PARIS - Unauthorised rave parties, long a fringe pastime with a hardcore techno following, have found a new fan base among young people in Paris denied a dance floor by the coronavirus outbreak.
Licensed nightclubs have been closed in France since March under measures to contain the epidemic, prompting DJs, who claim their sector risks "extinction", to launch an urgent appeal to the government last month for the authorisation of "emergency party areas".
In the meantime, "free parties" have sprung up around the capital, drawing new followers in young people unfamiliar with the underground techno dance scene, but desperate for a chance to let their hair down.
The Bois de Vincennes, a massive park with lakes, woods and open green spaces in the south-east of Paris, is at the epicentre of the phenomenon.
From the nearest metro stop, partygoers walk about 15 minutes, following the beat of the bass, until they find one of dozens of clandestine parties, hidden in the woods, in clearings illuminated by fairy lights.
In July, "free parties" in the park attracted as many as a thousand people at a time, many flouting guidelines to wear face masks and keep a safe distance from others to avoid contracting the coronavirus.
"I had never seen anything like it, it was completely crazy," Ms Illa Giannotti, co-founder of the Soeurs Malsaines (Sick Sisters) party-planning collective, said of the clamour.
Raves first appeared in France in the 1990s and were popular until a 2001 law forced organisers to register with the police beforehand, pushing a large, rebel section of the scene, and its faithful followers, underground.
'PARTYING IS VITAL'
Raves involve dancing from dusk till dawn to loud techno music, blasted by DJs over massive speakers in abandoned warehouses or the depths of forests. Recreational drug use is a common feature.
Now the pandemic has made clandestine "free parties" popular again, with licensed nightclubs to remain shuttered throughout the summer due to the high infection risk they pose to revellers getting up close and personal in enclosed spaces.
In the United States and other countries, the authorities have observed infection surges centred around gatherings of young people partying at close quarters on beaches, in bars and other outdoor venues.
"When lockdown ended, there was a lot of pressure (to organise parties)," said Mr Antoine Calvino, DJ and head of the collective Microclimat (Microclimate), which began hosting parties in the Bois de Vincennes in May after France's strict stay-at-home rules were lifted.
"The nightclubs and even bars were still closed and there weren't many alternatives to see friends again and party," Mr Calvino told Agence France-Presse.
"Partying is vital. For some people, it's a parallel way of life, a moment to let off steam and meet up. It's a pressure outlet and a zone of tolerance without equal," he added.
SURPRISE AT THE SCALE
To find out the location for a clandestine rave called "Trance ta race" held recently, prospective partygoers had to phone a number and listen to a voicemail message for the address.
To get in, they had to climb over a wall, put on a mask and disinfect their hands with gel before paying a €10 (S$16.20) entry fee to cover the costs of the organisation - but also any potential fine.
The police have cottoned on and, since mid-July, have conducted busts to disperse revellers and seize party equipment.
But the Liberation newspaper has reported that the law enforcement response has been ambiguous - sometimes putting an end to the raves, sometimes not.
At the "Trance ta race", five police ambled through the crowd, warned a few partygoers and confiscated a handful of joints before leaving.
The Paris municipality said it was taken by surprise "by the scale of the phenomenon" of the underground parties.
"There's a real cultural and social phenomenon going on at the moment. And at town hall, we don't want to send in the police, we want to make things possible," councillor Frederic Hocquard told reporters.
"Our approach is to come up with a plan, with authorised places where we know what is going on, where parties are registered beforehand and where we warn people of the risks, whether it be the usual risks (alcohol, drugs or STDs) or those linked to the epidemic," he added.
Police have intervened in recent months to put an end to illegal raves in London and New York over coronavirus risk.
NEW YORK - The Atlantic hurricane season probably will go from bad to worse, researchers from Colorado State University said.
The university, which pioneered Atlantic seasonal forecasting almost four decades ago, boosted its storm forecast to 24 on the eve of the season's most-active phase. That would trail only 2005 when a record 28 storms formed, including Katrina, which devastated New Orleans.
Researchers predicted 20 in July.
"We have increased our forecast and now call for an extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season," lead author Phil Klotzbach and his colleagues said in the forecast. "We anticipate an above-normal probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental US coastline and in the Caribbean."
Five out of the first nine storms in 2020 have hit the contiguous US including Hurricane Isaias, which left a path of destruction across New York and the Northeast on Tuesday (Aug 4) after roaring ashore in North Carolina. Both milestones haven't been reached this quickly in records dating to 1851. The most storms ever to pummel the US was nine in 1916.
An average season, which runs from June 1 to Nov 30, produces 12 named systems. A cyclone gets a name when it reaches tropical storm strength with winds of 63 kilometres per hour.
Hurricanes and tropical storms are closely watched because they can roil energy and agriculture markets. The US Gulf accounts for 16 per cent of domestic crude production and 2.4 per cent of natural gas output.
Florida is the largest state orange grower. At least US$1.8 trillion (S$2.47 trillion) of real estate and 7.3 million homes are along the vulnerable US coastline, according to CoreLogic.
The storms can also affect retailing, insurance and transportation industries.
In addition to Isaias, Hurricane Hanna struck Texas last month, and Tropical Storm Cristobal forced the evacuation of offshore energy platforms in the Gulf and shut in more than one-third of all oil and gas production there.
The odds the US will get hit with a major hurricane, Category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, are 76 per cent, up from 69 per cent in July, the university analysts said. The 2020 season probably will end with 12 hurricanes and five major hurricanes. The numbers include the nine systems that have already formed.
The Atlantic is "much warmer than normal" and wind shear, which can tear apart a storm's structure, has decreased well below average, the analysts said.
A La Nina pattern that cools the Pacific may form soon, altering weather and making storms more likely in the Atlantic.
People in the US, Mexico and across the Caribbean need to be on guard, Klotzbach said. "Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them."
Colorado State issues a forecast in April followed by three updates, concluding with Wednesday's outlook. Since 2015, the university's August forecast has been lower than the number of storms that eventually formed.
SINGAPORE - Even after knowing that he had symptoms similar to a Covid-19 infection and having been issued with a stay-home notice (SHN), a 47-year-old man left his hostel on four occasions to run errands.
For his actions in exposing others to a risk of infection, Chong Tet Choe, a Singapore permanent resident, was jailed for two weeks on Friday (Aug 7).
He had pleaded guilty to three charges under the Infectious Diseases Act.
One other similar charge was taken into consideration during sentencing by District Judge Tan Jen Tse.
The court heard that Chong visited Summit Medical Clinic at Block 134 Jurong Gateway Road on April 29, complaining of a cough and body aches.
He was issued a medical certificate which he was told was also an SHN.
Chong was then informed that he should stay in his residence, at Westwood Hostel in Jurong West Avenue 5, from April 29 to May 3 and not leave it for any purpose except to seek medical attention.
However, he left his hostel on April 30 to buy groceries and withdraw money at a nearby supermarket.
Chong also went to a canteen near the hostel to buy food on two days - May 2 and May 3.
He left his residence for a second time on May 3 to top up the credit stored in his mobile phone at an AXS machine.
Urging the court to impose a jail term of three weeks, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Kee said Chong had earlier lied to an officer from the Ministry of Health that he had left his hostel only once.
It was only after he was shown the access records of his hostel that he confessed to his offences, the DPP said.
For each of his offences, Chong could have been jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000. He could have been jailed for up to a year and fined up to $20,000 for repeat offences.
SINGAPORE - An officer of Assyakirin Mosque, who was entrusted with cash donations collected from worshippers during Friday prayers, abused the trust placed in her and misappropriated $21,000.
Nurul Jannah Md Latiff then used her ill-gotten gains to repay her home renovation and bank loans.
The 28-year-old Singaporean, who worked at the mosque in Yung An Road in Taman Jurong, was sentenced on Friday (Aug 7) to eight weeks' jail after pleading guilty to one count of criminal breach of trust.
The court heard that Nurul started working at the mosque in June 2014 and was tasked to help low-income families with the administration of their documents to obtain financial assistance.
Between October 2018 and April last year, she started to volunteer to count the cash donations with her colleagues in the administrative office even though it was not part of her job scope.
Nurul then misappropriated the money, taking up to $1,500 each time by concealing the money inside her sleeve before leaving the premises.
Court documents did not state how her offences came to light, but the mosque's executive chairman alerted the police on Nov 18 last year.
She has since made full restitution.
Nurul is now on bail of $15,000 and she has been ordered to surrender herself at the State Courts on Sept 4 to begin serving her sentence.
For criminal breach of trust, an offender can be jailed for up to seven years and fined.
BEIRUT - Since an orphaned shipment of highly explosive chemicals arrived at the port of Beirut in 2013, Lebanese officials treated it the way they have dealt with the country's lack of electricity, poisonous tap water and overflowing garbage: by bickering and hoping the problem might solve itself.
But the 2,750 tons of high-density ammonium nitrate combusted on Tuesday (Aug 4), officials said, unleashing a shock wave on the Lebanese capital that gutted landmark buildings, killed 135 people, wounded at least 5,000 and rendered hundreds of thousands of residents homeless.
The government has vowed to investigate the blast and hold those responsible to account. But as residents waded through the warlike destruction on Wednesday to salvage what they could from their homes and businesses, many saw the explosion as the culmination of years of mismanagement and neglect by the country's politicians.
Nada Chemali, an angry business owner, urged her fellow Lebanese to confront the political leaders, the "big ones" she accused of driving the country to ruin.
"Go to their homes!" she shouted.
Her housewares shop and her home had been destroyed and she expected no government aid to fix them.
"Who from the big ones is going to help us?" she yelled. "Who is going to reimburse us?"
The toll from the blast came into stark relief across Beirut and beyond Wednesday, the day after it left a smoldering crater where the port had been.
Beirut's governor said the damage extended over half of the city, estimating it at US$3 billion (S$4.11 billion).
Rescue workers struggled to treat the thousands of wounded with few resources and several hospitals knocked out of commission.
"We need everything to hospitalise the victims, and there is an acute shortage of everything," said Hamad Hassan, the health minister.
No neighbourhood was spared. While the damage was greatest along the Mediterranean waterfront and in the residential districts near the port, the shock waves also blew out windows miles away in the hills above Beirut.
Near the city centre, the walls of windows on the city's landmark hotels had been shattered, their curtains left to blow in the wind.
In the downtown quarter rebuilt after Lebanon's 15-year civil war, a proud symbol of the country's rise from the ashes, high-end boutiques and posh restaurants had collapsed inward, littered with their own debris.
Gemmayzeh, an upscale Christian neighbourhood known in better times for its historic buildings, abundant churches and rowdy nightlife, resembled a war zone. Cars with smashed windshields lined the curbs. Branches torn from trees blocked roads.
Everywhere, it seemed, residents were cleaning glass, rubble and blood from shops, homes and balconies.
But with the country already deep in the throes of a major economic crisis, residents had no idea how they could afford to rebuild.
Roger Matar, 42, said his family's apartment doors and windows were blown in, scattering window frames on beds and glass across the floors and couches. He had heard a boom, he said, then suddenly "everything was shaking and all the doors and windows were gone."
Because of the financial crisis, banks have placed strict limits on cash withdrawals to prevent runs.
"The banks are holding our money, and if you need to pay workers, you need cash," Matar said. "It should be the government that helps, but they are bankrupt. The country is broken."
After its civil war ended in 1990, Lebanon aimed to rebuild itself as a cultural and financial hub in the Middle East, a Switzerland on the Med with skilled bankers, trilingual professionals and dance clubs that raged till dawn.
But former warlords became power-brokers in its weak sectarian democracy, leading to chronic political deadlock and widespread corruption, as well as shoddy infrastructure and massive government debt.
Public dissatisfaction boiled over late last year, when protesters took to the streets calling for the ouster of the political class.
The protests toppled the prime minister, but Lebanon's troubles only grew worse. Since then, the currency has lost 80 per cent of its value, unemployment has spiked and prices have skyrocketed. Lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus have further damaged the economy.
Few Lebanese have any faith that the government will help them or get to the bottom of the explosion that ravaged the capital.
And new details about how such a large quantity of potentially explosive chemicals ended up unprotected near the city's downtown and several residential neighbourhoods seemed only to highlight the government dysfunction Lebanese have long complained of.
The ship carrying the chemicals was en route to Mozambique when it was detained in Beirut. A Lebanese court impounded the cargo, so the ammonium nitrate was transferred to a port hangar.
Over the next six years, port officials repeatedly asked the judge to find a way to get rid of the chemicals.
In a 2016 letter, they cited "the serious danger posed by keeping this shipment in the warehouses in an inappropriate climate" and asked that it be dealt with "to preserve the safety of the port and its workers."
The port's director, Hassan Koraytem, said that port officials were told the materials would be auctioned off, but the auction never happened and the judiciary ignored the port authority's letters.
He said he was unaware of the power of the chemicals, so the port took no special precautions to protect them.
"Now we are living a national catastrophe," he said. "There is no more port." Judicial officials could not be reached for comment.
The blast struck particularly heavy blows against the very hospitals Beirut needs to recover from it. At least two were so damaged in the explosion that they shut their doors, with no clear sign of when they would reopen.
At Rosary Hospital, a small Catholic hospital near the port, the explosion had tossed patients from their beds, killed a nurse and broken the legs of the nurse who ran the operating room, said Dr. Joseph Elias, the head of the cardiology department.
He estimated the damage at more than $5 million.
"All the elevators are broken, all the respirators, all the monitors, all the doors - everything is destroyed," he said.
"It is just the walls of the hospital that are still here." Like Beirut's residents, the hospital expected no help from the government.
"We aren't expecting any support because there is no state," said Tony Toufic, a hospital engineer.
For many, the anger they felt was more acute because the country's latest catastrophe had been not caused by a historic foe but was self-inflicted.
"I wish it had been an Israeli explosion and not silly neglect from our leaders," said Dr Dominique Daou.
"It would be much easier, not being hit from inside your home."
SAO PAULO - Five months after confirming its first case of the new coronavirus, Brazil is fast approaching the bleak milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid-19, a tragedy that experts blame on the country's lack of coherent response.
It will be just the second country to cross that grim threshold, after the United States, where the death toll is now more than 150,000.
"It's a tragedy, one of the worst Brazil has ever seen," said sociologist Celso Rocha de Barros, as the number of infections in the sprawling South American country approached three million - also the second-highest in the world, after the US.
Brazil confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus on Feb 26: a Sao Paulo businessman returning from a trip to Italy.
The country of 212 million people registered its first death on March 16.
"At that point, Brazil was more or less getting organised to deal with the pandemic," said Dr Paulo Lotufo, an epidemiologist at the University of Sao Paulo.
But then, political chaos ensued.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro condemned the "hysteria" around the virus and railed against decisions by state and local authorities to impose stay-at-home measures to contain it, arguing that the economic damage would be worse than the disease.
Meanwhile, the country's infection curve exploded.
Chilling images emerged from Sao Paulo of six-minute speed burials by grave-diggers clad head-to-toe in protective gear and mass plots excavated by bulldozers in the Amazon city of Manaus.
The curve has plateaued in recent weeks, but at a high level: Brazil has registered an average of around 1,000 deaths per day for more than a month.
The toll stood at 2.9 million infections and 97,256 deaths late on Wednesday. The country appeared to be on track to record its 100,000th death at the weekend.
A fervent advocate of the drug hydroxychloroquine against Covid-19 - despite a lack of evidence for its effectiveness - President Bolsonaro churned through two health ministers in less than a month, after falling out with them over the response to the pandemic.
The post is now held on an interim basis by an army general with no prior medical experience.
The president, meanwhile, has continued to downplay the virus, even after catching it himself last month. He was forced into quarantine for three weeks.
"Nearly everyone here is going to catch it eventually. What are you afraid of? Face up to it," he said after emerging from isolation.
The message from the Bolsonaro government has been "the exact opposite" of what it should have been, said Mr Barros.
"Lockdown is difficult. It has to be coordinated by a leader with political credibility," he told AFP. "You have to explain to people that it's hard, but necessary to avoid a massacre."
Instead, most Brazilian states started exiting lockdown in June, under pressure from Mr Bolsonaro and despite warnings from experts that it was too soon.
Beaches, bars and restaurants were soon packed, even as the death toll continued to soar.
The virus has hit hardest among poor and black Brazilians, especially in the favelas - slums where crowded living conditions and lack of clean, running water make social distancing and hand-washing difficult.
The Amazon region has also been devastated, particularly indigenous peoples, who have a history of vulnerability to outside diseases.
As states now start to consider reopening schools, "the way people behave in the coming weeks will be decisive", said Dr Lotufo.
The country is in a strange grey zone between crisis mode and normality.
"It's shocking to see some people partying while so many others are dying," said Mr Andre Rezende, a driver for a ride-hailing service whose mother-in-law died of Covid-19 and whose brother just came out of 30 days in intensive care with the virus.
"A lot of people are getting back to normal life. The feeling of powerlessness makes some people think, 'might as well try to live normally, because there's no solution to this'," said Mr Barros.
Some are putting their faith in one of the two vaccines that are currently in advanced clinical trials in Brazil - an ideal testing ground because the virus is still spreading so fast.
SINGAPORE - A woman, who found out that her husband wanted a divorce, caused a fire in their matrimonial home on the 13th storey of a Bedok North block of flats, resulting in more than $17,000 in damage.
The fire, which started from a lit cigarette, also caused residents of 20 units between the 10th and 14th storeys of the block to evacuate.
No one was injured in the blaze.
Malisah Mohammad Said, 31, was sentenced on Thursday (Aug 6) to five months' jail after admitting to a mischief charge.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Samuel Chew said that the couple had been living separately before the incident due to an argument.
Details about the tiff were not mentioned in court documents.
Malisah was at home at around 12.30pm on July 15 last year when she received a voice message from her husband, telling her that he wanted a divorce.
She replied, saying that she would move out.
She later smoked a cigarette in the master bedroom at around 5pm.
The court heard that pieces of drawing paper belonging to her eight-year-old daughter from her previous marriage were scattered on the bed at the time.
The DPP said: "After the accused was done smoking, she flicked the lit cigarette towards the en-suite bathroom of the master bedroom.
"The accused saw the lit cigarette land on the mattress of the bed. The accused also saw smoke rising from the mattress, and that the lit cigarette was starting to burn the said mattress."
Malisah knew that the cigarette could cause a fire to break out.
However, she left the flat without extinguishing it as she wanted to get back at her husband.
About 10 minutes later, police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) received calls from members of the public, alerting them that a fire had broken out in the flat.
SCDF officers were deployed to the scene and Malisah' s neighbours had to be evacuated.
The fire was extinguished at around 5.45pm, the court heard. By then, it had already caused $16,820 in damage to the flat.
The fire also damaged an air-conditioning unit of a neighbouring flat and the cost of repairing it was around $300.
For mischief, an offender can be jailed for up to seven years and fined.
Plans are in the works to better support migrant workers' mental health and allow them more freedom to leave their dormitories, as a recent spate of suicides and attempted suicides raises concerns about their mental well-being.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told reporters yesterday that while it had not seen a spike in the number of suicides among migrant workers "compared to previous years", it was watching the situation closely and working with partners and groups to give migrant workers more mental health support.
Incidents reported by media and videos shared online have renewed concerns over the mental and emotional health of workers, many of whom have spent the last few months confined to their living quarters.
In some instances, workers have put themselves at risk by standing on window or building ledges, or died in their dorms.
Since May, there have been at least five workers detained under the Mental Health Act after attempting to hurt themselves, and at least two reported cases of workers dying of unnatural causes in dorms.
ACCESS TO COUNSELLING
MOM said its investigations showed incidents tend to stem from issues migrant workers faced back home, with their marriages or families, or unforeseen incidents in their home countries. Workers suffered distress because they were unable to return home easily.
The ministry said it was working on getting workers back home. "But as there are various factors involved, such as ensuring that these workers have recovered and have taken a swab test as required by some home countries, we seek employers' and workers' understanding that it may take some time for workers to be able to return home," it said.
MOM also said it was working with workers' groups to ensure they have access to counselling and support, providing workers with information in a timely manner, and finding ways to reduce the time they spend in their rooms.
The first dorms were isolated in early April to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Currently, workers staying in the dorms still cannot leave the premises for the most part, even on their rest days.
Those cleared for work have to return to their dorm immediately after work. Since yesterday, however, workers have been able to leave their dorms to run specified essential errands, such as medical appointments or banking services, with approval from their employers or dorm operators.
Stress, caused by quarantines and uncertainty over personal health, families and jobs, has been building up among migrant workers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) told reporters.
Many of these groups have been calling attention to the psychological impact of movement restrictions on the vulnerable and low-paid group since the pandemic started.
Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad told reporters on Tuesday that there will be a "relaxation from the current position" to explore ways for workers to safely leave the dorms, for example through staggered rest days.
"These are part of the support we will give as we transition to the next stage... We are not ready to release them completely to the community, but you can't keep them cooped up," he said.
MOM said it had staggered times for workers to leave their rooms to access common areas, and worked with NGOs to schedule activities. For instance, HealthServe conducts activities such as exercise sessions for workers staying on cruise ships three times a week.
The ministry said that when community and dormitory cases have been sustained at low levels for a period of time, workers would be able to leave their dormitories for the recreational centres (RCs) "in a measured and safe manner".
"It is imperative for us to manage not just their personal health with regard to Covid-19, but also their mental health," added Mr Zaqy.
HealthServe, the main charity here with mental health services for migrant workers, said it has counselled over 700 foreign workers since it launched its virtual counselling clinic in late April.
While the number of cases it sees of workers in distress has dropped slightly from June to July, the intensity of the cases has heightened.
Its head of communications and engagement, Ms Suwen Low, said: "There are more high-risk cases coming to us, which include instances of self-harm and suicide ideation."
LOOKING OUT FOR THE DISTRESSED
In the last two weeks, the number of cases which have presented thoughts of suicide has tripled, with about 10 per cent being more serious, she added.
Meanwhile, daily calls to the Migrant Workers' Centre helpline have increased by three times, said chairman Yeo Guat Kwang, noting that when a caller displays emotional or mental distress the case is escalated to professional counsellors or mental health professionals.
Ms Low said HealthServe usually sees the most severe migrant worker cases. "For workers, frustrations and anxiety have been around since the start, but of course this is made worse by the prolonged confinement," she said.
Added Ms Low: "For many of them, the question is 'when, when can I leave the cruise ship', 'when can I leave the dorm', 'when can I go back to my country?'"
Stepping up vigilance to keep an eye out for workers in distress are the Forward Assurance and Support (Fast) teams, which are teams of police and MOM officers and soldiers deployed to the dorms.
In view of recent events, they will assess if a worker may benefit from speaking to a mental health counsellor, said the ministry.
"We have also worked with IMH to train and better equip front-line staff with the knowledge and skills to help workers who may require support," MOM added.
In the meantime, the ministry said it had made "considerable effort" to keep workers up to date on Covid-19-related efforts, through daily messages and also materials in their languages. "These materials encourage workers to identify symptoms of distress, look out for one another, be a buddy to a friend, and know where to seek help," it said.
To reduce the number of workers staying in the dorms, some of the 300,000 migrant workers were housed on cruise ships, in hotels, vacant Housing Board blocks and military camps.
The authorities expect to clear all dorms - save for 17 blocks in eight purpose-built dorms - of Covid-19 by the beginning of this month, and as of Tuesday, nine in 10, or about 273,000 workers, have been given the all-clear.
In June, amendments were made to foreign manpower rules that codified certain protocols related to workers staying in the dorms, including the need for employers to ensure they have access to food and necessities and also the need for employer consent should a worker need to leave the dorm.
The latter in particular caused concern among NGOs like the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) and Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), and former Nominated MP Anthea Ong.
In a joint statement, the trio along with other groups said the changes would "negatively impact workers' already worsening mental health" and said the restrictions would be an added challenge for the men.
"The volatile economic situation has made it necessary for workers to seek financial assistance to meet basic needs, obtain employment advice and look for new jobs. Restricting their mobility will make it more challenging for them to seek help and protect their livelihoods," said the statement.
Still, even if workers are allowed to return to work and what likely will be a muted form of recreational activities on their rest days, psychiatrist Lim Boon Leng said it might not resolve their anxieties.
He said the majority will be all right but there will be some who will face difficulties adjusting.
"There might be a minority who may have lapsed into depressive or anxiety disorders. There is the need to make sure they receive the proper treatment for this," he said.
LONDON - Five thousand years of art and design history will be joined by some more modern items when London's Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum reopens on Thursday (Aug 6) - hand sanitiser dispensers and protective screens.
Mask-wearing visitors will be allowed to tour exhibits on two of the museum's floors, strolling through 250 years of European Renaissance art, a dazzling Islamic Middle East gallery, and five centuries of fashion from around the world.
Tickets are free but visitors will be allowed in on a booking-only basis after months of coronavirus-enforced closure, marking another step in Britain's tentative economic and cultural reopening.
"We want people to enjoy themselves again after all these months of looking at screens - to go and see an artefact for yourself, to stand in front of an object, that's what's so important," said museum director Tristram Hunt.
"The V&A has been closed for 138 days, the longest period of closure in its history."
The 160-year-old museum, named after Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, has been modified to meet the demands of social distancing regulations designed to prevent the spread of a Covid-19 pandemic that has killed more than 46,000 people in Britain alone.
Hand sanitiser dispensers have been dotted around the sprawling, mosaic-floored building.
The gift shop and cafe have been equipped with protective screens.
Further sections of the V&A's seven miles of galleries will reopen in phases later in the month.
"What we've all discovered is that it's relatively easy to close, but it's a lot more difficult to reopen," Hunt said.
"We've got the pubs open, we've got the football playing, that's great. But museums, galleries, schools, places where people can nurture their souls is really important."
WASHINGTON - The global death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 700,000 on Wednesday (Aug 5), according to a Reuters tally, with the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico leading the rise in fatalities.
Nearly 5,900 people are dying every 24 hours from Covid-19 on average, according to Reuters calculations based on data from the past two weeks.
That equates to 247 people per hour, or one person every 15 seconds.
The United States and Latin America are the new epicentres of the pandemic and both are struggling to curb the spread of the virus.
The coronavirus was initially slower to reach Latin America, which is home to about 640 million people, than much of the world.
But officials have since struggled to control its spread because of the region's poverty and densely packed cities.
More than 100 million people across Latin America and the Caribbean live in slums, according to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.
Many have jobs in the informal sector with little in the way of a social safety net and have continued to work throughout the pandemic.
The United States, home to around 330 million people, has also been battered by the virus despite being one of the richest nations in the world.
The US government's top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, on Monday said states with high coronavirus case counts should reconsider imposing lockdown restrictions, emphasising the need to get cases to a low baseline before the fall flu season.
Even in parts of the world that had appeared to have curbed the spread of the virus, countries have recently seen single-day records in new cases, signaling the battle is far from over.
Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Bolivia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Uzbekistan and Israel all recently had record increases in cases.