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With no paparazzi or parties, Paris prepares for virtual fashion week
5 July 2020, 4:20 AM

Paris is usually abuzz during its prestigious Haute Couture presentations in July, its hotels heaving with fashionistas and monuments turned into catwalk venues.

But in a makeover caused by the coronavirus crisis, top designers will instead be experimenting next week with online showcases to try to keep clients hooked.

Brands from Christian Dior to Valentino are pressing ahead with collections and shows through an organised schedule of videos running from July 6-8.

That has helped keep some textile suppliers and artisans going, though other businesses are feeling the absence of a larger event keenly.

“The impact of a virtual fashion week on our business is serious, because there are no more clients to drive around,” said Guillaume Connan, whose limousine company usually ferries A-listers around between shows.

Paris’s multiple fashion weeks generate some 1.2 billion euros ($1.35 billion) for the local economy every year, the federation grouping couture houses estimates.

At the Haute Couture week, a select club of designers display one-of-a-kind, handmade outfits.

“I will miss the audience, I will miss my friends,” said couturier Stephane Rolland.

But Christophe Josse, another French couturier who has also produced a film, said he had enjoyed being able to highlight the intricacies of his designs differently and would consider doing it again.

Mexico steps up border checks to keep coronavirus at bay over July 4 holiday
5 July 2020, 3:20 AM

Mexican officials will install health checkpoints at various entry points along its northern border this weekend, as both Mexican and US officials fear a surge of crossings for the July 4 holiday could spread the coronavirus.

Mexican consulates across the United States in recent days reiterated warnings on social media of the ramped-up measures scheduled for July 2 through July 5, and urged people to refrain from crossing for recreation or tourism.

A ban on non-essential border travel has been in place since March in an attempt by both governments to limit coronavirus infections, yet cross-border traffic has been busy.

Mexico’s northern border region is home to a large population of green card holders and U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, who are typically free to cross back and forth.

In Sonora, which has Mexico’s third-highest coronavirus rate per capita and sits opposite Arizona, Governor Claudia Pavlovich said health screenings would span beaches and towns frequented by Mexicans and tourists.

Neighboring Baja California, including the bustling border city of Tijuana across from San Diego, ranks fifth for most coronavirus cases per capita.

Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states have each registered at least several thousand confirmed cases, and all sit opposite Texas, which is grappling with a surge in infections including a record number of hospitalizations on Friday.

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau on Saturday urged people to celebrate the holiday virtually in a video posted on his Twitter account that featured a member of the pop band the Backstreet Boys and entertainer Steve Aoki, among others.

He had already urged people to stay put in one country or the other over the Independence Day weekend. Hundreds of thousands of people cross by land per day despite the ban on non-essential travel, he said.

“If U.S. citizens continue to make casual cross-border trips, the restrictions will increase, not decrease,” Landau wrote on Twitter.

WHO halts hydroxychloroquine, HIV drugs in COVID-19 trials after failure to reduce death
5 July 2020, 2:15 AM

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that it was discontinuing its trials of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and combination HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 after they failed to reduce mortality.

The setback came as the WHO also reported more than 200 000 new cases globally of the disease for the first time in a single day.

The United States accounted for 53 213 of the total 212 326 new cases recorded on Friday, the WHO said.

“These interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalised COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care. Solidarity trial investigators will interrupt the trials with immediate effect,” the WHO said in a statement, referring to large multicountry trials that the agency is leading.

The UN agency said the decision, taken on the recommendation of the trial’s international steering committee, does not affect other studies where those drugs are used for non-hospitalised patients or as a prophylaxis.

Another branch of the WHO-led trial is looking at the potential effect of Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir on COVID-19. The European Commission on Friday gave remdesivir conditional approval for use after being shown to shorten hospital recovery times.

The solidarity trial started out with five branches looking at possible treatment approaches to COVID-19.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Friday that nearly 5 500 patients in 39 countries had been recruited so far into its clinical trials and that interim results were expected within two weeks.

Some 18 experimental COVID-19 vaccines are being tested on humans among nearly 150 treatments under development.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, said on Friday that it would be unwise to predict when a vaccine could be ready.

While a vaccine candidate might show its effectiveness by year’s end, the question was how soon it could then be mass-produced, he said.

Cameroon holds first peace talks with main separatist insurgents
5 July 2020, 1:30 AM

Representatives of Cameroon’s government held talks this week with the main leaders of an Anglophone separatist insurgency for the first time since the conflict began in 2017, a separatist leader and two security sources said on Friday.

Julius Ayuk Tabe, the most prominent separatist leader who is currently serving a life sentence in prison for charges including terrorism, said the meeting took place on Thursday to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire.

Violence broke out in 2017 following a government crackdown on peaceful protests by Anglophone lawyers and teachers who complained of being marginalised by the French-speaking majority.

The fighting has caused more than 3000 deaths and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Last year, Switzerland mediated talks between the government and exiled separatist leaders, but those leaders are considered less influential than Tabe and the discussions did not produce any significant results.

Tabe, the self-declared President of an independent English-speaking state the separatists call Ambazonia, said nine separatist leaders participated in the meeting, which followed calls by the United Nations for a ceasefire.

“Be reassured that we remain committed to the restoration of the independence of the homeland,” he said in a statement, without providing further details about the substance of the talks.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

One of the security sources who confirmed the meeting said the authorities’ openness to talks reflected the fatigue of the population after three years of conflict that have failed to produce a clear victor.

“This war has made us see the resilience of the Anglophones from an ideological point of view,” he said, adding that international pressure to end the conflict had also forced the government’s hand.

Cameroon’s linguistic divide harks back to the end of World War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors.

52 healthcare professionals deployed in Eastern Cape to fight COVID-19
5 July 2020, 12:00 AM

Fifty-two health care professionals deployed by the South African Military health care unit are expected to arrive in Port Elizabeth on Sunday to assist the Eastern Cape in the fight against COVID-19.

This comes in response to the Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane’s request for government intervention, in a bid to curb the rapid increase of infections across the Eastern Cape.

SANDF spokesperson, Ronald Maseko says the deployed military professionals will based at Dora Nginza hospital in Port Elizabeth which is one of the hardest hit hospitals in the province.

“These healthcare providers will leave Pretoria on Sunday and will be in the Eastern Cape at Dora Nginza hospital for the duration of the fight against corona virus as may be required by the provincial corona virus command council.”

“The South African Military health care will be sending about 35 military nurses, 12 doctors and 5 clinical associates which will be then assisting the provincial department of health with the COVID-19 protocols that may be required in the Eastern Cape. “

In this video below, Eastern Cape coronavirus cases surpass 30 600:

On Friday, the province registered 397 deaths and more than 26 000 infections with 12 000 recoveries.

Beefing up capacity is critical and Mabuyane said this will go a long way in the fight against the coronavirus.

With more learners expected back at schools next week, the provincial Education Department is concerned about the high infection rates in schools.

Education MEC Fundile Gade said they have engaged the national department with the view to halt the process.

In this video, SADTU proposes that Eastern Cape schools close until August:

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