Sunday, February 5, 2023

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Heavy British blow

Spain sought to quell worries on Sunday after Britain abruptly imposed a two-week quarantine on travellers returning from there, a decision that filled holidaymakers with dismay.

“Spain is safe, it is safe for Spaniards, it is safe for tourists,” Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told reporters.

The Spanish government will focus its efforts on trying to persuade Britain to exclude the Balearic and Canary islands from the quarantine measure, she said, adding that the prevalence of the virus in those popular travel destinations was much lower than in the United Kingdom.

Last year, Britons made up over a fifth of foreign visitors to Spain, which relies on heavily on tourism revenues, meaning the UK move could deal a hard blow to efforts to restart the Mediterranean country’s economy after months of lockdown.

North Korea’s possible first patient

North Korea announced what could be its first publicly confirmed case of coronavirus on Sunday, and officials in Seoul believe they may have identified the man suspected of crossing into the North, but said so far there is no sign he was infected.

North Korean state media said the suspected COVID-19 patient “illegally crossed” the demarcation line on July 19, and leader Kim Jong Un called for an investigation into the military units at the border. The man is believed to have crossed from Gwanghwa, a South Korean island about 25km (15.5 miles) from Kaesong, the border city in North Korea where he was caught, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday.

He appears to have evaded troops on the South side of the border by passing through a drainpipe under barbed wire fences, and authorities found a bag believed to belong to him, the JCS said.

Second lockdown may be extended

Australia’s Victoria state on Monday reported the country’s highest daily increase in coronavirus infections at 532 new cases, prompting the authorities to warn a six-week lockdown may last longer if people continue to go to work while feeling unwell.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the high number of new cases in Victoria showed how transmission of the illness among younger people, who were considered lower risk, could spread to aged care facilities through family members. Five of the latest deaths were people in aged care facilities, the authorities said.

Mass evacuation

Vietnam is evacuating 80,000 people, mostly local tourists, from the central city of Danang after three residents tested positive for the coronavirus at the weekend, the government said on Monday. The evacuation will take at least four days with domestic airlines operating approximately 100 flights daily from Danang to 11 Vietnamese cities, the government said in a statement.

The Southeast Asian country was back on high alert after the government on Saturday confirmed its first community infections since April, and another three cases on Sunday, all in the tourism hotspot of Danang.

All aboard the socially distanced cruise

Taiwan resumed an island-hopping ocean cruise on Sunday, joining a handful of places in the world to restart voyages after the coronavirus pandemic brought the industry to a virtual standstill.

About 900 holidaymakers are following new safety measures aboard Genting Hong Kong’s Explorer Dream, which left from Taiwan’s northern Keelung port. The company now offers trips of up to five days from Taiwan to its scenic outlying islands of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.

The ship is carrying just a third of its maximum passenger limit, and is equipped with 22 COVID-19 wards to isolate passengers if any fall ill. All frontline service staff are required to wear masks and gloves. Buffet service has been dropped, the onboard casino and spa are shut, and dining tables are set apart and divided by screens.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh. Edited by Gerry Doyle)




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