India coronavirus lockdown extended by two weeks with some easing

World’s biggest lockdown extended with ‘considerable relaxations’ in lower-risk areas marked as green and orange zones.

The Indian government has extended the world’s biggest coronavirus lockdown by two weeks starting May 4, but with some easing of restrictions.

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday said in a statement in view of “significant gains in the COVID-19 situation,” areas with few or no cases would see “considerable relaxations”.

More:

  • India: Hunger and uncertainty under Delhi’s coronavirus lockdown

  • Can extending India’s lockdown stop coronavirus?

  • Locked down with abusers: India sees surge in domestic violence

The lockdown imposed on March 25 has caused misery for millions of workers in India’s vast informal sector and dealt a major blow to Asia’s third-biggest economy.

However, the stringent restrictions have been credited with keeping confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, to a relatively low 35,365 as of Friday, with 1,152 deaths.

But some experts have said the vast country of 1.3 billion, home to some of the most congested cities in the world, is not testing enough.

In addition, there are concerns that if the virus catches hold in a big way, India’s poorly funded healthcare system will be severely stretched.

The government has now divided India into red zones with “significant risk of spread of the infection”; green zones with either zero cases or no confirmed cases in the past 21 days; and those in between as orange.

Red and orange zones will continue to have intensified contact tracing, house-to-house surveillance, and no movement in or out except for medical emergencies and the supply of essential goods and services, the home ministry statement said.

The biggest and most economically-important cities, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Ahmedabad, would all be classed as red zones, infection hotspots, and kept under strict lockdown.

Travel by air, rail, metro and inter-state movement by road will remain banned. Schools and colleges, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, cinema halls and places of worship will remain closed.

The government also issued an order on Friday to provide special trains for stranded migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists and students to return home.


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What are the challenges of battling coronavirus in India?

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End of EU? Brussels will ‘collapse’ as Italy told leave before it’s too late– poll results

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Mr Soros admitted he was concerned for the country which has been one of the hardest hit on the continent. With a founding member of the EU leaving the bloc, Mr Soros told Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf it could put the future of the entire union into question. Following his warning, Express.co.uk asked, ‘Do you think Italy leaving Brussels will signal the end of the EU?’

In response, 6,443 (86 percent) out of 7,477 believed Italy’s exit would see the end of the EU.

A further 894 (11 percent) voted ‘no’ while 140 were not sure.

One person commented: “Italy is the 3rd largest contributor to the EU, behind Germany and the UK.

“The EU are treating them in a disgusting manner – get out now Italy.

“End the EU in a spectacular fashion. Don’t give in to them again.”

Another said: “Just goes to show that when it comes to the crunch, the only solidarity from the EU is for its own survival.”

A third said: “Of course The EU will collapse.

“Only 10 countries pay into the EU, two of the largest subscribers leaving will have devastating consequences, but the EU won’t listen and won’t change the things that are wrong with the EU.”

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A fourth said: “We are watching history in the making, the EU is crumbling, and we have a ringside seat to watch it total collapse.”

The EU has faced severe pressure over the lack of support for both Italy and Spain during the pandemic. 

Although the EU will put forward a €500bn (£446billion) economic recovery fund this week, Italy’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte has previously criticised the bloc for the lack of action earlier on.

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, will put forward the package proposed by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

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However, following the refugee crisis and current virus pandemic, Mr Soros stated the EU could lose one of its original members.

He said: “The EU enforced the so-called Dublin Regulations that put all the burden on the countries where refugees first landed and did not offer any financial burden sharing.

“That is when Italians decide to vote for Matteo Salvini’s Lega and the Five Star Movement in a landslide.

“More recently, the relaxation of state aid rules, which favour Germany, has been particularly unfair to Italy, which was already the sick man of Europe and then the hardest hit by COVID-19.”

A survey conducted by Tecne, showed from 1,000 asked between April 9-10, 49 percent favoured an exit from the EU.

This represents an increase of 20 percent from a similar survey in November 2018.

In light of the growing scepticism towards the EU, Thomas Wieser, the euro area’s chief official stated the bloc must put forward a suitable package in order to save the EU.

He told the Financial Times: “If we get this wrong it will ruin the political atmosphere for decades, literally decades.

“Loans are easy because they are free.

“But when it comes to true solidarity and help, nothing is free.

“And true solidarity is what is needed now.”

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Nexi and SIA merger talks gain traction ahead of valuation review: sources

LONDON/MILAN (Reuters) – Italian payments firms Nexi (NEXII.MI) and SIA are exchanging confidential information as they explore a possible tie-up to create an Italian powerhouse in the sector, three sources familiar with the matter said.

Discussions may accelerate in June when the companies will review SIA’s valuation ahead of a possible deal, one of the sources said.

“This will be a make or break moment,” the source said, cautioning that establishing a fair value for SIA may prove a key hurdle.

Nexi and SIA declined to comment. Nexi’s boss Paolo Bertoluzzo said on May 12 that discussions with SIA were ongoing.

Nexi is working with Bank of America and Mediobanca on the deal, and SIA with JPMorgan and Rothschild, two of the sources said.

Milan-based SIA provides payment services for the banking sector and counts top bank UniCredit (CRDI.MI) among its clients.

SIA’s relationship with UniCredit is weighing on its valuation, as a key contract between the two can be ended after 2021, the first source said.

UniCredit may turn to alternative providers or renegotiate the contract’s terms, another source said earlier this month.

“There needs to be more clarity on what will happen with UniCredit,” the first source said.

SIA may still pursue a stock market listing if the discussions fall through, two of the sources said.

Shares in Nexi closed up 7.7% after Bloomberg first reported the talks.

Jefferies analysts said a tie-up could generate annual cost synergies of more than 100 million euros ($109.5 million).

SIA is controlled by Italian state lender CDP through investment vehicle FSIA Investimenti, which owns a 57.42% stake.

CDP also owns 25.69% of SIA via its holding company CDP Equity and is expected to be a key shareholder in any combined entity, banking sources said.

Nexi is majority owned by buyout funds Bain Capital, Clessidra and Advent through their Mercury UK vehicle.

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Police arrest Colorado woman accused of violating Hawaii’s coronavirus quarantine

A Colorado woman was arrested in Hawaii on Saturday after police there said she failed to comply with the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers.

Tara Trunfio, 23, could face up to a year in jail and up to a $5,000 fine for violating the two-week self-quarantine put in place in March by Hawaii Gov. David Y. Ige to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Anyone visiting or returning to Hawaii is required to isolate themselves for two weeks upon arrival, only going out for a medical emergency or to seek medical care.

Trunfio acknowledged the quarantine restrictions when she arrived on the island of Maui, according to the Maui Police Department, but did not follow them after she left the airport. Police put out an “all-points bulletin” for her arrest Friday and posted about the situation on Facebook, reaching more than 300,000 people as thousands of users commented on the post.

Trunfio, whose Facebook page says she lives in Boulder, was arrested early Saturday morning after police were dispatched to a residence in Kula, a town on Maui, for a woman who was refusing to leave the property around 2 a.m. Police arrived and discovered Trunfio, who they arrested.

Her bond was set at $4,000. Trunfio could not be reached for comment Sunday.

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Goldman Sachs to buy boutique wealth management custodian Folio

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) plans to buy a boutique wealth management custodian and technology company called Folio Financial Inc for an undisclosed amount of money, according to a letter that Folio sent to its customers on Thursday and was viewed by Reuters.

Folio would be the second wealth management company Goldman has acquired in two years, following United Capital in 2019, and it fulfills Chief Executive David Solomon’s goals to build out the bank’s other businesses.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman confirmed plans for the acquisition and the contents of the letter but declined to comment further. Both companies declined to comment on the price of the acquisition, saying it was not material information for investors. Typically, companies are required to disclose to investors the price paid for acquisitions on deals worth more than $500 million.

Based in McLean, Virginia, Folio has roughly 160 employees and $11 billion in assets under custody for registered investment advisers, or RIAs. RIAs are independent, often smaller wealth management firms that sell investment products from a number of financial services providers, rather than from one bank or fund company.

Wealth management firms are required to custody, or keep, clients’ money at a third-party financial institutions to make sure it is safe, and they pay that third party a fee.

Goldman has made investment products and funds for RIAs, as well as operated several RIAs in its asset management business for years. The Folio acquisition will build out the services Goldman already provides, and give it access to Folio’s technology, as well as the ability to earn fees from being the custodian of assets for other firms.

By joining Goldman, Folio said it gains a global audience to market its investment technology to, a long-term goal of the firm, Folio Chief Executive Steven Wallman wrote in the letter to customers.

The execution, clearing and custody business would be incorporated into Goldman’s global markets division. Folio also has a few RIA firms, which will join Goldman’s consumer and investment management division.

Several of Folio’s RIAs focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing strategies, an area of investment expertise that Goldman has been building out in recent years.

The deal, which was in the works since mid-2019, is subject to regulatory approval. The companies hope to finalize it by the end of the third quarter, according to the letter.

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Detained American claims he plotted Maduro's capture in Venezuela TV statement

CARACAS (Reuters) – A former U.S. soldier captured in Venezuela said on Wednesday that he had been contracted by a Florida security firm to seize control of Caracas’ airport and bring in a plane to fly President Nicolas Maduro to the United States.

Venezuelan authorities on Monday arrested the man, Luke Denman, along with fellow U.S. citizen Airan Berry and 11 others, in what Maduro has called a failed plot coordinated with Washington to oust him.

During questioning broadcast on state television, Denman said the firm, Silvercorp USA, had signed a contract with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to seek Maduro’s removal. A Guaido advisor told CNN on Wednesday that he had signed an exploratory agreement, but it had never been finalized and the opposition did not support the attempted incursion.

U.S. President Donald Trump has denied involvement. A senior Trump administration official said Maduro’s accusations of a U.S. role “are not credible” and the administration remained focused on “achieving a peaceful, democratic transition in Venezuela.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the U.S. government would use “every tool” to secure the Americans’ return, if they were being held in Venezuela.

In the video, Denman, 34, answered questions from a person off-camera speaking in English

Denman, who looked calm and wore a gray t-shirt, said his mission was to secure the airport and establish outer security. He did not give details on how his group planned to get Maduro on a plane.

It was unclear when or where the video was made, and where Denman and Berry are being held.

In March, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Maduro and a dozen other current and former Venezuelan officials with “narco-terrorism” and the Trump administration offered a reward of $15 million for information leading to his arrest.

“I was helping Venezuelans take back control of their country,” Denman, a former special operations forces member, said in the video.

Denman said he and Berry were contracted by Jordan Goudreau, a U.S. military veteran who leads Silvercorp, to train 50 to 60 Venezuelans in Colombia in January for the operation. Goudreau supplied the group with equipment, Denman said.

Goudreau confirmed his role as organizer of the operation in media interviews on Sunday and told Reuters on Monday that Denman and Berry were “my guys.” He could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

Venezuelan authorities said they arrested the group by the isolated coastal town of Chuao, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of Caracas’ airport, after locals raised suspicions. Authorities published photos of what they said was the group’s boat, loaded with ammunition, weapons and communication equipment.

Eight people involved in the same operation were killed on Sunday in La Guaira state, near Caracas, Maduro’s government said.

During a televised virtual press conference on Wednesday, Maduro originally said he would show videos of the two Americans, but did not end up showing a video of Berry. He said Venezuela would seek Goudreau’s extradition.

“Donald Trump is the direct chief of this invasion,” Maduro added.

Guaido’s team, in a statement earlier this week, said they had “no relationship with any company in the security and defense branch,” including Silvercorp.

But on Wednesday, Juan Rendon, a Guaido advisor and member of his strategic committee, told CNN that he had signed an “exploratory agreement” with Silvercorp to seek the capture of members of Maduro’s government “to deliver them to justice.”

Rendon said the preliminary agreement was never executed or completed and Goudreau sent the soldiers on a “botched suicide” mission without Guaido’s support.

After Denman’s televised statement, a U.S. State Department spokesman said that “due to privacy considerations” it would have no further comment about the two Americans alleged to be in Venezuelan custody.

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U.S.' Khalilzad to meet Taliban in Qatar, visit India, Pakistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. special representative for Afghanistan will call for a reduction in Afghan violence, the start of intra-Afghan peace talks and cooperation against the new coronavirus on a trip to Qatar, India and Pakistan, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

The department said in a statement that U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had left on Tuesday and would meet representatives of the Taliban in Doha as well as officials of the Indian and Pakistani governments during travel to New Delhi and Islamabad.

It did not provide precise dates of his stops.

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Riots in Brazil, Venezuela prisons amid coronavirus: Live updates

UN calls for probe into Venezuela prison riot that left 46 dead; seven guards held in Brazil prison riot freed.

  • The US government was slow to understand how fast coronavirus was spreading from Europe, which accelerated outbreaks across the country, says Dr Anne Schuchat, the number-two official at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • The World Health Organization reiterates the coronavirus is believed to be “natural in origin”, responding to a claim by US President Donald Trump that he had seen evidence that indicated the virus emerged from a virology institute in Wuhan, China.

  • In Venezuela, more than 40 people died during a riot about coronavirus-related restrictions on family visits, while prisoners at a Brazilian jail held guards hostage for several hours in protest at the suspension of all visits.

  • Worldwide, the number of confirmed infections stands above 3.35 million, with nearly 239,000 deaths and approximately 1.05 million recoveries.

Here are the latest updates:

Sunday, May 3

01:04 GMT – Pelosi, McConnell decline coronavirus tests for US Congress

The top Republican and Democrat in Congress say they are respectfully declining an offer of quick COVID-19 tests offered by the Trump administration.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, normally fierce political rivals, say Congress is “grateful” for the offer, but “wants to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly”.

The US’s 100 senators, many of whom are advanced in age, will return to Washington on Monday following a recess that was prolonged due to the pandemic.

00:54 GMT – Yemen’s Houthi rebels call for more test kits

Taha Al-Mutawakel, the Houthi public health minister, urged the United Nations to increase the number of testing kits for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. 

“We are sending this appeal given the global situation of coronavirus, the ongoing assault against our country, the embargo on our country, and because the amount of the PCR tests which the World Health Organization has sent to us is very little and is about to run out,” he told reporters in Sanaa on Saturday.

00:26 GMT – UN calls for probe into Venezuela prison riot that left 46 dead

The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling for an investigation into a prison riot in western Venezuela that left 46 people dead and 75 injured.

The OHCHR says on Twitter that it is “gravely concerned” about the incident on Friday at the Los Llanos penitentiary in Portuguesa state. The South American country’s prisons are infamous for extreme levels of violence and poor conditions.

“We urge the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation, tackle overcrowding, and guarantee basic rights,” the office says.

The riot came shortly after prison officials barred inmates’ family members from bringing them food, a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus within prisons.

00:12 GMT – Guards freed after prison riot at Brazil’s Manaus

Prison authorities in Brazil say 10 guards and five inmates suffered non-critical injuries following an uprising at a prison in Manaus, a state capital in the Amazon rainforest.

The inmates held seven guards hostage for more than five hours, but the situation has been brought under control, according to the state’s public security secretariat.

Relatives of inmates say the prisoners at Puraquequara prison were protesting the suspension of all family visits and poor conditions at the lockup amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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

You can find all the key developments from yesterday, March 2, here. 

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Coronavirus: How a city in Ecuador became ‘Latin America’s Wuhan’

Blanca Reyes had the call dreaded by so many, a month ago.

The hospital had the worst news possible about her father. He had been diagnosed positive with coronavirus but it still came as a huge shock.

“What? I said. That can’t be right, he was stable. This was the last update you gave me. And then the person continued: No, if you are Blanca Reyes and your father… he died. Please come to the hospital.”

But compounding grief in the weeks that have passed since, the hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador, still can’t find his body.

Despite multiple phone calls and trips to the hospital, Blanca’s been given no answers. A death certificate has been issued but no body to bury.

Blanca speaks with quiet anger and grief about the way she has been treated.

She suspects the government is trying to cover up the extent of its failure to handle the pandemic.

“I have some theories. One is that they didn’t tell the families because they didn’t want to hand over the bodies in order to hide, at the beginning, the number of COVID-19 deaths.”

Authorities admitted to Sky News they have 120 bodies that have not been identified but could not account for bodies simply going missing in the system.

Blanca’s story is symptomatic of a complete collapse in the city where she lives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nightmare we have all been dreading happened here.

The government failed the people in their hour of greatest need and the health system was overwhelmed.

It failed so badly that bodies were left to rot on the streets or in people’s homes. When Cesar Galvez’s father died, local authorities were too busy to take his body. They had to keep it in their home for three days.

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Coronavirus: B&Q reopens all 288 stores amid lockdown

DIY retailer B&Q has fully reopened all 288 of its retail stores – despite the UK still being in lockdown.

The company has gradually opened the doors of its sites across the country, with its final two outlets reopening on Thursday after stores closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown introduced in March.

Customers have visited the stores in their droves, leading to long queues outside, due to the coronavirus social distancing measures put in place.

DIY stores have been listed as “essential” by the government, meaning they are allowed to remain open during the lockdown, but some people have been concerned over the impact of opening the stores – such as increased traffic.

Rival shops Wickes and Homebase have also begun to reopen their stores over the past few days, as retailers look to start recouping their losses.

B&Q said it is “strictly limiting the number of customers in store at any one time”, as well as introducing new safety measures, such as trolley sanitising stations.

Floors display markers signifying two metre gaps, while the now contactless-only checkouts have been fitted with Perspex screens to protect staff.

Graham Bell, chief executive officer of B&Q, said: “Our highest priority is to keep our colleagues safe at work and our customers safe while shopping.

“In all our stores, we have strict social distancing measures in place.

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