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  • WHO’s chief wants good ties with US to continue, as Trump announces exit

    World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a briefing on Monday, praised the United States’ “immense” contribution to global health. He also urged a continuation of good ties despite President Donald Trump’s move to quit the UN body.

    Trump announced on Friday he would cut ties with the WHO, accusing it of becoming a puppet of China during the global coronavirus crisis.

    Another WHO official, epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, was asked at the same briefing about health risks during protests in the US. Close contact could heighten the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus, Reuters quoted the official as saying.

  • Eastern Libya forces retake key town from Tripoli-allied militias – spokesman

    Libya’s eastern-based forces have reportedly retaken a key town from militias allied with the UN-supported government. Ahmed al-Mesmari, a spokesman for commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), said they recaptured on Sunday the town of al-Asabaa, about 50 kilometers south of the capital Tripoli, AP reports. The move followed airstrikes on the militias in the area.

    The eastern-based forces have been trying to take the capital from the weak but UN-supported government since last spring. Increasing Turkish support for the Tripoli-based government has led to a series of defeats for Haftar in recent weeks, after months of stalemate.

    Al-Asabaa is located on a key road that links LNA forces to the town of Tarhuna, their main western stronghold and supply line southeast of the capital. The LNA said they shot down a Turkish drone before targeting forces in al-Asabaa.

    The spokesman added that their troops were chasing Tripoli-allied forces fleeing to their stronghold in the nearby town of Gharyan.

  • Greece restarts tourism sector, reopens year-round hotels

    Greece allowed year-round hotels to open on Monday, restarting its vital tourism sector, which has been hobbled by weeks of lockdown. However, international flights from the country’s main airports are set to resume only from June 15.

    With borders also still shut in key tourism markets, some hotels have pushed back their openings due to low numbers of reservations, Reuters said.

    Tourism accounts for about 20 percent of national output in the country, which emerged from international bailout programs in 2018.

    Year-round hotels also rely on conferences, which have switched to the internet since the health crisis erupted, and on the cruise industry, which is not expected to resume any time soon.

  • Flights & car travel resume between Turkey’s big cities as Grand Bazaar reopens in Istanbul

    Car travel and flights resumed between Turkey’s big cities, while cafes, restaurants and Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar reopened on Monday. The development is seen as the country’s biggest step to ease restrictions taken to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

    Traffic levels jumped in the commercial hub of Istanbul, with many Turks returning to work. Employees of government offices and public facilities joined the many factory workers who restarted last month.

    Parks, gyms, beaches, libraries and museums also reopened. International flights are expected to start next week.

    The Covid-19 disease has killed more than 4,500 and infected more than 160,000 in Turkey, Reuters reports. New cases and deaths are down and the government says the outbreak has been brought under control.

  • About 75% of UN aid programs in Yemen will ‘close or reduce operations’

    Aid organizations are making an urgent plea for funding to shore up their operations in war-torn Yemen, the United Nations has said. Some 75 percent of UN programs in Yemen have had to shut their doors or reduce operations.

    The World Food Programme has had to halve rations, and UN-funded health services have been reduced in 189 out of 369 hospitals nationwide, AP reported.

    The dwindling funds are the result of several factors, including obstruction by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. They control the capital, Sanaa, and other territories. The US, one of the largest donors, decreased its aid to Yemen earlier this year, citing interference by the Houthis. Reports also indicate that the coronavirus is spreading at an alarming rate throughout the country.

    It’s unclear whether the Houthis will allow monitoring and oversight or give UN agencies the space to operate. A UN pledging conference for Yemen on Tuesday seeks $2.41 billion to cover essential activities from June to December.

  • Philippines reopens capital Manila despite jump in virus cases

    Manila emerged on Monday from one of the world’s longest coronavirus lockdowns even as the number of new infections surges. Streets in the capital were choked with traffic and limited public transport resumed in the city of 12 million after nearly three months of strict home quarantine, AFP reported.

    Most businesses have been allowed to reopen in the city as the Philippines seeks to repair its badly damaged economy. However, schools, bars, and dine-in restaurants all remain shuttered.

    The Philippines has so far reported 18,638 cases and 960 deaths, and there has been a roughly 30 percent jump in new cases in the past week. Health officials said it was mainly due to efforts to clear backlogs from laboratories as they boost testing.