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At least 48 migrants dead after boat sinks off Tunisian coast

At least 48 migrants were killed when their boat sank off Tunisia’s southern coast and 67 others were rescued by the coast guard, the defense ministry said on Sunday, one of the worst migrant boat accidents in recent years.

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The migrants were of Tunisian and other nationalities. The rescue operation was ongoing, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Human traffickers increasingly use Tunisia as a launch pad for migrants heading to Europe as Libya’s coast guard, aided by armed groups, has tightened controls.

Security officials said the boat was packed with about 180 migrants, including 80 from other African countries.

A survivor said the captain had abandoned the boat after it started sinking to escape arrest by the coast guard.

“I survived by clinging to wood for nine hours,” he said at a hospital in the southern city of Sfax where dozens of people gathered to look for survivors and identify dead relatives.

Unemployed Tunisians and other Africans often try to depart in makeshift boats from Tunisia to Sicily in Italy.

The North African country is in the middle of a deep economic crisis since the toppling of autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 threw Tunisia into turmoil with unemployment and inflation shooting up.

Separately, nine people including six children died on Sunday after a speedboat carrying 15 refugees sank off the coast of Turkey’s southern province of Antalya, the Turkish coast guard said in a statement.

Reducing the flow of migrants into Italy is one of the aims of the anti-immigrant League party in Italy and its leader Matteo Salvini who was sworn in as the country’s new interior minister on Friday.

Salvini and his party have promised to block the arrival of boat migrants from Africa and to deport up to 100,000 illegal immigrants per year.

“The objective is to save lives. And this is done by preventing the departures of the boats of death that are a business for some and a disgrace for the rest of the world,” Salvini said in a statement, commenting on both the incidents.

“I will work to ensure that all the international organizations commit to stop departures, landings and deaths.”

As of May 30, 32,080 people had reached Europe by sea so far this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on its website. Some 660 had died attempting the crossing, it said.

In October, a boat full of migrants sank after colliding with a Tunisian navy ship, killing at least 44.

– BBC

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Global Covid-19 cases top 31mn mark: Johns Hopkins

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The overall number of global coronavirus cases on Monday surpassed the 31 million mark, while the deaths have increased to more than 960,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The total number of cases stood at 31,044,033 and the fatalities rose to 960,826, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US is the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 6,805,629 and 199,512, respectively, according to the CSSE.

India comes in the second place in terms of cases at 5,487,580, while the country’s death toll soared to 87,882.

The other top 15 countries with the maximum amount of cases are Brazil (4,544,629), Russia (1,105,048), Peru (768,895), Colombia (765,076), Mexico (697,663), South Africa (661,211), Spain (640,040), Argentina (631,365), France (467,614), Chile (446,274), Iran (422,140), the UK (396,744), Bangladesh (348,918), Saudi Arabia (329,754) and Iraq (319,035), the CSSE figures showed.

Brazil currently accounts for the second highest number of fatalities at 136,895.

The countries with a death toll above 10,000 are Mexico (73,493), the UK (41,866), Italy (35,668), Peru (31,369), France (31,257), Spain (30,495), Iran (24,301), Colombia (23,665), Russia (19,420), South Africa (15,953), Argentina (13,053), Chile (12,286) and Ecuador (11,090).

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UK PM to address nation over ‘winter lockdown plans

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to address the nation to brace citizens for “winter lockdown plans” in preparation for a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, media reports said.

The Prime Minister could make the TV address as early as Tuesday, said The Sun newspaper.

The Prime Minister could make the TV address as early as Tuesday, said The Sun newspaper.

He is looking at making pubs and restaurants close early and banning households from meeting up, it added.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance will reportedly make an address ahead of the Prime Minister, the Metro newspaper said in a report.

The scientists will outline the consequences of taking no action to curb the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, a government adviser, Professor Susan Michie, told The Telegraph on Sunday that every day of delay could have dire health outcomes.

“We need a stitch in time. We need to learn the lessons of the spring. Every day’s delay to a step change in measures to restrict transmission when it is increasing exponentially will be expensive in terms of health and lives in the short term and the economy in the long term,” she added.

Johnson has previously admitted that second national lockdown would be “nothing short of disastrous”‘ for the UK, the Metro newspaper reported.

The development comes as more than 10 million across the UK are placed in some form of local lockdown.As of Monday, the UK has reported a total of 396,744 coron mm mm u huhavirus cases, with 41,866 deaths.

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4 new Covid-19 cases reported in NZ

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Wellington, Sep 20 (IANS) New Zealand reported four new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the nationwide tally to 1,464, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Of the four new cases, two were community cases and two were at managed isolation facilities, Xinhua news agency reported citing the Ministry statement.

The current number of active cases in New Zealand has reduced to 71, including three patients in Auckland hospitals.

Laboratories across New Zealand have conducted 5,417 tests, increasing the total number till date to 910,853, according to the Ministry.

New Zealand is now at COVID-19 Alert Level 2 with additional restrictions on gatherings for its biggest city Auckland.

–IANS

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