NFL hits Titans with $350,000 fine for COVID-19 violations

October 25, 2020

The NFL fined the Tennessee Titans $350,000 after an investigation into what led to a COVID-19 outbreak within the organization, the league announced on Sunday.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association recently completed a review of the Titans’ actions amid the outbreak, which started in late September and stretched into early October. The Titans had at least 24 players or staff members test positive for COVID-19 and needed to reschedule a pair of games because of it.

The NFL found incidents in which people were not wearing masks in the Titans’ practice facility. The league also said there was insufficient communication about player workouts away from the facility.

No individual player, coach or staff member on the Titans was disciplined, nor did the Titans lose any draft picks as part of the punishment. But the team was warned that future instance of protocol violations would lead to escalated penalties.

The league and players union are now focused on investigating the Las Vegas Raiders, who had their entire starting offensive line on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week after right tackle Trent Brown tested positive for part of the week.

–Field Level Media

Qatar signs deal to buy Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

October 25, 2020

DUBAI (Reuters) – Qatar has signed an agreement with drugmaker Moderna Inc <MRNA.O> to buy its potential COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is approved and released for global use, state news agency QNA quoted a health official as saying on Sunday.

There are no internationally approved vaccines yet, but several are in advanced trials, including from Pfizer Inc <PFE.N>, Johnson & Johnson <JNJ.N> and Moderna.

“Negotiating early and securing a number of agreements enhances our chances of getting sufficient quantities of the vaccine early,” said Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of a national COVID-19 health group and head of infectious diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation.

He did not say how many doses Doha was requesting. Earlier this month, al-Khal said Qatar signed an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech to supply Qatar with their vaccines.

Moderna said last month it was on track to produce 20 million doses of its vaccine by the end of the year, while maintaining its goal of readying 500 million to 1 billion doses in 2021.

The American group is also working with Swiss group Lonza AG to scale up the manufacturing and production of its potential COVID-19 vaccine to supply markets outside the United States.

(Reporting by Yousef Saba; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Sudan says it will discuss trade, migration deals with Israel

October 25, 2020

By Khalid Abdelaziz and Dan Williams

KHARTOUM/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Sudan and Israel will discuss agreements to cooperate on trade and migration issues in the coming weeks, the Sudanese foreign ministry said on Sunday, signalling steps to implement a normalisation pact after decades of hostilities.

The U.S.-brokered accord made Khartoum the third Arab government to establish relations with Israel in the last two months, and only the fifth since 1948.

But prominent political factions in Sudan have rejected the accord. Some Sudanese officials have said it should be approved by a transitional parliament that has yet to be formed over a year after mass unrest ousted Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Khartoum’s foreign ministry said Sudanese and Israeli delegations would meet in coming weeks to negotiate deals for agriculture, aviation, trade and migration. It gave no details or time frame for the talks.

Israel is home to 6,284 Sudanese who it deems to be mostly illegal economic migrants. But its past efforts to repatriate them were stymied by the official state of hostilities with Sudan, as well as legal challenges in Israeli courts.

“I understand that they have already agreed on a pilot programme, in the very near future, for several hundred (Sudanese to be repatriated),” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Ynet TV. “And I reckon that, after the hundreds, several thousand will come along too – or, to more correctly, several thousand will leave.”

But an Israeli Interior Ministry spokesman told Reuters it was not aware of such a deal.

The normalisation deal is sensitive in Sudan, formerly a hardline critic of Israel, dividing opinion among military and civilian leaders heading a post-Bashir transition.

The Sudanese premier wants approval from a yet-to-be formed parliament to proceed with a broader, formal normalisation, and that may not be a quick process given civilian-military differences over the opening to Israel.

It remains unclear when the assembly will be constituted as part of the transition towards free elections.

An Oct. 15 report by Israel’s Intelligence Ministry projected deals in agriculture and desalination with Sudan. It also called for cooperation to prevent Sudanese soil being used by anti-Israel forces like Iran or Hamas.

(Reporting by Khaled Abelaziz and Dan Williams; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

India’s central bank chief tests positive for coronavirus

October 25, 2020

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s central bank Governor Shaktikanta Das said on Sunday he had tested positive for the coronavirus, the latest high profile name in the country to contract the virus.

“I have tested Covid-19 positive. Asymptomatic. Feeling very much alright,” Das said in a tweet.

“Will continue to work from isolation. Work in the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) will go on normally,” he said.

Many top Indian politicians including Home Minister Amit Shah and actors such as Amitabh Bachchan have tested positive for the virus, and since recovered.

Over 7.8 million Indians have tested positive for COVID-19 so far. The pandemic has claimed 118,534 lives in the world’s second most populous country.

(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Protesters march through Belarus as opposition threatens national strike

October 25, 2020

KYIV (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people marched through Minsk and other cities on Sunday, keeping pressure on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko a day before the opposition threatens to launch a national strike if he refuses to resign.

Crowds streamed through the capital shouting “strike”, waving red-and-white opposition flags and beating drums on the 11th straight weekend of mass protests since a disputed election plunged the country into turmoil.

Twelve metro stations were closed, helmeted riot police patrolled the streets and mobile internet services were disrupted in Minsk. Two journalists were detained ahead of the protest, a local journalists’ association said.

Tens of people were detained and security forces used tear gas in the western town of Lida, the Russian news agency RIA quoted the regional branch of the interior ministry as saying.

A former Soviet collective farm manager, Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for more than a quarter of a century and has shown little inclination to quit, buoyed by loans and the offer of military support from traditional ally Russia.

The president’s main opponents have been jailed or fled into exile following the Aug. 9 election, which Lukashenko’s opponents accuse him of rigging to win a sixth straight term. He denies electoral fraud.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, his main electoral challenger, has led calls from exile for a national strike to begin on Monday if Lukashenko refuses to release all political prisoners and resigns to make way for a new election.

“Today at 23:59 the term of the People’s Ultimatum will expire, and if the demands are not met, the Belarusians will start a national strike,” she said in statement.

Lukashenko has signalled that he would ignore the ultimatum.

The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada have imposed sanctions against a string of senior officials in Belarus accused of fraud and human rights abuses in the wake of the presidential election.

Lukashenko has accused Western countries of meddling in the internal affairs of Belarus and trying to instigate a violent uprising against him.

In a call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, he said Belarus and Russia were ready to respond jointly to external threats, Belarusian state television reported.

(Reporting by Matthias Williams and Polina Ivanova; Editing by Alison Williams)

Canada’s Atlantic region closed out world to beat COVID-19, and the economy has done OK

October 25, 2020

By Julie Gordon

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Chef Emily Wells was unsure what to expect as she opened the doors of her seasonal restaurant in rural Prince Edward Island the same day Canada’s four Atlantic provinces bubbled together, allowing travel between them while keeping their borders restricted to everyone else.

The result was far better than she could have imagined.

“It was a remarkable summer, I was floored by it,” Wells said. “The bubble made all the difference. It certainly worked for us.”

The border restrictions along with tough public health measures helped the east coast provinces, which have a combined population of 2.4 million, tamp down COVID-19 early on and largely keep the virus at bay even as the rest of the country entered a second wave of infections.

That success came at a cost. More than 171,000 jobs were lost, exports plunged and the region’s C$5 billion ($3.8 billion) tourism sector was crippled, with all four provinces swinging from economic growth to sudden contraction.

While the initial impact was similar to what happened in the rest of Canada, data shows the rebound in jobs and economic activity that followed was quicker, bolstered by the ability to reopen the economy faster than the rest of the country. https://tmsnrt.rs/2FRnExA

“We knew (the Atlantic bubble) was going to help, we just didn’t know what it would look like,” said PEI Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay. His tiny province of 160,000 people ended up getting about a third of the record 1.6 million visitors it saw in 2019.

Without the bubble, it would have been far more painful, he said.

Between local support and bubble travelers, business at Mike Fritz’s coffee shop along a popular PEI trail was surprisingly strong. But he is eager to welcome a wider range of visitors next summer.

“We are hoping that at least the tourists from Ontario and Quebec can come back next season, because that’s almost 60% of our business,” said Fritz.

But both of Canada’s major airlines have slashed service to Atlantic Canada, which experts say will slow the broader tourism recovery and could discourage outside investment.

BY THE NUMBERS

After months of strict restrictions and mandatory quarantines, the four Atlantic provinces began to allow travel between themselves in early July amid concerns the sudden freedom would lead to a rash of outbreaks. That did not happen.

There have been 73 COVID-19 deaths in the region, the bulk occurring before the bubble opened. There are now fewer than 15 active cases in PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia combined. In New Brunswick, which borders with Quebec where case counts are high, there are two outbreaks with 75 active cases.

By comparison, Canada as a whole has had 9,862 deaths and currently has 23,481 active cases, with an average of 2,425 new infections each day. The second wave has already led to targeted shutdowns in a number of non-Atlantic provinces.

That resurgence has hurt Canada’s recovery, with the economy forecast to shrink 5.9% this year, according to a Reuters poll.

Three of the four Atlantic provinces are set to fare better than that, according to analyst estimates, shrinking between 4.3% and 5.4%. https://tmsnrt.rs/31BgNjG

The surge in cases has also made it less clear when Atlantic Canada might reopen to other provinces, with public opinion firmly against expanding the bubble.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, tour boat operator Joseph O’Brien took the unusual step of teaming up with his main competitor so the two could split costs and guests, rather than jousting for the limited number of visitors.

He estimates he averaged only 8% of his regular capacity over the prime summer months, mostly due to not having visitors from Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. Still, O’Brien supported the strict restrictions to keep people safe.

“I’m not a scientist, but I know that drastic times call for drastic measures,” he said. “What don’t break us usually makes us stronger.”

Graphic: Jobs shed and regained by Atlantic province – https://graphics.reuters.com/CANADA-ECONOMY/xlbvgwwqzvq/

Graphic: Select Canada real GDP forecasts – https://graphics.reuters.com/CANADA-ECONOMY/jbyprxekqpe/

(Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Turkey’s Erdogan says French leader has ‘lost his way’ in second broadside

October 25, 2020

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday Emmanuel Macron had “lost his way”, in his second sharp criticism of the French leader in two days over the treatment of Muslims.

On Saturday, Erdogan said Macron had a problem with Muslims and needed mental checks – a rebuke that caused France to recall its ambassador from Ankara.

“The person in charge of France has lost his way. He goes on about Erdogan all day. Look at yourself first and where you are going. I said in Kayseri yesterday, he is a case and he really must be checked up,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in the eastern province of Malatya.

The French leader this month declared war on “Islamist separatism”, which he believes is taking over some Muslim communities in France.

France has since been shaken by the beheading of a teacher by an Islamist militant, avenging the use of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression.

NATO members Turkey and France have been at loggerheads over issues including Syria and Libya, maritime jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean, and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Macron’s office said on Saturday France had gathered its European partners, who share France’s demand that Turkey puts a stop to its “dangerous adventures” in the Mediterranean and in the region.

It said Erdogan had two months to respond or face measures, noting the absence of a condolence message from Turkey’s leader after the history teacher’s death last week.

Erdogan is a pious Muslim and since his Islamist-rooted AK Party first came to power in 2002, he has sought to shift Islam into the mainstream of politics in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim but constitutionally secular country.

(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Pelosi says administration reviewing U.S. COVID-19 aid bill: CNN interview

October 25, 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said the Trump administration was reviewing the latest proposal for further COVID-19 relief over the weekend and that she expected a response on Monday, adding that she was still optimistic a deal could be reached.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Pelosi said she would still pursue an agreement after the Nov. 3 election regardless of its outcome. But, she added, she wanted to see a deal for another round of federal financial aid amid the novel coronavirus pandemic as soon as possible.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Tens of people detained, tear gas deployed at protest in west Belarus: RIA

October 25, 2020

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Tens of people were detained by police in the town of Lida in western Belarus on Sunday during a protest, Russia’s RIA news agency cited the regional branch of the Belarus interior ministry as saying.

Police fired tear gas at protesters, RIA said.

Protesters have been gathering ahead of the expiry at midnight on Sunday of an ultimatum for Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to resign, the latest in 11 weeks of demonstrations following a disputed election result.

(Reporting by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Irish deputy PM says COVID-19 vaccinations may begin before April 2021

October 25, 2020

DUBLIN (Reuters) – The Irish government expects to be able to begin to vaccinate vulnerable people against COVID-19 in first quarter or first half of 2021, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Sunday.

“I’m increasingly optimistic, as is government, that we will see a vaccine approved in the next couple of months and that in the first half or first quarter of next year it’ll be possible to start vaccinating those most at risk,” Varadkar told RTE radio.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Andrew Heavens)