A senior Saudi official urged more than 1 million Muslims intending to perform the hajj to delay making plans this year — comments suggesting the pilgrimage could be cancelled due to the new coronavirus pandemic. In February, the kingdom took the extraordinary decision to close off the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to foreigners over the virus, a step which wasn't taken even during the 1918 flu epidemic that killed tens of millions worldwide. Restrictions have tightened in the kingdom as it grapples with over 1,500 confirmed cases of the new virus.
Citing a public health order to curb the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration is swiftly deporting unaccompanied migrant minors apprehended near the U.S.-Mexico border, upending a long-standing practice required under a federal law designed to protect children from violence and exploitation. Despite initially maintaining that the new measures would not apply to unaccompanied minors, Customs and Border Protection on Monday said its officials could deny entry to children who cross the southern border alone under an order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. The agency said some minors could be excluded from the CDC directive if a border official "suspects trafficking or sees signs of illness."
The Trump administration on Tuesday offered to begin lifting Venezuela sanctions if the opposition and members of President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist Party form an interim government without him, marking a shift in a U.S. policy that has failed to end his grip on power. With the South American nation squeezed by low world oil prices, a spreading coronavirus pandemic and a U.S. economic pressure campaign, Washington moved to a more toned-down approach aimed at promoting fair elections as soon as this year to end the political crisis there. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally announced the administration's power-sharing "Democratic Transition Framework" for Venezuela, which proposes for the first time a "sequenced exit path" from tough U.S. sanctions, including on the vital oil sector, if Maduro and his allies cooperate.
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images In the US, 73% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have had at least one underlying condition, according to a new CDC report. People with preexisting health conditions "appear to be at a higher risk for severe disease from COVID-19" than those without, the report said. Diabetes, chronic lung disease, and heart disease were the most commonly reported conditions among US coronavirus patients.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez said Monday that she's been "diagnosed with presumed coronavirus infection," three days after she spoke on the House floor and stood near 80-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the signing of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill. In a statement, Velazquez, D-N.Y., 67, said she first started feeling sick "in the wee hours of Sunday morning." At the advice of The Attending Physician, neither COVID 19 laboratory testing nor a doctor's office visit was recommended.
The coronavirus death toll surged past 4,000 in the United States on Tuesday, eclipsing the total from the 9/11 terror attacks as New York City traded "Ground Zero" for "epicenter." Presented to the president over the weekend, the data explains why Trump backed down from an earlier notion of “reopening” the country by Easter, or potentially relaxing restrictions in parts of the nation that were not hit as hard, officials said.
Ezra Acayan/Getty The Philippines' main island Luzon, which has a population of more than 57 million, is on lockdown. Along with people's movements being restricted, soldiers are covering residents and the streets in disinfectant, and open coffins have been left on the roads as a warning to people to stay inside. On Sunday, the Philippines reported 343 new coronavirus cases in a day — its highest one day increase yet.
China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it's suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials. The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret, and they declined to detail its contents. But the thrust, they said, is that China's public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete.
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European countries trying to keep Iran's nuclear deal with world powers alive said Tuesday that a system they set up to enable trade with Tehran has finally concluded its first transaction, facilitating the export of medical goods. Britain, France and Germany conceived the complex barter-type system dubbed INSTEX, which aims to protect companies doing business with Iran from American sanctions, in January 2019. The move came months after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal that Tehran struck with world powers in 2015 and reimposed sanctions.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) plans to call DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz to testify before congress regarding his office's audit of the FBI's FISA application process, which was released Tuesday and revealed potentially systematic abuses of the transparency measures required of the Bureau when agents interact with the FISA court. I have just been briefed on Inspector General Horowitz's audit of FISA applications involving American citizens. This random audit shows discrepancies regarding verification of the information under the Woods Procedures,” Graham said in a press release.
India and Pakistan sealed off centers belonging to a Muslim missionary group on Tuesday and began investigating how many coronavirus cases were linked to its activities. Tablighi Jamaat is a Deobandi Sunni Muslim missionary movement that preaches worldwide. Every year, tens of thousands attend its congregations in the Pakistani city of Lahore and other parts of South Asia.
Victor Ruiz Garcia/Reuters Twenty-eight Texas spring breakers who recently vacationed in Cabo have tested positive for the coronavirus, tweeted Tony Plohetski of local station KVUE-TV. They chartered a plane with 70 people to get to Cabo, he said. Spring breakers, who are Gen Z, have been called out for crowding beaches and partying on booze cruises and ignoring calls for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
While officials from Montreal to Moscow have placed populations under some form of lockdown designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, one man continues to hold firm to the notion that the rest of the world has lost its mind: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. “It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees!” Lukashenko told a Belarusian television reporter Saturday when asked whether the coronavirus could stop him from hitting the rink for a propaganda-filled hockey game. Lukashenko, one of the longest-serving leaders in the former Soviet Union, has been in power for over 25 years.
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The United States has called on Venezuela's Juan Guaido to temporarily renounce his claim to the presidency as it recalibrates its strategy to oust leader Nicolas Maduro. The shift came after more than a year of faltering US-led efforts to oust the leftist Mr Maduro. Mr Guaido came under growing pressure from authorities, who on Tuesday summoned him to answer charges of attempting a coup.
Russia is sending a planeload of masks and other supplies to help the United States fight the coronavirus pandemic as the number of cases threatens to top 200,000 across the country. The plane will arrive today, after President Donald Trump accepted an offer on Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin to send personal protective equipment and other gear, a senior administration official confirmed to POLITICO. The Russian government first announced that the plane, an An-124 Ruslan cargo aircraft filled with equipment to help America battle the pandemic, was en route early today.
Economy chiefs from the Group of 20 nations, which accounts for about 90% of global economic output, are switching focus to the need to assist developing nations trying to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. At a virtual meeting on Tuesday, G-20 finance ministers and central bankers said they'd look to address debt vulnerabilities in developing nations to allow them to focus their efforts on fighting the outbreak, according to a statement. They also committed to working with other organizations to “swiftly deliver the appropriate international financial assistance” to lower-income countries.
New York City's coronavirus death toll surpassed 1,000 on Tuesday as an overwhelmed health system embraced the arrival of hundreds of additional paramedics, EMTs and ambulances. The lifeline of health care support includes 500 paramedics and EMTs and 250 more ambulances, city officials said. A somber-sounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo said early Tuesday that more than 300 new deaths had been reported in the state in the previous 24 hours, a number rendered obsolete just hours later by the virus that has infected more than 75,000 statewide.
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Israel has begun testing a COVID-19 vaccine prototype on rodents at its bio-chemical defense laboratory, a source said on Tuesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), in rural Ness Ziona, to join the fight against the coronavirus pandemic on Feb. 1, prompting an easing of its secrecy as it cooperates with civilian scientists and private firms. In a statement, Netanyahu's office said IIBR director Shmuel Shapira had informed him of "significant progress" in designing a vaccine prototype and that the institute "is now preparing a model for commencing an animal trial".
Associated Press Officials in Wuhan, China, reported that 2,535 people in the city have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. But some residents contest the official death toll, citing an increase in the shipment of urns to the city's eight funeral homes. "The incinerators have been working round-the-clock," one resident told Radio Free Asia.
The leaders of the congressional black, Asian and Hispanic caucuses gathered Monday to condemn the racism that the Asian American community is confronting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, or CAPAC, said about 100 hate incidents a day have been directed toward those in the community, according to data from three hate incident reporting sites. Chu said at least 1,000 hate incidents have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic across the online reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate, a separate site led by OCA — Asian Pacific American Advocates and a third initiative spearheaded by Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
Approximately 6,000 Carnival Corp. passengers are still aboard the company's cruise ships as the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the globe. Carnival will provide some of its crew food and housing, as they are unable to return home. Carnival Corp. is the world's largest cruise line, and is the parent company of Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises and Holland America.
Iran warned the US Wednesday that it was leading the Middle East to disaster in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic after it deployed Patriot air defence missiles to Iraq. Washington had been in talks with Baghdad about the proposed deployment since January but it was not immediately clear whether it had secured its approval or not. Iran, which wields huge influence in its western neighbour, said that it had not.