Hundreds of Nicaraguans are stuck in limbo between Costa Rica and Nicaragua after their homeland refused to allow them back without proof that they are not infected with the coronavirus, authorities said on Friday.
Nicaraguans have been exiting Costa Rica since Wednesday through the border post of Penas Blancas but about 300 are now stranded, having been barred from entering Nicaragua by its government, Costa Rica’s immigration department said.
Managua is demanding that the Nicaraguans, who are waiting for the impasse to end by the side of a road, show proof that they have taken a coronavirus test in the last 72 hours.
“They are stranded at the Penas Blancas border post, on the Nicaraguan side,” Costa Rica’s Migration Directorate said in a statement.
One Nicaraguan human rights organisation put the number of Nicaraguans caught between countries at about 500. Nicaragua’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Those trapped were not using an official agreement between Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica to repatriate Nicaraguan citizens through Costa Rica in isolation on buses, according to Raquel Vargas, Costa Rica’s migration chief.
So far some 800 Nicaraguans have been repatriated this way in July.
France advises citizens not to travel to Catalonia; Norway reimposes quarantine on people arriving from Spain
France is advising its citizens not to travel to the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia in order to help contain the spread of Covid-19, Reuters reports.
The country’s prime minister, Jean Castex said on Friday that the government would strengthen controls at France’s borders in the hope of better containing the pandemic, with people arriving from some countries being subject to compulsory testing.
Nearly 8,000 cases have been diagnosed in Catalonia over the past 14 days – accounting for almost half of the 16,410 detected across Spain.
Catalonia’s public health secretary, Josep Maria Argimon, said the situation in and around Barcelona was “at a critical moment” and called on people to heed the regional government’s request not to leave their homes unless strictly necessary.
Meanwhile, Norway has said it will reimpose a 10-day quarantine requirement for people arriving from Spain from Saturday after a surge in coronavirus cases there.
However, the government also said it would ease restrictions on people coming from more counties of Sweden, according to Reuters.
Residents of the European Union, European Economic Area or Schengen countries with fewer than 20 confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last two weeks are able to enter Norway without being required to go into self-quarantine.
103-year-old recovers from Covid-19 in Pakistan
A 103-year-old man has recovered from coronavirus in Pakistan to become one of the oldest survivors of the disease in the world, beating the odds in a country with a weak healthcare system, his relatives and doctors said.
Aziz Abdul Alim, a resident of a village in the mountainous northern district of Chitral, was released last week from an emergency response centre after testing positive in early July.
“We were worried for him given his age, but he wasn’t worried at all,” Alim’s son Sohail Ahmed told Reuters on the phone from his village, close to Pakistan’s border with China and Afghanistan.
Ahmed quoted his father as saying that he had been through a lot in life and the coronavirus did not scare him. He did however, not like being in isolation.
A carpenter until his 70s, Alim has outlived three wives and nine sons and daughters, said Ahmed, who is himself in his 50s.
Alim also had to be provided with moral and psychological support during his isolation and treatment, Dr Sardar Nawaz, a senior medical officer at the Aga Khan Health Service emergency centre told Reuters on Friday.
The makeshift centre was set up in a girls’ hostel just weeks before Alim was brought in and is the only one equipped to deal with Covid-19 patients for miles.
Pakistan has registered more than 270,000 cases of the disease and 5,763 deaths. Though the number of people testing positive has dropped over the last month, government officials fear there could be another rise during the Muslim religious festival of Eid al-Adha, which falls on 1 August.
Human trials of Russia’s second potential coronavirus vaccine, developed by the Siberian Vector institute, will begin on July 27, the TASS news agency cited Russia’s consumer safety watchdog as saying on Friday.
An early-stage human trial of a separate vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya institute in Moscow, was completed this month, with scientists hailing the results and authorities planning to move to mass production in the autumn.
Spain reported a cumulative total of 272,421 coronavirus cases on Friday, up 2,255 from the day before.
The figure includes people who have recovered from the disease but whose antibody tests were taken now.
In the past 24 hours, some 922 new infections were diagnosed, the ministry said, compared with 971 the previous day.
Since lifting a nationwide lockdown a month ago Spain has struggled to contain a rise in new infections.
Mali announced it would shortly re-open its air and land borders after a months-long closure aimed at stemming coronavirus infections.
In a statement, the government said air borders, closed on 18 March, would open again on Saturday and land borders, closed on 26 March, from 31 July.
Normal working hours of 8am to 4pm are also now back in place, it added, after having earlier shortened the working day to 2pm to slow infections.
Malian authorities have recorded 2,494 cases of coronavirus to date, with 74 fatalities. The number is low compared to other parts of the world.
But there have been fears that Mali is particularly at risk from a large outbreak because of endemic poverty and an eight-year-old jihadist conflict.
The UN’s high commissioner for human rights has warned Zimbabwe against using the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext for restricting freedoms, after an investigative journalist and an opposition leader were arrested this week.
Award-winning journalist and government critic Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume, head of a small opposition party, were arrested on Monday ahead of anti-government and anti-graft demonstrations planned for 31 July.
State prosecutors accuse the pair of recklessness for organising a protest in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak.
They were charged with inciting public violence.
“We are concerned at allegations in Zimbabwe which suggest that the authorities may be using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to clamp down on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” said the commissioner’s spokeswoman, Liz Throssell.
The planned demonstration against corruption and the deteriorating economy marks the second anniversary of a general election won by president Emmerson Mnangagwa amid accusations of fraud.
But the protest was effectively banned when Mnangagwa imposed a curfew and reinstated confinement measures on Tuesday to curb the spread of coronavirus after a surge in cases.
Mnangagwa has been accused of conducting a growing crackdown on dissent since he took office in 2017. Throssel said:
Merely calling for a peaceful protest or participating in a peaceful protest are an exercise of recognised human rights.
We are concerned at reports of police using force to disperse and arrest nurses and health workers for infringing lockdown restrictions as they were trying to protest for better salaries and conditions of work.
The southern African country, whose public health system is in ruins after years of economic crisis, has reported 2,124 coronavirus cases, including 28 deaths.
Austria’s push to test large numbers of hotel staff for Covid-19 in a bid to reassure tourists is falling far short of its target as too few people have signed up, tourism minister Elisabeth Koestinger said.
The scheme, which began on 1 July, is supposed to test 65,000 staff in hotels and other forms of accommodation each week – roughly matching the number of tests otherwise carried out nationally.
The total number of tests carried out so far, however, is just a fraction of that, Koestinger told ORF radio, putting it at more than 14,000.
We have achieved the capacity to be able to carry out 65,000 tests (a week)… Now we need the businesses, the employees to register, to take part and above all to let themselves be tested regularly.
Austria’s outbreak has been relatively limited compared with those in other Western European countries. It has recorded 20,215 cases and just 711 deaths, though infections have accelerated in the past month.
It was one of the first EU countries to introduce a lockdown, in mid-March, which it started loosening a month later. Hotels were allowed to reopen on 29 May.
Tourism directly contributes about 6% of Austria’s economic output, and Germans are the top foreign visitors.
Austria’s reputation as a tourist destination has taken a hit, however, because of a large outbreak at Ischgl, a ski resort known for its party scene.
Hundreds of people were infected in February and March before the first case was identified there.
“I also believe above all that now, because of the renewed increase in infection numbers, there will be an increase in awareness and that more people will sign up,” Koestinger said.
Italian health minister Roberto Speranza has signed a quarantine order for people who have been in Romania and Bulgaria in the last 14 days, in a move aimed at preventing the importation of Covid-19 cases from outside the country.
“The virus is not defeated and continues to circulate. For this reason we still need to be careful,” Speranza wrote on Facebook.
Italy, one of the European countries worst-affected by Covid-19, had already banned entry to people coming from 16 countries including hard-hit Brazil.
The EU coronavirus recovery package promises deeper integration between European countries. Here’s why Yanis Varoufakis thinks it won’t work.
Ignoring the predictably triumphant reception by the usual EU cheerleaders, hope that this time the EU may have got it right comes from smart critics of the leaders’ track record, such as my friend Shahin Vallée who described the recovery fund as “a leap towards genuine integration”.
It is not the size of the fund that gives commentators like Vallée hope. It is, rather, the fact that for the first time EU leaders seem to have acknowledged the indispensability of a common debt as the glue of any monetary union. True enough, the €750bn will be borrowed jointly by member states in proportion to their capacity so as to be spent in proportion to their need. This has been necessary for years but has been resisted doggedly by the richer countries – until now.
So, why is it that, although I endorse the idea of mutualised debt as a necessary condition for European unity, I believe that the EU’s latest decision is another step in the direction of Europe’s disintegration?
Germany will offer returning holidaymakers free coronavirus tests as part of efforts to prevent a new wave of infections, authorities said on Friday, as the country recorded its highest number of daily cases for two months.
Arrivals from countries designated as high-risk will be eligible for immediate tests, while arrivals from other places will be able to get tested within three days.
“The current infection figures show once again that we are still in the middle of the corona pandemic. And increasing travel increases the risk of more infections being brought back into Germany,” health minister Jens Spahn said in a statement.
Germany has so far done a better job than many countries at containing the virus thanks to early and extensive testing. But videos of loutish behaviour by some Germans in Mallorca and Bulgaria has raised concerns that holidaymakers are at increased risk of infections that could then be imported back home.
The number of new confirmed cases increased sharply on Friday to 815, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed, the biggest tally since mid-May.
Germany has designated 130 countries as high-risk, including Turkey, Egypt and the United States.
Arrivals from anywhere on that list who cannot show a negative test result are already required to go into quarantine for 14 days.
Authorities said they will cover the cost of the tests in the first instance and are instructing airport operators to set up testing facilities. In future, costs should be passed on to holidaymakers via ticket prices.
People entering Germany from risk countries by road, train and bus will be subject to random spot tests near the border.
To gain a better idea of who is entering the country, Germany also plans to re-introduce disembarkation cards for all arrivals.
France is advising its citizens not to travel to the Spanish region of Catalonia in order to help contain the spread of coronavirus, French prime minister Jean Castex said on Friday.
Castex also said the government would reinforce controls at France’s borders in the hope of better containing the pandemic, with people arriving from some countries being subject to compulsory testing.
Castex was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Charles-de-Gaulle international airport, north of Paris.