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Joe Biden easily wins Florida Democratic primary

first_imgFormer vice president Joe Biden easily won the Florida primary on Tuesday, widening his lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, TV networks said.Biden had a huge lead over Sanders with most of the vote counted in Florida, the largest of three states holding primaries on Tuesday under the shadow of the coronavirus outbreak, CNN and MSNBC said.With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, Biden, a 77-year-old centrist, was leading Sanders, a 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist, by 61 percent to 22 percent. Biden also tops the polls in the other two states voting Tuesday — Arizona and Illinois.Victories there could give him an all-but insurmountable lead over Sanders in the race to decide who will top the Democratic ticket against President Donald Trump in November.A fourth state — Ohio — had also been scheduled to hold a primary on Tuesday but Governor Mike DeWine declared a “health emergency” because of coronavirus and voting was postponed.The coronavirus outbreak is also expected to have had a significant impact on turnout in Florida, Arizona and Illinois.Topics :last_img read more

Indonesian Ulema Council urges govt to map COVID-19 prone areas to support fatwa on mass prayers

first_imgThe Indonesian Ulema Council has urged the government to map coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) prone areas following its issuance of a fatwa that advises Muslims to avoid praying in congregations, including for Friday prayers.On Monday, the MUI issued the fatwa on compulsory Muslim prayers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The council advised Muslims in areas where COVID-19 had spread “uncontrollably” to not “perform Friday prayers in those areas until the situation returns to normal”.“The fatwa should be a guide for the government to take actions and map areas where the disease has spread uncontrollably. The government is the one with the competency and authority in this matter,” MUI fatwa commission chairman Hasanuddin Abdul Fatah said during a meeting in Jakarta on Tuesday. As of Tuesday, there were 172 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia, with nine patients having recovered and five having died. Cases have been confirmed in eight provinces, namely Jakarta, Central Java, West Java, Banten, Yogyakarta, Bali, West Kalimantan and North Sulawesi.Members of the council also asked Kalla, as the chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross, to help increase medical capacities across the country, especially isolation chambers.Despite its status as an independent body for Indonesian clerics, the MUI, whose chairman is Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, has close ties with the administration. The MUI’s deputy chairman, Zainut Tauhid Sa’adi, is also the deputy religious affairs minister.The MUI fatwa states that Muslims in areas “less affected” by COVID-19 could still perform Friday prayers at mosques. However, people are encouraged to minimize their physical contact by bringing their own prayer mat to the congregation, in addition to washing their hands routinely.Friday prayers are often seen as obligatory, especially for Muslim men, and need to be performed with a congregation inside a mosque. Eid prayers and tarawih (evening prayers during Ramadan), however, are sunnah, meaning those who perform them are rewarded and not punished if they ignore them.Read also: Hong Kong church streams mass online to prevent coronavirus spreadThe MUI also prohibits Muslims who have tested COVID-19 positive from attending congregation prayer at mosques, including Friday and Eid prayers as well as tarawih. The council has also instructed them to replace the obligatory Friday prayers with zuhr (midday) at home.”It is haram [forbidden under Islamic law] for a [person with] COVID-19 to carry out sunnah activities that create opportunities for contagion, such as performing the daily prayers in a congregation, the tarawih and the Eid prayer at mosques and other public places, as well as attending public [Quranic] recitations or majelis taklim [Quran study groups],” the fatwa read.The statement released along with the fatwa also said that bathing rituals for the bodies of the dead should be carried out by medical authorities in compliance with their protocols and with regard to Islamic law, but that funeral prayers and burials should be conducted with extra precautions in order to avoid exposure to COVID-19.The fatwa council also stated that actions that cause panic and/or public losses, such as hoarding basic necessities and face masks, were also haram.(mfp)Topics : He also said that other religious activities, such as Quran study groups, should be suspended for the meantime in areas with a high risk of COVID-19 contagion.The meeting at the MUI central headquarters was held to formally give the fatwa to Indonesian Mosque Council chairman Jusuf Kalla. The MUI previously announced the fatwa to the public and issued a circular to mosques. “What is important is that the council realizes the situation is dangerous […] pilgrims and Muslims must be vigilant and must prevent [the spread of the virus] in the regions,” said Kalla, who is also a former vice president, adding that government should specify the COVID-19 risk levels in different areas of the country to support the implementation of the fatwa.Read also: In Jakarta, religious communities adjust traditions to prevent COVID-19last_img read more

How a 16,000-strong religious gathering led Malaysia to lockdown

first_imgA National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) officer wearing a hazardous materials suit walks through a health screening area of the Air Disaster Unit (ADA) at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, Malaysia, on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. (Bloomberg/Samsul Said)Religion and race are closely linked in Malaysia where one must profess to be Muslim to belong to the Malay majority. Both issues play a central role in the nation’s politics, with the latest power struggle pitting former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s multiracial coalition against Malay Muslim-majority parties backing Muhyiddin Yassin, who insisted that he is prime minister to all in his first televised speech. The country maintains a range of preferential policies, including housing and education quotas, for Malays and indigenous people.Malaysia’s handling of the outbreak has been complicated by the political upheaval in late February. While former leader Mahathir is a veteran with more than two decades spent as prime minister in two stints, Muhyiddin is only weeks into the role with a cabinet composed of many first-time ministers including for the health portfolio.Representatives for the prime minister’s office and the health ministry weren’t immediately available for comment. The struggle to contain infections linked to a religious gathering has led Malaysia to resort to sweeping restrictions on people’s movement, underscoring the challenge of upholding religious rights in fighting a pandemic.More than half of the country’s 673 confirmed cases, the most in Southeast Asia, were linked to an event that ran from Feb. 27 to March 1 attended by about 16,000 people at a mosque near Kuala Lumpur. Neighboring countries Singapore and Brunei have also reported cases that could be traced back to the gathering. A 34-year-old Malaysian man who attended the event died on Tuesday, one of only two fatalities in the country.Amid a global pandemic where social distancing is a key tool in the fight against its spread, the avoidance of large gatherings is challenging attitudes to religious and other freedoms. While Singapore immediately shut all mosques for cleaning, Malaysia was slower. The Muslim majority country had to secure a series of approvals from Islamic leaders and navigate the authority wielded by its 13 states. Health authorities also struggled to track down those who were at the gathering, echoing the challenge faced by South Korean authorities. People line-up buy a ticket at the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday, March. 17, 2020. (Bloomberg/Samsul Said)Border closuresPolitical sensitivities surrounding closure of places of worship starts to fade as the outbreak becomes a global concern, said Awang Azman Awang Pawi, an associate professor who studies socio-culture in University of Malaya.“More important is whether the new government is successful in its measures within these two weeks,” he said. “If it fails, it will be blamed for having a weak strategy to counter the virus.”When Singapore closed its mosques on Thursday, Malaysia stopped short of canceling mass Friday prayers. Mosques were instead asked to shorten sermons and provide face masks while those with symptoms of the illness were exempt, instead of banned, from attending prayers.It was only on Sunday, after the number of cases surged by 80%, that the government held a special meeting with Islamic leaders. They agreed to call off all activities at mosques for 10 days, then had to seek the approval of Malaysia’s king before announcing the decision the following day.The order was effective immediately in the country’s federal territories, which includes the capital Kuala Lumpur and offshore financial hub Labuan, but religious leaders in each of the nation’s 13 states retained the prerogative to decide on the implementation.Late on Monday, Muhyiddin announced sweeping bans on incoming visitors and Malaysians traveling overseas, as well as widespread closures of shops, schools, some public services and all places of worship — except for mosques and prayer houses known as surau, which must follow the Sunday agreement of Islamic leaders.Vehicles line up to enter Singapore from Johor on the Woodlands Causeway, hours before Malaysia imposes a lockdown on travel due to the coronavirus outbreak March 17, 2020. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)On Tuesday evening, hours before the border closures, thousands of its citizens drove across the causeway to neighboring Singapore, where many commute to work each day. Across the country, people rushed to take buses and trains to return to their hometowns after the police said it would require special permits for interstate travel — an order it rescinded hours later.center_img Topics :last_img read more

WHO opens door to broader use of masks to limit spread of coronavirus

first_imgA senior WHO official told reporters there was some possibility of airborne transmission of the virus that has now infected over 1 million people and killed 50,000 people worldwide since emerging in China last December.But the main driver of the pandemic was still believed to be sick people with symptoms who were coughing and sneezing and contaminating surfaces or other people.”We must preserve medical surgical respirator masks for our frontline workers. But the idea of using respiratory coverings or mouth coverings to prevent coughing or sneezing projecting disease into the environment and towards others … that in itself is not a bad idea,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, told a news conference.Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease who is top U.S. infectious disease official, said on Friday that Americans should cover their face if they have to go in public, but they should still stay isolated as much as possible. Topics : Ryan acknowledged a “very important and healthy debate” on the wearing of masks.He said that if used, they should be part of a comprehensive strategy and would not negate the need for handwashing and social distancing.”So we can certainly see circumstances in which the use of masks, both homemade or cloth masks, at community level may help in an overall comprehensive response to this disease,” he said.Ryan, citing data from Italy, said that there did not appear to be a link between people taking drugs against hypertension known as ace inhibitors and getting the disease or developing severe disease.Click https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in a separate browser for a GRAPHIC on global tracking of the spread of the coronavirus.Exhausted staff in some overwhelmed health care systems could be a factor in mortality rates, Ryan said, adding: “We need to reduce the tsunamis of patients coming through the door to give doctors, nurses and other carers the opportunity to save more lives.”Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, cautioned against comparing mortality rates between countries, noting that some may be missing mild infections as they focus on patients in severe condition.”What we really need to be focusing on right now is what is the age profile of people who are in ICU (intensive care units),” she said.”We are seeing more and more individuals who are of the younger age group – in their 30s, in their 40s, in their 50s – who are in ICU and who are dying,” she said, citing Italy and China.Generally older people or those with underlying medical conditions will have more advanced disease and a higher risk of death, van Kerkhove said.”But we have some time to go before we can really understand what mortality looks like across different countries so I would urge you to take those mortality rates with caution when comparing across countries,” she said.center_img The World Health Organization on Friday said that medical masks should be prioritised for health workers, but it opened the door to greater public use of homemade masks or other mouth coverings as a way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.last_img read more

Family of Chinese fishing vessel crewman demands investigation into son’s death

first_imgKelentina said the last time she made a video call with her son she saw his face swollen.Read also: Sailors’ deaths highlight lack of legal protections for migrant workers”He did not say much, other than saying that he was sick.”Two days later, she said, EP informed her that he was going home and was preparing the required documents to return to Indonesia. But it turned out to be the last phone call she had with her son.”The next thing I knew, my son was dead.”EP worked on the Long Xing 629 for one year and two months, after four months of training in Jakarta, Kalentina said. She went on to express her hope for the Indonesian government to investigate the death of her son.Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi previously confirmed the death of four Indonesian sailors registered to the Chinese fishing vessel, one of whom was EP.“On April 26, the Indonesian Embassy [in Seoul] was informed that a citizen with the initials EP was sick. When they contacted him, he said that he had long suffered from difficulty breathing and had coughed up blood,” Retno said. “The Busan Medical Center said he died from pneumonia.”Investigations are underway to determine whether the Indonesian sailors were treated well or exploited while they were on board. (vny)Topics : “This [case] must be thoroughly investigated. I want to know what really happened to my son,” EP’s mother, Kelentina Silaban, said after the funeral of the 21-year-old on Monday at the Desa Pahieme public cemetery in Central Tapanuli, North Sumatra.A viral video, which was first featured on South Korea’s Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation’s (MBC) news segment last week, shows what appears to be an orange body bag being thrown off a fishing vessel by a group of men. The bag is believed to contain a dead Indonesian crew member.Two unidentified Indonesian sailors who worked on the vessel told MBC that those aboard the ship had endured poor living conditions, as they were only allowed to take short breaks every six hours and had almost no time to sleep.They were also made to drink filtered seawater during work, which eventually took a toll on their health as they became nauseated and to some extend experienced breathing difficulties. The mourning family of EP, an Indonesian crew member of a Chinese fishing vessel who died after receiving treatment in South Korea, has called on the government to probe his death after findings some bruises on his body.EP was among four Indonesian sailors registered to Chinese fishing vessel Long Xin 629 who died between December 2019 and April this year after allegedly enduring poor working conditions aboard the ship.He died on April 27 at the Busan Medical Center in South Korea after days of treatment. Another sailor, identified as AR, died after being moved to Chinese fishing vessel Tian Yu 8 on March 30, while two other sailors died on Long Xin 629 in December 2019.last_img read more

Indonesia records 20-year low inflation around Idul Fitri as pandemic upends purchasing power

first_imgIndonesia booked record low inflation in May leading up to Idul Fitri as the COVID-19 outbreak upended demand and reined in consumer spending, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) announced Tuesday.The consumer price index (CPI) stood at 0.07 percent in May, the lowest in 20 years and lower than the 0.55 percent recorded in June last year, when Idul Fitri was celebrated. The annual inflation rate was recorded at 2.19 percent, much lower than the 3.32 percent in May last year and the 3.28 percent in June last year.Meanwhile, core inflation stood at 0.06 percent in May, bringing the annual rate to 2.65 percent, while administered prices saw inflation of 0.67 percent. Volatile food prices saw deflation of 0.5 percent. “The uncertainty surrounding the economy has made the inflation level very unusual and much lower than in previous years, as demand usually spikes during the Idul Fitri holiday,” BPS head Suhariyanto said in a livestreamed news conference. “We need to work on boosting people’s purchasing power.”May’s figure marks the lowest Idul Fitri inflation level in the country’s 74 year history, as during the Muslim holiday people usually participate in mudik (exodus), family gatherings and mass shopping sprees that boost demand.This year, the government banned mudik and several regions nationwide implemented large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving millions of people out of work. The virus had infected at least 26,900 people as of Monday afternoon, according to official data, since the government announced the first two confirmed cases in early March.BPS data revealed that the highest level of inflation, 0.87 percent, was seen in the transportation sector in May, followed by the health sector with 0.27 percent. However, the food, beverage and tobacco segment saw 0.32 percent deflation, as food prices dropped amid the pandemic. “The transportation sector recorded the highest inflation driven by rising prices of airline and train tickets, despite the government’s appeals for people not to travel,” Suhariyanto said. “However, it was very low compared to previous years.”Despite the mudik ban, the government still allows certain officials and individuals to travel after providing certain documents and requires airlines and bus and train operators to limit passenger numbers to 50 percent capacity.Bank Indonesia (BI) Governor Perry Warjiyo said last week that this month’s inflation level was driven by low consumer demand and weak commodity prices, among other things, adding that inflation would remain within the central bank’s target of 2 to 4 percent this year.“Several factors caused May’s inflation to be low, such as COVID-19, which has lowered demand for goods, and weakening global commodity prices,” Perry said. “Another factor is that the rupiah exchange rate remained stable, while inflation expectations anchored.”The rupiah appreciated more than 13 percent from a recent low of Rp 16,575, a level unseen since the 1998 financial crisis, to Rp 14,415 on Tuesday, Bloomberg data show.“Going forward, inflationary risks throughout 2020 are well balanced between global disinflation on the back of plunging energy prices and potential supply distortions due to measures to withstand COVID-19,” Bank Danamon economist Wisnu Wardana wrote in a research note, adding that the bank forecast this year’s inflation to be 2.85 percent.“We do not see inflation as a factor that may alter BI’s ongoing accommodative stance,” said Wisnu. “Although the low inflation level opens room for BI to lower its benchmark rate, the current priority is to maintain exchange rate stability.”  The central bank decided to leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 4.5 percent at a monthly meeting in May as it aimed to safeguard the stability of the financial market while ensuring sufficient liquidity for the country’s banking sector amid the economic impacts of COVID-19.“While we are watching BI’s stance closely, we maintain our view that BI will hold its benchmark rate,” Bank Mandiri economist Andry Asmoro said. “The factors limiting further policy rate cuts are potential risk in the balance of payment in 2020, specifically from the financial account side, which may affect the stability of the rupiah’s exchange rate and the higher fiscal deficit projection of above 6 percent of GDP.”He projected this year’s inflation to reach 2.69 percent, higher than last year’s 2.59 percent, due to increasing gold prices amid higher uncertainty in the financial market, increased supply of money from the economic stimulus and higher prices of imported food.Topics :last_img read more

China imports plunge, exports fall on virus hit to global growth

first_imgBut the return to negative territory came after a surprise 3.5 percent jump in April, which was partly due to medical exports. Analysts have warned of signs that a larger downturn awaits.Customs data released Sunday also showed a larger than expected drop in imports on-year, which were down by 16.7 percent and at a four-year low.Part of the plunge in the value of imports could be explained by falling commodity prices worldwide, said Rajiv Biswas of IHS Markit. Iris Pang, ING chief economist for Greater China, told AFP another reason was likely a drop in parts bought for re-exports — imported goods that are shipped out after further processing — due to the uncertainty of global demand. China’s exports and imports fell in May as the economic slowdown abroad started to take its toll, and after a surprise jump driven by increased demand for anti-epidemic supplies, official data showed Sunday.With consumer demand muted and key overseas markets suffering downturns, imports saw their sharpest on-year fall in over four years, even as the country worked to restart its economy after bringing activity to a standstill to curb the coronavirus.Exports from the manufacturing powerhouse fell 3.3 percent on-year last month, better than the 6.5 percent slide expected by a Bloomberg poll of analysts. Deeper downturn aheadMedical exports supported Chinese shipments in April and May, with shipments of textile yarns, fabrics and products rising 21.3 percent for the first five months on-year.Analysts expect this boost to fade however, as the virus situation improves worldwide.”Export growth rebounded in March and April, even as lockdowns came into effect abroad, because of a backlog of orders that had piled up while Chinese factories were shut in February,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a recent report.But he noted the Purchasing Managers’ Index, a key gauge of factory activity, still pointed to “a deep downturn in exports that has yet to materialize” as activity in China’s major export markets remains subdued.Exports would likely take a further hit in June and July, said IHS Markit’s Biswas, before recovering towards the end of the year supported by lockdowns ending across Europe and the US and the Christmas season.Cities in China have been rolling out measures to boost local demand, with Beijing announcing last week it would offer coupons worth 12.2 billion yuan ($1.7 billion) to spur consumption, according to state news agency Xinhua.Meanwhile, China’s trade surplus with the US was up by 3.7 percent to $27.9 billion in May, from last year.This was also higher than the $22.8 billion surplus in April.US-China tensions have risen again in recent months as both sides trade barbs over the pandemic and other areas.With both economies hit by the virus, analysts have called into question their ability to meet earlier commitments from a partial trade deal signed in January. Topics :last_img read more

Indonesia says trade, investment deal with Australia takes effect

first_imgAn Indonesia-Australia deal that eliminates most trade tariffs between the two nations and aims to open up investment, took effect on Sunday, Indonesia’s Trade Ministry said.The Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), signed last year and ratified by the Indonesia’s parliament in February, aims to boost bilateral trade that was worth $7.8 billion in 2019.”COVID-19 has resulted in economic slowdown in nearly all countries,” Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto said in a statement. “IA-CEPA momentum can be used to maintaining Indonesian trade and improve competitiveness.” In a signing ceremony last year, the two countries said the pact would eliminate all Australian tariffs on imports from Indonesia, while 94% of Indonesian tariffs would be gradually removed.Australia aims to boost exports including wheat, iron ore and dairy, while Indonesia hopes to increase automotive exports, textile and electronics. The deal opens up investment, including for Australian universities in Indonesia.The ministry said in the statement it has issued three regulations to allow for implementation of the deal.Topics :last_img read more

Garuda plans to open direct flights to Bali from US, France, India to boost tourism

first_imgUnder the plan, Bali, Indonesia’s long-time main tourism hub, would be the entry point for tourists, not the capital Jakarta.“We’ll also fit the schedule to accommodate tourists with morning arrivals and evening departures, so they can spend most of their time on the island,” Irfan added.Tourism has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. Bali’s I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport saw an almost 100 percent decrease in foreign tourist arrivals in May, compared to the same month last year, while Indonesia saw a 86.9 percent dip in overall foreign tourist visits in May, welcoming 163,646 tourists, compared to May 2019.Bali’s airport accounted for more than half of foreign tourist arrivals via air gates and 38 percent of overall foreign tourist arrivals in 2019, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data show.It is also high on the wish lists of many holidaymakers seeking to travel after the pandemic. According to Dutch online ticketing company Booking.com, Bali was listed among the most desirable tourist destinations by people in lockdown around the world in March and April.Garuda itself saw a 30 percent year-on-year slump in revenue to US$768.12 million in the first quarter from $1.1 billion in the same period last year. As a consequence, it booked a $120 million loss compared to the $20.48 million profit recorded in the January to March period of 2019.The airline launched a direct flight between Mumbai and Denpasar in 2018, which was later closed in 2019.Topics : National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia plans to open direct flights to Denpasar, Bali, from the United States, France and India in an attempt to boost the country’s tourism that has been battered by the pandemic.The direct flights will connect Bali with American cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco and Indian cities like Mumbai and New Delhi as well as France. The airline is currently in talks with the State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Ministry and the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry regarding the plan, according to Garuda president director Irfan Setiaputra.“Garuda and the Tourism Ministry have agreed that the only way to boost foreign tourist visits is by introducing direct flights to Denpasar. Hopefully, we can make it through this crisis and start direct flights from countries that have large spending capabilities,” he said during a hearing with House of Representatives’ Commission X overseeing tourism on Tuesday.last_img read more

Surakarta deputy mayor tests positive for COVID-19, tested shortly after meeting Jokowi

first_imgThe deputy mayor of Surakarta in Central Java, Achmad Purnomo, has contracted COVID-19, a city administration official has confirmed, as a swab test he took shortly after meeting President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in Jakarta has come back positive for the coronavirus.City administration secretary Ahyani confirmed the test results, which came out on Thursday after the deputy mayor was tested last Saturday.”[The deputy mayor is now in] self-isolation,” Ahyani said as quoted by kompas.com on Friday. Ahyani, who is also the head of Surakarta’s COVID-19 task force, said the team would trace the deputy mayor’s contacts to identify other individuals that might have been exposed to the disease.On July 16, Achmad met with Jokowi at the State Palace in Central Jakarta, during which, the latter claimed, the two discussed the state and development of the city, which is the President’s hometown.The day after the meeting in Jakarta, Achmad took a swab sample to be tested for COVID-19 and the result came in negative. He then took another test the following day, which showed a positive result.Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi Rudyatmo said he would also take COVID-19 swab test after finding that Achmad had been infected.Separately, Presidential Secretariat head Heru Budi Hartono said Jokowi would immediately take the COVID-19 test following the announcement from Surakarta.“The President and all of his aides routinely take swab tests. For the specific case relating to the Surakarta deputy mayor, I think he will take the test sooner than [usually scheduled] after hearing that [Achmad] has tested positive,” Heru said on Friday.He added that the Presidential Palace applied strict health protocols for all visitors and gave an assurance that the palace was “sterile”. (mfp/mrc)Topics :last_img read more