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Coronavirus death toll jumps to 80, more than 2,750 infected

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2020)

The coronavirus outbreak that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, in the province of Hubei, has killed 80 people in China so far and infected more than 2,750 globally, most of them in China.

The virus has caused alarm because it is still too early to know how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. Also because it is new, humans have not been able to build immunity to it.

Here is what we know so far:

* As of Jan. 27 the death toll in China had risen to 80, with 76 in Hubei province, authorities reported. Another 2,744 people in China had been infected: As of the end of Jan. 26, there were 1,423 confirmed cases in Hubei province.

* Thailand and Hong Kong have each reported eight cases of infection; the United States and Macau have five each; Taiwan, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia each have reported four; France and Japan three each; Vietnam and South Korea two apiece, and one each in Canada and Nepal.

* No fatalities have been reported outside China.

* The previously unknown coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people.

* The World Health Organization said that while the outbreak was an emergency for China, it was not yet a global health emergency.

* Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Most of those affected are older people and those with underlying health conditions.* China says the virus is mutating and can be transmitted through human contact.

* Two scientific analyses of the epidemic say each person infected is passing the disease on to between two and three other people.

* Three research teams have begun work on developing potential vaccines, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations said. Scientists hope to be testing the first possible vaccines in three months’ time.

* China is testing the HIV drug Aluvia as a treatment.

* There are severe travel restrictions in Wuhan, with urban transport shut and outgoing flights suspended.

* Among other measures to contain the virus, China will halt all group tours, affecting tourism both at home and to other countries, from Jan. 27.

* Hong Kong has barred residents of Hubei province from entering the city.

* France, Italy, Japan, Australia and the United States have all said they are working to evacuate citizens from Wuhan.

* Airports around the world have stepped up screening.

* Some experts believe the virus is not as dangerous as the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed more than 700 people since 2012.

Source: Reuters

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Peace talks teams ‘making progress’ after meeting to discuss contentious issues

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2020)

Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan peace negotiating team said the contact groups from both sides met on Sunday for discussions and that progress was being made. 

The Peace Negotiation Team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan issued the same statement on their Twitter page but few details were given. 

The team said on Twitter: “Today evening, the contact groups of both sides met. This session lasted a few hours and the rules and regulations of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations were discussed and progress was made.”

The Afghan peace team said peace talks members held the joint working meeting which lasted several hours and worked on contentious issues of rules and regulations  and that “progress was made in resolving disputes.”

“The procedure for the Afghan peace talks will be finalized soon,” they said. 

The talks, which started a week ago, are still ongoing in Doha, Qatar where the contact group members are reportedly discussing the talking points, agendas and schedules going forward. 

Until now, however, very few details have been released by either side. 

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MoD discovers and defuses over 4,000 IEDs in past six months

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2020)

The Afghan Ministry of Defense said on Sunday the Afghan National Army (ANA) had discovered and defused 4,776 IEDs across the country in the past six months. 

The MoD stated the IEDs had been planted by Taliban on public roads, in residential areas and on highways.

A statement by the MoD said: “While Taliban’s explosive devices inflict heavy casualties on civilians, ANDSF risk their lives to discover and defuse the bombs to protect Afghans.”

“The IEDs, in addition to harming civilians, also destroy Afghanistan’s roads, highways and infrastructure.”

By finding and defusing the IEDs the lives of thousands of civilians were saved and “hundreds of kilometers of roads and hundreds of bridges and culverts were preserved,” the MoD stated. 

The ministry also said that in addition to the indiscriminate use of IEDs being a serious violation of the International Human Rights Law, “unfortunately, the Taliban continue applying it as a war tactic against the Afghan population.”

UNAMA said in July, in its mid-year report, that the use of non-suicide IEDs was the leading cause of civilian casualties by Anti-Government Elements during the first half of 2020, causing 688 civilian casualties (217 killed and 471 injured).

Almost half of all civilian casualties from IEDs – 45 percent – were caused by the Taliban’s widespread use of pressure-plate IEDs, which function as improvised anti-personnel mines.

Civilian casualties from these victim-activated devices increased by 50 percent during the first half of 2020 as compared to the same time period in 2019, reversing the trend of sizeable decreases over the last two years. 

UNAMA also noted that the week after the three-day Eid ceasefire, pressure-plate IEDs rose to the leading cause of civilian casualties.

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Ghani holds security review summit with senior officials in Bamiyan

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2020)

President Ashraf Ghani and a high-ranking delegation of officials held a “mini-summit” on the country’s security in Bamiyan on Sunday.

Also in attendance with First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh, National Security Adviser Hamdullah Moheb and other senior security officials.

After landing at Bamiyan airport, the president and his delegation were met by the provincial governor and local officials, including members of the provincial council.

The Kabul delegation then went into a meeting where they examined the security situation across the country, discussed plans and operations on thwarting enemy threats and dealing with challenges. They also discussed the capabilities of the security and defense sectors.

Officials from the security and defense agencies called for the expansion of governance and the need for improved services at a district level.

Emphasizing the security and defense priorities, Ghani said that serious attention should be paid to protecting the people and to the security of development projects.

He also said reform and development programs of the security and defense agencies should be implemented.

Ghani also ordered increased security along highways so as to prevent enemy groups from extorting money out of motorists and said changes need to be brought in police departments so that all staff criteria is met.

He said that security and defense officials who have excelled in their work need to be commended.

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