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  • Global Covid-19 death toll exceeds 30,000, with two-thirds in Europe – AFP

    The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 30,000 lives around the globe, according to calculations by AFP news agency. Some 20,000 of the victims were in Europe where Italy and Spain remain the hardest-hit countries.

    Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, which also keeps track of the Covid-19 death toll, has also updated its count to just over 30,000 deaths.

    In AFP’s home country, France, the authorities said that 319 people succumbed to the disease on Saturday, with the overall number of deaths reaching 2,314.

  • Turkey evacuates hundreds of migrants from Greek border amid virus pandemic

    Ankara has sent some 6,000 migrants waiting at the Turkish-Greek border to cross into the European Union to cities inside the country, Reuters reported on Friday, citing the Interior Ministry. The move was part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

    Migrants waiting at the border crossing in Edirne province were transported in buses to state guest houses where they would be quarantined, Anadolu news agency reported. They would be moved to other regions in Turkey at the end of the quarantine, it added.

    Thousands of migrants had massed at a border crossing with European Union-member Greece after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last month that his country would no longer prevent refugees and other migrants wanting to travel to EU countries. Violent clashes erupted between the migrants and Greek border authorities trying to push them back.

    Turkey has so far reported 75 deaths related to the new coronavirus and 3,629 infections, AP said. It was not clear if any of the migrants at the border had contracted the virus.

  • EU leaders to consider climate in coronavirus recovery plan

    European Union leaders have agreed that the bloc’s coronavirus economic recovery plan should take heed of its aim to fight climate change. Following a six-hour video conference, the 27 EU leaders agreed late on Thursday to coordinate a coronavirus economic recovery plan.

    The leaders agreed that it should be consistent with the “green transition,” the phrase the EU uses to describe the aim of reducing emissions that heat the planet, a statement said.

    The EU’s executive commission wants its 27 member states to sign up at a summit in June to plans to make the entire bloc greenhouse gas neutral by 2050.

    So far, Poland is the only holdout. The government in Warsaw has warned that the pandemic will make EU climate targets harder to reach.

  • Britain, EU negotiators to hold first joint committee talks on Monday

    British and EU negotiators will hold the first meeting of a joint committee as planned on Monday, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. The statement came after trade talks were put on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reported.

    The spokesman said the meeting would be co-chaired by senior British Minister Michael Gove and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic and would take place remotely rather than in person due to the coronavirus. Video conference and conference calls are among the options being considered.

    The joint committee will oversee the implementation, application and interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement divorce deal agreed by Britain and the EU last year, and will seek to resolve any issues that arise from it.

  • Swedish govt bans public gatherings of more than 50 people

    The Swedish government has decided to ban all public gatherings of more than 50 people to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

    “Our resilience is being tested. The aim of the government is of course to limit the spread as much as possible,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told reporters on Friday.

    The new rule will come into force on Sunday and those who break it risk fines or up to 6 months in prison, Reuters reports. The government had previously banned all gatherings of more than 500 people.

    Sweden is largely still open for business. Neighboring Denmark has restricted public assembly to 10 or fewer people and ordered the closure of schools, universities, day care centers, restaurants, cafes, libraries and gyms.

  • IMF confirms Pakistan’s request for emergency coronavirus financing

    Pakistan has requested an emergency loan disbursement from the International Monetary Fund to help fight the coronavirus under the fund’s Rapid Financing Instrument program.

    IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva did not identify the size of the loan in a statement on Friday.
    However, under the program, Pakistan would be able to borrow up to its full quota – about $2.76 billion – over two years, or $1.43 billion over a single year to meet urgent balance-of-payments needs, Reuters said.

    Pakistan already has an IMF $6 billion Extended Fund Facility loan program. Georgieva added that the Pakistani authorities “have reaffirmed their commitment to the reform policies included in the current arrangement.”