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 […]

China cancels flights, classes over new outbreak as India deaths soar

by Jing Xuan Teng and Laurie Chen, with AFP Bureaus Agence France-Presse BEIJING, China (AFP) — China closed schools in Beijing and restricted air travel from the capital on Wednesday to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections, as India’s death toll spiked. The new Chinese cluster and surging infections in Latin America and South Asia have raised fresh doubts about how soon the world can control the pandemic, which has seen more than 8.1 […]

Robots: allies during virus crisis, enemies later?

by Pierrick YVON Agence France-Presse PARIS, France (AFP) — When human contact needs to be kept to a minimum, robots can save lives and factories. But when the coronavirus crisis is over, will they amplify job losses? It may be a mechanised arm pulling beers in a Seville bar, a dog-like dispenser of hand sanitiser in a Bangkok mall, a cooler on wheels that delivers groceries in Washington, or a vaguely humanoid greeter at a […]

Steroid first drug shown to save lives of severest COVID-19 cases

by Dmitry ZAKS with Patrick GALEY in Paris Agence France-Presse LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — The steroid dexamethasone was shown Tuesday to be the first drug to significantly reduce the risk of death among severe COVID-19 cases, in trial results hailed as a “major breakthrough” in the fight against the disease. Researchers led by a team from the University of Oxford administered the widely available drug to more than 2,000 severely ill COVID-19 patients. Among […]

Pygmies return to forest to isolate against coronavirus

by Camille LAFFONT PICTURES BY FLORENT VERGNES Agence France-Presse BAYANGA, Central African Republic (AFP) — Dzanga-Sangha, a wildlife sanctuary in southwest Central African Republic, is a remote place, linked to the rest of the world by a narrow trail that becomes impassable in heavy rain. But for the region’s Pygmies—outcasts in a country already ranked among the poorest in the world—Dzanga-Sangha’s isolation could be a blessing. As coronavirus spreads in the CAR, with more than 1,000 […]

Malaysian university moots robot graduation ceremonies to cut virus risk

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) — A Malaysian university is considering using robots dressed in gowns and mortarboards to act as stand-ins at graduation ceremonies to prevent coronavirus infections — but students have blown a fuse at the idea. A video of the planned ceremonies released by the university shows two elegantly attired, waist-high robots being handed diplomas by high-ranking university officials. The students’ faces appear on screens mounted on the robots’ heads. Associate professor Engku […]

Scottish island pilots drone deliveries of medical supplies

by Stuart GRAHAM Agence France-Presse OBAN, United Kingdom(AFP) — In a field overlooking the Lorn and Islands Hospital in the town of Oban on Scotland’s remote west coast, an anxious Duncan Walker trained his eyes above a nearby hill. Walker, chief executive of drone delivery company Skyports, is working with Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to trial whether medical supplies like COVID-19 tests and protective equipment can be flown from the hospital to the Isle of […]

Plastic bubble brings joy to French nursing home

by Elia VAISSIERE PICTURES BY DENIS CHARLET Agence France-Presse BOURBOURG, France (AFP) — Nathalie Szczepaniak caresses the hand of her husband Joseph, a care home resident, as the couple reunites after weeks without a visit because of France’s coronavirus lockdown. But this is no ordinary reunion. The couple meets in an anti-virus “bubble” at Joseph’s nursing home in Bourbourg, northern France, separated by a clear plastic sheet that allows them some physical contact, face-to-face, without the […]