Vietnam suspends wildlife trade as pandemic prods action

HANOI, Vietnam (AFP) — Vietnam, one of Asia’s biggest consumers of wildlife products, has suspended all imports of wild animal species “dead or alive” and vowed to “eliminate” illegal markets across the country. The directive signed by the leader of the Communist country follows an international scandal over the sale of wildlife, which has been blamed as the origin of the coronavirus pandemic in neighbouring China. It is a major victory for conservation groups who […]

Israeli firm developing 30-second coronavirus breath test

by Jonah Mandel Agence France-Presse MISGAV, Israel (AFP) — An Israeli company is developing a coronavirus breathalyser test that gives results in 30 seconds, billing it as a “front line” tool that can help restore a sense of normality during the pandemic. NanoScent, the firm making the test kits, said an extensive trial in Israel for the presence of live virus delivered results with 85 percent accuracy, and the product could receive regulatory approval within […]

Much maligned elsewhere, bats get star treatment in central France

by Maxime MAMET Agence France-Presse BOURGES, France (AFP) — At a museum in central France, researchers tenderly feed insects and kitten milk formula to tiny orphaned bats — creatures widely reviled for their role in human disease outbreaks, most recently COVID-19. The pandemic has triggered bat-killing sprees in communities from India and Peru to Cuba and Rwanda, but the mission of the team at the Bourges natural history museum is to protect the misunderstood winged mammals. […]

Virus-hit Singapore plunges into recession as economy shrinks 41%

SINGAPORE, Singapore (AFP) — Singapore plunged into recession in the second quarter as growth fell 41.2 percent quarter-on-quarter with the trade-dependent economy hammered by the coronavirus, preliminary data showed Tuesday. Year-on-year, the economy shrank 12.6 percent between April and June, according to the data from the trade ministry, as strict curbs were imposed to fight the virus. It marks the second consecutive quarter of contraction, meaning that the city state — which has one of the […]

Flying back to the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic: what to expect in the “new normal”

by Emily Manuel Contributor, Eagle News AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (Eagle News) — With no end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to join 391 stranded Filipino seafarers, workers, and tourists in a repatriation flight organized by the Philippine Embassy in the The Hague last July 3, 2020. KL 875 would take us from Amsterdam to Manila via Bangkok in approximately 15 hours and 45 minutes. – Check-in – Schiphol Airport stands eerily quiet. […]

Philippine Embassy in the Netherlands helps repatriate 392 Filipinos including 367 seafarers

by Emily Manuel Contributor, Eagle News THE HAGUE, The Netherlands (Eagle News) – The Philippine Embassy in the Netherlands assisted a total of 392 overseas Filipinos in a repatriation flight from Amsterdam to Manila last July 3, 2020. The flight included 367 seafarers, 3 land-based workers, 10 stranded tourists, 7 au pairs, 2 students, and 3 other returning Filipinos. – Stranded Filipinos – Due to the daily limit of inbound passengers allowed to enter the […]

Australia starts virus testing blitz to curb surge in Melbourne

MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — Health workers fanned out across suburbs of Melbourne Friday in a testing blitz aimed at choking off a surge in coronavirus cases in Australia’s second-biggest city. Officials reported another 30 new COVID-19 infections in the city overnight in a continuing outbreak that has raised fears of a second wave in Australia, which looked like it had successfully contained the epidemic. It was the 10th straight day of double-digit rises in new […]

Israel wields startup tech against coronavirus second wave

by Guillaume Lavallee Agence France-Presse TEL-AVIV, Israel (AFP) — Israel’s armoury in the battle against the novel coronavirus includes thermal cameras scanning crowds and algorithms trawling vast medical databanks for real-time indicators of an infection spike. The Jewish state is enlisting the help of local startups in the hope of stemming a “second wave” of the virus. The chaos of daily life in Israel, or “balagan” as it is known in Hebrew, stands in contrast […]

UN says Covid will increase the risks associated with drug trafficking

Vienna, Austria (AFP) — The new coronavirus pandemic could hit drug markets just as the 2008 economic crisis did, exacerbating the risks for users, the UN drugs and crime agency warned Thursday. In its 2020 World Drug Report, the agency predicted an overall increase in drug use due to the pandemic, with a shift towards consuming cheaper products and injecting them, which carries greater risks. Countries were also likely to reduce drug-related budgets, it warned. […]

Russia holds grand WWII parade ahead of vote on Putin reforms

by Jonathan BROWN Agence France-Presse MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Columns of tanks and troops will parade through Red Square on Wednesday as President Vladimir Putin oversees grand World War II commemorations to stir up patriotic fervour ahead of a vote on extending his rule. Forced to postpone the country’s traditional May 9 Victory Day celebrations by the coronavirus pandemic, Putin rescheduled the parade for just a week ahead of a July 1 public vote on […]

Amazon indigenous groups face choice: fight virus or flee

by Florian PLAUCHEUR Agence France-Presse CRUZEIRINHO, Brazil (AFP) — Cruzeirinho, a small indigenous village of wooden shacks deep in the Amazon, is nearly empty these days — all but five of its 32 families have fled into the rainforest to escape the coronavirus pandemic. A week’s trip by boat from there, the inhabitants of the Umariacu indigenous reserve are trying a different strategy against the virus. “Attention: indigenous land. Closed for 15 days,” says a […]

Machu Picchu July reopening ruled out over fears of virus spread

LIMA, Peru (AFP) — The ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, a jewel of Peruvian tourism, will not reopen in July as originally scheduled due to concerns over the coronavirus, local media reported Sunday. The Machu Picchu management group, UGM, made the decision based on reports from authorities in the Cusco region, where the citadel is located. “It has been decided that it will not be opened on July 1,” Machu Picchu district mayor Darwin […]