Panama hospitals on verge of collapse as virus cases surge

  by Juan José Rodríguez Agence France Presse PANAMA CITY, Panama (AFP) — Hospitals in Panama are on the brink of collapse as coronavirus cases spike in the Central American country worst hit by the pandemic, where doctors are already exhausted. With a population of four million, Panama has gone from 200 cases a day to 1,100 over the last few weeks. “Our daily number of infected patients has been increasing in a sustained way […]

Bolivia leader catches virus as US cases soar higher

  by Raul BURGOA with AFP bureaus Agence France Presse LA PAZ, Bolivia (AFP) — Bolivia’s interim president became the latest world leader to test positive for the coronavirus Thursday, as the United States notched yet another record-breaking surge of cases while global infections and fatalities continued their relentless rise. COVID-19 has now claimed more than 550,000 lives across the planet, and infected more than 12 million people since it first emerged in China in […]

France uncovers ‘massive fraud’ of coronavirus wage payouts

  PARIS, France (AFP) — The Paris prosecutor’s office said Friday that it was investigating “massive fraud” across France by people falsely claiming temporary wage assistance for employees laid off during the coronavirus lockdown. As the crisis hit, the government quickly introduced a system to pay around 84 percent of net salary for people no longer able to work. Thousands of firms applied for the payments, allowing millions of people to avoid a sudden drop […]

Australia locks down second city as global cases top 12 million

by Ryan Smith with Robin Millard in Geneva and AFP bureaus MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — Millions of people in Australia’s second-biggest city went into lockdown on Thursday to battle another coronavirus outbreak, as the number of infections worldwide surged past 12 million. Caseloads and death tolls have risen relentlessly in many of the world’s biggest nations, with the virus now claiming over 550,000 lives across the planet. In Melbourne, five million people began a new […]

US approves sale of 105 F-35 stealth fighters to Japan

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The United States announced Thursday that it has approved the sale of 105 F-35 stealth aircraft to Japan for an estimated $23.11 billion. Japan had asked to buy 63 F-35A, the traditional version of the electronics-laden fighter aircraft, and 42 F-35B, the short-takeoff and vertical-landing version for aircraft carriers, the State Department said in a statement. Washington gave its green light to the transaction, which will improve “the security of […]

China landslides leave at least 14 dead or missing

BEIJING, China (AFP) — Heavy rains and landslides in China have left at least 14 people dead or missing over the past day, burying houses and causing scenic areas to temporarily shut. Six people have been unreachable since a landslide in southwestern Guizhou province hit three villages on Wednesday, local authorities said. At least 156 people have been relocated, and six who were trapped had to be rescued after the incident. Photos from the scene […]

Ukraine: Forest fires under control

KIEV, Ukraine (AFP) — Ukrainian firefighters have brought under control forest fires that have killed five people and left dozens homeless, the interior ministry said on Thursday. Large-scale blazes erupted on Monday in the eastern Lugansk region and engulfed a village not far from the front line of Ukraine’s war with Moscow-backed separatists. On Thursday, interior ministry spokesman Artem Shevchenko told AFP the situation was “better” and that the fires had been localized but declined […]

China offers glimpse inside lab near Wuhan virus origin

BEIJING, China (AFP) — Chinese state media has offered a rare glimpse of the lab at the heart of coronavirus conspiracy theories, as it seeks to push back against claims the facility was the source of the global pandemic. President Donald Trump and other US figures have repeatedly suggested the virus could have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or even been deliberately produced there. Footage broadcast by state-run CCTV is believed to be […]

Japan rescuers battle to reach thousands trapped by floods

by Charly Triballeau in Kumamura and Quentin Tyberghien in Takayama, Japan TAKAYAMA, Japan (AFP) — Japanese emergency services and troops were scrambling on Thursday to reach thousands of homes cut off by devastating flooding and landslides that have killed dozens and caused widespread damage. Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Thursday more than 3,000 households were isolated, either by rising floodwater or roads destroyed by landslides, mostly in the hardest-hit southwestern region of Kumamoto […]

Five million begin lockdown in Australian city

by Ryan Smith MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — Five million people in Australia’s second-biggest city began a new lockdown Thursday, returning to tough restrictions just weeks after they ended as Melbourne grapples with a resurgence of coronavirus cases. Residents have been told to stay at home for six weeks after other measures to contain a spike in COVID-19 failed to prevent the virus spreading. The state of Victoria has been effectively sealed off in an effort […]

Ukraine pins hopes on weather to beat deadly forest fires

by Yuliya Silina SMOLYANYNOVE, Ukraine (AFP) — Forest fires in eastern Ukraine that have killed five people and left dozens homeless are being brought under control by firefighters, officials said on Wednesday. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the situation was improving and he had seen no new fires during a fly-over with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other senior officials. The blaze began on Monday in Lugansk region and engulfed Smolyanynove, a village just 20 kilometres […]

Six injured in huge blast at China fireworks factory

BEIJING, China (AFP) — Powerful explosions rocked a fireworks factory in southwest China on Wednesday night, leaving at least six people injured, authorities said. A billowing yellow cloud rose over the factory in the city of Guanghan in Sichuan province after the first blast, and then thick, black smoke poured from the plant, according to images broadcast by state channel CCTV. This was followed by a second explosion. Six people were injured, including two with […]