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Mexico City warns of tighter COVID-19 restrictions
20 October 2020, 1:54 AM

Mexico City’s mayor on Monday warned tighter coronavirus curbs could be imposed later in the week as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in the sprawling capital.

Hospitalisations in Mexico largest urban area have ticked up for nearly 10 days, and officials are monitoring the trend to determine if it indicates a rise of infections in the metropolis of some 9 million people, which is ringed by dense suburban sprawl.

“We still have time to take preventative measures to keep (hospitalisations) from increasing in the coming weeks,” Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum told reporters, noting that hospital beds for coronavirus patients are just under half-full.

Sheinbaum said she did not want to ban any activities outright, but would consider limitations such as reducing the operating hours of some businesses to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Let’s be aware that the pandemic is continuing… we have to keep protecting ourselves,” Sheinbaum said.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said at his nightly news conference that the federal entity of Mexico City is one off our states in a “stable zone” for new coronavirus cases, while eight states have reversed a downward trend of fewer infections.

Mexico has lost 86 338 lives to the coronavirus pandemic and registered 854 926 infections, according to government data, although the true figures could be much higher.

Ireland imposes some of Europe’s toughest COVID-19 curbs
20 October 2020, 1:24 AM

Ireland announced some of Europe’s toughest COVID-19 constraints on Monday, shutting non-essential retail, limiting restaurants and pubs to take away service and telling people not to travel more than five kilometres (3 miles) from their home.

Ireland imposed one of Europe’s longest lockdowns during the first surge in cases and eased restrictions at such a cautious pace that pubs that only serve drinks in Dublin had not reopened by the time a rise in infections prompted a tightening of curbs.

This time schools will stay open and essential services such as construction are allowed to continue, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said as he moved the country to the highest level of restrictions, Level 5, for six weeks from midnight Wednesday.

Hotels may remain open, but only if their rooms are needed by essential workers.

“In the effort to suppress the virus, we’ve already introduced what is probably Europe’s strictest regime,” Martin said in a televised address, two weeks after rejecting what was then seen as a surprise call by health chiefs to move to Level 5, the first time ministers went against their advice.

“The government has decided that the evidence of a potentially grave situation arising in the weeks ahead is now too strong.”

While countries struggling with high rates of infection like Belgium, the Netherlands and France have shut bars, restaurants and imposed a nighttime curfew, none have such strict travel restrictions within the country.

Harder hit Northern Ireland last week shut schools for two weeks and restaurants for four, although most retailers remain open. In Wales, people have been asked to stay at home in a two-week “fire-break” lockdown announced on Monday.

On Sunday, Ireland broke its record for the number of cases recorded in a single day for the fifth time in nine days, and has the 12th highest rate among the 31 countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The number of COVID-19 patients has also doubled in the past two weeks but stands at less than half the peak in April.

To cushion the blow, the government will increase the amount it contributes to coronavirus-related jobless payments and wage subsidies. Last week’s budget, the biggest stimulus package in the history of the state, introduced much larger grants of up to 5,000 euros ($5,884.50) per week for shuttered or battered businesses.

Data on Monday showed the number of people claiming COVID-19 jobless payments has risen by 20% to 244 153 in the last two weeks.

Government estimates show that 100 000 to 127 000 more could be laid off temporarily under Level 5.

The jobless rate, including those on the emergency payment, stood at 14.7% last month.

The finance ministry forecast that the economy could contract again next year if there is a prolonged period of stringent restrictions.

Guinea opposition candidate says he won first round of presidential vote
20 October 2020, 1:05 AM

Guinea opposition candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo said on Monday that he had won the first round of the presidential election in the West African state, but his claim was quickly disputed by the electoral commission, paving the way for a stand-off.

“Despite the serious anomalies that marred the smooth running of the … election and in view of the results that came out of the ballot boxes, I am victorious in this election in the first round,” Diallo told journalists and cheering supporters.

He did not give any figures but said the tally was based on his party’s count, not an official tally being conducted by the national election commission, which has yet to publish results.

The electoral commission said Diallo’s claim carried no weight, however.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission is the only body authorized to give provisional results. It is neither for a political party nor for any individual to do so,” Mamadi 3 Kaba, a spokesman for the commission, told Reuters.

“We regret the attitude of Mr. Diallo and we say that this declaration is null and void,” he added.

Diallo is the main challenger to Guinea’s 82-year-old incumbent president, Alpha Conde, who is seeking a third mandate after a constitutional change in March which sparked deadly protests.

Diallo’s party deployed its own election observers to around 15 000 polling stations and said it would publish the results posted outside each one.

Following his announcement Diallo’s supporters swept into the streets in his strongholds, declaring their alleged victory:

Security Minister Damantang Albert Camara accused the party of publishing false results, and warned that it risked triggering violence.

“This strategy of forced, premature and unjustified celebration was carefully planned well before the election,” Camara said in a statement.

“There will never be any question of giving in to blackmail and violence.”

Rights groups say at least 50 people having been killed over the past year during demonstrations against the constitutional change that allowed Conde to seek at least six more years in power.

SA records 1 461 new COVID-19 cases, 61 deaths
19 October 2020, 11:42 PM

South Africa has recorded 1 461 new coronavirus cases. This brings the total number of cases to 705 254.

The country has also recorded 61 new COVID-19 related fatalities, bringing the total number of deaths to 18 492.

In a statement, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says most of the new deaths were recorded in the Eastern Cape.

“Regrettably, we report 61 more COVID-19 related deaths: 21 from Eastern Cape, 19 from the Free State, 3 from Gauteng, 1 from Mpumalanga 6 from Northern Cape, 8 from Western Cape and 3 from KwaZulu Natal,” says Dr Mkhize.

The cumulative number of tests conducted to date is 4 565 980.

Recoveries now stand at 635 257 which translates to a recovery rate of 90%.

Johnson to set out UK’s Brexit approach on Friday – Frost
16 October 2020, 5:19 AM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out his approach to Brexit on Friday after his chief negotiator described the European Union’s latest demands in trade talks as disappointing and surprising.

Britain left the EU in January and the estranged allies have since been locked in complex negotiations to try to agree a free trade deal for when a status-quo transition period ends on December 31.

The European Union on Thursday said Britain needed to compromise to secure an agreement.

The Financial Times reported late on Thursday that Johnson would emphasise talk of leaving the bloc without a deal but it also cited allies as saying he was in “no hurry” and would take time to assess the EU position.

“PM @BorisJohnson will set out UK reactions and approach tomorrow in the light of his statement of 7 September,” Britain’s Chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said.

On September 7, Johnson had set a deal deadline of October 15 and said if none is agreed both sides should “accept that and move on”.

“Disappointed by the #EUCO conclusions on UK/EU negotiations,” Frost added on Twitter. “Surprised EU is no longer committed to working ‘intensively’ to reach a future partnership as agreed with (Ursula von der Leyen) @vonderleyen on 3 October.

“Also surprised by suggestion that to get an agreement all future moves must come from UK. It’s an unusual approach to conducting a negotiation.”

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