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‘Generational Catastrophe’ Possible as Pandemic Creates Education Crisis

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says with schools being forced to shut their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic, the world is facing a “generational catastrophe.” Guterres made the comments Tuesday during a video briefing to launch a new U.N. campaign dubbed In this file photo taken on Feb. 8, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the African Union headquarters.The head of the world body said that as of mid-July, more than 1 billion children in at least 160 countries are missing out on formal studies, while at least 40 million children have missed out on pre-school.  Guterres said disabled students, members of minority or disadvantaged communities, as well as refugees and displaced persons, are among those at highest risk of being left behind. The secretary-general noted the world was already in a “learning crisis” before the pandemic, with 250 million children worldwide out of school.  “Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,”  he said.FILE – Fairfax County Public School buses are lined up at a maintenance facility in Lorton, Va., July 24, 2020.Guterres said getting students back in classrooms “must be a top priority” once the COVID-19 outbreak has been brought under control.  He also called for greater investment in education, with low- and middle-income countries facing an annual funding gap of $1.5 trillion prior to the pandemic, including investments in “digital literacy and infrastructure.” The U.N. chief also said education initiatives must be geared towards those at greatest risk of being left behind.  FILE – Students wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in their classroom at the Jean Benoit College in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on June 1, 2020.With the number of confirmed cases around the world, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, now past 18.2 million — and the number of deaths nearing the 700,000 mark — the director of the World Health Organization has warned there may never be a “silver bullet” for stopping the spread of the coronavirus. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom told reporters Monday that while a number of vaccines are now in late-stage trials, all countries and individuals should employ a  “do it all” strategy — listing testing, contact tracing, social distancing and wearing masks — as some of the necessary things that must continue to be done to stop the spread of the virus.      “A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be”-People line up to enter a supermarket hours before a citywide curfew is introduced in Melbourne, Australia, Aug. 2, 2020.Health officials reported 429 new infections and 13 deaths Monday in Victoria state, which includes Melbourne.  Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews declared Melbourne a COVID-19 disaster on Sunday.     In addition to closing most stores, other industries such as construction and meat production will have to limit their operations starting Friday.   FILE – Police stop drivers at a checkpoint, set up in response to the state of Victoria’s surge in coronavirus disease cases and resulting suburb lockdowns, in Melbourne, Australia, July 2, 2020.Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that an additional 500 military personnel will be deployed to the state this week to help local authorities enforce the new stay-at-home orders, including a strict dusk-to-dawn curfew.  Andrews also said anyone caught violating the orders will face more than $3,500 in fines.  Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that workers in Victoria who do not have paid sick leave and have to isolate themselves will be eligible to receive a payment of about $1,000.     Parents and students arrive in their vehicles for health screenings and temperature checks before moving into residence halls at West Virginia State University campus, July 31, 2020, in Institute, West Virginia.In the United States, which has about one-fourth of the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases, negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats failed again on Monday to reach agreement on a new aid package that would include federal money to help the millions of people who are unemployed.      Many Americans have lost their jobs during the pandemic, due to lockdown restrictions and new consumer habits that have badly hurt the economy. A previous round of federal aid that provided $600 a week to the unemployed expired last week.      The talks come as the United States deals with an ongoing surge in cases that began in June and pushed leaders in some states to reinstate some of the restrictions they had lifted in hopes that economic activity could return without a resurgence of the virus.     President Donald Trump holds up a signed Executive Order on hiring American workers, during a meeting with U.S. tech workers, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2020, in Washington.U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters Monday a “permanent lockdown” policy is not a “viable path forward” in combating the coronavirus pandemic. He noted that other countries have seen a resurgence in cases after lockdowns.  The president lashed out earlier Monday at Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, who said the U.S. had entered a “new phase” of the pandemic during an interview the day before on the U.S. cable news network, CNN.  Trump said Dr. Birx’s comments  that the coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably were meant to appease House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has criticized the administration’s handling of the crisis.  The president tweeted that Birx “took the bait” and called her “pathetic.”  So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) FILE – White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx listens as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, left, speaks at the White House, April 29, 2020, in Washington.Fauci said Birx was referring to “community spread,” meaning the virus is spreading randomly instead of being concentrated in one spot.   “When you have community spread, it’s much more difficult to get your arms around that and contain it,”  Dr. Fauci said.    Richard Green, Megan Duzor, Chris Hannas    contributed to this report.     

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Should Mothers with COVID Breastfeed Their Babies?

The World Health Organization says mothers’ milk is best for babies and that even goes for mothers who are infected with the novel coronavirus.  As the world celebrates World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 to 7), health agencies are encouraging women to breastfeed their babies for a healthier planet.    Breastfeeding advocates are concerned that support services for new mothers are being interrupted because of COVID-19.  They say social distancing rules are making it more difficult for them to receive the support and encouragement to nurse their babies.   Lawrence Grummer-Strawn, head of a WHO unit focused on food and nutrition in healthcare systems, says WHO and U.N. Children’s Fund are calling for increased investment to ensure women breastfeed their babies.    “That is particularly important at this time because we have documented through modeling that about 820,000 children’s lives are lost every year because of the lack of breastfeeding.  And, economically, there are losses of about $300 billion per year in economic productivity lost because of the lack of breastfeeding,” he said.    Health agencies say breastfeeding protects children against diarrhea, the top killer in low-income countries.  It protects babies against respiratory infections, leukemia and childhood obesity.  It also protects mothers against breast and ovarian cancers and type-2 diabetes.   Grummer-Strawn tells VOA women sick with COVID-19 should not be afraid of breastfeeding their newborns.  He says their babies will be safe.  He adds mothers who breast feed their infants exclusively for six months will give them the best start in life.     “The reason for that is that the risks of transmission of the COVID-19 virus of a COVID-positive mother to her baby seem to be extremely low,” he said.  “We have never documented anywhere around the world any transmission through breast milk.  That does not mean that it could not be possible somewhere, but it would appear to be extremely rare.”   Grummer-Strawn says the WHO is very concerned about what he calls the underhanded practices of the baby formula industry.   He says companies bribe health care workers to encourage mothers to bottle-feed their babies and provide free samples to mothers to get them hooked on their product.     In the context of COVID-19, he says, many companies present themselves as experts that can provide mothers with advice and support in these difficult times.  He says doctors appearing on their websites offer advice about baby care in the time of COVID-19, which carry negative messages about breastfeeding.    

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UN Chief Warns of ‘Generational Catastrophe’ as COVID-19 Pandemic Creates Crisis in Education

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says with schools being forced to shut their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic, the world is facing a “generational catastrophe.” Guterres made the comments Tuesday during a video briefing to launch a new U.N. campaign dubbed In this file photo taken on Feb. 8, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the African Union headquarters.The head of the world body said that as of mid-July, more than 1 billion children in at least 160 countries are missing out on formal studies, while at least 40 million children have missed out on pre-school.  Guterres said disabled students, members of minority or disadvantaged communities, as well as refugees and displaced persons, are among those at highest risk of being left behind. The secretary-general noted the world was already in a “learning crisis” before the pandemic, with 250 million children worldwide out of school.  “Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,”  he said.FILE – Fairfax County Public School buses are lined up at a maintenance facility in Lorton, Va., July 24, 2020.Guterres said getting students back in classrooms “must be a top priority” once the COVID-19 outbreak has been brought under control.  He also called for greater investment in education, with low- and middle-income countries facing an annual funding gap of $1.5 trillion prior to the pandemic, including investments in “digital literacy and infrastructure.” The U.N. chief also said education initiatives must be geared towards those at greatest risk of being left behind.  FILE – Students wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in their classroom at the Jean Benoit College in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on June 1, 2020.With the number of confirmed cases around the world, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, now past 18.2 million — and the number of deaths nearing the 700,000 mark — the director of the World Health Organization has warned there may never be a “silver bullet” for stopping the spread of the coronavirus. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom told reporters Monday that while a number of vaccines are now in late-stage trials, all countries and individuals should employ a  “do it all” strategy — listing testing, contact tracing, social distancing and wearing masks — as some of the necessary things that must continue to be done to stop the spread of the virus.      “A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be”-People line up to enter a supermarket hours before a citywide curfew is introduced in Melbourne, Australia, Aug. 2, 2020.Health officials reported 429 new infections and 13 deaths Monday in Victoria state, which includes Melbourne.  Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews declared Melbourne a COVID-19 disaster on Sunday.     In addition to closing most stores, other industries such as construction and meat production will have to limit their operations starting Friday.   FILE – Police stop drivers at a checkpoint, set up in response to the state of Victoria’s surge in coronavirus disease cases and resulting suburb lockdowns, in Melbourne, Australia, July 2, 2020.Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that an additional 500 military personnel will be deployed to the state this week to help local authorities enforce the new stay-at-home orders, including a strict dusk-to-dawn curfew.  Andrews also said anyone caught violating the orders will face more than $3,500 in fines.  Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that workers in Victoria who do not have paid sick leave and have to isolate themselves will be eligible to receive a payment of about $1,000.     Parents and students arrive in their vehicles for health screenings and temperature checks before moving into residence halls at West Virginia State University campus, July 31, 2020, in Institute, West Virginia.In the United States, which has about one-fourth of the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases, negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats failed again on Monday to reach agreement on a new aid package that would include federal money to help the millions of people who are unemployed.      Many Americans have lost their jobs during the pandemic, due to lockdown restrictions and new consumer habits that have badly hurt the economy. A previous round of federal aid that provided $600 a week to the unemployed expired last week.      The talks come as the United States deals with an ongoing surge in cases that began in June and pushed leaders in some states to reinstate some of the restrictions they had lifted in hopes that economic activity could return without a resurgence of the virus.     President Donald Trump holds up a signed Executive Order on hiring American workers, during a meeting with U.S. tech workers, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2020, in Washington.U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters Monday a “permanent lockdown” policy is not a “viable path forward” in combating the coronavirus pandemic. He noted that other countries have seen a resurgence in cases after lockdowns.  The president lashed out earlier Monday at Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, who said the U.S. had entered a “new phase” of the pandemic during an interview the day before on the U.S. cable news network, CNN.  Trump said Dr. Birx’s comments  that the coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably were meant to appease House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has criticized the administration’s handling of the crisis.  The president tweeted that Birx “took the bait” and called her “pathetic.”  So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) FILE – White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx listens as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, left, speaks at the White House, April 29, 2020, in Washington.Fauci said Birx was referring to “community spread,” meaning the virus is spreading randomly instead of being concentrated in one spot.   “When you have community spread, it’s much more difficult to get your arms around that and contain it,”  Dr. Fauci said.    Richard Green, Megan Duzor, Chris Hannas    contributed to this report.     

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Microsoft in Talks to Buy TikTok in US

Microsoft confirmed that it has held talks with Chinese technology company ByteDance to acquire its popular social app TikTok in the United States. Microsoft said it will work with the U.S. government on a deal that they hope to wrap by September 15.  Matt Dibble has the story. 

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Chinese Executive: Forced Sale of TikTok May Be Inevitable Amid US Scrutiny

The Chinese company that owns popular video-sharing app TikTok is exploring all possibilities to ensure that its subsidiary can continue operating in the United States, according to a memo sent out Monday by Chief Executive Officer Zhang Yiming.Beijing-based ByteDance has come under pressure from Washington to sell off its U.S. TikTok operations over concerns that the company’s links to the Chinese government threaten the privacy of U.S. citizens.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday that President Donald Trump is likely to take action in the coming days. People familiar with the matter told Reuters that Trump agreed to give ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale to Microsoft.In the meantime, Microsoft said in a blog post Sunday that its CEO, Satya Nadella, and Trump had a conversation on the potential acquisition and “Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States.”Zhang, who founded ByteDance in 2012, said Monday that his teams are working around-the-clock “for the best outcome.” Without naming Microsoft directly, Zhang acknowledged that ByteDance is in negotiations with a tech firm, but “we have not decided on the final solution yet. The attention of the outside world and rumors around TikTok might last for a while,” he said.According to the memo that was reported in the Chinese media, Zhang complained to his employees that “the current geopolitical and public opinion environment is becoming more and more complex. TikTok’s U.S. business is facing the possibility of being forced to sell by CFIUS, or TikTok products may be banned in the United States due to administrative orders.”FILE – Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken Nov. 27, 2019.CFIUS, or the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, opened a review last year of the Musical.ly purchase that led to TikTok’s creation. Zhang also said that despite their willingness to adopt more technical solutions to allay Washington’s concerns, the company believes CFIUS will require it to sell the TikTok U.S. operation. “We do not agree with this decision,” he said.As TikTok surged to become one of the most popular apps in the world, Washington began calling for a national security investigation into the app. White House officials and lawmakers are worried what information TikTok shares with the Chinese government about the app’s roughly 100 million American users.Zhang emphasized again that TikTok is a privately run business.“We’ve always firmly protected the security of users’ data, the platform’s independence and transparency,” he said.U.S. officials have argued that such guarantees mean little because Chinese companies generally have no choice but to bend to Communist Party demands.On Monday China’s foreign ministry said it strongly opposed any U.S. actions against Chinese software companies, and it hoped the U.S. could stop its “discriminatory policies.”In an interview Monday with U.S. business news network CNBC, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called the company’s pursuit of TikTok “exciting.”“Price is important, as well as whatever restrictions come with it from a government perspective, but I think it’s an exciting avenue for Microsoft to really increase its consumer base,” he said.In the meantime, U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday called for a U.S. company to purchase TikTok.“A U.S. company should buy TikTok so everyone can keep using it and your data is safe,” he said in a tweet, “With TikTok in China, it’s subject to Chinese Communist Party laws that may require handing over data to their government.”

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UN Chief: COVID-19 Risks Lasting Losses on Global Education

The U.N. Secretary-General warned Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic has caused the largest disruption to education in history and risks creating a “generational catastrophe” if governments do not make education a priority.  “Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,” António Guterres said in a video message.In this file photo taken on Feb. 8, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the African Union headquarters.Before the virus began multiplying across the globe, more than 250 million school-age children were out of school. That number soared to over a billion by mid-July, as 160 countries closed schools in a bid to slow the virus’s spread.   Children and babies have developed COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but many have no symptoms. Those that do get ill tend to have more mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization. However, there have been some fatalities. Scientists also caution that children can transmit the virus to adults.     But as children stay home from school in massive numbers, the United Nations warns that the economic impact of the pandemic could mean that almost 24 million young people may drop out or not have access to school next year.  “We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people,” Guterres said. “The decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.”Students wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in their classroom at the Jean Benoit College in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on June 1, 2020.He urged governments to prioritize education funding in COVID-19 recovery plans, as well as to target those most at risk of losing out on education, including young girls, the disabled, minority groups and persons in emergency situations, such as refugees. “Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority,” the U.N. chief said. “It will be essential to balance health risks against risks to children’s education and protection, and to factor in the impact on women’s labor force participation.”A teacher screens students as schools begin to reopen after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Cape Town, July 24, 2020.Guterres urged governments to seize the opportunity that the pandemic has presented to reimagine education and build it back in a forward-looking manner, including investing in digital infrastructure.  “As the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need education — the great equalizer — more than ever,” he said. “We must take bold steps now to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.”  To that end, an international coalition that includes U.N. agencies, NGOs dedicated to children and education, as well international and regional financial institutions, are launching a “Save our Future” campaign. It aims to harness momentum and political will for education as a critical component of pandemic recovery.    

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Trump Gives Microsoft 45 Days to Seal TikTok Deal

The Chinese-owned social media app TikTok “is going to be out of business in the United States” on Sept. 15, unless Microsoft or another U.S. company concludes a purchase deal that satisfies the U.S. government, President Donald Trump said on Monday.   The president also is insisting the U.S. Treasury should get a cut of the sale price for allowing the company to operate in the U.S.  “The United States should get a very large percentage of that price,” Trump said at an afternoon news conference. “It would come from the sale — whatever the number is.” It is unclear under what authority the government could demand such a payment.  FILE – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a conference in Seattle, May 6, 2019.In a statement, Microsoft confirmed that its chief executive officer, Satya Nadella, had spoken to Trump and was committed to acquiring the company by the stated deadline.“Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020. During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States government, including with the president,” the statement read.  “Price is important, as well as whatever restrictions come with it from a government perspective, but I think it’s an exciting avenue for Microsoft to really increase its consumer base,” the company’s largest individual shareholder, former CEO Steve Ballmer, told CNBC earlier Monday.   Trump suggested it would be “easier to buy the whole thing than to buy a portion” of TikTok.  “How do you do 30%? Who is going to get the name? The name is hot. The brand, hot. And who is going to get the name? How do you do that if it’s owned by two different companies?” Trump said at the White House.  The Chinese video app is extremely popular globally. It has been downloaded 2 billion times, including 165 million times in the United States.     TikTok features not only entertainment videos but also debates, and it takes positions on political issues, such as racial justice and the upcoming U.S. presidential election.    Trump said late last week that he would ban the app because of security concerns. India already has taken such action.  Trump Sets Clock Ticking for TikTokUS president has threatened to ban popular Chinese-owned social media app amid security concerns Officials in Washington have repeatedly expressed concern that TikTok may pose a security threat, fearing the company might share users’ data with the Chinese government.     ByteDance has said it does not share user data with the government of China and maintains it stores Americans’ user data only in the United States and Singapore.   TikTok recently chose former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its chief executive in a move seen as an effort to distance itself from Beijing.    “TikTok will be here for many years to come,” company spokesperson Hilary McQuaide said in a statement issued Monday.  The U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency group led by the Treasury Department, opened a national security review of TikTok last year.     CFIUS’s job is to oversee foreign investments and assess them for potential national security risks. It can force companies to cancel deals or institute other measures it deems necessary for national security.      
 

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Coronavirus Numbers Drop in Egypt and Sudan; Libya, Tunisia and Algeria See Increases

Egypt is reopening churches for the first time in nearly four months, after a major decline in the number of recorded coronavirus cases in recent days. The number of new cases is also down in Sudan, while Libya, Tunisia and Algeria have been witnessing an increase.Worshippers gathered for the first church service in nearly four months in Egypt’s historic port city of Alexandria. Authorities reopened churches across the country on Monday.Those attending appeared to abide by strict safety rules regarding social distancing and the use of face masks.Mosques are open on weekdays but remain closed for Friday prayers and major holidays.Egypt’s Health Ministry indicated Sunday that there were just 167 new cases during the previous 24 hours and only 31 deaths. Figures for new cases have fallen dramatically in recent days, prompting the government to relax a number of restrictions.Neighboring Sudan has also witnessed a relative drop in the number of cases in recent days with under 100 new cases per day for most of the past week.Nearby Libya, however, is witnessing a rise in the number of new infections, according to Arab media.Libyan news channel 218TV reported that the Islamist militia-dominated port city of Misrata has been placed under curfew by authorities after six people died of COVID-19 over the weekend. Arab media reports say that mercenaries from outside Libya have been entering the country through Misrata. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.Children wear protective face masks as they look at clothes in a shop ahead of the Eid al-Adha celebrations amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Misrata, Libya, July 28, 2020.Paul Sullivan, who is a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, told VOA that he thinks the recent increase in the number of cases in Libya “is likely due in part to the movement of mercenaries into the country.”He added that in periods of conflict, “social distancing takes a back seat, particularly if you are a mercenary who is not part of the community.”Meanwhile, Algeria, with a population of about 44 million people, has seen a rise in the number of cases to more than 600 a day in recent days, double the number of infections from just a month ago. The European Union suspended travel from Algeria to the EU last week due to the increase.Said Sadek, well-known Egyptian political sociologist who is now in Tunisia, told VOA that he thinks there has been a rise in the number of coronavirus infections in Tunisia and other parts of north Africa, “because many people began relaxing their behavior after the number of cases dropped.” He added, “Many family members visit from France and other parts of Europe, bringing the virus back with them.”Saudi TV reported that there were “no reported cases of COVID-19” among those who participated in this year’s annual hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage. Saudi Information Minister Majed al Qasseri noted that “the extensive spread of the coronavirus and its clear danger to humanity forced Saudi Arabia to seriously limit the number of people attending this year’s pilgrimage.” 

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