Thanks to strict quarantine measures and an aggressive and widespread testing programme, Vietnam has kept its virus total to an impressively low 415 cases, and had reported no locally transmitted infections for 100 days.
But on Friday, Vietnam’s health ministry said in a statement that a 57-year-old man from Danang, a popular tourist hotspot, had tested positive three times for the virus, prompting the isolation of 50 people he came in contact with.
One hundred and three people connected to the patient were tested for the virus but all returned negative results, the statement said.
The health ministry has not officially confirmed the case as Covid-19, which comes at a time when Vietnam was about to resume international commercial flights and as domestic tourism is surging.
It did not say how the man contracted the virus, but said he had not left Danang for nearly a month. He was initially diagnosed with pneumonia.
Late on Friday, authorities in Hanoi reinstated a recommendation to wear masks in public places as Vietnam’s benchmark VN Index closed down 3.22%.
FOUR asteroids are heading past Earth today at up to 50,000 miles per hour.
Nasa has put them all on its ‘close approach’ list.
The space rocks are called 2020 KK7, 2020 KD4, 2020 KF and 2020 KJ1.
Asteroid 2020 KK7 should have just zoomed past us.
Experts predicted it to be up to 108 foot wide.
Nasa estimated that it could come as close as 310,445 miles from our planet.
In the grand scheme of space this isn’t a large distance at all.
Any fast moving space object that comes within around 4.65 million miles is considered to be “potentially hazardous” by cautious space organisations.
The next space rock heading past Earth today will be Asteroid 2020 KD4, which could be as wide as 114 foot.
This asteroid is expected to pass at the much further distance of 2.5million miles away.
Asteroid 2020 KD4 should pass Earth at around 13:47 GMT.
Around three hours later 2020 KD4, Asteroid 2020 KF should shoot past from even further away.
This space rock could be the largest of the group at up to 144 foot wide.
Lastly, Asteroid 2020 KJ1 should shoot past Earth from 1.3million miles away.
This space rock could be up to 104 foot wide.
A different 98 foot asteroid also skimmed past Earth today but in the very early hours of the morning.
Nasa keeps an eye on objects that will be coming close to Earth but stresses that “a “close” passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms.”
What’s the difference between an asteroid, meteor and comet?
Here’s what you need to know, according to Nasa…
Asteroid: An asteroid is a small rocky body that orbits the Sun. Most are found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) but they can be found anywhere (including in a path that can impact Earth)
Meteoroid: When two asteroids hit each other, the small chunks that break off are called meteoroids
Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it begins to vapourise and then becomes a meteor. On Earth, it’ll look like a streak of light in the sky, because the rock is burning up
Meteorite: If a meteoroid doesn’t vapourise completely and survives the trip through Earth’s atmosphere, it can land on the Earth. At that point, it becomes a meteorite
Comet: Like asteroids, a comet orbits the Sun. However rather than being made mostly of rock, a comet contains lots of ice and gas, which can result in amazing tails forming behind them (thanks to the ice and dust vapourising)
Jupiter is flinging asteroids at Earth ‘like a sniper’, top scientist warns
RETURN TO SENDER
Timelapse shows SpaceX rocket booster returning to Earth after launch
Breathtaking images of the Sun captured by stargazer from his garden in Kent
BAD FLARE DAY
Biggest solar flare in years erupts from Sun as Nasa says it may be waking up
Russia hits out at ‘hysteria’ over SpaceX launch as Trump promises Mars mission
WATCH THIS SPACE
How to spot ISS from your garden TONIGHT as space station soars over UK
Flat-Earthers ridiculed after SpaceX launch video shows Earth’s curvature
In other space news, the biggest solar flare since 2017 and new sunspots suggests our star could be ‘waking up’, according to Nasa.
A SpaceX rocket launched two US astronauts into orbit over the weekend.
And, Flat-Earth conspiracy theorists were ridiculed on social media after footage from the launch captured the curvature of our planet.
What do you make of Nasa’s ‘close approach’ definition? Let us know in the comments…
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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.
“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.”
It has become a soundtrack to lockdown: not the wailing sirens or the helicopters overhead – but the melody of birdsong at sunrise, now sounding clearer than it has been for decades, in a world that has ground to a halt.
Today, the first Sunday in May, the height of spring – marks International Dawn Chorus Day – the sound of birdsong giving people around the world some distraction from the stress and anxiety of lockdown – and a reminder to many that life does and will go on.
Here is vice-president Mike Pence earlier today, failing to wear a mask at the Mayo Clinic’s facilities in Minnesota.
Pence triggered a storm of controversy on Tuesday by failing to wear a face mask on a visit to the facilities. Pence leads the US government’s coronavirus taskforce, but his staff have claimed he does not need to wear the protective covering because he is regularly tested for the coronavirus:
Iranian scientist in Ice detention tests positive for Covid-19
An Iranian scientist who has been pleading for weeks to be released from a US immigration jail due to his fragile health has contracted Covid-19, according to his family and attorneys.
Dr Sirous Asgari, a materials science and engineering professor who spoke out in March about the unsanitary and “inhumane” conditions in detention, was placed in an isolation cell this week inside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) jail in Louisiana. His lawyers learned on Tuesday that his Covid-19 test was positive.
He and his family are calling for his release to a medical facility where he can receive proper care.
Doctors on the frontline also widely believe that the real numbers are much higher – one factor being people dying at home.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one medic in Rio de Janeiro state said three patients who were intubated after testing positive using faster, less accurate serological tests died during his overnight shift last weekend at a public hospital in the town of Nova Iguaçu.
If one doctor saw this (in one night) I think it’s unlikely the number for the whole of Brazil is 474.
Confirmed deaths in Brazil surpass known Chinese toll
Brazil’s total number of confirmed deaths has now overtaken the WHO’s figure for China as cases accelerate in Latin America’s biggest country.
On Tuesday, the Brazilian health ministry reported 474 deaths over the previous 24 hours, taking the total to 5,017 – more than China, where the virus was first reported and which has seen 4,643 deaths so far, according to the WHO.
Brazil now has 71,886 confirmed cases after adding 5,385 in the last 24 hours, though widespread underreporting and a generalised lack of tests means numbers are almost definitely much higher. The G1 news site reported on Tuesday that deaths in São Paulo are 168% more than the official number of 2,049.
Films released on streaming platforms only will be eligible for Academy Awards next year because of the pandemic’s disruption to the industry, the organisers of the Oscars have said.
The change, announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, follows the closure of cinemas across the US. Previously, a movie had to have been screened in a cinema in Los Angeles for at least seven days to be eligible for Oscar consideration.
The number of cases in Peru has passed 30,000, with 854 associated deaths, the country’s health ministry has confirmed.
Tuesday’s 31,190 confirmed cases represents the second-highest caseload in Latin America. The number has more than doubled in nine days, according to a Reuters tally.
Infections have prompted the collapse of some medical facilities, with bodies being kept in hallways, masks being repeatedly reused, and protests breaking out amongst medical workers concerned over their safety.
In the UK, leading BAME campaigners have said the credibility of an inquiry into why black, Asian and minority ethnic people are being disproportionately affected by Covid-19 is being undermined among those it seeks to serve by the appointment of Trevor Phillips.
The former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission was selected despite being suspended from the Labour party last month for alleged Islamophobia, including a reference to UK Muslims as being “a nation within a nation”.
The first four UK doctors with Covid-19 known to have died were all Muslim.
And Labour’s former shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, has said:
We need a public inquiry. Very sadly, the public health executive have chosen to make Trevor Phillips one of their advisers on their inquiry, which I think means that their inquiry is dead on arrival.
Morocco has insisted that allegations of police brutality in enforcing the lockdown there are unfounded after an official in the office of the UN high commissioner for human eights included it in a list of countries where crackdowns have raised concern.
High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has accused some governments of using emergency powers invoked over the coronavirus “to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power”.
Bachelet did not name any countries. But at a news conference in Geneva, Georgette Gagnon, the director of field operations for the UN high commissioner’s office, included Morocco among 15 countries where police actions in enforcing lockdown measures were deemed most troubling.
Morocco’s diplomatic mission in Geneva said measures it has adopted are in line with “the rule of law in full respect of human rights”.
False information on alleged violations shared by some media are unfounded and were not mentioned in any official document of the High Commission for Human Rights.
Moroccan police have registered nearly 77,000 violations of lockdown measures and nearly 41,000 people are awaiting trial, a Moroccan source told Reuters. Prosecutors said 5% of them are in detention. Morocco has confirmed 4,252 cases of the coronavirus, including 165 deaths.
Nearly 70 residents of a single home for military veterans in the US state of Massachusetts have died, local officials have said.
While the death toll at the state-run Holyoke Soldiers’ Home continues to climb, federal officials are investigating whether residents were denied proper medical care while the state’s top prosecutor is deciding whether to bring legal action.
“It’s horrific. These guys never had a chance,” said Edward Lapointe, whose father-in-law lives at the home and had a mild case of the virus.
According to the Associated Press, officials said 66 residents who tested positive and the cause of another death is unknown. Another 83 residents and 81 staff have tested positive.
A state of emergency in the Czech Republic is set to be extended until 17 May after a vote in the lower house of the country’s parliament.
The extension is a week shorter than the government sought. The prime minister, Andrej Babiš, had asked for an extension until 25 May to be able to keep restrictions on business in place. The state of emergency was due to expire on 30 April.
The government is reluctant to end the emergency early, even though it has already reopened some shops and services over the past week as the pace of new infections has declined.
It has announced that it now expects to reopen the economy faster than previously forecast, although not in time for the deadline now set by parliament.
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.
Coronavirus has been declared notifiable disease in Queensland, Australia
We’re just hearing a news conference in Queensland that as of Thursday, coronavirus has been declared notifiable disease.
“That means on clinical suspicion, any doctor or hospital that sees a patient that they think might have this novel coronavirus is obliged to let me know. They let my staff know,” says Queensland’s chief medical officer, Dr Jeanette Young.
As I wrote in the blog a short time ago, Queensland authorities have been trying to track down passengers on a plane that flew from Melbourne to the Gold Coast on 27 January, as there was a tourist from Wuhan onboard who was later diagnoses with coronavirus. He was travelling with a party of eight other people.
“We are contact tracing of course the people immediately adjacent to these people on the plane, on that Tiger flight and then we’re giving information to everyone else who was on the plane and the Tiger people have been extremely supportive and cooperative, so that we could do that, plus we need to go through in detail everyone who’s been at the hotel these people were staying at,” Young said.
I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who sent in information, it’s been extremely helpful.
Here’s a summary of some key updates before I hand over to the Australia team, who’ll continue the coverage from Sydney:
The virus has spread to at least 9,320 people around the world, surpassing that of the SARS epidemic over a year long period (2002-2003).
212 people have died, all in China.
There are 98 confirmed cases of infection outside mainland China in at least 18 countries.
The United States reported its first case of person-to-person transmission, joining Germany, Vietnam and Japan in recording similar incidents.
BA has suspended all flights to and from mainstream China until the end of February. Other countries have also implemented a flight ban, most recently Italy.
Almost 200 US citizens have been evacuated and have arrived at a military base in California. They will be isolated for a minimum of 72 hours. The US is said to be planning another airlift in the coming days.
France have evacuated 200 citizens who are currently flying back to southern France where there’ll be quarantined for 14 days. The European Commission has said it is planning a flight to evacuate more European nationals.
The Chinese Football Association has postponed its domestic games in 2020, and the World Athletics Indoors Championships, due to take place in the Chinese city of Nanjing in March, have been moved to 2021.
Google and IKEA became the latest franchises to shut their Chinese shops and offices.
In Australia, confirmed cases of the virus have climbed to 9, but two people have been released and are “post-viral” according to the country’s health minister, Greg Hunt.
Authorities have been tracking down passengers that were on a plane with a Chinese tourist who flew from Melbourne to the Gold Coast on 27 January.
The 44-year-old man, from Wuhan, was diagnosed with coronavirus and was being treated in isolation in hospital on the Gold Coast.
The Guardian understands that at least one passenger who was on that plane to the Gold Coast has been asked to stay home from work. The passenger is not believed to be at high risk but as a precaution has been asked to remain at home for the time being.