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Notice: Undefined index: height in /home/customer/www/ on line 245 | Covid-19 wrap | US Congress united against Trump testing, coronavirus ‘second tragedy‘ in the Philippines, and UN warns on vaccinations

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.


Rare unity in US Congress on refusing Trump virus tests

In a rare joint message, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders on Saturday rejected the Trump administration‘s offer to conduct rapid coronavirus screening on senators who will return to Washington next week, stating that the tests should be reserved for the public.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, normally fierce political rivals, issued a statement announcing that Congress was “grateful” for the offer, but that they would “respectfully decline”.

“Congress wants to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly,” they said.

The United States‘ 100 senators, many of whom are advanced in age, will return to Washington on Monday following a recess that was prolonged due to the pandemic.

US President Donald Trump had tweeted that there “is tremendous CoronaVirus testing capacity in Washington for the Senators returning to Capital Hill on Monday”.


‘Second tragedy‘: Cremation traumatises in virus-hit Philippines

Families of coronavirus victims in the Philippines are being denied traditional death rites in favour of hurried, impersonal cremations, with virus restrictions often meaning they are forbidden a last look at their loved ones.

It is a painful and disorienting process for both the families and crematory workers that has upended the Philippines‘ intimate rituals of laying the dead to rest.

Burial is the norm in the Catholic-majority nation, and it usually follows a days-long display of the embalmed body at home or in a chapel.

But due to the pandemic authorities are encouraging rapid cremations – though quick burials are still allowed – of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 deaths.

Wakes are barred in these cases and hospitals must seal remains in plastic and send them directly to crematories or funeral homes.

Before the virus struck, families opting for cremation were able to have one last look at their loved one before the body was consigned to the flames.


‘Keep going‘: Syrian refugees use war resilience to confront virus

It is not the first catastrophe they have faced.

But while today‘s global pandemic bears no resemblance to Syria‘s almost decade-long civil war, some refugees believe their experience of violence and exile helps them deal with the anxiety sparked by the novel coronavirus.

The minute France‘s stay-at-home orders began, Mohammad Hijazi said he thought back to what he had learnt from living through war and the dark days of his three-month detention by the Syrian regime.

Keeping a strict routine helps, said the 31-year-old filmmaker from Damascus, who was held because of his political views in 2012 – 2013.

Seeing war close-up does not make living through a pandemic any easier, as Yazan al-Homsy knows.

He survived more than a year under siege and bombing in the city of Homs and said the first week of the lockdown took him back to that terrifying time.

Before planes were grounded by the virus, the sound of them taking off and landing at Lyon airport near his new home began to trigger memories of fighter jets that pounded his native city.

In these troubled times, living in a democracy is also reassuring for Dunia Al Dahan from Damascus.

“There is a system, there is a state, and there are people who are expressing their views,” the mother of two young children said.

Having lived in Paris since 2014, she values the freedom to be able to speak out, citing the example of a televised interview with a French doctor who lambasted the authorities over a lack of preparedness for a pandemic.

But she acknowledged that the death toll from Covid-19 had “frightened” her and made her reassess the devastating loss in her own country.


Virus efforts jeopardise vaccines for millions of MENA children: UN

The coronavirus pandemic could jeopardise vaccination campaigns in the Middle East and North Africa, Unicef warned on Sunday, saying millions of children could miss out on polio and measles immunisations.

The UN agency said most countries in the region were continuing with routine campaigns, under strict controls to prevent the spread of the virus.

But it warned that some vaccination campaigns had been suspended as health workers were diverted to fighting the Covid-19 illness.

“As a result, one in five children or 10 million children under the age of five risk missing their polio vaccination,” it said in a statement.

“Nearly 4.5 million children under the age of 15 risk missing their measles vaccination.”

Ted Chaiban, Unicef‘s regional director, said it was “absolutely critical that every child gets immunised against deadly diseases including polio, measles, diphtheria and hepatitis”.

Unicef and the World Health Organisation warned in mid-April that around 117 million children worldwide risked contracting measles as dozens of countries curtailed vaccination programmes to battle the pandemic.


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