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North Korea says it conducted first test of hydrogen bomb

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Kim Jong-un

North Korea said on Wednesday that it had carried out a “successful” hydrogen bomb test on Wednesday .

The website of the China Earthquake Network Centre described the seismic activity as a “suspected explosion”, while the Japanese government said there was a strong possibility that “this might be a nuclear test”.

The announcement by North Korean state media came two days before Kim’s birthday and just over four years after he succeeded his father as leader of the Stalinist state.

In a surprise announcement Pyongyang said it had carried out a hydrogen blast.

“The republic’s first hydrogen bomb test has been successfully performed at 10:00 am on January 6, 2016, based on the strategic determination of the Workers’ Party,” a state television news reader said.

A hydrogen, or thermonuclear device, uses fusion in a chain reaction that results in a far more powerful explosion than the fission blast generated by uranium or plutonium alone.

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had suggested Pyongyang had already developed a hydrogen bomb — although the claim was greeted with scepticism by international experts.

North Korea has hinted before at the possession of “stronger, more powerful” weapons, but Kim’s remarks were believed to be the first direct reference to an H-bomb.

Suspicions over a possible nuclear test — Pyongyang’s fourth — were first raised by seismologists who said they had detected a 5.1 magnitude tremor next to its main atomic test site in the northeast of the country.

The website of the China Earthquake Network Centre described the seismic activity as a “suspected explosion”, while the Japanese government said there was a strong possibility that “this might be a nuclear test”.

The US Geological Survey said the epicentre of the quake — detected at 10:00 am Pyongyang time (0130 GMT) — was in the northeast of the country, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) northwest of Kilju city, placing it right next to the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

Any confirmation of the test will trigger widespread international condemnation of North Korea, which has already conducted three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 — all at Punggye-ri.

It would certainly result in a tightening of international sanctions imposed after the North’s previous nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

In Seoul, the presidential Blue House called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, as officials scrambled to confirm the precise nature of the tremor.

Researchers at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said last month that recent satellite images showed North Korea was excavating a new tunnel at Punggye-ri.

“While there are no indications that a nuclear test is imminent, the new tunnel adds to North Korea’s ability to conduct additional detonations over the coming years if it chooses to do so,” they said at the time.

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UK PM still showing COVID-19 symptoms: Downing Street

Meanwhile, the government’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, is also continuing to self-isolate and has not given an update on his condition, Metro newspaper reported.

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Boris Johnson

London, April 3 : UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was still showing symptoms of coronavirus the day before his seven-day quarantine period was supposed to end, Downing Street has confirmed.

The Prime Minister set aside a week to self-isolate on march 27 in accordance with public health advice and has been leading the government via video conference from hs residence at 10, Downing Street, reports the London-based Metro newspaper.

Asked at a media briefing whether Johnson planned to leave on Friday, a spokesperson said: “We’re following the guidelines from Public Health England (PHE) and from the chief medical officer which state that you need to self-isolate for a period of seven days, so no change in that.”/

The spokesperson described Johnson’s symptoms as “mild”.

Meanwhile, the government’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, is also continuing to self-isolate and has not given an update on his condition, Metro newspaper reported.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock left quarantine on Thursday after seven days and gave a press conference setting out a five-point plan to ramp up testing to 100,000 a day.

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UN: Mass spread of COVID-19 in Global South will impact the world

UN officials say every resource must be mobilised to prevent a ‘wildfire’ of cases in fragile states and refugee camps.

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Antonio Guterres

Coronavirus has upended lives and workplaces around the world, with more than a third of the globe under lockdown.

At the United Nations headquarters in New York, where about 10,000 people usually work, a skeleton staff of a few hundred are on site, ensuring the world body’s vital operations continue – such as peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads fast, the UN is critically concerned about those most vulnerable, especially refugees and people trapped in conflict situations.

The UN has launched a $2bn global humanitarian appeal to assist fragile states and those most vulnerable.

It says prevention and suppression of the virus must be a priority for leaders of all countries.

Leading UN officials have also called for all conflicts to cease and warring parties to focus their efforts on tackling the coronavirus.

To discuss the global efforts against COVID-19 and the risks facing the world’s most vulnerable populations, Talk to Al Jazeera speaks to Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general; Mark Lowcock, the under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs; and Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

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Coronavirus pandemic to render 18.5mn jobless in Pak

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pakistan coronavirus

Islamabad, April 3 : The Pakistan government has estimated that 12.3 million to 18.5 million people in the country will lose their jobs and the economy will sustain massive losses in just three months due to “moderate to severe shocks from the coronavirus outbreak”, it was reported on Friday.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Planning in a meeting discussed the preliminary estimates, which are based on information received from various government entities and initial research conducted by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, reports The Express Tribune.

Initial estimates have showed that in case of limited restrictions, about 1.4 million jobs will be lost, which are equal to 2.2 per cent of Pakistan’s employed workforce.

In a moderate scenario where private offices and most shops are closed, but essential shops were open, the government has estimated that 12.3 million people would become jobless.

“On employment, we can assess that under moderate restrictions employment loss could be up to 12 million, around 20 per cent of the employed labour force,” Jahanzeb Khan, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission told The Express Tribune.

In case of a complete shutdown, the government has assessed that 18.53 million people or 30 per cent of the labour force will be unemployed.

In monetary terms, the loss of wages will translate into 561 billion Pakistani rupees for three months alone.

The Ministry also assessed losses at 1.2 trillion Pakistani rupees in a limited lockdown scenario, 1.96 trillion in moderate and 2.5 trillion in case of complete restrictions on movement, which symbolises a curfew-like situation.

“It is widely believed that the impact of the virus and severity of lockdowns on the overall economy may have a severe impact on the economic performance parameters,” Khan added.

The government also expected a sharp slowdown in trade activities.

“On the trade side, there is an expected sharp slowdown in imports from 35 per cent up to 60 per cent, depending upon the severity of the crisis,” Khan told The Express Tribune.

Pakistan has so far reported 2,441 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 35 deaths.

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