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Virus delays Rio’s Carnival for first time in a century

RIO DE JANEIRO — Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade for 2021, saying Thursday night that the global spectacle cannot go ahead in February because of Brazil’s continued vulnerability to the pandemic.

Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus has made it impossible to safely hold the traditional parades that are a cultural mainstay and, for many, a source of livelihood.

“Carnival is a party upon which many humble workers depend. The samba schools are community institutions, and the parades are just one detail of all that,” Luiz Antonio Simas, a historian who specializes in Rio’s Carnival, said in an interview. “An entire cultural and productive chain was disrupted by COVID.”

Rio’s City Hall has yet to announce a decision about the Carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to The Associated Press on Sept. 17 that without a coronavirus vaccine, it is uncertain when large public events can resume.

Brazil’s first confirmed coronavirus case was Feb. 26, one day after this year’s Carnival ended. As the number of infections grew, the samba schools that participate in the glitzy annual parade halted preparations for the 2021 event. Thursday’s announcement removed the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the city — one of worst hit by the pandemic in Brazil.

Nearly all of Rio’s samba schools are closely linked to working class communities. Their processions include elaborate floats accompanied by tireless drummers and costumed dancers who sing at the top of their lungs to impress a panel of judges. Tens of thousands of spectators pack the bleachers of the arena, known as the Sambadrome, while tens of millions watch on television.

Before the schools began competing in the 1930s, Carnival was celebrated in dance halls and haphazardly on the streets, Simas said. The parades entered the Sambadrome in the 1980s, and have become Rio’s quintessential Carnival display.

The immense labor required for each show was already stymied by restrictions on gatherings that Rio’s governor imposed in March. Even with those measures, Rio’s metropolitan region, home to 13 million people, so far has recorded more than 15,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Beneath the Sambadrome’s bleachers, the city created a homeless shelter for the vulnerable population during the pandemic.

Samba schools suspended float construction, costume sewing, dance rehearsals, and also social projects. The Mangueira school’s program in the favela near downtown Rio that teaches music to children — keeping them away from crime, and cultivating the school’s future drummers — hasn’t held classes since March.

The pulse of entire suburban Rio cities like Nilopolis, whose population of 160,000 cheers the Beija-Flor samba school, has faded, Simas said.

Some performers resorted to odd jobs and gigs. Diogo Jesús, the lead dancer referred to as “master of ceremonies” in the Mocidade school, couldn’t make rent without his income from private events. He started driving for Uber and sewing facemasks to sell at a fair.

“It was a blow. We live Carnival all year round, and many people when they realized everything would stop wound up getting sick or depressed,” Jesus said in an interview inside his house in Madureira, a neighborhood in northern Rio. “Carnival is our life.”

The last year Rio’s Carnival was suspended was 1912, following the death of the foreign relations minister. The mayor of Rio, at the time Brazil’s capital, postponed by two months all licenses for the popular dance associations’ Carnival parties, according to Luís Cláudio Villafañe, a diplomat and author of the book “The Day They Delayed Carnival.” The mayor also voiced opposition to unregulated celebrations, but many Rio residents partied in the streets anyway.

Revelers were undeterred during World War II. And they poured into the street every year during more than two decades of military dictatorship, until 1985, with government censors reviewing costumes, floats and song lyrics.

Then came coronavirus.

“We must await the coming months for definition about if there will be a vaccine or not, and when there will be immunization,” LIESA’s president, Jorge Castanheira, told reporters in Rio on Thursday. “We don’t have the safety conditions to set a date.”

The 2020 coronavirus already forced Rio’s City Hall to scrap traditional plans for its second-biggest party, New Year’s Eve, which draws millions of people to Copacabana beach for dazzling fireworks. Earlier this month, the city’s tourism promotion agency Riotur announced that main tourist spots will instead display light and music shows to be broadcast over the internet.

Delay of the Carnival parade will deprive Rio state of much needed tourism revenue. In 2020, Carnival drew 2.1 million visitors and generated 4 billion reais ($725 million) in economic activity, according to Riotur. A statement from the agency Thursday provided no further clarity on the fate of the Carnival street parties.

Some parties are small — for example one including a few dozen dog owners exhibiting their pets wearing wigs or funny hats. But most feature amps blasting music to throngs of thousands who dance, kiss and swill booze in a crush of celebration. The biggest one boasts more than two million partygoers.

Rita Fernandes, president of Os Blocos da Sebastiana, said her association already canceled its 11 street parties that together draw 1.5 million revelers. Most others groups will follow, she said.

“We cannot be irresponsible and bring the multitudes to the street,” she said, pointing to Europe’s second wave of contagion.

After several weeks of declining daily infections, Rio authorities have begun expressing concern about an uptick. Public spaces such as beaches have been crowded in violation of pandemic restrictions.

A drummer in Mangueira’s samba school, Laudo Braz Neto, said the children he instructed before the pandemic are listless, and he knows there is no way to put on Carnival without being able to safely gather.

“Carnival will only really happen when the whole world can travel. It’s a spectacle the world watches, brings income and movement here,” he said. “I have no hope for 2021.”

Associated Press videojournalist Diarlei Rodrigues contributed to this report.

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The Virus, the Earthquake and the Bio-Economy of Tourism

Most of us have seen one of the popular Covid-19 memes that says “Can we reset 2020? It has a virus!” – or something along those lines. Croatia would, indeed, badly need such a reset. The country did not have much luck this year, haunted by several plagues, one after the other. First came the presidency of the Council of the European Union, which Croatia held from January to June. Then Corona hit. And, in the middle of all that, a major earthquake shook Zagreb, the country’s capital. Then followed the risky gambling with early parliamentary elections. And, finally, the challenges of (collapsing) tourism.

The Croatian presidency of the EU was a big challenge, with historical tasks such as Brexit and the immigration crisis on the Union’s south-eastern borders on the agenda. But Croatia’s over-sized ambitions of contributing effective solutions and the illusion of its power and importance ended in June, without any memorable result. It would be easy to blame the pandemic for the meagre outcome, but as critics put it, the positioning of Croatia was wrong from the start. Instead of choosing to take on a leading role in the region and help Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia with their problems and further their negotiations with the EU the government wanted to be on the equal footing with the big European players. The Croatian presidency left no mark on EU politics.

When the Croatian government declared the coronavirus pandemic on 11 March, it turned out to be the start of an exercise in returning to a police state. An expert body of allegedly politically non-allied scientists and managers of health institutions, which curiously included the minister of the interior from the governing party HDZ, was formed to manage the pandemic. Bypassing the parliament, this group issued orders for a lockdown and decided about everything else related to the coronavirus, from the closing down of schools and tram lines, to the isolation of groups and individuals, to the compulsory wearing of masks in shops and public transport.

The virus united politics

Interestingly, citizens obeyed the new rules without protest, regardless of their questionable legitimacy and anti-democratic character. Not even the opposition opposed! On the one hand, fear of the virus united them all. But on the other, this extraordinary obedience was prepared by Croatia’s authoritarian past as part of Yugoslavia. When in trouble, people not only flock together, but also resort to the type of political leadership they know and recognise. 

Perhaps this is best illustrated by the habitual willingness to delegate the responsibility for decisions to a higher authority – which used to be the Communist Party – because they are supposed to “know better”. It is as if this legacy of the communist system still prevents citizens to believe in their own rights or even to question any decisions. The experience of democracy has in this context just been one of a new form for the old way of party-dominant gover…

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Russian ambassador rejects virus vaccine hacking claims

Russia’s ambassador to Britain has rejected allegations that his country’s intelligence services sought to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine.

Andrei Kelin said in a BBC interview broadcast Sunday that there was “no sense” in the allegations made last week by the United States, Britain and Canada.

“I don’t believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it,” he said when asked about the allegations. “I learned about their (the hackers) existence from British media. In this world, to attribute any kind of computer hackers to any country, it is impossible.”

Intelligence agencies in the U.S., Britain and Canada on Thursday accused the hacking group APT29 — also known as Cozy Bear and believed to be part of Russian intelligence — of using malicious software to attack academic and pharmaceutical research institutions involved in COVID-19 vaccine development. It was unclear whether any useful information was stolen.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also said that “Russian actors” had tried to interfere in last year’s general election by “amplifying” stolen government papers online.

Kelin said in the interview that his country had no interest in interfering in British domestic politics.

“I do not see any point in using this subject as a matter of interference,” he said. “We do not interfere at all. We do not see any point in interference because for us, whether it will be (the) Conservative Party or Labour’s party at the head of this country, we will try to settle relations and to establish better relations than now.”

Raab said Sunday that Britain will work with its allies to call Russia out on its “reprehensible behaviour” and make sure research organizations know “so that they can better defend against it.”

The allegations came days before the British parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee prepares to release a long-awaited report on Russian interference in British politics.

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Brazil virus death toll hits 28,834, surpassing hard-hit France

Brasília (AFP) – Brazil on Saturday reached 28,834 coronavirus fatalities, authorities said, surpassing hard-hit France and becoming the country with the world’s fourth-highest death toll.

At the epicenter of South America’s coronavirus outbreak, Brazil also saw an increase of 33,274 cases in the past 24 hours — a new daily record, the Health Ministry said.

That number brings Brazil’s total caseload to 498,444, the second-highest in the world, lagging only behind the United States.

Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro remain the hardest-hit states in Brazil in terms of sheer numbers, while per capita rates are higher in the country’s impoverished north and northeast, where health facilities are reaching capacity.

Brazil’s Ministry of Health has indicated “there is no way to foresee” when the country’s outbreak will peak, and experts say the number of cases could be 15 times higher than the confirmed figure because there has been no widespread testing.

The pandemic is spreading across Brazil under a cloud of confrontation, as governors and mayors implement restrictive measures while President Jair Bolsonaro, who has pinned his hopes of re-election on a booming economy, has berated them for imposing what he calls “the tyranny of total quarantine.”

The US death toll now stands at 103,685. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, has a toll of 38,376 and Italy stands at 33,340, according to a latest count by AFP.

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As South Korea Eases Limits, Virus Cluster Prompts Seoul to Close Bars

Go out, socialize and have fun, South Korea’s government told its people, declaring the start of “a new daily life with Covid-19” — while keeping a vigilant eye out for any sign of backsliding, any need for restrictions to snap back into place.

It didn’t take long.

On Saturday, just the fourth day of the new phase, the mayor of Seoul ordered all the capital’s bars and nightclubs shut down indefinitely after the discovery of a cluster of dozens of coronavirus infections.

Government officials, health workers and much of the public know full well that until there is a vaccine, relaxing restrictions will lead to more infections, and possibly more deaths. The trick will be to do it without allowing the contagion to come roaring back.

Other nations, eager to reopen but fearful of the consequences, will be watching closely to see what happens in South Korea.

“A second wave is inevitable,” said Son Young-rae, a senior epidemiological strategist at the government’s Central Disaster Management Headquarters. “But we are running a constant monitoring and screening system throughout our society so that we can prevent it from exploding rapidly into hundreds or thousands of cases like the one we had in the past.”

“We hope to slow the spread and keep the size down to small, sporadic outbreaks, hopefully of 20 to 30 cases, that come and go,” he said, “so that we can handle them while the people go on with their daily lives.”

The country adopted a massive, multipronged approach, including aggressive testing and contact-tracing, near-universal use of masks, social distancing, and localized clampdowns on hot spots. It was aided by a high degree of public cooperation.

Now it is counting on the same tools to prevent a resurgence, creating a new strategy on the fly.

“We can’t sustain our society with our daily life and economic activities standing still​,” said Health Minister Park Neung-hoo.​ “But unfortunately, we could not find a precedent for what we are trying to do​. More likely, our experience, with its trials and errors, will serve as a reference for other nations​ down the road.”

After a 29-year-old man tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, epidemiologists quickly learned that he had visited three nightclubs in Itaewon, a popular nightlife district in Seoul, on May 2. By Saturday evening, they said they were tracking down 7,200 people who had visited five Itaewon nightclubs where the virus might have ben spread.

So far, 27 cases have been found among the club-goers and people who had close contact with them, Kwon Jun-wok, a senior disease-control official, said during a news briefing on Saturday.

The mayor, Park Won-soon, cited a higher figure, saying that at least 40 infections had been linked to the nightclubs. As he closed the clubs, he scolded patrons who had failed to practice safeguards like wearing masks, accusing them of putting the entire nation’s health at risk.

“Just because of a few people’s carelessness, all our efforts so far can go to waste,” he said.

Under the newly eased policy that went into effect on Wednesday, the government is urging people to reclaim pieces of their daily lives, and gathering places like schools, museums, libraries, stadiums and concert halls are expected to reopen in the coming weeks.

If it weren’t for the ubiquitous masks, South Korean cities these days would look almost as they did before the virus. Subways have filled up with commuters. Long lines have started forming on sidewalks in Seoul, not to buy masks but to get seats in favored restaurants.

​The government estimates that the medical system can ​comfortably ​control Covid-19 if there are fewer than 50 new cases per day, and epidemiologists can trace the source of infection at least 95 percent of the time — milestones the country passed last month.

But things are far from normal. Nightclubs and bathhouses take the temperatures of everyone who enters. Students wear masks in class and are not allowed to play contact sports. At Suwon Hi-Tech High School in Suwon, a city south of Seoul, every student’s temperature is checked four times a day.

“Complacency is the biggest risk,” said Jung Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

​South Korea still finds occasional patients whose origin of infection ​cannot be established. Ms. Jung said, “this means that the virus that has infected these people is still out there in the community.”

A government task force of ​economists and sociologists, as well as infectious-disease experts, drafted a 68-page “guidebook for distancing in daily life.” It outlined measures like installing partitions at cafeteria and dining-hall tables, keeping masks on in church and having visitors to weddings, funerals, karaoke bars, nightclubs and internet-game parlors write down their names and telephone numbers so they can be traced later.

It calls for workers with even minor potential symptoms of Covid-19 to call in sick for a few days — a tall order in a culture where reporting for work even when sick is considered a virtue.

The draft was posted online in mid-April ​for public feedback. One change made with citizens’ suggestion: keeping every other seat empty in movie theaters.​

“There is no going back to the life we had before Covid-19,” said Kim Gang-lip, a senior policy coordinator at Central Disaster Management Headquarters. “Instead, we ​are creating a new set of social norms and culture.”

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Trump sees limits of presidency in avoiding blame for virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is confronting the most dangerous crisis a U.S. leader has faced this century as the coronavirus spreads and a once-vibrant economy falters. As the turmoil deepens, the choices he makes in the critical weeks ahead will shape his reelection prospects, legacy and the character of the nation.

The early fallout is sobering. In the White House’s best-case scenario, more than 100,000 Americans will die and millions more will be sickened. At least 10 million have already lost their jobs, and some economists warn it could be years before they find work again. The S&P 500 index has plunged more than 20% and the U.S. surgeon general predicted on Sunday that this week will be “our Pearl Harbor moment” as the death toll climbs.

Those grim realities are testing Trump’s leadership and political survival skills unlike any challenge he has faced in office, including the special counsel investigation and impeachment probe that imperiled his presidency. Trump appears acutely aware that his political fortunes will be inextricably linked to his handling of the pandemic, alternating between putting himself at the center of the crisis with lengthy daily briefings and distancing himself from the crisis by pinning the blame for inadequate preparedness on the states.

Trump and those around him increasingly argue he is reaching the limits of his power to alter the trajectory of the outbreak and the economic fallout, according to White House officials and allies, many of whom were granted anonymity to discuss the situation candidly. The federal government has issued guidelines that in many areas have resulted in the shutdown of all but essential businesses, throwing the economy into a tailspin. The remaining options, the officials argue, are largely on the margins.

The limits of the presidency are self-imposed to some extent as the Trump administration continues to cede authority to state and local governments, which have adopted a patchwork of inconsistent social distancing policies. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, prickled at the suggestion that the president has limited options, calling it “a diminished view of the presidential responsibility.”

“Was Franklin Delano Roosevelt done with his work 30 days after Pearl Harbor? Heavens, no. That’s ludicrous,” Inslee said in an interview. “For a person who’s struggling to get (personal protective equipment) to my nurses and test kits to my long-term care facilities, that is more than disappointing. It’s deeply angering.”

White House advisers note that Trump has already pulled vast levers to blunt the impact of the pandemic. He worked with Congress to pass a record $2.2 trillion rescue package; a fourth package is expected in the coming weeks. The Federal Reserve, which is technically independent of the White House, has unleashed another $4 trillion.

The administration extended for another month new social distancing recommendations calling for those who are sick, elderly or have serious health conditions to stay home. And he has used the authority granted to him under the Defense Production Act to try to force private companies to manufacture critical supplies, though some have faulted him for not using the tool early or aggressively enough.

Those who are dying now were likely infected weeks ago, and most highly impacted states across the nation have already taken drastic steps — unthinkable just months ago — forcing their residents to stay in their home. And though the federal government has faced widespread criticism to do more to force the production of critical supplies, it’s already too late for most new production to blunt the oncoming wave.

“I really think he’s done everything humanly possible. I don’t know what else he could do,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and a Trump confidant.

By delegating significant responsibility to state leaders and the business community, Trump can continue to approach his job as he often has: as a spectator pundit-in-chief, watching events unfold on television with the rest of the nation and weighing in with colorful Twitter commentary.

But governors across the nation, including some Republicans, have screamed for additional assistance from the federal government. They warn of dangerous shortages of protective equipment for medical professionals on the front lines of the outbreak and ventilators that can help keep the death toll from exploding. Other critics suggest Trump can take a much more aggressive posture in forcing stricter social distancing rules upon reluctant state officials, while ordering all domestic flights and international arrivals grounded.

There is some debate about how visible the president should be as the crisis escalates. Inside the White House, some fear Trump’s continued role as the face of the government’s response will be increasingly dangerous politically as things get worse.

Trump is insistent that he remain in front of the public, where he can shower praise on his own performance and make the case for deflecting responsibility. He has also tried to take credit for averting a worst-case scenario in which more than 2 million Americans could die.

The last president to face a crisis of comparable scale and depth was Herbert Hoover, a Republican who held office during the onset of the Great Depression, according to Yale University historian Joanne Freeman. Like Trump in some ways, Hoover resisted sweeping federal government intervention to address the economic crisis of the early 1930s.

Freeman noted that the results were disastrous for the nation’s economy and Hoover’s presidency. As the nation slipped deeper into depression, he suffered a landslide loss in 1932 to Roosevelt.

The American public has mixed reviews for Trump’s performance so far, although his polling numbers have been ticking up.

The latest polling from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Trump’s approval ratings are among the highest of his presidency, with 44% supporting his oversight of the pandemic. State and local leaders have earned much higher marks.

While few are thinking about traditional politics, Election Day is just seven months away.

Republicans have seized on the absence of the leading Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has struggled to break through the dire daily news cycle despite frequent appearances on cable television from a newly created television studio in his home basement.

“Biden is inconsequential for the next three months, and that’s weird,” said Democratic pollster Paul Maslin. “I mean, this is the Trump show, for better or worse.”

Former Trump aide Steve Bannon dismissed traditional politics as an afterthought as the nation enters a critical month to blunt the spread of the virus, yet the man who helped elect Trump four years ago said the political stakes could not be more dire.

“Every day for President Trump is now Nov. 3,” Bannon said, referencing Election Day.

There is no political playbook for a crisis of this magnitude. For the foreseeable future, there will be no more political rallies, traditional fundraisers or door-to-door canvassing that makes up the lifeblood of modern campaigns.

The Trump campaign 2020 slogan — “Keep America Great” — is already painfully disconnected from the reality on the ground in most states now fighting massive unemployment and health concerns.

Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh described the evolution of Trump’s messaging in the midst of a pandemic this way: “Our argument is that it was President Trump’s leadership that built the economy up to such heights in the first place, and he’s the one to lead us back up again.”

He said the virus has “caused dramatic increase in desire” by the president’s supporters to get involved in the campaign, even if most have been encouraged not to leave their homes.

And while they believe his ability to implement new policy solutions may be limited, some Trump allies stressed his rhetorical ability to comfort an anxious nation.

“In the minds and the hearts of the American people, his ability to carry out the rhetorical functions of the presidency — to encourage, to comfort, to rally — those are among the most essential elements of leadership in a moment of crisis,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and a member of the White House Faith Initiative.

“It is critical right now to be a consoler-in-chief, to keep people’s spirits up, to give people optimism and hope,” Reed said, “and also show empathy and share in the sorrows of the struggling.”


Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire in New York and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

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Coronavirus UK: Britain should pursue China for £351bn virus fee – shock report | UK | News

An investigation by the Henry Jackson Society has concluded China could have mitigated the worldwide economic impact of COVID-19 and indicated there is evidence the Chinese Government breached international healthcare responsibilities. The British foreign policy think-tank estimates the spread of coronavirus, which has infected more than one million people globally, has cost the G7 group of nations including the UK, US and Japan a huge £3.2 trillion.

The report, which is published tomorrow and has been seen by the Mail on Sunday, outlined a number of possible legal avenues including going to the UN (United Nations) and International Court of Justice.

The study titled ‘Coronavirus Compensation: Assessing China’s potential culpability and avenues of legal response’ said: “The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) sought to conceal bad news at the top, and to conceal bad news from the outside world.

“Now China has responded by deploying an advanced and sophisticated disinformation campaign to convince the world that it is not to blame for the crisis, and that instead the world should be grateful for all that China is doing.

“The truth is that China is responsible for COVID-19 – and if legal claims were brought against Beijing they could amount to trillions of pounds.”

Following the report, which will be published in its entirety on Monday, up to 15 Conservative MPs are understood to have signed a letter calling for the Government to “re-think” its relationship with China.

The letter said: “Legally binding international healthcare regulations require states to provide full information on all potential pandemics.

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“It appears likely that in its early response to the outbreak, the uphold its obligations.

“This omission allowed the disease to spread throughout the world with extraordinarily serious consequences in terms of global health and the economy.

“The cost to the UK may be, as a Henry Jackson Society report now suggests, over £350 billion.”

On the future relationship with Beijing, the letter said: “Once the crisis has passed, we urge the Government to re-think our wider relationship with China.

READ MORE: UK weather forecast: Sweltering 70F heat to hit Britain TODAY

Neil Ferguson, a professor at Imperial College in London, who helped to shape coronavirus policy following a damning report into the Governments initial strategy, has said the number of deaths could rise above 20,000.

Professor Ferguson told the BBC: “We had an exponentially growing curve of infections which we interrupted at a certain time.

“We don’t have the ability right now to measure how many people have been infected, that will come with antibody tests, and so we are making statistical estimates of that and those are subject to a certain degree of uncertainty.

“We think it could be anywhere between about 7,000 or so up to a little over 20,000.”

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Iran defends its virus response, citing economic concerns

Iran’s president on Sunday lashed out at criticism of the country’s lagging response to the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, saying the government has to weigh economic concerns as it takes measures to contain the pandemic.

Hassan Rouhani said authorities had to consider the effect of mass quarantine efforts on Iran’s beleaguered economy, which is under heavy U.S. sanctions. It’s a dilemma playing out across the globe, as leaders struggle to strike a balance between restricting human contact and keeping their economies from crashing.

“Health is a principle for us, but the production and security of society is also a principle for us,” Rouhani said at a Cabinet meeting. “We must put these principles together to reach a final decision.”

“This is not the time to gather followers,” he added. “This is not a time for political war.”

Even before the pandemic, Rouhani was under fire for the unraveling of the 2015 nuclear deal he concluded with the United States and other world powers. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement and has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran that prevent it from selling oil on international markets. Iran has rejected U.S. offers of humanitarian aid.

State TV on Sunday reported another 123 deaths, pushing Iran’s overall toll to 2,640 amid 38,309 confirmed cases.

Most people suffer only minor symptoms, such as fever and coughing, and recover within a few weeks. But the virus can cause severe illness and death, especially in elderly patients or those with underlying health problems. It is highly contagious, and can be spread by those showing no symptoms.

In recent days, Iran has ordered the closure of nonessential businesses and banned travel between cities. But those measures came long after other countries in the region imposed more sweeping lockdowns. Many Iranians are still flouting orders to stay home in what could reflect widespread distrust of authorities.

Iran has urged the international community to lift sanctions and is seeking a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Elsewhere in the region, Qatar reported its first death from the new coronavirus late Saturday, saying the total number of reported cases there was at least 590.

The tiny, energy-rich nation said it flew 31 Bahrainis stranded in Iran into Doha on a state-run Qatar Airways flight. But since Bahrain is one of four Arab countries that have been boycotting Qatar in a political dispute since 2017, Doha said it could not fly the 31 onward to the island kingdom.

“Bahraini officials have said they will send a flight for them at some undefined point in the future,” the Qatari government said in a statement.

Bahrain said it planned a flight Sunday to pick up the stranded passengers. The kingdom said it had its own repatriation flights scheduled for those still stuck in Iran and warned Qatar that it “should stop interfering with these flights.”

In Egypt, at least 1,200 Sudanese are stranded at the border after Sudan closed all its crossings, according to Egyptian officials at one of the crossings. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.

Sudan, which is still reeling from the uprising that toppled President Omar al-Bashir last year, has five confirmed cases, including one fatality. It’s one of several countries in the region where the health care system has been degraded by years of war and sanctions. Authorities closed the borders to prevent any further spread.

Sudan’s Information Minister Faisal Saleh said Sudanese authorities are looking for lodging in Egypt for the stranded passengers. He said authorities have quarantined at least 160 undocumented migrants who were sent into Sudan from war-torn Libya earlier this month.

Residents in Egypt’s southern city of Luxor say they are providing shelter to the stranded Sudanese.

“We have provided food and medicine to the Sudanese brothers,” said Mahmoud Abdel-Rahim, a local farmer. “People hosted women, children and elders in their homes.”

Egypt, which has reported 576 cases and 36 fatalities, imposed restrictions on cash deposits and withdrawals to prevent crowding at banks as payrolls and pensions are disbursed. Authorities began imposing a nighttime curfew last week.


Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Samy Magdy in Cairo and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed.

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Coronavirus news live: Latest updates as almost 100 tested for deadly virus in UK

The death toll from the coronavirus spreading across China has risen to at least 106, as the United States and other countries prepared to fly their citizens out of the locked-down city at the centre of the outbreak.

Some 17 cities with more than 50 million people have been placed on lockdown, as the number of cases surged to 4,515 on Monday from 2,835 the previous day. Cases have also been confirmed in Germany, the United States, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada, Australia and Sri Lanka.

British ministers have said they are working to get Britons out of Hubei province in China, with Boris Johnson insisting the government is doing “everything we can”.

Follow the latest updates

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