we’ve just basically taken what Mother Nature has put here and we’re showcasing that to the world.”

One of the next big goals for the Cliffs of Fundy Geopark group is to make sure each of the 42 sites have proper signage. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Fletcher said that includes fixing up the roads in the area, helping with signs and supporting their tourism sector.

“With the whole COVID thing, a lot of them are hurting,” he said.

“This is big and people are going to come, maybe not so much this year, but they’re going to come and see what we have to offer.”

Peterkin said other work to be done includes clearly marking the geosites, updating guidebooks and maps, educating staff working in the parks about the designation, and recruiting volunteers.

“It’s all about making the visitors feel welcome, so that they’ll come back again and again,” she said.

The cliffs near Cape d’Or showcase some of the highest tides in the world. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

But the promise of a lucrative tourism sector is also bringing hope to communities still reeling after a gunman in Nova Scotia killed 22 people on April 18 and 19, in what is now one of Canada’s deadliest mass shootings in history.

“That will be with us forever. But we don’t want to be remembered specifically for that event,” Blair said.

“I believe we will all move forward together in the healing process. To have a positive announcement like we have at this geopark will be part of that; I truly believe that.”

Peterkin says they’re hoping to plan a celebration this summer once it’s safe to do so with the Public Health guidelines around COVID-19.

“I think we have so much to offer with the mixture of the geology, the culture, the music, the arts, the local experience,” she said. “Get your feet and hands dirty in the tide.”

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Black Lives Matter: From social media post to global movement




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Media caption‘I feel like Black Lives Matter has become a trend’

A slogan chanted by tens of thousands around the world, Black Lives Matter has sparked a hashtag, a network of grass-roots organisations, and a moral collective of activists.

But how did it go from a social media post to a global phenomenon, and where does it go now?

The names most associated with Black Lives Matter are not its leaders but the victims who have drawn attention to the massive issues of racism this country grapples with: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, to name a few.

The movement can be traced back to 2013, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Florida.

The 17-year-old had been returning from a shop after buying sweets and iced tea. Mr Zimmerman claimed the unarmed black teenager had looked suspicious.

There was outrage when he was found not guilty of murder, and a Facebook post entitled “Black Lives Matter” captured a mood and sparked action.

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BLM LA chapter

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An early Black Lives Matter demonstration in Beverly Hills following the acquittal of Goerge Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin

“Seven years ago, we were called together. There were about 30 of us standing in the courtyard of this black artist community in Los Angeles, summoned by Patrisse Cullors, one of our co-founders and one of my dearest friends,” says Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan African Studies in Los Angeles and co-founder of one of Black Lives Matters first “chapters”.

“It was students … artists, organisers and mommas. We knew that it was part of our sacred duty to step up. And there was an audaciousness that we could transform the world, but we didn’t have a plan for it,” she laughs.

If calls for justice for Trayvon Martin lit the spark for Black Lives Matter, it was the death of Michael Brown a year later that really brought the movement to national attention.

The unarmed teenager had been shot dead by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri and Black Lives Matter took to the streets, often in angry confrontation with the police.

But the killing of George Floyd took the movement to areas it had not reached before.

This moment of national reckoning gives Ambassador Andrew Young, a legendary civil rights leader, a “tremendous sense of pride”.

“Especially that they have remained overwhelmingly nonviolent,” the 88-year-old says.

For years he marched shoulder-to-shoulder with Rev Martin Luther King Jr, but very much as a civil rights leader in his own right.

He was later awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and served as US Ambassador to the United Nations.

“Of course it was very different back then. We had to go door-to-door, church-to-church,” he says.

“When Dr King went to jail, only 55 people showed up,” Ambassador Young remembers.

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Ambassador Andrew Young, seated to the right of Martin Luther King Jr with other civil rights leaders

In the 1960s, many of the key American civil rights figures were known the world over, but even someone as connected to the struggle for equality as Ambassador Young finds it hard to name contemporaries in the modern movement.

“Honestly, I don’t know who Black Lives Matter is,” he acknowledges.

“I don’t know who the leaders are. In fact, I don’t know that they even have any leaders. I think perhaps it’s a spiritual, emotional movement created by implicit evils in our society that we have not been willing to face.”

Those who have been involved with Black Lives Matter since its embryonic stages say this decentralized approach is intentional.

“Group-centred leadership is in our guiding principles,” says Prof Abdullah.

“Leadership is not just about oratory, it’s also about facilitation, planning, bringing arts to the movement, things that don’t get as much recognition,” she says.

The leadership in many Black Lives Matter chapters is also often female.

“Black women have always been at the heart of the black freedom struggle. Often times they have been painted over, and this time we are refusing to allow ourselves to be painted over,” says Prof Abdullah.

The guiding light for this doctrine, and for Black Lives Matter as a whole, she says, has been Ella Baker – the feminist civil rights leader who championed collective grassroots activism over activism focused on a single leader.

“We all study Ella Baker as one of the most brilliant organisers to have ever walked the face of this earth. She was clear that movements should be bigger than individuals.”

Though Black Lives Matter has evolved into this loose national and international umbrella network, the Black Lives Matter Global Network is registered in the US as a non-profit organisation, one that is now getting grants and pledges from foundations and corporations falling over themselves to ally themselves with the movement.

Chapters of Black Lives Matter have spread across the US and around the globe, with massive protests in the UK, Europe, and Canada.

The movement now includes many of diverse backgrounds, who had previously not felt connected to the cause.

“I think a lot of people in our town suddenly felt as white people we need to be really critical of ourselves and understand our role in this,” says AJ Crocker, one of the organisers of a Black Lives Matter vigil in in Norwood, Colorado, a mostly white town of about 500 people located about six hours drive from the nearest international airport.

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George Lewis

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Around 50 people attend the Black Lives Matter vigil in the predominantly white town of Norwood, Colorado

Ms Crocker says the group is learning how they can combat racism in their own small community, such as campaigning for an official Spanish translator for the county.

They will also bring up Black Lives Matter as a discussion topic in the town council and are reading Ibram X Kendi’s book “How to be an Antiracist” in the local book club.

“I actually really do appreciate that people are starting to educate themselves. There’s a lot of literature out there that’s pushing to educate our white counterparts on the issues that affect us and that’s good,” says Charles White, a keyboard player with Day Dream Sessions.

The band has been playing some of the songs that have become the soundtrack to the street demonstrations in Washington DC, including old protest anthems from Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke.

But Mr White and his bandmates are also sceptical about what they sees as the mainstreaming of the movement.

“I feel like Black Lives Matter has become a trend,” says drummer and bandleader David Mooney.

“At first it was about changing the situation at hand, but now you have all these corporations saying they support black people but they’re just hoping to gain more customers and more money.”

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(From left to right) Eric Jackson, David Mooney, Charles White perform as Day Dream Sessions during Black Lives Matter protests in Washington DC

And though some Black Lives Matter leaders deny it, over the years there has sometimes been a disconnect between the organisation itself and young black men, a constituency they are fighting for, the band says.

“I think the initial inception of Black Lives Matter is what we believed in and what we were marching behind,” says trumpeter Eric Jackson.

“It was really about police brutality and the effects of that on black people. But I think now it’s a multilayered thing with feminism and LGBTQ and all these different things kind of coupled into it. I think there needs to be a little bit of refocusing.”

“But Black Lives Matter as a message is one I still stand behind,” he insists.

Prof Abdullah though is proud of how the organisation has also been deliberately intersectional, with many women and LGBT activists at its heart.

“Black Lives Matter has been very clear that we are a womanist movement. And that doesn’t mean that we exclude men, in fact there are lots of strong male leaders,” she says.

She says the organisation is also just as concerned about tangible change, and that results are already being seen, albeit limited.

“Over the past six years, overall the number of killings at the hands of police has remained relatively stable, and that is not a good thing,” says Prof Abdullah.

“However, what we are seeing is that in cities with strong Black Lives Matter chapters, the numbers have dropped dramatically, though this has been offset by increases elsewhere.”

She says the gains have been achieved not by negotiating with police forces, which the organisation refuses to do, but by taking to the streets and making sure the police know they are being scrutinised.

Prof Abdullah says that Black Lives Matter is looking for much more, including the defunding and dismantling of the current police system in the US and its replacement with a new form of law enforcement, something for which it has received considerable criticism.

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Black Lives Matter protesters in London’s Hyde Park

But while she says the organisation advocates one way of putting pressure on those in power, she is also supportive of chapters going their own way.

“One of the things that’s really great is that we see new Black Lives Matter chapters, popping up all over the globe. They may not be official chapters, but people are stepping into their own calling.”

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