Child from Wuhan under investigation for nCoV tests negative

UNTV News   •   January 25, 2020   •   680

A five-year-old child who was being tested for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has been cleared of having the illness.

The Department of Health (DOH) announced on Thursday (January 24) that samples from the child came back negative for the said virus. The test was performed at the Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia.

The DOH last Tuesday (January 21) disclosed that a five-year-old with a history of travel to Wuhan, China was placed under observation in Cebu City after showing pneumonia-like symptoms.

“This is indeed very welcome news to ease the Filipinos’ growing concern. I assure everyone that your Department of Health will not stop here and is on top of this emerging health event. We will continue to monitor the developing situation and ensure mechanisms to contain the threat of the 2019-nCoV,” assured Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Quarantine is working closely with airlines and airport authorities for stricter border surveillance.

DOH recommends all travelers with symptoms of fever and cough, and with history of travel to Wuhan, China to immediately proceed to any hospital for prompt medical attention and management. DOH assured that its health facilities are equipped and prepared to receive suspected cases of the 2019-nCoV. Health workers are advised to observe preventive measures and infection control protocols.

“Let us continue to be vigilant. Always practice hand hygiene, observe proper cough etiquette, avoid close contact with people manifesting flu-like symptoms, avoid contact with farm and wild animals, cook food properly, and adopt healthy lifestyles to mount immunity against infections,” the Health Chief concluded.

Wuhan welcomes first tourist group since COVID-19 lockdown lifted

UNTV News   •   July 22, 2020

Wuhan City, capital of central China’s Hubei Province, welcomed its first group tour guests on Monday since the lockdown was lifted over 100 days ago, as tourism resumes widely in China.

Once the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, Wuhan is now again a culturally rich city, opening arms to tourists.

This group came from the neighboring Hunan province, consisting of eight tourists whose ages range from 12 to 82.

The local travel agency arranged the best tour guide and a sterilized bus to ensure the tourists’ safety as well as a satisfying travel experience.

Tourists sat separately on the spacious bus and were distributed with masks and sanitizers after temperature tests. They will be heading to several of Wuhan’s most symbolic landmarks such as the Yellow Crane Tower, Chu River Han Street, and Hubu Lane in a four-day tour.

“We got some free tickets for out tourists and enhanced the accommodation level to the five-star-rated hotel where they could enjoy sumptuous buffet for dinner,” said Qian Wenkang, tour guide with the travel group.

“The resumption of inter-provincial travels is a great benefit to the entire tourism industry as well as a hopeful sign for the market to recover,” said Lei Wenjie, CPC committee secretary of the Hubei provincial department of culture and tourism. (Reuters)

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Brazil’s Bolsonaro tested again for novel coronavirus

UNTV News   •   July 7, 2020

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday (July 6) he had undergone another test for the novel coronavirus, after local media reported he had symptoms associated with the COVID-19 respiratory disease, including a fever.

Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that he had just visited the hospital and been tested for the virus, adding that an exam had shown his lungs “clean.”

CNN Brasil and newspaper Estado de S.Paulo reported that he had symptoms of the disease, such as a fever. The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the impact of the virus, even as Brazil has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 related deaths, according to official data on Monday.

The right-wing populist has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended multiple events and was in close contact with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil during July 4 celebrations. The U.S. embassy in Brasilia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro previously tested negative for the coronavirus after several aides were diagnosed following a visit to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, estate in March. (Reuters)

(Production: Leonardo Benassatto, Paul Vieira)

Singapore’s migrant workers fear financial ruin after virus ordeal

UNTV News   •   June 9, 2020

As Sharif Uddin begins to dream about leaving the cramped Singapore dormitory where he has spent weeks under coronavirus quarantine, fears about his future are creeping in.

The 42-year-old Bangladeshi construction site supervisor is one of the thousands of low-income migrant workers trapped in packed bunk rooms that have been ravaged by the coronavirus, accounting for more than 90% of Singapore’s 38,000 infections.

As Singapore began easing its lockdown measures this month, migrants like Uddin started to think about returning to the outside world, bringing to the surface worries about jobs and debts as Singapore braces for its deepest-ever recession.

“The fear of losing jobs is worrying everyone at the moment,” said Uddin, who sends the bulk of his wages to his family in Bangladesh, like many of the South Asians working in manual jobs in Singapore.

For most migrant workers, at least part of their salaries is used to pay off the steep fees of the agent who helped procure the job.

Reuters has interviewed over a dozen migrant workers in Singapore in recent weeks. While many said they were still being paid, they were unsure if they will retain their jobs when the quarantine is lifted.

The Singapore government has given companies tax breaks to try and ensure migrants get paid while under quarantine and introduced measures to help laid off workers find new positions without having to first travel back to their home country, a core complaint of many labourers.

Lawrence Wong, the co-head of Singapore’s virus task force, told Reuters that the government had taken steps to help alleviate the concerns of workers around job security, but added that layoffs were possible given the grim economic outlook.

“There may be some contractors who might decide – well despite all the government measures, with the new arrangements, the new additional requirements in construction, it is very difficult and I might not want to continue in this industry – and then indeed they might release some of their workers,” said Wong, who is also the minister for national development.

He added that some workers may remain quarantined in their dormitories until August, or possibly beyond, as the government completes mass testing.

The pandemic has drawn attention to the stark inequalities in the modern city-state where more than 300,000 labourers from Bangladesh, India and China often live in rooms for 12 to 20 men, working jobs that pay as little as S$20 ($14.30) a day.

That is higher than they would make at home. But the median salary for Singaporeans in 2019 was S$4,563 per month, according to the manpower ministry.

The bigger worry for many migrants like Uddin is the debts they have racked up securing jobs in Singapore.

Migrants will usually be charged S$7,000-10,000 in fees by a recruitment agent in their home country, equivalent to more than a year of their basic salary, according to rights groups. If they lose their job, this debt could haunt their families for years.

“An indebted worker is a more compliant worker and that is what the employers like. That is one reason too that employers prefer to have new workers, than to retain old workers,” said Deborah Fordyce, president of Singapore NGO Transient Workers Count Too.

Wong, the minister, said the government will continue to work to improve migrants’ lives in Singapore, but tackling issues like fees is difficult because many agents operate in the workers’ home countries outside the city-state’s jurisdiction.

Singapore’s government has pledged to improve living conditions for migrant workers in the short-term and build new, higher-spec dormitories over the coming years. (Reuters)

(Production: Pedja Stanisic, Joseph Campbell, Edgar Su, Travis Teo)

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