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Coronavirus live news: Europe halts delivery of faulty Chinese face masks; WHO says Covid-19 may never go | World news


Medical workers in Indonesia are complaining of persistent delays to an increase in coronavirus testing promised by their president, Joko Widodo, Reuters reports.

The south east Asian nation, the world’s fourth most populous, has the highest coronavirus death toll in east Asia outside China, and one of the lowest global testing rates.

Indonesia reported 568 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking the total to 16,006, with 1,043 deaths. It has so far conducted around 50 tests per 100,000 people, compared with 2,500 per 100,000 in neighbouring Singapore.

Widodo promised in April that 10,000 tests would be performed each day, but the goal is yet to be reached, with testing rates on average hovering at less than half that figure. Health experts have urged Jakarta to rapidly increase its testing rate to determine the true spread of the virus across the Indonesian archipelago, saying that without sufficient data the full extent of the outbreak will remain unknown.

A man covers his face with a shirt instead of a face mask while in a queue to get the Takjil, food for breaking the Ramadan fast, in central Jakarta.

A man covers his face with a shirt instead of a face mask while in a queue to get the Takjil, food for breaking the Ramadan fast, in central Jakarta. Photograph: Muhammad Zaenuddin/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

“We can’t even get the results after two weeks,” Meneldi Rasmin, a consulting doctor at Persahabatan Hospital in Jakarta, told Reuters.

“So we cannot determine whether it’s COVID-19 or not. We can only judge them (the patients) from clinical symptoms,” he said, attributing the delay to limited equipment capacity.

In between his rounds at Persahabatan Hospital where medical staff move about in white protective gear, Rasmin called for testing capacities to be scaled up not only in the capital, but across the sprawling country.

“Early detection by rapid testing should take place in every small district. Local clinics should take control, instead of (centralized) rapid testing,” he said.
“It should be organized at the community level, working together with the district authority.”



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Egypt says film-maker died in cell after drinking hand sanitiser | World news


Egypt’s public prosecutor has said a young film-maker who died in prison had mistakenly drunk hand sanitiser in his cell, thinking it was water.

Shady Habash died inside Cairo’s Tora prison complex on 2 May. He had been held for more than two years without trial, accused of membership of a terrorist group and “spreading false news” after he produced a music video critical of Egypt’s president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

The 24-year-old was the latest in a number of high-profile people to die in custody in Egypt, particularly inside Tora prison. For months observers have been sounding the alarm about the denial of medical treatment to prisoners of conscience, including the deaths in custody of the US citizen Mustafa Kassem and the former president Mohammed Morsi.

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said Habash’s death was the third in 10 months among prisoners of conscience in Tora prison’s cell block number four. “For over several hours, Shady’s cellmates desperately tried to summon medical help but were ignored by prison officials,” it said. “Such wanton cruelty is hardly exceptional – prisoners of conscience are often left to die in prison without trial or due process, in appalling conditions that include the deliberate withholding of healthcare.”

The public prosecutor said in a statement that Habash visited medical facilities several times for treatment and was returned to his cell, before he was transferred to the prison clinic “unconscious and in a delirious state”. The statement added that Habash “informed the prison physician that he mistakenly drank a bottle of alcohol a day earlier and claimed he mistook it for a bottle of water”. His cellmates found empty 100ml bottles of hand sanitiser intended to protect them against Covid-19 among Habash’s belongings, it said.

Since Sisi came to power in 2013 thousands of Egyptians have been detained in an unprecedented crackdown on dissent. TV programs and newspapers have taken the government position and steered clear of criticism, or else disappeared. Many privately owned Egyptian news outlets have been quietly acquired by companies affiliated with the country’s intelligence service.

Habash’s detention and death represent a stark reminder of the growing number of young people at risk inside Egypt’s sprawling prison system, including many detained for their work as artists, making dissenting statements against Sisi’s rule or for no charge at all.

There are fears that the Covid-19 could easily spread inside the country’s mammoth prison complexes, proving deadly when combined with the routine medical neglect of inmates.

Egyptian authorities suspended family visits to inmates due to the Covid-19 outbreak in early March, cutting prisoners’ sole means of communication with the outside world as well as their ability to receive clean clothes and additional food. The pre-detention of several high-profile activists was renewed earlier this week, including the award-winning human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Massry, the politician and journalist Khaled Daoud and Alaa Abdel-Fattah, the activist and blogger, who recently began a hunger strike in protest at prison conditions.

“What happened to Shady was clear medical negligence,” said the singer Ramy Essam. Habash added his name to the credits of Essam’s song Balaha, which lambasted Sisi, after he worked on post-production of the raw video footage. The song’s release led to the arrest of eight people, including one man who played the track in his car in Kuwait and was deported back to Egypt.

“Shady decided to put his name on it with the belief that making art would never cause harm,” said Essam. “He deserves to be remembered as extremely talented.”



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Coronavirus live news: EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tests positive | World news


French police officers patrol and control citizens while a strick lockdown comes into in effect to stop the spread of the Covid-19

French police officers patrol and control citizens while a strick lockdown comes into in effect to stop the spread of the Covid-19 Photograph: Laurent VU/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

France has suggested extending a two-week lockdown to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus as the interior minister blasted “idiots” who flout home confinement rules and put others at risk, AFP reports.

President Emmanuel Macron has ordered French residents to stay at home except for essential excursions such as going to the doctor, walking the dog, or going for a solitary run, and banned any gatherings.

For a two-week period that began Tuesday, people can go to work only if their employer cannot make tele-commuting possible.

But news reports have shown groups of friends and families strolling in parks despite the clampdown, prompting calls from some officials for even stricter limits.

Many have been observed ignoring the one-metre (three feet) safe inter-personal distance in queues at the essential businesses that were allowed to stay open.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said people ignoring the measures were “idiots”.

“There are people who underestimate the risk… There are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules while they are in fact idiots,” he told Europe 1 radio.

Macron on Thursday urged companies and workers to continue their activities “in compliance with the health safety rules”.

Genevieve Chene, who heads France’s public health agency, said between two and four weeks are needed for the outbreak to be adequately contained.

“Within two to three weeks we should be able to observe a slightly different dynamic” to the outbreak’s momentum, she told Franceinfo radio, and “a significant braking” within two to four weeks.

“It is likely that it is indeed necessary to extend (the containment measures) in order for the braking to be sufficient,” Chene said.

Meanwhile, the French government has started requisitioning hotel rooms for homeless people to occupy during the confinement period, Housing Minister Julien Denormandie announced.

More than 170 rooms will be made available in Paris by the end of the week, and the government has identified 80 sites elsewhere across the country to accomodate the country’s estimated 250,000 homeless people.



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More than half of women in Zimbabwe have faced sextortion, finds survey | Global development


Zimbabwe has recorded an unprecedented number of women reporting being forced to exchange sex for employment or business favours.

More than 57% of women surveyed by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) said they had been forced to offer sexual favours in exchange for jobs, medical care and even when seeking placements at schools for their children.

The report, seen by the Guardian, found women in the informal sector experienced sextortion as the main form of non-monetary bribes by various officials.

About 45% of women said they had received requests for sexual favours to access a service and 15% had used sex to get employment. The report, entitled Gender and Corruption, found women were increasingly vulnerable to sexual abuse amid the deteriorating Zimbabwean economy.

“57.5% of these respondents noted that sexual favours are the form of non-monetary bribe they had experienced. Sextortion is thus a part of the bribery culture in Zimbabwe. Women who do not have money to pay for bribes are thus forced to use sex as a form of payment. 15% used employment favours as a form of bribery,” reads the report.

Women in business were also found to have faced sexual harassment when seeking government tenders.

“At times you get asked for sexual favours in return for tenders or business. What makes the situation difficult, especially for state contracts, is how women in business are perceived by men in control of these processes. When they see a woman, for most of them sex is the first thing that comes to their mind. Hence women are sexualised and seen as sex-preneurs rather than entrepreneurs,” TIZ reports.

Studies carried out by TIZ in 2019 showed women are vulnerable to sexual abuse when seeking land for residential, business or agricultural use.

Sextortion is a global phenomenon that causes serious harm, robbing women of dignity and opportunity, and undermining confidence in public institutions, according to rights groups.

Zimbabwe ranks 158 out of 180 countries included in the Transparency International corruption perceptions index.

“Sex is a currency in many corrupt deals in Zimbabwe. Sexual harassment is institutionalised, and women have been suffering for a long time. There is need to actively deal with all forms of sexual harassment in all sectors,” says the report.

The study shows women are being coerced into corruption, while many fear reporting sextortionists as some police are thought to be part of the corruption chain.

“For some respondents it was fear of reprisal that stopped them from reporting whilst others indicated that there was no reward for reporting corruption. Regarding sextortion, respondents cited the justice system as too masculine, hence they opted not to report.

“All the key informants who took part in the research indicated that Zimbabwe lacks a robust corruption reporting system. They also highlighted the need for a system to promote and protect whistleblowers,” TIZ reported.

“Even the police officers require some form of payment to help you. They may ask for transport or fuel to enable them to investigate. In the end they also get bribed by the perpetrators.”

Globally, the poor suffer most from extortion, paying the highest percentage of their income in bribes, according to the World Bank. Zimbabwe loses close to $2bn (£1.5bn) to corruption annually.

Although Zimbabwe has made progress in advancing gender equality through the establishment of various institutional, legal and policy frameworks, the country still ranks low on the UN gender inequality index. Sexual extortion is rarely recognised as a form of corruption, yet gender activists say it reduces women’s access to land and markets and reinforces social and economic marginalisation.

Lack of political will to deal with corruption has frustrated the efforts of the Zimbabwe anti-corruption commission, which has a mandate to investigate corruption cases in the country.



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