ICRC: Essential Workers in Brazil Face High Risk in Coronavirus Fight

Frontline heatlh workers in Brazil are at serious risk of contracting COVID-19 as they carry out essential work, said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Monday.“These professionals are not only saving lives, they are also ensuring essential services continue for everyone, whether it be health care, social services or education. They deserve our full support and solidarity,” said Simone Casabianca-Aeschlimann, the ICRC’s head of delegation for Brazil and the Southern Cone countries. The organization announced a campaign Monday to support essential workers in Brazil.At least 232,992 health professionals have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 196 of those have officially died of it, according to an August 6 bulletin from the Brazilian health ministry.“The minister highlights the commitment, dedication and altruism of health professionals who are at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19,” said the Brazilian health ministry in a press release Saturday.The numbers, however, could be much higher. Brazil’s Federal Council of Nursing recorded 325 COVID-19 deaths within the nursing profession alone.“Each number hides the face of a mother, a father, children, dear friends, colleagues who faced shifts together and fear for their lives and their families,” wrote the council in an August 7 response to the health ministry.Brazil has recorded more than 3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 100,000 deaths from the disease so far, according to Johns Hopkins University. Brazil has the second-highest number of cases and deaths in the world, behind only the United States. 

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Greece Says Turkish Ship in Mediterranean ‘Threatening Peace’

Greece on Monday accused Turkey of “threatening peace” in the eastern Mediterranean and called a military meeting after Ankara resumed oil and gas exploration near a Greek island.  
 
The Greek foreign ministry said that Turkey’s decision to deploy seismic research ship Oruc Reis constituted a “new serious escalation” and “exposed” Turkey’s “destabilizing role”.  
 
Energy exploration in the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean is a frequent source of tension between Turkey and a bloc of neighbors including Greece, Cyprus, and Israel.  
 
The Greek ministry said Athens “will not accept any blackmail” and “will defend its sovereignty and its sovereign rights.”.  
 
The announcement came after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis conferred with military chiefs and his foreign minister.  
 
Mitsotakis’ office said the prime minister had spoken to EU Council President Charles Michel on the issue, and would later speak to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.  
 
A senior Greek minister added that navy ships were monitoring the Turkish seismic research ship.  
 
“We are in complete political and operational readiness,” Minister of State George Gerapetritis said on state TV ERT.  
 
“Most of the fleet is ready to be deployed wherever necessary,” he said.  
 
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez had earlier tweeted that the Oruc Reis had “reached the destination where work would be undertaken”, near the island of Kastellorizo.  
 
Turkey sent out a message on NAVTEX, the international maritime navigational telex system, announcing the vessel would be carrying out activities off the island of Kastellorizo between August 10 and 23.  
 
The move came just days after the NATO allies seemed close to talks over disputed maritime zones in the Aegean.  
 
Turkey had called off an earlier search by the Oruc Reis last month to hold negotiations with Greece and Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency.   
 
But the mood soured last week after Greece and Egypt signed an agreement to set up an exclusive economic zone in the region.  
 
The Turkish foreign ministry said the “so-called maritime deal” was “null and void”.  
 
Egypt, Cyprus and Greece have likewise denounced a contentious deal, including a security agreement, signed last year between Ankara and UN-recognized government in Libya.  
 
Greece, Cyprus and Israel in January signed an agreement for a huge pipeline project to transport gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe despite Turkey’s hostility to the deal.  
 

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Lack of Deal Leaves Dutch Companies Struggling to Prepare for Brexit

Britain is leaving the European Union in less than five months. Requesting another extension is not possible and it is unclear if a deal will be reached in the coming months. This will have a significant impact on companies in the Netherlands, one Britain’s largest EU trading partners. Every day, as many as 60 trucks of Jan de Rijk Logistics cross the channel into Britain. The Dutch logistics company is preparing its drivers for all kinds of scenarios when Britain officially leaves the European Union at the end of 2020.Company CEO Fred Westdijk said the uncertainty of the Brexit withdrawal terms mean he is also preparing for the worst possibility.“We have instructed our drivers that if they get stuck on the British border, that we will fly in security guards to guard the trucks while it’s waiting for the border crossing. We have instructed our drivers to call our planning department, in case they get stuck and don’t have food. Some of the scenarios show queues of maybe days,” he said.Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum in June 2016. This means Britain will no longer be part of the customs union, ending previous free trade arrangements with EU countries.It remains uncertain what type of trade rules will apply after Brexit.In 2018, Britain was the third largest destination for Dutch exports. The Netherlands is the fourth export destination for Britain.The international food coloring company GNT Group has its headquarters in the Netherlands. Close to a third of its trade is with Britain. Supply Chain Manager Hans Bruning feels there is still a lack of information and knowledge with his customers in Britain.“When we have some discussions with our customers, they’re still asking really simple and easy questions about customs clearance and that kind of things. What do we need? How can we organize this? We would have thought that these kinds of questions were already known by the customers. But that they are there at this time that is really scaring us a little bit,” he said.Despite the expected hiccups following the withdrawal, Dutch companies are eager to continue trading with Britain.Britain and the EU have until the end of October to reach a new separate trade deal. If no agreement is reached, observers say companies might have to fall back on WTO trade regulations.

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India Reports Record Coronavirus Deaths

India on Monday reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus deaths, the most the country has recorded in a single day since the pandemic began. The new toll put India’s total at 44,386 deaths, trailing only the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Britain. The country has also reported more confirmed new cases than any other in the world for six consecutive days, including 62,000 on Monday. Australia reported its own deadliest day with 19 new deaths, while the center of the country’s outbreak, the state of Victoria, saw some decline in its number of new cases. “Sadly, when it comes to the fatalities that result from COVID, that reflects a situation of several weeks ago now as the virus has taken its course with these particular individuals, the work continues,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters Monday.  “We look for better news when it comes to the stabilizing of cases in Victoria. I am more hopeful of that today than I was in the course of the past week over the briefings I have received over the course of the weekend and again this morning.” China’s National Health Commission said Monday there were 14 new locally transmitted cases, all of which were in the northwestern Xinjiang region that is the country’s current hotspot. China also had 35 imported cases from travelers arriving from overseas. In response to a rise in infections, authorities in Paris imposed a one-month order starting Monday requiring people to wear masks in popular outdoor areas such as along the banks of the River Seine. Paris joins other French cities with similar orders in place, including Toulouse, Lille and Bairritz. Those caught violating the Paris order face a fine of about $160, while those caught three times could face up to six months in prison.A medical technician wearing a face shield talks to a masked woman who waits to get tested for COVID-19 outside a laboratory in Paris, Aug 8, 2020.Students in Germany’s capital return to school Monday as government leaders try to figure out the best way to keep children and staff members safe from the coronavirus. “There are conflicting priorities, health protection on the one hand, which is very important to us, and on the other hand that we want to ensure the right to education of every single child,” German education minister Sandra Scheeres said.  She said keeping students 1.5 meters apart while inside a school is sometimes impossible.  Scheeres recommends that schools divide pupils into groups and keep them separate. If anyone were to test positive for the coronavirus, only that person and their cluster would need to be quarantined instead of everyone.   The central government will require students and teachers to wear masks in the hallways but will not require them in classroom instruction or on playgrounds.   Many other countries are also struggling to decide how and when to reopen schools.  President Donald Trump has been pushing for all U.S. schools to reopen for in-person learning. But many states say they aren’t ready and plan to begin the school year at the end of this month the same way they ended the old one in June – using virtual classrooms.  Last week a photograph of a crowded hallway in a Georgia school showed only a few students wearing masks. The school was closed and students were sent home for online classes after nine students tested positive for the coronavirus.  U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last week of a possible “generational catastrophe” in education because of shuttered schools. He urged countries to make reopening schools a top priority once the coronavirus crisis subsides.   British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an article in the Daily Mail newspaper that the country has a moral duty to reopen schools.  He said restarting schools is a national priority and a social and economic necessity.  Johnson asserted that British schools can operate safely and has previously said schools would be the last places to close if there is another COVID-19 shutdown.   The British school year is set to start in early September. 

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Germany Struggles to Set COVID-19 Rules as Schools Reopen

German students go back to school Monday even as federal and state leaders are still trying to figure out how to keep half a million children, their teachers, and other staffers safe from the coronavirus.  “There are conflicting priorities, health protection on the one hand, which is very important to us, and on the other hand that we want to ensure the right to education of every single child,” German education minister Sandra Scheeres said. She said keeping students 1.5 meters apart while inside a school is sometimes impossible. Scheeres recommends that schools divide pupils into groups and keep them separate. If anyone were to test positive for the coronavirus, only that person and their cluster would need to be quarantined instead of everyone.  The central government will require students and teachers to wear masks in the hallways but will not require them in classroom instruction or on playgrounds.  Many other countries are also struggling to decide how and when to reopen schools. President Donald Trump has been pushing for all U.S. schools to reopen for in-person learning. But many states say they aren’t ready and plan to begin the school year at the end of this month the same way they ended the old one in June – using virtual classrooms. Last week a photograph of a crowded hallway in a Georgia school showed only a few students wearing masks. The school was closed and students were sent home for online classes after nine students tested positive for the coronavirus.Students arrive to Dallas Elementary School for the first day of school amid the coronavirus outbreak on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Dallas, Ga.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last week of a possible “generational catastrophe” in education because of shuttered schools. He urged countries to make reopening schools a top priority once the coronavirus crisis subsides.  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an article in the Daily Mail newspaper that the country has a moral duty to reopen schools. He said restarting schools is a national priority and a social and economic necessity. Johnson asserted that British schools can operate safely and has previously said schools would be the last places to close if there is another COVID-19 shutdown.  The British school year is set to start in early September.  Face masks must be worn outside in most places in France starting Monday, and masks are also required in nearly every indoor setting in Britain and Scotland. Australia recorded 404 new cases Sunday, but New Zealand is reporting its 100th straight day with no new cases of COVID-19 spread by co-called community transmission, when there is no clear source.  Finally, for someone who believes an N95 mask just won’t do, there’s a $1.5 million white-gold-and-diamond-encrusted COVID-19 face mask. Israel’s Yvel jewelry company says it received a request for the special made-to-order mask from an unidentified Chinese businessman living in the United States. “Money maybe doesn’t buy everything, but if it can buy a very expensive COVID-19 mask and the guy wants to wear it and walk around and get the attention, he should be happy with that,” designer Isaac Levy said. “I am happy that this mask gave us enough work for our employees to be able to provide their jobs in very challenging times like these times right now,” he said. 

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6 French Aid Workers Among 8 Killed by Gunmen in Niger

Six French aid workers with the nongovernmental organization ACTED and their local guide and driver were killed Sunday by gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger that is home to the last West African giraffes, officials said.The six worked for the international aid group, Niger’s Defense Minister Issoufou Katambé told Reuters. Officials had earlier described them as tourists.”Among the eight people killed in Niger, several are ACTED employees,” said Joseph Breham, an NGO lawyer.No one immediately claimed responsibility for the assault.  French President Emmanuel Macron denounced “the deadly attack which cowardly hit a group of humanitarian workers” in Niger and said in a statement Sunday the attack will be investigated.Macron, who spoke Sunday with his Nigerien counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou, added that “their determination to continue the common fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel” remained intact.The president “expresses his condolences and the support of the French nation to the families and relatives of the victims,” the statement said.It is believed to be the first such attack on Western tourists in the area, a popular attraction in the former French colony thanks to its unique population of West African or Niger giraffes.A source close to Niger’s environmental services said the assault took place around 11:30 a.m. (1030 GMT) 6 kilometers (4 miles) east of the town of Koure, which is an hour’s drive from the capital, Niamey.”Most of the victims were shot. … We found a magazine emptied of its cartridges at the scene,” the source told AFP.”We do not know the identity of the attackers, but they came on motorcycles through the bush and waited for the arrival of the tourists.”The source also described the scene of the attack, where bodies were laid side-by-side next to a torched off-road vehicle, which had bullet holes in its rear window.Around 20 years ago, a small herd of West African giraffes, a subspecies distinguished by its lighter color, found a haven from poachers and predators in the Koure area.Today they number in their hundreds and are a key tourist attraction, enjoying the protection of local people and conservation groups.  However the Tillaberi region is in a hugely unstable location, near the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso.  The region has become a hideout for Sahel jihadist groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).The use of motorcycles has been totally banned since January in an attempt to curb the movements of such jihadists. 

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Protesters Call for End to Spanish Monarchy After Former King’s Exit

Protesters on Sunday called for an end to the Spanish monarchy after the sudden departure of the former King Juan Carlos from the country this week amid a corruption scandal.Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014 in favor of his son Felipe, abruptly announced his decision to leave on Monday but there has been no official confirmation of where he went, setting off an international guessing game.”We have to clean up the system of corruption and we should start with the crown,” said Jose Emilio Martin, a bus driver, who was among about a hundred protesters in Madrid on Sunday.Protests against the royal family have spread across Spain since the ex-monarch’s dramatic exit, with about 100 republicans demonstrating in Valencia on Sunday and more protests planned in Mallorca this week during King Felipe VI’s visit to the island.A poll by SigmaDos published on Sunday in the conservative newspaper El Mundo found 63.3% of those questioned felt it was a bad idea for the 82-year-old ex-monarch to have left, while 27.2% agreed with his departure.Some 80.3% said they thought Juan Carlos should face any potential legal proceedings. The poll, carried out between Aug. 4-6 after he left, found 12.4% said he had nothing to answer for and 7.3% did not voice an opinion.Despite the disapproval, reflecting Juan Carlos’ sinking popularity in recent years, some 69.2% of those questioned in Sunday’s poll said he played an important role in the transition from dictatorship to democracy after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, while 24.4% said he played “little or no” role.In June, Spain’s Supreme Court opened a preliminary investigation into Juan Carlos’ involvement in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia, after Switzerland’s La Tribune de Geneve newspaper reported he had received $100 million from the late Saudi king. Switzerland has also opened an investigation.The former monarch is not formally under investigation and has repeatedly declined to comment on the allegations.Juan Carlos’ lawyer said on Monday his client was at the Spanish prosecutor’s disposal despite his decision to leave.The pro-monarchist newspaper ABC reported on Friday that Juan Carlos had traveled by private plane from Spain to the United Arab Emirates on Monday.Other media have said he is in the Dominican Republic or in Portugal. Officials there have said they have no knowledge of him arriving.A Spanish government spokeswoman declined on Sunday to comment on his whereabouts. His lawyer and the royal palace have all this week declined to say where Juan Carlos is.News website Niusdiario.es posted a photograph on Saturday that it said showed him walking down the steps of a plane at an airport in Abu Dhabi. If confirmed, it would be the first image published of the ex-king since his departure.United Arab Emirates officials and the Emirates Palace Hotel did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday.   

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Indigenous Peoples Face Critical Threat from COVID-19 as Cultural, Political Rights Erode 

The United Nations warns COVID-19 poses a critical threat to hundreds of millions of indigenous people worldwide.   To mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on countries to respond to their needs and to respect their cultural, social and political rights.  
Many of the more than 476 million indigenous people around the world now live in remote locations.  Their traditional way of life and distance from heavily populated areas have largely insulated them from many diseases commonly circulating.  However, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres notes that throughout history, indigenous peoples have been decimated by diseases brought from elsewhere, to which they had no immunity.  Unfortunately, the coronavirus is following the same trajectory.   FILE – Indigenous people from Yanomami ethnic group are seen, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease, at the 4th Surucucu Special Frontier Platoon of the Brazilian army in municipality of Alto Alegre, state of Roraima, Brazil, July 1, 2020The U.N. chief says the inequalities, stigmatization and discrimination to which indigenous peoples are subjected are helping to spread the coronavirus through their communities.  He says limited access to healthcare, clean water and sanitation makes it difficult to contain the disease.    “Indigenous peoples work primarily in traditional occupations and subsistence economies or in the informal sector,” he said. “They have all been adversely affected by the pandemic.  Indigenous women, who are often the main providers of food and nutrition for their families, have been particularly hard hit with the closures of markets for handicrafts, produce and other goods.”    The U.N. reports COVID-19 has infected more than 70,000 indigenous people in the Americas, the epicenter of the pandemic.  Among them, it says are nearly 23,000 members of 190 indigenous peoples in the Amazon basin.  More than 1,000 have lost their lives.   The Amazon and other tropical forests that are home to indigenous peoples have suffered environmental damage and economic deprivation.  Guterres says these people are at the forefront in demanding environmental and climate action to protect their precious reserves. FILE – In this file photo United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the African Union headquarters during the 33rd African Union (AU) Summit on Feb. 8, 2020, in Addis Ababa.“Lapsed enforcement of environmental protections during the crisis has brought increasing encroachment on indigenous peoples’ territories by illegal miners and loggers.  Many indigenous people have been victims of threats and violence, and many have lost their lives in the face of such threats,” he said.     The United Nations says indigenous peoples will have a better chance of tackling the coronavirus if they can exercise their rights to self-government and self-determination.   The world body is calling for universal respect and protection of their inalienable rights.      

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US Tops 5 Million Coronavirus Infections

The United States has more coronavirus cases than any other country.  There are more than 5 million infections in the U.S., according to a New York Times database. Brazil and India follow as numbers two and three, respectively, in the number of infections.  Brazil has more than 3 million cases and India has more than 2 million.Brazil on Saturday became the second country in the world to pass 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus, second to the United States, which has more than 162,000 deaths.Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, said last week he had “a clear conscience” despite the toll. Bolsonaro himself survived COVID-19 last month and said he had done “everything possible to save lives.” Because of insufficient tests, experts say, the number of Brazilians with the virus could be six times higher.In the U.S., the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has released a model predicting nearly 300,000 deaths by December 1 if Americans don’t start consistently wearing face masks.IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a statement that if 95 percent of Americans started wearing masks, more than 66,000 lives would be saved.Naga women, wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus, sit by the side of a road selling poultry on the eve of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, in Kohima, India, Aug. 8, 2020.Mexico’s health ministry reported nearly 6,500 new COVID infections Saturday and almost 700 deaths. Mexico follows only the U.S. and Brazil in the numbers of COVID deaths.  Mexico has more than 46,000 COVID deaths, according to John Hopkins University data.In France, the government ordered face masks must be worn outside in busy areas — except around some tourist sites, including the Eiffel Tower — starting Monday. The government said the French tourism industry has lost at least $35-$47 billion due to the health crisis.”The French are participating massively in the revival of the tourism sector by favoring France,” and 70 percent of those who have gone on vacation have chosen to stay in their country, Secretary of State Tourism Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche.New mask mandates went into effect Saturday in Britain, where people are now required to wear masks in most indoor settings. In England and Scotland, masks must be worn in places of worship, banks, libraries and in many other indoor places.Masks were already required in shops and on public transit, but more stringent measures were imposed to contain a surge in coronavirus infections in Britain after easing lockdown requirements.Travelers arriving in Germany from most non-European countries and regions within the European Union with high infection rates must now undergo testing for the coronavirus Travelers from high-risk areas were previously required to self-quarantine for 14 days or until they could produce a negative test.Australia recorded 404 new cases Sunday – 10 in New South Wales and 394 in Victoria.  Seventeen deaths were reported in Victoria.New Zealand reports it has experienced 100 days of zero community transmission of the coronavirus.  

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