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300 die in Iran after drinking methanol in bid to cure coronavirus

300 people in Iran have died after consuming methanol in the false belief that high-proof alcohol is a cure for the coronavirus.

Local media in Iran, where alcohol is banned, have reported more than 1,000 people becoming sick after ingesting the toxic substance.

A string of fake remedies circulating social media has led to dozens of cases of people falling severely ill after consuming bootleg alcohol containing methanol.

Messages that hand sanitiser acts as a strong protective barrier against the disease are thought to have led many to believe drinking the solution would have a similar effect.

Other social media accounts in Farsi which falsely suggested a British school teacher and others cured themselves of the virus with whiskey and honey, have also fed the belief that high-proof alcohol would kill the virus.

The pubic in Iran remain suspicious of the government after it downplayed the impact of the pandemic on the country.

Home to 80 million people, Iran reported 144 new deaths from coronavirus on Friday, bringing the country's death toll to 2,378, with a total of more than 32,300 infected.

International experts however also fear Iran may be under-reporting its cases.

Dr Knut Erik Hovda, a clinical toxicologist who studies methanol poisoning in Oslo, fears the Covid-19 outbreak in Iran could be even worse than reported.

  • Coronavirus blunder as cops raid comedy club after it posted old routines on Facebook

She said: "The virus is spreading and people are just dying off, and I think they are even less aware of the fact that there are other dangers around.

"When they keep drinking this, there's going to be more people poisoned."

Iranian media aired footage of those affected by the alcohol poisoning being treated on beds needed for victims of the coronavirus.

The media also showed a boy as young as 5 years old who has turned blind because the alcohol poisoning.

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World News

Banker awarded £11k for being forced to work under bright lights

A banker who was forced to work under bright lights that gave her migraines has been awarded almost £11,000.

HBOS consultant Rajni Duggal won a disability discrimination claim as it was established that her bosses knew she suffered from light sensitivity.

An employment tribunal heard she used toilets at a nearby train station to avoid fluorescent spotlights.

Employment Judge David Khan said: “The lighting caused her to suffer dizziness, dry eyes, pain behind her eyes, headaches and migraines, which meant she could not concentrate on her work or not work at all.”

Ms Duggal’s suffering began after spotlights were added to highlight posters in a 2013 refurb at HBOS in Mayfair, West London. Lights in a hall shone through her office’s glass door.

Bosses made adjustments the judge said “removed the disadvantages”. But the branch shut and her new workplace in Fenchurch Street said its fluorescent lights would not be changed.

Judge Khan said: “The claimant was exposed to bright lights, particularly in the stairway, toilet and back office.

"She wore dark glasses to protect her eyes to access these areas. It was agreed she’d use the toilet at Fenchurch Street station to minimise her exposure to the lighting.”

LED spotlights and a dimmer switch were fitted almost 11 months later but Judge Khan said it was an “unreasonable delay”.

He ordered HBOS to pay Ms Duggal £10,000 for injury to feelings and £827.82 in interest.

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Economy

Could the COVID-19 pandemic be an environmental inflection point?

Our cars are sitting in our driveways as many of us work from home, huge airlines are mothballing their fleets, and businesses around the world have closed their doors due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It is a semi-apocalyptic scenario that no one could have foreseen just two months ago.

The spiraling death toll is hard to fathom, and the grief for those in mourning doesn’t bear thinking about.

After the worst is over, our public health systems will certainly change forever, but could the fallout also result in us changing our consumption-heavy lifestyles in ways that could prevent a future outbreak, or in ways that improve the air we breathe?

The UN’s environment chief hopes so, saying in an interview with The Guardian newspaper that “nature is sending us a message.”

The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme Inger Andersen said the way we are exploiting the planet’s resources is making it easier for “pathogens to pass from wild and domestic animals to people.”

“There are too many pressures at the same time on our natural systems and something has to give,” she said.

“We are intimately interconnected with nature, whether we like it or not.

“If we don’t take care of nature, we can’t take care of ourselves.”

Scientists believe that an animal market in Wuhan, China was the source of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

China has since temporarily banned the trade and consumption of live animals.

Some experts believe that climate change and the destruction of wildlife habitats can change the way viruses spread between species.

Pollution reduction

If Covid-19 serves as a reminder from Mother Nature of how poorly we are treating her, then paradoxically, it is also giving us a glimpse into how healthy she used to be.

The pandemic has revealed a remarkable change in pollution levels in the places worst-affected by the virus.

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Fish can be more-easily seen swimming in the now-clear canals of Venice, and air pollutants have dropped noticeably in China, Italy and New York.

“For the about four-week period after the lockdowns in China started, everything from coal-fired power plants, to oil consumption for transport, to industries like cement were heavily affected,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Lead Analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

“We saw operating rates that were about a quarter lower than usual at that time of the year. And all of that meant that CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions were reduced by about 25 per cent.”

CO is an indirect contributor to global warming and climate change.

Commane said the CO levels have dropped by half, with the changes being most striking at rush hour.

“I fully expect that the air quality is going to get worse in some places (after the pandemic) because people are throwing regulations out the window to get things moving again,” she warned.

The question is: which places will make the decision to take a different path when it comes to air quality and climate change?

Inflection point

Fellow Columbia academic Amy Turner specializes in climate law at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

“We’re at an inflection point in the sense that we’ve seen massive collective action around the pandemic,” said Turner.

“We also have the opportunity to reset the economy in a way that mitigates climate change.”

She thinks a glimpse into a world where fewer people drive to work every day could help influence how lawmakers shape our future.

“Governments could offer incentives to employers to allow their employees to work from home some of the time,” she said.

“That is something that we may see come out of this. And, you know, I think that would be a good thing if at least some transportation emissions were able to be reduced, because people are now more comfortable working from home at least some of the time.”

Turner says pandemics, just like pollution and climate change, tend to affect the poorest the most.

“They’re more likely to live near big highways, near bus depots, near power stations, and so there’s much more local air pollution,” she said.

“Often those communities are located in places that are particularly susceptible to disasters.”

Climate change aside, the direct, short-term health benefits of reducing emissions would most likely see lives improved and saved.

“Air pollution is responsible for millions of premature deaths globally, and in fact the reduction in pollutant levels means that tens of thousands of deaths will be avoided,” said Myllyvirta.

“That’s not to say that this crisis, with all the suffering that it entails, is a good thing, but it does highlight how normalized these public health impacts of air pollution have become.”

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World News

Coronavirus blunder as cops raid comedy club that posted old videos on Facebook

Bungling police raided a comedy club that was posting old routines on Facebook after fearing it was staging a lockdown-flouting show.

Owner Paul Blair, 33, was sitting at home enjoying the recordings of past performances when he got a call warning him his club was swarming with cops.

Twelve officers in vans ­surrounded it after someone who tuned into the online show – ­featuring comics in front of a 200- strong audience – mistakenly thought it was happening live.

Paul logged into CCTV cameras outside The Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool on Saturday to see the puzzled bobbies.

The club has been shut due to the outbreak but has continued showing the archived footage.

Shortly before police swooped it had shown clips from a show recorded on March 7.

Paul said: “We’d advertised it quite clearly. We record all of our shows, so we have a massive archive.

“We all need a laugh in these difficult times and even if we can’t be open we’ve got quality jokes that can cheer someone up.

“We’re trying to raise some money as well for our comedians because they’re all out of a job now that we are on lockdown. But about five minutes before the show ended we got a call from the shop next door telling us police had just surrounded the club. They must have been baffled.

“It’s fair play to the police as well as they’re only trying to keep people safe. But it’s biggest laugh we’ve had this year.”

  • Jack Grealish 'ignores coronavirus lockdown' as he stands on street next to damaged Range Rover

A concerned viewer failed to read that the show, headlined by comic Paul Smith, was pre-­recorded and rang the police.

CCTV cameras captured one of the officers whipping out his phone to watch the live stream while others looked confused.

Dad-of-one Paul said: “It’s just funny to watch the video.

“There are so many of them and you can see them pop up one by one and have a puzzled body language.

“Only thing missing from this bit is the Benny Hill theme song.”

A Merseyside Police spokesman said: “Our officers responded to a report from a member of the public concerned that a ­comedy club was open. To verify this they attended the club and found it closed.”

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World News

As Iran coronavirus deaths rise, Rouhani hits back at criticism

Iranian president says economy is a factor in the country’s COVID-19 response as punishing US sanctions remain in place.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has hit back at criticism over the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying he had to weigh protecting the country’s sanctions-hit economy while tackling the worst outbreak in the region.

Iran, one of the world’s hardest-hit countries from the virus, reported 123 more deaths on Sunday in the past 24 hours, pushing its overall toll to 2,640 amid 38,309 confirmed cases.

More:

  • As COVID-19 rages, US slaps new sanctions on Iranian individuals

  • Iran rejects ‘foreign’ help as virus death toll nears 2,000

  • What happens if you catch the new coronavirus?

The president reacted on Sunday at criticism of its lagging response to the worst coronavirus outbreak in the region, which has so far infected 38,309 people in the Islamic Republic, and killed more than 2,600 others – according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University in the United States. 

Rouhani described international outcry at the government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran as a “political war”, saying he had to weigh protecting the economy while tackling the virus, labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Leaders around the world are struggling to strike a balance between containing the pandemic and preventing their economies from crashing.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Rouhani said the government had to consider the effect of mass quarantine efforts on Iran’s beleaguered economy, which is under heavy US sanctions.

“Health is a principle for us, but the production and security of society is also a principle for us,” Rouhani said. “We must put these principles together to reach a final decision.”

“This is not the time to gather followers,” he added. “This is not a time for political war.”

In May 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear deal signed three years earlier between Iran and world powers. Washington has since imposed crippling sanctions on Tehran that prevent it from selling oil on international markets. 

Iran has urged the international community to lift sanctions and is seeking a $5bn loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Last week, United Nations rights chief called for any sanctions imposed on countries like Iran facing the new coronavirus pandemic to be “urgently re-evaluated” to avoid pushing strained medical systems into collapse.

“At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said.

In recent days, Iran has ordered the closure of nonessential businesses and banned travel between cities. But those measures came long after other countries in the region imposed more sweeping lockdowns.

Just over a week after saying he expected the measures taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus to be eased by early April, Rouhani warned on Sunday that “the new way of life” in Iran was likely to be prolonged.

“We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date,” he added.

“The new way of life we have adopted” is to everyone’s benefit, Rouhani noted, adding that “these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time”.

After the president’s warning, the reopening of schools following this year’s Persian New Year holidays of March 19 to April 3 appears unlikely.

On a positive note, Rouhani said he had been told by top health experts and doctors that “in some provinces, we have passed the peak [of the epidemic] and are on a downward trajectory”.

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World News

Woman, 26, ‘coughed and spat at police who came to shut down house party’

A woman allegedly coughed and spat at police officers as they responded to reports of a house party on Saturday.

The 26-year-old will appear in court after being arrested and charged with assaulting an emergency worker after the incident.

Officers were called to reports of a gathering in Bridgwater shortly after 7pm on Sunday.

It was one of three similar incidents that officers from Avon and Somerset Police officers faced over the weekend.

In Bath, a 42-year-old woman was charged with two counts of assaulting an emergency worker – one relating to an officer being spat at – just after 7.30pm on Saturday.

A 36-year-old woman has also been charged with two counts of assaulting an emergency worker after officers were physically assaulted while attending a domestic-related incident in Bridgwater just before 8pm on Saturday.

Chief Superintendent Carolyn Belafonte said such incidents were particularly abhorrent amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Officers are simply trying to do their job to protect the public and keep our communities safe in these worrying times," she said.

"They do not deserve to be assaulted in any way, particularly being spat on and coughed at.

"Anyone who does this can expect to be arrested and as we have already seen elsewhere they could face a prison sentence as a result."

All three of the women arrested by Avon and Somerset Police on Saturday will appear before magistrates next month.

  • Coronavirus

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Politics

Liberty University Brings Back Its Students, and Coronavirus, Too

The decision by the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., to partly reopen his evangelical university enraged residents of Lynchburg, Va. Then students started getting sick.


By Elizabeth Williamson

LYNCHBURG, Va. — As Liberty University’s spring break was drawing to a close this month, Jerry Falwell Jr., its president, spoke with the physician who runs Liberty’s student health service about the rampaging coronavirus.

“We’ve lost the ability to corral this thing,” Dr. Thomas W. Eppes Jr. said he told Mr. Falwell. But he did not urge him to close the school. “I just am not going to be so presumptuous as to say, ‘This is what you should do and this is what you shouldn’t do,’” Dr. Eppes said in an interview.

So Mr. Falwell — a staunch ally of President Trump and an influential voice in the evangelical world — reopened the university last week, igniting a firestorm, epidemiologically and otherwise. As of Friday, Dr. Eppes said, nearly a dozen Liberty students were sick with symptoms that suggest Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Three were referred to local hospital centers for testing. Another eight were told to self-isolate.

“Liberty will be notifying the community as deemed appropriate and required by law,” Mr. Falwell said in an interview on Sunday when confronted with the numbers. He added that any student returning now to campus would be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“I can’t be sure what’s going on with individuals who are not being tested but who are advised to self-isolate,” said Kerry Gateley, the health director of the Central Virginia Health District, which covers Lynchburg. “I would assume that if clinicians were concerned enough about the possibility of Covid-19 disease to urge self-isolation that appropriate screening and testing would be arranged.”

Of the 1,900 students who initially returned last week to campus, Mr. Falwell said more than 800 had left. But he said he had “no idea” how many students had returned to off-campus housing.

“If I were them, I’d be more nervous,” he added, because they live in more crowded conditions.

For critical weeks in January and February, the nation’s far right dismissed the seriousness of the pandemic. Mr. Falwell derided it as an “overreaction” driven by liberal desires to damage Mr. Trump.

Though the current crisis would appear epidemiological in nature, Dr. Eppes said he saw it as a reflection of “the political divide.”

“If Liberty sneezes, there are people who don’t like the fact that Liberty sneezed,” he said in an interview. “Mr. Falwell called me to listen to a view that wasn’t exactly his. Great leaders do that type of thing.”

The city of Lynchburg is furious.

“We had a firestorm of our own citizens who said, ‘What’s going on?’” said Treney Tweedy, the mayor.

Some Liberty officials accuse alarmed outsiders of playing politics. Ms. Tweedy has called Mr. Falwell “reckless.” And within the school, there are signs of panic.

“I’m not allowed to talk to you because I’m an employee here,” one student living on campus wrote in an email. But, he pleaded, “we need help to go home.”

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World News

Halifax police seize vehicle, issue ticket to woman violating COVID-19 emergency order

Halifax Regional Police have seized a vehicle and issued a ticket after finding a person violating the province’s emergency measures act in Point Pleasant Park on Sunday.

Nova Scotia’s parks and beaches are closed to the public under the province’s emergency measures act in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Halifax Regional Police (HRP) say at 1:12 p.m., officers were patrolling Point Pleasant Park when they located an unoccupied Toyota Yaris the park.

At approximately 1:53 p.m., a police service dog and handler located a 44-year-old woman on the shoreline of the park.

The woman, who is the owner of the vehicle, was determined to be violating the emergency measures act.

The fine associated with the ticket is $697.50.

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HRP are reminding residents to educate themselves on the restrictions under the act and to be mindful of the “unprecedented COVID-19 crisis we are facing as a community.”

They say they thank the “vast majority” of citizens who are complying with the rules.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Economy

South Africa's treasury announces tax relief for business hit by coronavirus

JOHANNESBURG, March 29 (Reuters) – South Africa’s National Treasury said on Sunday it was introducing a new tax subsidy of 500 rand ($28) per month to employers for the next four months to cushion financial losses suffered by firms due to the coronavirus.

In a statement the treasury said it would also permit businesses with revenue of 50 million rand or less to delay paying 20% of their employees’ tax liabilities over the next four months.

The measures would take effect on April 1, the treasury said in a statement. ($1 = 17.6250 rand) (Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana, editing by Louise Heavens)

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Sports

Online cycling workouts proving a hit

LONDON • Cyclists deprived of their weekend ride out with friends and fitness fanatics who cannot get to the gym are turning to online cycling workouts to help them stay in shape during the coronavirus shutdown.

With professional racing closed down in Europe and club cyclists being advised against riding in large groups, the Zwift indoor training platform has seen a manic few weeks, according to spokesman Chris Snook.

Some of the best-known professional road cyclists have been making the most of their unexpected spare time to lead out virtual rides on Zwift’s fictionalised Watopia course, as amateurs join in from their home-based smart bike trainers.

“It’s providing a unique opportunity for cycling fans to not only ride alongside their heroes, but to ask questions,” Snook told Reuters.

“Guests have included (2018 Tour de France champion) Geraint Thomas, (German rider) Andre Greipel, (world champion) Annemiek van Vleuten and many more.”

Others who would normally prefer the gym have decided that it is time to buy a Peloton stationary bike, rather than risk going to group classes. These are the people who do not ride outdoors and so would not own a bike that they can transform into an indoor trainer.

“It seemed like a good opportunity for me to make an investment so I could exercise inside of my house, enjoy that exercise, and save money in the long term,” said Amanda Clare from San Francisco.

The 41-year-old normally works out at Barry’s Bootcamp but decided to drop that as the spread of the coronavirus forced people to stay home.

“I spend about US$500 (S$713 ) a month on Barry’s, so while the Peloton was an investment – it was $2,450 – that will be made up if I just move to working out on it,” she added.

Clare is crossing her fingers that the bike will be delivered as planned despite the disruption.

Jenn McCarron, 40, from Los Angeles has also decided to trade up by getting a Peloton bike after subscribing to its online classes for eight months.

RIDE AND CHAT

It’s providing a unique opportunity for cycling fans to not only ride alongside their heroes, but to ask questions.

CHRIS SNOOK , Zwift spokesman, on fans being able to chat with champs on the apps. 

VALUE INVESTMENT

It seemed like a good opportunity for me to make an investment so I could exercise inside of my house, enjoy that exercise…

AMANDA CLARE , gym goer, on why she bought a Peloton stationary bike.

“What made me pull the trigger was quarantine and loss of control over my fitness routine, which 100 per cent takes place outside of my apartment,” she said.

“When the quarantine started happening last Friday, I started getting this low-level burn of urgency, like ‘wow, if we go in for two months I need that level of cardio’, and not just that – the community and the connectivity around it.”

Criminal defence lawyer Liza Rosado of San Juan, Puerto Rico is waiting for a Peloton bike that she ordered in the middle of last month. “Now that I’m gonna be stuck at home, I really wish I had it here,” said the 35-year-old.

Still, she is keeping things in perspective in light of the pandemic, which has led to a curfew across Puerto Rico and shuttered all non-essential businesses.

“I’m not going to be angry or mad about it – people are losing their jobs,” she said. “My clients are in jail. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We know they are one of the populations that’s most at risk (from Covid-19).”

Back in Britain, the British Cycling Race Series, starting this week, features eight 30-minute races in which amateurs and elite riders, often those self-isolating, can compete against each other from the safety of their own living room.

“We’re in an entirely unique situation that means there’ll be no racing for a while, but it’s important that we try to find some sense of normality in all this,” said British Cycling’s women’s endurance coach Emma Trott.

REUTERS

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