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Coronavirus threatens to overwhelm Texas hospitals: Live updates | News


 

  • Officials in Texas are warning that hospitals in the United States state could soon be overwhelmed if coronavirus cases continue to surge.
  • The border between the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales will be closed at midnight on Tuesday for the first time in a century.
  • More than 11.4 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and 533,781 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 6.2 million have recovered from the disease.

Here are the latest updates:

Monday, July 6

04:00 GMT – Broadway star dies of COVID-19 at age of 41

Broadway star Nick Cordero has died of coronavirus.

The 41-year-old Canadian, who was nominated for a Tony for his role in Bullets over Broadway, had been in hospital for three months and had had his right leg amputated as a result of the disease.

His wife, Amanda Kloots, announced his death on Instagram. The couple had a one-year-old son together.

“God has another angel in heaven now,” she wrote. “I am in disbelief and hurting everywhere. I can’t imagine our lives without him.”

03:15 GMT – Mexico’s President rejects comparisons with European death tolls

Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopex Obrador refused to compare Mexico with European countries on Sunday as the country’s coronavirus death toll mounted.

Mexico now has 30,639 deaths, the fifth highest in the world, overtaking France.

“The population of Spain and France is smaller than that of Mexico,” Lopez Obrador said in a video message posted to YouTube. “For every one who has died in our country, three have died in Spain. We cannot compare this.”

Mexico has a population of 127 million, compared with 67 million in France and 47 million in Spain.

The five countries with the highest death tolls:

  1. US – 129,946
  2. Brazil – 64,867
  3. UK – 44,305
  4. Italy – 34,861
  5. Mexico – 30,639
Source: Johns Hopkins University

03:00 GMT – The Louvre to reopen on Monday

After four months of closure, the Louvre in the heart of Paris is due to reopen at 9am local time (07:00 GMT).

All visitors are required to book a time slot and wear a mask inside the buildings, while efforts have been made to avoid overcrowding.

The Salle des Etats where the Mona Lisa is displayed and which is usually jam-packed, will have separate entry and exit points.

Translation: One day until we reopen. The Mona Lisa is ready to welcome you once again.

02:20 GMT – Saudi Arabia announces new domestic controls for COVID-19

Saudi Arabia has announced new health protocols for this year’s haj, which will be open only to domestic pilgrims. 

Touching the Kaaba will be banned and a social distancing space of one and a half metres enforced during mass prayers and while circling the Kaaba.

Access to haj sites at Mona, Muzadalifah and Arafat will also be limited to those with haj permits from July 19 until August 2, according to the state news agency.

outside image - blog - Hajj

Strict social distancing will be enforced during this year’s haj when pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca [File: Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters]

01:45 GMT – Bolivia’s health minister diagnosed with coronavirus

Bolivia’s health minister Eidy Roca has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, the third member of the country’s cabinet to be confirmed with the disease in four days.

Roca is in a stable condition and “strictly complying with the safety protocol that inlcudes isolation, medication and care,”  according to a statement from her office.

00:50 GMT – Victoria/NSW border closure confirmed

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed the border with New South Wales (NSW) will be closed at midnight on Tuesday in Australia.

Victoria, which has sealed off a number of Melbourne suburbs and imposed a draconian lockdown on nine public housing blocks, said it had 127 new cases of the coronavirus. It now has 645 active cases.

00:20 GMT – Australia’s New South Wales to close border with Victoria

The Australian state of New South Wales is to close its border with neighbouring Victoria after a surge in locally-transmitted coronavirus cases in Melbourne.

The closure will take effect on Tuesday, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.




Melbourne: Thousands in public housing towers asked to lock down

23:00 GMT – Hospitals in some parts of US pushed to brink

Hospitals in some parts of the United States are in danger of being overwhelmed.

All beds are occupied in parts of Texas – one of the states worst hit by the resurgent virus.

“Our hospitals here in Harris County, Houston and 33 other cities … they’re into surge capacities,” Lina Hidalgo, the county’s chief executive, told ABC television in the US.  Her comments were echoed by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who said the system could be “overwhelmed” if the outbreak was not brought under control.

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, has also expressed concern that hospitals could soon reach breaking point.

“If we don’t change our trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun. And in our ICUs, I could be 10 days away from that,” the mayor told CNN.

—-

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

Read all the updates from yesterday here.





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These restaurants took a stand amid coronavirus


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A food delivery driver, a personal shopper and a restaurant owner share the trials and tribulations they’ve faced since start of the pandemic.

USA TODAY

#NoMaskNoTaco.

It’s a hashtag on social media that a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles used to announce Sunday that it was temporarily closing its two taco stands because some customers had refused to wear face masks amid a surge in coronavirus cases in California.

It’s not the only restaurant that has experienced similar incidents and, therefore, decided to shut down at some capacity.

In Arkansas, a Tex-Mex restaurant closed its dining room last week “due to the disrespectfulness and non compliant customers” who refused to weak a mask. A popular Mexican restaurant in Michigan also closed its dining room for the same reason.

As coronavirus cases have continued to multiply in the U.S., 17 states have paused their reopening plans. Several states – like California, Oregon and Kansas – have mandated face masks in public spaces, joining 17 other states, according to Masks4All, an all-volunteer organization that advocates for mask wearing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends wearing “cloth facial coverings” to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

To Hugo’s Tacos co-owner Bill Kohne, face masks “aren’t a choice.This isn’t a company policy, this isn’t a belief of mine or anybody else that masks are good. It’s part of public health code,” he told USA TODAY on Tuesday.

And #NoMaskNoTaco is more than just a hashtag, Kohne said. It represents an issue,  and a symbol of political beliefs for others, that some people have with wearing facial coverings, he said. 

Mapping coronavirus: Tracking the US outbreak

As word of Hugo’s Taco’s closure spread in the media, Kohne said people across the country began to ask how they could help the restaurant’s employees.

That’s why Kohne created a GoFundMe fundraiser, where nearly $42,000 had been raised as of Tuesday night. The money will be evenly distributed for employees at both taco stands, he said.

There’s a similar story at Mexican Fiesta in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, west of Detroit, which stopped dine-in services on Monday. The restaurant will only offer carry-out.

“Unfortunately, there were multiple situations where our staff was disrespected and treated rudely,” the restaurant announced in a Facebook post Sunday. “The safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority so we have made the tough decision of closing our doors to the general public until further notice.”

Sam Alvarado, manager of the family-owned and operated restaurant, told the Detroit Free Press of the USA TODAY Network that most of the customers “have been amazing.”

“A very small minority of people just became really aggressive with foul language and pushing,” he said.

On Saturday, Alvarado said that a third-party delivery driver got physical with him when he was told to wear a mask. 

“It’s really difficult to do just what we are doing as it is and trying to keep everybody safe,” Alvarado said.

In Pocahontas, Arkansas, Taco Casa closed its dining room for the same reason.

“So many people [were] harassing the waitresses, saying things that were not kind,” Doris Halcomb, co-owner of Taco Casa, told TV station KAIT8.

“I don’t feel like my waitresses, or anybody that’s working for me, deserves that. We try to protect the customer by wearing masks and gloves, and they don’t want to respect us.”

Experts: We’re one-third of the way to a widely available coronavirus vaccine

Customer Crystal Richmond told KAIT8 she loved dining inside the restaurant. “But if people [are] not going to obey the rules, I understand, I just don’t want them to close forever so, I understand. I don’t want them to get fined,” she said. 

In Los Angeles, Kohne said he hopes such incidents will create conversations about the importance of masks during the ongoing pandemic.

“A mask is not a symbol,” he said. “It’s just a device that is going to help protect your community and your neighbors from the spread of a virus.”

Contributing: Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press

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Fauci Predicts 100K Coronavirus Cases Daily ‘If Things Don’t Turn Around’



The number of new Chinese coronavirus cases in the United States could reach 100,000 a day if the country fails to turn things around, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, predicted while testifying before a Senate panel on Tuesday.

There are currently about 40,000 new daily infections of COVID-19, the disease associated with the novel coronavirus, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), a component of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), testified.

“We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day,” Fauci told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). “I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned.”

His comments came in response to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asking, “How many COVID-19 deaths and infections should America expect before this is all over?”

In responding, Fauci added:

I can’t make an accurate prediction, but it is going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that, because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country even though in other parts of the country they are doing well, they are vulnerable… We can’t just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk.

Fauci refused to estimate the overall number of COVID-19 fatalities, saying that he gleaned his prediction in March that there would be between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths from models that tend to change over time.

He told Senators:

I would really be hesitant to give a number [on the overall number of deaths] that will come back in either be contradicted, overblown, or under blown, but I think it’s important to tell you and the American public that I’m very concerned because it could get very bad.

Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who testified alongside Fauci, struck a more optimistic tone, saying the country “can reverse these concerning trends.”

Dr. Giroir suggested that the United States is in a better position to handle a spike in cases, testifying:

All of us are concerned about recent data from several states indicating rising infections and now an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths even as other states and the majority of counties are maintaining a low infection burden.

Knowing what we know now about a symptom of the transmission and the fact that we are in a much better position today in terms of our mitigation strategies, PPE [personal protective equipment] and testing we can reverse these concerning trends if we work together.

He urged U.S. residents to maintain social distancing, wear a face-covering whenever physical distance is impossible, practice good hygiene, and stay home if they are feeling sick.

“If you have been in close contact with someone infected or in a gathering without appropriate precautions, get tested,” Giroir added. “Shield the elderly and the vulnerable of any age. And follow the guidelines for opening up America again.”

Echoing Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted that cases are increasing across the United States, particularly in the southern part of the country, following “an extended decline.”

The CDC chief testified:

The number of jurisdictions with an upward trajectory has continued to increase. Now 29 of 55 jurisdictions [in the United States] fall into this category. The evidence tells us that these cases are driven by many factors to include increased testing, community transmission, and outbreaks in settings such as nursing homes and occupational settings.

While hospitalizations are going up in some states, the number of hospital visits and deaths remains stable in most of the country, Redfield indicated.

“Hospitalizations now are going up in 12 states, and as of this weekend daily death has now increased in the state of Arizona,” Dr. Redfield said. “CDC is closely monitoring these increases.”

Health experts predicted cases would go up as more people ventured out of their homes during the reopening phase. Some public health experts have also warned that the recent protests are an ideal breeding ground for spreading COVID-19.



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Social Media Has Turned Bill Gates Into The Coronavirus Pandemic’s Fake Villain


The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.


On May 14, Italian politician Sara Cunial uploaded a video to her Facebook profile calling former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates a criminal and demanding he be tried for crimes against humanity.

It was a speech she made in the Italian Parliament in early May, in which Cunial, who represents a district in northern Italy, claimed Gates was developing a vaccine for COVID-19 to enslave the world’s population.

“The real goal of all of this is total control,” Cunial said, “absolute domination of human beings, transformed into guinea pigs and slaves, violating sovereignty and free will. All this thanks to tricks disguised as political compromises.

Cunial’s speech has been viewed on her page over 500,000 times and shared 30,000 times, and it’s been uploaded to countless other pages on Facebook and YouTube channels. Despite Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers marking the video “partly false,” one version of it has been watched almost 1 million times.

Cunial is wrong about Gates using a vaccine for COVID-19 to commit genocide — but she is far from alone in believing it.

The online campaign against him encompasses a myriad of alternate realities created by anxious and isolated social media users, including debunked claims about 5G cellular technology, anti-vaccination rhetoric, QAnon content, and the conspiracy theory du jour, like the idea that sunlight can kill the coronavirus. And it’s not just limited to the fringe: According to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Friday, 44% of Republicans in the US believe that Gates plans to use a COVID-19 vaccination as a way to implant microchips in people and monitor their movements.

“We’re concerned about the conspiracy theories being spread online and the damage they could cause to public health,” Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told BuzzFeed News. “At a time like this, when the world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis, it’s distressing that there are people spreading misinformation when we should all be looking for ways to collaborate and save lives. Right now, one of the best things we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is spread the facts.”

There’s little chance Gates will be arrested by the Italian government — he lives in Washington state, for one — but the backlash against him reflects a very real and dangerous refusal to accept a COVID-19 vaccine if one were to become available. Even before the pandemic, between 10% and 22% of people in countries across Europe didn’t trust that vaccines were safe.

The paranoia around the former Microsoft CEO has been building for months, festering in Facebook Groups and YouTube comment sections. Here’s how the conspiracy theorists, panicked and ignorant people, and technology platforms that allowed the hoaxes to grow turned Bill Gates into the villain of the coronavirus pandemic.


The most popular version of the rumor stems from a tabloid in Ghana, as Kathryn Joyce, an investigative journalist with Type Investigations documented in a groundbreaking series of stories on the roots of the Gates population control conspiracies in HuffPost and Pacific Standard.

As Joyce reports in HuffPost, “In 2010, a former staffer with a government health initiative in Ghana made a shocking claim: a project partially funded by the Gates Foundation had tested the contraceptive Depo-Provera on unsuspecting villagers in the remote region of Navrongo, as part of an illicit ‘population experiment.'”

The staffer, Mame-Yaa Bosumtwi, “was the Ghanian-born, U.S.-educated communications officer for another Gates-funded initiative by the Ghanaian government and Columbia University to use mobile phones to improve health care access for rural women and children,” according to Joyce. Bosumtwi had clashed with another team member, James Phillips, a demographer at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; when her contract was not renewed, she took her professional gripes with Phillips to the Ghanaian press and filed a lawsuit against Columbia for millions of dollars in damages.

After the lawsuit was dismissed, Bosumtwi went back to the press with a much more shocking claim: Without evidence, she said that Phillips’s project in rural Ghana had experimented with Depo-Provera on women as a test run for a broader population control campaign. Patients had been abused. Some had died.

Wanted posters with Phillips’s face sprouted across the country. Protesters mobilized outside Columbia’s research center in Navrongo. Ghanaian health officials called her claims libel, and community leaders and women from the rural area condemned them as false. But death threats escalated so badly that two members of Phillips’s team had to be evacuated across the border to Burkina Faso.

As Type Investigations’ Joyce revealed, while Bosumtwi’s allegations of Gates-funded genocide were spreading throughout Ghana, “in 2011, a U.S. women’s rights group called the Rebecca Project for Human Rights published a report, ‘Non-Consensual Research in Africa: The Outsourcing of Tuskegee,’ outlining what it claimed were a series of unethical medical experiments undertaken by U.S. researchers in Africa.” The report claimed, without evidence, that unethical medical experiments had been undertaken by US researchers in Africa — focusing on Phillips. “Researchers allegedly injected thousands of impoverished and illiterate Ghanaian women with a Pfizer contraceptive, Depo-Provera, and administered other unidentified oral contraceptives during human research experiments to reduce population and modify health care,” the report read.

The report was written by Kwame Fosu, the Rebecca Project’s chief financial officer and policy director. But Fosu left out a key detail — that he was the father of Bosumtwi’s child. Although that connection might have undermined his credibility if it were made public, in 2013 Fosu released a second report, titled “Depo-Provera: Deadly Reproductive Violence Against Women.” The report, as Joyce documented in Pacific Standard, claimed there was “a massive conspiracy involving international organizations, including the Gates Foundation, USAID, the United Nations Population Fund, and Pfizer, to push a dangerous contraceptive on poor black women.”

“Melinda Gates announces her four-billion dollar contraceptive strategy featuring Depo-Provera as the optimum choice for women of color,” Fosu wrote. “These beautiful females, oblivious that they are being insidiously exploited as diversionary cynical props to mask Gates’ egregious intent, are in an unprecedented Depo-Provera campaign with serious racist implications to prevent their very births.”

In the US, Fosu’s white papers circulated among right-wing groups that claimed “abortion was a form of black genocide.” And they had an impact within Africa as well. In 2014, Joyce wrote, Zimbabwe’s registrar general, Tobaiwa Mudede, “warned women to avoid modern contraceptives because they caused cancer and were a Western ploy to limit African population growth.” That same year in Kenya, Joyce also reported, “all 27 members of the nation’s Conference of Catholic Bishops declared that a WHO/UNICEF campaign to administer neonatal tetanus vaccines to women of childbearing age was really ‘a disguised population control programme.'”

In the years that followed, the allegations of a Gates Foundation–led black genocide in Africa may have subsided, but the conspiracy theory that Gates could be using vaccines to depopulate the planet has stuck around.


Sopa Images / Getty Images

A protester wearing a dinosaur costume holds a placard that says “Bill Gates Wants You Extinct Like Me” during a demonstration in Huntington Beach, California.

At their core, these conspiracy theories revolve around the idea that Gates is using his wealth to control the planet. As old as baseless claims that the Illuminati or the Freemasons control the world and as new as the digital revolution, they blend imaginary concerns about the hidden masters of the world and basic misunderstandings of science.

Named for the Microsoft cofounder and his wife, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was launched in 2000 and is the largest private foundation in the world. In 2008, Gates transitioned out of his role with Microsoft to give himself more time to its programs and grants, which primarily focus on enhancing healthcare, reducing extreme poverty, and expanding educational opportunities and access to information technology.

While it’s completely false to say the Gates Foundation is trying to depopulate the planet, the work the foundation does is in fact influenced by overpopulation concerns popularized in the ’60s and ’70s. Gates himself has publicly acknowledged several times over the last decade his debt to the work of biologist Paul R. Ehrlich, whose 1968 book The Population Bomb brought the concept of global overpopulation into the public consciousness and was mentioned in the Gates Foundation’s annual letter in 2012.

Gates wrote about Ehrlich again in 2013, calling him “the country’s, and perhaps the world’s, most prominent environmental Cassandra” and lauding his work, even if the foundation’s cofounder concluded it was too fatalistic:

“We know now that Ehrlich was extremely wrong and that following his scientific certainties would have been terrible for the poor.”

So while Gates is not spending his retirement trying to commit eugenics on a global scale and is in fact actively opposed to the wing of the environmentalist movement that advocates for such a thing, it’s a connection that has been hard to shake. Spend enough time in online fever swamps and you’ll start seeing the same words over and over again — “Bill Gates,” “population control” — skipping right over the fact that Gates is against the idea.

Gates has remained a popular target for those with attenuated ties to reality. In 2016, Infowars connected him to a conspiracy theory that Zika fever could be a bioweapon. In 2018, Infowars wrote that Gates was “indirectly responsible for both Ebola and Zika outbreaks” and was planning a global pandemic known as “Disease X.” The same year, conspiracy theory site NewsPunch published an article with the headline “Bill Gates Admits ‘Vaccines Are Best Way to Depopulate,’” which went viral enough for fact-checking site Snopes to debunk it. Conspiracies about Gates have proliferated on Facebook and YouTube as well. In January 2019, a now-debunked and -deleted article from Transcend International, a nonprofit media outlet, went viral, claiming Gates believed vaccines were too dangerous to give to his own children.

These claims have often taken a political valence: In 2018, footage leaked of Gates mocking President Donald Trump for not knowing the difference between HPV and HIV. But beyond partisanship, Gates — with his tech-made money and philanthropic efforts to improve public health — has become an avatar of populist rage at those who possess technical fluency, an elite education, and well-stamped passports.

The first rumor connecting Gates to COVID-19 was spread at the very beginning of the outbreak by QAnon YouTuber Jordan Sather. In January, when the virus was still localized in Wuhan, China, Sather claimed that the novel coronavirus was a “new fad disease” that had been “planned” by Gates.

The QAnon community believes Trump is waging a secret war against a deep state, secret messages about which are leaked out on anonymous online message boards like 8chan by an insider with “Q-level” security clearance. Gates and other wealthy liberals like George Soros are believed to be part of a global cabal of Satanists who secretly control the world.

The crux of Sather’s conspiracy hinged on a 2015 patent filed by the Pirbright Institute in Surrey, England, which covered the development of a weakened form of a coronavirus that could be used as a vaccine to prevent respiratory diseases in birds and other animals. This is a standard way that vaccines are made, for everything from the flu to polio.

As the virus spread out of China, hoaxes about Gates did as well, with social media companies only attempting to limit their reach weeks after they began. Melanie Smith, a cyberintelligence analyst at Graphika, a network analysis company, told BuzzFeed News: “I think social media platforms only really stepped up to the plate to deal with coronavirus disinfo in March.”

In the early months of the outbreak, Smith said, many mainstream users were exposed to seriously fringe ideas, including one that falsely claimed that Gates was depopulating the planet. “Gates has created a vaccine and it will be tested in African countries before it’s tested anywhere else,” she said, explaining the conspiracy theory.

Regardless of how Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have battled conspiratorial content about COVID-19, it wasn’t enough. By April, Gates had become the main target.


In April, the “black genocide” narrative was reignited, reports Joyce. Diamond and Silk, pro-Trump influencers and former Fox News personalities, declared they would never take a COVID-19 vaccine created by Gates because he had used African people as “guinea pigs.” Conservative commentator Candace Owens tweeted the same month that “vaccine-criminal Bill Gates” had used “African & Indian tribal children to experiment w/ non-FDA approved drug vaccines.”

A petition calling for Gates’ arrest was posted on the White House’s page for citizen queries on April 10. As of Friday, it had 572,723 signatures, thanks in part to being shared on Facebook Groups like “Refuse Corona [email protected] and Screw Bill Gates” and a Bulgarian conspiracy theory group called “Hidden Knowledge 2.” The petition received even more attention after it was covered by NewsPunch.

That same month, a now-deleted YouTube video full of misinformation about Gates, titled “Dr. SHIVA Ayyadurai, MIT PhD Crushes Dr. Fauci Exposes Birx, Clintons, Bill Gates, And The W.H.O” was watched more than 6 million times, with close to half a million shares on Facebook. At the same time, many explicitly anti–Bill Gates groups formed on Facebook, the biggest of which was “Collective Action Against Bill Gates. We Wont Be Vaccinated!!” According to social metrics site CrowdTangle, its 100,000-plus members regularly post some of the most-shared content on the platform about the former Microsoft CEO. “This is the shit eating grin Bill has on whenever talking about the coronavirus,” one recent post read.

A petition calling for Gates’ arrest was posted on the White House’s page for citizen queries on April 10. As of Friday, it had 572,723 signatures.

But “Collective Action Against Bill Gates” is hardly the only group. The pushback against him is a focal point for several previously unlinked misinformation communities, such as anti-vaxxers, 5G truthers, New Agers, and QAnon supporters. These groups, which range in size, have names like “#SayNoToBillGates,” “STOP BILL GATES: He’s A Treasonous Murderous Psychopath & Must Be Stopped,” “TAG DONALD J TRUMP: STOP BILL GATES,” and “Fauci & Gates to prison worldwide Resistance.”

A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that many groups featuring anti-vax content have a pop-up warning when a user joins them, warning them of harmful misinformation.

“Anyone who searches for and joins a group related to COVID-19 or vaccines is then directed to accurate information from health organizations,” the spokesperson said. “Additionally, we are working to remove these types of groups from the recommendations we show people.”


Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Two protesters, one holding a sign referencing Bill Gates, the other a German flag, stand on a water fountain during a protest rally in Berlin against coronavirus lockdown restrictions, May 9.

In early May, as Cameron Wilson reported, “a little over 100 people met on the steps of the state Parliament building in Melbourne, Australia, and began chanting ‘arrest Bill Gates’. … One speaker, Fanos Panayides, is the founder of an extremely active Facebook group called 99% unite Main Group ‘it’s us or them’ that has rapidly become one of the biggest hubs of resistance against Australia’s coronavirus response. … Since it was started on April 8, the group has grown to more than 37,000 members who have made more than 900,000 posts, comments and reactions, according to social media analytics site Crowdtangle.”

Anti-Gates signs have appeared over the last month in Long Island; London; Nottingham, England; and Annapolis, Maryland. Gates was also the focus of a violent anti-COVID-19 lockdown protest in Germany over the weekend.

Conspiracy theories have also appeared on Indian social media. Drawing on a false claim that dates back to at least 2014, Health Impact News, a pseudoscience website that promotes conspiracy theories about 5G and vaccines, claimed on May 19 that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had been sued and “put on trial” before the Supreme Court of India regarding the deaths and injuries caused by trials of Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. One version of the claim featured a photo of Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci together with text that read, “Well, well, well, Globalist population control Bill Gates shortly after his trip to India with Dr. Fauci.”

Although there was in reality no lawsuit, there really was a study in India funded by the Gates Foundation. In 2010, the trials, conducted by the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, was canceled after local media reported that seven girls had died after taking part in it. Investigations carried out by the Indian government determined that the deaths were unrelated to the vaccine.

So when Cunial stood up in the Italian Parliament last week and demanded Gates be arrested for “crimes against humanity,” it wasn’t random. It was a crossover win for the COVID-19 conspiracy theorists. Amid heckles and jeers, Cunial called upon other Parliament members to defy any plans for a compulsory vaccination against COVID-19.

Cunial is a former member of the Five Star Movement (M5S), an antiestablishment party that won the most seats in Italy’s 2018 general election. Her Facebook page is full of anti-vax, anti-5G, and COVID-19 misinformation. She’s also a supporter of the ID2020 microchip theory: the belief that the ID2020 Alliance, a nongovernmental organization that advocates for digital IDs for undocumented people and refugees, is working with Gates to build a surveillance state with tracking devices in the COVID-19 vaccine.

She’s far from the only anti-vaxxer among the M5S or its former members. The party campaigned on objections to vaccinations. Observers of Italian politics have argued that vaccine skepticism is one of the central tenets of what M5S stands for.

A member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies condemned Cunial’s “absurd and unfounded theories” on Twitter, but, her speech was nevertheless seized on by Russian state media, amplified by the American far right, and shared in various ways on Facebook and YouTube.

Two versions of Cunial’s speech were removed on Thursday by YouTube after they were flagged by BuzzFeed News. YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said the videos violated the site’s policies around medical misinformation.

“We’re committed to providing timely and helpful information at this critical time, including raising authoritative content, reducing the spread of harmful misinformation, and showing information panels, using CDC data, to help combat misinformation,” Shadloo said. “We have clear policies against COVID misinformation, and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us.”

A scan of the YouTube comments about Cunial will make you wonder how to untangle the confusion. A report from RT about Cunial’s speech was shared on Tuesday to “X22 Report [Geopolitical],” one of the larger QAnon Facebook Groups.

“Ironically fact checker blocked this earlier on me. … It’s literally what they say. It’s ridiculous,” one user wrote, referring to the fact that Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers have flagged several versions of Cunial’s video as “partly misleading.”

“The fact checker and Politifact is owned by Gates and Soros, so you won’t know the truth,” another commenter erroneously replied, going on to call down a curse on them in ornate language: “But hell be their homes and what they fear the most on earth be their torment 1000 times over for eternity.” ●

UPDATE

This story has been updated to more clearly attribute source material from work previously published elsewhere.

UPDATE

This story has been updated to add credit to Kathryn Joyce’s series of stories on the conspiracy theories linking Bill Gates to population control efforts in Africa.





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WHO reports largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases


GENEVA — The World Health Organization on Sunday reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases by its count, at more than 183,000 new cases in the latest 24 hours.

The UN health agency said Brazil led the way with 54,771 cases tallied and the U.S. next at 36,617. Over 15,400 came in in India.

Experts said rising case counts can reflect multiple factors including more widespread testing as well as broader infection.

Overall in the pandemic, WHO reported 8,708,008 cases — 183,020 in the last 24 hours — with 461,715 deaths worldwide, with a daily increase of 4,743.

More than two-thirds of those new deaths were reported in the Americas.

In Spain, officials ended a national state of emergency after three months of lockdown, allowing its 47 million residents to freely travel around the country for the first time since March 14. The country also dropped a 14-day quarantine for visitors from Britain and the 26 European countries that allow visa-free travel.

But there was only a trickle of travelers at Madrid-Barajas Airport, which on a normal June day would be bustling.

“This freedom that we now have, not having to justify our journey to see our family and friends, this was something that we were really looking forward to,” Pedro Delgado, 23, said after arriving from Spain’s Canary Islands.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez urged people to take maximum precautions: “The virus can return and it can hit us again in a second wave, and we have to do whatever we can to avoid that at all cost.”

At a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump said Saturday the U.S. has tested 25 million people, but the “bad part” is that it found more cases.

“When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’″

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on CNN that Trump was being “tongue-in-cheek” and made the comment in a “light mood.”

Democratic rival Joe Biden’s campaign accused Trump of “putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people.”

The U.S. has the world’s highest number of reported infections, over 2.2 million, and the highest death toll, at about 120,000, according to Johns Hopkins. Health officials say robust testing is vital for tracking outbreaks and keeping the virus in check.

In England, lockdown restrictions prevented druids, pagans and party-goers on Sunday from watching the sun rise at the ancient circle of Stonehenge to mark the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. English Heritage, which runs the site, livestreamed it instead. A few people gathered outside the fence.

“You can’t cancel the sunrise,” druid Arthur Pendragon told the BBC.

The number of confirmed virus cases is still growing rapidly not only in the U.S. but in Brazil, South Africa and other countries, especially in Latin America.

Brazil’s Health Ministry said the total number of cases had risen by more than 50,000 in a day. President Jair Bolsonaro has been downplaying the risks even as his country has seen nearly 50,000 fatalities, the second-highest death toll in the world.

South Africa reported a one-day high of almost 5,000 new cases on Saturday and 46 deaths. Despite the increase, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a further loosening of one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Casinos, beauty salons and sit-down restaurant service will reopen.

In the United States, the virus appears to be spreading across the West and South. Arizona reported over 3,100 new infections, just short of Friday’s record, and 26 deaths. Nevada also reported a new high of 445 cases.

In Europe, a single meatpacking plant in Germany has had over 1,000 cases, so the regional government issued a quarantine for all 6,500 workers, managers and family members.

In Asia, China and South Korea reported new coronavirus cases Sunday in outbreaks that threatened to set back their recoveries.

Chinese authorities recorded 25 new confirmed cases — 22 in Beijing. In the past week, Beijing tightened travel controls by requiring anyone who wants to leave the Chinese capital, a city of 20 million people, to show proof they tested negative for the virus.

In South Korea, nearly 200 infections have been traced to employees at a door-to-door sales company in Seoul, and at least 70 other infections are tied to a table tennis club there. But South Korean officials are reluctant to enforce stronger social distancing to avoid hurting the economy.



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Grigor Dimitrov tests positive for coronavirus; Adria Tour tennis final cancelled



Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov has confirmed that he has tested positive for coronavirus.

Dimitrov announced his Covid-19 diagnosis on Sunday, making him the highest-profile tennis player to reveal he has the disease.

The 29-year-old Bulgarian had been competing in the Adria Tour exhibition tournament in Croatia until he withdrew with illness prior to his match on Sunday.

The final of the event, which would have featured world number one Novak Djokovic, was cancelled as a result.


“I want to reach out and let my fans and friends know that I tested positive back in Monaco for COVID-19,” former world number three Dimitrov wrote on Instagram.

“I want to make sure anyone who has been in contact with me during these past days gets tested and takes the necessary precautions.

“I am so sorry for any harm I might have caused. I am back home now and recovering. Thanks for your support and please stay safe and healthy.”

Additional reporting by Reuters.



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Brazil passes 1 million coronavirus cases: Live updates | Coronavirus pandemic News


  • World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned of a “new and dangerous phase” in the accelerating coronavirus pandemic after 150,000 new cases were reported worldwide on Thursday – the highest in a single day. 

  • The United Kingdom’s chief medical officers have agreed to lower the country’s coronavirus alert level from four to three.

  • German biopharmaceutical company CureVac has started a clinical trial for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

  • More than 458,000 people have died as a result of the new coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. At least 8.6 million people have been confirmed to have the coronavirus around the world and more than 4.2 million have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, June 20

02:19 GMT – Pandemic could worsen Haiti’s ‘already alarming humanitarian situation’

Helen La Lime, the United Nations Special Representative for Haiti, said the coronavirus pandemic is worsening the country’s “already alarming humanitarian situation”, something that could see an increasing number of citizens flee the island to seek a better life abroad. 

And unless more help was offered to tackle Haiti’s economic recession, ”a primarily domestic problem could transform into a regional issue,” she warned during a virtual meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday. 

She added: “A vicious circle of mistrust, recrimination, and ultimately violence, is once again starting to define the dynamics of Haitian politics at a time when the entire society should be unified in its response to the pandemic”.

Haiti has a population of 11 million people and has so far recorded 4,900 coronavirus cases and 84 deaths.

01:57 GMT – Mexico City delays reopening as cases continue to surge

Authorities in Mexico City delayed a planned reopening of the economy as new confirmed cases and deaths reported nationwide continued at near-record levels.

Claudia Sheinbaum, mayor of the 11 million strong city, said hospital occupancy and case numbers had not decreased to the point where reopening malls and street markets would be possible. The city has about 70 percent of its hospital beds occupied.

Mexico’s Health Department reported 5,030 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 647 more deaths, both numbers down just slightly from Thursday. Total cases now stand at 170,485, with 20,394 fatalities.

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ecatepec de Morelos

A musician plays his instrument during the burial of two people, who died of COVID-19 at the San Isidro Municipal cemetery on the outskirts of Mexico City, Mexico, on June 19, 2020 [Henry Romero/ Reuters]

Virus Outbreak Mexico

Musicians play their instruments during a protest demanding financial support in Mexico City on June 19, 2020 [Eduardo Verdugo/ AP]

01:35 GMT – US court rejects bid for mandatory masks at Trump rally

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court rejected an effort to require everyone attending US President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa this weekend to wear a face mask and maintain social distancing to guard against spreading the coronavirus.

In a concurring opinion, two justices said the local residents asking for precautions at Trump’s rally – the US’s largest indoor gathering in months – could not establish their legal right to the relief they sought.

The petition was filed by two people described as having compromised immune systems and at particular risk from COVID-19.

The ruling came as Oklahoma reported its second-biggest increase in new infections on Friday, logging 359 cases of COVID-19 and one death. That brings the state’s total case load to 9,706 and number of deaths to 367. 

01:10 GMT – Costa Rica halts reopening

Costa Rica is halting the reopening of its economy after registering on Friday a record 119 new coronavirus infections – a figure that brings the country’s total number of confirmed cases to 2,508.

“These are not numbers to think that nothing is wrong and that we can continue with the reopening,” Health Minister Daniel Salas told reporters.

“Stores and shopping malls, beaches, churches and other activities will have to wait until we have a sustained decrease in cases,” he said, adding that the country’s national soccer league is also suspended “until further notice”.

At least 12 people have died from COVID-19 in Costa Rica.

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in San Jose, Costa Rica

A woman is given chayotes at a distribution point for fruits and vegetables donated by domestic producers unable to export due to the coronavirus disease, in San Jose, Costa Rica on April 13, 2020 [File: Juan Carlos Ulate/ Reuters]

00:23 GMT – Brazil surpasses one million coronavirus cases

Brazil passed one million coronavirus cases and approached 50,000 deaths, a new nadir for the world’s second-worst-hit country as it struggles with a tense political climate and worsening economic outlook.

The country’s health ministry reported 1,032,913 confirmed cases on Friday, with 1,206 new deaths that took the total official fatalities to 48,954.

Friday also saw a new record daily number of cases, with 54,771 infections, a jump the health ministry said was largely due to “instability” in its reporting system, which meant some states were reporting figures from multiple days.

Brazil is likely to surpass 50,000 deaths on Saturday, although weekend reporting can be lower.

Read more here.

00:16 GMT – Zimbabwe health minister arrested over coronavirus supplies scandal

Zimbabwe’s health minister Obadiah Moyo was arrested on Friday for alleged corruption related to the supply of medical materials to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s anti-graft agency said.

He was being held at a Harare police station and is likely to appear in court on Saturday.

“I can confirm that the minister of health and child welfare has been arrested and is being detained at Rhodesville police station,” John Makamure, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, told the AFP news agency.

“It’s to do with the procurement of COVID-19 materials,” he added.

The government did not immediately comment on the arrest, which came a day after the country’s main opposition condemned alleged corruption following suspicions about a two-million-dollar payment to a medical company contracted to provide anti-coronavirus equipment.  

Harare has come under fire for granting two-month-old company Drax Consult SAGL a contract to supply $20m worth of drugs, personal protective equipment and COVID-19 test kits.

The deal was allegedly signed without the consent of Zimbabwe’s procurement registration authority.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 

You can find all the key developments from yesterday, June 19, here. 



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SSE Airtricity makes £6m bad debt provision over coronavirus



SSE Airtricity has recorded an exceptional charge of £6m (€6.7m) as a provision against bad debts arising from the coronavirus in Ireland.

ut it still recorded a profit of £42.8m (€48m) in respect of its operations across the island of Ireland in the 12 months to the end of March, up on the £38.6m (€43m) reported the prior year.

The company, which supports 3,740 jobs here, said it is continuing to advance its Arklow Bank offshore wind project, which it said is “well placed” to help Ireland achieve its Climate Action Plan target of 1GW of offshore wind power by 2025 and 3.5GW by 2030.

SSE said it retains “a strong market position” as Ireland’s largest supplier of 100pc green energy, supplying more than 700,000 customers across the island of Ireland with a 24pc market share.

The SSE group confirmed its full-year dividend and posted a better than expected annual pre-tax profit yesterday, but warned the coronavirus crisis would dent earnings for the current financial year.

The company turned its focus to renewable power generation and networks after selling its household energy supply and services arm to OVO Energy at the beginning of the year in a deal worth £500m.

SSE’s adjusted profit before tax rose to £1.02bn for the 12 months ended March 31, beating analysts’ estimates of £959.3m.

Its shares rose more than 5pc early yesterday in London and had soared more than 9pc by later in the afternoon.

SSE said it would stick with the planned full-year dividend of 80p per share for 2018-19, with the final 56p share payment to be made on September 18, 2020.

“We have put in place a comprehensive plan to achieve the related objectives of sustaining the dividend payments which provides vital income for people’s pensions and savings,” said SSE chairman Richard Gillingwater.

Meanwhile, Budget Energy, the power firm recently acquired by DCC’s Flogas unit, made a pre-tax profit of just over £3m in its last financial year, newly-filed accounts for the business show.

Budget Energy’s main business is in Northern Ireland, but it also launched in the Republic of Ireland in 2017. Budget Energy trades as BE Energy here, and has a total of more than 90,000 customers.

Accounts for the group show that it had just under 70,000 customers at the end of September last year.

Last year, Flogas bought the Irish business of Canadian firm Just Energy.

Additional reporting: Reuters

Irish Independent



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Coronavirus: New advice for people shielding in NI


SHieldingImage copyright
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Image caption

80,000 people received shielding letters in Northern Ireland

Thousands of letters giving updated advice on shielding have begun arriving in homes in Northern Ireland.

They are for those who have been judged to be the most vulnerable to Covid-19 – about 80,000 people.

They received a similar letter three months ago advising them to shield for 12 weeks.

The 12 weeks run out later this week and the new guidance is valid until the end of June.

In the letter, Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer says he knows it has been “a very challenging time”.

Dr Michael McBride explained “the Covid-19 virus still poses a high risk” but that “infection levels are now falling” so the “risk of exposure is significantly less”.

However, the letter also states that people shielding should continue to practise social distancing of 2m and wash their hands regularly.

The updated guidance from the chief medical officer states:

  • If you wish to spend time outdoors (though not in other buildings, households, or enclosed spaces) you should take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping 2m apart
  • If you choose to spend time outdoors, this can be with members of your own household. If you live alone, you can spend time outdoors with one person from another household (ideally the same person each time)
  • You should remain vigilant when leaving home, washing your hands regularly, maintaining social distance and avoiding gatherings of any size
  • You should not attend any gatherings, including gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, parties, weddings and religious services
  • You should strictly avoid contact with anyone who is displaying symptoms of Covid-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss of, or change in, the sense of taste or smell)

Belfast woman Issy McManus has rheumatoid arthritis and takes regular medication which suppresses her immune system.

Image caption

Issy McManus said she had found following the shielding advice difficult

She received an initial shielding letter.

Mrs McManus recently remarried and lives with her new husband, Gerry.

She said she found following the shielding advice difficult.

“The only people that came to see me were my nieces – it was talking to them through the patio doors really, and it absolutely wrecked my nerves,” she said.

“I couldn’t cope with it. I’m very sociable, and I just found it impossible. We’re only newly married and so it’s been a poor baptism of fire for Gerry as well, so it was hard work.”

Her new letter with updated guidance arrived on Monday of this week.

Mrs McManus said she initially feared it would tell her to stay indoors.

“I just thought ‘I can’t cope with this really; I can’t go through all that again’. I really need to be outside in my garden… but to think I should be back in the house and doing that, completely locked down, no, I can’t do it.”

Dr Ursula Brennan, a Belfast GP and GP lead for the Belfast Covid Centre, said she is hopeful that with the reduction in the number of cases of Covid-19 in the community there will be a further relaxation of the rules in the coming weeks.

“We know it’s been very difficult for those who’ve been shielding over the 12 weeks, particularly with regards to their mental health and their emotional wellbeing,” she said.

Image caption

Dr Ursula Brennan said the new advice was good news for those shielding

“But this is good news, that it allows those people now to spend time outdoors either with their own family, but being particularly careful with social distancing, the two metre gap between individuals outside.

“Those individuals who have been living alone – they can spend time outdoors with one other person not from their household preferably the same person and again being sure to maintain social distancing and hand washing and those are really key features of Covid and they need to continue.”

Dr Brennan advises people who’ve received a letter to seek clarification from their GP or hospital specialist if they are unclear about anything.



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Coronavirus live updates: Bolsonaro hides Brazil death figures; minister criticises Australian BLM protests | World news


The exodus of migrant workers from big cities is plunging India’s factories into a crisis, Agence France-Presse reports.

An acute shortage of workers has turned the roar of machines to a soft hum at a footwear factory near New Delhi, just one of thousands in India struggling to restart after migrant workers decided to leave town during the virus lockdown.

India is slowly emerging from strict containment measures that were imposed in late March as leaders look to revive the battered economy, but manufacturers don’t have enough workers to man the machinery.

The big cities, once an attractive destination for workers from poor, rural regions, have been hit by reverse migration as millions of labourers flee back to their home villages, some uncertain if they will ever return.

Sanjeev Kharbanda, a senior executive with Aqualite Industries, which owns the footwear factory in the northern state of Haryana, said: “Sixty per cent of our labourers have gone back. How can we run a production unit with just one-third of our workforce?”

A worker is waiting for products to arrive on a production line at the Aqualite footwear factory in Bahadurgarh in the northern Indian state of Haryana.

A worker is waiting for products to arrive on a production line at the Aqualite footwear factory in Bahadurgarh in the northern Indian state of Haryana. Photograph: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

Kharbanda said the company’s sports shoe unit had been sitting idle as there were no skilled workers to operate the high-tech machines.

“We are running just one shift now. The cost of production has gone up and our profits are going down,” he said, a conveyor belt carrying semi-finished flip-flops running slowly in the background.

In Gujarat state’s Surat city – where 90% of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished – many factories have been unable to open after more than two-thirds of workers fled, Surat diamond association president Babu Kathiriya told AFP.

Meanwhile, the state’s salt refineries have started doubling salaries to lure staff back. But experts say the workers may not return anytime soon.

There are an estimated 100 million migrant workers – nearly a fifth of the labour force and contributing to an estimated 10% of GDP – across the nation of 1.3 billion people.

Many are employed as cheap labour across a vast range of sectors including textiles, construction, mines and small businesses.



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