Covid-19 wrap | 14-day quarantine in the UK, and Myanmar editor jailed over coronavirus error

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis.

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Britain is to introduce a quarantine period of 14 days for those arriving in the UK, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis confirmed Friday and said ministers would give details later.

“People who are coming to the UK will have to do quarantine,” Lewis told Sky news, saying the new rules would cover British citizens and those from elsewhere.

“We’re saying to people you’ve got to make your own arrangements, if you’re coming to the UK then you need to make those arrangements.

“Obviously for the UK citizens coming back they’ll be able to quarantine at home, for visitors they will need to make arrangements for here they can do that quarantine for 14 days.”

The plans are expected to come into force next month and further details would be outlined on Friday by Home Secretary Priti Patel at the daily Downing Street briefing.

Lewis said the policy would be reviewed every three weeks.

There are expected to be exemptions for road hauliers and medical officials, while the common travel area with Ireland will be unaffected.

But it is thought that arrivals from France will have to quarantine, despite claims earlier this month there would be an exemption.

The move is likely to prove controversial, especially among the aviation sector.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary earlier this week branded a proposed quarantine plan “idiotic” while trade body Airlines UK has said it “would effectively kill” international travel to the UK.

There has been criticism within the UK about the lack of a quarantine while other countries such as South Korea, Spain and the US did impose such a restriction, while others are questioning why the measures are being imposed now.

Geneticist and Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse criticised the government on Friday when asked about the introduction of a quarantine period.


A Myanmar news editor has been jailed for two years after his agency reported a coronavirus death that turned out to be false, his lawyer said on Friday.

The country has only 199 confirmed cases of coronavirus and seen six deaths, although the low numbers tested mean experts fear the true figures are far higher.

Chief editor Zaw Ye Htet was arrested on 13 April, the same day his online news agency Dae Pyaw published an erroneous article alleging there had been a death due to the Covid-19 in eastern Karen state.

On 20 May he faced trial, an unusually swift process in a country where suspects often languish for months behind bars before being convicted.

“He was sentenced under section 505(b) to two years in jail,” by the court in Karen state, his lawyer Myint Thuzar Maw said on Friday.

The notorious Section 505(b) is a vaguely-worded law, often thrown at journalists and activists for making any statement that cause fear or alarm.


Afghan cyclist Idrees Syawash is determined to help curb the spread of the coronavirus so he pedals across rural areas encouraging people to wear masks and wash their hands.

“When coronavirus came to Afghanistan, I went to some villages and saw that people were not aware of it at all,” Syawash, 27, told AFP as he travelled across the eastern province of Nangarhar this week.

“I decided to use my bicycle… to launch a door-to-door awareness campaign.”

Afghanistan reported its first case of the virus in the western city of Herat in February and now has more than 8 600 confirmed infections, with the capital Kabul as its epicentre.

Authorities have imposed a nationwide lockdown since March to curb the spread, but that has not stopped Syawash, a resident of Afghanistan’s eastern Laghman province, from hitting the road.

He personally met with the governor of Nangarhar province to seek permission for his campaign in light of lockdown rules.

“The local government is supporting me because I am doing this work for a good cause,” Syawash said.

He has previously campaigned for wider educational opportunities in Afghanistan, also on his bicycle.

This time he travelled to more than 120 villages across often rough terrain, covering almost 1 000 kilometres.


More than 660 000 people have been displaced from their homes in conflict zones around the world since March, despite a UN call for a global ceasefire during the coronavirus pandemic, a top international aid group said Friday.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said its figures showed that armed conflict around the world had continued during the pandemic, even as much of globe went into lockdown.

This was despite a call on March 23 by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire for the pandemic.

The NRC said a total of 661 000 people have been displaced in 19 countries since then, with the highest number by far in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“At a time when health experts tell us to stay at home, men with guns are forcing hundreds of thousands out of their homes and into extreme vulnerability,” said the NRC’s Secretary-General Jan Egeland.

“This not only hurts those who are forced to flee, it seriously undermines our joint efforts to combat the virus.”

The NRC accused the UN Security Council of failing to show leadership to encourage peace talks.


Greece has extended until 7 June a coronavirus lockdown imposed on the overcrowded migrant camps since March, the government announced Friday.

“Measures against the propagation of the Covid-19 virus are extended for residents of the reception and identification centres across the country,” the migration ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not say why the lockdown was being extended.

On 17 March, the government imposed the lockdown on the migrant camps both on the islands and the mainland.

That was a week after a more general lockdown in the country, which was eased early this month after the apparent success in keeping the outbreak in check.

On 10 May, it extended the measure for the camps until 21 May, and then until 7 June on Friday.

As in the rest of the country, the coronavirus outbreak has had little impact on the camps.

Among the 168 dead in Greece, there are no known deaths so far due to Covid-19 among the migrants, according to authorities.


Muslims across Asia have packed out markets as they prepare for the annual Eid al-Fitr holiday, ignoring coronavirus guidelines even as infections rise.

The celebration, the most important in the Muslim calendar marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, is preceded by a rush to buy new clothes, gifts and sweet treats for loved ones.

It is expected to begin over the weekend in most countries, and Sunday or Monday in Pakistan, depending on when the new moon is sighted.

Despite the deadly risk posed by the virus, shoppers in Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Afghanistan pressed on.

“For over two months my children were homebound,” said Ishrat Jahan, a mother of four, at a bustling market in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi.

“This feast is for the kids, and if they can’t celebrate it with new garments there is no point in us working so hard throughout the year.”

Federal and provincial authorities in Pakistan have sent out mixed messages since the first infections were recorded in February.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was reluctant to impose a strict lockdown, fearful of the economic damage restrictions would wreak on the impoverished country.


Billionaire financier George Soros has said the European Union could break apart in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic unless the bloc issued perpetual bonds to help weak members such as Italy.

The novel coronavirus, which emerged in China last year, has stalled swaths of the global economy while governments have ramped up borrowing to levels not seen in peacetime history.

Soros, 89, said the damage to the eurozone economy from the new coronavirus would last “longer than most people think”, adding that the rapid evolution of the virus meant that a reliable vaccine would be hard to develop.

The hedge-fund veteran and chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC said perpetual bonds, used by the British to finance wars against Napoleon, would allow the EU – itself created out of the ashes of World War II – to survive.

“If the EU is unable to consider it now, it may not be able to survive the challenges it currently confronts,” Soros said in a transcript of a question-and-answer session emailed to reporters.

“This is not a theoretical possibility; it may be the tragic reality.”

The comments were approved by Soros for publication on Friday, a spokesperson said.

Soros, who earned fame by betting against the pound in 1992, said that with major countries such as Germany selling bonds with a negative yield, perpetual bonds would ease a looming budget crunch across the bloc.

– Al Jazeera

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