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Covid-19: Russia reports new cases as US allows use of emergency drug

Russia and Pakistan reported their biggest one-day jumps in new coronavirus infections, but there was some good news as other countries began to allow an easing of restrictions. The world is also watching U.S. regulators who are allowing emergency use of an experimental drug that appears to help some coronavirus patients recover faster.

By Stefan Bos

Pakistan, on Saturday, announced 1,297 new cases, raising the total in the country of 220 million people to 18,114. The increase coincides with increased testing, officials explained. The government said more than 9,000 tests took place in the previous 24 hours. Prime Minister Imran Khan has set a goal of 20,000 per day.

In Europe, Russia is also under pressure to step up measures after even  Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin was infected. He has now been hospitalized after being diagnosed with the coronavirus disease COVID-19. His positive test came as Russia of coronavirus cases passed the 100,000 this week, after a record daily rise in new infections.

And President Vladimir Putin has warned the peak of the outbreak was yet to come. That forced him to cancel military parades and a constitutional vote that critics claim would potentially give him more owers.

But elsewhere in Europe, Britain claims it has past the peak of its coronavirus outbreak. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who himself survived a severe bout of COVID-19 in hospital, promised to reveal a "road map" out of national lockdown. But he warned it should not overwhelm the National Health Service or NHS.  "We are coming through the peak, or rather we are coming over what could have been a vast peak. And we are on the downward slope," the British leader told reporters. 

Sounding spiritual, Johnson added: "It's as though we have been going through some huge Alpine tunnel. And we can now see the sunlight and the pastures ahead of us."

No dates

But Johnson declined to provide specific target dates. Instead, the prime minister made clear that those would be determined by how quickly the number of new infections, hospital admissions, and deaths continues to decrease.

Johnson warned: "We all must make sure that the measures we take due not to risk a second spike that would overwhelm the NHS. It's vital that we don't now lose control and run slap into a second and even bigger mountain."

His remarks came amid reports that lockdowns have taken its toll on families with a rise in domestic abuse across Europe. In Belgium, for instance, a European Parliament building is housing 100 homeless women - many victims of domestic abuse. They have been severely affected by Belgium's coronavirus lockdown. The Helmut Kohl building, an office block in the city center, opened its doors to them this week.

Belgium and other nations are under pressure to end or at least ease lockdown restrictions soon. Ireland has become the latest country to signal an easing of lockdown restrictions from Tuesday. People who are over 70 and can leave their homes as long as they avoid contact with others.

The decision came as European governments in both West and Eastern Europe and the Balkans face protests of increasingly frustrated citizens. They have been under lockdown for many weeks. That is, for instance, the case in Serbia, where opposition parties leaders and angry people on balconies joined anti-lockdown protests.

Challenges remain

But it remains challenging in the Balkan nations such as Serbia and Eastern Eastern Europe to end lockdowns completely. Already underfunded healthcare institutions cope with new outbreaks in at least some areas.

Authorities in Bosnia's semi-autonomous Serb-run territory even conceded that a failure to enforce strict social distancing over the Orthodox Easter led to a sharp spike in registered coronavirus cases.

However, amid the turmoil, it's tough for journalists in several countries to report on the extent of the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey by the International Federation of Journalists shows three in every four journalists have faced official what it calls restrictions, obstruction or intimidation. In reporting on the new coronavirus disease COVID-19 both in Europe and other areas of this troubled world. 

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02 May 2020, 14:38