Coronavirus: Chef Luca di Nicola, 19, was ‘very healthy’

A 19-year-old who died after testing positive for COVID-19 did not have underlying health conditions, the NHS has said.

Luca di Nicola, 19, an assistant chef from Italy, died in London after testing positive for the coronavirus.

It is understood Luca was “very healthy”, and according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, he was from Nereto in central Italy.

He was taken by ambulance to the North Middlesex Hospital in Enfield, north London last Tuesday – he died 30 minutes later, from apparent fulminant pneumonia.

His father, Mirko, has told the Italian publication that his son had contracted the virus, and that the family received an email from British medical authorities saying a post-mortem swab had confirmed that.

It is believed the coroner has not officially confirmed it.

But other members of the di Nicola family are reported to have said they received an email from the London hospital on Monday night, and then a phone call from the coroner.

Luca’s brother, Davide di Nicola, has paid tribute to his sibling on his Instagram, saying “I love you brother”.

He said: “We both grew and matured and you, surely more mature than me, had the courage and the desire to bring new goals.

“Cooking, your greatest passion would have taken you far.

“This Carnival photo represents one of the few hangovers taken together, I drank a little to tell the truth but I had a lot of fun staring at you and holding you.

“I would have liked to spend so many other days and evenings with you and I swear that I will take you with me every day, on every occasion, every time I take the field.

“I will try to express some of your wishes and fulfill part of your dreams, it will be like doing it together also because you are here with me and you will always be. I send you a hug up there, to that starred restaurant .. I love you my brother!”

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Coronavirus: Deaths could rise on stricken cruise ship Zaandam, operator warns

More lives could be lost on a coronavirus-infected ship where four people have died and the number of cases has quadrupled as it heads towards Florida, the operator has warned.

The alert from Holland America Line came as Florida’s governor said he does not want anyone from the Zaandam suspected of having COVID-19 being “dumped” at his doorstep.

It means that while the ship and a sister vessel, the Rotterdam, are heading towards the southern US coastline they do not yet have permission to dock and offload a total of more than 1,200 passengers, including some 225 British nationals.

Cheryl Deeks, 66, from Mendlesham in Suffolk, was transferred to the Zaandam from the Rotterdam at the weekend along with hundreds of others who passed a coronavirus health check.

While no longer on the stricken ship, she still faces huge uncertainty given Florida’s apparent reluctance to help.

“I am disappointed to hear that America is even debating whether we should land or not,” Mrs Deeks said in a video message to Sky News on Tuesday.

“I can’t understand that. It’s a humanitarian rescue. We need to get to our homes. There are lots of Americans on board. It is America’s own port.

“I cannot understand why there is any debate whatsoever. We just want to get home.”

Her fate and that of other passengers as well as more than 1,200 crew on both ships is of huge concern to Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line.

He revealed in a blog post on Monday that the number of passengers and crew to test positive for COVID-19 was eight, up from two last week.

In an extraordinary rebuke, Mr Ashford took aim at the international community for turning its back on the Zaandam as coronavirus fears spread across the world while the ship was off the coast of South America on a routine cruise earlier this month.

“We are dealing with a ‘not my problem’ syndrome,” Mr Ashford wrote.

“The international community, consistently generous and helpful in the face of human suffering, shut itself off to Zaandam leaving her to fend for herself,” he said.

He described how Chile, Peru and Argentina clammed up along with other South American ports. “Repeated requests for humanitarian consideration were denied,” Mr Ashford said.

“Then 22 March – one day after the voyage’s original end date – a few guests and crew began reporting influenza-like symptoms. Despite countless desperate pleas in the following days, we were forbidden to medevac critically ill patients to shore-side hospitals (usually standard operating procedure for comprehensive care that ships aren’t equipped to provide).

“Already four guests have passed away and I fear other lives are at risk.”

With the deaths and lack of assistance, Holland America Line took steps to help itself.

The company sent out the Rotterdam to take on board hundreds of passengers from the Zaandam at sea who were not displaying any symptoms of ill-health.

This meant there was more space on the Zaandam for staff to deal with those who were ill and to keep isolated those who remained healthy.

“As of 30 March, 76 guests and 117 crew on Zaandam have influenza-like illness, including eight people who have tested positive for COVID-19,” Mr Ashford said.

“We have seen a notable and steady decline in cases of the last 48 hours, which shows the immediate actions we took have helped contain spread.”

After several days in limbo off the Pacific coast of Panama, the two ships were finally allowed to travel through the Panama Canal on Sunday towards Fort Lauderdale, their desired destination.

Complicating the picture, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, on Monday expressed his unhappiness at the prospect of such an arrival.

“We view this as a big, big problem and we do not want to see people dumped in southern Florida right now,” he told Fox News. “I’m in contact with the White House on this.”

Holland America Line’s president said: “We need confirmation from a port that is willing to extend the same compassion and grace that Panama did, and allow us to come in so our guests can go straight to the airport for flights home.”

He added: “It’s tempting to speculate about the illnesses that may have been avoided or lives saved if we’d gotten the assistance we sought weeks ago.”

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Coronavirus: Brazil president refuses to ramp up COVID-19 lockdown as Facebook pulls video

Brazil’s president has refused to extend the country’s coronavirus quarantine measures because of job losses and the impact on the poor.

Speaking to Rede TV, Jair Bolsonaro hit out at self-isolation and other measures imposed by local authorities to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Mr Bolsonaro said: “You can’t impose any more quarantine than there already is.”

Meanwhile he stepped up his stand-off with state governments, branding governors in the hardest-hit regions as “job-killers” and suggesting that democracy could be at risk if the coronavirus crisis leads to social chaos.

He told reporters outside the presidential palace: “When the situation is heading toward chaos, with mass unemployment and hunger, it’s fertile ground for some to exploit, seeking a way to reach power and never leave it.”

On Sunday, Mr Bolsonaro visited a market area outside the federal capital to stress the message that lockdown measures should be relaxed.

And just hours later Facebook and Twitter removed a video of him speaking to street vendors, explaining that it violated their standards on misinformation.

The president’s announcements once again put him at odds with health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who has urged Brazilians to maintain maximum social distancing to ease the strain the fragile health system.

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Ottawa meeting with UN official leads several MPs to test, self-monitor, and self-isolate for COVID-19

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and several other MPs took steps to protect their health after learning that a UN official they had all met in Ottawa in mid-March had tested positive for COVID-19.

Morneau and an unknown number of MPs from all parties met David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, either at some Parliament Hill receptions on March 11 or when Beasley testified the next day at the House of Commons committee that deals with international human rights. Morneau had a separate meeting with Beasley.

Beasley announced on March 19 he had tested positive for COVID-19 and, at the same time, said that his symptoms began appearing two days after he returned to his home in the United States from his official visit to Ottawa.

Beasley’s announcement set off a chain reaction among several MPs that were in contact with him.

Morneau received advice from Global Affairs Canada officials who advised him to self-monitor for any symptoms.

The Beasley visit and its subsequent fallout underlines how social the business of politics is, and how that business — like so many other kinds of business — has been forced to make radical changes.

For example, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health will meet Tuesday afternoon but will do so by teleconference with journalists and interested members of the public listening in via audio webcast.

Maéva Proteau, Morneau’s press secretary, said Friday that the finance minister remains in good health and has not exhibited any symptoms.

But one of the MPs Beasley met with was Brampton West MP Kamal Khera. Khera announced on March 25 she had tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the only MP so far to be diagnosed with COVID-19. A spokesperson for Khera said it would be impossible to say where she may have contracted the virus.

Another MP who met Beasley, New Democrat Heather McPherson (Edmonton—Strathcona), took a COVID-19 test Wednesday on the advice of public health officials. McPherson, who went into self-isolation as soon as she learned of Beasley’s diagnosis, had experienced a minor cold but otherwise reports feeling fine. She continues to wait for the results of her test.

As soon as Beasley disclosed his diagnosis, the House of Commons sent an email to all MPs saying, “If you were in close contact with Mr. Beasley on March 12, it is recommended that you self-isolate until further direction is received from Ottawa Public Health. If you were in the room during the committee meeting, it is recommended that you self-monitor for symptoms.”

Some MPs acted on those instructions in different ways.

“I followed that advice, self-monitoring for symptoms and practising distancing as everyone should, but not self-isolating because I was not in close contact with him,” said Conservative MP Garnett Genuis. Genuis is also a member of the human rights committee and, other than posing in a picture with him — with four MPs were standing between him and Beasley — had no close contact with him. ” I have not experienced any symptoms.”

Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi (Pierrefonds-Dollard), another member of the committee, did the same thing — self-monitoring — and has consulted a physician.

The committee chair, Liberal Marwan Tabbara (Kitchener South—Hespeler) as well as committee member Conservative MP David Sweet (Flamborough—Glanbrook) put themselves in self-isolation.

Tabbara did so after receiving the email from the House of Commons. Sweet was notified by Conservative MP Mike Lake (Edmonton—Wetaskiwin) on March 19 about Beasley’s diagnosis and went into self-isolation after consulting the Government of Ontario’s self-assessment site.

Lake and Conservative MP Randy Hoback (Prince Albert) had both attended the March 11 Parliament Hill reception. Both subsequently self-isolated.

Hoback then developed a sore throat and contacted local public health officials who instructed him to be tested. Hoback received his test result on March 24 and it, too, was negative.

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Accused Hamilton drug dealer charged with operating non-essential business amid coronavirus pandemic

An accused Hamilton drug dealer is facing a charge for which he may not have been prepared.

The 29-year-old has been charged after police spotted a black Jeep Cherokee in downtown Hamilton making several stops for what appeared to be drug transactions along Main Street on Friday, March 27.

The SUV was stopped and police say they found $3,400 in cocaine and about $6,000. Police say they laid drug trafficking-related charges.

The suspect has also been charged with operating a non-essential business during the coronavirus outbreak under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

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Von der Leyen refuses to name Orban after Hungary leader ends democracy to fight COVID-19

The European Commission President couldn’t bring herself to name Budapest’s authoritarian prime minister in her desperate request for EU capitals to respect the bloc’s values while tackling the coronavirus crisis. In an extraordinary power grab, Mr Orban yesterday won the right to indefinitely rule by decree until his government decides to end its state of emergency. The staggering new law removes the need for MPs in the country’s decision-making process and bans elections from being held until the end of the emergency period.

It also introduces tough prisons sentences for anyone spreading “falsehoods” about COVID-19 or Mr Orban’s measures to fight the disease, sparking fears for press freedom in Hungary.

Mrs von der Leyen urged national governments to protect the “values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights” the EU was built upon in the fight against coronavirus.

In a statement, she added: “Over the past weeks, several EU governments took emergency measures to address the health crisis caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“We are living in extraordinary times, and governments, in principle, need to have the necessary tools to act rapidly and effectively to protect the public health of our citizens.

“It is of utmost importance that emergency measures are not at the expense of our fundamental principles and values as set out in the Treaties.

“Democracy cannot work without free and independent media. Respect for freedom of expression and legal certainty are essential in these uncertain times.

“Now, it is more important than ever that journalists are able to do their job freely and precisely, so as to counter disinformation and to ensure that our citizens have access to crucial information.”

As national lockdowns are extended across the bloc, the EU Commission has vowed to “closely monitor” its members’ actions.

Last night EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders called out the Hungarian government as just one of the reasons the Brussels-based executive might have to clampdown on member states’ coronavirus measures.

Writing on Twitter, the Belgian eurocrat said: “The Commission evaluates the emergency measures taken by member states with regard to fundamental rights.

“This is particularly the case for the law passed in Hungary concerning the state of emergency and new criminal penalties for the dissemination of false information.”

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Critics condemned Mr Orban’s coronavirus measures, which they claim hands the Hungarian prime minister unlimited powers to cement his powers rather than tackle the deadly disease.

David Vig, Amnesty International’s Hungary Director, said: “This is not the way to address the very real crisis that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need strong safeguards to ensure that any measures to restrict human rights adopted under the state of emergency are strictly necessary and proportional in order to protect public health.”

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Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi called for Brussels to kick Hungary from the bloc unless Mr Orban surrenders his powers.

“I have been dreaming of a United States of Europe for years,” Mr Renzi wrote on Twitter.

“Precisely for this reason, I have the right, and the duty, to say that after what Orban has done today, the European Union must act and make him change his mind. Or, simply expel Hungary from the Union.”

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Malian parliamentary elections marred by kidnappings, attacks

Election observers report a series of polling day incidents in volatile north and centre of the country.

Mali’s parliamentary elections were marred by kidnappings, ransacked polling stations and a deadly roadside bomb attack, according to local officials.

Voters in the war-torn West African country cast their ballots on Sunday to choose new MPs, in an election that was long delayed, mostly because of security concerns.

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There were also heightened fears about insecurity in the run-up to the poll, especially following last week’s kidnapping of Soumaila Cisse, a leading opposition politician.

The concerns appeared to have been justified as local election observers recorded a string of incidents in the volatile north and centre of the country.

These included kidnappings of village chiefs, election officials and one observer, the Cocem electoral observation group said in a statement on Monday.

There were also death threats and ransacked polling stations, added the group, which had deployed some 1,600 observers across the country.

Adding to the kidnappings, nine people were killed in central Mali on Sunday when their vehicle hit a landmine, a local elected official, who declined to be named, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

The death toll could not be independently verified.

Colonel Boubacar Yansari Sanogo, the region’s military commander, told AFP that the violence continued on Monday when an army vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

Three soldiers died in the attack, he said, and three were wounded.

Mali has been struggling to contain a conflict that first broke out in the country’s north in 2012 and then engulfed the centre, killing thousands of soldiers and civilians since.

The al-Qaeda-aligned GSIM group has claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in central Mali, according to statements verified on Monday by the SITE Intelligence Group, a monitoring group.

These include the ambush on Friday of Malian soldiers who were escorting election materials, and a deadly attack on traditional Dozo hunters on Saturday.

Experts hope that Sunday’s election for Mali’s 147-seat parliament will renew the impetus to implement reforms that could drag the country out of its cycle of violence. 

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Huawei chairman says increased pressure from U.S. may trigger retaliation

Huawei‘s chairman warned Tuesday that more U.S. moves to increase pressure on the Chinese tech giant might trigger retaliation by Beijing that could damage its worldwide industry.

Huawei Technologies Ltd., which makes smartphones and network equipment, reported that its 2019 sales rose by double digits despite curbs imposed in May on its access to U.S. components and technology. But the chairman, Eric Xu, said 2020 will be its “most difficult year” as Huawei struggles with the sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

Huawei is at the centre of tensions with Washington over China’s technology ambitions and possible spying that helped to spark Trump’s tariff war with Beijing in 2018.

Xu said he couldn’t confirm news reports U.S. President Donald Trump might try to extend controls to block access to foreign-made products that contain U.S. technology. Xu said Huawei can find other sources but warned more pressure might trigger Chinese retaliation against American companies.

“I think the Chinese government will not just stand by and watch Huawei be slaughtered,” Xu said at a news conference in the southern city of Shenzhen. He said U.S. pressure on foreign suppliers “will be destructive to the global technology ecosystem.”

“If the Chinese government followed through with countermeasures, the impact on the global industry would be astonishing,” Xu said. “It’s not only going to be one company, Huawei, that could be destroyed.”

Huawei, China’s first global tech brand, denies U.S. accusations the company is controlled by the ruling Communist Party or facilitates Chinese spying. The company says it is owned by the 104,572 members of its 194,000-member workforce who are Chinese citizens.

Chinese officials say the Trump administration is abusing national security claims to restrain a rival to U.S. tech companies.

Last year’s sales rose 19.1 per cent over 2018 to 858.8 billion yuan ($123 billion), in line with the previous year’s 19.5 per cent gain, the company reported. Profit increased 5.6 per cent to 62.7 billion yuan ($9 billion), decelerating from 2018’s 25 per cent jump.

Xu said it was impossible to forecast this year’s handset sales until the spreading coronavirus pandemic is brought under control.

Huawei phones can keep using Google’s popular Android operating system, but future models are barred from using its music and other popular services. That undercuts Huawei’s competitiveness versus Samsung and other Android-based phones.

Huawei is creating its own services to replace Google and says its system had 400 million active users in 170 countries by the end of 2019. It needs to persuade developers to write applications for its new system, a challenge in an industry dominated by Android and Apple’s iOS-based applications.

Xu said Huawei hopes Google applications can run on the Chinese company’s system and be distributed on the American company’s online store.

Huawei also is, along with Sweden’s LM Ericsson and Nokia Corp. of Finland, a leading developer of fifth-generation, or 5G, technology. It is meant to expand networks to support self-driving cars, medical equipment and other futuristic applications, which makes the technology more intrusive and politically sensitive.

The Trump administration wants European governments and other U.S. allies to avoid Huawei equipment when they upgrade to 5G. Australia, Taiwan and some other governments have imposed curbs on using Huawei technology, but Germany and some other nations say it will be allowed to bid on contracts.

The company has unveiled its own processor chips and smartphone operating system, reducing its vulnerability to American export controls. The company issued its first smartphone phone last year, based on Huawei chips instead of U.S. technology.

Huawei also is embroiled in legal conflicts with Washington.

Its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is Ren’s daughter, is being held in Vancouver, Canada, for possible extradition to face U.S. charges related to accusations Huawei violated trade sanctions on Iran.

Separately, U.S. prosecutors have charged Huawei with theft of trade secrets, accusations the company denies.

The company, headquartered in the southern city of Shenzhen, also has filed lawsuits in American courts challenging government attempts to block phone carriers from purchasing its equipment.

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Coronavirus breakthrough: ‘Key’ reason virus spread through Wuhan so quickly exposed

The deadly virus has now infected 800,000 people worldwide, racking up more than 38,000 deaths as the US, Italy and Spain struggle to deal with the huge influx in numbers. Coronaviruses are known to jump from animals to humans and COVID-19 is believed to have originated in Wuhan at a seafood market where wild animals including birds, bats and snakes were traded illegally. The first case of the virus is thought to have been recorded in Wuhan as early as December 1, but China did not report the outbreak to the World Health Organisation (WHO) until December 31.

Speaking on Four Corner’s “Secrets behind Coronavirus” documentary, Centre for Strategic International Studies senior fellow Richard McGregor says this time lost was vital to how the pandemic unfolded.

He said last month: “The key point in this saga is they lost about two weeks, maybe three, just when the virus was at its nascent point, just at a time where they could have traced it, a time when perhaps they could have checked it.

“That was lost because it got caught up in the politics of the information flow and surveillance in China.”

China has already come under fire after it was found the most-popular messaging app, WeChat, had been censoring keywords around the virus since January 1.

The key point in this saga is they lost about two weeks, maybe three

Richard McGregor

The communist country also arrested anyone spreading “rumours” online, including Dr Li Wenliang, who was hailed a hero for raising the alarm about the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak.

But, presenter Sean Nicholls proposed a secondary reason that allowed the huge spike in numbers in Chinese cases in January.

He said: “Four weeks after the first infections China notifies the World Health Organisation of the outbreak, things are about to get worse.

“In early January, millions of Chinese are preparing to travel to travel to and from Wuhan to celebrate Chinese New Year with their families.”

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This year, the Chinese New Year fell on Saturday, January 25.

Two days earlier, the central government of China imposed a lockdown in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei in an effort to quarantine the centre of an outbreak.

But, the BBC’s China correspondent Stephen McDonell told viewers that millions of Chinese residents from across the country had already crossed paths by that point.

He said: “If you were to pick the most dangerous time, the worst time for a virus to break-out, the worst time for it to spread quickly across China and around the world, it would be the Lunar New Year.

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“You have hundreds of millions of people crisscrossing China, travelling overseas, and because of that mass-migration, the largest mass-migration annually in the world, it was a terrible time for this virus outbreak to happen.”

China’s lockdown appears to have been effective once it came into force, with a significant drop in the number of reported cases.

The city of Wuhan began lifting a two-month lockdown on Saturday by restarting some metro services and reopening borders, allowing some semblance of normality to return and families to reunite.

Life in the city is far from normal though, the vast majority of shops are shut while bright yellow roadblocks remain. Wuhan will not let people leave the city until April 8.

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India event sparks massive search for Covid-19 cases

Officials across India are searching for hundreds of people who attended a religious event in the capital that has set off several Covid-19 clusters.

At least six regions have reported cases that can be directly traced to the days-long congregation at a mosque.

Delhi officials are now clearing the building, where more than 1,000 people have been stranded since the government imposed a lockdown last week.

At least 24 have tested positive so far, the state health minister said.

They are among some 300 people who showed symptoms and have been moved to various hospital to be tested, he told the media. Another 700 have been shifted into quarantine centres, he added.

It is believed that the infections were caused by preachers who attended the event from Indonesia.

State officials have called for action to be taken against mosque officials, but they have denied any wrongdoing.

Local media reports say that Nizamuddin – the locality where the mosque is located – has been cordoned off and more than 35 buses carrying people to hospitals or quarantine centres.

The congregation – part of a 20th Century Islamic movement called Tablighi Jamaat – began at the end of February, but some of the main events were held in early March.

It’s unclear if the event was ticketed or even if the organisers maintained a roster of visitors as people attended the event throughout, with some staying on and others leaving. Even overseas visitors, some of them preachers, travelled to other parts of the country where they stayed in local mosques and met people.

So officials have no easy way of finding out how many people attended the event or where they went. But they have already begun to trace and test.

The southern state of Telangana reported on Sunday night that six people who had attended the event died from the virus. The state’s medical officer told the BBC that more than 40 of Telangana’s 71 cases were either directly or indirectly linked to the event.

Indian-administered Kashmir reported its first death from the virus last week – a 65-year-old who had been in Delhi for the congregation. Officials told BBC Urdu that more than 40 of the region’s 48 cases could be traced back to that one patient.

A cluster has even appeared in the distant Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where six of the nine who have tested positive, had returned from the Delhi event.

The southern states of Tami Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have said more than 3,000 people from their states had attended the event, and Tamil Nadu has traced 16 positive patients to it.

States have also asked other people who attended to come forward for testing.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has asked for a police complaint to be registered against the head of the mosque.

However, the event’s organisers have issued a statement, saying they had suspended the event and asked everyone to leave as soon as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that there would be a day-long national curfew on 22 March.

While many were able to leave, they say, others were stranded because states began to seal their borders the following day, and two days later, India imposed a 21-day lockdown, suspending buses and trains.

The mosque’s premises include dormitories that can house hundreds of people.

The organisers say they informed the local police about all of this and continued to cooperate with medical officers who came to inspect the premises.

The mosque, the statement says, “never violated any provision of law, and always tried to act with compassion and reason towards the visitors who came to Delhi from different states. It did not let them violate the medical guidelines by thronging ISBTs (bus stops) or roaming on streets.”

This is not the first time religious congregations have been blamed for the spread of coronavirus.

Tablighi Jamaat events have also been blamed for spreading cases in Indonesia and Malaysia.

And in South Korea, many positive cases were linked to the Schincheonji church, a secretive religious sect, that has since apologised for its role in the outbreak.

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