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International News


Vietnam has first local transmission in 89 days

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnamese authorities are conducting intensive contact tracing after the country’s first confirmed local transmission of the coronavirus in 89 days.

State media said Tuesday that a 32-year-old man in Ho Chi Minh City tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday after visiting a flight attendant who was undergoing self-quarantine at his home following his return from Japan two weeks ago. The flight attendant tested positive on Saturday, Tuoi Tre newspaper said.

Health authorities ordered 137 people who had been in close contact with the man to stay in a central quarantine facility and shut down an English center where the man works as a teacher, the newspaper said.

The new case ended Vietnam’s streak of 89 days without any known local transmission of the virus. Earlier, it went 99 days without local transmissions until a cluster of cases broke out at a hospital in Da Nang in central Vietnam in July.

Vietnam’s borders remain closed in an attempt to keep out the virus. Only limited international flights are operating to repatriate Vietnamese nationals and transport foreign diplomats and experts.

The country has reported 1,347 coronavirus cases, including 35 deaths. Nearly half of the confirmed cases were imported, according to the Health Ministry.

Photo caption: People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus ride mopeds in Hanoi, Vietnam in this August 6, 2020 file photo. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh, File)

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In other news:

MANILA, The Philippines — Coronavirus quarantine restrictions will remain imposed in the Philippine capital during the Christmas season and officials say they will ban big Christmas parties in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation to prevent new infection spikes.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in televised remarks late Monday that aside from Metropolitan Manila, the bustling capital region of more than 12 million, the "general community quarantine" would be imposed in seven other cities and provinces in December.

The restrictions ban large public gatherings, actual school classes, and entertainment businesses, but allow shopping malls, restaurants, and essential shops, including barber shops, to operate with required safeguards, including the wearing of face masks and shields and social distancing.

Duterte lamented that many still defy quarantine restrictions like the wearing of face masks and warned of a possible resurgence of infections like in some western countries.

"In the Philippines, it’s hard-headedness," Duterte said.

The Philippines has reported more than 431,600 confirmed coronavirus infections, the second-highest in Southeast Asia, with at least 8,392 deaths.

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UNITED NATIONS — The head of the world’s largest humanitarian network is urging governments and institutions to combat "fake news" about COVID-19 vaccines which has become "a second pandemic" and start building trust in communities around the world about the critical importance of vaccinating people.

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a virtual briefing to the U.N. Correspondents Association that "to beat this pandemic, we also have to defeat the parallel pandemic of distrust."

He said there is "a growing hesitancy about vaccines in general, and about a COVID vaccine in particular" around the world, pointing to a recent Johns Hopkins University study in 67 countries that found vaccine acceptance declined significantly in most countries from July to October this year.

In a quarter of countries, Rocca said, the study found that the acceptance rate for a vaccine against the coronavirus was near or below 50 percent, with Japan dropping from 70 percent to 50 percent acceptance, and France dropping from 51 percent to 38 percent acceptance.

He stressed that the lack of trust "is by no means a western phenomenon," citing the federation’s research in recent months in eight African countries — Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Lesotho, and Kenya — which showed a steady decline in the perceptions of the risk of COVID-19 infection.

A growing number of people indicated the virus doesn’t affect young people or Africans, that the disease doesn’t exist now but did exist and the pandemic has ended, he said. "In several African countries, we have seen a common skepticism towards vaccines in general, with a common belief being that foreigners use Africa as a medical ‘testing ground.’"

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is vowing to spend tens of billions more dollars to help the country recover from the pandemic.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the country is facing its most severe challenge since the second World War, the worst economic shock since the Great Depression and the worse health crisis since the Spanish flu more than a century ago.

The cost to date has the federal deficit reaching a record $381.6 billion Canadian (US$294 billion) this year, but the government says it could close in on $400 billion Canadian (US$308 billion) if widespread lockdowns return in the coming weeks. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is on lockdown.

The government’s fall economic update proposes to send extra child-benefit payments to families next year. The government is proposing $25 billion Canadian (US$19 billion) in new spending.

 

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