Mali holds election despite coronavirus and insurgency

BAMAKO (Reuters) – Mali held its long-delayed parliamentary election on Sunday despite an insurgency in its central and northern regions, concerns about coronavirus and the recent kidnapping of the main opposition leader.

The election, originally scheduled for 2018, has been postponed twice because of intensifying violence in parts of Mali where the government struggles to suppress jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The coronavirus pandemic has posed a further threat to the vote but authorities in the West African nation have insisted it will go ahead, promising to enforce additional hygiene measures to protect Mali’s 7.6 million voters.

“The government will do everything to make sure this is the case,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said in the run-up to the election.

Mali had confirmed 20 cases of coronavirus as of Sunday morning.

Polls opened on Sunday at 0800 and turnout in the capital Bamako appeared low, a Reuters witness said.

There was no queue at one polling station, which allowed voters to cast their ballot while keeping the recommended distance from each other. Handwashing facilities were meant to be available, but the kits arrived too late for early voters.

“I voted without a problem, but the hygiene kit against coronavirus wasn’t there,” said 30-year-old driver Ibrahim Konare. “The priority for the new parliament should be the fight against insecurity and the eradication of coronavirus.”

It was not clear how voting was going in the large areas of central and northern Mali that are effectively lawless and used by the jihadists as a base for attacks in Mali and into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Mali’s main opposition leader Soumaila Cisse was ambushed last week while on the campaign trail in the northern region of Timbuktu. The attackers killed Cisse’s bodyguard and took Cisse and six members of his delegation hostage. They have not been seen since.

The election will select 147 lawmakers for the national assembly, which has not had a mandate since 2018 because of the electoral delays.

Polling stations close at 1800 GMT with results due in the coming days. A second round is scheduled for April 19 in constituencies where no candidate wins a majority.

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Exclusive: Qatar Airways says it will need state support as cash runs out

DUBAI (Reuters) – Qatar Airways will have to seek government support eventually, Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker told Reuters on Sunday, warning that the Middle East carrier could soon run out of the cash needed to continue flying.

Several states have stepped in to help airlines hammered by the coronavirus pandemic that has virtually halted international travel, with the United States offering $58 billion in aid.

Qatar Airways is one of few airlines continuing to maintain scheduled commercial passenger services and over the next two weeks expects to operate 1,800 flights.

“We have received many requests from governments all over the world, embassies in certain countries, requesting Qatar Airways not to stop flying,” Baker said by phone from Doha.

The state-owned carrier is operating flights to Europe, Asia and Australia, repatriating people who have been left stranded after many countries shut their borders.

“We will fly as long as it is necessary and we have requests to get stranded people to their homes, provided the airspace is open and the airports are open,” Baker said.

However, he warned that the airline was burning through cash and only had enough to sustain operations for a “very short period”.

“We will surely go to our government eventually,” Baker added.

He declined to say when the airline would need state aid, which could come in the form of loans or equity, but said it was taking measures to conserve cash.

Employees have taken paid and unpaid leave voluntarily and Baker said he had forfeited his salary until the airline returns to full operations. Staff would not be forced to take pay cuts, though Baker said some had offered to do so.

The airline had said before the pandemic it would report a loss this financial year because of a regional political dispute that forces it to fly longer, more expensive routes to avoid airspace that it had been banned from using by some of neighboring countries.

Rivals Emirates and Etihad Airways, of the United Arab Emirates, have grounded passenger operations, which Baker said had not benefited his airline.

Qatar Airways has been operating some flights at 50% occupancy or less and if it fills 45% of seats on flights over the next two weeks it will carry about 250,000 passengers.

“We are not taking advantage … this is a time to serve people who want to be with their loved ones in a very trying time,” Baker said.

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Chinese markets linked to coronavirus re-open selling bats and scorpions

Bats and scorpions are back on sale at Chinese meat markets – just months after the outbreak of coronavirus which has caused tens of thousands of deaths around the world.

A shocking eyewitness report claims huge crowds descended on indoor markets in Guilin, south west China, and Dongguan, southern China, when they re-opened yesterday.

Many places in China, where the killer disease originated, have celebrated "victory" over coronavirus as businesses open their doors for the first time in weeks.

The scene was witnessed by a Mail on Sunday correspondent, who described it as "deeply troubling".

The paper reports that no efforts seemed to have been made to prevent a future outbreak by raising hygiene standards.

In Dongguan, bats – linked to the Covid-19 outbreak – are advertised by a medicine seller.

The Chinese population have been urged by the government to return to normal, with just a tiny number of new infections reported.

The unnamed China-based correspondent said: "Everyone here believes the outbreak is over and there's nothing to worry about any more.

"It's just a foreign problem now as far as they are concerned."

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And in Dongguan, they stated, the only change was that guards were stopping people taking pictures.

"The markets have gone back to operating in exactly the same way as they did before coronavirus," they said.

The coronavirus has been traced back to a market in Wuhan, which was completely shut down in the aftermath of the outbreak.

More than 665,000 people have been infected around the world, with Spain, Italy, the US and Britain among the worst-affected countries.

At least 30,900 people are known to have died.

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Coronavirus: Saskatchewan athlete Brock Weston recounts falling ill with COVID-19

The possibility of having COVID-19 started to become real for Brock Weston as he drove home to Saskatchewan.

The Wisconsin college student had had fever sweats the night before. A stuffy nose and sore throat he thought were from dust in the air or maybe, at worst, a cold or flu had been hanging around for a couple of days.

“I had no appetite. I couldn’t smell. My eyes were hurting,” the 25-year-old told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview Wednesday.

“I thought, ‘OK, maybe this is a little more than just the flu.’”

Weston, who plays hockey and studies biology and chemistry at Marian University, had been packing for his trip home last week when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians abroad to hurry back.

While on the road, he called his parents about taking extra precautions for his arrival at the family farm near Maidstone, about a two and half hour drive west of Saskatoon.

When he got there, he still felt lousy. He was running a fever and coughing and noticed pressure in his chest when he took deep breaths.

“You read about the people that started with this mild chest pressure and all of a sudden they’re in the hospital and can’t breathe,” Weston said.

“I was definitely nervous once I started to kind of realize that I might have it.”

He did a self-assessment, which told him he should call for a referral. He phoned a clinic in town, which led to more calls until he was booked in for a test.

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When he arrived for testing in Lloydminster, Weston phoned from a parking spot and was directed to a building through a set of doors. He was instructed to sanitize and put on a mask.

Weston said a health worker took a swab resembling a large Q-Tip and inserted it high into both sides of his nose.

“It was mostly just uncomfortable,” he said.

“Kind of like a sneeze that would never come.”

He was told it could take a week for results, but three days later he received a call.

He had tested positive for COVID-19.

Weston is self-isolating in the basement of his parents’ house while they stay upstairs. He said he’s sharing the story of his symptoms and diagnosis so others will take the virus seriously, stay home and think of others.

COVID-19 certainly slowed him down, he said.

“I had absolutely no sense of smell and no taste. I had no appetite for five days. I lost over 10 pounds.

“I kind of got this migraine that just carried over four or five days that made my eyes just hurt. Couldn’t look to left, right, up, down.”

Weston said he’s now feeling almost 100 per cent, after lots of sleep and liquids.

And he’s helping out on the farm.

“It’s a little easier on the farm because I can stay six feet away from Dad outside.”

Weston is not entirely sure where he contracted the virus, but believes it was while he was in Nashville on a spring break with friends.

He has to have two negative test results to be out of quarantine. The first test is set for Saturday.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers across Canada are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. In Saskatchewan, international travellers are already required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the province.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.


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Coronavirus: Dufferin County, Ont. declares state of emergency

Dufferin County, Ont. declared a statement of emergency on Thursday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Due to the rapidly changing conditions, it has become necessary to declare an emergency so that we may be able to address resident needs in a more timely manner,” Dufferin County Warden Darren White said in a statement.

County officials say the emergency declaration doesn’t change the rules that exist to ensure the municipality operates effectively.

“The county continues to provide essential services to the community,” officials say.

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“This includes, but is not limited to our long-term care home, income and community housing supports, waste and recycling pick-up, general maintenance of county roads, building permit applications and inspections.”

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 835 active cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario. There have been 15 deaths in the province.

Map of Canadian COVID-19 cases:

 

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Kingston police looking for owners following dog attack

Kingston police are looking for two women who may own a dog that attacked a man, sending him to hospital with bite wounds.

Just before 10 p.m. on Thursday, a man and his wife were walking near Friendship Park in the area of Chestnut and Carlisle streets when police say a tan pit bull aggressively came running towards their own dog.

The man then stepped between the dogs and the pit bull attacked him, biting him on the leg and arm.

Two women who appeared to own the pitbull were able to take control of it through a leash and muzzle, Kingston police said.

The women then allegedly left the scene and would not give the dog’s medical information to the couple.

The man was rushed to hospital by paramedics for his injuries.

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Coronavirus death toll: How many have died from COVID-19 virus? How many infected?

The coronavirus has led to the lockdown of cities, the introduction of travel bans and has seen people tracked down, tested and in some cases quarantined for 14 days. Since emerging in China in December, the virus – known as COVID-19 – has spread to more than 200 countries and the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic on March 12.

How many have died from deadly virus? How many infected?

COVID-19 is thought to have originated from the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan where live animals were being sold.

Since then, the novel coronavirus has reached more than 200 countries.

The virus is now spreading faster outside of China, in particular in Europe, which has been dubbed the “epicentre” of the outbreak by the World Health Organisation.

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Since first emerging in Wuhan, as of March 28, coronavirus has killed 27,291 people worldwide, while 133,307 have recovered.

The number of infected in China is 81,394 while 596,247 people have been confirmed as having the virus in 203 countries.

In China, 74,971 people have recovered from the illness and 3,295 have died as a result of the virus.

Italy has reported 86,498 cases and 9,134 deaths, the highest number of fatalities in the world after overtaking China on March 19.

As of 9am on March 28, a total of 120,776 people have been tested for coronavirus in the UK.

Of those 103,687 were confirmed negative and 17,089 were confirmed positive.

A total of 1,019 patients in the UK who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

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The United States is the hardest-hit country in terms of confirmed cases with 103,364 cases, overtaking China on March 26.

Spain, which has 65,719 cases, has reported 5,138 deaths – the second-highest in the world after moving ahead of China on March 26.

Next is Iran with 2,378 deaths, followed by France (1,995) and the US (1,632).

In so far as cases confirmed, Spain is behind the US and Italy, then comes Germany (50,871), France (32,964), Iran (32,332), the UK, and Switzerland (13,143) which overtook South Korea (9,478) on March 24.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The virus is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously seen in humans, though it shares symptoms with known variants.

The most common symptoms in the pathogen family include fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing problems.

In the most severe cases, the symptoms can develop into kidney failure, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and even death.

 

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Coronavirus: can immunosuppressive therapies save lives? London, Ont., researchers launch study

Researchers out of Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University in London, Ont., are trying to better understand the immune system’s response to the new coronavirus and whether or not immunosuppressive therapies can improve mortality rates.

According to the team, some early reports from scientists and physicians suggest that the virus can cause a cytokine storm in some patients, which is when the immune system goes dangerously overboard in responding to it.

“Some researchers are suggesting that mortality could be improved with immunosuppressive therapies,” said lead researcher Dr. Douglas Fraser.

“However, evidence to support this is severely lacking at this time.”

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Researchers are testing daily blood samples taken from London Health Sciences Centre patients presumed to have COVID-19 and looking for inflammatory biomarkers to track the changing immune response over time. Researchers will be comparing that data “to the immune response in patients with other infections, as well as in healthy controls.” The data will also be useful in future studies.

“This study could also inform why some people become critically ill and others do not, and help determine who will respond to certain therapies,” said Fraser.

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Coronavirus: Website launched to help people donate in Waterloo region, Guelph

One of the major coronavirus-related questions being asked by members of the Waterloo region and Guelph communities is ‘how can we help?’

With that in mind, a group of doctors in the area have launched a website called Covidhealth.ca, which will allow people to lend a hand.

The effort is being spearheaded by Dr. Sarah Rinaldi, who practices in New Hamburg, Ont., and Dr. Sharon Bal, who practices in Cambridge, Ont.

Rinaldi said it was born from hearing stories of people in the community looking to lend a hand.

“I’m a member of a bunch of social groups of physicians and every day I was just seeing more and more posts saying, ‘I have a friend who has a 3D printer and they’re looking to get involved’ or ‘I know this person in the community, they have boxes of masks or gloves. How can we donate them?’”

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At home with coronavirus, UK's Johnson writes to the nation

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is self-isolating at 10 Downing Street after testing positive for coronavirus, will write to every UK household to urge people to stay at home.

Johnson, who has described his symptoms as mild, is leading the government’s response to the crisis, chairing meetings by video conference. The health minister, Matt Hancock, has also tested positive and is working from home.

“We know things will get worse before they get better,” Johnson will write in his letter, which will be sent to 30 million households across the United Kingdom starting from next week.

“But we are making the right preparations, and the more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner life can return to normal,” he will say, according to a statement from Downing Street.

Britain has reported 17,089 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,019 deaths. The peak of the epidemic in the country is expected to come in a few weeks.

After initially taking relatively modest steps compared with other European nations, Johnson ramped up his response to coronavirus in the past week, ordering pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops to close and making social distancing compulsory.

In his letter, he will thank all those working for the state-funded National Health Service (NHS), which provides free healthcare to everyone living in the United Kingdom and inspires huge respect across society.

“It has been truly inspirational to see our doctors, nurses and other carers rise magnificently to the needs of the hour,” Johnson will say.

“Thousands of retired doctors and nurses are returning to the NHS – and hundreds of thousands of citizens are volunteering to help the most vulnerable.

“That is why, at this moment of national emergency, I urge you, please, to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

The letter will come with a leaflet containing the government’s advice on hand washing, rules on leaving the house, guidance for those self-isolating with symptoms or shielding vulnerable people, and explanations of symptoms.

The letter and leaflet are part of the government’s public information campaign on coronavirus, and are expected to cost 5.8 million pounds ($7 million) to print and distribute.

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