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Barca chief says Setien to stay, has no regrets about Valverde
8 July 2020, 10:11 PM

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said coach Quique Setien will remain in charge of the team next season despite the team’s fading La Liga title bid, adding that he does not regret sacking Ernesto Valverde in January.

Valverde led Barca to successive title wins and his team were top of the table on goal difference when he was dismissed in January and replaced by Setien, who has tried to revolutionise Barca’s play with mixed results.

Barca’s title bid has unravelled following draws with Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid and they trail leaders Real Madrid by four points with four games remaining.

But the team finally clicked in Sunday’s outstanding 4-1 win at Villarreal and Bartomeu said he thinks they are heading in the right direction.

“Setien will obviously continue. At this moment, I’m pretty happy with how the team has evolved and in the last couple of games we have seen the improvements Setien has made,” Bartomeu told radio station Rac1 on Tuesday.

“I don’t regret the decision to sack Valverde. We needed to give the team a boost and Setien has brought new ideas and new sensations with him,” he added.

Setien said he did not think his position had been under threat and was pleased with the football they have been playing.

“I didn’t have the feeling things were going to change, I have gotten used to this circus,” he told a virtual news conference ahead of Barca’s match with Espanyol on Wednesday.

“I just do my job and I get the feeling the board are happy with the work we are doing and so am I.”

He also said his side would keep pushing Real until their chances of winning the title were over.

“Of course we can still win the league, it’s still mathematically possible and we have to keep our hopes up until the last day,” he added.

“We have to just focus on what we can do and try to win while playing well and making progress. And if we cannot win it, we can lay a platform for next season.”

Dream is to have a team full of Scousers, says Liverpool boss Klopp
8 July 2020, 9:48 PM

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp says he was encouraged by the development of the club’s academy graduates and hopes to have an entire squad of homegrown talent at his disposal in the future.

Liverpool secured the top-flight title for the first time in 30 years last month, leading to suggestions that Klopp would give more game time to next generation players such as Neco Williams, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott in the season’s seven remaining games.

That theory ended when Liverpool were thrashed 4-0 by Manchester City in their first outing after being crowned champions.

However, German Klopp, whose side are 23 points clear of second-placed City, insisted that his long-term vision is to have a club filled with local talent.

“What we want to be is the sport for everybody with a Scouse soul. The perfect scenario is that we have these role model professionals around,” the Liverpool boss told reporters in a virtual news conference ahead of their visit to Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday.

“If the boys follow this path with their talent they will have proper careers. The dream is to have all the boys from the academy. The dream is to have a team full of Scousers.”

Jones and Elliott have signed long-term deals with the Premier League champions and Klopp is glad the duo have committed their futures to the club.

“The biggest plus for young players is time. We try to help them as much as they can to become the best players they can be,” he said.

“I really like that these boys have committed their future. Our academy is producing some great players in the past few years. The more players you can produce yourself is better (as) it saves you money.”

Sadio Mane, who initially struggled to find his feet at Anfield after arriving from Southampton in 2016, has scored 38 league goals in the last two seasons.

Klopp believes the winger’s development has mirrored that of the entire team.

“In the last three years this team made progress and massive steps. It only worked because we made big steps, Sadio is a big example of that,” he said.

“I remember when we took this talented player from Southampton he lacked consistency. Now the level he is performing on is consistent. I could write the same book about all the players.”

Millions of Australians back in lockdown amid Melbourne virus outbreak
8 July 2020, 9:46 PM

Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, went back into lockdown at midnight on Wednesday, forcing five million Australians to stay home for all but essential business for the next six weeks to contain a flare-up of coronavirus cases.

State police were patrolling the city and setting up checkpoints on major roads to stop people heading out to regional areas and spreading the virus from what is now Australia’s pandemic epicentre, with 860 active cases.

“The window for police discretion is very small and is closing as the threat to public health and safety created by those breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions is too great,” Victoria police said in a statement.

Cafes, bars, restaurants and gyms which only recently reopened had to shut again. Police had no comment on whether anyone has been stopped or fined since midnight.

​ The renewed lockdown follows the closure of Australia’s busiest state border, between Victoria and the most populous state New South Wales, on Tuesday night.

“The rest of the country knows that the sacrifice that you’re going through right now is not just for you and your own family, but it’s for the broader Australian community,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Morrison said he would take a proposal to state and territory leaders on Friday to slow down the number of Australian citizens and permanent residents returning home from overseas. The two groups have been the only arrivals allowed since Australia closed its international border in March.

New Zealand announced on Tuesday its national airline will not take new inbound bookings for three weeks to reduce the burden on overflowing quarantine facilities.

In Australia, red flags have been raised by potential quarantine breaches that the Victorian state government believes led to returnees spreading the virus.

Melbourne is the capital of Victoria state, which reported 134 new infections on Wednesday, down from the previous day’s record 191 but well over the low single digit daily increases elsewhere in the country.

Fears of a broader second wave were underscored by an official report of three new COVID-19 cases in the national capital, Canberra. Two of the infected people had returned from Melbourne last week and the third was their housemate.

In Sydney, authorities were scrambling to track down 48 passengers who were allowed to disembark a flight from Melbourne overnight without being checked for COVID-19 symptoms.

The resurgence of the virus and imposition of new containment measures will make it tougher for the government to get the economy back on its feet as it sinks into its first recession in three decades. Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the border closure and Melbourne lockdown would cost the economy up to A$1 billion (553.40 million pounds) per week.

BORDER CONTROL

Ahead of the lockdown, police checkpoints at the Victoria- NSW border caused delays of more than an hour for drivers, many of them daily commuters who live and work on either side.

“I got a permit but with all the checks, my commute across was heavily delayed,” Amanda Cohn, who crosses the border from her home in NSW each day to reach the Victorian hospital where she works, told Reuters. “Plenty of others need to get across and they don’t have a permit.”

Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia, has been closed since mid-March.

Among the new COVID-19 cases in Melbourne on Wednesday were 75 occupants of nine public housing towers that were placed into complete lockdown last week, barring their 3 000 residents from leaving for five days.

Nationwide, Australia has reported about 9 000 COVID-19 cases and 106 deaths from the virus.

New Jersey to make face masks mandatory outdoors as US outbreak widens
8 July 2020, 9:37 PM

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said on Wednesday he would sign an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings outdoors to prevent a resurgence of the novel coronavirus whenever social distancing is not possible.

More than 15,000 people have died from COVID-19 in New Jersey, ranking it second after neighboring New York state in the total number of deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

A Democrat, Murphy told MSNBC that requiring the public to wear masks outdoors was critical to controlling the spread of the virus in the state, an early hot spot where rates of the virus have started to creep up again.

“There’s no question that face coverings are a game-changer,” he said, acknowledging that it would be hard to enforce the order but saying the state needed to build on the progress made in its battle against the virus.

“We’ve gone through hell in New Jersey. We’ve lost over 13 000 people, we’ve brought our numbers way down. We can’t go through that hell again.”

The order, when formally announced later in the day, would be one of the most stringent coronavirus restriction on public activity in the United States. Many states require use of masks in public indoor areas and recommend they be used outside.

Murphy is taking action as infections skyrocket in many other states, including California, Florida and Texas, and health officials warn of a coming spike in the death toll from the virus, which has killed more than 131,000 Americans.

The U.S. outbreak crossed a grim milestone of over 3 million confirmed cases on Tuesday, roughly equivalent to 1% of the population, as more states reported record numbers of new infections.

In New Jersey, some people voiced surprise that face coverings were not already mandatory.

“I figured that was already the rule – it’s confusing that it’s not clear and I try pretty hard to keep up,” said Calia Nochumson, a 42-year-old high school teacher from Maplewood, New Jersey. She said she was disappointed to see so few people wearing face coverings during a recent trip to the beach.

Ohio is ordering people in seven counties to wear face coverings in public starting on Wednesday evening.

TRUMP PUSHES RETURN TO SCHOOL

President Donald Trump, who owns a golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, has eschewed the idea of wearing a face mask and has exhorted Americans to return to their daily routines since the end of mandatory lockdowns imposed in March and April.

The Republican president, seeking a second White House term in a November 3 election, threatened on Wednesday to cut off federal funding to schools that fail to open in the autumn due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if US schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!” Trump posted on Twitter.

It was unclear what specific aid Trump had in mind. States are responsible for primary and secondary education under the US Constitution but the federal government provides some supplementary aid.

SURGE IN NEW CASES

Nineteen states have reported record increases in cases this month and about 24 states have reported disturbingly high infection rates as a percentage of diagnostic tests conducted over the past week.

In Texas alone, the number of hospitalized patients more than doubled in just two weeks, and the number of available hospital intensive care unit beds for adults in Florida has fallen sharply in recent days.

Additional hospitalizations could strain healthcare systems in many areas, leading to an uptick in lives lost. The US death toll rose by 962 on Tuesday, the biggest one-day rise since June 10, according to a Reuters tally.

The surge has forced authorities to backpedal on moves to reopen businesses, such as restaurants and bars, after mandatory lockdowns in March and April reduced economic activity to a virtual standstill and put millions of Americans out of work.

Nigeria restarts domestic flights amid easing coronavirus restrictions
8 July 2020, 9:14 PM

Nigeria resumed domestic flights on Wednesday after a hiatus of around three months as Africa’s most populous country relaxes restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus.

The airports for the capital, Abuja, and commercial hub Lagos reopened for flights. A handful of other airports will open on July 11 and the remainder of airports will resume flights on July 15.

The resumption of flights is the latest step by the government to reopen Africa’s biggest economy, which has also been hit hard by low oil prices. In recent weeks it has lifted a ban on interstate travel, allowed some pupils to return to school and permitted places of worship to open.

A Reuters witness said passengers waiting to enter the airport in the capital, Abuja, used markings on the floor to observe social distancing and some used newly installed handwashing facilities outside the building. Only a relatively small number of people were waiting to travel.

Other safety measures in place included airport workers taking the temperature of passengers and spraying bags with decontamination fluids.

“We are not out to punish anybody. We are interested in their wellbeing that is why we have put all of these things in place, and so we expect them to please abide by all of these procedures,” said Henrietta Yakubu, a spokeswoman for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, on Tuesday as authorities prepared for flights to restart.

No date has been given for the resumption of international flights.

Despite efforts to kickstart the economy, health officials have expressed fears that the outbreak in Africa’s most populous country might become much worse.

Nigeria had confirmed nearly 30,000 coronavirus cases and 669 deaths by late on Tuesday, with little sign of the outbreak slowing.

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