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WHO Warns of COVID-19 Spikes in Europe, Americas

Daily cases of COVID-19 have reached record highs around the world, particularly in Europe and the Americas, the World Health Organization said Friday.WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing in Geneva that record-high numbers of cases were reported in each of the last four days.“We must remember that this is an uneven pandemic,” said Ghebreyesus. “Countries have responded differently, and countries have been affected differently. Almost 70% of all cases reported globally last week were from 10 countries, and almost half of all cases were from just three countries.”The United States had more new infections over a 24-hour period than any other country, with 63,610, increasing the country’s total Friday to a world-leading 8.03 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.The U.S. also maintained its global lead in COVID-19 fatalities, with Hopkins reporting 820 new deaths, increasing the country’s total Friday to at least 218,000 dead.White plastic tombstone-shaped pieces are lined up as a temporary memorial to some of Miami’s victims of the coronavirus at Simonhoff Floral Park, Oct. 14, 2020, in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami.Surges in five statesUpticks in the U.S. were led by surging infection rates in the states of Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida and California, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins.India recorded 63,371 new cases Friday, according to Hopkins, while there were also sharp increases in the number of infections in France, Brazil and Britain.The WHO’s Maria Van Kerkhove told reporters Friday that 80% of the countries in Europe were experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases.In Britain, where Johns Hopkins University reported nearly 19,000 new cases Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened to force Greater Manchester to impose the country’s most stringent level of coronavirus restrictions after local officials refused to place restrictions on areas with high infection rates.On Saturday, France will begin a 9 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew for the region of Paris and at least seven other cities: Lyon, Grenoble, Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Lille, Rouen and Saint-Etienne. The curfew will remain in effect for at least four weeks.German restrictionsGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel and governors of the country’s 16 states have agreed to impose a new round of nationwide restrictions after seeing record-high new COVID-19 cases.  The restrictions include closing bars and restaurants early and limiting the number of people allowed to gather in public.Police with face masks control the coronavirus orders at the train station in Cologne, Germany, Oct. 15, 2020. The city exceeded the important warning level of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days.Merkel said Friday that a planned European Union summit on the 27-nation bloc’s China policy in Berlin next month had been canceled because of the resurgent pandemic.Italy reported more than 10,000 new infections over the past 24 hours Friday, the highest daily number since the beginning of the country’s outbreak. Italy has the second-highest death toll in Europe after Britain, reporting more than 36,400 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak in February.As of midafternoon Friday, there were more than 39 million COVID-19 cases worldwide and more than 1.1 million global COVID-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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YouTube Follows Twitter And Facebook With QAnon Crackdown

YouTube is following the lead of Twitter and Facebook, saying that it is taking more steps to limit QAnon and other baseless conspiracy theories that can lead to real-world violence.
The Google-owned video platform said Thursday it will now prohibit material targeting a person or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify violence.  
One example would be videos that threaten or harass someone by suggesting they are complicit in a conspiracy such as QAnon, which paints President Donald Trump as a secret warrior against a supposed child-trafficking ring run by celebrities and “deep state” government officials.
Pizzagate is another internet conspiracy theory — essentially a predecessor to QAnon — that would fall in the banned category. Its promoters claimed children were being harmed at a pizza restaurant in Washington. D.C. A man who believed in the conspiracy entered the restaurant in December 2016 and fired an assault rifle. He was sentenced to prison in 2017.
YouTube is the third of the major social platforms to announce policies intended rein in QAnon, a conspiracy theory they all helped spread.  
Twitter announced in July a crackdown on QAnon, though it did not ban its supporters from its platform. It did ban thousands of accounts associated with QAnon content and blocked URLs associated with it from being shared. Twitter also said that it would stop highlighting and recommending tweets associated with QAnon.  
Facebook, meanwhile, announced last week that it was banning groups that openly support QAnon. It said it would remove pages, groups and Instagram accounts for representing QAnon — even if they don’t promote violence.  
The social network said it will consider a variety of factors in deciding whether a group meets its criteria for a ban. Those include the group’s name, its biography or “about” section, and discussions within the page or group on Facebook, or account on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
Facebook’s move came two months after it announced softer crackdown, saying said it would stop promoting the group and its adherents. But that effort faltered due to spotty enforcement.  
YouTube said it had already removed tens of thousands of QAnon-videos and eliminated hundreds of channels under its existing policies — especially those that explicitly threaten violence or deny the existence of major violent events.  
“All of this work has been pivotal in curbing the reach of harmful conspiracies, but there’s even more we can do to address certain conspiracy theories that are used to justify real-world violence, like QAnon,” the company said in Thursday’s  blog post.  
Experts said the move shows that YouTube is taking threats around violent conspiracy theories seriously and recognizes the importance of limiting the spread of such conspiracies. But, with QAnon increasingly creeping into mainstream politics and U.S. life, they wonder if it is too late.  
“While this is an important change, for almost three years YouTube was a primary site for the spread of QAnon,” said Sophie Bjork-James, an anthropologist at Vanderbilt University who studies QAnon. “Without the platform Q would likely remain an obscure conspiracy. For years YouTube provided this radical group an international audience.”

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Remdesivir, Hydroxychloroquine Have Little or No Effect on Severe COVID-19 Cases, WHO Says

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Friday that a sixth-month randomized trial of COVID-19 treatments found “conclusive evidence” that remdesivir, a drug used to treat U.S. President Donald Trump when he fell ill, has little or no effect on severe cases of the virus.
 
The WHO, in what they said was the world’s largest randomized control trial on COVID-19 therapeutics, tested remdesivir and three other drugs – hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon – as part the agency’s research to determine if existing drugs might be effective in treating COVID-19.
 
At a news briefing at WHO headquarters in Geneva Friday, a WHO spokesman said the results of the study, which was not peer-reviewed, “indicate that remdesivir hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon regimens appear to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality, or the in-hospital course of COVID-19 among hospitalized patients.”
 
The WHO said the study, which covered more than 30 countries, looked at the effects of the treatments on overall death rates, whether patients need breathing machines, and how much time patients spent recovering in hospitals.
 
Previous studies had already ruled out three of the drugs. But the findings run counter to a clinical trial of remdesivir by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in April which indicated the drug accelerated the recovery rates of people with severe cases of COVID-19.
 
The company that makes remdesivir, Gilead Sciences, Inc., saw the price of its stock begin to fall as the news of the WHO study broke Friday. The company issued a statement saying data appeared inconsistent, the findings were premature and referenced the other studies, such as the one by the NIH, which had validated the drug’s benefits.
 
Remdesivir was among an array of drugs used to treat U.S. President Donald Trump when he contracted COVID-19 earlier this month.
 

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Finland’s Prime Minister Leaves EU Summit After COVID-19 Exposure

Finland’s prime minister Friday became the second European Union leader to leave a two-day summit as a precautionary measure, after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.  On Twitter, Sanna Marin wrote she was leaving the European Council meeting in Brussels and asked Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Lofven, to represent Finland at the talks, where leaders were wearing face masks and keeping their distance amid a spike in COVID-19 infections across Europe. Marin had participated in a meeting Wednesday at the Finnish parliament in Helsinki with lawmaker Tom Packalen, who later tested positive for COVID-19 and had mild symptoms. Marin’s early departure follows a similar decision by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who left the meeting Thursday to self-isolate after learning one of her support staff members had tested positive.  FILE – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Oct. 15, 2020.It was the second time this month Von der Leyen had to take such a precaution. She went into isolation Oct. 5 after a meeting in Portugal that included someone who later tested positive. It is unclear why the European Union chose to hold its October summit in person rather than virtually while the continent is facing a surge in new COVID-19 cases.  Marin gave a speech at the summit supporting videoconferences for meeting between EU leaders, saying there should be a higher threshold for holding in-person meetings during the pandemic. 
 

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Public Health Officials Predict Winter COVID-19 Uptick

A predicted increase in COVID-19 cases as cold weather approaches in the Northern Hemisphere seems to be underway.  
 
New global cases have climbed to 330,000 per day, with Europe and the U.S. experiencing a worrying uptick.  
 
The U.S. recorded more than 64,000 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, the highest daily tally since July.  
 
The World Health Organization’s European director says 1,000 people a day are dying from COVID-19 on the continent and more than a million new COVID-19 cases have been identified in the last ten days.   
 
Hans Kluge also said the impact of the coronavirus-caused disease this winter could be minimized in Europe if mask wearing increased from the current 60% to 95% of the population and if social distancing were strictly observed.    
 
America’s top infectious disease expert told Americans to rethink their Thanksgiving plans for late November when many people traditionally travel through teeming transportation centers, such as bus depots, train stations, and airports to be with their families.  
 
“If you have vulnerable people, the elderly or people that have underlying conditions, you better consider whether you want to do that now,” Fauci told ABC News.  He suggested people perhaps delay plans and “just …  wait” until the pandemic is under control.   
 
“We really have to be careful this time that each individual family evaluates the risk-benefit,” Fauci added.Stacked chairs are seen in front of a cafe in Lille, northern France, Oct. 12, 2020. Lille has been placed under maximum virus alert. On Saturday, France will begin a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for the region of Paris and at least seven other cities, including Lyon, Grenoble, Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Lille, Rouen and Saint-Étienne.  The curfew will remain in effect for at least four weeks.
 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and governors of the country’s 16 states have agreed to impose a new round of nationwide restrictions after seeing record-high new COVID-19 cases.  The restrictions include the early closure of bars and restaurants and limiting the number of people allowed to gather in public.   
 
Northern Ireland has announced a nationwide four-week lockdown, with schools closed for two weeks and all pubs and restaurants closed for the full month, except for pickup and delivery of food.    
 
London is about to be put under the second level of the government’s new three-tiered coronavirus alert system, which designates areas as medium, high and very high risk. The city of Liverpool has been placed under the highest tier, leading officials to close all restaurants and bars.  
 
There are now nearly 39 million worldwide COVID-19 cases and more than a million people have died from the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.  
 
 

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Zimbabwe Doctors, Nurses Decry Government Rule That Aims to Curb Health Sector Brain Drain

Doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe are challenging a Ministry of Health rule they say impedes their ability to leave the country.  The ministry said last month that health care workers must get official signatures to receive a “Certificate of Good Standing” – a needed reference to get work abroad.  A doctors group says it’s an attempt to stop a mass exodus after poor treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.  After more than 10 years of working in government hospitals, a 36-year-old doctor – who did not want to be identified told VOA countless protests have not resulted in a decent salary or better working conditions. He applied to work in England.  But for nearly three months now, he says he can’t go, because he is still waiting for a “Certificate of Good Standing” from the government that foreign employers require.  ” I want to leave this country to work where I can treat people properly with all equipment and medicines,” the doctor told VOA.  He says he also wants a salary so he can look after his children and his parents, who paid for his education.  The Senior Hospital Doctors Association of Zimbabwe says its members are frustrated by delays they attribute to the government trying to curtail a brain drain among health workers.    Its leader, Dr. Aaron Musara, says the government is misusing the certificate of good standing.   “Normally the certificate of good standing talks about the integrity of a colleague, how the colleague does not have pending cases or issues of discipline involving issues with patients or with colleagues,” Dr. Musara told VOA. “It will now cease to be about that, the moment we allow it to be used by the government in this manner. It can be abused as a way of handling labour issues rather than being a professional issue.”He says in some cases doctors just want to go abroad to further their education, then return to Zimbabwe.  Health personnel in Zimbabwe have long protested about poor working conditions – including inadequate personal protective equipment (PPEs) during the COVID-19 pandemic.  But the cash-strapped nation has been unable to improve salaries or provide needed supplies.  Zimbabwe’s vice president, Constantino Chiwenga, who is the country’s new health minister, told doctors this week that he would address all their problems.   “I promise that I will do my best in creating the much-needed conducive environment for your work. Your work will not go unnoticed,” he said. “Do your best and I will do my part. And together we can avoid the ongoing unnecessary loss of life.”Chiwenga did not talk about preventing health care workers from leaving Zimbabwe. Health officials said they would not comment on the issue after the vice president’s promise to resolve the doctors’ problems.     

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Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business
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Pandemic Inspires NY Philharmonic Pop-Up Concerts  

Live music is slowly coming back to the streets of New York City – in a new, pandemic-inspired way. With the city concert venues still closed, New York Philharmonic decided to put its world-class musicians on a truck to perform on city roads and intersections. Anna Nelson has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.
Camera: Natalia Latukhina, Vladimir Badikov  

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Science & Health
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Predicted Winter COVID Uptick Seems to be Happening

A predicted spike in COVID-19 cases as the cold weather months approach in the Northern Hemisphere seems to be occurring.Daily global cases have climbed to 330,000 per day, with Europe and the U.S. experiencing a worrying uptick.In the U.S., the nation’s top infectious disease expert told Americans to rethink their Thanksgiving plans for late November when many people traditionally travel through teeming transportation centers, such as bus depots, train stations, and airports to be with their families.“If you have vulnerable people, the elderly or people that have underlying conditions, you better consider whether you want to do that now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC News. He suggested people perhaps delay plans and “just … wait” until the pandemic is under control.“We really have to be careful this time that each individual family evaluates the risk-benefit,” Fauci added.On Saturday, France will begin a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for the region of Paris and at least seven other cities, including Lyon, Grenoble, Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Lille, Rouen and Saint-Étienne. The curfew will remain in effect for at least four weeks.German Chancellor Angela Merkel and governors of the country’s 16 states have agreed to impose a new round of nationwide restrictions after seeing record-high new COVID-19 cases. The restrictions include the early closure of bars and restaurants and limiting the number of people allowed to gather in public.Northern Ireland has announced a nationwide four-week lockdown, with schools closed for two weeks and all pubs and restaurants closed for the full month, except for pickup and delivery of food.London is about to be put under the second level of the government’s new three-tiered coronavirus alert system, which designates areas as medium, high and very high risk. The city of Liverpool has been placed under the highest tier, leading officials to close all restaurants and bars.There are now nearly 39 million worldwide COVID-19 cases and more than a million people have died from the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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