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Pandemic forces Colombia family to live in banquet hall | World News

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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Jamer Gonzalez used to organize about nine weddings, birthday parties or company lunches each month at his banquet hall in a working class district of Colombia’s capital, earning enough to live comfortably and send his two eldest daughters to college.

Now, after months of pandemic restrictions, he is on the verge of bankruptcy and can’t even afford rent for a family home. So his daughters have dropped out of university, and the family has moved into the Pegasus Events Hall, which once provided a living.

The family of five and their white cat sleep in rooms that were used to store tables, chairs and party props, including a giant throne used for quinceanera celebrations — the festive parties held by families when a daughter reaches her 15th birthday. A vintage Ford sedan Gonzalez provided for weddings is parked in the main hall, next to a desk that he brought from their old apartment.

“We are not asking for charity,” said Gonzalez, who hasn’t been able to host any parties since March because of lockdown rules. “All we ask the government is to let us work.”

Colombia has been gradually reopening the economy following six months of restrictions imposed for the pandemic. But some businesses, including movie theaters, bars and banquet halls, remain closed as officials try to limit indoor gather.

Representatives of these industries are urging the government to let them open — with bio-security measures. They warn that thousands of family-owned businesses are about to disappear.

“Our sector has been hit extremely hard,” said Francy Salazar, president of the Colombian Association of Event Planners, a trade group with 1,700 members. Salazar said two event planners have committed suicide during the pandemic as they became overwhelmed with debt and uncertainty.

Others have moved in with relatives and struggle to make health insurance payments. Event planners were considered too well off before the pandemic to qualify for free government health care.

“The government says we need to reinvent ourselves,” Salazar said. “But we haven’t had any kind of support.”

Local officials have been reluctant to authorize indoor gatherings, fearing a second wave of coronavirus infections like the one currently hitting Western European countries.

In Bogota, where Gonzalez has his business, Mayor Claudia Lopez said last week that clubs, bars and banquet halls will not be allowed to open until next year.

“There will be lots of families getting together in December … and that will increase contagion, its inevitable,” the mayor said.

To help businesses survive, President Ivan Duque’s administration gave debtors a two-month moratorium on their loan payments at the beginning of the pandemic and promised to subsidize up to 40% of payrolls at small- and medium-size businesses.

Gonzalez said it has been impossible for him to tap into the subsidy because his business is entirely family run and does not have a steady payroll.

“When we do an event, my daughter takes photographs, my wife takes care of decoration and my other daughter does the videos,” he said. “We work collectively, but none of us are listed as employees.”

He said that before the pandemic hit, his banquet hall and events company was making a profit of around $4,500 a month on sales of $15,000. The family is getting by on about $250 each month that they make selling balloon and floral arrangements to people who hold parties at home.

Gonzalez said that in starting the business, he invested about $250,000, including construction of the banquet hall, permits, furniture and props.

He is several months behind on the $1,100 monthly mortgage payment for the hall and is being pressured by the bank to refinance the loan. The family fears the bank may try to repossess the hall, leaving them without their business and the place they now call home.

“Before the pandemic we used to be a normal family with dreams” said Gonzalez’s wife, Angela Camargo. “Now we can’t even afford to go out for a meal.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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The Latest: Israel sending some children back to school | National/World News

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JERUSALEM — Israel has decided to begin sending children back to school.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Sunday that his coronavirus cabinet voted in favor of reopening school for children in grades one through four on Nov. 1. The older children will be divided into “capsules,” and the children in younger grades will come on alternating days to minimize class sizes.

Israeli schools opened for the school year on Sept. 1 but quickly moved to distance learning as a coronavirus outbreak spread. The government subsequently imposed a month-long lockdown that closed much of the economy.

After mishandling the lifting of a first lockdown early this year, Israel is moving cautiously this time around. Preschools reopened last week, and older children are to gradually return to school in a staggered plan over the coming weeks.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

Fear and axiety spike in virus hotspots across the United States

Europe’s restaurants and bars are being walloped by new virus curfews and restrictions

Spain orders nationwide curfew to tamp down surging virus infections

— Experts question White House claims that federal rules on essential workers let Vice President Mike Pence keep campaigning after exposure to the coronavirus.

— British doctors are urging the government to reverse course and provide free meals for poor children due to increased poverty caused by the pandemic.

— Italy’s leader has imposed at least a month of new restrictions across the country to fight rising coronavirus infections.

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Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MARBLEHEAD, Mass. — A school district superintendent says a Massachusetts high school will shift to fully remote learning after students attended a house party where they didn’t wear masks and shared drinks.

Superintendent John Buckey said in a letter to families on Sunday that action comes in response to a house party Friday with young people who were not social distancing or wearing face covering, and were sharing drinks and “generally ignoring” COVID-19 rules.

Buckley wrote that he understood “young people’s desire to be together, as far away from adults as possible,” but that ignoring the rules was “potentially harming the community at large.”

Marblehead High School students will learn remotely until at least Nov. 6. Buckley said the hybrid learning model could restart Nov. 9 if no coronavirus cases are identified during that time.

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BERLIN — The head of the United Nations said Sunday that “the Covid-19 pandemic is the greatest crisis of our age.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened an online session of the World Health Summit with a call for worldwide solidarity in the global crisis and demanded that developed countries support health systems in countries that are short of resources.

The coronavirus pandemic is the overarching theme of the summit, which originally had been scheduled for Berlin. Several of the leaders and experts who spoke at the opening stressed the need to cooperate across borders.

“No one is safe from COVID-19. No one is safe until we are all safe from it,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “Even those who conquer the virus within their own borders remain prisoners within these borders until it is conquered everywhere.”

More than 42 million have been infected with the virus and over 1 million people have died of Covid.

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ROME — Italy’s one-day caseload of confirmed coronavirus infections jumped past 20,000 on Sunday, with more than a quarter of the new cases registered in Lombardy, the northern region which bore the brunt of the pandemic in the country earlier this year.

According to Health Ministry figures, there were 21,273 new cases since the previous day, raising Italy’s total of confirmed COVID-19 infections to 525,782.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said the government’s latest crackdown on social freedoms, including closing restaurants in early evening and shuttering gyms, for the next 30 days, was warranted by the growth of the contagion curve worldwide, with a “very high wave” in all of Europe.

“Every choice brings sacrifices and renouncing” activities, Speranza said. “We must react immediately and with determination if we want to avoid unsustainable numbers.”

Italy’s confirmed death toll in the pandemic rose to 37,338, with 128 deaths since Saturday.

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PHOENIX — Arizona health officials on Sunday reported 1,392 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths. It’s the highest reported single-day coronavirus case total in the state since Sept. 17.

Arizona has continued to see a slow yet steady increase in the average number of COVID-19 cases reported each day as a decline that lasted through August and September reverses.

State Department of Health Services officials said the latest numbers increase Arizona’s totals to 238,163 known infections and 5,874 known deaths.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria – Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has tested positive for the new coronavirus as the number of infected with COVID-19 in the Balkan country has been on a steady rise in the two weeks.

Borissov made the disclosure in a Facebook message on Sunday.

“After two PCR tests, today I am positive for COVID-19,” Borissov wrote.

He said that he has a “general indisposition” and, following the recommendations of doctors, will remain at home for treatment.

The Balkan nation of 7 million people has recorded 37,562 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,084 deaths.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 1.5 million on Sunday as authorities reported 16,710 new infections amid a rapid resurgence of the outbreak that has swept the country in recent weeks.

Russia’s caseload remains the fourth largest in the world. The government’s coronavirus task force has also registered a total of over 26,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The task force has been reporting over 15,000 new infections every day since last Sunday, which is much higher than in the spring, when the highest number of daily new cases was 11,656.

Despite the sharp spike in daily new infections, Russian authorities have repeatedly dismissed the idea of imposing a second lockdown or shutting down businesses after most virus-related restrictions were lifted during the summer. In some Russian regions, officials urged the elderly to self-isolate at home and called on employers to have at least part of their staff work from home. Several regions have shut down nightclubs and limited the hours of restaurants and bars.

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BERLIN — Austria has tightened its coronavirus rules as the Alpine country sees new daily records of infections.

Starting Sunday, no more than six people are allowed to meet indoors, including events such as birthday parties, yoga or dance classes. Outside, a maximum of 12 people are allowed to get together. In restaurants, the number of guests has been reduced to no more than 10 per table.

People also need to wear masks in train stations, markets and nursing homes.

On Saturday, the daily virus numbers reached a new high of reported 3,614 cases. On Sunday, the figure was lower at 2,782, however not all new cases get reported on weekends.

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BALTIMORE — A day after the U.S. set a daily record for new confirmed coronavirus infections, it came very close to doing it again.

Data published by Johns Hopkins University shows that 83,718 new cases in the U.S. were reported Saturday, nearly matching the 83,757 infections reported Friday. Before that, the most cases reported in the United States on a single day had been 77,362 on July 16.

Close to 8.6 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and about 225,000 have died. Both statistics are the world’s highest. India has more than 7.8 million infections but in recent weeks its daily number have been declining.

U.S. health officials have feared the surge of infections to come with colder weather and people spending more time indoors, especially as many flout guidelines to protect themselves and others such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington currently forecasts that the country’s COVID-19 death toll could exceed 318,000 by Jan. 1.

———

BERLIN — Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn, who has tested positive for the new coronavirus, appealed to Germans on Sunday to keep obeying precautionary measures as the virus spikes across the country and the hospital intensive care units are filling up again.

Spahn, 40, posted a video on his Facebook page saying he was lucky that other than “cold symptoms,” he is not suffering any other COVID-related symptoms. He also said none of his close coworkers at the ministry had yet tested positive.

Spahn appealed to all citizens to wear masks and keep distance in light of quickly rising infection figures.

““It is serious. We know the harm this virus can cause, especially for people with preexisting illness and for the elderly and very old,” he said.

On Sunday, Germany’s national disease control center reported 11,176 new daily infections, almost double the number reported a week ago Sunday. Another 29 people died of COVID, bringing Germany’s overall death toll to 10,032.

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ROME — For at least the next month, gyms, cinemas and movie theaters in Italy will be closed, ski slopes are off-limits to all but competitive skiers, spectators are banned from professional matches including soccer games, and cafes and restaurants must shut down in early evenings.

But the decree signed on Sunday by Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte avoided another severe lockdown despite a current surge in COVID-19 infections.

The decree also continues a recent nationwide order mandating mask-wearing outdoors.

A day earlier, Italy surpassed the half-million mark in the number of confirmed coronavirus infections since the outbreak began in February, the first country to be stricken in Europe. The last two days have seen daily new caseloads creep close to 20,000.

Italy has the second-most confirmed virus deaths in Europe after Britain, with 37,210 dead.

———

BERLIN — Several people attacked Germany’s national disease control center with incendiary devices early Sunday, Berlin police reported.

A security guard noticed the attack on the Robert Koch Institute in the German capital and was able to quickly extinguished the flames. Nobody was injured, but one window was destroyed. Criminal police has taken over the investigation on suspicion that the attack may have been politically motivated.

Among other things, the institute keeps track of Germany’s coronavirus outbreak. It publishes daily new infection figures and also advises the government and the public on how to keep the pandemic from getting out of control.

While most Germans support the country’s handling of the pandemic, some have tried to downplay the dangers of the virus.

On Sunday, the institute reported 11,176 new daily infections, almost double the number reported a week ago Sunday. Another 29 people died of COVID, bringing Germany’s overall death toll to 10,032.

—-

NEW DELHI — India’s daily coronavirus cases have dropped to nearly 50,000, maintaining a downturn over the last few weeks.

The Health Ministry says 50,129 new cases have taken the overall tally to nearly 7.9 million on Sunday. It also reported 578 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 118,534.

The ministry also said India’s active coronavirus cases were below 700,000 across the country and almost 7.1 million people had recovered from COVID-19.

India is second to the United States with the largest outbreak of the coronavirus. Last month, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily cases have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third.

Some experts say the decline in cases suggests that the virus may have finally reached a plateau but others question the testing methods. India is relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests.

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Tropical Storm Zeta forecast to intensify into hurricane | World News

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MIAMI – Tropical Storm Zeta formed early Sunday off the coast of Cuba, becoming the earliest named 27th Atlantic storm recorded in an already historic hurricane season.

The system was centred about 290 miles (470 kilometres) south-southeast of the western tip of Cuba, forecasters with the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a 8 a.m. EDT advisory. The storm was nearly stationary.

The tropical storm had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph), forecasters said. Zeta is expected to intensify into a hurricane by Tuesday.

The system was expected to reorganize and move to the north-northwest later Sunday, skirting past Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula on Monday before entering the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.

Early Sunday, the government of Mexico issued a hurricane watch for the Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum to Rio Lagartos, including Cozumel.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Pinar del Rio, Cuba.

Zeta broke the record of the previous earliest 27th Atlantic named storm that formed Nov. 29, 2005, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

This year’s season has so many storms that the hurricane centre has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of official names.

Forecasters said Zeta could bring 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimetres) of rain to parts of the Caribbean, Mexico, southern Florida and the Florida Keys through Wednesday. Isolated totals up to 12 inches (30 centimetres) were possible.

Additionally, Hurricane Epsilon was moving quickly through the northern portion of the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters said it would become a post-tropical cyclone later Sunday. Large ocean swells generated by the hurricane could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions along U.S. East Coast and Atlantic Canada during the next couple of days.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Coronavirus live: Trump not following science, says Fauci; UK targets vaccine for NHS staff ‘by Christmas’ | World news

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Spain prepares for third state of emergency









In Italy, the government has been accused of “playing with fire” ahead of the announcement of new Covid-19 restrictions that will heavily penalise the hospitality industry.

Hospitality workers will protest outside parliament on Sunday as ministers debate measures that could include the closure of bars and restaurants from 6pm.

Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Photograph: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to announce the restrictions, which might also include the closure of gyms and swimming pools, on Sunday afternoon. People will be “strongly advised” not to travel beyond their home towns unless strictly necessary, according to a draft of the decree.

The plan to close restaurants and bars from 6pm has been hotly contested by regional administrations.

“We ask that they close us down completely and give us the famous financial support that Conte keeps talking about,” said Paolo Bianchini, a restaurant owner in the Lazio town of Viterbo and spokesperson for MIO, the hospitality movement organising the protest.

“It’s useless staying open at all, and being left to have an agonising death – our companies are dying. There will be civil war as people no longer have money – [the government] is playing with fire.”

There were clashes between protesters and police in the southern city of Naples on Friday night after a curfew was imposed across the whole Campania region. Dozens of militants belonging to the extreme right group, Forza Nuova, also clashed with police on Saturday night in central Rome in response to a Lazio-wide curfew also in place since Friday.

Italy registered 19,644 new coronavirus infections and 151 more fatalities on Saturday. The virus is rapidly spreading in Lombardy, Campania and Lazio. There are 1,128 people currently in intensive care with Covid-19 across the country, more than double the figure of two weeks ago.

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Fauci: Trump is not following the science on coronavirus

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