Though the COVID-19 spread is slowing and pressure on hospitals is easing, Spain’s death toll passes a grim milestone. Meanwhile Queen II cancels the gun salute marking her birthday and Turkey overtakes neighbouring Iran to register the most cases in the Midd…

April 19, 2020 05:36:18
The coronavirus death toll in Spain has surpassed 20,000, however there are signs the spread of the virus is beginning to slow as hospitals experience less demand, with one temporary hospital being dismantled.
In the UK, Queen Elizabeth II has cancelled her birthday celebrations, saying it would not be appropriate for them to go ahead. Captain Tom Moore, the 99-year-old war veteran who captured hearts all over the globe when he walked laps of his garden to raise money for the NHS, will be honoured at the opening of a new field hospital.
Turkey has overtaken its neighbour Iran to register the most cases in the Middle East, coming within a couple of hundred of China’s figure. The Government announced it would extend travel restrictions throughout the country.
This story is being updated regularly throughout Sunday.
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UAE to issue $8,500 fines for spreading coronavirus misinformation
The United Arab Emirates will fine people up to 20,000 dirhams ($8,500) if they share medical information about the coronavirus that contradicts official statements, state news agency WAM reports.
The move appears to be aimed at containing the spread of misinformation and rumours related to the COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed 37 lives in the Gulf Arab state, with 6,300 confirmed infections as of Friday.
“It is forbidden for any individual to publish, re-publish or circulate medical information or guidance which is false, misleading or which hasn’t been announced officially using print, audio-visual or social media, or online websites or any other way of publication or circulation,” WAM reported, citing the government directive.
The text of the government decision refers only to “individuals”, without specifying whether journalists and media professionals are included.
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Queen Elizabeth II cancels birthday plans as coronavirus hits Britain
Queen Elizabeth II will not celebrate her 94th birthday on April 21 in any special way and has asked that there be no gun salutes to mark the occasion because it would not be appropriate while the country battles a deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Britain is near the peak of an outbreak in which more than 14,000 people have already died the fifth highest national death toll of a pandemic linked to at least 150,000 deaths worldwide.
Ceremonial gun salutes, in which blank rounds are fired from various location across London, are typically used by the royal family to mark special occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays.
The Queen was keen that no special measures were put in place to allow gun salutes as she did not feel it appropriate in the current circumstances, a royal source said.
Meanwhile, Captain Tom Moore, a 99-year-old British war veteran who has raised more than 23 million pounds ($45 million) for the health service by walking laps of his garden, will be a guest of honour at the opening of a new field hospital next week.
Captain Moore will praise National Health Service (NHS) workers via video link at the opening of a new “Nightingale” Hospital in Harrogate, northern England, which is being set up to help deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Spain death toll reaches 20,000
Spain has now counted 20,000 deaths, an increase of 565 over the most recent 24-hour period, according to numbers tracked by Johns Hopkins University. This is a lower daily increase than the previous day’s 585 deaths.
The number of overall coronavirus cases rose to 191,726 from 188,068 in that same 24-hour period. More than 74,000 people have recovered.
As the outbreak’s spread slows, pressure on hospitals has relaxed. Authorities have closed one part of a huge field hospital with thousands of beds set up by the military in a convention centre in Madrid.
This week, health authorities said there were discrepancies in the statistics of virus deaths and infections reported by regional administrations. The central Government has ordered regions to give more precise data and use the same parameters.
Spain has begun to ease a strict lockdown imposed on March 14, opening up some sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, this week.
But strict confinement rules are expected to be extended beyond April 26.
Italian church used as temporary morgue now empty of coffins
There are signs that the outbreak in Italy is easing, even in the worst-hit city of Bergamo.A photograph tweeted by its mayor shows a church that had served as a morgue at the height of the crisis, now filled with flowers.
Last month as the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 rose, the army took dozens of coffins to churches and then to crematoriums.
But the mayor says the last of the coffins has been removed.
Around Italy, 23,000 people have died over the course of the outbreak, second only to the US.
Nigerian President’s chief of staff dies
The Nigerian President’s chief of staff has died from COVID-19, making him the most high profile person in the country to die in the coronavirus outbreak.
Abba Kyari had acted as the gatekeeper to 77-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari. After his re-election last year, Mr Buhari ordered ministers to channel all communications through him.
Mr Kyari had underlying health problems including diabetes. His age was not officially disclosed, although two presidency aides said he was 70.
“The deceased had tested positive to the ravaging COVID-19, and had been receiving treatment. But he died on Friday, April 17, 2020,” presidency spokesman Garba Shehu said in a tweet.
Nigeria has 493 confirmed cases and 17 deaths, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Mr Kyari’s death could be very significant because he showed “an immense ability to wield power in the context of a largely absent president”, said Clement Nwankwo, director of the Abuja-based Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre think tank.
“There is no evidence that the chief of staff shared that power with anyone. He was totally trusted and it isn’t clear who could fill those shoes,” said Mr Nwankwo.
Kyari’s body was flown to the capital, Abuja, on Saturday. He was buried at a cemetery in the city in a private ceremony after funeral prayers at his residence, Mr Shehu said.
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Turkey overtakes Iran for most cases in Middle East
Turkey’s confirmed coronavirus cases have risen to 82,329, overtaking neighbouring Iran for the first time to register the highest total in the Middle East.
An increase of 3,783 cases in the past 24 hours also pushed Turkey’s confirmed tally within a few hundred of China.
A total of 1,890 people have died and 10,453 people have recovered from coronavirus in Turkey so far, and the number of tests carried out over the past 24 hours came to 40,520, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.
The Interior Ministry also said it was extending restrictions on travel between 31 cities for a further 15 days starting at midnight on Saturday.
Iran partially reopens capital as coronavirus deaths hit one-month low
Iran has opened so-called low-risk businesses in the capital Tehran as the country’s daily death toll from the new coronavirus fell to 73, its lowest in more than a month..
The re-opening, announced earlier this month, came as the country saw its fifth consecutive day with a death toll under 100.
Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the Middle East, with a total death toll of 5,031 and 80,868 cases.
A parliamentary report released earlier this week, however, suggested the coronavirus death toll might be almost double the figure announced by the health ministry, and the number of infections eight to 10 times more.
Many government offices had already re-opened last week, with one-third of their staff working from home.
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