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North Korea reports more deaths, says taking ‘swift measures’ against COVID outbreak

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© Reuters. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks at a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party to inspect the country’s antivirus efforts against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News A

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By Josh Smith and Byungwook Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Sunday a total of 42 people had died as the country began its fourth day under a nationwide lockdown aimed at stopping the impoverished country’s first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.

North Korea’s admission on Thursday that it is battling an “explosive” COVID-19 outbreak has raised concerns that the virus could devastate a country with an under-resourced health system, limited testing capabilities and no vaccine programme.

State news agency KCNA said the country was taking “swift state emergency measures” to control the epidemic, but there is no sign that Pyongyang was moving to accept international offers of vaccines.

“All provinces, cities and counties of the country have been totally locked down and working units, production units and residential units closed from each other since the morning of May 12 and strict and intensive examination of all the people is being conducted,” KCNA reported on Sunday.

A day earlier North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the spread of COVID-19 had thrust his country into “great turmoil” and called for an all-out battle to overcome the outbreak.

Despite the lockdowns, Kim and other senior officials on Saturday attended funeral services for Yang Hyong Sop, a former de facto head of state during the rule of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, KCNA reported.

Health authorities set up more epidemic prevention posts, and urgently transported medical supplies to hospitals and clinics, while senior officials had donated reserve medicines, KCNA reported.

A “large proportion” of the deaths have been due to people “careless in taking drugs due to the lack of knowledge and understanding of stealth Omicron variant virus infection disease and its correct treatment method,” the report said.

At least 296,180 more people came down with fever symptoms, and 15 more had died as of Sunday, the outlet said.

Experts say North Korea appears to lack the capacity to test those tens of thousands of symptomatic patients. KCNA did not report how many of those suspected cases had tested positive for COVID-19.

Overall North Korea has reported 820,620 suspected cases, with 324,550 still under medical treatment, KCNA said.

North Korea had previously claimed no confirmed cases of the virus, and is one of only two countries in the world that have yet to begin a COVID vaccination campaign, according to the World Health Organization.

Its self-imposed lockdowns have slowed trade to a trickle and raised concerns about food shortages or other hardships, aid organizations have said.

Coronavirus

U.S. traffic deaths in 2021 jump to highest number since 2005

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traffic is pictured at twilight along 42nd St. in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. traffic deaths jumped 10.5% in 2021 to 42,915 – the highest number killed on American roads in a single-year since 2005, regulators said on Tuesday in a preliminary estimate.

The yearly increase is the highest reported since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began using its current traffic fatality tracking system in 1975.

The number of pedestrians killed jumped 13% to 7,342, hitting the highest number since 1981. The number of people on bicycles killed rose 5% to 985, the highest number since at least 1980, according to a NHTSA report.

“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

In January, USDOT released a strategy designed to cut the soaring number of traffic deaths on American roads.

Traffic deaths surged after pandemic lockdowns ended in 2020 as more drivers engaged in unsafe behavior.

“An increase in dangerous driving – speeding, distracted driving, drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, not buckling up – during the pandemic, combined with roads designed for speed instead of safety, has wiped out a decade and a half of progress in reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths,” the Governors Highway Safety Association said in a statement.

Traffic deaths in 2020 rose 6.8%. They are now up 18% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

NHTSA said the fatality rate in 2021 fell slightly to 1.33 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, down from 1.34 in 2020, which was the highest rate since 2007.

One factor for the big jump in 2020 was that drivers who remained on the roads engaged in riskier behavior, NHTSA said.

As U.S. roads became less crowded, some motorists perceived police were less likely to issue tickets because of COVID-19, experts say.

NHTSA research findings from 2020 indicating incidents of speeding and traveling without a seatbelt were higher than before the pandemic. In 2020, the number of crashes fell 22% to 5.25 million and those injured fell 17% to 2.28 million even as deaths rose.

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Coronavirus

U.S. traffic deaths jump 10.5% in 2021 to highest number since 2005

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on


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traffic is pictured at twilight along 42nd St. in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. traffic deaths jumped 10.5% in 2021 to 42,915 – the highest number killed on American roads in a single-year since 2005, U.S. regulators said Tuesday in its preliminary estimate.

The yearly increase is the highest reported since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began using its current traffic fatality tracking system in 1975.

“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

In January, USDOT released a strategy designed to cut the soaring number of traffic deaths on American roads.

Traffic deaths surged after coronavirus lockdowns ended in 2020 as more drivers engaged in unsafe behavior like speeding and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Traffic deaths in 2020 rose 6.8% and up 18% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

Forty four U.S. states and the District of Columbia all are projected to have an increase in traffic deaths.

NHTSA said the fatality rate in 2021 fell slightly to 1.33 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled down from 1.34 million in 2020, which was the highest rate since 2007.

One factor for the big jump in 2020 was that drivers who remained on the roads engaged in riskier behavior, NHTSA said.

As U.S. roads became less crowded, some motorists perceived police were less likely to issue tickets because of COVID-19, experts say.

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Coronavirus

Shanghai hits prized ‘zero COVID’ status but lockdown lingers

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© Reuters. A man looks over the barriers of a closed street during lockdown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

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By David Stanway and Martin Quin Pollard

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) -Shanghai achieved its long-awaited milestone of three consecutive days with no new COVID-19 cases outside quarantine zones on Tuesday but most residents will have to put up with confinement for a while longer before resuming more normal life.

For other cities in China that have been under lockdown, three days with no new cases in the community usually means “zero COVID” status and the beginning of the lifting of restrictions.

The commercial hub of 25 million set out on Monday its clearest timetable yet for exiting a lockdown now in its seventh week, but the plan was met with scepticism by many residents who have seen isolation extended time and again.

“Normality is very far away,” said one Shanghai resident still stuck at home.

Shanghai plans to resume outdoor activities in stages, with some shops reopening this week, but with most restrictions on movement remaining in place until May 21, after which public transport and other services will resume gradually.

By June, the lockdown should be lifted, but residents will still be asked to get tested frequently.

More people were allowed out of their homes this week, with some joggers and dog walkers spotted. One man was seen fishing in a Shanghai creek.

But tall fences remained around many residential compounds and there were almost no private cars on the streets, with most people still confined to their homes.

It was not clear how many shops re-opened this week but in one positive sign, delivery apps showed more options for people to order from on Tuesday.

A social media account run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper posted photographs on Monday evening that it said showed breakfast joints, restaurants and hairdressers opening up.

But one social media user described the post as “nonsense”.

“We have been locked in at home for two months … This story is meant for anyone else other than people in Shanghai.”

By Tuesday morning, the post had been deleted.

A video posted by another state-backed media outlet announced the reopening of a grocery store, showing about 10 members of staff in hazmat suits making heart shapes with their hands, but only two people who looked like shoppers.

A sign on the shop’s door said customers must present a negative COVID test and a pass showing they are allowed out of their home, among other requirements.

Overall, Shanghai reported fewer than 1,000 new cases for May 16, all in areas under the strictest controls.

INVESTMENT WARNING

China’s uncompromising “zero-COVID” policy has placed hundreds of millions of consumers and workers under various restrictions at a time when the rest of the world is lifting them to “live with the virus” even as infections spread.

Data this week showed the havoc wreaked on the economy by Shanghai’s lockdown and the curbs in dozens of other major cities, with retail sales and industrial output plunging at their fastest pace in more than two years in April.

The capital Beijing saw a 16% plunge in retail sales in April, the beginning of its current outbreak, according to Reuters calculations based on January-April data released on Tuesday. Property sales dropped 26%.

The American Chamber of Commerce warned that COVID controls would hamper foreign investment in China for years to come as travel curbs disrupt due diligence on projects. Big firms are also exploring alternatives for supply chains, it said.

China’s slowing economy will struggle to stage the kind of stunning recovery it achieved from the early depths of the pandemic two years ago, analysts and policy insiders say.

But China’s state planner said on Tuesday it would strengthen support for manufacturers, the service sector and small firms to mitigate COVID’s impact.

A meeting convened by China’s top political consultative body with tech executives was also being closely watched for signs of any easing of a regulatory crackdown on the sector that has weighed on growth.

Chinese shares closed higher on bets for looser regulatory scrutiny on the tech sector and Shanghai’s progress on COVID.

TIGHTENING IN BEIJING

Beijing’s latest daily case count was 52, with authorities discovering a few dozen new infections on an almost daily basis despite gradually tightening restrictions over the past three weeks or so.

Dine-in services are banned in the capital, some malls and other businesses are shut, public transport is curtailed and many residents have been advised to work from home.

Residents in some COVID-affected parts of Beijing’s Fengtai district were ordered not to leave their neighbourhoods, state television reported on Tuesday.

In Beijing’s largest district, Chaoyang, some compounds have closed side exits while main gates are manned by volunteers checking health credentials on the mobile app authorities use to track COVID.

Security personnel patrolled the banks of the Liangma canal, which has become a picnic spot in recent weeks for residents not allowed to go elsewhere. Signs had been put up asking people to “avoid crowds, gatherings and eating together”.

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